See her soon. The words floated through her mind, searing her heart and soul as nothing had since the first time she had heard him speak. A friend. Those two words had changed Cassie Chan's life forever. Before, she had just been a Power Ranger. But after the two simple words had been uttered, she had become a Power Ranger in love.
In love with a dream. In love with someone who had left her world less than a month after they had met, and who she had not seen again for almost another six months after that. And she didn't care. She knew it was the most unworkable romance in the history of love itself, that she barely knew him, no, that she didn't know him at all, and that she would give her right arm to be by him forever.
Cassie paced back and forth in her room on the Astro MegaShip, her thoughts churning and swirling in patterns she didn't, and couldn't, be sure about. One thought stood out above all the rest, however: she loved him. The essence of it sang in her veins, and she had frequently found herself humming something under her breath that she could only describe to herself as the melody of their love. Or my love, at least. I don't know how he feels.
With that thought, her course crystallized in front of her. She turned to the console that connected her room with DECA, and spoke sharply. "DECA, how long will it take you to find the Phantom Ranger?"
Unknown. He travels frequently, and seldom registers his location with any galactic databases. The computer's voice responded. Cassie wasn't going to take that for an answer though. She looked back out the window, and felt a sudden urge to be out there in the stars.
This makes no sense. She told herself as she grabbed her jacket and headed for the bridge. So? Since when did everything have to make sense?
As she entered the bridge, four other pairs of eyes turned to look at her. The first one she caught was T.J.'s, and something about the way he was looking at her made her heart sink just the tiniest trifle. She sighed mentally. She had always known T.J. cared more for her than as just a friend, but she had never reciprocated the feeling. To her, even before she had met him, there had only ever been the Phantom.
"Good luck," the Blue Ranger said softly, holding his hand out to her. She was a bit startled, she hadn't told them yet where she was going or what she was doing, and that must have shown on her face. T.J. smiled. "I've always known you'd go looking for him one day, Cassie. I know you'll find him too."
Cassie smiled briefly. "Thanks, Teej." her gaze flickered over to the others. "Thanks all of you. I don't know how long I'll be gone. . ."
"As long as you need to be," Andros replied. "I've known the Phantom for a while, and Cassie. . ." a smile touched his usually bleak eyes for a moment. "He's been waiting for you as long as you've been waiting for him."
Ashley and Carlos both gave her hugs; they had welcomed her and T.J. into their lives at the same time they had become Rangers. For four, or really five counting Justin, strangers, they had truly become a team and a family. We've got to get Justin to come visit up here again, she thought absently to herself. After I get back.
"I hope everything works out all right for you, too." The Pink Ranger murmured to her best friend. Ashley's cheeks turned the faintest hint of pink herself as she caught a quick glance at Andros. Their new leader had never really given that much indication that he thought of Ashley as anything more than a friend. Cassie thought he did, however. Time would see how that would turn out.
Carlos and T.J. watched as Cassie waved again to everyone, then headed out to morph and call for her Galaxy Glider. The two of them glanced first at her, then at Ashley and Andros, who were standing by each other. T.J. remembered a night, not long after he had come to Angel Grove, when he had spent the night at Carlos' house. The two of them had gotten into a long 'guy talk', and both had confessed they found their female teammates very attractive. Seems like it's just not meant to be, Carlos thought, then spoke quietly to his blue friend.
"Want to go hang out on the Simudeck? I can give you another soccer lesson," he suggested.
T.J. heaved a deep sigh, watching a small flash of pink soar away from the MegaShip. "Sure." As he looked back to Carlos, he suddenly felt his heart lighten. No matter what, or who, Cassie chose, he knew that he would be happy for her. Because what he wanted was her happiness.
The Phantom Ranger sighed as he leaned back against a rock, his eyes fluttering in pain as he felt the Power working to heal him. Ecliptor's strikes, and those of the Quantrons and Pirantrons, had taken quite a lot out of him, and he wasn't even certain anymore if the Power could heal this. What will be, will be, he reminded himself of the adage his people had lived and died by. Died being the operative word. He was the only one of them left.
With a resolute thrust, he shoved the memories away. He was quite good at that by now. There were thousands upon thousands of things in his mind that he didn't care to look at. The day his world had died. Coming home to find out that home didn't exist anymore. Meeting the Pink Ranger of Earth. Though that particular one wasn't something he thought about because of cruel pain. Instead, thinking of her brought sweet agony, memories and hopes of what could never be, of what should never be. He never could be with her. Not only did she love another, but he didn't love her. He couldn't love her; he was only transferring the emotions of his other love to her face.
Their face. He could see his hand trembling at the memory, and at once turned his thoughts away to other things. Healing his injuries was the first priority, then picking up on Dark Spectre's trail was another. Should Zordon lose all his powers, then nothing in the universe would stop the Dark Monarch from ruling everything.
Phantom found a bleak sort of comfort in reiterating that to himself. As if by repeating rote old phrases, he could keep the vision in his mind away. He closed his eyes, thinking about how he could possibly get to either Aquitar or Triforia, or even Phaedos, and get the healing he so desperately needed.
Then it hit him. Like a bolt from the crystal-blue sky, the overwhelming sensations of another living being, that he had felt from only two beings, invaded his soul. His head jerked up, and his heart thudded suddenly in his chest. "No. . ." he whispered quietly. "No, it. . ."
His shoulderblades tingled. Someone was watching him. He leaped up, ready to fight if he had to, about to call his armor around him as he turned.
And caught her eyes.
Those silver-touched orbs of light that reflected the entire universe to him. That spoke of knowledge she was too young to have, yet he sensed she was more than what she seemed. NO! The words ripped their way across his mind, and he refused to think anything else. He faced her, forcing himself into a semblance of calm. "Greetings, Pink Ranger. May I be of some assistance?"
"You. . .are the Phantom Ranger?" there was a tremble in her voice; she was uncertain. He confined himself to a brief nod. "I've been looking for you. I-I was worried about you. You looked as if you were hurt very badly."
He turned slightly away. "I will recover, in time. You need not have bothered."
"I wanted to bother," she stated quietly, unaccustomed steel in her voice. Phantom turned back to her, and was caught once again by the flawless beauty of her. She stepped closer to him, reaching a hand out to him. He almost feared what she would say, and paradoxically welcomed it as well. "I know we don't know each other, not like I know my friends, not like you know your friends. But it doesn't matter. I love you. I love you with all my heart and soul, and I know I always have. I've dated other guys, but there was never anything but friendship in it. When I saw you, it all changed. Forever. And I couldn't keep on going without letting you know. I don't know how you feel, but I had to say something."
She stood there, the words uttered between them at last, and Phantom stared back, his heart racing. He wanted to say something, to explain how she bore the face of a girl he had loved once and that he couldn't believe in their love knowing that. He opened his mouth, ready to say it, when he heard a voice he recognized as his own speaking.
"I love you too, Cassie." Why did I just say that? His heart sank to his knees, and he turned away suddenly. "Oh. ...."
Cassie was confused, to say the least. First he said what she had been praying nightly to hear ever since she could remember, and now he was acting as if he'd done something wrong! "Phantom?" she steeled herself, then put a hand on his shoulder, touching him for the first time. Both of them jumped as something. . .unusual seemed to pass between them, and he turned to look at her. His eyes were wide and full of moist tears, and she felt them, she knew why he was crying, and she knew why he was acting the way he was, as she fell into his eyes, and into his arms.
Phantom couldn't believe what was going on right before him. His mind twisted into a thousand different directions, he touched her face gently, remembering as he did so the myriad of times that he had done that with Sela so many years before. It's not possible that she could be her again. Sela died not five years gone, and Cassie is a woman grown. But they are twins of beauty. . .As he gazed at the dark head of hair only inches away, he felt himself swept away into his memories.
And Cassie was with him.
The young man who was the Phantom Ranger snorted, then grinned as he reached out and quickly pulled his fiancée to the ground beneath him. "I might be slow, but I get where I'm going in the end," he purred, gazing into her eyes.
"That you do," Sela stared up at him, and reached out to caress his cheek gently. "What am I going to do without you?" she murmured, her eyes sparkling into his own.
He shook his head. "The question is, what would I do without you?"
"Live on," Sela's voice was suddenly quiet and firm, and she pushed him away from her. "Live on, because we aren't supposed to be together."
Green eyes widened in shock. "What are you talking about? We're betrothed, we're going to be married in a month! Of course we belong together! I saw you in my dreams!"
"No, my friend." All of her love and laughter were gone now, and she was looking away from him, her shoulders low and dejected. "I went to the Seer yesterday."
He went pale. It was the custom of their people to visit the Seer before a marriage, and in all the experience he had heard of, the Seer had never denied a couple their right to wedded bliss. If this was to be the first, why did it have to be his wedding? "And?" was all he managed to utter.
"We are identical, in every feature of our forms," Sela murmured. "But our minds and souls are different, our lives and paths are different. I know little of her. The Seer said only that she lived on another world and that you would meet her one day. But we are not to be."
Her betrothed shook his head violently. "I don't care what the Seer said! I am not going to wed anyone else but you!!"
Sela turned to him, and he saw an unutterable calm on her face. "But you will, my dearest love. Though I love you, you don't love me. You just aren't aware that you don't love me. You think you do, but if-when you meet her, all of that will melt away as if it never was. You belong to her, and she belongs to you. That's the way it will always be."
"No!" he stepped towards her, his hand reaching out in supplication and in denial. "I won't let it happen like that! I love you, Sela, you and no one else!"
Sela said nothing, only reached out her hand to him, palm up. Glistening in the sunlight was a ring: the betrothal gift he'd given her not that long ago. When there had been nothing for them to look forward to but eternity together. He simply stared at it, unable to even breathe, as she turned away, letting the ring drop, and walking slowly away from him.
She never looked back.
"Sela died a week later. Our world was invaded by Divatox's forces. I wasn't on the planet at the time." his voice shook a little. "I was called to Edenoi to aid in a battle there. As I said once, I go where I am needed. But while I was gone, Divatox invaded and ruined my world. Those few who weren't killed outright were carried away to be sold on the galactic slave market. I found Sela's body in front of her house." She could see his jaw was set like steel. "Her throat had been cut from ear to ear. Every last thing she had that was of value had been taken from her. I found this in her hand. The only thing she had left."
Slowly he reached into one pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper. Two words were written on it, in script that Cassie didn't recognize. He said quietly, "It says find her. That's all it says, but I know she meant it for me."
Cassie stared at him, then closed her eyes, stepping away. "And you think because I look like her---"
Phantom couldn't stand the look of pain in her eyes, nor the pain that was flaring up within his own soul. Once again he recalled Sela's words to him from so long ago. When you meet her, all of that will melt away as if it never was. He reached out a hand to Cassie, his fingers caressing her cheek. As he touched her, without any gloves or armor protecting either of them, both of them felt as if they'd been struck by lightning. Cassie's head jerked up and she stared in complete shock at him.
"What was that!?" she breathed, feeling closer to him than she could have thought possible a bare second ago.
"What was meant to be," Phantom breathed, his hand dropping to touch her own. "I was wrong, Cassie. I tried to fight what I felt because of what Sela told me. I thought I didn't want to love you because of that, but I do. I do love you. And I do want to love you. And I want you to love me."
For a moment their eyes were locked, then she stepped closer to him and wrapped her arms around his strong waist. "I love you." she murmured. "I'll always love you."
The two of them stood together for what felt and might have been an eternity, completely oblivious to everything around them. The entire armies of Dark Spectre could have waged a war that destroyed the cosmos and they wouldn't have noticed. Their eyes and hearts were only for one another, as at long last, destiny came together, and they kissed.