Author's Notes: Fixed for grammar and consistency.
Things I Learned from Watching Power Rangers (2010):
Never mess with a good thing.
A Darker Shade of Green
Chapter 24: Epilogue
"You didn't have to walk me home," Tommy said, trudging up the dark driveway for the first time in days.
"I know," said Jason. "I mean, I figured you could find your way and everything, but I also thought you might want some company."
"I appreciate it."
The front porch was dark, but a nearby streetlamp lit the way. The two picked their way through the driveway to the front door. The door was locked. Tommy felt his pockets for a key, but he knew it wasn't there.
"It's bolted," Tommy remarked, "or I'd break in. Guess I'll have to call a locksmith to get in."
Jason rolled his eyes. "Or you could, you know, teleport."
"Wouldn't that count as using powers for our own benefit or something like that?"
"I doubt that'll be an issue just this once. We don't really use teleportation that much for just getting around, but that's not really a hard and fast rule… especially since we're using devices Billy invented… not our Power Coins. So we've all… bent that rule a little."
Tommy shrugged. "Sure beats breaking down the door."
Tommy teleported just inside and unlocked the door, letting Jason in. He turned on the lights. The house seemed to echo with the absence of humans. Boxes were stacked everywhere. Tommy palpably felt that weeks of his life had been stolen from him.
Jason was wary, his eyes darting into every dark corner.
"You're worried she might attack me tonight," Tommy surmised, realizing this was the reason Jason had come home with him.
Jason smiled when he realized he'd be caught. "Just a precaution. She said she wasn't going to attack for a while, but I wouldn't put a mislead past her." He visibly relaxed. "There's no one here… at least on the ground floor. Wanna check upstairs?"
Tommy laughed. "Check to see if there's monsters in my closet?"
Jason seemed to catch the hard bitterness in that statement. "Look, I've been on edge for a long time. I can't relax yet. I just want to make sure everything's fine here… just so I can sleep tonight."
The constant weight in Tommy's stomach grew a little. His brain couldn't help but return every time to how he was at fault… how he had tormented the Rangers, purposefully keeping them on edge and off balance.
There was a good thing about Jason's company, Tommy reflected as they climbed the stairs. Jason didn't question his silences. Didn't ask if he was "all right." Tommy knew he wouldn't be all right. Not for a while.
There was a burnt smell, and Tommy rushed to his room. He was about to throw open the door when Jason caught his arm.
"Dude," Jason said tightly, "if your room's on fire, that'll just make the flames spread. Open the door slowly."
"Yeah," Tommy said, feeling very dumb. "I knew that."
He opened the door more carefully. There was a good amount of smoke in the air, but it seemed confined to a small pile in the middle of the floor. Tommy grabbed a blanket from his bed and smothered the fire. What was left in the smoldering pile Tommy recognized as some of his clothes. There was an acrid smell of burning plastic… his tapes and the remnants of his smashed boombox.
"My stuff from the Moon Palace," Tommy said wearily as he picked through the mess.
Jason had entered the room, scowling at the stench. "That seems a little childish."
Tommy smiled grimly. "Scorpina. Seems like her, anyway. She would have considered it funny."
"Need help cleaning that up?" Jason said. He smothered an ill-timed yawn.
Tommy got up from the floor, shaking the ashy blanket out. "Nah, I got this. You're tired; you need to go home. Get some sleep for once."
"I think I'll do that," Jason said. "You do the same. I'm planning on going to the Youth Center tomorrow around two. See you there?"
Tommy looked around his room gloomily. "I'd like to, but I've got a lot to get done. My dad comes home Wednesday, and I've still got a ton of stuff to do."
"No," Tommy said, a little more sharply than he meant to. "I mean…" he backtracked, "this is really a one-person job. I'll be fine."
Jason merely nodded, again seeming to understand Tommy more than he was letting on. "Then, I guess I'll see you in school Monday. You know how to reach me."
Tommy couldn't think of a thing to say as Jason left. He heard the door slam, echoing through the house. Tommy sat on his bed. He was alone.
This was the part he'd been dreading.
Of course, it was bad, being with the Rangers. His brain seemed to quiet for some reason when he was with Jason, but the others? He could barely look at them without seeing what he'd done to them, over and over again.
And when he did look at them, there was still something in their faces… a mixture of fear and mistrust. It was as if he were a crazy person, and they were just waiting for him to have another fit. But it was worse than that. It was…
Tommy buried his face in his hands. Yes, he had joined the team, so to speak. But he wasn't really part of the team. Not yet. Maybe not ever. There was no getting around the fact that they had seen the worst of him… and he'd practically shoved it in their faces. He couldn't hide behind the convenient excuse… I was just following orders. Had Rita ordered him to torture Billy… and all the rest? Those had been his ideas. Yes, he'd been under the spell, but he had followed his own plans. Rita had merely sat back and watched.
And he didn't want them to forgive him. He realized he would be angry with them if they just accepted him. That wasn't right. After all he'd done, he had to suffer. But, then, wasn't that selfishness in itself?
And there was a tiny part of him, the part that made him sickest of all, that almost wanted to go back to Rita. She would make the pain end. He could go into the peaceful contentment of serving another, of not having to make decisions if he didn't want, of shedding the horrors and guilt that he was only starting to realize.
And even as he thought of it, he knew he couldn't do it. The thought of enslaving himself… It was just as unbearable as the guilt-haunted life he now looked forward to… and perhaps more so.
No, he had to make amends. He knew he could never take back what he did, or make up for it, but he had to do some small part.
And something else held him back from Rita. Fear. Seeing her in the park earlier that day—the look in her eyes—would perhaps haunt him just as much as his memories would. She was not the fading image of his dream. She was real, and she was power. And he believed every word when she said she would make him pay, make him suffer. He had felt the anger rolling from her brain to his. It was almost like a vestige of the connection they'd shared… or perhaps just that he knew her extremely well.
Tommy came back to himself and nearly gagged. The stench from the smothered fire had filled the room. He opened a window, waving the worst of the smoke out so it wouldn't activate the smoke alarm. It took him thirty minutes to thoroughly clean the area, and there was still a dark spot in the carpet. Yet another remembrance…
He knew Scorpina had done it. It just didn't fit anyone else's style. It was strange… He regretted the night before the attack, most certainly… but it didn't fill him with the horror of everything else. It seemed the least tainted memory… but no. What he had done to Goldar in that and every other action…
"Okay, Tommy," he broke the complete silence of the empty house. "You're going to stop thinking tonight. You're going to go to sleep, and you're going to clean up the house tomorrow, and you're going to visit Dad bright and early tomorrow, too. Wallowing in guilt does nothing for nobody."
He stripped and threw himself on the bed. He set an early alarm for the next day and tried to concentrate on his father's joyful face… on his father's happiness when he'd called that evening. He'd been moved to a new room. What was it… somewhere else on the third floor?
Tommy finally drifted to sleep. The exhaustion of days… weeks… finally caught up to him, granting him one of the few dreamless, restful sleeps he was to have for a long time.
"So, how was your first day back?" John asked as he shuffled through his cards.
Tommy lifted his eyes from his cards. They were playing two-handed Spades, with a "cat" pile off to the side. He was pretty sure his father had the king of diamonds… but he wasn't completely sure. And he needed the queen to make his bid. "It's weird, ya know? I was only absent one day, really. I had a better attendance record while evil than I ever did." He put an eight of diamonds down, trying to lead his father out.
John placed the king of diamonds on top. "Well, don't make that an excuse for cutting again," he laughed.
The cat played out of suit, so John grabbed the pile and played down a random club.
"But to answer your question…" Tommy said, shuffling through his clubs, "I dunno. They cleaned up the school pretty good, but I could still see some pretty bad damage. I… went pretty berserk during the attack." The cards in front of him went out of focus.
He jumped when John touched him on the shoulder. "Hey, kid. Come back to Earth."
Tommy blinked. He done it again, just like he'd been doing all day. Phasing out. He wondered how long he'd been out this time.
John sighed. "I'm not going to ask if you're okay. You never do that to me… unless it's pretty darn important. And I'm not going to do it to you. But I just want you to talk to me."
Tommy smiled at his dad. "I know. And I will. I just sort of want to pretend everything's okay right now. I haven't seen you in so long… I don't want to ruin our visits with my problems."
"What do you think I'm here for, son?"
Tommy smiled again and put his cards down. He'd pretty much lost the hand. "To keep me sane. Keep me grounded. That's what you've always done."
Tommy left an hour later, his father practically pushing him out of the room. Homework. Hanging out with friends. Those were the things teens were supposed to do. Not babysitting invalid dads.
Tommy felt the weight of the books on his back… felt the solitude. Those hours with his dad had been the first real human interaction he'd had for two days. He'd stayed in his house all Sunday, cleaning and unpacking. And that day at school… he felt he'd done a real good job avoiding people. Especially the Rangers. Pretended to be really focused in class, and skipped lunch.
It… wasn't that he particularly wanted to avoid them. Except he did. He was just so damned uncomfortable around them. They knew exactly who he was… what he was. They'd seen him at his worst. He just… couldn't imagine hanging out with them. Like they were friends. Like none of it had ever happened.
Tommy had been crossing the park, jumping over the huge gouges in the ground that had not yet been repaired. Billy was running to him. Tommy for a wild moment considered running away, but that just sounded ridiculous. He slowed down and waited, setting his heavy bookbag on a park bench next to him… a bench that had miraculously avoided destruction.
"I thought you'd be here," Billy said, panting slightly.
"Why?" Tommy said, the word coming out harsher than he meant. "There any trouble? I thought she said no attacks…"
"No, no. Nothing official." Billy smiled easily, which for some reason put Tommy on edge. "I just missed you at 2:00 for tutoring. I was wondering why I could not find you after class, and I assumed you went straight to see your father."
Tommy felt himself sit down, his legs seeming not to work anymore. "Tutoring…" he repeated. He looked up at Billy. The man wasn't joking. Billy looked slightly puzzled, that rather endearing, little-brotherly look that had fooled Tommy countless times in the past few weeks.
Billy sat down next to Tommy. "I realize we were somewhat interrupted, but I like tutoring, and I suppose you still need the help. I mean, you helped me out, so…"
Billy trailed off. Tommy just stared at him, looking for all the world as if Billy was speaking a foreign language.
"What?" Billy said awkwardly.
"Somewhat interrupted?" His voice lingered over the irony of the words. "I… helped you out? Billy…" The weight on Tommy's chest seemed to intensify. "How the hell can you even look at me anymore? I hurt you more than anyone. I…"
"I know what you did," Billy interrupted, his voice becoming a little strained. "I remember distinctly. You made fairly certain that I would not forget."
Again, the urge to run away.
"A lot of bad things happened," Billy continued. "And they weren't all even remotely your fault. I… perhaps… I took out a little more revenge on you than was absolutely necessary, and for that I am sorry. But if you haven't noticed, even after all the wrong that has gone on… life keeps going." Billy smiled. "Saturday, you helped make sure life kept going. I don't forget that either."
Tommy had a million things to say, but he found he couldn't voice a word.
"I want us to be friends," Billy said abruptly. "I want to be friends, and I want you to be part of our group. That means there's no avoiding us. It also means you'll eventually have to forgive yourself… but we'll take it one step at a time."
Tommy finally found his voice. "I'd… like to be friends…"
"Good," Billy said briskly, getting up. "Come on… let's go to the Youth Center and get through that math. My car's over there." He started walking toward it, assuming Tommy would follow.
Tommy got up and followed. He felt electrified by Billy's words. What he said made sense, but… the Youth Center. Everyone would be there. And… he'd sort of been thrown out of there twice. He wondered if it was going to be as easy as Billy said.
"No way of knowing 'cept to try," Tommy said under his breath.
The week passed slowly. Tommy was able to get the house ready for human habitation, and so after school on Wednesday he drove his father home to a welcoming house. His father seemed energized after his release from the hospital, and he was back to his first love: writing. His latest half-finished novel, which had been languishing for a year, was back on the typewriter the very next morning. John was confident that this book would be more successful than his last novel.
"I know my genre, now," John laughed over the clacks of his fingers flying over the typewriter. "Stay in mysteries. No long, boring books about sea voyages."
"You should have learned that from Moby Dick," Tommy laughed along with him, eating the eggs and toast his father had made before Tommy was even ready that morning. He was glad—infinitely glad—to see his father writing again. He only had a few books out, and medical bills ate up the piddling royalties, but that was never the point. The point was he hadn't seen his father happier in a year.
And the days passed on, and Tommy, despite the horror that was continually in his mind, found that he was healing.
He became a gradual fixture with the Rangers. He tutored—but more often just talked—with Billy every afternoon. Being with Billy became easier. There was just something about him that put him at ease. It was funny… If there was anyone the direct opposite of Tommy, it was Billy. If there was anyone completely unlike anyone Tommy had ever befriended, it was Billy. Yet Tommy found himself more and more comfortable with Billy, to the point of being actual friends with him, rather than forcing himself to be friends for everyone's good.
Then there were the others, of course. Jason had been the first to accept Tommy, and he was right there with Billy getting and keeping Tommy involved in whatever the group did. Jason was even finally able to pull Tommy into a friendly spar, but it hadn't lasted long. Tommy lost on purpose and bowed out quickly, claiming tiredness. And, again, Jason understood, even if he looked disappointed.
Zack had scowled through the short sparring match, Tommy noticed, only to put on his customary carefree smile when the two rejoined the group. Tommy knew he owed Zack a lot, especially during the battle, but he also knew Zack didn't trust him. And that was okay. He just couldn't see himself ever becoming close friends with Zack, and he knew Zack felt the same way. It was enough that they were teammates, and that they shared friends. And that they made pains never to have to be alone together.
Trini—another one to whom he owed much—was much more inscrutable. There was a slight sense that she was… not mistrustful, but cautious. She was not as obvious as Zack, and she was completely pleasant to Tommy, but he knew that was as far as that would go. And he knew a lot of that had to do with how he had treated Kimberly.
Tommy had remained markedly polite to Kimberly, and she to him. There were moments, of course… Unguarded moments, when they laughed, but then they would catch themselves. A shadow would pass across Kimberly's face, and Tommy would pull back, and they would become polite once more.
It ate up at Tommy. The trouble was that, no matter how much bullshit he'd said to Goldar and the rest about how she was just a fling… a good time… He realized he genuinely liked her. She was so different from all the other girls he'd ever gone out with… like a ray of sunshine. But she was tough, too, and had a wicked sense of humor that Tommy found no end to sexy. Not to mention, of course, how she looked in her gymnast's leotard…
But the more he hung out with her, the more he realized how much he'd screwed up any chance to be with her. He could hear the whispers plainly as he walked with her in the halls, and he knew she could hear them, too. He had tormented the other Rangers as the Green Ranger, but he had tormented Kimberly as Tommy… in public. The public nature of his wrongdoing made it perhaps the hardest to overcome.
Tommy dropped his bag on the sand and sighed. The weather was beautiful—as per usual in Southern California—on the solitary beach. Not a soul was in sight. He smiled and began stretching.
For the first time in days, he actually wanted to be alone… and not in a bad way. Not in an "avoiding people" way. He just wanted solitude for the peace.
At the same time he made sure his communicator was on his wrist, and his Power Coin was within easy reach. Solitude also meant giving Rita the perfect opportunity for revenge, if she felt so inclined.
Tommy went through his exercises, feeling more alive than he had all week. He still had nightmares, and the flashbacks were a bitch, but things were otherwise going incredibly well. His father was better than he had been in years. He had friends… actual friends… who he was pretty sure wouldn't get him in trouble with the law. He was finally starting to feel at home.
And just as he was really feeling at peace, he realized he recognized the runner making her way up the beach toward him. Kimberly. Of course it would be her.
Tommy tried to look calm. Never mind this was the first time since they'd had a date at this very beach that they'd been alone together. The date that Tommy had used as a weapon against her.
Kimberly's eyes reflected her surprise when she got close enough to realize it was Tommy. Her hair was scraped back in a ponytail, and she was covered in sweat. She'd obviously been running for a long while. Tommy decided he'd never seen anyone look prettier.
"Tommy…" she said, wiping her face quickly with a towel. "What are you…?"
"Just came here for some training," Tommy said, his voice sounding false to him. "I mean… the Youth Center was a little crowded. You… running?"
"Yeah," she said. She laughed a little. "Actually, I'm exhausted. Beach running really takes it out of you."
She sat down, throwing her head back as the breezes from the ocean hit her. Tommy was entranced… but remembered where he was before she noticed. "Um… I've got some water," he said, reaching for his bag. He handed her the bottle, which was still cold.
"Thanks." She passed it over her forehead before drinking. "Don't you need some?"
"I have another," he said quickly. He sat down beside her. She wasn't leaving... Why wasn't she leaving?
"How's your dad?" she asked when the silence began to draw out awkwardly.
While a loving and devoted son, Tommy was a little disappointed with that turn of conversation. "He's… fine. Better than fine, actually. He's better than he has been in years. It's been great, the past couple days."
Kimberly smiled. "I… I'm a little envious of you… Since your dad knows about you being a Power Ranger. It's hard, keeping secrets from your parents. Sometimes I wish my mom would just find out on her own… Well, no," she laughed. "She'd just flip out completely. I totally take that back."
"My dad acts okay about it," said Tommy. "Of course, I've only participated in the one battle on the good side. He may completely change once Rita starts attacking again."
Kimberly's face became rigid. Tommy wondered if it was him mentioning Rita. He still paused every time he said her name, almost saying "Empress Rita." It was difficult to break those habits… though he'd be damned if he ever called her "Empress" ever again.
He looked over at Kimberly, who was staring at the ocean. He still wondered why she wasn't getting up and leaving. Did she want him to… It was too confusing. He was great at reading opponents, most of the time guessing exactly what the other person was thinking, what move they would make next. It was a whole different story with Kimberly. He had no idea what she was thinking.
Finally, he bit his lip and plunged, doing what he'd wanted to all week. "Um… Kim? I… know we sort of got off to a… a rough start, but I was wondering if…" He quickly tabulated the contents of his wallet, and decided he had enough. "If you wanted to go to a movie… or something…" He trailed off. She was still staring at the ocean. Her face showed that she was expecting this.
Kimberly stayed quiet, her brow wrinkling as she thought. Or maybe she didn't even have to think; she was just coming up with exactly how to say it.
"Sometime… maybe…" Kimberly finally said. "Maybe we can get everyone together…"
Tommy looked away, not really wanting to hear the rest.
A hand was on his shoulder. Kimberly was finally looking at him.
"Look," she said. "It's not that…" She trailed off, and Tommy could only imagine how that sentence ended. "I'm just not ready. I just… can't." She forced a smile. "But we're still…"
"Friends," Tommy finished the sentence for her, his voice brittle.
"Yeah," Kimberly said. "Friends." She got up, clearly wanting to escape. "Thanks for the water. See ya around." She ran back in the opposite direction.
Tommy closed his eyes and laid back on the sand. That had gone exactly like he'd feared. It wasn't that he blamed Kimberly, but that didn't make him feel any less crappy.
A shadow passed over his face, blocking the sun. "Well… that was pathetic."
Tommy opened his eyes and, in a panic, jumped to his feet. His hand flew to his Power Coin.
Scorpina held up her hand. "Whoa there, cowboy. I'm not here for a fight."
"Since when?" said Tommy.
She smirked. "Since Rita forbade it… for now. Though, of course, she doesn't know I'm here. Only Finster does, since he's making sure no one can hear or see us."
"So… You're just here to chat. And spy on me."
Tommy dropped his guard ever so slightly. Not too much. He still felt the bruises where she'd dragged him by his neck a week before. "What's on your mind, then?"
Scorpina looked in the direction where Kimberly had already long disappeared. "I knew you actually liked her. You acted all tough, but…"
"Is that really any of your business?" Tommy asked. If there was anything he didn't want to do, it was to discuss his feeling with Kimberly with Scorpina.
Scorpina shrugged. "Guess not. I just came down to tell you that… it never happened."
"What never happened?"
Scorpina grinned. "Exactly."
"No," Tommy shook his head. "I wasn't being clever. I really don't know what you're talking about."
Scorpina's forehead wrinkled, in quite the same way Kimberly's had. "So you've already forgotten after a week?"
Tommy set his teeth. He'd known exactly what Scorpina was talking about. He'd just wanted to bring down from her high horse a little. "You mean that thing that we did while we were both drunk and it was entirely and completely a mistake?"
"That's the one." Scorpina's voice was dripping with sharp amusement, and Tommy realized she was way ahead of him in the game. "I'm just saying that I won't ever talk about it if you won't."
"Why would I want to tell anybody?" Tommy had, in fact, been worried that Scorpina would blab in a moment of vindictiveness. "I mean, I have more to be ashamed about than you."
A shadow passed over Scorpina's eyes, and Tommy worried that he had actually hurt the woman's feelings. It passed so quickly and was replaced by Scorpina's usual look of sarcastic unconcern that Tommy wondered if it was just a trick of the light.
"You have more to fear than I," Scorpina corrected. "Not only would you lose any chance with Little Miss Pink there, as well as the respect of those people you call friends right now, with their rather stuffy and naïve views, but Goldar is already pretty pissed at you. I'd be grateful for this favor I'm doing if I were you."
Tommy stared at Scorpina. He realized this was actually her version of doing him a good turn, of even forgiving him. Sick and twisted, but she was sick and twisted herself. "Thanks," he said, still on his guard if she took that as an insult.
She smirked in answer. "You're entirely welcome. Time's almost up. I'd watch my back if I were you…" She looked around the deserted beach. "Maybe not spend so much time alone. Rita meant what she said about getting back at you. It's not going to be pleasant."
"Believe me, I know," Tommy answered. A shiver passed through his body, just like every time he remembered Rita's parting words.
"Terrified," he admitted.
"Good," Scorpina said, giving him a wicked smile. She grabbed his hand before Tommy could even do anything about it. She had something in her hands that warmed against his skin as she squeezed—probably whatever it was that was keeping them off radar. He realized she was trying to be comforting. Her hands squeezed his. "I'm going to do everything I can against you, but I'd hate to see you go down early. Then we couldn't make you suffer."
She disappeared in a swath of fire, the fire biting into his hand. He didn't flinch away… he wouldn't give her the satisfaction.
Tommy packed his bag quickly. He was suddenly uncomfortably aware of how alone he was.
Scorpina skipped through the throne room. She wanted to go train with Goldar, but she had something to do first. She knocked on Rita's bedroom door and entered quietly.
"Scorpina…" Rita greeted her. "You're looking chipper. So I take it that the meeting went well."
Scorpina sat down on the bed and watched as Rita put on her makeup. "It went perfectly. He was… not too happy to see me, of course. I definitely shook him up pretty damn badly. He was shaking by the time I left."
Rita turned away from the mirror, her face radiant. "Is it accomplished? It made skin contact for at least ten seconds?"
Scorpina pulled the candle out of her gloved hand. She was surprised to see the white wax had turned a dark green. "I don't get it," she said. "I mean… it's just a candle. What exactly is it supposed to do?"
Rita picked it up with a handkerchief and wrapped it securely. "All in good time. It will need preparation. Weeks… possibly a few months."
"It's bad," Scorpina said. "What you have planned for him."
Rita laughed. "He'll never see it coming. When it happens… he'll beg to serve me again."
"And what will you do then?"
Rita stared at the candle, lost in thought. A sort of strange, yearning look passed over her face. Then hardness settled in, and Rita gripped the candle hard. "I will crush him under my heel. I will make him beg for death. I will make him pay for what he did to me."
Scorpina left quietly and quickly. She was far too smart to notice the streaks falling down Rita's face, tears mixed with the fury.
angelrei06: I'm happy that Tommy's on the side of good too. I mean, I absolutely love evil Tommy, but this Tommy who's trying to make amends is just as cool in a lot of ways. I'm really interested in what qualities of evil Tommy will still be present now that the spell is broken.
Willowxxx: Wow… ever since you were 3. You know, it's times like this when I feel REALLY old. : ) As for EVERY Tommy-centric episode… There are some episodes that really mirror each other. I mean… how many episodes is all of Tommy's actions just going over and above doing something nice for Kimberly. I'm not going to do a completely rewrite of every episode. But I am planning on watching some of the old episodes between this and the Green Candle just to get some of the major themes.
TheGamma: Yeah… that's part of what makes the DragonZord so cool. It's Mecha Godzilla. Even with the finger missiles. My husband is a fan of Godzilla movies but hasn't really watched much Power Rangers, and he's quick to point that stuff out. I was also particularly impressed by the Rita speech at the end. That went through several versions, so I finally just let the woman speak, and that's what came out.
Bahamut Slayer: For Zord battles… I pretty much write a Star Trek battle. That's the only thing that makes sense for me. I also didn't want do form the MegaDragonZord (or whatever the hell they call it). I think it just didn't feel genuine at that time. After all, Tommy needs to build up to teamwork. It doesn't just magically happen. Finally… as you saw in this chapter, I'm sort of dealing with Tommy's status as a Ranger and how he fits with the rest of the team. Of course, the reason he kept showing up late or getting kidnapped in those episodes was that they had to navigate their editing of stock footage. Here… I like to interpret it as he just hasn't come truly into his own… that he still feels out of place with the team, and that it's a gradual process.
mariecatneo: You're welcome! I gotta say, reviews brighten my day just as much as updates brighten yours.
Not Applicable: Yeah, Goldar has really grown as a character in my mind. I really disagree with how he was portrayed as growing continually weaker throughout the series. He basically became a comic character. Now, I think he can be really funny, but it's only funny if most of the time he's badass. As for how the public will react… I'm still not sure how I'm going to navigate that. I hinted at that in this chapter, but those are things that are just going to come out in writing. (BTW, yes. Scorpina disappeared from battle randomly because Rita showed up. Remember, that attack was not authorized by her.) And, yes, Rita I thought was fantastic. I've made her so vulnerable in the past few chapters, that I wanted to make her scary. I mean, in the episode all she did was mutter that she had a headache. TOTALLY not the appropriate response.
As for future episodes… like I said above, there are some episodes that sort of mirror or repeat each other. The dark Rangers you mentioned are actually featured a few episodes before Rocky, Adam, and Aisha face the same problem… so that would be an instance where I can combine things to make a more effective story. But Tommy will be especially concerned with ANY spells going on, whether small or large. Finally, as for romance… it's a part of the story, as you said. But romance can be done well. Anything can pretty much be done badly or well. It's just all a matter of being emotionally effective.
PinkRangerV: The working title made me laugh. I probably won't actually use it. : )
Ariadne Evans: I join you in your celebrations… though it's still a long, hard road before he's fully part of the team, of course.
F-35 Phoenix: Well, that's the James Bond problem they always made fun of in Austin Powers. "I will just leave them to their doom and trust that everything goes according to plan."
Crazy Joe IFBA: Your enthusiasm made me glow inside. : )
Seras Grace: I do think Jason has gone to some interesting places in my fic. I absolutely can't wait to write the Green Candle stuff. That was one thing that the show actually tried to show that there were emotional repercussions: Jason felt really guilty about not saving Tommy's powers. I'm going to have a lot of fun with that. And you're right about Tommy/Kimberly… they're just not going to fall easily together.
Dan: I actually considered getting rid of Scorpina after this story, but I couldn't. She's just too damn fun to write, and she adds something to the villains crew… a sort of dynamism that I just can't see without her. On the show, of course, she disappeared suddenly when Zedd showed up because they only had Japanese footage of Scorpina, and Zedd was never a Japanese villain: all footage of him is American. That's why we get a different Rita later on. Of course, they tried to bring in an actress to play Scorpina (featured in one episode, where she macks on Adam for a while), but it never worked well with the actress and they just gave up on her. I wish they hadn't, though. She's just so fun.
JasonTKD: I thought that the idea that Tommy thought of Goldar as a friend—someone who should have been concerned that Tommy was essentially enslaved—was rather poignant. It made the fight not just "Tommy's going to fight for good," but something much more personal.
Anjirika: I've missed you! I'm glad you're back to reviewing now. : )
The Warrior Within: Thanks!