Disclaimer: No, I don't own PR.
AN: I never do this (at least anymore) but apparently I'm posting a story before finishing it in its entirety though I do know exactly what happens and I'm almost to the end. Let's hope it goes well. Also, no shipping. I'm trying really hard to keep shipping out of this darned story (at least as far as the JF team is concerned).
This story takes place after The Blind Leading the Blind and before Pushed to the Edge.
RJ should never have left the restaurant. He went out to restock on his favorite brand of sugary cereal and ended up trapped -- not in any sort of dangerous sense, but he couldn't get past third street where the Rangers were battling Camille and some Rinshis. RJ could always use some of his Pai Zhuq skills to get past the battle but that would probably mean getting pulled in. He contented himself with sitting behind a car and watching his cubs in the car's mirrors while eating cereal straight from the box. Theo was incorporating the fan techniques he'd learned from Master Swoop to disarm the Rinshis, Lily was using her speed to knock the Rinishis down, and Casey was -- fighting Rinshis? Where was Camille? RJ jumped to his feet scanning the area quickly. There she was, on a ledge several stories up, watching the movements of the Red Ranger. She pulled one hand from behind her back and RJ paled. She held a pulsating orb, RJ could feel the power emanating from it even two hundred yards away. If Casey survived, the effects would be disastrous. RJ did the only thing he could do: he raced across the street and leapt in front of his cub just as the blast hit.
He only vaguely registered Casey's voice calling his name as the energy struck. It went through his skin, his muscles, his veins, and into his very core. He could feel the energy ripping through him, searching for something. Like a mess of vines it dove deep within his body, his soul, until it reached its goal. In his mind's eye RJ saw a wicked black mask, when the energy caught its scent it dove straight for it, infusing it with power. The mask's eyes opened in a flash of light and RJ felt himself slipping away. All of this had taken mere seconds, he realized as he fell into Casey's arms.
Camille was saying something about letting the rangers deal with their wounded. Lily and Theo were by his side in seconds. He let them carry him back to the loft. The mask was awake and the energy Camille had shot at him was feeding it, provoking it. RJ had never felt this kind of pain before. Deep within his soul there was a war going on and he couldn't help but feel that he was going to lose.
"He fell, Fran," Theo was saying, "he just needs some rest."
Casey tried to be proud of his friend's ability to create a good cover story, but he was too worried about RJ. He and Lily carried the man between them up the stairs. She kept saying reassuring things to him, though Casey was fairly certain he'd passed out on the battlefield. When they reached the top of the steps Lily said, "Go get him some water, I'll be fine."
Casey nodded and gently shifted his share of the weight to Lily's shoulder. The girl was small, but she was stronger than most men. Casey had just turned on the water when he heard a growl and a scuffle and Lily's cry. He turned swiftly to see RJ on all fours beneath the basket ball hoop and Lily on the ground beside RJ's chair. Casey dropped the glass and raced to her side.
"Are you all right?" he asked, helping her up.
"Fine," she said, "it's RJ I'm worried about. Look at him, he's growling at his chair!"
"Come on, RJ," Casey said, bending down and taking on a baby talk sort of tone, as if he were talking to an animal, "come sit in the nice chair."
RJ's eyes flashed gold.
Casey and Lily jumped back as if shocked.
"That's new," she said.
"Oh, yeah. You don't think they made his wolf spirit dominant, do you?"
"That's what it looks like," Lily said. "Come on, we at least need to get him to a bed."
Theo came up the stairs at just that moment and took in the scene. "We don't want to frighten him," he said. "Only one of us should get close to him."
Lily was stepping forward before either boy could react.
"Stupid mothering instinct," Theo muttered.
Lily ignored him. She held out a hand to give RJ her scent so he would know she meant no harm and she knelt low so that she wouldn't seem dangerous. "Come on, that's right, it's just Lily." She managed to get an arm around his shoulders and help him stand. Theo sighed in relief and moved quietly around the side of the room to RJ's door, which he opened.
Lily continued to speak in slow, calming tones. "All right, let's just get you in bed, RJ."
Casey saw RJ's eyes widen and knew, but it was too late for him to do anything by yell, "Lily!"
RJ spun, slashing at Lily with one hand. Casey raced across the room, catching her as she fell. He kept his eyes on RJ as the smell of blood filled his nose. RJ finished his turn, facing them, hackles up. His expression changed when he saw Lily and Casey staring at him in fear. He closed his eyes tightly and put his hands to his head.
"Lily," he said, falling back. "I need you -- to go to the military base -- just outside -- Turtle Cove." Each word he said was a huge effort and it was all his students could do to watch him in his internal struggle. "Ask for Taylor Earheart -- tell whatever lie you have to -- to get in. Say you're her sister." He looked up at them between his fingers and gave something between a smile and a grimace. "You sort of look like her. Tell her I need Shayla. Tell her I never found the chain. Casey, stitch up Lily's arm as best you can. You're in charge of JKP while I'm -- like this." He winced and closed his eyes. "Theo! My chair, rip off the cloth backing."
"What?" Theo gasped.
"Do it!" RJ yelled in a tone that could not be denied.
Theo rushed to the chair and -- with an expression usually reserved for executioners -- ripped the backing off.
"Do you see it?" RJ asked.
Theo's eyes widened. "Yes," he said, reaching forward. Inside the chair was a metal circle, like a collar. There were Celtic designs all around it. Theo lifted it off its wooden studs and almost dropped it, it was so heavy.
"Put it on me," RJ said.
"RJ," Casey began.
RJ looked up at him, his eyes pleading. "Casey, it's the only thing --" he couldn't finish but Casey nodded to Theo. Theo stepped forward and brought the collar down over RJ's head. There was a moment -- as the collar passed his eyes -- when he lashed out and Theo feared he would be bitten. He dropped the collar the rest of the way and reeled back. The collar fell and stopped just before hitting RJ's shoulders. It shrunk quickly to fit around his neck. The savage behavior stopped, RJ's eyes glazed over, and he passed out.
"RJ!" Lily cried, rushing forward. Casey caught her by the shoulders and pulled her back. "It's hurting him," she protested. "We have to get it off."
"No," Casey said firmly. "We do exactly what he said. Theo, go pack some food for Lily and then help Fran with the rush."
Theo didn't move. He stayed standing over RJ, watching as his chest slowly rose and fell.
"Theo!" Casey barked.
Theo jumped and hurried off. Casey led Lily to the kitchen area and sat her on the counter. She kept her eyes on RJ's prone form the whole time. Casey pulled the first aid kit from beneath the sink and quickly found the needle.
"This might hurt," he said, wiping away the blood and disinfecting the claw marks. They were actually pretty even cuts and Casey couldn't help but wonder how RJ, a human, could make them.
Lily winced, but didn't cry out, a fact for which they were both grateful.
"He'll be fine," Casey said when he started on the second wound. "It's RJ, he'll be back to his old self in no time."
Lily looked down at Casey. "He told Theo to put a magical collar around his neck and passed out, he tried to kill me, he was acting like an animal, and he won't go near his chair!"
"You know," Casey said, not rising to her baiting tone, "the chair thing was probably because of the collar. I bet he'll be fine with it now."
Lily relaxed a bit. "I guess you're right. Ow!"
"Sorry," Casey said, walking to the stove and putting the needle in a flame before throwing it out. "You'd better get going. You can't use your speed or a ninja streak with that wound or the stitches will pop."
Lily hopped off the counter and stepped almost shyly up to Casey. "Promise you'll take care of him."
Casey put his hands on her shoulders. "Like he was my master," he joked. "Now hurry. You can take the delivery van."
"It broke down this morning, remember?"
Casey sighed. "Public transportation it is."
"What have you done?" Carnisoar cried the second Camille reappeared before Dai Shi's throne.
Camille winced. "I was trying to follow your orders," she said, directing her words to Dai Shi himself, "but that human got in the way. What does it matter though? Surely the master is a better warrior than the Rangers."
"We know the Red Ranger," Carnisoar said, "we know his weaknesses, his strengths; we know what it will take to keep him serving us. We know next to nothing about the man. If you had hit the Red Ranger I would have expected him to feel empowered by the blast but the man had to be carried off the battlefield. Even if he does turn to us, what good is a warrior who can't even walk?"
"Well," Camille said, backing away slowly, "I can always try again to --"
"No!" Carnisoar roared, sending a bolt of energy at her. "Do you have any idea the power it took to create that first sphere?"
Camille ducked behind a pillar. "Carnisoar," she said, "I will bring you the rangers' master and he will make a fine warrior. I promise."
"He had better," Carnisoar said as Camille hurried away.