Disclaimer – Disney owns Power Rangers.
Thanks to stargazer 1017 for beta reading and editing this for me.
A/N – "Thoughts"
Cassie bolted upright in her bed, drenched with sweet and gasping for breath. As she slowly came to her senses, Cassie closed her eyes and let out a long, shaky breath as she wiped her face with her hand, "Damn dream," she muttered under her breath.
Ever since the fateful battle on Terra Ventura with Psycho Pink, Cassie couldn't get the battle to stop replaying in her head. Every time she closed her eyes, she kept watching Kendrix sacrificing herself to destroy the Savage Sword and Psycho Pink. It killed her that there was nothing she could do and had to watch her die. In the few days she had been on Terra Ventura, Cassie had developed a strong friendship and respect for her fellow Pink Ranger.
Flopping back down on the bed, Cassie stared up at the ceiling. In the past forty-eight hours, she had barely gotten more than four hours of sleep and it was starting to catch up to her. Letting out a frustrated growl, she slammed her fists down on the mattress. Luckily, she had the room to herself, so her nightmare didn't bother anyone else.
After leaving Terra Ventura roughly two days ago, they were making a layover on KO-35 before going back to Earth. Ashley and Andros were staying with Andros' family, while she, T.J., and Carlos were given a suite in the almost rebuilt capital.
Lifting her arm up, she looked up at the wrist that normally held her morpher. Cassie looked at the medical tape that now covered it in place of her morpher. The KO-35 scientists were working around the clock on repairing the heavily damaged morpher. While it could be repaired and her injured wrist would eventually heal, she wondered if the deeper scars would go away.
With her other hand, she gingerly rubbed the wrist. Closing her eyes for a moment, she tried to will away both the pain from her injury and the pain inside of her. In Cassie's mind, she had been reckless and that if she hadn't lost her cool, Kendrix wouldn't have had to fight alone and in such a desperate situation.
Taking a deep breath, she knew that she wasn't going to get back to sleep. Even if she some how did, Cassie was almost sure, she'd end up in the same state just a few hours later. Throwing back the covers, she slowly got to her feet. Impatiently hitting the door button, she walked out into the common room. The suite they had been given basically consisted of two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a common room.
Walking into the common room, she smirked softly at the sight that greeted her. T.J. was slouched down on the small sofa with a text book balancing dangerously on his lap. Walking over to him, trying not wake him up, she took the book out of his lap before it fell.
While he had originally come to Angel Grove to try and attract baseball scouts, becoming a Ranger had basically put an end to any dream of being a pro player with having to miss games and practices to battle the forces of evil. So T.J. had decided if he couldn't play baseball, he'd coach. Angel Grove's head coach, having a soft spot for his former star pitcher, had offered him a spot as an assistant coach. T.J. accepted and was currently attending Angel Grove University, playing baseball while earning his teaching degree before going back to Angel Grove High.
As she closed the book, T.J. stirred a little and slowly opened his eyes. Blinking a few times, he looked up at her and grinned a little, "Hey."
"Didn't mean to wake you."
T.J. shrugged as he wiped the sleep out of his eyes, "It's alright." Sitting up on the sofa, "What are you doing up anyway?"
"Couldn't sleep," was all Cassie said with a shrug as she sat down next to him. "How's the studying?"
Scratching the back of his head, "Nothing like trying to jam two weeks worth of work into two days." T.J.'s grin faded as he studied her for a moment. He could easily see how tired she was and had a pretty good idea of what was bothering her. "It wasn't your fault Cass," he told her softly.
"I wish people would stop telling me that," she snapped at him.
T.J. held his hands up in a defensive gesture. "Easy Cass."
Sighing softly, Cassie looked over at him, "I'm sorry, I'm just tired." She knew everyone was just worried about her, especially T.J., but she was tired of being treated like she was going to break. "I know you guys are just concerned but I'll deal with this."
T.J. just nodded, knowing there was nothing he could say that make any difference. "Ok, I'll back off," he told her and the silently added, "for now." T.J. smirked to himself as he watched Cassie let out a huge yawn. "Why don't you lay down," T.J. told her and started to get off the couch.
"But you need to study," she said right before letting out another large yawn.
"I can sit on the floor. Besides, you look like you're ready to pass out," he countered as he got comfortable on the floor and leaned back against the couch. As he grabbed his book, T.J. watched Cassie lay down and sprawl out on the couch. She was out even before her head hit the pillow. Smirking a little, he watched her sleep for a moment before returning to his studying.
Over the course of the rest of the night, with T.J. nearby, Cassie finally got a few hours of decent sleep in. It wasn't much but it helped her get some of her energy back and it was nice not waking up in a panic either.
As the hours passed, T.J. found himself getting tired and the words in his book began to get burry. Thinking of only closing his eyes for a moment, he shut his book and leaned back against the couch. Unfortunately, as soon as his eyes closed, he was out cold; his own exhaustion catching up to him. For the rest of the night, the two of them slept, peacefully, together in the common room.
As early morning came and KO-35's sun could just be seen over the horizon, Carlos walked out of the guys' bedroom still half asleep. Rubbing his eyes and stretching a little, he wondered slightly why T.J. had never come to bed. Looking around, he immediately spotted the reason why and like Cassie during the night, he smirked at what he saw. Cassie was on her stomach asleep on the couch and T.J. was still sitting on the floor in front of it, except now he was turned to the side and his head was resting on the couch next to Cassie's. Cassie had also wrapped an arm loosely around his neck and her forehead was barely resting against the top of T.J.'s head.
Carlos snickered at them as he walked over to replicator. "They're so pathetic." He punched in a series of commands, and moments later he was pulling a cup of coffee out of the machine, or at least the equivalent of it. Taking a sip, he grimaced a little at the taste, "At least it's strong."
Hearing the noises around him, T.J. slowly started to wake up. Trying to move, he groaned softly as his body was sore from his awkward sleeping position. Lifting his head up a little and blinking his eyes a few times, he noticed Carlos watching him with an amused grin. Feeling something heavy around his neck, he shifted a little and felt his neck snap as the stiff muscles screamed in pain. Watching Cassie's arm as it dropped onto his shoulders, he realized what had been around his neck. Glancing over at Cassie for a moment, he unknowingly grinned a little and then picked Cassie's arm off him and gently laid it on the couch, trying not to wake her.
Standing up, he grimaced as his legs screamed in protest. Hearing Carlos snickering again, he looked at his best friend, "What?"
Smirking, Carlos replied, "Nothing." Sobering a little, but not losing the grin, he added, "What's she doing out here anyway?"
"She couldn't sleep."
Carlos frowned a little, "More nightmares?" Cassie's lack of sleep was common knowledge but only T.J. had any real idea what exactly was bothering her.
"At least she got a few hours sleep," T.J. said as he glanced back at Cassie.
The cheesy grin returned to Carlos' face, "Of course she did, she had her big teddy bear with her," he said sarcastically. T.J. looked over at him with a confused expression and Carlos tried not to laugh in his face. "Oh come on. She felt safe with her knight sitting right next to her." As Carlos walked to bathroom, he called over his shoulder, "And it isn't the Phantom Ranger."
Letting out a sigh, T.J. ran a hand across his head and watched Cassie sleep. Carlos was always giving him a hard time about his relationship with Cassie, pushing T.J. to ask her out. He didn't dare make a move, but Carlos was right, he did feel something for the former Pink Ranger. Ever since they met on the bus and then saved Tommy and Kat, there had always been a connection between them. But when the Phantom Ranger showed up and T.J. watched Cassie swoon over him, T.J. decided that Cassie didn't feel the same way and that they were better off staying friends.
T.J. slowly walked back over to the couch; looking down at her, he frowned slightly as Cassie whimpered softly and her face scrunched up.
"T.J.," Cassie called out in her sleep.
Kneeling down, he put his hand over hers and gently squeezed, "I'm here Cass."
T.J. couldn't help but notice the smile that suddenly appeared on Cassie's face, "Teej," she mumbled happily, still asleep. It was these moments like this that made him realize that even though he had decided to ignore his feelings, they were still there.
"The things you do to me Cass."
A few days later, the Space Rangers had returned to Earth and had gone back to their normal lives. Cassie was still having the nightmares but instead of them waking her up, she had been able to sleep through most of them, getting at least a few hours of sleep. While they were taking less of a toll on her physically, they were still wiping her out emotionally. Late last night, she had decided to go watch T.J. help with one of Angel Grove High's practices and maybe talk to him a little afterwards. "Maybe."
Walking around the school towards the baseball field, Cassie was fighting with herself. She knew she should talk to someone and T.J. would probably be the easiest to talk to. But another part of her, the stubborn part, was afraid of looking weak, especially to T.J.. Sighing softly, she reached the field and made her way to the metal bleachers, where she sat down on the lowest riser.
Watching T.J. hitting fielding practice to the players, Cassie grinned a little as he was obviously enjoying himself. Baseball was one of the few things that she knew T.J. enjoyed and she had been the one who suggested he consider coaching. "He's going to be a great teacher, with both baseball and school," she thought as she continued to watch him.
As practice wrapped up, T.J. walked towards the fence near the first base dugout where his bag was. Getting up, Cassie reached the fence just as he reached his bag a few feet away. "Hey Coach," she called out.
T.J. glanced up, not from being called coach but recognizing the voice. Seeing her standing at the fence, he grinned, "Hey yourself." Closing his bag, he put it on his shoulder and walked over to her, "What's up Cass?"
"Not much," Cassie said as she glanced back at their old high school. "It feels so weird being back here. Mr. Hodge walked out of the main doors and I had a flashback of forgetting my science homework because of another attack. Then as I walked around," she stopped in mid-sentence as she looked back at T.J.. He was giving her a look that basically said he knew she was stalling or avoiding something. Cassie would often ramble when something was bothering her. Taking a deep breath, she continued, "I was wondering if we could go talk."
T.J. smiled softly at her, "Of course. Just let me take a quick shower," he said as they walked, on opposite sides of the fence, towards the gate in right field. "Meet me in the parking lot in, like, ten minutes. I'll be as quick as I can."
Cassie just nodded as T.J. walked out of the field and headed towards the locker room. Walking back around the school towards the parking lot, she shuffled her feet on the dirt path, "How the hell do I talk to him about this?" Minutes later, as she driving her own car behind T.J.'s, she was asking herself the same question for what seemed like the hundredth time.
Reaching the park, they parked in the street, and slowly started wondering around the park. Passing the playground, picnic areas, and eventually the fountain in the center of the park, T.J. had tried to make conversation. Cassie's silence was worrying him, so he tried to get her to talk. But nothing he came up with managed to break her silence. Defeated he continued their walk in silence as well.
Letting her lead, he followed her to a park bench, where she suddenly sat down and seemed to be looking everywhere but up at him. Deciding to play her game for a bit, he sat down next to her, "So what's up Cass?"
Losing her nerve, Cassie quickly tried to think of something else to talk about. "How's school?"
T.J. blinked and sat there for a moment, caught a little off guard. "Alright, I guess. My grades are better now that I'm not rushing out to save the world everyday." For the first time in almost a week, a real smile appeared on Cassie's face. Carefully pressing his luck, "So how about you? How's your music coming?"
Cassie was trying to break into the music business, which was her original goal before becoming a ranger, and was currently playing at small bars in the area while working at a record shop in Angel Grove. "Its alright. We're still playing to small crowds but we're getting better." Still trying to get as far away from the original reason she asked him here, "What's it like rooming with Carlos?" She then added with a forced laugh, "I bet he snores."
T.J., tired of trying to be discreet about his concern, decided to finally be direct, "Cassie, enough of the games. Please, tell me what is wrong." Suddenly feeling very small, she looked away and started to fidget with her hands in her lap. Sighing softly, T.J. turned in his seat so he was facing her, "We all know…I know, that Kendrix's death as been playing on your mind."
"You think you know me so well."
Taken a bit back by her comment, "Don't I? At least I think I do. You're my best friend."
Cassie stood up abruptly, "You don't know anything," she snapped at him. Just as she was about to walk off, she felt a strong hand grab her elbow and spin her around. One second of looking into his eyes, she lost it and it felt like every emotion she had been experiencing in the past couple of days seemed to hit her all at once. Bitting her lip in hopes of stopping her from crying, "I will not cry like some weak, defenseless, little girl. I'm stronger than that! Especially not in front of Teej." But as soon as she felt T.J. pull her into a hug, the tears just started flowing.
Burying her face against his chest, her hands tightly gripped his shirt as she mumbled, "It's all my fault."
Feeling useless and completely unsure of what to do, T.J. just held her. After a minute or two, but what seemed like hours to both, Cassie stopped and shifted her head so her cheek was resting against T.J.'s chest. Her voice raspy from crying, "If I hadn't been so damn reckless, she'd still be alive. I knew Psycho Pink was dangerous but I didn't think and not only did I put my own ass in danger, I risked Kendrix's too. I should've died, it was my morpher. Kendrix died because I screwed up."
"Cass," T.J. said softly, "It wasn't your fault. You did the best you could. You of all people should know how dangerous the Psychos can be. We've barely beaten them before, when they were at normal power. The Savage Sword boosted its energy and you did the best you could. Kendrix sacrificed herself to save everyone. I get the feeling she wouldn't want you to beat yourself up like this."
"But you weren't there," Cassie said as she shifted again, resting her forehead against him and looked down at the ground, "I keep seeing it over and over. Not being able to do anything but watch her die, again and again."
"So that's the nightmare you've been having." T.J. looked down at her in his arms. If he hadn't been so worried, he might have been enjoying this. "I wish you had told me this sooner. I hate seeing you like this."
"I thought I could handle it on my own," Cassie told him, "But last night, something changed."
"What?" Cassie grew very quiet and T.J. got nervous. "What changed, Cassie?"
Cassie took a deep breath. "It wasn't Kendrix anymore," she told him, "I was watching somebody else die. Somebody I care a lot about. Kendrix was my friend but this person…he, I mean they…I don't think I could go on if I knew it was my fault that they died."
"Cassie, you're one of the strongest people I know," T.J. said, growing nervous after her last statement. "I'm not doubting that this person is as close to you are you say," he said as he tried to block out the voice in his head, "Prolly the Phantom Ranger," "but saying you couldn't go on?"
Looking up at him, "Me, strong?" she asked sarcastically, "Maybe on the outside, but Teej, you are the stronger one. Who else would go charging out into desert, to help someone they didn't even know?"
Looking back into her eyes, "You."
Sighing softly, "It's not the same."
Knowing they were just going to argue in circles about this, T.J. decided to finally put any doubt in his mind to rest that Cassie was in fact in love with the Phantom Ranger, no matter what he or it was. "So who was in your dream this time?"
Not saying anything for a moment, Cassie kind of titled her head a little to the side, studying his face. Than slowly reaching up, she gently stroked his cheek, "You," she said so softly it was almost a whisper.
Standing there frozen, T.J. almost forgot to breathe. "Uh?" was the only thing he could manage to get out.
Cassie couldn't help but smirk a little, "I always knew we had a, shall we say, odd friendship, clicking from the first moment on that bus. I mean how many people get along that well like we did after only knowing each other for like five minutes, much less charge out into battle. There was something about you that I couldn't shake. Not to mention battling the forces of evil together naturally brings you closer. But then Phantom showed up and my attention kinda got diverted. I just got used to considering you my best friend. But somewhere along the way, things got deeper, and I still didn't notice. But after Kendrix's death and the nightmares, I got really shaken up. That last one, it was like someone was giving me a chance to finally wake up and see what was there."
Then to T.J.'s surprise, Cassie blushed a little, "There was only one time that I didn't have a nightmare….When we were on KO-35 and I slept on the couch, it was weird, I could…it was like I could feel you nearby, your scent kinda, and it helped me relax a little." Seeing T.J. trying to hide a cheesy grin, she rolled her eyes, "Just don't get a big head about it."
"Ok," he said laugh softly. "So, umm, what do we do know?" T.J. asked, finally realizing that he was still holding her and having no desire at all to let her go.
Resting her arms on his shoulders and clasping her hands behind his neck, "How about we see what happens?" she suggested. Cassie looked up at him with a small smile, "I just wish it hadn't taken me like three years and someone's death, to make me realize I'm crazy about you."
T.J. nodded, "Just promise me, if you have anymore nightmares, you'll tell me about them."
"Deal," Cassie said, then leaned in and kissed him softly on the cheek before resting her head against his shoulder. As she closed her eyes, she knew for the first time, she could let her self dream peacefully without being scared of what she would see when her eyes closed.
Three Years Later
Sitting in a rocking chair in the living room of their small house, Cassie was gently cradling a small bundle in her arms as she rocked restlessly back and forth. There were no lights on in the house as she waited for T.J. to return. "Where the hell is he?" she thought as she watched the clock change to one o'clock in the morning. "Why couldn't the new rangers deal with this? Why did they have to call him out of retirement." Then as if on cue, a pair of headlights beamed through the window and an engine was turned off in the doorway.
Cassie's heart started racing as she heard him walk up and open the front door. As he looked at her with a small smile from the doorway, she quickly scanned him for any signs of injury.
"What are you doing up?" T.J. said softly, so as to not disturb the little bundle in Cassie's arms.
Scowling, Cassie demanded, "Waiting for your sorry butt to get home. You've had me worried to death. You had to do it one more time, didn't you? You could've gotten killed?"
T.J., shutting and locking the door behind him, quickly walked over to her and knelt down. "Cass, I'm fine. They needed me and we won. But nothing and I mean nothing," looking down at what was in Cassie's arms, "is gonna keep me from getting home to my girls."
Sighing softly, she kissed the top of T.J.'s head. "Just promise me, no more," she whispered to him.
"I can't promise that, but I promise that I'll be careful in deciding if there will be a next time," he told her as he looked down at his wrist where his Red Turbo morpher would appear when called upon. "Now, how about we put Anna to bed," T.J. said as he took their one year old daughter out of her mother's arms and into his. He smiled as the little girl made a cooing noise as she instinctively recognized her father.
Even though she hadn't liked the fact he went into battle again, since it brought back too many painful memories of what happened the last time they returned to use their powers, those feelings were forgotten as she watched him with their daughter. Feeling T.J. wrap an arm around her waist, she let him pull her into his side. Smiling at each other for a moment, T.J. leaned in and Cassie wrapped her arms around his waist. As T.J. kissed her, Cassie flashed back to the day in the park when the nightmares disappeared and she really found him; not her best friend or teammate but the love of her life. That same day, she promised herself to not make the same mistake of being unaware of it and never letting him go.