A/N: Set between 26 – "The Secret of the Locket" and 27 – "Astronema Thinks Twice". Some more fluff, written eighteen months ago. And what do you know? I'm still obsessed with these two.
I don't own Power Rangers, made for fun not profit.
"The stars are the jewels of the night,
and perchance surpass anything which
day has to show."
- Henry David Thoreau
The sun wakes her. She feels it rising over her, warm on her body from head to foot. It feels secure, a blanket of warmth and light, and in the hazy moment before complete awakening, she forgets herself and just lets the light wash over her.
She moves a hand, flexes her fingers, still with eyes closed and mind soaking up the fictitious world of a perfect morning. After all, this must be a dream. Astronema would never wake under the sun.
When she places her hand, she feels underneath her something different to usual. It's not hard like a stone, nor is it soft like a pillow. She opens her eyes, slowly, and tries to adjust to her surroundings. She is outside, in the middle of a small clearing where trees are to all sides of her, and she is lying on the ground, leaves of all season in a mess about her.
Quickly she turns her head, thinking it is better to see what's beside her sooner than later, and tries to hold in a sharp gasp at what she sees. Shocked and angered, she uses her gloved hand to push herself up from the resting body, and stumbles a few steps back.
From the pressure of her hand, the body on the ground stirs, and Zhane opens his eyes wearily. "Wha...?"
"What is going on?" Astronema demands, glaring down at Zhane and trying to be threatening without the use of her staff.
Zhane frowns as he uses his hands on the ground to angle himself to see better. "What? Don't you remember?"
"Remember what?" Astronema fires quickly, continuing before Zhane can explain. "I thought I told you I never wanted to see you again!"
Standing carefully, arms raised defensively, Zhane walks forward a single step before responding. "Yeah, I remember. I also remember a call from you last night, asking to meet you here. You don't remember that?"
Confused and angry, Astronema looks around at their surroundings, noticing her staff positioned against a tall tree, but not seeing anything else familiar to her. "Where are we?"
"In the woods, on KO-35. There's no one else here," Zhane answers her mildly, concerned that Astronema doesn't remember any of this. "You asked me to come look at the stars with you."
Astronema flashes her eyes at him. "I have no memory of this. This is a trick. You will pay for this, Silver Ranger."
She moves to snatch her staff but Zhane runs to catch her, clutching her shoulder and turning her to face him before she can reach it.
"What do you think you're doing? Let go of me!" Astronema pulls her shoulder away and glares at Zhane, the blue of her hair colourful blurs in her periphery.
Not deterred by her violence, Zhane keeps his hands out in front of himself and searches Astronema's face. "Please, Astronema, this isn't a trick, I promise. I think something's happening to you."
"What do you mean?"
Astronema keeps her distance, her staff still out of reach but not quite needed yet. As Zhane looks at her carefully, concern etched into his face, Astronema feels a pang of regret and an almost overwhelming sense of yearning. She had rejected Zhane because he stood her up, she had blasted him because she wanted to make him feel the hurt she felt, but now with his earnest face and caring eyes she is again conflicted by what she feels. She hates him because he makes her feel humiliated, but his concern is endearing, and deep down she wants desperately to believe in what he is saying.
Zhane swiftly runs his fingers through his mess of blond hair, a nervous action in the face of what he is about to say to the woman in front of him. "If you don't remember talking to me last night, if you don't remember what happened here, I think there is something wrong."
Astronema's eyes soften. She knows there is something wrong, ever since her showdown with the Red Ranger, she has known. There have always been gaps in her memory, things she can never quite place or piece together in her mind, but this is different. Not being able to remember something that happened less than a day ago, something she wants so much to remember now, means there is something very wrong with her.
After a long moment Astronema feels her lips part. "I don't remember summoning you here, but if you say that I did, I believe you. I don't believe you would ever intentionally try to hurt me."
Zhane relaxes his body, drops his hands and shoulders and offers Astronema a small smile. He wants to say that he never would hurt her, or cause her harm in any way, and he thinks he might be able to tell her, but he holds up his hands again when Astronema swiftly reaches for her staff and points it at him.
"I know there is something wrong with me, but you won't be the one to help me," she says defiantly. "We're enemies, that's all we can ever be. You should go back and help the rebels, stay away from the Power Rangers so I can't hurt you."
"Astronema, wait!" Zhane cries out, desperate for her to stay. He wants to help her, he knows he can. She just looks at him expectantly, staff by her side and no longer quite as threatening, but what can he possibly say to her? She has made her point clear; they can never be more than enemies.
She looks into his eyes, trying not to see what she knows is there, and when she feels her resolve slipping from her, she says to him softly, "Zhane, please don't make this hard."
"We watched the stars last night," Zhane begins anyway, voice calm and soft. "We found so many constellations, probably all of them visible to this side of the galaxy. We just sat under the sky and watched them. I want you to remember that like I do."
Astronema stands still beside the tall tree, her staff fixed tightly in her grasp; she won't let it go, it means too much to her now. "Maybe someday I will."
Trying to break through her monotony, Zhane offers her his hand boldly. "Stay with me a little while longer, just until mid-morning."
She is quick to respond. "Ecliptor will wonder where I am. He'll come looking for me."
"He'll think you're sleeping in," Zhane says with a smile. "The Princess of Darkness can sleep in, can't she?"
"She can, but she doesn't like to," Astronema responds with a still face, any humour present in her words dying with the icy look she procures.
The Princess of Darkness, a name for a learned persona, as Astronema knows there is something that lies beneath the exterior—Karone? Someone hidden, buried deep inside of her; she is awake to the presence of something good, some light inside as warm as the sun. But this is not her anymore. She is Astronema; she is evil, dark and cold.
Zhane further extends his hand, his fingers almost able to touch her. "Just stay a little longer. Please?"
Looking once more into his eyes, and finding there something so pure and intriguing, Astronema loosens her grip on her staff, fingers still around the handle but so that it is no longer so fixed in her hand. She tries not to be filled with his warmth, his kind eyes and bright smile, but the more she pushes it away the more she feels drawn to it.
In a single movement she lets go of the staff and it falls back against the tree, upright but away from her hold. She doesn't look away from him as she slips her gloved hand into his bare one and steps toward him.
Zhane waits until she is close to him, her smaller form perfectly angled against his, then he moves backwards, leading her to where they had been sitting the night before. He lets go of her hand to remove the silver shirt he is wearing and places it on the ground underneath them, as a blanket. Flashing him a small smile of gratitude, Astronema eyes the black singlet Zhane has on and thinks to herself that perhaps Zhane is also hiding a side of himself behind his persona of Silver Ranger. He is, after all, miles away from any other being on this planet to be with Astronema, Princess of Evil.
He sits down and offers his hand to her again, and as he feels the thick cover of her glove he wishes he could feel what the skin of her hand is like. Zhane keeps his legs outstretched and Astronema easily curls her form around him.
Keeping her hand safe in his, Zhane lies back until his head is resting in the crook of his other arm, and giving him a final look, Astronema lies herself down, her head coming to rest over Zhane's chest, just under his chin. She lets him unfurl her fingers then lies her palm flat in his, and she feels the light of the sun claim her as they rest.
When Zhane wakes again, he wakes alone. Astronema, along with her staff, is nowhere to be seen, and Zhane feels a stab of regret at having made things more complicated, but also hopeful that Astronema will come back to him one day, and they will be free to be something other than enemies.