Disclaimer: I do not own Power Rangers
A/N: And I have no clue what is going on with Honor. This was not in the outline... Oh well. I'll just keep writing and see where it goes.
When Chip opened his eyes, he found himself in the high school cafeteria. He looked around, and spotted himself sitting with Vida and Madison at one table. A burst of laughter led him to Xander, sitting with some of the popular kids. From the clothes, and the faces, Chip guesstimated this to be their sophomore year. "Look at him," one of the girls said, looking across the cafeteria. "He's such a geek."
"He's not so bad," Xander replied, following her gaze. Chip didn't have to look to know they were talking about him. "Chip's smart to."
"Maybe," the girl's friend said, "but if he was anymore obvious about his crush, he'd really put the puppy in puppy love."
The whole table roared with laughter, although Chip noticed that Xander looked uneasy. Suddenly, he stopped laughing and stared at Chip, the boy's face morphing into the man's face before he could blink. "You have to make the choice, Chip."
"What choice?" Chip demanded.
"You already know," Xander replied as the room spun again.
"Why won't he wake up?" Vida asked as she looked down at Chip. Unconscious, the energetic red head looked small and fragile, like the child he pretended to be but had never been.
"I do not know," Udonna said, "I have done what I could, but healing spells have never been my forte."
Vida's phone rang; she pulled it out even as she marveled that the thing actually got cell reception out here. There was a text message from an unknown number. V, mom worried 4 chip. Do something. Niki
"What is it?" Udonna asked.
"Chip's cousin, Nicole," Vida replied, "saying her mom, Chip's aunt, is worried about him."
"This Nicole," Udonna said, "she knows?"
"Yes," Vida said, "she said her parents were Rangers or something. She was talking kind of fast." She said Chip loved me, and Xander.
"We have to do something," Xander said as he burst into the room with a book in his hand. "There has to be something in these books that can help him."
"We have to figure something out," Vida replied, "Aunt Andy's going to freak if Chip doesn't come home. You know how protective she can get if he doesn't call."
Xander winced, "I remember," he said.
"What can we do?" Madison asked from behind Xander, "It's not like we can just call her up and pretend he's spending the night at Xander's apartment."
"Why not?" Nick asked, he sounded like he was coming up the stairs, "Sounds perfect to me."
Vida snorted, Xander blushed and Madison smiled, "We can't do that anymore," Xander said. "Not after Ocean Bluffs."
"Short version," Madison said, "is that if you think Chip has energy when he's sober is nothing on Chip with alcohol. I thought he'd be passed out, but it didn't work that way."
"Chip on a sugar rush," Vida said, "also known as a good way to get arrested."
They shared grins at the memory.
"After that," Xander said, "Aunt Andy said that if Chip was going to live on the farm then she'd know where he was, even if he was fifty, and she wouldn't buy any of us calling and telling her that."
"What about a hospital?" Udonna suggested, "A Ranger could bring him in as a victim of a monster attack."
"No," Vida and Xander said together.
"No hospitals," Madison said, "Chip would never forgive us."
"I think it might work," Nick said, "if he doesn't wake up soon."
"No," Vida said, standing up. "We aren't putting Chip in a hospital."
Nick finally put in an appearance behind Madison, who moved out of Vida's way when Vida stepped forward, "Why not," Nick said, "I don't know how to care for someone in a coma. Hospitals do, that's why they're there."
"You selfish pig," Vida said, "didn't you listen to Madison? When Chip goes into the hospital, something bad always happens to him."
Nick stared at her as Xander stepped out from between them, "So he had cancer as a kid," Nick began.
Vida had never felt the same sweet satisfaction of landing a perfect punch anywhere else. It was intoxicating to see someone fall back from her and even more exciting when the blood flowed. Warm hands catching her arms were moments too late, and the blue that obscured the red haze brought her back. Madison was shouting at Nick, "You are an insensitive idiot," she was saying. "Chip went to the hospital as a kid and his mother died. He went back, and his dad gave up custody of him. You think he lives with his Aunt and Uncle for kicks. He lives with them because his dad doesn't want him anymore, and gave them legal guardianship when he was thirteen."
Xander was holding her back, his arms around her middle, his chest pressed close to her back. "Are you ok?" He whispered in her ear, making her feel shivery.
"Fine," Vida said.
Xander's grip relaxed, but he didn't step to far back, as if he were going to catch her before she tried to hit Nick again. The Red Ranger was standing up; she could see him over Madison's shoulder, holding his bleeding nose and looking stunned as Madison finally began to wind down from her high volume lecture.
Madison stopped talking, and Chip suddenly moaned. Vida spun so fast she elbowed Xander in his side, but the green ranger didn't say anything as Vida threw herself down beside Chip's bed. "Chip," Vida said, staring at his face.
Chip moaned again and threw his head to one side, "Can't choose," he announced, his eyes opening to stare at them without seeing.
"Choose what?" Xander asked.
"Can't choose," Chip said again. "Don't make me." His eyes fluttered shut and his body arched for a moment before relaxing again.
Vida clenched her hands to hide their trembling as she stared at her friend's face. "Vida," Xander whispered, "Maybe we should."
"I can't," Vida said, equally softly. Her mind was spinning fast, trying to make sense of what Chip had said.
"Keep an eye on him," Xander said, and squeezed her shoulder gently but firmly before stepping away. "Nick, Madison, let's step outside for a moment."
Udonna rested her hand on Vida's shoulder, "Vida," she said, "I think I know what has happened to Chip."
"Can you heal him?" Vida asked, standing up.
"No," Udonna said, "unfortunately, the only one who can save Chip is Chip."
"What does that even mean?" Vida asked.
"Chip is under the effect of a NyghtMare," Udonna replied, "there once were seven of them, but only one is known to be still alive. The NyghtMare of Despair, she is called. One of her spells is the Spell of Choice." Udonna looked down at Chip, "She is trying to force him to make some choice, to give up something he wants dearly."
"Why?" Vida asked her voice cracking.
"For every dream or hope Chip chooses, there is one he much give up," Udonna replied gently. "Eventually, the choices will diminish his soul until he is lost."
"We can't lose him," Vida said.
Udonna rested her hands on Vida's shoulders, "In the library are the journals of the Slayers of NyghtMares, surely in them is the solution."
The door to the room opened, and Xander stepped in, "Vida," he said, "Madison wanted you to help her in the library. She had some sort of an idea."
"Ok," Vida said, "Udonna and I figured something out too." As she headed to the door she stopped and put her hand on Xander's arm, "Do what you have to," she told him, staring in his eyes.