Disclaimer: Not mine!
A/N: Oh, forget it, if you don't know yet, then what's the point in pointing it out?
Summary: Birthday present for Phantom Rogue; A monster has been terrorizing KO-35. Can he be defeated with the help of other rangers or is does someone see something more?
Don't Judge By The Cover
"The monster has been terrorizing the castle for years now, but nothing seems to help in keeping him away. That's why we asked you to come, perhaps you can destroy him."
"Don't worry, princess. We'll get rid of that monster the moment he shows his face here again. Do you know where he's hiding?"
"In the woods on the east side of the castle." A new voice answered. "That's where my troops and I made him run to."
"Zhane!" The princess cried, smiling with relief.
"Princess Karone," Zhane replied gallantly, taking her hand and kissing it with a slight bow.
"Show off." The young heir giggled.
"Only for you, my love." Zhane grinned.
"Anything we should know about him?" The red-clad man interrupted politely.
"My…" the blonde princess hesitated slightly. "My older brother, Andros, disappeared just before the monster showed up. He was last seen going into the woods the monster is hiding in now. We-"
Her voice choked on tears.
"We fear the monster got him." Karone finished with a soft sigh of lament.
He nodded and waited until Zhane and Princess Karone had left the room before he turned to his team.
"Okay guys, lets see if we can find that monster and make him pay for terrorizing this kingdom."
"But TJ, what if he gets us like he got the prince? Don't you think it's smarter to wait for him to show up?"
"No, Carlos. If we go now, we got the element of surprise." TJ shot back. "Okay, ready?"
The others nodded and positioned themselves at his sides.
"Shift into Turbo!" The called in unison and went through the morphing sequence.
In the woods
"Keep your eyes and ears open." TJ ordered.
After walking around for twenty minutes without finding anything, TJ sighed.
"Okay, this is not going to work. Everyone split up and keep constant radio contact."
His teammates nodded and they split up. Soon the woods around Ashley grew ticker and the leaves blocked the sunlight. Auto blaster at the ready, she snuck on.
"Any luck yet?" TJ's voice inquired, startling her by suddenly breaking the silence.
"Not a thing." Cassie replied.
"Nothing here." Justin's voice said.
"We didn't call, did we?" Carlos grumbled, static messing his voice slightly.
"All clear." Ashley reported last, trying to slow her heart rate.
There was a sudden rustling of leaves at her left and she froze. Slowly pulling out and training her Auto Blaster at the bushes, she waited, holding her breath. A hideous human monster jumped out, tackling her. She let out a scream and heard the other rangers yell her name. For a moment her eyes locked with those of the monster from behind her visor. Too shocked to do anything she let the monster scramble to his feet and get away.
She lay there, frozen in shock, when her teammates came running to her.
"Ashley! Ashley, are you okay?" Cassie demanded, falling to her knees beside her.
"I'm fine." Ashley replied weakly.
"We better get back to the castle." TJ said, while he and Carlos helped Ashley to her feet. "It's getting dark."
The other rangers agreed and they quickly went back to the castle.
The castle was fast asleep, but one living soul remained awake. Ashley Hammond of Earth hadn't been able to fall into any sort of dazed slumber. The hazel eyes of the monster were hunting her every time she closed her eyes. They looked so human and almost haunted.
She tossed and turned, but sleep just wouldn't come to her. Was there more to that monster than what met the eye?
Somewhere deep in the woods
The monster looked up when the door to the small cottage opened.
"You here again?" The old batty woman that entered demanded angrily and she huffed. "Well, I guess I'll never get rid of you."
"Wo zi dao wo ke yi bieng dao wo de di yi ge ren." He replied.
"No, you won't." She sneered spitefully. "The only way you'll ever be your old form again is by a kiss of true love - and who would kiss some ugly thing like you?"
"Wei se me ni zou zhe?"
"Why?" She laughed cruelly. "Because I was banned from the castle and I wanted revenge! No one and I mean NO ONE gets away with something like that!"
"Took you long enough," she smirked.
"Wo hui bieng hui, xia ni hui!"
"In your dreams… believe what you want, but some of us actually have brains to know that'll never be true."
He quickly stormed out of the cottage and into the forest, not stopping until he reached a mountain. Hidden behind a rock formation lay the entrance to a cave, which he quickly entered. He sat down on a rock. He would've cried, if he were able to. But he hadn't been able to do so in too many years.
He sat there all through the night, sadly staring ahead. Like crying, the ability to sleep had been taking from him years ago.
Back at the palace
Having decided she wasn't going to get any sleep this night, Ashley got out of bed and dressed. After checking to see if the coast was clear, she snuck into the hallway. Slowly she crept through the halls, mostly wandering aimlessly.
Soon she found herself in one the castles gardens.
The pale white moonlight cast a silver sheen over the garden, giving it a fairy-like sparkle; the wide array of blossoms glowed in its luminous radiance. Exotic plants amazed her, while flowers she recognized only made her smile at its beauty and wonder in such a striking setting. She spotted ginger, scarlet and cerise tiger lilies; soft silky white and pale sapphire baby breaths; gold, ruby and creamy white roses; a cherry tree, showing its cherry-pink blossoms blooming proudly; mauve violets; gladioluses in bright vibrant colours spanning the spectrum; and… Oh! The forget-me-nots I used to love as a kid. Inhaling the mixed perfume of the numerous floras, she smiled giddily. With the childish self-assurance she was feeling, she knew that if her room had been anywhere near this garden, the scents would have been enough to lull her into a warm, safe siesta.
After about an hour of being in the garden, just taken in the various sights. Ashley yawned and her eyes started drooping. Careful not to be seen, she snuck back to her room. The moment her head hit her pillow, she was off to sleep. The down covers pulled up to her chin to keep the chilly night breeze blowing in from the open window from causing her any discomfort in her sleep.
A week later
They had a few more run ins with the monster as he tried to get inside the castle walls day in day out. Today was no exception.
"Leave these people alone!" Cassie yelled, training her Auto Blaster at the monster. "What have they ever done to you? GO!"
"Wo bu yao hui ni men!" The monster replied. "Wo jiu yao qui hui jia li he duan wo!"
"Wrong answer." Carlos growled, firing his Auto Blaster, still not having forgotten what the monster had nearly done to Ashley - or at least, what he thought the monster had nearly done.
The monster let out a howl when Carlos managed to hit him in the shoulder. It whipped around and started frantically heading back to the woods. Carlos raised his blaster again, aiming at the retreating back of the monster. His finger was tense on the trigger when a gloved hand knocked the weapon out of his hands.
"What the…" He looked to his side, only to meet the yellow rangers helmet. "Ashley?"
"Attacking the enemy when it's back is turned and it's retreating is very low, Carlos." She replied, disgust clear in her voice. "I thought you had more honour than that."
With that said, she turned on her heels and stalked of in the direction of the castle, demorphing in the process. Her hair danced happily in the wind. It couldn't create a bigger contrast to her body language, which told everyone quite clearly she was extremely pissed.
Carlos sighed. Why couldn't he do anything right in Ashley's eyes? Couldn't she see he did it all for her?
"Let her, Carlos." TJ said. "She's just being difficult, as always."
"Why does she have to go on about that honour thing? Does she really think our enemies would do the same for us?" Carlos complained.
"And you want to lower yourself to their level?" Cassie cut in.
"Point taken." TJ agreed.
"Ashley always has a reason for doing things. You just have to trust she knows what's she's doing."
Reluctantly Carlos nodded.
"I just wish she'd let us know what's going on in her mind. She seems more distant every day since we've come here."
"That's just your imagination, Carlos." Cassie laughed, before following Ashley's example and walked back to the castle.
The boys shrugged and started to follow her, running a bit to catch up with Cassie.
"Wait up!" TJ called.
Together the four rangers walked back into the safety of the castle walls, unaware of the fact they were being watched. From the shadows of the forest, the monster watched the rangers leave.
"Ta hen mei." He muttered, his eyes focused on the retreating backs of the rangers.
"She's too pure fore you." An all too familiar voice taunted.
"Qu hui ren! ni yi ding zou la hen dou hui?"
"I love to see you beat yourself up like this."
Without spearing the woman a glace, he stormed off into the forest to his cave.
"She'll never love something as hideous as you!" The woman's voice followed him, ringing in his ears.
Ashley lay in her bed, staring up at the sweeping, crimson canopy.
What did I stop Carlos?" She muttered to herself. "He had him and could've freed the kingdom from this horror once and for all and I intervened. Why? What is it about this monster? Is there more than meets the eye?"
His eyes still haunted her whenever she closed her eyes to sleep. They looked so shockingly human, it unnerved her.
Tomorrow they would go into the forest again and it was already determined they would split up and go look for the monster again separately. The thought of running into the monster alone again sent shivers down her spine.
He might not have hurt her last time, but that was no guarantee he wouldn't do it when he faced him alone a second time. Those thoughts spinning though her head, she fell into a restless sleep.
The next day
"Okay, so everyone knows what to do?" TJ checked on last time.
He was greeted a chorus of confirmations.
"You sure you're up to this, Ash?" Carlos asked tentatively, only to be answered by a venomous glare.
"Let's move and remember, keep your eyes and ears open." TJ ordered.
Nodding they headed out and into the forest. At the first fork in the road, Ashley gave a little jaunty wave to her team and went her own way.
Carefully she crept through the trees, jumping at every little sound that reached her ears. For half an hour she went deeper and deeper into the woods, regularly checking in with her teammates. Suddenly the trees disappeared in front of her as she entered a clearing.
"What's up, Ash?" Cassie's voice was the first to reply.
"I found a small cottage. I'm going in to investigate." Ashley reported, eyes fixed on the cottage in the middle of the clearing, only half paying attention to the conversation.
"Be careful, Ash. It might be where the monster is hiding." TJ warned.
"I will." Ashley replied.
Once inside, the cottage turned out empty of any kind of life form what so ever. Intrigued by the interior of the cottage, she started to wander around in the small room, her gloved fingers trailing every surface. Her eyes caught a flicker of light from beneath a pile of junk.
On close inspection it turned out to be a chain of a necklace reflecting the light. Curiosity taking control, she took hold of the chain and tugged it free.
"Ash?" TJ inquired, making her aware her teammates were awaiting a report.
"All clear." She reported distractedly, being greeted by four almost inaudible sighs of relief.
"Let us know when you find anything." TJ told her.
"I will." Ashley assured, turning her attention back to the necklace in her hands.
Seeing it was a locket dangling from the chain, she moved to open it. She gasped softly when she looked at the two pictures staring back at her.
"What are you doing in my house?" A crackling voice demanded.
Ashley spun around and came face to face with an old woman whom looked like a witch who stepped out of a fairytale storybook.
"I didn't know you lived here." She defended. "I was just looking around – I'll go now."
The woman's eyes fell on the locked in Ashley's hands and widened slightly. Quickly Ashley snapped it shut, but it was already too late.
"You know too much." The woman crackled and raised her hands. "Now you will suffer the consequences."
Fear immediately paralyzed her senses, making her incapable of moving a muscle. Suddenly wood splinters that used to be the door were everywhere, accompanied by the noise of breaking wood and a thundering roar. From the corner of her eyes, Ashley saw the monster standing there.
"Wo yao zou zhe he chang yi gou." He growled, his arm connected with the woman's body with tremendous force.
The woman went sailing through the air, she hit the wall with a sickening crack, but never fell to the ground, instead dust-like sand rained down accompanying the fragments of wood. The cottage started to shake and the monster dove at her. She hit the ground and demorphed, staring at the monster in shock as he shielded her from the falling roof. His intense hazel eyes were the last thing she saw before her world turned black.
When he was sure the whole cottage had come down, he slowly lifted himself off the ground, his eyes fixed on the girl lying unconscious beneath him. Her teammates would probably go look for her and think he attacked her. He needed to do something, anything.
An idea popped into his mind when he noticed the locket still clutched in her hand. Carefully he got to his feet, picked her up and started walking. When he saw the castle walls appear beyond the trees, he slowed his pace and halted just where they couldn't spot him looking down from the walls. He carefully placed her in a sitting position against the base of a tree. Then he took the locket from her hand and slid it over her head, before laying her head down on her shoulder.
Taking one last look at the sleeping beauty, he turned and ran back into the safety of the dark forest.
Two hours later
"But TJ, Ashley hasn't reported in for over two hours!" Cassie argued.
"She can take care of herself, Cass'." TJ replied calmly.
"That doesn't mean she would keep radio silence without a warning." Cassie shot back.
"Cassie does have a point, TJ." Justin agreed. "Ashley wouldn't keep quiet on a mission this long."
"Give me a good reason to worry and I'll set up a search party." TJ shrugged.
"There's a monster on the loose and he attacked her once before while she was out on her own?" Carlos retorted, not even trying to keep the irritation out of his voice.
"Carlos…" TJ started warningly.
"Ashley!" Cassie exclaimed suddenly, spotting a figure on the ground, slumped against a tree.
The four quickly ran over and Justin checked her pulse.
"She's fine." He reported. "Just out cold."
"But how did she get here?" Cassie wondered.
"I don't know, but this doesn't feel right. Let's get her out of her, now." TJ ordered.
Not long after they found themselves in Ashley's room. Ashley still hadn't woken up and didn't seem to be going to do so any time soon.
"What's wrong with her?" Cassie asked the doctor checking her friend over.
"Nothing's wrong. I can't find anything keeping her from being awake right now." The doctor reported. "The only thing we can do is let her be and hope she'll wake up soon."
The rangers nodded and the doctor left. Only moments after, the door opened again and Zhane and Princess Karone came in.
"How is she?" Karone inquired.
"She should be awake right now." TJ replied. "All we can do is wait for her to wake up."
"I hope she wakes up soon." Karone said quietly, fingering the necklace around the unconscious girl's neck. "I would really like to know where she got this locket."
"Is it your brother's?" Cassie asked softly and Karone nodded.
"It's the real one. I really, truly hoped he was out there somewhere… but with his locket here…"
Her voice trailed off, Zhane wrapping his arms around her, holding her close.
"It doesn't have to mean anything." He tried to reassure his girlfriend. "He could've lost it."
Nobody really believed it though. The lock of the chain was perfectly fine. How it could have been separated from the prince if he was still alive was a mystery to them all.
Two weeks later
Cassie sat guard next to her best friend's bed. Ashley still hadn't awoken, though she did twist every once in a while. Everyone was holding their breaths and praying she was okay.
Suddenly her communicator went off.
"Cassie here." She answered it.
"Cassie, the monster has managed to get into the castle walls." TJ's voice replied.
"I'm on my way." Cassie responded and shut off her communicator.
With one last look at her friend she ran out of the room. She quickly made her way through the maze of corridors, morphing while she ran before she found herself outside.
"Turbo Wind Fire!" She called, her bow appearing in her hands, shooting power arrows at the monster.
The monster howled in pain. He looked pretty beaten up already, looking like he had met heavy resistance while he was getting in. He howled again as another volley of laser fire hit him, but he wasn't backing down now. He would go to the bitter end this time. The only way to become normal again was a kiss of true love… since the witch was now dead, but she had been right; who would love such a hideous thing as him? Who would even want to not kill him? He would be better off giving up and getting himself killed now than waiting for the rest of eternity for that one soul crazy enough to love a monster like him.
He felt another one of the rangers' weapons penetrate his skin, blood slowly oozing out of the wound. The end would be here soon, he thought, feeling his will to live fade into oblivion…
"STOP!" A voice cried above the tense silence before death - and all fire ceased.
"Ashley?" He heard one of the rangers ask in disbelief.
"You're alright!" Another exclaimed joyfully.
He slowly turned his head to look at the angelic yellow ranger of Earth. A quiet sigh escaped his lips. So he got to see her one last time before he died.
She wasn't morphed, he noticed and she was looking him straight in the eye, ignoring everyone else. Slowly but surely she started to descend the steps that led up to the castle's main entrance.
"Ashley?" Her teammates tried to get her attention.
Then the pink ranger seemed to understand what she was doing.
"Ashley, watch out! He's dangerous," Cassie yelled at her friend, a gloved hand reaching forward, but un-listening, the almost hypnotized girl kept walking forward.
Slowly she approached the wounded monster just standing in the courtyard of the castle. The weapons of the guards were still trained on him – cocked and ready to fire at any given moment - but he didn't notice – or care. As his hazel eyes bore into her brown ones, they looked at her lovingly, but begged her, though she couldn't fathom why. Halting in front of him, she looked up to stare into the broken beast's eyes.
"They say the eyes are the window to one's soul." She murmured softly, heart racing, aching to be wrapped in his strong arms again. "They also say a monster has no soul. But I can see so much in your eyes, hurt, hate, love, agony… Why?"
The monster tried to grumble something in his native tongue, his voice rapidly weakening.
"I…" The young woman paused, before ploughing forward. "I think you, unlike any other monster I've encountered, have a heart. - What else could've made you save me? - And… and for some reason, I've come to love that heart. Love it more and more… ever since I looked into your eyes."
She lightly touched her hand to his cheek and slowly went to stand on the tips of her toes, placing a feather light kiss on his lips. The monster wrapped his claws around her waist and deepened the kiss, their eyes sliding shut, pure love radiating from them. A single breath of wonder went through the crowd watching them, feeling like intruders on such a tragic romance scene.
A bright white light surrounded them, growing steadily, but they didn't see through their closed eyelids. Ashley felt his rough lips become soft against her own, her heels found ground again as he seemed to shrink a little, his chest soothed out and his claws morphed into human hands and arms wrapped lovingly around her waist.
When the kiss was broken, she pulled back and opened her eyes. Instead of the monster's face, a handsome young man's face was staring down at her, his hazel eyes bore into hers lovingly, brown and blond streaked hair hanging loosely down to just past his shoulders.
Alarmed, she took a step back and he let her, but didn't let her leave his arms.
"Don't be afraid." He spoke softly, his voice gentle and kind, washing over her.
"What…" She swallowed. "What happened?"
"A spell turned me into the monster I was that only a kiss of true love could break."
"Who… Who are you?" Ashley stuttered.
The man took a step back and bowed.
"Prince Andros of KO-35… at your service." He added playfully.
"P-prince A-Andros?" She asked, eyes widening.
He smiled softly as he straightened. He reached out and put his hand under her chin, placing a tender kiss on her lips.
"Don't be afraid." He whispered again when he pulled back. "I don't bite… and I don't care what my world thinks. I already know I want to spent the rest of my life with you, even if it means giving up the throne."
"You'd do that?" She scoffed slightly, unbelieving no matter how much she wanted it
"For me?" The young woman continued, wonder obvious in both her voice and eyes.
"Anything for the beautiful angel from heaven that saved me." Andros affirmed. "Marry me?"
Ashley giggled, now knowing that it was true.
"Ask again in a year or so: I just met you."
Andros smiled and nodded.
"In a year, you'll be mine."
Ashley laughed and watched princess Karone, her parents and Zhane get over their shock and hurry their way to welcome Andros back home. Hoping that one day, she'd be a welcome part of that loving family.
A year later
Ashley lay in the warm embrace of her husband, a soft smile playing on her face. Her mind was in a daze as it was somewhere around the midnight. She had probably slept for a few hours already, but it's been a while since she got to sleep through the night and would probably stay that way for a while. Her smile brightened at that thought. She didn't mind at all.
"You should be asleep." A soft voice whispered in her ear.
"I got into the rhythm of sleeping for only a few hours, it'll be a while before that's out of my system and even longer before I can start trying to get it out."
She felt him stiffen a laugh and instead place a kiss in her neck. Her eyes slid shut as his lips started to roam her neck. She rolled over and he shifted. She felt the light pressure of him above her as he kissed her neck, face and lips. She enjoyed the sensation, returning his kisses whenever she got the change.
Cries filled the air and both of them laughed. He rolled of her and as she was preparing to get up, she felt the covers be lifted a little. When she turned to look, her husband was already out of bed and walking over to the crib at the end of it. She took that time to pull a few pillows up and sat up against them.
"He's hungry." Her husband's voice told her as he walked over with their little bundle of joy.
He handed their son to her as he got back on the bed with her and watched her nurse him. He had been doing so ever since Keac had been born a month earlier. Once the baby boy was fed and burped she held him close to her, gently trying to rock him back to sleep so she could get some sleep again.
"Marry me." Her husband whispered suddenly.
"Marry me." He repeated.
"I am married to you." She giggled. "Why would you ask again?"
"A year ago I asked you and you told me to ask again in a year or so, so I'm asking."
Now she laughed softly, trying not to disturb the almost sleeping baby in her arms.
"And how was I supposed to know I would buckle only a month later and marry you only two months after finally meeting the real you." She retorted softly, still holding the warm bundle in her arms.
"Or that instead of getting married a year later, you'd be feeding a wedding night baby." He joked.
That fact wasn't even sure, but deep in her heart she knew it was true, just like she had known there was more to that monster terrorizing the kingdom colony that was KO-35. Now she was married to that monster, heir to the throne with the, now sleeping, brand new heir in her arms.
"I'll put him back to bed." Andros offered softly. "Then you can get some sleep again. He's bound to wake us up again in the morning."
She smiled at him and placed a soft kiss on his lips as she handed him her baby. As he put their son back in his crib, she rearranged the pillows again so she could lie down. Not long after, she felt Andros get back into the bed with her and wrap his arms around her.
"I love you." He whispered, giving her a goodnight kiss.
"And I you." She yawned, her eyes sliding shut as she drifted of to sleep, dreaming about the fairytale-dream-life that came true for her.
A/N: Wish Phantom a happy birthday, if it wasn't for her birthday, this story wouldn't exist. Hope you liked it. Review.