Legal Disclaimer: Power Rangers Turbo is not my property, but the property of Saban Entertainment, and Fox Broadcasting. There will be no profit made on this story. Besides that, this fic is rated at PG-13, due to some violence, and harsh language.
“T.J.! Get your butt downstairs right this instant! We’re going to the store!” Latisha Edwards sighed and tapped her foot impatiently, eyeing her husband, James Edwards. “I swear, we didn’t want to be parents, and now look what we’re stuck with.”
“It’ll all be over soon, Latisha. Then things will go back to the way they used to be before THAT came along.”
“We should have just aborted him, you know.”
“We were high, we couldn’t think clearly.”
“I don’t give a shit, James! We should have aborted it, as soon as we heard about it. Not to say we didn’t properly name it at all!”
“T.J. Terrible Joke. Yeah, that’s him alright. Why us? That’s all I have to say about that, Why us?”
“13 years of suffering. I tell you, if I had aborted that pain, we wouldn’t have to be doing this.”
James gave her a look. “You’re not saying that you’re gonna regret what we’re gonna do, are you?”
“Not at all!” she declared, eyes flaring up with rage. “I’m just saying we would have been a lot happier without that little…MISTAKE!”
T.J. came down the stairs, pulling his old hand-me-down brown coat around his skinny body. “Here I am.”
“It took you long enough! Get your ass in the car!” Latisha bolted her hand out to point out the window at the car parked in the snow covered driveway. “And while you’re at it, get the damn snow off of the car too!”
“Yes, mother.” The boy shivered with fright…or was it cold? No one could be sure. He headed out the door into the below zero temperatures.
“You know what I am gonna miss about him though, James?”
“What? How could you possibly miss anything about him?”
“Well, now we don’t have our little servant to do things around the house for us. I think that’s all I’m gonna miss. He doesn’t have any glowing personality or charming looks to miss, but at least he did everything we yelled at him to do.”
“True, ‘Tisha, true. But who’s to say that we can’t hire a maid? With all the extra expenses off of us, we’ll have a ton more money to work with you know. So, we can get a maid, a new house, anything you want, babes.” James smiled, almost cruelly, eyeing his son out of the corner of his eye.
“Oh! That’s a good point. OK, so I won’t miss him at all. And the sooner we get rid of him, the better. Let him be someone else’s problem. By the time he gets his scrawny ass back here, we’ll have sold the house and be off at Vegas somewhere!! Haha!”
“Las Vegas, here we come!”
Latisha chuckled down deep. “Las Vegas, no dumb kid, no dumb house, a hell of a lot of money. Life is gonna sa-weet!” she turned her gaze to look out of the window. “OK…time to go, James. He’s done with the car.”
“Just a sec, lemme make the last minute changes.” She walked over to the phone that was hanging on the wall in the kitchen, and dialed a few numbers. “Hello? Yes, this is Latisha Edwards. Uh huh. Yeah, we’re moving out now. Yep. Alright…tell them they can move in as soon as possible, and that the place is furnished. OK? Alright, good-bye.” Smiling, she hung up the phone. “All set, my darling James. Soon, we drop the kid and we’re off to Vegas.”
Grabbing a wallet full of money, grinning from ear to ear, James Edwards headed for the door with his wife at his heels. They locked the door behind them, and went out to the car. T.J. was already sitting in the back seat, trying to warm himself by rubbing his hands together, blowing on them, and patting his hands to his thin torso. His parents got into the car without another word, and drove all the way to the store in silence. T.J. knew better than to try to start up a conversation, for his parents told him that children were to be seen, and not heard, as well as not to speak unless spoken to. And so they arrived at the store, and his parents got out of the car and headed indoors, without even bothering to wait for him.
He bolted out of the car, making sure to lock all doors, and broke out in a run to catch up with them. They turned and fixed him with a hating gaze, and he stopped in his tracks. Then, he solemnly trotted along behind them, not saying a word and looking down upon the ground.
They went through rows and rows of items, before T.J. realized that his parents were no longer with him. He figured that they were in another row nearby, as they often did on the few times that they took him shopping with them. Immediately, he set out to search for them. Soon, he had gone through the entire store and had found not a trace of them. It was then that he thought that there was a possibility that they were on one side of the store, while he was on the other, and he quickly ran across the store to find him. Hours later, though he had felt the sinking feeling long before, he realized that they had left him in the store. Alone…without them.
And he was scared.
They weren’t there, weren’t there for him. No one was there for him. He wandered around the store, dazed and confused. They had deserted him; leaving him in the store to die.
They had left him!
The world spun about him, and his vision became blurry; tears streaming down his cheeks. He could only let out small whimpers and cries of the pain he really felt. They had left him to die… they left him…left him. He had been left alone. He…the silent warrior.
And it was hours later, that a store employee that turned out to be the father of one of his closest friends found him, curled up in the corner of the store, sobbing.
“You were a mistake! We never meant to have you!”
“We should have aborted it, then we wouldn’t have this problem!”
“T.J. Terrible Joke. That’s him alright!”
“13 years of suffering for THIS!”
“We were high, we couldn’t think clearly.”
“The sooner we get rid of him, the better.”
“You were the BIGGEST mistake of our lives, T.J.! Your father and I do NOT love you, and never WILL love you! You got it! You MISTAKE!”
With hot tears and sweat streaming down his face, T.J. shot up to an upright position. His eyes darted around the dark room, focussing to find out where he was. He found himself in his bedroom, in his Aunt Janice, and Uncle Ryan’s house. Breathing hard, T.J. drew his arms about him and rocked gently back and forth.
_It was just a nightmare, T.J._ he told himself. _Just a nightmare. Calm down some, or Aunt Janice will have fit again._
But he couldn’t calm down. The nightmare, the reality of it all…it stung more than the sharpest blade ever could. Though the physical scars of the constant abuse had faded, the mental ones would never fade. They would be with him forever, to torture him in his sleep, in his daydreams…forever.
T.J. found that he could not bear the pain any longer, buried his face in his hands and cried. Barely anyone knew of what had happened to him. All of his new friends; the Power Rangers, thought of him as the cheerful, happy-go-lucky leader of the team. A strong bodied young man, with the power to lead them. On outside, he was strong and muscular, while inside, though they thought of him as such a warm, happy guy, he was really scared, afraid, and alone. They could not see beyond his false visage, the pain that he truly felt. The only ones that knew, were his aunt and uncle, and even they could not help him recover from his awful childhood.
As he cried, his younger cousin, 9 year old Kaisha walked down the hall past his room and peeked inside. She gasped at what she saw, and in a shrill voice called out, “Mama! T.J.’s crying, T.J.’s crying!”
T.J. jerked his head up and glared at her, but that didn’t help any. She ran shrieking to her room, as Aunt Janice ran into T.J.’s. Without a word, she embraced her nephew and started whispering comforting things into his ear. At first, T.J. tried to shake her off, but then he started to calm down, and leaned against her. Tears still flowed from his eyes as he rested his head on her shoulder. She patted his back gently, murmuring kind words to him until his tears ceased. She let him straighten back up, so that she could look into his soft, dark brown eyes. Aunt Janice loved T.J. like the son that she never had, and understood what he had gone through. She made a vow to herself, to always be there for him.
“T.J., hon, what’s the matter? Did you have another nightmare?” she asked him, lips drawn tight.
He nodded slowly, sniffling. “It was HORRIBLE, Aunt Janice! It happened over again, in my dream. How they left me in that store, left me there to die. And they were taunting me, telling me what a mistake I was, my name…everything!” he took in a deep breath, trying to hold back more tears that came to his eyes as he told her the dream again. She reached out again to pull him into a warm hug.
“Sweetheart, you know that you’re far away from them now, and that they’ll never hurt you again. You don’t need to live in fear any longer. You’ve got great friends, a nice, new family. What you’re parents did to you was wrong, and it hurt you very much…but I know you can get past it, dear. All you have to do, is try to push these awful nightmares, and what not out of your head, and you’ll be alright.”
“I know…” he whispered, wiping at his eyes. “But it’s so hard! No matter how hard I try, I can’t get rid of it…it….just hurts…so bad!”
“Shh…I understand. Things like that take time, and in your case, a long time.”
T.J. jerked up to look at her, eyes blazing. “What are you trying to say, Aunt Janice?” he snapped at her, pulling away from her outstretched arms.
She sighed and looked down at the bright red comforter on his bed, and ran her hands along it. “T.J., sweetheart, you’re hiding it from everyone but me, you’re Uncle Ryan and Kaisha. Not only that, but you’re totally different than what you are inside. Outside, you’re happy, cheerful…you like to joke around and be the strong guy, but then inside, you’re weak and wounded, and you never show it. One of these days, it will get to you. If you want to be like you’re outside, you need to be more open with your friends, and tell them what is going on inside of you. Then, after you get it out in the open, the nightmares will stop, and you’ll begin to heal.”
He turned his head to glare at the wall. “That won’t work.” He said, clenching his teeth. “My friends will never understand.”
“I can’t agree, or disagree to that one, hon. All I can say, is that if they are really you’re friends, they will understand, and help you out of this hard time that you’re in.” she stood up, and gently pushed on his shoulders to make him lay back down. He tensed for a second, but then began to relax. “Now, you see what you can do about getting some sleep. You need it, because you’ve got that field trip at school tomorrow.”
T.J. found his eyelids drooping. _Man, crying is so exhausting_ he thought, looking up at his aunt. “Thank you, Aunt Janice. I’ll think about what you said. I love you.” He rolled over, and nestled himself down into his comforter and pillow, shutting his eyes completely.
Janice reached out and touched his cheek gently. “I love you too, sweetheart.” She whispered. “Pleasant dreams.”
As she left the room, T.J. drifted off to sleep. Though he had no more dreams that night, the ones of earlier haunted him subconsciously, and he couldn’t get any real rest. He knew in his heart that what his aunt had said about him, keeping everything from his friends, was true. He needed to tell them, and it really WOULD make him feel better. Not only that, but they needed to know.
Just in case Divatox ever found out, and turned it to her advantage.
If she did, it could very well destroy him. And along with him, the whole team; killing the closest friends he had ever had in his life.
And he would do anything to prevent that from happening.
T.J. woke up and slammed the button on his alarm clock with his fist. He stood up, and began to walk around his room when he saw his calendar. In bright red marker, that day was circled, and etched inside of the circle were the words “School Camping Trip at 8:30 a.m.” He jerked his head to the side to look at his clock.
It was 8:15!! He had only 15 minutes!
“I’ve got to start moving!” He grabbed a clean shirt, jerked the one he was wearing over his head, and tossed it to the side. He then pulled the new shirt over his head, and ran for his bureau to grab some jeans. Within two minutes, he was dressed, and digging through his messy closet to find the things that he had packed the previous night. Grabbing the large gym bag, and the sleeping bag with his pillow, he dashed out of his room and down the stairs.
" You better get a move on TJ.” His uncle said, sitting down at the table with a coffee cup in one hand, and a newspaper in the other. He sipped the coffee loudly. “You’re going to be late!”
“I know, I know!” T.J. exclaimed, a slight tinge of a whine in his voice. “Now where’s my keys!?” He spun around in a circle, eyes scanning the kitchen for his car keys. Kaisha began to giggle, pointing at him.
“He’s silly!” she said, shoving her mouth full of toast.
Aunt Janice went across the kitchen and pulled his keys off of the little keyholder hanging on the wall. “Dear,” she said, walking up to him and placing the keys in the palm of his hand. “You’d lose your head if it wasn’t bolted to your neck! Now remember what I said, and have a nice trip!”
T.J. pulled his aunt into a hug. “I will, Aunt Janice. See ya later, Kaisha! Bye, Uncle Ryan!”
“Do as your aunt says, Teej. Take care of yourself now! We’ll see you when you get back!” Uncle Ryan set the coffee cup down long enough to wave to his nephew. And as for his cousin??? Kaisha just kept laughing and spat her orange juice and toast all over the place. T.J. shrugged, accepting that as Kaisha’s goodbye, and left.
He ran out to his car, unlocked it, and tossed everything into the backseat. He jumped into the driver’s seat, turned the key in the ignition, and sped off towards Angel Grove High School. He barely made it on time, and had nearly exceeded the speed limit the entire time.
He grabbed everything out of the car, and ran to the buses parked out in front of the school. Outside of one of them, his friends stood. They waved to him.
“Hey, T.J.!” Carlos exclaimed, running a hand through his long black hair. “What took you so long! We thought that you weren’t going to show!”
“Errr, I woke up a little late, that’s all.” T.J. explained, hoisting his gym bag up onto his shoulder. Ashley reached over and took the sleeping bag, and threw it in the back of the bus. T.J. threw the bag in after it. “Is everyone ready to go?” he asked.
“Yeah, but we can’t leave until the last chaperone shows up!” Justin said. “I hope she gets here soon... I can’t wait to go camping any longer!”
“Huh?? Who are you talking about?” Ashley asked him, giving him a strange look. “I thought everyone was here now!”
“A girl named Jessica Jessie. She moved into town about a month ago…she’s pretty cool.” Cassie said, watching the road in front of the school.
Ashley pointed to a shiny black car streaking through the parking lot. “Is that her??”
“Yeah, that’s her!” Cassie said, smiling. The girl jumped out of the car, and grabbed her stuff out of the back. She came running up to them. Then, she stopped next to T.J. and started to try and catch her breath.
“This had BETTER be the camping trip, Cassie!” She said, and threw her things into the back of the bus with everyone else’s.
“Yeah, and you got here JUST in time.” Cassie turned to face her friends, and pointing at each one she introduced them all. “This is Ashley Hammond, Carlos Alverez, Justin Stewart, and T.J. Edwards. Everyone, this is Jessica Jessie.”
Everyone except T.J. murmured hello, and shook her hand. T.J., on the other hand, could not do anything but stare at her with a dreamy gaze.
“Hi!” Jessica smiled, waving to them all. T.J. took note of her beautiful, long fingernails…all glossy with clear fingernail polish. Her dark brown eyes were cheerful, and danced with tiny sparkles of sunshine in her eyes. He thought that they perfectly complemented her creamy dark skin, and her brown hair was straightened up to perfection. In all due respect, T.J. felt weak in the knees just looking at her. Carlos eyed him curiously, and then shook his head.
Just as T.J. began to think about how great her clothes looked on her, he suddenly realized that if he didn’t stop, then they would never get to go camping. He put his hands on his hips, and drew in a deep breath. “OK, everyone!” He bellowed in his powerful, deep voice. “We need to get on the bus and get going if we want to get to the camp grounds between now and eternity.”
With quiet laughter, they all got on the bus. Cassie and Ashley sat together in the back, gossiping about who knows, or much less, who cared what. Justin sat alone in the seat next to them, laughing and joking with some of the people sitting nearby about things that had happened at track practice. T.J. sat alone, deep in thought about Jessica, and the nightmare that he had the previous night. Carlos sat in the seat next to him.
"What was that?” Carlos asked him. There was a joking tone in his strong Hispanic accent, and a suspicious grin on his face to match.
“What are you talking about!” T.J. exclaimed. His eyes flared up, and his jaw was slack. Carlos reached over and shut his open mouth.
“What you did with Jessica, silly! You didn’t even say hi to her, but you sure as heck were checking her out!”
“I was NOT checking her out!” All the memory of the nightmare vanished from his mind then, to be replaced by slight irritation at Carlos. Who did he think he was, anyway! Little Miss, I mean Mr. Matchmaker??? Honestly!
“Yeah you were! You know it, boy.”
“Well…” T.J. bit his lip and looked down at the floor. The bus bumped around gently as it rolled along the highway, and everyone’s voices blended into a dull roar. He brought his eyes to look back up at Carlos. “She looks OK.” He paused. “Well, what I’m saying is she’s fine, but she might be a snob.”
“So?? Find out! Talk to her! You can see what she’s like, and see if she likes you. Come on, dude. What have you got to lose????”
“My sanity. Like she’d really like a guy like me!!” _Yeah, who could like a guy who is named “Terrible Joke”. They’d have to be out of their mind!_ he sighed softly, drawing his lips tight. “Look, we’re here on a camping trip, NOT a matchmaking trip!”
As if on cue, Jessica walked by with a piece of paper in her hand. She made her way up to the front of the bus and threw the paper into the wastebasket. T.J. stared longingly, knowing that he had to talk to her, and wanted to talk to her so badly, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He was so shy…and couldn’t help it. She went to the back of the bus and started to chat with the girls. He would have talked to her, except for that he was afraid of what would happen.
“Look. I’ll talk to her, but I will only do it when I feel doing it. Satisfied?” He gave Carlos a stern look, with a large smile.
“I gotcha, I gotcha!” Carlos lifted his hands up, still smiling. “I won’t do anything that will get you mad! When we get there, why don’t you ask her to camp with us???”
“No way!” T.J. objected, eyes becoming wide as saucers. “I’m not going to do that! I refuse to ask her that!”
“OK, OK.” Carlos sighed, trying hard not to laugh. “But that’s your loss, not mine.”
T.J. shook his head and turned around to look out the window. He sighed deeply, and took in the scenery outside in as the blur that it appeared to be. Blotches of dark green, black, red, and yellow, dappled his vision as they passed through the fall colored forest. They were nearly out to the campgrounds now, and all that T.J. could think about was Jessica.
He had subconsciously convinced himself that Jessica could never like him. To him, he really was like the name his parents gave him. With the way he had been treated for 13 years of his life, it was no wonder his self-esteem was as low as it was. And he had not made things any better. There was no way he could tell his friends about it NOW. They were all separated on the bus, and he knew that if she told them, that their trip would be ruined. He didn’t want to do that to them. Everyone had been looking forward to that trip for months!
Cassie stood up from her seat in the back, laughing like a maniac. Through all of the screaming and laughing people she came, and sat down right next to Carlos. T.J. turned around to look at her for a second, a little sadly in fact, and then turned back around.
With a large grin on her face, Cassie tapped him on the shoulder. “Teej, would you and Carlos mind if Jessica camps with us? Nobody has asked her yet, and we have such a big cabin. Besides, she needs to make some new friends, and it would be totally cute! So, what do you say?”
“Fine with me!” Carlos said, still unable to erase the huge goofy smile that he had on his face. Carlos was going to be in a hyper mood the whole entire trip…they could already tell!
“That would be perfect.” T.J. said quietly, looking at Jessica through the corner of his eye.
“Yeah!!” Carlos was practically bouncing out of his seat. “And T.J. could talk to Jessica, and they could get to know each other, and maybe-” his crazy words were drowned out as Cassie clapped her hand over his mouth. His only response was to bite down on her hand, and screaming, she pulled it back.
T.J. gave him a cold stare, and Carlos shut his mouth before he could say another word. With that, Carlos instinctively drew his face into an adorable puppy dog face. That, of course, had no effect on T.J., because he was a master of puppy dog faces in his own right! Cassie looked at T.J.
“Does T.J. have a crush on Jessie??” she asked Carlos. T.J. gave another cold look to Carlos, clenching his fists.
And for the first time, T.J. was a little relieved that Carlos wasn’t the most intelligent guy in the world. “Who’s Jessie? I thought we were talking about Jessica!” he blurted out. His visage shown a confused look and his dark brown eyes scanned the bus. His hand instinctively went up to his hair, and ran through it.
Cassie looked like she was going to kill him for that comment. She came up and bonked him on the head. “Jessica IS Jessie, stupid!” she exclaimed, eyes narrowed. Carlos shut up again, because he could tell that his sugar rush was making his friends irritated at him.
T.J. shook his head. A deep sigh escaped his mouth. “Things can’t get any worse. Carlos, are you going to tell her that I cant talk to her because I am worried if she likes me or not???" T.J. shouted, his hands flew up into the air. He knew that at any moment, he might explode, so he sank back down into his seat, and looked back at Jessica. He watched her brush her beautiful hair, even though it had no need to be fixed.
“Hello! Earth to T.J.! Are you going to ask her??” Cassie waved a hand in front of his face. T.J. looked at her, ready to say “NO!” but he knew that it would be rude.
“Sure, I’ll ask her, but not right now. I’m not quite ready.” T.J. told her quietly. _What was I thinking? She’d never say yes to ME! Cassie sure, Carlos maybe, but NOT me! Besides, I don’t think I could do that without looking stupid! Not to say I don’t look stupid already._ He knew that this was going to be one of the hardest things he had ever had to do in his whole life. He…had never been in love before!
He sat quietly in his seat, head bobbing slightly as the bus rolled over the bumps in the road. _I suppose I should just ask her about the cabin, and come back over here if she doesn’t want to talk. But what if she does??? Oh I don’t know what I am going to do!_ Many thoughts ran through his head, and he wrung his hands together. It was fairly obvious that what he was going to do was making him nervous. He couldn’t even think clearly!!! He turned his head again to look at her.
There she was, in the back of the bus, laughing and joking around with Ashley and Justin. She reached over, smiling, and pulled Justin’s hair up into a scrunchie. Ashley dissolved into giggles and covered her face, her index finger pointed at Justin. He gave Jessica a disgusted look, and ripped the scrunchie from his hair. “I am NOT a girl!” he shouted, and threw the scrunchie in Jessica’s face. She only sat there, smiling and laughing. T.J. caught his breath as he watched her, and he thought that there wasn’t anything that wasn’t perfect about her, even her teeth. So perfect….like shiny pearls.
And just then, she met his gaze. She smiled more widely, and waved to him. T.J.’s face flushed, and he bit his lip. Shyly, he waved back. And then, they just sat there and stared at each other. Both pairs of eyes locked onto the other ones. T.J. felt himself drowning in the warmth of her eyes. That is, until Carlos got his hand in the way! T.J. turned to glare at him. “What is it??” He snapped.
“Are you going to ask her, or do I have to?” Carlos asked him, his tone now slightly serious. His sugar rush from the chocolate doughnuts he had for breakfast was beginning to wear off.
T.J. looked at him for a moment, and then back at Jessica.
“Come on, Teej! This is a perfect opportunity to see what she is like. Go ask her already.” He put a reassuring hand on T.J.’s shoulder, and nodded. “Besides that, she’s staring at you.”
“Fine.” T.J. said, and stood up. But then instantly, he plopped back down again. “No… not now. I’m not ready yet.”
“We’re almost at camp already, T.J.!” Cassie added, whining at him. “Just go ask her, or do we have to make you?”
“OK. But if she says no to me, I am never going to forgive the both of you!” T.J. stuck his index finger out at Cassie and Carlos. All they did was laugh, and push him back up to a standing position.
He nearly toppled over with the force of their push, but then regained his balance and went to the back of the bus. She was sitting there, writing in a book. Frowning, T.J.’s thoughts went to all of the bad things that she could say to him. All she could do to hurt him. And the worst of it was, he expected the worst would happen. He looked around for an empty seat, and quietly slipped into the one that was in front of her. She looked up at him and smiled warmly.
“What’s up?” she asked him with a comforting tone. T.J. looked into her eyes and tried to speak, but no words would come! Clearing his throat, he tried again, and in a scratchy, quiet voice, he said,
“Um….C…Cassie, Carlos, Justin, Ashley and I were wondering if you would camp with us. If you’d like to, that is. If you don’t, that’s perfectly alright. I just wanted to ask you. Cause we kinda thought you’d might like to. But, as I was saying, you really don’t have to if you don’t want to, you know.” His words came out a rush, and he was trembling slightly.
With another flash of her sparkly, pearly white teeth, she replied. “That would be wonderful! Where should we meet?”
“Meet us near the bus once we get our stuff together, and we’ll get our cabin assignments.” He was ready to get up and retreat back to his seat near the front when he looked at her, and sunk back down. Noticing this, Jessica put the book she had been writing in back into her bookbag. “What kind of sports do you like?” he asked her. His nervousness now had begun to fade away.
“Mostly anything.” She said with a shrug. “But I love the martial arts. I have a black belt in karate, kung fu, and tae kwon do.”
A short laugh escaped his throat. “I like the martial arts too! But how on Earth can you stand them with those nails? They must be a real pain sometimes!”
“Yeah, they are. They break a lot, but I still like having them. They make my hands look dangerous!” They both laughed, and once again, T.J. began to get lost in her eyes. It seemed like her face was moving closer to him, when suddenly, Carlos and Cassie appeared and sat down, totally ruining the moment. But it was clear that T.J. was only falling in deeper love with Jessica.