Disclaimer: Saban owns all the rangers. I just wish they were mine. :) The song is "Learning to live Again" written by Don Shlitz and Stephanie Davis and sung by Garth Brooks. Before you decide to write me and flame me, I *did* change the lyrics slightly, Garth Brooks doesn't actually sing about Ashley and Andros, he sings about Debbie and Charley. What can I say? I wanted this to work. :) I apologize in advance if that offends anyone's sensibilities.
Author's Note: This fic is totally unrelated to anything else I've ever written, and it takes place sometime after "Coutdown". Feel free to write me and let me know what you think! Comments are always appreciated! (*happy grin* I love email :) So without further ado. . . here's the fic.
Learning to Live Again
I burned my hand, and I cut my face
By Rachel Lynn
Heaven knows how long it's been
Since I've felt so out of place
I'm wondering if I'll fit in
"Hey Zhane, you okay?" Andros asked as he noticed his blonde hared friend stare of into space with a distant look in his eyes. Zhane didn't acknowledge his friend's question, he didn't even acknowledge Andros' presence. "Zhane? Zhane, snap out of it." The teen in red said as he waved a hand in front of the silver ranger's gray-eyed gaze. Zhane jumped visibly and blinked.
"Andros? How long have you been standing there?" He asked, the surprise evident in his expression as well as his voice. "Didn't you go out to see a movie with Ashley?" He asked, confusion marring his features.
"I did." The red ranger answered, slightly amused. "Three hours ago. It's two in the morning, Zhane. What are you doing up?" He asked his friend in silver. Andros gaze grew concerned at his friend's startled expression. "You're having a hard time adjusting aren't you." He stated, rather than asked. "Maybe . . .maybe it would have been best if I'd stayed behind on KO-35 with you and Karone."
"It would have been the same either way." Zhane finally admitted with a sigh as he watched Andros rest his fore arms on a nearby console. "I just can't seem to put my life into place. I was out of it for two whole years. Do you have any idea how different things are from what I remember? Geez Andros, this is so hard. When we had something to fight, I had the battles to distract me. I had a purpose, and a place. I don't have that now, and everything just seems to be rushing all at me at once. I'm not sure I even remember exactly how to go about living my own life." He finished, the frustration evident in his voice.
"It will come to you again, friend. But until then, we will always be there to help you along, and you will always have a place here on the ship. Why don't you come out to dinner with Ashley and me tomorrow night? We can just hang out over some good food." Andros suggested. Zhane stepped back and considered the proposal for a moment.
"I guess that sounds okay." He finally conceded.
* * *
"Karone? What are you doing up so early?" Ashley asked with a hint of amusement as she walked onto the bridge to discover the blonde haired girl fiddling half-heartedly with one of DECA's 3-D puzzles.
"Couldn't sleep." Karone muttered softly as her brow furrowed. Ashley stared at the girl in purple for a moment before she sat down opposite of her. The yellow ranger studied the game for a moment, and then moved one of the pieces, solving the puzzle. Karone let out a tired sigh of frustration. "I've been trying to put this together since six o'clock this morning, and you figure it out in seconds. Why can't it come to me that easily?" She asked as she slumped back in her seat. Ashley frowned slightly.
"We're not talking about the puzzle anymore are we?" The teen in yellow asked softly. "You know, I'm always here if you need someone to talk to, Karone." Ashley added as she rested her chin on the console in front of her. The girl in purple lifted her gaze to meet Ashley's.
"It's just everything, Ashley. I don't know how to cope with any of this. I have been the princess of darkness of darkness for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure I can be anything else, but at the same token, I know I can't be that person anymore. I guess what I'm trying to get at, is that I'm a puzzle to myself. I have all these pieces, and right now, I'm not really sure how they all fit together. I'm so confused. I'm not even sure of who I am." She groaned as she ran her hands through her short blonde hair in frustration.
"I know it seems pretty hard right now, but it *will* get better, Karone." Ashley said as she reached over and gave the teen in front of her a comforting pat on the shoulder. "Andros and I are going out to eat with Zhane tonight, why don't you come with. I'm sure Zhane would appreciate your company."
"I guess." The girl in purple said as she gave a noncommittal shrug.
Ashley and Andros said they'd be here by nine
And Ash said she might bring a friend
Just my luck, they're right on time
So here I go again
Little cafe, table for four
But there's just conversation for three
I like the way she let me get the door
I wonder what she thinks of me
Karone watched in a dreamy daze as her brother and his girlfriend swayed gently to the soft music. _They look so happy, so content. They look so alive._ She tore her gaze from the dancing couple to the teen sitting beside her. For a split second, Karone could see the uncertainty wavering in his eyes as he looked out blankly at the dance floor. It struck her then, that they may not be as different as she once thought.
"Do you want to dance?" The words escaped her lips before she realized what she was asking. Her face flushed slightly as his gaze flew to hers. She watched apprehensively as he got out of his chair and walked over to where she sat. Gallantly, he offered her a hand, and graciously, she accepted it.
"I would love to dance with you, milady." He added with a roguish smile as he helped her out of her chair and led her to the dance floor. She gave a small giggle at his antics, and tried in vain to calm the butterflies swarming in her stomach.
Their faces grew somber as a new song started up in the background. Wordlessly, she stepped into his arms and rested her cheek against his shoulder. His arms curled around her, holding her close. She closed her eyes and simply let the gentle sway of the music overtake her.
Zhane drew in a deep breath, enjoying the simple touch of another human being. _I have no idea where this is going. I don't know even know myself anymore, what do I have to offer her right now, other than my own confusion?_ He let out a soft sigh and closed his eyes.
Karone felt the light breath gently hit the top of her head, and she opened her eyes for a moment. Surrounding them was an empty dance floor, but she noted that the music was still playing in the background. She rubbed her fingers against the slick material of his silver shirt. _It's so much like the one he wore on our first botched date. He forgot my new name again tonight, but I didn't mind. He's the only one out of all of us who seems to be able to assimilate Astronema and Karone into one person. I know I certainly haven't been able to make them come together._
Ashley just whispered, "You're doin' fine"
And I wish that I felt the same
She asked me to dance, now her hand's in mine
Oh, my god, I've forgotten her name
Zhane waited outside Karone's room as she moved into it's depths. There was a small click as she flipped on the lights, and the room flooded with light. Smiling softly, she made her way back over to him again, stopping just short of the doorway he was leaning against.
"I had a really great time tonight." He said seriously. She nodded her agreement, and he felt a smile play at his lips. "It was nice of Andros and Ashley to invite us along with them."
"Yeah." Karone agreed as she pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "I didn't want to go at first, but once we got there, I had a really great time. I think it helped that you were there with me."
"Do you want to out again sometime, you know, maybe just the two of us?" He asked uncertainly as he stood up straight, and shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.
Now here we are beneath her porch light
And I say to what a great time it's been
A kiss on the cheek, a whisper goodnight
And I say "Can I see you again"
And she just smiles her best smile
And she laughs like it's goin' out of style
Looks into my eyes and says, "We'll see
This learning to live again is killing me"
God, this learning to live again is killing me
Carone smiled back at the question in his eyes. "Let's just take this one step at a time, Zhane. I don't think I'm ready to go any faster than that." She said gently as she watched his face fall. "I wouldn't mind though, if we started spending some more time together, though. You want to get up early and help me put one of DECA's puzzles together tomorrow?" She asked hesitantly. The smile returned to his eyes and he nodded solemnly.
"I'd love to, Karone." He said simply. She smiled in return.
"Goodnight, Zhane. I'll see tomorrow morning at six on the bridge." With that, she moved over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. She smiled up at him as her face flushed. He grinned back at her.
"Goodnight Karone. I'll see you in the morning."
I'm gonna smile my best smile
And I'm gonna laugh like it's goin' out of style
Look into her eyes and pray that she don't see
That learning to live again is killing me