Summary – Rita and Zedd found the perfect way to destroy the rangers. Preying on their fears. The rangers are used to facing some of the worst monsters that threaten Angel Grove, but when they're stalked by monsters that embody their own fears, they have a hard time taking control. Can the rangers come out on top or have Rita and Zedd finally won?
There are many levels to fear; starting with the feeling of an insect crawling on you up to the dreading of giving a public speech. There are some fears that, to others, would be as simple as crossing the street. Something you had to do as soon as it came to you. No big deal.
But fear was a completely different entity to completely different people. A subjection that made some people roll their eyes and others cringe in fear at the mere idea of the same trigger. What was the best way to describe it? The chills that ran down your spine when you heard a sound in your otherwise quiet and empty house. The way your heart clenched when, just for a second, you swore you spotted a shadow out of the corner of your eye? The bloodcurdling scream that worked through your body as you knew something was behind you, waiting to pounce. The explosion of adrenaline that ripped through you once a hand landed on your shoulder, breaking you out of an otherwise peaceful trance?
But those were anomalies. Life was generally bright and safe. Peaceful. Nothing to be scared of. The residents of Angel Grove hadn't been scared in a long time; they had the Power Rangers to protect them.
And besides, who's to say the power rangers were afraid of anything at all?
They threw themselves into the line of fire every day. Worked to keep the city as safe as possible, no matter what the monster they faced. But what most people didn't know was that the power rangers weren't adults. They weren't firefighters or police officers. They weren't lawyers or doctors. They weren't people who had a double life in ways that many expected.
No, they were teenagers. Teenagers who took on more than their fair share of responsibility. In the eyes of the law, they were still children. Still had to be taken care of by their parents. Still had to have their doctor's appointments created for them. Was able to drive but couldn't vote. Was able to drive but couldn't drink. Had all the freedoms of being young but none of the freedoms of being old.
Stuck in the delicate balance of wanting more responsibility and being stuck under a lot of responsibility with going off to college in a few years. There were more things in the world that would have them become afraid than spiders and clown and the unknown.
And yet, it was those fears that made the rangers even more vulnerable than the regular residents of Angel Grove.
Because there was a monster waiting around the corner to take advantage of those fears.
It made the rangers human and not so heroic.
Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time until Rita and Zedd figured it out and exploited it.
And that day was coming soon.
Kimberly Hart shrieked, reacting as quickly as she could of the danger racing towards her. Not even her gymnastics skills could make her twist out of the way in time, despite seeing Zack coming right for her. Even as she threw the couch cushion away from her, she didn't move fast enough. Even as she flung herself toward the ground, she didn't move fast enough. She was agile, had been complemented on it for years throughout her gymnastics practices.
Nevertheless, she wasn't going to get away. Zack Taylor was as agile as her. He didn't take gymnastics, had never used it more than to help him move from one dance step into the next when the time called for it. Zack was a prankster and would always get the punchline of his joke when he wanted it. So, even as Kimberly moved as quickly as she could to get away from Zack's outstretched hands, he wrapped his arms around the petite girl's waist and threw her back onto the couch, the two cackling as they did so.
Tommy stood aside, arms folded as he watched the two. A small smile was on his face but he watched the two with slight cool detachment. Zack rolled to the floor, noticed Tommy's look and rolled his eyes Zack stood and brushed off his clothes. "Relax, man, I'm not trying to steal your girlfriend." He bobbed his head, shrugging. "Not that I can't but…" He ducked out of the way as Jason swiped his arm out to smack him on the side of the head, laughing all the while. With a long sigh, he dropped onto the opposite couch of the living room.
"Oww." Kimberly rubbed her arm, inspecting a red spot that rapidly appeared on her forearm. She still giggled as she threw Zack a withering glance. "You didn't have to hit me that hard."
"You asked how much does it hurt when you tackle a dummy during football," Zack defended himself. "I was just giving you a visualization."
"Hey Zack?" Trini asked quietly from beside the pink ranger, her knees brought up to her chest. "Are you calling Kim a dummy?" Now she laughed as the black ranger quickly tried to backtrack while Kimberly placed her hands on her hips and looked at him with the famous harsh stare that only Kimberly Hart managed.
Kimberly didn't get angry often, usually only showing it when dealing with Bulk and Skull and Rita's and Zedd's monsters. But it came out full force if anyone was to question her intelligence. Just because she'd tended to be egotistical when she was younger, before getting her ranger powers, it didn't mean she was still that way. Didn't mean she cared much for being called stupid or referred to as less than intelligent. She got very good grades, thank you very much. Even if there were some subjects she struggled in.
Finally, Kimberly let Zack off the hook with a wave of her hand and a, "Forget it, it's casual," before leaning up against the arm of the couch and peered into her boyfriend's face. "Oh come on, Tommy, you know we were just joking around." Tommy started to say something but Kimberly leaned, wrapped an arm around his neck, and pressed a long kiss to his cheek, leaving a smear of lip-gloss behind, making Tommy flush and smile.
"Well, we won't have to worry about them breaking up for a while," Jason teased. He hefted the textbook that rested on his lap and said, "It's not going to keep us from failing, though. Can you believe Ms. Appleby is giving us a comprehensive test for our finals?"
"You're only starting to freak out because you didn't listen to me when I said you needed to study more," Trini said calmly. "You get good grades, but you still have to work for them."
"I had a lot of away games and martial arts tournaments," he defended himself. "And my grades have been okay." Trini gave him a pointed look and he smiled sheepishly. "Okay, they've been better. But they're okay enough to pass."
"Somehow, I don't think your parents feel the same way," Zack remarked.
Jason rolled his eyes. "Don't remind me," he muttered, rubbing at his eyes. "My dad's been on my caes about bringing up my grades, saying we both know I can do better."
"And you can," Kimberly reassured him.
"I just don't remember half of what's on this study guide," Jason said. He thumped the packet of paper that rested against his thighs. "Why can't they give you the answers and be done with it?"
"Then it wouldn't be called a study guide," Billy reminded him, coming from the kitchen with a bowl of popcorn. He sat it down in the middle of the table, backing his hand away fast enough so that Zack didn't harm him when grabbing it immediately afterward. "It'd just be a cheat sheet."
"Speaking of which, Billy, you wouldn't happen to…" Zack started but then he caught Billy's glare and immediately backed down. "Never mind."
Kimberly laughed, grabbing a pillow to hug to her chest. "Zack, even you know by now that Billy doesn't take any cheating lightly. Remember what happened in second grade?" Billy smiled while everyone around him, minus Tommy, started to laugh. Kimberly grasped Tommy's knee saying, "He saw Bulk and Skull cheating. So, in the middle of the test, Billy shot his hand in the air and loudly called them out about it before going right back to his test. As if nothing had happened."
"So you were the big brain back then too, huh?" Tommy teased. "I definitely should've been your friend, then. My grades weren't so good."
"Even in second grade?" Trini asked.
"We moved around so much. I was in two different schools in second grade and my grades took a nose-dive."
"Second grade was, like, pass-fail, what kind of schools did you go to?" Zack asked incredulously. That sent another round of laughter through the room before they buckled down to hit the books.
Kimberly absentmindedly chewed on the eraser of her pencil as she read through the study guide and her adjoining science textbook. She was no dummy, but there was only so much she could study and remember. Ms. Appleby's exam was comprehensive, her science exam was on the last two chapters they studied—which were her worst ones, her history exam was a multitude of essays, and her math exam was already starting to make her head spin. If it wasn't for English and her Home Ec elective class, she was sure her brain was going to explode.
And studying with her friends probably wasn't the best decisions. So far, they'd already done their best to distract each other with as many things as they could. Even before going to get some popcorn Billy had snapped at them for not taking things seriously. Kimberly was able to make him relax a bit after making a compromise that they'd study for an hour and take a break for a half hour. That appeased him enough to keep things from being so strict.
But strict was what worried her. Her mother said she couldn't continue to see Tommy for a little while if she didn't pull her grades up by the end of the year. Okay, it was partially her fault, she knew that. She and Tommy had been spending a lot of time together when they weren't fighting monsters, doing ranger appearances at talk shows and events, and being a student. Even her gymnastics was starting to take a bit of a slide backwards. But she loved Tommy and being able to spend time with him.
So much so that when her mother initially forbade her from bringing her friends over to study, Kimberly talked her into it saying they would work better together. They each had their strengths when it came to different subjects and Billy was good at basically everything and could keep them in line. When that didn't seem to work, Kimberly latched onto her mother's arm and fluttered her eyelashes while saying, "Please, mommy?"
"Kim," Ms. Hart said with a sigh of resignation.
"I promise, I'll bring my grades up. But they'll really help me out." She rested her chin on her mother's shoulder and stuck out her lower lip. "Billy's got science covered, Trini and I are good at English, Jason loves history, Zack's great at math, and Tommy…" she trailed off, thinking of all the times he'd been late for a date because of losing track of time—or his keys—how scatterbrained he was with his school work…"Tommy's good at keeping up morale."
"I figured Zack would be the one to keep you all energized," Ms. Hart said with a wry smile. "I haven't forgotten when he broke my vase."
"So he did one little cartwheel across the living room, I told you that it wasn't sturdy up on the fire escape," Kimberly said quickly and hugged her mother. She planted a kiss on her mother's cheek and said, "Please? I'll be your best friend."
That made Ms. Hart laugh and pat her daughter's head saying, "If anything else gets broken."
"Don't worry, mommy, I promise Zack won't get near anything else. I'll tie him to the couch if I have to." Her mother didn't need to know she'd use her thunder whip to do so, giving him a slight shock if it was ever needed.
"No need to go that far, Kimmie, though I know you'd have a little too much fun with it."
Oh, how true that was. Getting a chance to bring Zack down a peg was always fun for her at times. But when it came to studying so hard to get a solid 'B', that's when she started to worry. Worry that she actually was dumb. That maybe school really wasn't for her. By the time they'd finished studying and her friends were leaving, Kimberly felt a little better though she wouldn't know for sure until she got her tests back. No need to stress about it when there wasn't much left that could be done.
Kimberly stood on the front porch and waved to her friends as Jason and Trini got into his truck to drive home and Billy and Zack got into Billy's to drive home. They'd been studying for hours and had to call it quits. There wasn't much they could learn if they were just going to cram, Billy pointed out. If they didn't know it then, forcing the information in their heads wasn't going to help.
Kimberly waved her friends off into the distance, then turned and beamed at Tommy, who quietly sat on the porch swing waiting for her. She bounced over and immediately kissed him after sitting down.
She wrapped her arms around his neck, relishing in his kiss. She always felt incredibly comfortable and safe around him. He was her protector, her knight in shining armor, the man who rode in on his white horse to infallibly support and defend her at every turn, giving her space to breathe and come out on her own when the time came. She felt it in every kiss, every hand hold, every hug, every gaze of his eyes sweeping over her. Just as she was there for him and always would be.
They'd been making out for a while, giggling to themselves at the privacy they finally had after hours of hanging out with their friends, when Kimberly realized the sound that had been playing quietly in the back of her subconscious. A high-pitched screaming, almost a ghastly wail.
With a gasp, Kimberly pulled her lips away from Tommy's and leaned back, holding her weight up with her hands from where she had lay on top of him when getting more comfortable. Her eyes shifted back and forth, heart starting to beat harder.
What was that?
"What?" Tommy asked, trying to get her attention. "Kim, what?"
Kimberly continued to listen, trying to pinpoint the sound. Then she shook her head. No. There was nothing there. Nothing that would prove she wasn't hearing things. It must've been her imagination. A lack of oxygen. Tommy always had that effect on her, he was a good kisser.
With a shake of her head, Kimberly smiled back down to him. "It's nothing," she replied. And with a bite of her lower lip, a sweeping motion to move her hair to the side of her neck, and a giggle, Kimberly captured his lips once more, putting more into it, putting all her attention on him. Her lips smoothed over his with Tommy frantically moving his to keep up with her.
They broke apart when, once again, Kimberly heard the ghastly wail and leaned back. This time her gasp was audible, almost taking the breath out of her. She rolled off Tommy and hurried to the steps of the porch. Her eyes darted back and forth across the front lawn and the shadowed street, straining to catch a glimpse of what was making that painful sound.
"Hello?" Kimberly called. Her heart continued to pound painfully against her ribcage. "Hello? Is anyone there?'
"Kim, what's up?" Tommy pulled himself from the porch swing and smoothed out his shirt, moving to her side. He placed his hand on her back, soothingly rubbing it.
"I thought I heard someone screaming," Kimberly said. She wasn't quite sure how to describe it, like nails on a chalkboard combined with a squeaky violin string. So loud, so jarring, so…
The word came to mind but Kimberly didn't say it out loud. She was tough, she was a fighter, she was someone who protected herself as seriously as she protected Angel Grove. Besides, Kimberly Hart threw herself back and forth across two-inch wide beams and faced some of the toughest monsters attacking the city day after day.
She wasn't afraid of anything.
And continuing to look out over her neighborhood, she could see, there was nothing to be afraid of.
A/N: So, I'd started this last year but needed to work on a few things with it before posting again. I hope you all enjoy it and I hope to update it again soon.