Title: Memory Lapse
Rating: M15+ for some (actually, very little) swearing.
Warning: Depicts a lesbian relationship. Don't like it, don't read.
Disclaimer: Power Rangers and related characters aren't mine. Too tired to think of witty disclaimer. A huge thank you to Hagar who beta-ed this and waded through all my typos (twice) and made me believe there was something in the hideous first draft worth continuing.
Tanya didn't love her anymore.
Shawna knew the truth and it was a sick weight inside her chest.
She didn't know how it happened. One day, they'd been as in love as ever. They'd slipped notes to one another in math, scribbled over with silly declarations of love.
…No, I love you more… No, I love you more…
During the lunch break, Tanya had pulled Shawna behind the gym and kissed her until her knees were weak and her stomach was fluttering.
"I love you," Tanya had whispered in her ear. "I love everything about you. I love your hair. I love your breasts. I love that little thing you do with your eyebrow."
Shawna had given her a funny look, and she'd laughed.
"Yes, that thing!" And kissed her all over again.
Then things changed.
Shawna didn't really see Tanya for a couple of days. Then, she'd spotted her one day at school, just down the hall. As she smiled and started to walk towards her, Tanya had frozen, her eyes wide like an animal caught in headlights. Then she'd turned and fled.
Hurt, Shawna had decided something else must be going on. It wasn't the first time her girlfriend had disappeared without explanation. She'd grown used to shaky explanations and mysterious, secretive behaviour. It was just another of her girlfriend's numerous charms.
Still, there was no sense in risking a public confrontation, just in case Tanya really was mad at her. Shawna waited until Tanya was alone before approaching her.
The pretty girl was taking her books out of her locker when Shawna slipped her arms about her waist from behind. Tanya squeaked, going stiff and tense.
"Hey, sweety," Shawna breathed playfully in her ear. "What do you say we skip Appleby's bludge-session and head over to the park?"
Tanya dropped her books. She quickly pulled away from Shawna and bent down to pick them up, not quite looking at the other girl.
"Man, you are jumpy today, girl. What's wrong?"
Perhaps it was the worry in Shawna's voice, or the tenderness she couldn't hide, but Tanya finally looked her in the eye.
"I'm sorry," she said.
Shawna felt her heart clench. The apology was for far more than just Tanya's behaviour. She shrugged casually, pretending to misunderstand.
"Hey, it's okay, babe." She reached out to stroke Tanya's hair back behind her ear, but the girl flinched away as if burnt.
Shawna slowly withdrew her hand.
"Tanya, what's up? The other day we were…well, you know how we were. And now you're acting like I've got the plague. What's wrong?"
Tanya knelt frozen, her books clutched to her chest like a shield.
"It wasn't me," she whispered.
Shawna gave a tiny, disbelieving half-smile.
Tanya took a deep breath and rose to her feet. There was genuine distress in her eyes.
"It wasn't me. It was a mistake. It's over between us."
As Shawna stood stock-still, her world crumbling about her, Tanya turned to go. Shawna grabbed her arm, desperately trying to hold onto her.
"Six months was a mistake? Where the hell did this come from?"
Tanya looked away.
"Please," she whispered. "I have my reasons. Please just let it go."
"But I love you." The words were dragged up from the bottom of Shawna's heart, real and raw and utterly honest. "Please, baby. Talk to me. At least tell me why."
Tanya pulled away.
"I'm sorry," she said, and fled.
The next few days were dark and dismal. Without Tanya's sunshine, Shawna was miserable. She snapped at everyone who came within an arm's reach. She day dreamed through her classes, writing bad poetry in the back of her english notebook. She paid so little attention in gymnastics that she slipped off the beam and banged up her knee.
Shawna didn't care. All she wanted – all she could think about – was what she'd done wrong. And she had. She must have. She couldn't think of any other reason why Tanya wouldn't want her anymore.
She painstakingly combed through her memories of the past few days, nit-picking each encounter in detail, analysing them for some deeper meaning.
Or tried to, anyway.
The thing was, the harder she tried to remember the past few days, the more she realized that she couldn't. She could remember the general gist of things. She'd gone to the park, but she couldn't remember precisely what she'd done. She'd talked with her friends, but she couldn't for the life of her remember what they'd spoken about. It was like a soft white fog had settled over that particular time frame, obscuring the details but not the shape.
It was strange and frightening to have her mind fail her. It crossed her mind that maybe she was subconcsiously blocking the memory of something awful she'd done, but that sounded too much like the soaps her mom watched. Finally, she tried another source.
The pretty blonde girl looked up from her books with a smile. She was Tanya's best girlfriend – in the platonic sense, anyhow.
"Shawna, hi," she said. "How are you doing?"
Shawna shrugged carelessly, trying to affect an uncaring demeanor.
"So-so." She pulled out a chair and sat down. "Listen, I need to ask you something."
"Sure, I guess." Kat looked vaguely apprehensive. Perhaps Tanya had told her something, and she didn't want to break her confidence. Which was okay, because Shawna wasn't asking her to.
"I was thinking. Do you remember if Tanya and I talked during the past week?"
"I… that is…" She gave an uncomfortable half-smile. "Isn't that funny? I can't remember."
"Huh." Shawna tapped her fingers on the arm of the chair, thinking.
"Sorry," Kat offered.
"That's okay. Look, do you remember anything that happened this last week? Like, what did we do Monday during lunch break? And did we ever do that still-life that Mrs Appleby was planning? And what about – "
Kat went a little pink. There was a faintly panicked expression in her eyes as she stood.
"Listen, Shawna, I have to go. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
She grabbed her books and fled.
Shawna sat back. So Kat couldn't remember, either, and was just as agitated by it as Shawna had been. That was… odd.
There were explanations, of course.
Memory lapses were not uncommon in Angel Grove. People who wandered too close to a ranger battle often ended up dazed and confused, with holes in their memory. Shawna could dismiss her faulty memory as an effect of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Except that it wasn't just her short-term memories.
Her long-term memories were all clear, except on one subject; Tanya. The harder she tried to remember her girlfriend, the more difficult it became.
She could remember specific events. Like when Tanya left Stone Canyon. Shawna had been hurt and bewildered by the departure. They hadn't been going out then, but they'd been building towards it. And then Tanya just up and left without giving a solid reason why.
So, a few months later, Shawna had jumped at the chance to compete in a gymnastics competition between the schools. Arriving at Angel Grove High, she'd seen Tanya hanging out with a petite brunette with big doe eyes, and immediately assumed the worst.
Jealousy had never brought out the prettier aspects of Shawna's personality. She'd acted the bitch all day, snubbing Kim and accusing Tanya of abandoning their somewhat loosely defined friendship. Looking back, Shawna thought she had kind of deserved to have that monster attack her.
But this was a story that actually had a happy ending. She'd pulled Tanya aside afterwards, gritted her teeth, and said that if Kim made Tanya happy, then Shawna was okay with it. Tanya had stared at her quizzically for a moment, then burst out laughing. Shawna had been baffled – until Tanya, between fits of giggles, explained that not only were she and Kim 'just friends' but Kim was straight as an arrow, with a boyfriend to boot.
Shawna's mortification had dissolved into a disbeliving joy when Tanya made it abundantly clear that Kim wasn't the one she wanted…
But as Shawna groped through her memories, she came to a slow, frightening realization.
She couldn't remember Tanya's face.
Oh, she knew what she looked like. She just couldn't recall her expression in each memory. She could remember her scent; an exotic perfume. She remembered nuzzling the graceful arch of her neck so as to smell it better. She could remember the silky softness of her skin, and coiling springy curls between her fingers. She remembered all those things and more.
Just not Tanya's face.
While Shawna struggled with her faulty memories, Tanya seemed to get on with her life. She spent a lot of time with Kat. So much time, in fact, that Shawna would have suspected a relationship if she wasn't positive that Kat was straight; the moon-eyes she kept casting Tommy Oliver's way were a dead give-away.
Tanya also spent a lot of time with Adam. It was understandable. They'd grown up together. They were like brother and sister. But Shawna was faintly disturbed all the same.
Her suspicions were confirmed when she saw Tanya flirting with one of the jocks, Shawn something-or-other. Shawna knew flirting when she saw it; the tilt of the head, the sparkle in the eyes, that close-but-not-too-close distance between them.
"What the hell are you doing?" She hissed when she was able to pull Tanya into an empty classroom.
Tanya looked startled – and a little guilty.
"We were just talking."
"Bull. You were giving him the eye." She wanted to cry. She wanted to rage and scream and throw things. All this time, she'd thought it was something she had done and now… "Is this what it's all about? You were just experimenting and you were stringing me along all this time?"
Tanya looked trapped.
"No! I wasn't…I loved you." The words sounded stilted and awkward. No heart, no soul to them. Hollow, like Shawna's heart.
Still, the heart is a foolish thing. It will jump at any scrap of hope and Shawna's was no exception.
You loved me once. Maybe you can again.
She leaned in. She saw Tanya's eyes widen in alarm just before she kissed her. Tanya was tense in her arms, her lips frozen. It was as if she'd never been kissed before.
In that moment, Shawna knew.
The body in her arms was all wrong. It was too tall, too thin. It should have been curvier. The slope of the shoulders was off, and the lips were a little too full.
She staggered back, hand flying to her mouth in shock. Tanya – the thing that was pretending to be Tanya – looked no less agitated, wiping her mouth on her sleeve. That tiny motion confirmed what Shawna already knew.
"You're not Tanya."
The girl's eyes widened in panic. Shawna backed up against a desk.
"I don't know how you did it," she said, "but you're not Tanya!"
"Quiet!" The girl sent a panicked glance at the door. She took a step towards Shawna, trying to calm her. "I can explain!"
"Explain what?" Shawna was growing more angry and frightened by the minute. "What did you do to my girl? Where is she?"
A look of resignation flickered over the girl's features. She raised her wrist and spoke into the watch.
"Alpha, I have a code-three situation here. Can you transport me and Shawna to the Command Centre?"
And just when Shawna thought things couldn't get any weirder, the watch answered back, in a high, buzzy voice;
"Right away, Tanya."
Before Shawna could demand to know what was going on, they both dissolved into yellow light.
They materialized in a dark room filled with flickering control panels and a glowing tube. Shawna did what any sensible person would do in the situation.
A short squat robot shuffled towards her, and she screamed even louder. The fake-Tanya tried to calm her without success. Then a male figure in blue appeared.
"Shawna, it's okay. You're safe."
Shawna recognized Billy Cranston. They'd sat next together in Trig – or had they? If they could alter her memories to replace Tanya, they could replace other people with strangers without her ever noticing.
"Stay the hell away from me!"
She backed up against a control panel. Fake-Tanya stopped Possibly-Billy and the robot-thing from advancing any further.
"Guys," she said. "Just let her get her bearings."
"Okay." Billy said reluctantly. "Just… Shawna? Don't touch anything, okay? That's very sensitive equipment behind you."
Shawna glanced behind her at the glowing buttons.
"Shawna, you're in the Command Centre," Billy continued gently. "We're… uh… we're… employees of an interdimensional being known as Zordon."
Fake-Tanya glanced at Billy and mouthed 'employees?'. He shrugged sheepishly.
Shawna didn't notice, too busy sizing up this 'zordon.' She barely restrained a 'pfft' as she looked the little robot up and down.
"He doesn't look all that impressive."
Unexpectedly, fake-Tanya giggled, the sound completely out of place in the tense atmosphere. Billy looked faintly taken aback.
"No, that's Alpha," he said. "Zordon's…" His eyes flicked to the glowing tube. "…Zordon's not here right now."
Fake-Tanya whispered something to Billy, who muttered back. Shawna caught a little bit of it;
"…damage control…expose as little as possible…"
Damage control. She didn't like the sound of those words. In movies, they usually preceded the bad guys killing all witnesses and dumping their bodies in a ditch somewhere.
She glanced behind her at the glowing buttons, and looked about. Sitting against the wall was an open tool box. There were several unfamiliar tools inside, but they looked solid and kind of heavy.
She quickly snatched one up (the one that looked like an oversized spanner) and held it warningly over the control panel.
"Okay, here's how it goes. You tell me where the hell the real Tanya is, or I smash your sensitive equipment."
Billy went an interesting shade somewhere between green and pasty white.
"Shawna, that's a wide-arch, multi-spec…"
She raised the bar threateningly.
"Just keep talking, brainiac."
He shut up.
"Now," she said, feeling a tiny bit more in control. "Where's Tanya?"
Billy and fake-Tanya glanced at one another, exchanging a look that she couldn't read.
"Shawna," Billy said slowly. "This is the real Tanya."
She raised the bar again.
"I'm going to count to three – "
Billy spoke quickly.
"The girl you're remembering is called Aisha."
The name was like a punch to her solar plexus, slowing her hand, and clicking inside her skull like a key turning in a lock.
Billy visibly relaxed as Shawna lowered the spanner.
"There was a…a situation not long ago," he said. "A device called the Orb of Doom was implemented that reversed time. If you cast your mind back, you'll find that your memories of the past few days are either unclear or non-existant."
Shawna shifted uncomfortably, curling her fingers about the reassuring solidity of the spanner. So he knew about the problems she was having with her memory – that wasn't proof. For all she knew, he might have caused them.
He continued talking.
"We – that is, Zordon –take care of problems like this. In order to restore time, we needed an ancient artifact called the zeo crystal.."
Tanya picked up the narrative.
"Unfortunately, it was broken, and its pieces scattered across history. So a group of hand-picked warriors were sent back in time to retrieve them."
Shawna gazed at her, noticing the zeal in her eyes, the proud tilt in her jaw.
"And you were one of these warrior-guys," she guessed.
Tanya shook her head and smiled.
"I merely had the luck to cross paths with one."
Her eyes met Shawna's intently, as if willing her to see something, to read some hidden truth…
"Aisha," Shawna breathed. Aisha had been one of these…people. These guardians? Time watchers? What did they call themselves anyway?
A thousand questions filled her mind, ranging from how Aisha had met them to why on earth Aisha hadn't told her.
Instead, she realized the other implications of Tanya's words.
"Wait. She met you in the – "
"Past?" Tanya smiled. "Yes. Aisha was quite taken with my time. She believed that she had a purpose, a calling there. She wished to stay."
There was a faint wistfulness on her face, and Shawna wondered if in her mind's eye, she was seeing another landscape altogether.
"So you took her place," she said slowly.
Tanya shook off whatever image had her spell-bound.
"I wanted to see new things," she said quietly. "And like Aisha, I believed that I too had a calling."
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a yellow crystal that looked much too big to have fitted in there.
"This is one part of the zeo crystal," she said. "This is what Aisha would have held had she returned, and it is the legacy that she passed on to me. With its aid, I was inserted into Aisha's life, and she into mine, with no one any the wiser."
Shawna stared at the crystal. It glowed with a faint yellow light, throbbing over Tanya's fingers.
"Why should I believe any of this?" She asked. "You have no proof, and even if… if Aisha was going to leave… she wouldn't go without saying good-bye. She wouldn't."
Billy and Tanya shared another look, this time of mingled discomfort and sympathy.
Tanya slipped the crystal back into her pocket. The light faded, but there was no bulge under the denim. It was almost as if the crystal stopped existing once it went inside her pocket.
"Shawna." Billy ran his fingers through his hair. He looked very tired. "Because of the Orb of Doom, everyone's ages were reversed nearly ten years. At the time of her decision, Aisha was still a child. She remembered you, but her child's mind didn't place the importance on you that an adult's would have."
Shawna shook her head, not quite denying his words, but trying to find something… some way around this problem. The solution hit her unexpectedly.
"You can send people back in time?" She said.
Billy nodded uncertainly.
"So send me back," she said. "Just for a little while. I need to talk to her, work this out."
Once she saw her, she could get her to explain all this. Everything would be right again once she found Aisha. She could get her bearings.
"That's probably not a good idea," Tanya said hesitantly.
It was Billy who answered.
"We're uncertain about the effects of time-travel. There's a high chance you would alter history beyond recognition."
Shawna gestured with the over-sized spanner at Tanya, at the impossible paradox standing before them looking like nothing more than another teenage girl.
"Then what the hell are you calling that, Professor?"
Tanya and Billy both looked uncomfortable, sharing one of those looks. Suddenly Shawna understood.
"There's something else isn't there?" She said, voice rising in anger and anxiety. "Isn't there?"
Tanya nodded at Billy. Her friend sighed.
"Shawna… She may not remember anything of her old life."
Shawna stood there, feeling as if the world hollowed about her. Her whole world had just ended, so why was she breathing? Why was she still standing there?
Distantly, she heard Billy still speaking.
"While I and the rest of Zordon's warriors were protected by the zeo crystals, it's quite possible that Aisha's memories were altered…"
"She doesn't remember me?" Her voice came out smaller than she expected.
Billy cut off, colour rising up his cheeks. He wet his lips and looked helplessly at Tanya for aid.
"As a dream," Tanya said, very gently. As gently as one would tell a child an unpleasant truth. "As a pleasantly vague idea in the back of her mind."
Tears stung Shawna's eyes. She blinked them back rapidly. She was a hard, sassy bitch, and hard, sassy bitches did not cry.
"It's not enough," she said. Her voice was shaking, straining with the effort of holding in the tears. "I don't even know what she looks like."
There was silence. Then Billy spoke.
"We can show you her."
Shawna's heart gave a painful leap.
"You won't be able to talk to her," he said. "And she won't be able to see you. But you'll be able to see that she's safe and well."
It wasn't enough. It wasn't near enough what Shawna needed. But she nodded.
They had a crystal ball. An honest-to-god crystal ball.
Billy had called it a 'viewing globe' and he'd tinkered around with it to pick up Aisha's signal. He'd explained how it worked, but Shawna had tuned out after he used the words 'particle decelerator.'
Tanya had gone back to the school to cover their absence. She'd used that 'teleport' thingy where she vanished into a stream of yellow light.
"I'll tell Mrs Appleby you were sick and went home," she'd said before going, and Shawna was startled by this streak of normalcy. Whatever these people did, they were still teenagers with ordinary cares and concerns.
Nevertheless, when the little robot asked Shawna if she wanted a soda, or maybe a cup of tea while she was waiting, she'd been utterly taken aback. She hadn't answered, just gaped at him until Billy announced that the globe was ready.
Now he stepped back, giving her space.
The image in the globe was of a hut on a barren landscape. Heat waves shimmered in the distance, and the only shade came from a tree which overshadowed the hut.
In the cool shadows, a short, slender girl was practicing a kata.
Shawna stepped forward, reaching out and touching only cool glass. So this was Aisha. This was the lover she couldn't quite remember.
Her movements were graceful and powerful, just like from when she'd entered karate competitions with Adam and Rocky, and won. Shawna abruptly remembered from a few days ago, seeing Adam trying to teach a clumsy Tanya how to punch, and wondered why that hadn't seemed strange at the time.
She stared into the face set in concentration, studying every detail, every aspect of that lovely visage. She leaned in so close her breath misted the glass.
Aisha paused in the middle of a move, head tilted as if she heard something, She scanned her surroundings. Shawna held her breath, waiting for something to happen.
Then Aisha shrugged and went back to her kata.
Shawna let her hand drop from the glass. She turned away, blinking back tears. Billy did something with the controls, and the globe went dark. The robot took a hesitant step towards Shawna, as if to comfort her.
Shawna avoided the contact. She didn't know if she could take it. She felt uncharacteristically fragile.
"I'd like to go home now," she said in a small voice. "Please?"
If Shawna had thought the past few days were bad, the next week was even worse.
It was bad enough that her girlfriend had dumped her. But when her girlfriend turned out to be straight and not her girlfriend at all, but a replacement for the real girlfriend who was in the distant past and most likely didn't remember her at all…
Little things reminded her of Aisha. She was used to stealing Aisha's cheetos whilst Aisha nicked off with her milk, since she preferred soy anyways. When a popper of untouched milk was still standing on her lunch tray at the end of break, she almost dissolved into tears.
The tentative voice jerked her out of her thoughts. Tanya was standing there with her tray, smiling uncertainly, unsure of her welcome. Shawna looked away.
"Hey," she said shortly.
There was a rustle as Tanya sat down.
"How are things?"
Shawna gave her a withering look.
"They suck. How are you?"
"Okay," Tanya said, either not recognising the question as sarcasm or ignoring it. "It's just… I know you're going through a lot right now. If you ever need to talk…"
"You want to talk?"
Suddenly all Shawna's anger found a target in this– this–
She couldn't think of a word bad enough.
"Fine. Lets talk. You fucked with my memories. You impersonated my girlfriend for a week. You made me think she didn't give a shit about me. You sent her to the past, and you made her forget everything we ever shared."
She was ranting in a furious whisper. Tanya looked taken aback by her naked hostility.
"So right now I'm not exactly oozing over with warm fuzzy feelings for you. In fact I'd be very happy if you'd drop off the face of the earth and I never had to speak to you again. There, we talked. Happy?"
"I just want to help…"
"Help?" Shawna snorted. She grabbed her empty tray and stood. On second thought she turned back. "Do you know what the worst part is?" She said.
Tanya shook her head mutely, probably expecting more venom.
"I didn't know it wasn't her. I've known her since we were kids and I love her with all my heart, but I couldn't tell. And now I find out that she's this guardian thing, and now I have to wonder… did I ever really know her?"
Tanya opened her mouth, but couldn't seem to find anything to say.
Shawna went to chuck the untouched popper of milk in the trash.
She decided to cut across the park after school. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the smartest idea she'd ever had.
She walked past the empty playground. The swings creaked gently in the breeze. Shawna could remember, in a dim, misty sort of way, playing with Aisha on the swings a few days ago.
Had Aisha been planning, even then, to leave her?
Shawna put her bag down, letting it drop with a soft thump into the sand, and walked across the playground. Sand crunched beneath her feet as she approached the swings. She reached out and touched the thick chains, arresting the swing in mid-sway. She brushed sand off the leather seat of the swing and sat down. She began to push herself back and forth, just building up momentum. The chains creaked as she gained height. Up and down. Back and forth. The earth rushing up, fast enough to hurt her if she hit it, but she swept past untouched. If only life was always like this.
She closed her eyes and gave herself over to the steady rhythm.
When she opened her eyes at the top of a swing, a yellow-dressed figure was standing before her. Her first thought was that it was Tanya, and she felt both irritation, that the girl hadn't caught the hint the first time, and embarrassment at being caught in such a childish activity.
A moment later, she realized it wasn't Tanya. It was…
She let her momentum fade, let the swing ease to stop.
The woman was wearing a white blouse and bright yellow shorts that showed off the proportions of her toned, brown legs. Shawna had seen that lovely face before – in the viewing globe. Her heart was suddenly pounding. The tips of her fingers were tingling. She couldn't be… this wasn't…
Her voice was very small.
Aisha smiled. There was a pleased edge, as if satisfied that Shawna had recognized her.
"Hello," she said.
"I don't understand." She was crying, and she was annoyed at herself because she was a hard, sassy bitch, and hard, sassy bitches never cried. "Did they bring you back?"
"Yes," Aisha said. "They brought me back. To be with you."
She held out a hand.
"Now come over here," she said, a small smile curving her full lips. "And kiss me."
The order was exactly what Shawna wanted, the perfection of this moment so right, she was standing and taking two steps towards Aisha when another voice spoke;
She turned about. Tanya was standing on the other side of the playground. She was staring at Aisha and there was wariness and distrust in her eyes.
"Shawna, don't go near her. That's not Aisha."
"She's lying." Aisha's voice was smooth and cajoling. "She doesn't like me, never has. She stole my place on the team. She stole me away from you. You're not going to trust her, are you?"
Shawna stood near the swing, standing between the two women. One way lay Tanya, a girl who had infected every one of Shawna's most treasured memories. The other way lay Aisha, possibly her girlfriend, and possibly a threat – but what if Tanya was wrong?
"Shawna, walk towards me," Tanya pleaded. "Please. I know you want it to be her, but it's not. It's something pretending to be her."
"I love you, baby," Aisha said. "I love everything about you. Your hair…your legs…your eyes."
Slowly Shawna turned to face her girlfriend. She wanted it to be Aisha, desperately, with everything within her. If she turned away now, there was a good chance that she'd never see Aisha again.
Finally certain, she walked over to Aisha, ignoring Tanya's shout of horror. Aisha smiled beautifically as Shawna stopped just out of arm's reach. That smile took Shawna's breath away.
"I love you," she said. The words tumbled out on impulse. There was nothing artificial or fake about them. She gazed at her girlfriend's face, drinking in the sight of that familiar – and yet wholly unfamiliar – face and meant every word. "And I think you love me too."
"Of course, I do, baby." Aisha held out her hand; such an innocent, simple gesture. All Shawna had to do was take it, and Shawna would find out, one way or another, whether it was Aisha. She ignored the temptation, and forced herself to continue.
"So," she said, "I hope you'll understand what I'm about to do."
Aisha gave a puzzle frown, mouth opening to ask a question. Shawna gritted her jaw and warned her:
She punched Aisha in the face. The woman yelped, falling onto her butt, hands flying to cover her injured nose.
"What did you do that for?!" She demanded, looking well and truly pissed.
"You're not my girlfriend," Shawna said. She flexed her hand, wincing as the knuckles sent shrill messages of pain up her arm. She was a gymnast, not a martial artist. Aisha had taught her how to punch someone, but she'd never told her it kind of hurt.
"What are you talking about? Of course I am!"
"Bitch, please!" Reverting to the tough, sassy bitch was an effort. "I know my girlfriend. She's a black-belt in ninjitsu. She so would have blocked that punch."
The bluster faded from the imposter's face, leaving a cool disdain.
"Well," she said. "It was worth a try."
Then Aisha rippled away as if she'd never even existed, leaving something with a lot of tentacles and spikes. It roared something garbled that probably translated to something like:
"You're so going to get it!"
Shawna had been expecting it, more or less, but she did cry out, reaching out as if to stop the transformation. Once again, Aisha had left her; for the last and final time. Shawna would never see her face again. The knowledge hurt so much, she was less worried than she should have been about the monster in the vicinity.
A yellow ranger ducked past Shawna to land a punch onto the monster, sending it flying back a few metres.
"This is kind of my thing," she said. "I'll take it from here."
"Tanya?" Shawna said stupidly. Of all the recent revelations, this one… kind of made sense.
"Um… can we talk about this later? You really should go." The yellow ranger touched her arm gently, sympathetically. Shawna looked up at the visor, where Tanya's eyes would be, and wondered what expression was in them. Pity? Sympathy?
"GrrrrraAAAWwggh!" The monster was regaining its footing, making a sound like water being sucked down a plug.
"Go!" Tanya gave Shawna a push in the right direction and turned to fight. Shawna remembered her Angel Grove Survival Seminar and ran like hell. As she left the park, she caught a glimpse of several multi-coloured streaks arcing across the sky, in the direction of the battle.
She had gone through a lot in the past couple of minutes. So it was possible she was in shock when, rather than dwelling on the fact there was even more about her girlfriend she didn't know, she stared at the sky and muttered;
"You know, that explains an awful lot..."
"Will I get punched in the face if I sit down?"
Shawna looked up and saw Tanya standing next to her table.
"If you hog those cheetos, I'm not making any promises. But if you're planning to share, go right ahead."
She shifted her stuff over to make room as Tanya sat down. She reached out and snagged a handful of cheetos, whilst Tanya stole her milk. She met Shawna's outraged look coolly, and Shawna let it go.
There was a brief awkward silence, then both girls started to speak at once.
"I'm sorry – "
"I'm sorry – "
Tanya grinned sheepishly and gestured.
"I'm still sore about the memory fuck-up," Shawna said. Best to get that clear from the first. "But I know it wasn't your decision. It was Aisha's. You were just trying to handle the situation the best way you could."
"Thank you." Tanya twisted a napkin between her hands. "I really am sorry, you know. I never meant for it to get so screwed up. The thing is I've never – " She gestured inarticulately. " – done any of that stuff and suddenly I was dumped in a life that was full of it and I…"
"Panicked?" Shawna said succinctly. "Yeah, it was pretty clear that it was your first."
"It was?" Tanya looked panicked. "Was it that bad? I mean, not that I think of you that way… not that there's anything wrong with…"
She fumbled, the strands of conversation tangling together into a useless clump. Then the ridiculousness of the situation struck them both, and they laughed, tension dissipitating.
"It wasn't that bad," Shawna assured her. "You can just sort of tell with first kisses. I'm sure when you get round to asking out Shawn, you'll get the hang of it."
Tanya looked embarrassed and pleased.
"You think he's interested?"
"He's interested. He's an ass, but he's interested."
Personally, she thought Tanya would be much better off with Adam, who watched her with shy eyes full of admiration, but she figured it best to let her make her own mistakes.
"So how about you?" Tanya asked. "I mean, eventually. Will there be another girl for you?"
Shawna shrugged. It still hurt to think of it.
"Maybe. Not for a while yet. But one day."
The seriousness got to her, and she changed the subject.
"So… employees, huh?"
"You caught us off foot. It's not every day that people figure out… you know."
"That your clothing has a ridiculous amount of colour-coding? Yeah, I'd be embarrassed too." She found she enjoyed teasing Tanya. "So what happens when you have to wear a uniform, or there's nothing left in the wash? Do you, like, wear the right coloured underwear or what?"
Tanya nearly choked on the milk.
"It's never come up."
"Really? This… uh… Zordon doesn't give you an emergency procedure for when the laundry basket's full?"
"Hey, I'm new to this too. For all I know, there could be."
"God, it explains so much," she said, leaning back in her chair. "I can't believe I never figured it out."
Tanya looked uncomfortable.
"No, really I can't. Now that I think about it, it's pretty fucking obvious. Why doesn't anybody ever notice that there are five teens always hanging out together wearing the same coloured clothes day in, day out? And why does no one ever notice that they disappear at the exact same times that the you-know-who appear? "
"Uh… Would you believe me if I told you I'd have to kill you?"
"Bitch, please. You guys are heroes, and heroes don't go around killing people. It's in the handbook."
"We have a handbook now?"
There was a moment of comfortable silence.
"You know," Tanya said suddenly, "it's not impossible that oneday you'll find her again."
Shawna looked up.
"Well, I'm not from that far in the past."
Hope rose within Shawna. Maybe if Tanya told her where Aisha had gone, she could go there after high school. Maybe she'd find Aisha, a few years older, but still lovely, still young enough to want her. Maybe they'd somehow get her old memories back. Maybe…
"I just wish…"
Tanya leaned forward expectantly, chewing on a sandwich.
"I know it's not your fault, but my memories are so screwed up. It's like having a road map that someone's scribbled all over. I don't know where the real ones end and the fake ones begin. As long as it's like that, I'll never know what really happened between me and Aisha…"
Tanya chewed and swallowed, digesting that information. She put her sandwich down and pulled the zeo crystal out of her pocket. She held it out between cupped hands. Yellow light pulsed over her fingers.
"Aisha would have held this had she stayed. It's very powerful." She held it out to Shawna. "Hold it."
Hesitantly, Shawna reached out and touched a tentative finger to the crystal. It was cool, but a warm tingle washed through her. In her head, a door opened, and memories flooded her.
…Aisha laughing in the playground when they were six …
…A teenage Aisha, a pensive look on her face as she gazed out the window at the falling rain…
…Twelve-year old Aisha angry and moody when Rocky and Adam had gone on a fishing trip without her…
…Aisha fierce and lovely in her courage as she faced down Goldar…
…Aisha reaching out to hook Shawna's hair back, a tender expression in her eyes as she gazed at her girlfriend…
"I love you, you know that? I really, truly love you."
Tanya nodded in satisfaction as Shawna stared at something beyond her, a single tear trickling down her cheek. She tucked the crystal back in her pocket, picked up her tray, and slipped away, leaving Shawna to savour the gift she'd given her.