Notes: Written for Rarewomen2013, originally posted at AO3. This is a little... headcanon-y, but the gist of it is that Cassie is awesome.
"Don't freak," Emma whispered, "but I think we're being followed."
"What do you mean, don't freak?" Gia said, stopping right where she was on the sidewalk to do a full, sweeping scan of their surroundings. "And what do you mean, followed? Is it some creeper?"
"Hush," Emma said, and took her arm, tugging Gia back to walking. "You saw that woman, didn't you? About twenty feet back, sunglasses, dark hair?"
Gia went reluctantly. "Pink scarf, funky bracelet?"
"Yeah, her." Emma nodded, resisting the urge to turn around and look again for herself. It was another overcast day in Harwood County, and despite the fact that school had just gotten out, the streets were half-empty in the face of expectant rain. It would be too obvious if she turned and stared. "She was at the school when we left."
"You're sure it was her back there?" Doubt entered Gia's voice now. "I mean, it's always crowded at school."
"Don't laugh, okay," Emma said. "But ever since we became... you know." She lowered her voice as they came up behind another pedestrian, a boy near their age in a red sweatshirt. "I notice pink more. I'm sure. Besides, she seems a little familiar."
"Can't say the same," Gia said, frowning, and together they chanced a surreptitious glance sideways as they rounded a corner. "I didn't see her then, anyway, did you?"
Emma shook her head. "Maybe I was being silly, after all," she said.
"I believe you," Gia assured her, nudging her with an elbow. "Race you the last block to Ernie's?"
She dropped Emma's arm and sprinted away without waiting for an answer. Laughing, Emma took off after her. "That's cheating!"
"Loser buys!" Gia shouted back.
Too intent on catching up, Emma almost—but not quite—missed a flash of pink out of the corner of her eye as she raced into Ernie's just on Gia's heels. Reaching, she grabbed ahold of the back of Gia's jacket, and pulled.
"Hey!" Gia turned. "Now that's definitely cheating—hey, how'd she get here so fast?"
"Weird, right?" Emma said, and nudged Gia towards the counter. "Go order for me. I want a better look at her."
"No way," Gia protested. "I'm not going to just—"
Emma didn't hear the rest, studying the woman through the window with a frown. Something about her... She was dressed normally enough, jeans and black boots that Emma envied. Around her neck was the long pink scarf that had made her stand out, the trailing ends nearly reaching her fingertips. From there Emma's attention was pulled towards the bracelet.
A six-colored braid, pink over blue, over black and yellow and red and silver.
Emma went still. "I don't believe it."
"What—Emma!" Gia shouted after her as Emma went barreling right back out of the store. "Wait!"
She didn't wait. Instead she came to an abrupt halt once she came face-to-face with their follower because what in the world was she supposed to say now?
Behind the sunglasses, the woman smiled. "Hello, Emma."
She gaped. "You know my name?"
That got her a gentle laugh. "I remember all my number one fans."
"Emma, what's going on?" Gia was beside her again, fierce as ever and angling herself so as to be best able to step between them if need be.
Emma laughed too, almost giddily as she held up a hand to reassure Gia. "No, it's all right," she said. "Um. Gia, this is Cassie Chan."
And sure enough, when the woman pushed her sunglasses up onto her forehead that's whose face smiled back and Emma thought even Gia sounded a little awed as she said, "Whoa."
Emma just tried not to stare too much, because this was the woman she'd idolized both as a musician and a human being for no less than half her life. And, okay, the fame from being a Power Ranger certainly hadn't hurt Cassie's sales when she released her first album back in 2000, but Emma thought she would've made it big anyway. Her lyrics were inspired and deep, and they resonated with Emma as much now as they ever had, maybe more.
"We thought I should pay you a visit," Cassie told them over a strawberry smoothie, her back to the room as they sat at a corner table. "To be sure you were adjusting to your new... responsibilities."
"We?" Gia said suspiciously, exchanging a glance with Emma. "Your team, you mean?"
Gia, who was better at keeping her composure anyway, had always slightly favored Tanya, the other rock/pop diva of the early 2000's and so appeared to be less obviously starstruck.
"Not exactly." Cassie touched her bracelet with a wistful smile. "No, I see them when I can, but we're on different worlds now—literally. But there were other teams, you know, here on Earth. Some of us interact with the public more than others, and sometimes we meet people we want to keep an eye on, just in case.
"You, for example," she said, with a nod at Emma. "That was your tenth birthday, wasn't it, when you came to one of my shows?"
Emma nodded slowly. She'd begged and begged for months, sworn to keep her room clean for the rest of forever and never score anything less than an A. Her parents had held her to the promise for approximately three days and bought the tickets anyway, probably just to make her quit asking already.
"I saw it in you, even way back then," Cassie continued. "Not for sure—you can never be sure, not until it happens. But the spark was there. You'll see what I mean, someday."
"So you visit?" Emma asked. "Every time there's a new team of Rangers?"
"That's the idea," Cassie said, taking another long sip of her drink. "I can't go myself every time, obviously, but we to send at least one former Ranger, to check in and see how you're doing. If we can, we'll send one of each color. It's always a lot to take in, especially at first.
"It was... different, before," she said with a faint frown. "Except for the first group, we came and went a few at a time, so there was always someone on your team who'd been there awhile, someone who knew how everything worked and could help you out. But things haven't been centralized in Angel Grove for awhile now, so you have teams activating in areas where you've never had Rangers before, like here. It's not quite the same, what we're doing, but we try to help however we can."
"How many is "we", exactly?" Emma asked. "How many of there are you, anyway?"
"Enough that it makes planning Ranger reunions look suspicious if we all gather in the park anymore," Cassie said ruefully. "Add in the fact that that you've got people coming in from other worlds and the year 3012—"
"The what?" Gia demanded.
"And well, you can imagine, it's a headache to coordinate," Cassie finished as if Gia hadn't interrupted, and set aside her empty cup. "But there'll be time for that later and I came here in the first place to meet with you girls. How have things been going?"
"It's... good," Emma said, a little hesitantly. "Just... sometimes..."
"Overwhelming?" Gia suggested, and Cassie gave a sympathetic nod.
"What's been going on?"
"Well, last week, there was this Beezara," Emma started, and together they told the whole awful story, of how the boys had been brainwashed and how they'd been put under a different spell themselves. "I was just so angry with her," she finished, with an apologetic look at Gia who stared guiltily back. "And I couldn't even remember why, but it was such a strong feeling, and then afterwards it was... scary. That we fell for her tricks so easily."
"But you didn't," Cassie said gently. "You broke her spell. You beat her in the end."
She held up a hand, silencing them before they could protest. "We've all got stories like that, you know. Of fighting with your best friend and your teammates being captured. And it's never not scary, but you'll come through it all right, I promise. It wasn't your fault."
Emma felt something inside her release, some ball of anxiety she hadn't realized she'd been carrying around the past couple of weeks. Beside her, she felt the subtle shift as Gia relaxed a little, too.
Cassie graced them with another smile. "Keep talking," she said. "We've got all night."