Summary: One life can touch many. One death can alter the course of history. The death of Brandon Loksen, Crimson Phoenix Ranger does just that. The sequel toHeart of Crimson. AU for MMPR Season 2 and beyond.
Disclaimer: I do not own, nor do I intend/desire to make any money off the Power Rangers/Super Sentai concepts and characters presented in this story. They are fully the property of their respective owners and are used with loving respect. Furthermore, this story utilizes concepts borrowed/adapted from Chris Claremont's run on X-Men. Certain aspects of the story are also due to my current obsession: Jyuken Sentai Gekiranger.
Takes place after The Power Transfer Part II
Chapter 1: Those That Remain
Tommy Oliver, White Tiger Ranger watched his best friend Jason Scott, formerly the Red Dragon Ranger pack. He couldn't believe he was standing here in Jason's room, somewhere he had spent so many hours laughing, talking, sharing everything with the person he credited with saving his soul watching Jason prepare to leave, an uncomfortable silence hanging between them.
Tommy tried to come up with something to say, but what was left? He and the other Rangers had spent the last several months trying to talk to Jason, but nothing seemed to get through. Tommy sighed internally, still not wanting to accept the reality that something inside Jason died with Brandon. The lies that had been told to maintain the other Ranger's identities didn't help matters, and the pain of the secret had damaged Jason even further.
According to Zordon, Brandon had become the Avatar of the Phoenix . . . he had literally become his powers, his entire physical mass converted to pure Morphing energy. The problem was this didn't leave a body. The other damage Dreaveus had caused with his attacks didn't lend itself to Brandon, if they painted him as a victim of the attack, being totally destroyed. Another option had been to allow him to be listed as missing, but the Rangers couldn't do that to his parents, they felt they needed to provide the Loksens with some kind of closure. That's when Zordon suggested a third option; the infirmary computer had collected enough data on Brandon's genetic make-up that they could produce a partial clone within a few hours. Using the teleporter it could be placed under one of the cars that had been thrown several blocks and caught fire. Only enough of an autopsy to confirm identity would be performed, under the circumstances.
Jason was still in shock, sobbing into Kimberly's arms, and so the rest of the team looked to Tommy as leader. Tommy was horrified by the idea. In a sudden fit of anger and heartache he declared that he was ready to throw his secret identity aside, reveal everything, announce Brandon as the hero he was and allow the world to grieve with them. Surprisingly, it was Jason who proved the voice of reason, reminding everyone of what that would do to them, their families, and most of all, the Loksens. The pain that decision caused Jason was obvious, but he was right. In the end, Brandon was declared another poor victim of the attacks on the Earth.
By the time the funeral rolled around, Jason was little more than a shadow of his former self. Tommy had hated himself for being thankful that there had been no attacks, because he knew that Jason wasn't up to the fight. Seeing Jason standing there at the graveside with the Loksens, all three seeming so empty, hollow, had done more to bring tears to the White Ranger's eyes than the funeral itself.
It was only a few days later when the announcement came. All of the Rangers, at the behest of Mrs. Applebee and Principal Kaplan had applied for the Youth Peace Summit. At the time, none of them really expected to get accepted, and even if they did, they would have turned it down for their duties as Rangers, but Mrs. Applebee had been insistent that the application process was a good exercise. When Jason, Trini, and Zack had been selected for the Conference, it was a surprise. When all three accepted, it was an outright shock. The conversation that followed between Tommy and Jason had not been pleasant, and Tommy still felt guilty over it.
"I can't believe you're going."
"It's a good opportunity," Jason replied, his voice flat.
"For talkers like Zack and Trini, maybe. But Jase, you're a fighter, you'll go crazy there."
Jason's reply was so quiet Tommy almost missed it, "Not anymore."
Tommy looked at his friend, "What do you mean, "not anymore"?"
Jason wouldn't meet his gaze, "I can't do it anymore Tommy. I can't keep pretending that we'll always win and everything will turn out alright no matter how bad things seem."
Sudden anger rushed through Tommy and he snapped, "So what, you're just gonna run away?" He regretted the words the moment they were past his lips, as a wounded expression crossed Jason's features.
It had been days before Jason and Tommy spoke again, and even then it was only the crisis around Zedd's kidnapping and attempted conversion of Adam, Aisha, and Rocky that brought them back together. Tommy had once commented that he doubted Zedd would ever try to recruit anyone not already prone to evil, but with Goldar apparently dead, he needed fighters. With Zedd going after them, it was no surprise that Zordon chose them as Jason, Trini, and Zack's successors . . . after all, they had more than proven themselves by keeping the Rangers' secret.
The quest for the Sword of Light just further showed how much things were changing, as Jason continued to be distant and more or less completely abdicated leadership of the mission to Tommy.
Another week of strained interaction had passed, and now it was time for the going away party for Jason and the others. Tommy had decided he couldn't let Jason leave with things being so bad between them, and so had come over to try to fix things. Jason's mother had greeted Tommy with a tired smile and pointed him to Jason's room. Jason, for his part, hadn't even looked at Tommy yet.
Finally, Tommy could no longer stand it, and spoke, "I'm sorry." Jason still didn't look at him, but for the first time since Tommy's arrival, he stopped moving. Taking this as a hopeful sign, he continued, "About saying you were running away. I think that, if things had been different, if something had happened to Kim and I was offered the chance to get out of Angel Grove, I'd take it too. I was scared. Scared we were completely losing you. And . . . Bro, I don't think I can do this without you."
The silence hung there for a few minutes, and Tommy decided that maybe it was best if he left. However, as he turned to go Jason said, "You'll do fine." Tommy looked back and found that Jason was actually looking at him, a ghost of a smile on his face. "If anyone was born to lead, it's you."
Tommy smiled, "Thanks Jase."
Again Jason's expression fell into the look of sorrow that seemed to be his default these days as he admitted, "I feel like I'm running away. It's just . . . everywhere . . . I can't . . ." Tears began to well up in the chocolate brown eyes.
Tommy quickly crossed to Jason and pulled him into a hug, as his best friend's pain broke through yet again. In that moment Tommy decided that Jason needed to get away, away from the ghosts that haunted Angel Grove. Ghosts with auburn hair and amber eyes.
After a few minutes, Jason calmed down again and pulled away. As he did so he looked at Tommy's shirt, now stained with the results of his crying and the runny nose that came with it. "Sorry," Jason blushed.
Tommy shook his head. "Don't worry about it. After all, how many of yours did I do that to during those first few weeks?" he asked, referring to the time immediately following his liberation from Rita's control.
"I didn't count."
"Neither am I."
Silence descended between the two young men again, but this time it wasn't the strained silence of the past few weeks. There was still the haze of pain and heartache that clung perpetually to Jason these days, but at least it seemed to Tommy that their relationship was okay. After a few more moments Tommy commented, "I need to get going."
Jason said, "Wait," and crossed over to his dresser. From off the top he picked up something wrapped in one of his red t-shirts. Turning back, he handed it to Tommy, "I . . . I can't take this with me right now. But, um, later on if I ask you for it, will you send it to me?"
Tommy nodded, "Even if it costs me a month's allowance."
Jason smiled. It wasn't his old smile, but it was far closer than Tommy had seen in a while.
The two said their goodbyes, with promises to see each other at Ernie's later on that evening for the party. Once outside, Tommy could no longer repress his curiosity and unwrapped the object Jason had handed him. Once the t-shirt was pulled away, Tommy felt tears come to his own eyes. It was picture frame. Inside was a picture that Tommy recognized. It had been taken by Kim on one of the last days of summer and given to Jason as a gift. Tommy knew of only one other copy of the image, which featured Jason sitting at the Rangers' usual picnic table in Angel Grove Park. He was smiling brightly, no doubt due to the person who had his arms wrapped around him from behind, his chin on Jason's shoulder, giving a huge smile of his own . . . Brandon.