How much of a fool had he been to go there in the first place, over a year ago. He had heard there was a new crop of Rangers on Earth, young and untested. They were facing Divatox, one of the worst menaces of the universe, and they probably could use some help. So, as he had done for some time, he had come to help them. He had stopped by Eltar first, at the request of Zordon, and picked up the RescueZords. They would come in handy, he thought.
The Phantom Ranger had expected battle. He had expected to find courage and strength in these young Rangers, and he had not been disappointed. He had expected to spend some time among them, and then to leave once they had more experience under their belt.
He had not expected to find love. He had not thought that he would look into the eyes of the Pink Ranger and fall shatteringly, completely, and utterly in love.
Another memory surfaced, of the night he had spent as their captive in the SpaceBase. He had been chained to a wall, still morphed. Divatox had been threatening to remove his helmet and see his face, and he had panicked half the night, not daring to sleep and gain the rest he so desperately needed.
She had come when he was half-conscious. But not as the triumphant captor come to gloat over a captive. She had come. . .in an outfit he had never seen her in before, though they had clashed frequently in the two weeks since his arrival on Earth. She wore not the gold and red tight-fitting suit she had always worn, but in a beautiful gown of deep blue. Her mask had been off, and he had seen her face fully, a sight that no one could say to have seen in centuries. Divatox was famous for never revealing her entire visage to anyone. But now, she had to him. To her enemy.
"You love her," Divatox spoke quietly, softly. She didn't have his ruby, whatever she was doing, she wasn't going to free him. Perhaps this was how she always looked at night. He didn't know, and he didn't really care. "You love the Pink Ranger."
Phantom hadn't looked at her, nor had he spoken. Divatox could speak of a thousand things, but that one thing was the one truth he had hoped neither to hear from her, nor to even believe for himself. He couldn't love. He wouldn't. He had too much to do. But those eyes. ..those eyes of hers. ..
She doesn't know how it happened. She doesn't know about the bond. .a tear ran down his cheek and he didn't wipe it away. What they had was unprecedented in his people's history. Never before had two people shared what they did. Cassie hadn't been aware of it, but she had known right where he was under the city. . .and he had known she was coming.
"I love you, Cassie," he whispered softly. "I can't expect you to have waited for me. . .but. . .I hope. .."
The Blue Astro Ranger. The former Red Turbo Ranger. T.J. He would have loved her. She would have loved him. The words formed themselves in his thoughts. He knew that it would have happened. . .if he hadn't been born. If he hadn't come into existence, they would have found a different kind of happiness.
"Perhaps. . .and perhaps not, Phantom," a childlike voice spoke. He looked to see a young human sitting quietly across from him. "T.J. has always had a special destiny before him, with or without you or Cassie."
"Who are you?" the Ranger asked. He knew that whoever this was couldn't be evil; Zordon's great sacrifice had taken care of that. But he was curious as to who had somehow invaded his ship, without setting off any alarms.
The boy smiled. "They call me Erutan. I'm a friend of T.J.'s. I'm also the spirit of the woods. The whole earth, actually. But I like the woods around Angel Grove the most. There's something very special about that place."
"Yes," Phantom nodded. "What are you doing here?"
"T.J.'s destiny is to be a warrior for me one day," Erutan said calmly. "Earth is going to need someone like him in the near future. He won't be able to have a relationship with a human. And he doesn't really want to, not really. The love he has for Cassie is one of friend to friend and teammate to teammate. Not like what you feel for her."
Phantom couldn't help but smile at that, one of deep relief. "How do you know how I feel? I'm not of earth."
"No, you're not," Erutan's voice was matter of fact. "But you are bound to Cassie and she is of earth. I know how she feels, and that means I know about you."
That had happened on Eltar. He had went to speak with Zordon, wanting his advice, when the first wave of Dark Spectre's attack had begun. His plans had changed in that moment. As much as he loved Cassie, he couldn't abandon Eltar right now. So he had fought.
But he had failed. Zordon had been taken, almost from his fingertips, and he had been severely injured. Only the relief forces sent in from Edenoi and Liara had saved his life, and the lives of many Eltarian warriors as well. But Zordon had been gone.
His fingers clenched again as he thought of the last year he had spent wandering over the entire universe, seeking out his mentor and friend. In the end, it had been meaningless. Zordon had been taken almost back to where it had begun: back to Earth and the Dark Fortress. And there, Andros had ended the long war.
Now the universe was at peace. It wouldn't be for long, the odds of some new evil popping up were fairly good. But the old days were gone now. Rita, Zedd, Divatox, the Machine Empire, Havoc, Astronema, Dark Spectre, Darkonda. . .all of those were gone now, either dust or reformed. Any new evil would be evil for someone else to fight. For someone else to spend their lives in the defense of whatever needed it.
He barely noticed that Erutan had gone. Slowly, he drew closer and closer to Earth. He knew Cassie was there somewhere. He could feel the bright flame that was her life and her love for him. I'm coming to your world, Cassie. I love you. I. ..I hope you still care about me. . .
Phantom sighed deeply, looking at Earth as it drew clearer in his viewscreen. For the first time in years as he looked at a planet. . .he felt like he was coming home.
"Cassie," he breathed the word quietly, and she sat straighter, looking up at him as he came into full visibility before her. "Cassie. . ."
The smile that lit her face up made it worth the wait. "Phantom?" it had not been long since they had last seen each other by some people's standards. To them both, it had been too long. Six months. Six months since their paths had crossed, and he had given Andros the Delta MegaZord. Six months since Hercuron. Six months since he'd said that he would see her again soon.
"Cassie. ..I know it's been a long time. ..but. .."
She shook her head. "Don't say anything," she told him. "I have something I want to say to you," she took a deep breath. "To your face."
Never had she asked him to demorph. He didn't even think about it. He just did it. She smiled, taking his hand. "I love you," the words came simply, unforced, an honest admission. "I have loved you since the first moment I saw you. I can't imagine living without you. ..and I never want to have to."
The final wall that had been there in his heart, a small one but one nonetheless...collapsed. He pulled her a little closer to him. "I love you too, Cassie. And I will always love you."