Disclaimer: I still own nothing.

Chapter 7: Secrets & Revelations

Back at Ninja Ops, Cam pulled a small cot out of a compartment on the wall, and Blake carefully helped Tori across the room and down onto the cot. As Cam inspected her wound more carefully, Blake squeezed her good hand.

After a few moments, Cam straightened, apparently satisfied. "Well, it's going to need some serious bandaging, and we're going to have to come up with something to tell your mom, Tori, but you should be okay." There was an audible sigh of relief from around the room.

"Man, that was a close one, though," Shane said.

"Yeah," Hunter agreed. Cam nodded.

"It was. " His voice was serious and strained. "That needle was directly targeted to the coordinates of Tori's aorta at the time of launch. " He sighed at the blank looks on the other Rangers' faces. "If Tori hadn't thrown herself down when she did, the needle would have…gone right through her heart."

"Whoa," Shane said.

"Talk about lucky," Hunter moaned. Blake said nothing, but tightened his grip on Tori's hand and looked at her worriedly.

"Dude," Dustin said.

"How eloquent, Dustin," Cam commented sarcastically.

"How'd you know to duck down anyway?" Shane asked. "I mean..it all happened so fast. There was no time to think. I would never have made it in time."

"I dunno…. Instinct, I guess," Tori mumbled. The others just looked at her. 'Yeah, right' was written all over their faces.

"Tori?" Hunter prompted. "Something you'd like to share with us?" Tori sighed and wearily rubbed her forehead with her good hand.

"All right, "she sighed. The other Rangers looked at her expectantly.

"Well, go on, "Shane urged. Tori sighed. Where do I even begin?

"Two weeks ago I started having this dream…. We would go into battle and be fighting this monster called Seamstra, and then as I was running to help Hunter and Blake she would throw a big needle right through me, and then I would just…die.

"Not even right away," Tori continued, a sob beginning to be evident in her voice. "I would be lying there bleeding to death, just feeling myself slipping away…." She stared firmly at the ground, not daring to look up into her friends' eyes. "I mean, the first time, it was like, oh yeah, just a nightmare…. I couldn't stop thinking about it all the next day, but it was just a nightmare….But, it didn't stop there. I had it the next night. And the next. Every single night for two weeks. And anytime I just dozed off, or even closed my eyes, I would have the dream again."

"I didn't know where the dream was coming from, or why it was happening...not really. But as soon as I saw Seamstra, I just...knew, and when I heard her speak and I knew she was…going to throw it, I just thought of what Sensei was telling us earlier and I…I ducked."

Blake stared at her incredulously. "So you knew about this. The whole time."

"Tori, I…." Dustin stuttered. "Why the hell did you head off towards Hunter and Blake if you knew what was coming? You could have been killed!" he told her, obviously upset and hurt.

Tori shook her head in exasperation. "And what was I supposed to do? That was hardly the time to start coming clean. There was no time, we were in the heat of battle.. And besides which, somebody would still have had to help Hunter and Blake. It would've been you or Shane, or maybe Cam, on the end of that needle, not me. And I figured, at least I had prepared myself. At least I was ready to die, I knew what was going to happen. None of you guys did." There was a stunned silence for a few moments. Tori closed her eyes against the tears she knew were coming.

"Tori… I still don't understand: Why didn't you tell us before?" Blake asked her. Tori didn't answer for a moment, staring at the ground. Finally she spoke:

"Because I was…afraid."

"Of what?" Shane pressed.

"Of…a lot of things, I guess. I was…afraid of the dream, and I was afraid to let you guys see that…. I was afraid you'd all start protecting me…or else laugh at me for being overly superstitious. But mostly I was just…afraid…that…." Tori trailed off.

Dustin rolled his eyes at her expectantly.

"I was afraid that you would…think I was…weak. Or at least, too weak to handle Lothor," she clarified as she saw the guys exchange Looks over her head.

"Why would you think that, Tor? We would never think that about you," Dustin asked. Tori sighed and pursed her lips as she struggled for the best way to word her answer.

Blake glanced at Tori knowingly. "Does it have anything to do with you being the only girl on the team?" Tori just looked at him, and in her eyes he saw that that was exactly why. Blake nodded slowly, and the other Rangers realized it too.

"Tori," Hunter began, "I know sometimes we're kinda overprotective, or we forget that you can take care of yourself. But it isn't because we think you're weak; far from it. It's just that…."

"It's just human nature," Shane added. "We're a bunch of guys on a team with one girl, and we're all sort of like family on this team, so sometimes we tend to see you as a little sister…."

"And that's what big brothers do for little sisters," Dustin finished. "We beat up any guy that messes with them and protect them and sort of defer to them. But it's not anything personal Tor, we can't really help it." Blake squeezed Tori's hand harder and titled her chin up so that their eyes met.

"Tori," he said. "I—We have never, ever doubted your position on this team. You are one of us, Tori, and we love you. Don't you ever think otherwise, okay? " Tori nodded. "Promise?" He said gently.

"Promise," Tori whispered, tears falling down her cheeks. Smiling, she allowed Blake to pull her into a comforting hug and hold her close.

"Group hug!" Dustin crowed, shattering the mood instantly. Soon he, as well as Shane and Hunter, had bounded over to try and work themselves into the pair's hug. Cam stood on the side shaking his head pityingly.

"No…party…poopers…"Shane grunted as he reached out and starting dragging Cam into the circle. Cam struggled against him, but it was no use. With a sudden jerk, Cam slid into reach of his five teammates, and was immediately pulled into the hug by an energetic Dustin. Cam sighed and rolled his eyes.

"This is what I get for asking to be a Ranger." The other five Rangers burst out laughing. After a minute, Cam joined in laughing too.

Tori smiled as her friends hugged her tight. I should have known better, she thought laughingly. I forgot I had the best friends in the world.

THE END!

...for now…

A/N: Was there too much fluff at the end? Let me know what you think! As always I appreciate feedback, compliments as well as constructive criticism :-)

Thank you so much to everyone who gave me so much feedback on this story - it was terrifying posting my first multi-chapter but you guys helped a lot! Don't worry, though, Tori's troubles are not *quite* over yet...I'm hoping to have the first chapter of the sequel up either tonight or tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Next up: The One I Love