A/N: The idea for this fic occurred to me awhile ago while re-watching Lightspeed Rescue. There was an episode where Carter and Joel were listening to a boombox in the Rescue Rover (a boombox, y'all), and my initial reaction was, "Holy shit, am I old." My second thought was, "Why the hell didn't Miss Fairweather put a CD player into the Rescue Rover?" I was originally just going to have Joel confront Miss Fairweather about it, but then the fic eventually evolved into something more...
Warning: The Rangers probably seem slightly out-of-character here. I prefer to think of it as them letting off some steam. ;) Can't be serious superheroes all the time!
Also, bear in mind that this season took place in 2000. As in, pre-iTunes 2000.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
"Miss F, we have a problem."
Angela glanced up from her latest project, her eyes taking in the amusing sight of a very not amused Joel Rawlings.
"What is it, Joel?" she asked, wondering if she even wanted to know.
"The Rescue Rover doesn't have a CD player!"
Angela chuckled at Joel's latest attempt to strike up a conversation with her, until she realized that he was completely serious.
"The Rescue Rover was designed to transport you to and from battles—not as a recreational vehicle," she explained patiently.
"You can't expect us to get psyched for a battle without pump-up music!" Joel protested, looking horrified.
"Pump-up music?" Angela repeated, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes, pump-up music," Joel replied defensively. "Come on, can't you just put in a CD player? I bet it'd be really easy, you being so… uh… good with technology and such."
"Sorry, Joel, I'm afraid I have a few more pressing things to deal with right now," Angela said, barely holding back her laughter. "Why don't you see if you can borrow a portable player?"
As she returned to her project, she heard Joel murmur, "That might not be such a bad idea…"
"Pump-up music?" Dana echoed later that day, pausing with her fork halfway to her mouth. "Are you serious?"
"Sounds good to me!" Kelsey exclaimed, a mischievous glint in her eyes. "I've got so many Spice Girl songs I could make you guys listen to…"
Carter snorted. "I wouldn't exactly count the Spice Girls as pump-up music," he said. "I was thinking more along the lines of The Who."
"Who?" Chad asked, glancing up from his newspaper and orange juice. "Never mind," he amended as Carter gave him a murderous look. "I prefer dance hits, myself."
"Guys, guys," Joel interrupted, clearly appalled by what his teammates considered music. "Country is the only way to go here. And besides, it was my idea."
"Why don't you just burn a CD?" Dana suggested, rolling her eyes in amusement. "That way, you can all contribute songs you like."
The other Rangers frowned. "I've never burned a CD before," Joel admitted, prompting a chorus of "me neither"s from the rest.
"Dana, can you do it?" Kelsey asked. "Or get Miss F to help?"
"I don't know, guys," Dana said, sighing. "We're supposed to be concentrating on saving people's lives, not on what music we're listening to in the Rescue Rover."
"Come on, Dana, please?" Kelsey begged, putting on her best puppy-dog expression. The others chimed in with varying methods of supplication, the most effective of which was a certain someone looking absurdly gorgeous in his new red shirt.
"All right, fine," Dana eventually caved in, sighing. "I'll see what I can do."
The table erupted with cheers. "Yes!" Joel cried, pumping his fist in the air. "I'll bring my CDs over this afternoon. And make sure you put my songs first," he added with a wink.
As the others immediately registered their complaints, Dana smiled weakly and wondered what she had gotten herself into.
On the day I was born, the nurses all gathered round
And they gazed in wide wonder at the joy they had found
The head nurse spoke up; she said, "Leave this one alone"
She could tell right away that I was bad to the bone
"Really, Joel?" Carter asked.
Joel adjusted his cowboy hat and gave Carter a rakish grin. "This song might as well have been written about me," he said cockily.
"You mean, the part about you being bad to the bone? Because it definitely isn't the part about you making girls squeal," Kelsey quipped, high-fiving Chad as the others shared a good laugh at Joel's expense.
Dana tried—really, she did—to bite back her smile, but in the end it broke through. Carter grinned at her from the driver's seat, a grin she simultaneously loved and hated for making him look so attractive. She knew that, as her coworker, he was off-limits; and he was so serious sometimes, she couldn't even tell if he had the same feelings for her. He probably doesn't, she thought, her smile fading.
"This baby right here," Joel said, patting the boombox on the car floor, "is my new best friend."
He had procured the player from somewhere earlier that week, and yesterday Dana had succeeded in getting the others' songs burned onto a disc. As an afterthought, she had added a few of her own—but they were at the end of the playlist, because she wasn't sure if the others would like them.
"All right, Joel," Carter said, chuckling, as they pulled up to the site of the monster attack, "it's time to show them just how bad you really are."
Joel mimicked drawing and shooting two pistols, then ducked when the monster turned and fired at him.
"Yo, I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want!" Kelsey chanted.
Dana couldn't resist. "So, tell me what you want, what you really really want!"
Carter and Joel's jaws dropped.
"I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want!" Kelsey yelled back.
"So, tell me what you want, what you really really want!" Dana returned.
"Please tell me we're close to the monster attack," Joel muttered.
"I wanna—I wanna—I wanna—I wanna—I wanna—" Kelsey began, singing loudly over Joel.
Dana—and, much to the horror of Carter and Joel, Chad—chimed in at the end: "I really really really wanna zig-a-zig ah."
"Best song ever!" Kelsey crowed, reaching over the front seat to high-five Dana.
You are the dancing queen
Young and sweet, only seventeen
Feel the beat from that tambourine
You can dance, you can jive
Having the time of your life
Apparently "Dancing Queen" was a collective guilty pleasure, because all five of them were belting out the chorus on the way back to the Aquabase. They were fresh off a victory over Vypra, whose disastrous debut of her new weapon—the Vyprari—was sure to earn her the wrath of Diabolico. The Rangers, meanwhile, had gotten an impressive addition to their arsenal: the Lightspeed Cycles.
"Guys, what does 'dig in the dancing queen' mean? I've never understood that part," Kelsey confessed when the chorus ended.
There was a contemplative pause as all of them realized that, in fact, they didn't know what "dig in the dancing queen" meant.
"Are you sure it's not 'digging the dancing queen'?" Dana offered. "That'd make more sense."
"No, it's definitely 'dig in.' That's what the lyrics on one of my mom's CDs said, anyway," Kelsey told her.
"Well, they're Swedish," Chad mused. "Maybe it's a Swedish expression."
"Isn't this your song?" Dana asked him.
"Yeah, but I don't really listen to the lyrics," Chad defended himself. "I just need something good to practice martial arts to."
"You practice martial arts to ABBA?" Joel demanded, looking as if he were personally offended by Chad's workout habits.
"What's wrong with ABBA?" Kelsey retorted, a hint of a warning in her voice.
"It's probably a Swedish expression," Carter volunteered.
The others picked up on his attempt to steer the conversation in a safer direction, and spent the rest of the ride back to the Aquabase wondering if ABBA had actually meant to say digging.
It's only teenage wasteland
Teenage wasteland, oh yeah, teenage wasteland
They're all wasted!
"Uh, Carter? Are you sure you can do that drum solo while you're driving?" Dana asked, raising an eyebrow.
Chad reached over and clapped her on the shoulder. "Dana, I think he's done this lots of times," he whispered somberly.
Carter was either oblivious or cheerfully ignoring them as he drummed his hands against the steering wheel. Dana stared in amazement as he mimicked the drum solo perfectly—or as perfectly as he could, anyway, when navigating Mariner Bay rush-hour traffic—and finished off the song with a loud whoop of excitement.
"Now that," he declared triumphantly, "is real music."
"No way," Kelsey immediately argued. "Spice Girls own The Who."
"Who?" Chad asked.
"Very funny," Carter said, rolling his eyes.
"…No, I'm actually serious," Chad said, looking confused. "Are they really called The Who?"
Dana didn't dare laugh at the horrified expression on Carter's face, but Joel had no such compunctions. "Chad, I think you're ruining his childhood," he remarked, snickering.
Carter could only shake his head in amazement.
"Seriously, though, you've never heard of The Who?" Joel asked Chad.
"I've heard this song before," Chad answered, "but I didn't know who sang it…"
"I don't believe this," Carter muttered.
"Hey, Dana," Kelsey said later that week, "didn't you put any songs on this CD?"
"Yeah, I put some on," Dana replied noncommittally, flushing. She had regretted it the second she finished burning the CD. Sure, Kelsey was the one listening to the Spice Girls; but most of Dana's selections were pop, too, and the idea of playing them in front of Carter was pretty embarrassing.
"Well, where are they?" Kelsey asked, frowning. "We've listened to all the ones from the rest of us."
"I just put them at the end," Dana replied, shifting uncomfortably. "I don't mind, we can start the CD over. I liked the songs you guys had."
"Oh, no you don't," Carter said, grinning at her. "We've all had our turn, now it's yours. Kelsey, go to the end of the CD."
Kelsey happily obeyed, and Dana cringed as Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes' voices filled the Rescue Rover.
Now I've had the time of my life
No, I've never felt this way before
Yes, I swear, it's the truth
And I owe it all to you
"What is this crap?" Joel scoffed. "This was supposed to be a pump-up CD, not the soundtrack to a chick flick."
Dana's cheeks turned beet red, and she slid an inch or two down in her seat. Carter glanced at her.
"Oh, shut up," Kelsey admonished Joel a second later. "This song is awesome! Haven't you ever seen Dirty Dancing? It's from that great scene where Patrick Swayze and what's-her-face do their final dance. Awesome choice, Dana."
Dana stared out the window, wondering if it'd be safe for her to jump out of the car. She could walk back to the Aquabase, it wasn't too far…
"You know, I never really pegged you as someone who'd watch Dirty Dancing," Chad remarked to Kelsey, looking faintly puzzled.
"What, just because I'm more Sporty Spice than Baby Spice I can't like romantic movies?" Kelsey asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Er…" Chad was properly abashed.
"Man," Joel said, sighing unhappily, "this is something I'd hear at a cheesy wedding."
"Hey, lay off," Carter said sharply. "We all listened to your music, didn't we?"
Dana felt slightly better to hear Carter defending her, but not much. The truth was, she had always wanted "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" to be played at her wedding. Ever since seeing Dirty Dancing, she'd had an image of herself dancing to the song with her husband—who, these days, was starting to look an awful lot like Carter—while her father watched from the sidelines. Sure, it was corny. Cheesy, to borrow Joel's label. But it was still a dream of hers, even though God knew she wasn't getting married anytime soon, and Joel mocking it wasn't exactly doing wonders for her self-esteem.
"We can change it," she muttered, wishing she could disappear through the floor of the Rescue Rover.
"Oh, no, I really like this song!" Kelsey cried. "Joel, don't even think about it," she added as Joel's fingers inched towards the skip button on the player. "You're just going to change it to one of your songs, and country sucks."
This, of course, prompted a furious argument in the backseat—which Dana was only too happy to ignore. She gazed out at the road, relieved that the smell of the ocean was growing stronger by the second. Any minute now, they'd be at the passage leading to the Aquabase. Then she could go back to that annoying Windows Media Player program, remove all her songs from the playlist, and burn a new CD.
"Hey," Carter said quietly, under the cover of Joel, Kelsey, and Chad's heated discussion, "are you all right?"
Dana couldn't look at him. "Yeah," she managed, swallowing. "I'm fine."
The Rangers were listening to "Don't Stop Believin'" (courtesy of Carter) on the way home from dispatching yet another monster, but Dana wasn't in the mood for music. The battle, though a success, was a small distraction from the longer war that she was in danger of losing: Ryan.
Her brother. Her twenty-year-old brother, who had supposedly died in the car accident she had no recollection of. Instead, Ryan had been raised by Diabolico and trained to hate everyone and everything good. Not long ago, he had broken into the Aquabase and stolen the Titanium morpher from her father's safe. He had used it to become a Power Ranger, only for the wrong side—and he had nearly killed them all before realizing that everything Diabolico had told him was a lie.
Now he was gone, and she didn't know if he'd ever come back. She couldn't blame him: he'd been raised evil, and the prospect of switching sides—coupled with the guilt of what he'd almost done—had to have been daunting, at the very least. It wasn't something that any amount of therapy could ever fix. But she hated the fact that she hadn't gotten the chance to start rebuilding a relationship with him, and that he had taken off before she could even say goodbye.
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
And the dreams that you dared to dream of, once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Dreams really do come true
"Show tunes? We're onto show tunes now?" Joel demanded, aghast.
Dana's eyes began watering.
"This isn't a show tune," Kelsey corrected him witheringly. "It's from The Wizard of Oz. But Judy Garland's supposed to be singing it, not some guy."
"Whatever, it's still a mood-killer," Joel replied dismissively. "Dana, is this one of your songs? Remember, I said pump-up music, not depressing music."
Dana's jaw clenched as the road in front of her became a shimmering black ribbon.
"Hey! Dana! Anybody home?" Joel asked teasingly.
"Joel, don't be an asshole," Carter snapped, his knuckles turning white on the steering wheel.
For a moment, the inside of the car was so quiet that they could only hear the roaring of the wheels against the pavement.
In the sideview mirror, Dana saw Joel elbow Kelsey. "What'd I do?" she heard him whisper.
"I think she's crying," Kelsey murmured back, shushing him.
"The song reminds me of Ryan," Dana said quietly, not bothering to stop the tears from sliding down her face. Anything to shut them up, anything to get Joel to stop making fun of the music. "I miss him."
"I miss him" wasn't the half of it, though. There was a difference between missing a brother who was lost to her forever, and missing a brother who was a broken promise of a better future. A month ago, at least, there had been closure. She celebrated his birthday each year, but she had accepted that he was dead. Now, she had been proven wonderfully wrong; and yet the knowledge that he was alive and she still couldn't see him was almost worse. Ryan had rejected their family, even if only temporarily, and that hurt—despite the fact that he had every reason to take off. More than anything, she was afraid that he would decide to build a new life somewhere else. Maybe a new family, with parents and siblings of his own choosing. And she and her father would be left alone, helpless to do anything but light the candles on a different cake for each birthday.
No one in the car said anything for the rest of the ride. Joel shifted uncomfortable in his seat for the duration of it, and took off the second they reached the Aquabase. Kelsey kept shooting concerned glances at Dana, but allowed herself to be led away by Chad.
The only person who didn't move was Carter.
"You don't have to stay here," Dana said, wiping uselessly at her eyes. Some of Miss Fairweather's workers looked worriedly at her, but they were too discreet to linger. Before long, they returned to their projects and pretended that she wasn't there.
"I'll leave, if you want me to," Carter responded.
Dana didn't say anything.
"He'll come back," Carter told her suddenly, reaching out and putting a hand on her shoulder. "He just needs some time."
"I-I know," Dana whispered shakily, drawing in a shuddering breath. "I-I'm just being stupid."
"No, you're not," Carter said firmly. "You're being a good sister."
Dana smiled weakly, struggling to regain control of her emotions. She didn't want Carter to see her like this.
"Hey," Carter began, drawing her attention, "I was thinking of going and grabbing something to eat. Do you want to join me?"
Dana hesitated, then nodded. "Yeah," she replied, smiling gratefully at him. "Yeah, I'd like that."