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Note:
* Giving a fair warning to everyone, this story is an all-out romance...So if you're not a die hard romantic or someone who enjoys unlikely pairings, then please get off at the next stop. ^_^ The band, Sixpence None The Richer, owns the song "Kiss Me" and it's on their debut album, "Sixpence None The Richer". :) This story takes place after "Countdown To Destruction" and assumes two key point things: One, that when "Countdown To Destruction" happened all the rangers were about one year out of high-school, making them all nineteen. Second, Billy decided to come back to Earth from Aquitar after the Turbo Power Transfer; totally forgetting about his "fish-love". :P

An Unplanned Amour
Written By: WhiteZeo

Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and blows up the bonfire.

-- François de La Rouchefoucauld

* * * * *

Early December 1998

Peace.

Cassie Chan hadn't felt at peace in a long time; but now she did. It was an amazing feeling for her. Tranquillity. Serenity. However, her inner peace had come with a price.

*Zordon's dead* she repeated to herself, staring at her reflection in the lake *All this peace for his life; it isn't fair. He should have been able to live to see it.*

The teenager picked up a rock from near by and tossed it into the clear water, causing a minor splash. She glared at the growing ripples in the water produced by the rock. "Why did you have to leave, Zordon?" Cassie whispered quietly. "I never even got a chance to know you."

"Zordon would have liked you, Cassie," a voice replied to her murmuring just as a shadow cast over her.

Turning around, the teenager looked up and saw a man towering over her; his face shaded due to the brightness of the sun that was radiating in the sky behind him. "Glad you could make it," she chuckled, standing up from the grass and hugging the figure tightly. "I haven't talked to you in so long; I almost thought you'd fallen off the Earth!"

"Really?" he teased, hugging the girl back with a longing touch. "Maybe it's because you've been hovering up in space so long, Miss Chan!"

Cassie pulled away from the hug, pushing her long bangs behind her ears. "Or maybe it's because you've been spending so much time on the racing circuit, that I haven't been able to keep up with you, Mister Oliver!" she shot back playfully.

Tommy Oliver grinned. "Maybe it's both of those reasons," he agreed, sliding his arm across the younger girl's shoulders. "But seriously, how's it been going, Cassie?"

* * * * *

Cassie frowned as she and Tommy walked stride in stride down the path that ran through Angel Grove Park. "It hasn't been easy, I grant you that," she remarked. "Getting used to this fame; it hasn't been a simple thing."

"Ahhh, yes," he glanced down at his friend. "You Astro Rangers revealed your identities, right?"

"Uh-huh," the Asian-American girl sighed. "Where were you when the final attack happened, hmm?"

Tommy blushed slightly. "Believe it or not, I was up in Sacramento; training for the state competition. When I heard about what happened though, I totally blew it off and ran down here."

"So you weren't here?"

"Nope."

Cassie smiled up at him. "I'm glad; it was a big ass of a fight even for us morphed rangers. I don't know if you could have handled it."

The former Red Turbo Ranger stopped in his tracks, astonished. "You don't think I could have handled it?" he repeated, mock horror expressed on his features. "Your faith in me is very low, I see."

The Pink Astro Ranger punched him lightly in the upper arm. "You know exactly what I meant, Tommy Oliver, so don't pull that act with me!"

Just as they were about to continue walking, a couple of kids, looking about six or seven years old, ran straight up to Cassie, rubber bouncing balls clutched in their little arms. "Are you the Pink Ranger?" one little girl with blonde pigtails asked meekly, totally ignoring Tommy.

"Yeah," the raven-haired teen answered.

"Can you sign our balls for us?" a dark-skinned boy inquired brightly.

Cassie momentarily looked to Tommy for help, but only got a shrug from the older Power Ranger. "Sure thing," she nodded her head, kneeling down to the kids' height. "Does anyone have a black marker with them?"

* * * * *

Ten minutes and twenty autographs later, the two friends were back to their walking. "You know, you could have helped me out Tommy," Cassie frowned, giving him a nasty stare while he laughed.

"I could have, that is true, but I didn't want to spoil your fun," Tommy insisted innocently. "Besides, I saved you from that one little boy."

Remembering how Tommy had kept one little kid from tackling her to the ground, the Astro Ranger gave him a sideways glance. "Okay, I'll give you THAT one; but you weren't much help other than that," she pointed out, shivering involuntarily from the bitter cold of December.

"Here; it's getting pretty cold," he offered, taking off his own black leather jacket and placing it on Cassie's shoulders. "Why don't we head back to my car and go to my place? We can talk some more over there," he gazed up at the gray cloudy skies that had replaced the bright yellow sun for an instant. "Besides, I got a new house and I want you to see it."

"You got a new house?" the Asian girl replied skeptically. "I hope it's not as bad as you last apartment!"

"Hey!" the older man folded his arms across his chest. "I managed to keep my apartment pretty clean, so you can't insult me on that!"

The Astro Ranger laughed lightly. "Yeah, sure you did Tommy," she snickered, "after I cleaned it for you the FIRST time!"

"Okay," he acknowledged, as they began to walk towards the parking lot of the park, "so you did help me with that; but wait 'til you see my new place. You'll love it!"

Cassie shook her head. "I'll hold my breath on that one, Tommy..."

* * * * *

About a half-hour drive later into Angel Grove's expensive Northern Suburbs, Tommy pulled his sea green Toyota Avalon into the driveway of an elegant-looking white two-story house. "You have got to be kidding, Tommy?" Cassie was gawking as the car's purring engine was shut off. "Are you sure you didn't park in the WRONG driveway?" she questioned him, bewildered beyond imagination.

"I'm positive, Cassie," he assured, climbing out of the driver's seat. "I told you that you'd love it."

Closing her passenger door, the Pink Ranger walked up the cement pathway that led to the front door in a daze. "It's beautiful, Tommy; I've never seen anything like it," she praised in a hushed tone.

"I know," he approached the front door and inserted the house key into the dead bolt lock. "That's why Katherine liked it too."

Unlocking the door, Tommy turned it open and ushered Cassie inside, out of the cold. "Where is Kat anyway?" she asked, wandering into the living room and finding a picture of Tommy and his girlfriend set on the mantle of the large fireplace. "I figured she'd be here too, ya know."

"She was," he responded, coming up from behind the Pink Ranger and opening the fireplace below the mantle. "About nine months ago, Kat got a scholarship to go to a ballet academy in London and we both decided mutually to break off our relationship; we really weren't going anywhere."

"Oh," she mumbled, placing the picture down on the mantle and sitting down on the sofa near by. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay," he told her, moving a wood log into the hearth. "She lived here a few months before we broke up and that's kinda when we realized things weren't gonna work out the way we wanted it to."

Cassie quirked a short grin on her lips. "You remember the Phantom Ranger I told you about?"

"Of course," the brunette chimed, striking a match and throwing it onto the log. "Who could forget the mysterious ranger that stole your heart?"

As Tommy closed the glass casing around the fireplace a sofa pillow hit him upside the head. "What?" he whined, glancing over at Cassie. "I was only telling you what you told me a year ago!"

"Anyway," she ignored his teasing and continued to explain, "I kinda lost him the way you lost Kat."

"He dumped you?"

"No!" she rolled her eyes at the older Power Ranger. "We sort of fell out of contact and I sort of decided to forget about the whole affair; I mean he was barely around," she sighed, grabbing another throw pillow and hugging it to her chest. "He wasn't worth the trouble, I don't think."

"Funny how that is," Tommy smiled crookedly, realizing their predicament. "Two friends who are sulking together over lost loves in front of a roaring fire on a cold winter night; sounds like something out of a romance novel."

The Astro Ranger nodded her head. "It does," she agreed softly, her mind playing upon a thought; however, she changed the subject before she started to talk about it. "Do you remember when we first met?"

"When we first met? I do remember that," the former Turbo Ranger got off the carpet and sat down next to the girl on the sofa. "I was hanging from a rope and you and T.J. came to save me..."

Cassie immediately interrupted him. "No; I mean when we had our first intellectual conversation."

"Oh," he changed his train of thought. "You mean after you got the Turbo power?"

The raven-haired girl shook her head positively.

"I do remember that also," the brunette let his memories wander back to two years before. "It wasn't a favorite time for me, but you somehow made it a little more brighter, Cassie......"

{FLASHBACK}

"I know you'll do me proud as the Pink Ranger, Cassie," Katherine Hillard {Kat} praised the new Pink Turbo Ranger as she walked down from the high platform.

"Thanks Katherine," Cassie reached over and hugged the former Pink Turbo Ranger. "I really appreciate your support."

Releasing from the friendly hug, Katherine nodded her head. "Why don't you mingle around and meet with the other rangers that you don't know; I'm gonna go talk to Ashley, alright?"

"Sure," the Asian girl smiled, watching her predecessor find her way over to the Yellow Turbo Ranger.

"Excuse me," someone tapped Cassie on the shoulder.

She turned around and found herself facing the guy she had saved from the cave. "Oh, you're Tommy, right?" she held out her hand to be shook. "I'm Cassie Chan."

Tommy took her hand and shook it firmly. "Yeah, I'm Tommy," he gave her a small smile. "You and T.J. saved me, right?"

"Uh-huh," she replied, watching as his eyes glazed into a far-off look. "Are you okay, Tommy?"

Pulled out of his reverie by the sound of her worried voice, the former Red Turbo Ranger stared at Cassie for a moment. "It's nothing," he insisted. "I kinda miss the Power now that's gone, that's all."

"How long have you been a Power Ranger?"

"If you count my on and off days as the Green Ranger, I'd say about four years," he answered her question with a slight sigh of sadness.

"Four years?" the raven-haired girl repeated, surprised. "You really must miss the Power!"

He gave her a quirky smile. "Yeah, it's been a long ride and now it's finally coming to an end."

As a moment of silence fell between the two, the Pink Ranger spoke up. "You never wanted to give up your powers, did you Tommy?" she simply asked him.

He nodded his head a little bit. "You're good," he remarked, prompting a smile from her lips. "But as much as I want the Power back, T.J. deserves it a LOT more than I do."

Cassie placed a gloved hand against his arm in a comforting manner. "If it's any consolation, I think you'll do just fine without being a Power Ranger......"

{END OF FLASHBACK}

"See, I was right all the time about you, Oliver," Cassie patted Tommy's leg. "Even without the Power, you're still chuggin' along strong."

"True," he agreed with her, "but I lost a lot of things after the Power."

"Sure, you lost your girlfriend, Tommy; but that wasn't because of the Power!" the Astro Ranger pointed out.

Tommy shook his head in the negative. "It's not THAT I lost, Cass," he tried to explain. "I lost a lot more; I lost a drive, a meaning to run through life. Right now, I don't know where I'm headed or what I'm gonna do the next day, Cassie," he gazed deeply into her beautiful brown eyes, "and I don't like that one bit."

"But you have so many things look forward to!" Cassie encouraged, throwing her hands up into the air. "I mean, you have your racing career, your karate career...I could go on for hours!"

The former Power Ranger gave the Asian American a gentle smile. "You know, you're so optimistic you're killing me," he teased, getting up from the sofa and walking over to the fire.

"Oh, really," she jested back, watching him as he prodded the fire with a metal poker.

Placing the poker back into its holder, Tommy immediately changed the subject; obviously not looking to dwell back on his life as a Power Ranger. "So, when do you have to leave?"

"Whenever you want," Cassie replied, coming up behind her friend and entwining her arm with his. "Why? Do you want me to leave?"

Noticing the smallest bit of disappointment in her voice, Tommy interjected. "No!" he insisted, looking down into her eyes. "I was hoping you'd want to stay for awhile and have dinner with me, that's all," the race car driver explained shyly, "I haven't seen you in so long, Cassie; I've missed you."

Nodding in agreement, she soft smile appeared on her face. "Being a Power Ranger is a living," the Asian-American shrugged, leaning her head against Tommy's broad shoulder, "I've really missed you too, Tommy; I've missed you a lot..."

* * * * *

"So," Cassie murmured as she pulled Tommy into the kitchen, "what do you want to make for dinner?"

Facing him before he could speak up, the Pink Astro Ranger reiterated her question. "Wait; scratch that. What can you actually MAKE for dinner?"

The brunette walked over to the cupboards lined up against the wall in mock shock. "You've hurt me, Cassie," he whispered sadly, then perked up. "The only thing I know Kat will eat that I've made is my spaghetti."

"Then spaghetti it is," she agreed, opening up the refrigerator and sticking her head in. "Do you have any tomatoes?"

* * * * *

"Andros, have you seen Cassie?" Ashley Hammond queried as she wandered onto the bridge of the Astro MegaShip.

Spinning his chair around to see his girlfriend, Andros shook his head. "Nope; I haven't seen her for the last two hours," he answered honestly, "Why?"

"I need to talk to her about something important; I figured she'd be on the MegaShip right now, but I've looked everywhere and she's not around," the Yellow Astro Ranger explained her predicament. "D.E.C.A. where did Cassie teleport to when she left the ship?"

"Cassie teleported to Angel Grove Park," the on-board computer responded.

"Is she still there?" Andros asked, joining in on Ashley's mini-search.

"No."

"Damn," she cursed softly to herself, lifting her Astro Morpher to her face. Ashley pressed a button on her wrist-strapped device and spoke, "Cassie? Are you there?"

After a few moments, a muffled voice answered her call. "Huh? Ash?"

"Cassie?" Ashley repeated. "Where are you? I've been looking for you."

"Uhhhh," for a second there was whispered conversation in the background and then the Pink Ranger's voice came back, "I'm at the public library, Ashley."

Hearing soft laughter in the background, the Yellow and Red Rangers shared an odd glance. "Okay," the blonde simply acknowledged, it being obvious that Cassie didn't want Ashley to know where she was. "Ashley out."

Closing her morpher, the female ranger moved towards a console. "D.E.C.A. can you get me a visual of where Cassie is right now?"

Before D.E.C.A. could reply to the question, Andros interrupted, "Ashley, you heard Cassie; she's at the library. There's no need to eavesdrop on her!"

She shook her head. "Cassie isn't at the library; we both know that," she remarked lightly. "I'm not eavesdropping on her though. It's just that it sounded like she was with someone else...a male someone else."

A smirk grew onto the Kerovian Ranger's features. "And you want to see who she's with, right?"

Ashley dipped her head slightly, a smirk also on her face. "Right; there can be no harm done."

Expecting someone like T.J. or Carlos to be with her best friend, the Yellow Astro Ranger nearly fell to the floor when the picture was brought up onto the screen. "Ohmigod..."

Also quite surprised, Andros eyed the screen. "Who is she with?" he inquired, looking towards his companion.

Blinking hard, she glanced up at the screen again and saw the same picture. "I think that's Tommy..."

* * * * *

"I wonder why she was calling?" Tommy wondered out loud, as he continued to stir the spaghetti sauce on the stove with a wooden spoon.

"It's probably nothing," Cassie assured, coming up behind him and standing on her sock-covered toes to see over his shoulder. "She was just checking on me most likely. Making sure I wasn't somewhere, trapped in a corner by a bunch of little kids pleading for my autograph," she grinned, catching a whiff of the sauce.

"We did that two hours ago already," he laughed gently, placing a pinch of salt into the mixture.

The Pink Astro Ranger joined in with teasing. "Right," she smiled, now placing her hands on his shoulders and totally leaning on the former Power Ranger to get a glimpse at the elusive food. "Can I have a taste, Tommy? The smell is driving me crazy!"

"I can see that," he declared, now watching her jump up and down next him to him.

She grinned over exaggeratedly at the race car driver's remark. "Then you are very observant," she commented, eyeing the wooden spoon as it emerged from the red sauce. "Now, can I please have a taste?"

A smirk slowly setting in on Tommy's features, he decided to torture his friend for awhile. "No," he said in the meanest voice he could conjure up from within him.

Then, taking the spoon and he scooped up some of the spaghetti sauce in it. Waving it in front of Cassie's face then his own face, he blew on the sauce to cool it. "Yum, this smells SO good..." he trailed off, expressing his deepest emotions towards the food.

"Tommy..." Cassie grunted, placing her hands on her hips. "You had better give me some or else."

He shrugged innocently, still staring at the red sauce. "Or else what?"

The Asian American grinned evilly. "THIS!" Nearly jumping him, she began to tickle the former Red Ranger's abdomen and sides causing an eruption of giggles from him.

"CASS!" he cried through his laughter, trying to be careful to not spill the sauce on Cassie or himself. "NO! BE CARE-" Tommy stopped in mid-word as his hand accidentally flung upwards and the spaghetti sauce on the spoon splattered itself against the Pink Ranger's salmon cardigan, "-ful," he finished his sentence off while she gawked at the bright red splotch newly made on her clothing.

Quickly discarding the wooden utensil in the sink, he took a few safe steps away from the teenager. "You are SO gonna pay, Oliver," she gave him a wary glare, before reaching over for the boiled spaghetti that was sitting in a strainer on the marble counter.

Grabbing a huge glob of the stringy food, she hurled it at her prey anxiously. Unfortunately for Tommy, he didn't move quite fast enough and ended up getting hit in the head and neck with her ammunition. "GOTCHA!"

Shaking some of the spaghetti out of his long hair, he stared down the Power Ranger. "Now, it's personal," he declared wickedly, opening up the refrigerator and pulling out a can of spray-on whip cream. "Now, it's WAR!" he pushed on the plastic button and began to shoot streams of white whip-cream at the raven-haired girl.

"NOOO!" she shrieked while being showered with the white foam. Running over to the nearest kitchen cabinet, Cassie searched the storage area for a spray can of some sort and came out successful. "HA!" she came out of cabinet wielding a can of non-toxic vegetable oil. "I've got one too!"

Now that the Astro Ranger was fighting back with on her own, the two friends battled with their instruments until they both ran out of their respective whip cream and vegetable oil.

Standing at opposite sides of the thoroughly messy kitchen, their spray cans held in defensive positions, the couple started to laugh at one another. "Cassie, you look like a snowman!" Tommy chuckled heartily, pointing at her whip-creamed coated body.

Cassie placed a hand to her long black hair and ran it through once. "YUCK!" she looked at her hand and found it sticky with dried white cream, then she glanced over at the older guy across the way, slick with oil. "Look at you! You look like you took a bath in a frying pan!"

"Okay," he moaned, agreeing with her. "But now what's for dinner?"

* * * * *

About a half-hour later, Cassie came downstairs from the bathroom wearing a borrowed bathrobe from Tommy. "Tommy!" she called him, from the middle of the stairs. "Can I borrow a shirt from you?"

Trotting out of the messy kitchen and into the living room, he looked up at her. "Sure," he answered, now wearing new clothes and clean. "Actually, I think I may have some of Kat's old clothes that she didn't want to take with her to the academy in a box at the bottom of my closet; you may want to check that."

"Alright," she acknowledged, climbing back up the stairs and heading towards Tommy's bedroom.

Coming to a partially open bedroom door, Cassie immediately assumed it was Tommy's room and opened the door entirely, stepping inside. "Oh my..." the Pink Ranger gasped, to herself mostly. "It's beautiful!"

Her high praise was no understatement. The large master bedroom was gorgeously furnished. A large bed covered with a deep green bedspread stood in the middle of the room and directly next to the headboard of the bunk was a small quaint-looking night stand with a radio alarm clock on top of it. On the other side of the headstand was a large potted plant. Oh the opposite wall of the room, stationed far away from the bed, was a large redwood dresser along with a shiny metallic mirror.

After awing for a moment, the raven-haired teenager headed over to his closet, which was to her left along the edge wall. Sliding the closet door open, she saw a large duffel bag dumped onto the paneled floor and a medium-sized cardboard box right next to it labeled 'Katherine's Clothes' in Tommy's nearly illegible writing.

Cassie grabbed a hold of the light box and lifted it off the ground and carried over to the bed, where she placed it down. Unfolding the four box flaps on top, she re-opened the box of stored clothing. As she began to sift through the piles of pink clothes belonging to her predecessor, she found garments that she liked but weren't really her style. That is until she found exactly what she wanted.

"Perfect!" she cried happily, pulling a spandex pink tube top out of the box and examining it. *It's in excellent condition for being boxed up for awhile* she immediately took note *And I love the butterflies! Kat has awesome taste.*

Deciding that that was the top she wanted to wear, Cassie quickly closed the box up and replaced it in the closet. Then laying the pink top onto the bed, she undid the tie on her robe and took it off; leaving her upper body nude, but her lower body still in her navy blue flare jeans, which had managed to withstand the kitchen food fight. Allowing the robe to fall to the floor, the Astro Ranger brushed her wet hair from her face before reaching for the tube top.

"Cassie?" Tommy's sudden voice and entrance into the bedroom scaring her sick, she jumped for the tube top and placed it over her breasts.

"Tommy!" she yelled at him as he looked up at her and immediately blushed. "Turn around!"

The older of the two turned around on her command, while she pulled the pink tube top over her chest in a hurry. "Oh, geez..." he trailed off, immensely embarrassed for intruding. "I'm SO sorry, Cass."

"You had better be," she grumbled, picking up the robe and tossing it onto the bed. "You can turn around now."

Moving over to where Cassie was now presently standing in front of the mirror brushing her hair, the former Power Ranger tried to stutter out an apology. "I...Well, I didn't...I wasn't..."

She cut him off. "It's okay, Tommy. Just knock next time, alright?" she grinned, staring at his reflection next to hers in the mirror.

The brunette nodded his head mutely.

Cassie gathered up her raven-colored hair into a ponytail, then frowned, realizing that she did not have a ponytail holder to tie it together with. "Do you have an extra hair tie?" she glanced over at Tommy, who was staring at her.

"Yeah," he replied hastily, pulling the black hair tie out of his own hair and handing it to Cassie. "You can have mine; it's the least I can do."

Taking his offer graciously, her grin morphed into a soft smile. "I like you hair down," she commented flirtatiously, tying her hair into the ponytail. "I especially like it when it's wet and down," she leaned on his body and ran her hand through his wet and curly brown hair.

In the same flirtatious manner, he grabbed her by the waist and held her close to him. "And I like it when you where tube tops. They make you look sexy," he whispered in her ear, causing her cheeks to draw color to them, "but I do have one problem with it."

She backed away from him in mock hurt. "What's that?"

He chuckled at her defensive posture. "It's December, Cass. Aren't you gonna get cold when we go out?"

Placing a sweet hand on Tommy's shoulder, she smirked slightly. "Well, that's where you're black bomber jacket comes into play..."

* * * * *

About three hours, one pepperoni pizza and one movie later, Cassie and Tommy came striding out of the Angel Grove Cinema arm in arm to greet the bitter coldness of the Winter night. "That has got to be the first movie I've seen in months!" he stated in his own surprise.

"Last movie I saw was 'Star-crossed Lovers'," Cassie chimed as they walked towards Tommy's car. "Great movie, but we literally had to drag all the guys down to see it; Zhane was the most reluctant," she snickered, remembering when Ashley and her had to jerk him out of his quarters to get the Silver Ranger to comply with them.

"I bet," he laughed at the thought; the teenager had told him in thorough detail about all her escapades as an Astro Ranger.

Just as Tommy was about to open the passenger side door with his car keys, the younger of the two pushed his car key away from the keyhole. "Wait!" she exclaimed excitedly. "How about we go to the beach? It's only across the street!"

"Well..." he trailed off, thinking about it.

"Please?" she put on her saddest puppy-face for the racer. "I need some help on a few of my karate combo moves."

Appealing to his favorite weakness, he easily gave in to the chance of helping Cassie improve on her karate skills. "Oh, okay," he gave into her, smiling a small secret smile as he was hauled across the empty city street.

* * * * *

"KIA!" Cassie aimed her roundhouse at Tommy's abdomen and fell forward as her target moved away causing her to lose balance. "Oof!"

Pulling her face out of the sand, she listened to her teacher's laughter. "I'm sorry for laughing, but I thought you were a Power Ranger, not a ditz!" he calmed his voice, helping the Pink Ranger off of the ground.

"I can't help it!" she frowned, kicking up some sand with her bare feet. "It's colder than I thought!"

He watched her and she walked up to the edge of the water, hugging her own body for warmth. "Then put my jacket back on," Tommy suggested, picking his jacket up off a nearby rock.

"I can't fight with the jacket on," Cassie explained, turning to face him. "It's too baggy."

"Alright then," he agreed, laying the jacket back on the rock. "Then fight me morphed."

"What?" the raven-haired teen looked at the former ranger warily. "Are you crazy? I might hurt you!"

He nodded his head. "No you won't," he assured her. "Just morph."

Shrugging, Cassie sighed. "Whatever you say." She jerked into her morphing stance. "Let's rocket!"

Keying in the three digit code of 3-5-5 and enter directly following, she morphed into the Pink Ranger; helmet and all. "Are you still sure about this?" she questioned, removing her Astro Blaster from its holster and tossing it aside.

"Positive," he repeated, taking a defensive posture. "Now, attack me!"

A funny little smirk slipping onto her features underneath her helmet, she did as Tommy willed, facing him full-force with her 'mighty' wrath.

* * * * *

Two minutes later, Cassie found herself sitting waist deep in the lake waters in defeat. "How did you do that?" she asked shocked.

"It's called practice," he teased, offering his hand to her.

Giving his hand a wicked look underneath her helmet where Tommy couldn't see, she reached up with her gloved hand and pulled him down into the cold water. "DAMN!" he cried, wet and cold water splashing him all over. "I should have known that one was coming!"

"Yes, you should have," the Astro Ranger chuckled, removing her pink helmet and throwing it onto the sand before them.

"Cassie?" the older man's sweet voice brought her to face him.

"Yeah," she gulped softly, as she felt thousands of butterflies suddenly start to fly around in her stomach.

Tommy brushed his hand gently against the Asian's cheek, his thumb resting right along her jaw. "Thanks," he paused, trying to search for the right words to define what he was feeling, "for being here."

A nervous giggle fell from Cassie's lips at his statement. "What do you mean, Oliver! I'll always be here!" She rushed her words in an apprehensive manner.

"No," the twenty-year old slid his hand down so that it was cupped around the side of her neck, "I mean..."

Before he could even finish his sentence, her fright got the best of her and the nineteen-year old jumped up from her spot in the water; her friend following her. "I'm sorry, Tommy," she speedily apologized, walking up onto the sandy beach, "but I have to get back to the Astro MegaShip. We have..."

"Wait," he commanded hastily, grabbing onto her arm and jerking her around to face him. "You can't just leave me here," he explained, motioning to their surroundings.

"I have to," she insisted, trying to break his grip. "The others will be worried about me."

"No, I mean, you can't leave without this," he reiterated his words and with one swift movement, Tommy delicately caught Cassie's lips in his.

Expecting the kiss to only last for a fleeting moment, he was surprised when he felt her arms lacing around his neck, deepening their first kiss to a strong passion. His heart literally leaping from out of his chest when they finally released each other, the brunette smiled in content. "I'm glad you decided to stay," he grinned widely, liking the feel of her arms wrapped around his neck.

"Well, now I'm finding it much too hard to leave," she simply remarked, a gentle loving smile set upon her mouth. "Thank you," the Pink Ranger acknowledged as Tommy placed his arms around her waist, pulling her closer to his body.

"For what?" he asked, playing along with the raven-haired girl.

"For everything," she murmured tenderly, meeting his lips once again as they shared a warm kiss.

* * * * *

Ten minutes later, the couple was walking away from the beach and towards the cinema's parking lot where Tommy's car was presently parked. "Are you sure you don't want to stay over?" he repeated his question for a second time, squeezing his arm around her waist gently.

"I'm positive, even though I know you're NOT thinking about that," Cassie assured with a light-hearted tone, now wearing her civilian clothes. "Ashley and the others are probably wondering where the hell am and what the hell I'm doing," she speculated, snuggling underneath his bomber jacket which he was wearing.

Coming up on his Avalon, Tommy withdrew his car keys from his wet jeans' pocket. He stuck his keys into the car door's lock and turned it open. "Are you going to teleport?" he faced her, stalling for no really good reason.

"Yeah," she replied, then looked up at him pleasantly. "Oh! We're going to be at the Surf Spot for this big rebuilding celebration party tomorrow afternoon...Why don't you come?" she played her fingers on his chest innocently.

Winding his own fingers around hers, he kissed the palm of her hand lovingly. "Sure," he agreed, letting go and stepping into the car. "I'll be there."

"Great!" She watched as he shut the driver's door and drove away in the dark of the night.

Once he was gone, Cassie reached for her own morpher and disappeared into a cloud of pink.

* * * * *

Walking out of the Glider Bay, the extremely late Pink Ranger crept slowly down the gray corridors of the ship until she came upon her own quarters.

Keying in her code, she went inside quickly and turned on the radio so that it was quietly blasting music. Cassie sat down on her bed and kicked her shoes off of her feet happily. "Okay," a voice knocked her out of her mood, "what happened between you and Tommy, Cass?"

Looking over to a dark corner of the bedroom, the Asian American saw Ashley emerge from the shadows, a mysterious smile on her lips. "Man, Ash! You nearly scared me!" Cassie breathed a sigh of relief as the Yellow Astro Ranger sat next to her on the bed.

"Oh no, you are NOT going to deny this one, Cassie Chan!" the dark blonde declared strongly, shaking her finger. "I saw you with Tommy."

Cassie's eyes nearly popped out of her head. "What are you talking about; I was at the library!" she exclaimed casually, giving a slightly nervous laugh. "I haven't seen Tommy since...I don't even remember when I last saw Tommy! Besides which Tommy are talking about..."

Ashley cut off her best friend. "Nice try, Cassie, but I saw you at his house tonight," she said in a matter-of-fact tone.

"You were SPYING on me?!" the other girl cried in shock. "What's up with that? I don't spy on you when you're with Andros!"

"That's different," the Caucasian girl dismissed with a wave of her hand, "You actually know who I'm with; I had NO idea you were with Tommy until I checked."

"Oh," Cassie sighed in a mocking fashion, "Then maybe when you're not around, I'll spy on you too!"

"No!" Ashley immediately protested, then calmed herself. "No, but that's besides the fact right now," she paused, a mischievous grin spreading across her face. "Come on, Cassie! Give me the details!"

Rolling her eyes, the Pink Astro Ranger glared at her best friend for a long moment. "Nothing happened," she insisted, standing up from her bed and moving over to the closet to look for decent pair of clothes to wear to bed. "We just went to dinner and a movie. That's ALL," she lied through her teeth.

"Then where'd you get the new tube top?" Andros' girlfriend inquired innocently, eyeing her friend's clothing.

"Katherine gave it to me," Cassie explained, giving only half of the truth. "She had a whole box of stuff at Tommy's house and I decided to wear this top."

Ashley simply shrugged as she headed for the door. "Oh, well. I guess you're right. Nothing could have happened if Kat was around," she realized for herself, stepping out into the MegaShip's corridor. "Goodnight, Cassie."

"Yeah, goodnight to you to Ash," she bade as the door shut itself. Once the door was closed, the Asian girl banged her forehead onto the nearest wall. "Now she thinks that Katherine is still in Angel Grove and is with Tommy!" she cried out, sitting down on a near by chair.

Cradling her head in her hands, she groaned. "Man, what have I gotten myself into?"

* * * * *

Walking into the living room of his home, Tommy threw his jacket onto the sofa and continued to recount the night he spent with Cassie. "Geez," he muttered to himself in awe, wandering over to the blinking answering machine, "Who would have thought: Cassie and me?"

He laughed while switching on the recording. "No one would have thought of it actually."

Silencing himself, Tommy listened as the message began to play:

"Oh, rats! I must have just missed you Tommy," the voice spoke with a hard accent. "Anyway, it's me, Katherine. I'm at JFK International Airport right now and its about eleven PM, Eastern Time. I just flew in from London and I'm spending the night here. I'll be at Angel Grove International tomorrow morning though so I thought maybe you could pick me up?" she paused for a moment, as if waiting for an answer, "Um, my flight carrier is American and I'll be there at about noon. I look forward to seeing you again, Tommy. We've got a lot of catching up to do."

As the answering machine automatically shut off, Tommy stood up from his squatting position and plopped down on the sofa. He leaned his head back into the sofa cushions and sighed heavily. "Talk about surprises..."

* * * * *

The following morning, Tommy was woken up in the early hours by a persistent hollow ringing. Rolling over onto his stomach, he placed his pillow over his head and moaned, "Umm, give me five more minutes..."

The ringing didn't stop and the twenty-year old suddenly felt someone pulling his pillow off of his head. "If you don't get up, Tommy Oliver, I'm going to leave and take my breakfast with me!" a female voice yapped heartily, just as his blankets were ripped off of his body leaving him exposed in his shorts and tank top.

"Cassie?" Tommy's ears finally registered the voice. "What are you doing here and what time is it?" he questioned groggily, sitting up in the bed and rubbing his sleepy eyes.

"It's six o'clock in the morning and I made breakfast for you," she answered quickly, watching him while he gazed at her in a dazed kind of fashion.

"How do you do that?" he asked, running a hand through her jet-black hair.

The Pink Ranger eyed him curiously. "How do I do what?"

"Look so beautiful in the early morning, when I look like crap," he clarified for her, his mouth taking on a teasing smirk.

"D.E.C.A. makes us get up at five," she replied, touching his hand as it grazed down her cheek. "You should have seen me then; I looked MUCH worse for wear than you do right now."

Tommy arched his eyebrow in response. "Really?" he said in an interested tone. "I would like to see you like that."

Cassie took his pillow that she was holding and smacking him upside the head with it. "Get your head out of the gutter, Oliver," she snapped playfully, getting off his bed and slowly walking towards the bedroom door. "Now, go take a shower and come downstairs; I took the liberty of making breakfast for you."

"I hope it doesn't kill me," he called after her while she exited the room.

Sticking her head back into the doorway, an evil smirk formed on her face. "Be careful what you wish for, Tommy!"

* * * * *

Ten minutes later, Tommy came wandering into the kitchen to find Cassie facing the kitchen sink and washing the dishes that she had just finished using. "Why are you washing those dishes?" he crept up behind her and circled his arms around her neck, leaning his head against hers.

"You'll eventually have to eat again, Tommy," she scoffed, while switching on the water and washing the soap off of her hands. "Besides, if I didn't do them, I know you wouldn't."

The former Power Ranger laughed. "Very true," he continued to stay attached to Cassie as she moved over to dry her hands off with a kitchen towel. "Does anyone know you're here?" he changed the subject.

She shook her head. "No," the raven-haired teenager responded. "I kind of sneaked out and made it look like I was still sleeping. Being able to teleport from wherever you want DOES come in handy," she paused, looking up into his sweet brown eyes, "You know, Ashley saw us yesterday."

Tommy's eyes widened slightly. "When did she see us?"

"Right before our food fight," the Pink Ranger answered simply, "But she thinks something's going on between us."

"What'd you tell her?"

Removing his arms from around her neck, she leaned up against the kitchen counter and faced him. "I kinda told her that you and Kat are still going out," she slowly explained, cringing as if she was in pain.

"Shit!" Quickly, he began to pace the tiled floor causing a look of worry to appear on Cassie's young face.

"Tommy," she called to him, trying to break through his intense trance that he had fallen into. "Tommy...What's this about shit?"

He continued to ignore her and pace.

"TOMMY!" she screamed loudly, snagging his hair with her fingertips and jerking him backwards. "Listen to me!"

"FUCK!" Tommy cursed painfully and removed her hands from his long hair. "Damn, Cassie! That hurt like hell!" he barked forcefully at her, rubbing the back of his head tenderly.

"Good," she snapped in a no-nonsense voice. "That's what it was supposed to feel like."

The man opened his mouth, but before he could speak the front doorbell rang. "I'll get it," the Astro Ranger voiced tersely, starting to walk out of the room.

"No," Tommy stopped her, his voice tense and tight. "If you open it, who knows what you'll do to the person standing outside; you might just wanna pull THEIR hair off..."

Following him through the living room and up to the front door, Cassie frowned angrily. "I would not!" she protested against his remark, just as he opened the door to reveal...

"Billy?" the former Red Ranger raised an eyebrow at his friend. "What are you doing here?"

"You called me late last night, remember?" Billy Cranston stood in the doorway completely confused. "You said something about Kat."

"Kat?" Cassie chirped hotly, making it so that Tommy was now facing her. "This had EVERYTHING to do with Kat, didn't it Tommy?"

"No! It's not like that, Cass!" Tommy cried out, trying to explain his predicament to the girl that he was starting to fall in love with. "Kat..."

"...is the only girl who'll have your heart," the Astro Ranger grumbled angrily, stomping away from the doorway and into the living room again. "I've heard it before, Tommy," she grabbed her leather jacket off the sofa. "GOOD-BYE!"

"Cassie! PLEASE!" the brunette called after her, but was too late as she dissolved into a pink shower of sparks. He stared at where she once stood, nodding his head. "Geez, I'm an idiot!"

Hearing steps behind him, Tommy turned to face Billy who was leaning against the nearby wall. "Mind telling me what just happened between you and Cassie?"

* * * * *

Materializing in her quarters, Cassie immediately threw her jacket on top of her dresser causing a scatter of data boards to fall onto the floor. "Damn you, Tommy!" she cursed out loud, quickly running to pick up the discarded items. "You played me for a sap-licking fool and I fell for it!"

Going into the adjacent room, the bathroom, the petite fighter looked at her reflection in the mirror with disgust. "Stupid love-sick puppy," she muttered to herself, tears slowly flowing their way into her eyes. "How could you possibly think that Tommy actually feels the same way you feel for him?"

Still staring, Cassie watched as the tears flooded out of her eyes and down her tanned skin. "Maybe its cause I've fallen for him...I love him..."

* * * * *

"We had a misunderstanding," Tommy sighed, plopping down on the sofa in the living room of his home.

"Seemed like more than that," Billy commented, pulling up a chair and sitting down in front of his friend. "She seemed really hurt."

The brunette nodded his head solemnly. Billy had an uncanny ability to be able to tell what he was thinking. "Yeah," Tommy replied unhappily. "She was mad and hurt...And it was my fault.

"I called you so I could ask you if you could go and pick up Kat from the airport; she's coming in from London today and she wanted me to pick her up, but I wasn't sure I wanted to," he explained to the dirty blond. "I was just about to tell Cassie about this when you showed up and then everything dominoed from there!"

"I take it you and Cassie are going out?" Billy arched a curious eyebrow.

Tommy stood up from the sofa and wandered over to the mantle over the fireplace, glancing over the picture of him and Kat. "No, no," he replied hesitantly. "We're not going out. But...Geez, Billy! I've never had these kinda feelings for anyone before!" he faced his friend, a bewildered look thrown onto his features. "I mean, I can't even describe them. All I know is that when I'm around Cassie I'm different. Different enough, that I actually kissed her last night."

"You kissed her, but you're not going out?" the Original Blue Ranger was truly confused now.

"Exactly," he answered clearly, placing the picture of Kat and him down. "It was just this...Thing. One minute I'm sparring with her, next minute I'm kissing her. It was so instinctive, I don't even know whether I knew what I was doing!"

A silence befalling the two for a short moment, Billy broke it with a chortle of laughter. "What?" Tommy stared at his best friend in puzzlement. "What is so funny?"

The blond slowed his laughing so that he could speak. "You're in love, Tommy. There's no doubt about it," he paused, regaining his full composure. "I knew it would happen eventually. First time I met Cassie, the way you talked about her when you introduced her to me...It was like something out of romance novel. Your voice literally dripped with sap and you knew almost everything about her; like she was a former love or something like that."

The former Red Ranger frowned. He wasn't buying this for a minute. I mean, he liked Cassie, but did he REALLY love her? Was that what that what his funny feeling was? "If I've loved her, then how can you explain my relationship with Kat?"

"Simple," Billy shrugged like a professional. "You broke up with Kat AFTER Cassie left Earth. When she was here, she was always around to hang out with. After she was gone though, you realized you lost her and you missed her like never before, causing the gap to grow between you and Kat; not to say that you and Katherine didn't make a great couple though, you know."

Tommy cracked his knuckles casually. "You really think?" His voice held skepticism, but not enough to make him doubt the other man's statement anymore. "I mean, was I really like that?"

"It wasn't so obvious at first, but when Cassie was gone you made it clear," Billy gave him a sympathetic smile. "You and Kat MUTUALLY breaking up, retreating back onto the racing circuit and making it so that you were kept busy at all times...You couldn't be anymore blunt."

Taking in his friend's truthful words, the brunette rolled his shoulders pensively. "I really must've screwed up with Cass then." Tommy was now gazing down at his bare feet like an embarrassed little boy.

The blue-eyed man gave a short snort. "You definitely screwed up."

* * * * *

"Cassie!" Ashley called out from the opposite side of the Surf Spot. "Can you throw the yellow streamers my way?"

"Sure," Cassie tried to respond in a happy tone and barely pulled it off. "Do you have the time?"

Grabbing the roll of streamer paper that was thrown directly at her, the Yellow Ranger glanced at her watch. "Yeah, it's three-thirty," she paused. "Are you expecting someone, Cass?"

Looking over towards the empty doorway of the Surf Spot, the Pink Ranger sighed sadly. "I was, but it looks like they ditched on me," she explained subtly to her best friend. *I really messed things up with Tommy now. Even if he's still going out with Katherine, I want to continue to be his friend...*

Another voice, her conscience, interrupted her thoughts. *You want more than that, though! You want his love!*

*Of course I want him to love me. But if he can't or doesn't want to love me, then I'll just have to put up with that won't I?*

The second voice was silent as if it was getting ready to imply something. *You could break him and Kat up...*

*No!* she yapped, climbing back up the ladder with the pink streamers in her hand *I could never do that to their relationship! They're both my friends. It'd be like I was breaking Andros and Ashley up!*

Stopping in her steps, already half way up the ladder, Cassie looked around the room. She watched as her six friends happily went about decorating the area, preparing for the rebuilding celebration to be partly thrown in their honor.

"That's okay," she whispered to herself with a feigned grin, ignoring the dull ache in her heart. "If Tommy's happy, that's all that really matters."

* * * * *

"Do you have any idea when this party is going to happen, Tommy?"

"Sort of," Tommy replied, turning to Billy who had spoken. "Cassie said it was happening sometime this afternoon."

Katherine Hillard {Kat} nodded her head as she took another French fry from the carton sitting in the middle of the three. "I can't believe you didn't tell Cassie I was coming home," she scolded her former boyfriend, placing the fry into her mouth. "You really screwed up, you know that."

"Yeah," he shrugged, taking bite out of his McDouble Hamburger. "That's what Billy told me too."

"Yes, I did," the dirty blond piped up while taking a sip of his coke.

After picking up Kat from the airport, both Billy and Tommy had insisted on taking their friend out to a VERY late lunch that she wasn't able to get on the airplane. Being the way they were (very bad cooks), the first place the two guys thought to take Kat was McDonalds. During the time they had drove from the airport to McDonalds and also gone through the drive-through, both men managed to tell Katherine about Tommy's twisted little predicament.

Now, they were all sitting in Tommy's Avalon, eating their lunch and talking about how bad Tommy screwed up. "How are you gonna fix everything?" Kat curiously questioned the youngest adult of the three. "I mean, obviously Cass was so pissed at you she pulled your hair off."

"No," he explained, swallowing the last of his McDouble. "She pulled on my hair BEFORE I said anything about you; but you're right, she was pretty pissed at me," he managed to totally veer away from the subject.

"She asked you what you were gonna do about it, Tommy, not whether Cassie was pissed or not," the former Blue Ranger restated for his friend. "Stop getting off the subject."

He shrugged innocently. "Sorry. It's a bad habit," he apologized, taking a gulp of his soda. "I really don't know what I'm going to do really. This is a totally different matter from being a Power Ranger; I think it was EASIER being leader than being in love."

"So are you admitting defeat, Oliver?" the former Pink Ranger queried incredulously, her left eyebrow arched in interest.

Tommy shot Katherine a teasing grin. "Of course not! I'm gonna figure out a way for Cassie to forgive me if it's the last thing I do!"

* * * * *

"You look jumpy."

As she stared down the Surf Spot's empty hallway anxiously, T.J.'s voice crept up on Cassie and startled her. Nearly dropping her helmet, the morphed Pink Astro Ranger faced her friend and gave him a tired smile. "Yeah, I kinda am, aren't I?" she admitted, shuffling her white boots against the tiled floor.

He nodded his head with a patient grin. "Are you nervous?" he questioned her with a soft tone.

"No," she immediately brushed the thought away. "I was just..." Cassie trailed off, unable to describe what she was feeling.

"What?" T.J. urged gently, watching his teammate's eyes gaze off down the deserted corridor and sounds of screaming floated in from the next room. "Is something wrong, Cass?"

Snapping out of her momentary reverie, she laughed to give the impression she was okay. "I'm fine, Teej," she insisted, touching his arm in a reassuring manner. "Just thinking about what's been happening ever since we revealed our identities," she lied directly through her teeth.

He gave her a slight chuckle. "It's most definitely been a ride, I can tell you that," he declared, but before he could say more Zhane cut in.

"You guys, I think I can hear the crowd calming down," he whispered to the others, latching his silver helmet onto his head. "I do believe that's our cue."

Giving brief and silent movements of acknowledgment, the five other Astro Rangers began to place their helmets over their heads and line up right next to the doorway, just barely out of sight.

Listening carefully, they listened as Karone announced them from just inside the other room. "Now...Here are the POWER RANGERS!"

Following her words, the six teens instantly came jogging through the doorway and towards the front of the mass that had assembled just for them.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

As they continued to jog in through the merciless screams of excitement from children, teenagers and adults alike, Cassie winced underneath her helmet. "Could they be ANY louder?" she groaned into her helmet communicator.

"Probably," Carlos' voice chuckled into her helmet, "but I don't intend on finding out!"

Hearing the sounds of her fellow rangers' laughter in her helmet, the Pink Ranger couldn't help but frown. She had scanned the crowd with her eyes as quick as she could and still she had yet to see the familiar build of her older friend.

She sighed to herself while she made her way to a stool in front of the crowd that was waiting for her. *Maybe he decided he want anything to do with me now that Kat's back* she speculated mentally *Knowing Tommy, if he doesn't care about me like I'm hoping he does, he's probably forgotten about this whole party in the first place...*

* * * * *

"You know if we hadn't seen that poster downtown when we did, I have a feeling we would have been even later for this than twenty minutes!" Kat cried, just as Tommy drove his car into the jam-packed parking lot of the Surf Spot.

"Don't blame Tommy, Kat," Billy told the former Pink Ranger, a grin setting upon his lips. "Blame his bad, bad, BAD memory!"

Tommy groaned as he maneuvered his compact car through the full parking lot. "It's not my memory's fault!" he defended his own memory. "Cassie never told me when it was gonna start!"

"But you didn't think to ask her what time it was happening, did you?" the Australian native pointed out; much more calm than she had been a second before.

The driver bit his lip, now knowing his slight mistake. "No," he replied quietly, then pulled into an empty handicapped parking space. "You guys better go in right now. I'm gonna have to go find a parking space across the street or something."

"Are you sure?" Billy looked at his friend as he unbuckled his seat belt. "I can find a parking space for you if you want."

"I'll be fine," the once Red Ranger affirmed, his hands draped over the steering wheel. "You and Kat can go vouch for me with Cassie; I'll try to be there as soon as possible."

Glancing over to Katherine, who had already climbed out of the car, for support she simply gave him an 'okay' nod. "Alright," he agreed readily, getting out of the car. "We can't promise you anything though, Tommy. You've got to clear the air."

"I know, I know," he allowed quickly. "Now, get going!" He shut the passenger door from the inside and drove out of the parking lot, leaving the two to go inside.

* * * * *

"Can you sign my picture?" a young girl, around the age of ten, trotted up to Cassie as she sat dejectedly on a stool; not even noticing the Pink Ranger's unhappy mood.

"Sure." She made eye contact with her 'fan' and feigned a charming grin. Taking her permanent black pen from behind her ear, the Pink Ranger placed it onto the picture of her. "What's your name?"

"Suzy," she replied innocently, brushing her short black hair from her round face while eyeing the picture of the Pink Astro Ranger that Cassie was just about to sign.

"Alright," the nineteen-year old chirped with a happy tone as she began to narrate what she was writing in her beautiful handwriting. "Suzy, thanks for coming to see me! Cassie, the Pink Astro Ranger."

Once she finished her fast writing, the Asian teenager handed the picture over to the girl, who walked away while awing over the autograph. Smiling for a split second longer at the child's reaction, Cassie immediately sunk back into her dejected disposition after making sure that the other Astro Rangers were mingling with the crowd; too busy to pester her about her foul mood.

*He could have paged me* she mused in her head, remembering that Tommy DID have her pager number *He could have told me he wasn't coming...But no. He couldn't even do...*

Her thoughts were quickly cut off and a pair of hands clasped down over her eyes, making Cassie blind to the world. "Hey, what's up with this?" she pulled at the hands, but they didn't release. "Who is this?"

Quick to answer, a voice spoke up; one the Astro Ranger knew immediately. "After you threw up on me at the carnival, my shirt was never the same..."

As the hands loosened, the blinded girl ripped them off of her eyes and spun around on her stool to face Billy. "...And it always smelled like chili nachos!" she finished the statement for her friend, throwing her arms around him. "BIL-LEE!" the Power Ranger shrieked, diving for him.

Stunned by Cassie's loud reaction, the older blond man stumbled backwards as the younger girl threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. "Yeah, it's good to see you too, Cassie," he laughed, her tight grip lessening.

"What about me?" Kat queried gently in a humorous tone, standing off to the side.

The current Pink Ranger released her friend from the hug and turned to face her predecessor. "How are you, Kat?" she asked in the most friendly tone she could conjure up at that moment.

"I'm fine," Katherine returned in the same tone; slightly forced due to the fact that she could tell Cassie was putting on an act. "How about you?"

"Oh, just great!" the younger of the two women continued her charade.

Still about a good five feet between the two, Kat slowly bridged the gap, moving closer to her friend. "You know, Tommy is..."

"...still going out with you?" the Asian beauty finished the blonde's statement with a slightly tempered voice. "Yeah, I know that."

The Australian tried to explain what she really was trying to say but was cut off hastily. "But..."

"I'm sorry, but I have to go get some stuff," Cassie made up an excuse to get out of the situation and began to walk away from Billy and Katherine. "I'll be right back though."

Surprised by the girl's unusual actions, the two former rangers simply watched her disappear into the crowd, not noticing at all how her shoulders sagged with emotional pain.

* * * * *

Once through the doorway that lead out into the Surf Spot's outer hallway, Cassie broke into a stride and ran until she found herself alone and outside in the parking lot.

Then, that's when she let it all out. The pain. The sadness. The anguish. She had no idea that she had been holding all of those emotions inside of her, until she broke down right there on the pavement sidewalk.

Falling onto her knees, Cassie threw her head into her hands and began to sob uncontrollably, for she had lost the closest thing to love she'd ever had and it hurt more than anything that she'd ever felt before.

Tears fell from her eyes and onto the cement, making little wet spots on the ground, each tear standing for a droplet of released emotion. "It's not fair," she cried softly to herself between each sob. "I loved him, dammit! He said that he broke up with Kat! It's all Tommy's fault that this happened! I fell in love with him!"

During her whole time of ranting, she had yet to notice a long shadow cast over her body. "Cassie?"

Not even taking a quick glance to see who was above her, she removed her hands from her face and folded them across her chest. "What?" she growled hotly. "I want to be left alone."

"No," the masculine voice snapped, his shadow disappearing behind her own. "I'm not leaving until you're feeling better." Cassie could feel his arms slowly lacing through her own folded arms and around her body.

She stiffened slightly at his touch, but instantly began to relax as she realized who the person was. She could recognize his longing touch anywhere, one that wanted to stay with her forever. "T-Tom-Tommy?" the beautiful teenager stuttered, unfolding her tight arms and reaching behind her to feel his shoulder. "Is it really you?" Her voice held the strongest skepticism in it.

Tommy's arms now fully wrapped around Cassie's abdomen, he proceeded to lean his head onto her left shoulder. "Yes," he whispered gently into her ear. "I'm sorry, Cassie. I am SO sorry for everything..."

His voice trailing off into a mumble, the girl brushed her tears way with the back of her hand. "I didn't tell you everything and that was my big mistake," Tommy continued to explain his story to her. "You know, I have a very bad memory," he chuckled sweetly to her.

"I do know," she replied with a small smile, then murmured, "So you aren't still dating Katherine?"

A grin took over the former ranger's mouth as he leaned back so that he was now sitting on the sidewalk and Cassie was sitting in his lap. "No," he clarified, looking straight at the Astro Ranger's face. "It's just like I told you last night; Kat and I broke up mutually, we both knew it was for the best," he paused for a moment, thinking back on his thoughts, "I think both Kat and Kim knew when it was time to leave me."

The current Pink Ranger arched her eyebrow funnily at the use of her predecessors' names. "And what does that mean?" she yapped playfully, eyeing his expression.

"I'm just thinking," he pointed out, pushing his hair out of his face, "that they knew instinctively when I was falling out of the relationships. I mean, when Kim moved to Florida we decided to stay together, but really it was extremely hard on me. My solid stability was gone and I began to become independent; I didn't need Kim anymore and I think she knew that when she sent me the letter."

Cassie nodded her head; Tommy had told her about the "Dear John" letter. "What about in Kat's case?"

He gave a teasing smile at the girl sitting in his lap; he knew exactly what she wanted to hear. "It's kinda the same with Kat," he began, his voice with a hint of sadness in it. "It wasn't like she was a replacement of Kim or anything, but she was so different from Kim and I guess that's what I needed to experience," Tommy paused, watching as Cassie's chocolate brown eyes continued to stare him down, "When I met you though, I guess I subconsciously realized you were the difference I REALLY wanted. You were so much like me: stubborn and pig-headed, yet you were also so different in the process. I didn't actually realize I felt for you like that until Billy hit me over the head this morning, but I really DID miss you when you weren't here."

When he finished his explanation, the Astro Ranger continued to gaze at him; the true shock of his recognition of his own feelings towards her just starting to sink in. "You MISSED me?" she emphasized the word, missed, with slight disbelief.

He responded by squeezing his stomach with his arms. "Yes, I DID miss you," he replied with a grin, pressing his warm body against the back of her ranger uniform. "I don't want you out of my sights again, alright?"

Cassie gave him a curt nod of acknowledgment. "Alright," she answered, her head moving closer to his.

Closing the gap between them, the couple's lips met causing them to envelop each other in their new-found love. As they proceeded to kiss, Cassie turned around from her awkward position and faced Tommy, her legs encircling around his abdomen. He pulled in deeper into the kiss, moving his arms around her neck and nearly hugging her.

Literally gasping for air directly following, the two leaned their foreheads against each other; the sound of their heavy breathing coalescing into one unison tone.

Once she caught her breath, the Pink Ranger was the first one to break the silence. "God, I love you so much," she murmured, her nose nuzzling against the older man's.

"I love you too," Tommy remarked whole-heartedly, his voice breathy and strangely deep.

They sealed their affirmations of love with another full kiss.

* * * * *

At about five o'clock, an hour after the celebration started, the crowd of adults and kids began to thin out and the crowd of teenagers started to thicken inside the Surf Spot. "Looks like it's time for the dance," Ashley commented while T.J., Carlos, Zhane, Andros, Karone and her sat on the stools that spread across the bar.

"Yup," Carlos agreed with a sigh. "I'm glad it's starting now; those kids were pretty intense."

Andros gave a short silent snort. "Try a little wacko," he replied with a laugh, leaning against the bar behind him.

Nodding her head in silent agreement, Karone smiled until she realized something. "Where's Cassie?" she queried curiously, a small frown forming on her lips. "She better not have gotten out of this whole thing by sneaking out."

"I saw her leave in a rush about a half hour ago," Zhane answered, his gaze wavering over to the room's doorway. "I haven't seen her since then."

Just as the Silver Ranger finished his words, Cassie came lingering through the door, tugging on something or someone right beyond the six teenagers' view. "What is she doing?" T.J. wondered out loud, his eyebrow arched in strange interest.

After a minute of pulling on Cassie's part, the six watched as an embarrassed-looking Tommy stumbled into the Surf Spot. Words were exchanged between the couple and then the Astro Ranger reached out and wrapped herself closely to her companion's muscular body.

"Tommy?" Ashley squeaked, quite shocked at the way her best friend and the former Power Ranger were acting towards one another.

"Cassie and Tommy seem pretty chummy," the Blue Astro Ranger pointed out, watching his friend head towards them and his Red Ranger predecessor head to the other side of the room.

"Tommy?" Andros chimed in while totally lost in their conversation. "Who is he?"

"He's the guy with Cassie," Carlos replied bluntly to be met with a jab to the side by Ashley, making him explain further. "He was the Red Turbo Ranger before Teej was."

Once the Black Ranger finished his short explanation, Cassie came up to them; her eyes no longer red and her face no longer streaked with tears. "Umm, I'm sorry I ditched you guys," she apologized shyly, her hands clasped innocently behind her back. "I had some...Personal things to deal with."

"How personal?" the Pink Ranger's best friend questioned, a mysterious gaze held within her eyes.

"Personal enough for you to guess," the raven-haired beauty teased, slapping the Yellow Ranger in the shoulder softly.

"That's alright," Zhane simply shrugged, confused by the banter between the two best friends. "Everyone was really too busy asking Karone questions about being Astronema."

Cassie's eyes went wide at that thought. "Really?" she turned to face Andros' twin sister.

The petite blond Kerovian nodded her head. "Really," she answered with a sigh. "They were really excited about meeting a former villain for some strange reason."

For a moment, Asian teenager's gaze wandered on Karone. The Pink Ranger could tell that Karone still hadn't forgiven herself for all the things she did as Astronema; all the things she did when she was evil. *Doesn't THAT remind you of someone...* her subconscious voice remarked, causing a smile to peel onto her face. "So what's up with you and Tommy, Cassie?" T.J.'s voice cut through her daydream.

Her smile brightened even more; leave it to T.J. to get to the blunt point. "Oh, we just met up yesterday afternoon; he's on break from his race training. We're just catching up," she explained, twisting the truth just enough to keep her friends wondering, "You know, Kat's around here somewhere too."

"Actually, Kat and Billy just left to go catch the next bus to get back up to the suburbs," Tommy's mellow voice corrected from behind her. "Are you ready to go, Cass?"

Cassie spun around and met her companion's intense gaze with a wicked grin. "Almost, she responded, her voice filled with anticipation. "Why don't you go bring the car around front and I'll meet you in the parking lot, alright?"

"Uh-huh," he acknowledged, leaning over to whisper something to her.

When he finished telling her, the Astro Ranger simply let out a whoop of laughter and slapped Tommy in the arm. "You are bad, you know that," she wiggled her index finger as he walked away.

"I do," he yapped back playfully, finding his way to the exit and leaving.

Carlos gave her a peculiar glance. "You're JUST catching up?" he asked with piqued interest.

"Yes," she stood by her lie strongly; Cassie was nowhere near ready to admit to having a "relationship" with Tommy. "Now, I came to tell you that I'm going to leave early with Tommy because I have an engagement."

"An engagement?" Zhane's voice held some suspicion.

"Yup."

Before she could leave though, Ashley asked her best friend one more question. "When can we expect you back?"

"All I can say is, don't wait up too long..."

* * * * *

"I've never been up here before," Cassie awed as Tommy's protective arms encircled her entirely. "It's the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen."

"You're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," he murmured in her ear gently as the rocked back and forth on Angel's Bluff.

Taking his palm, the Power Ranger brought it up to her lips and kissed it softly. "You're the best thing that has stepped into my life in a long time," she replied quietly, sinking into Tommy's chest. "Everything's so clear now. I understand so many things that I didn't before."

"You've changed me, Cassie," he told her lovingly, while the winter wind caressed their cheeks. "You've changed me in a good way. Everything seems like it's fallen into place; I know what I want to do with my life."

"You mean you don't want to race anymore?"

Tommy replied quickly. "No. I don't want to run circles around a track for the rest of my life; I don't want that kind of repetitive life." He nuzzled his nose into Cassie's cheek with a fondness. "I want to go back to school, maybe open up a dojo and..."

His voice trailed off into the wind. "And what, Tommy?" she queried him, curiosity getting the best of her.

He turned Cassie in his arms so that she was face to face with him. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you," he declared, his eyes filled with deep emotion waiting for a response.

She simply nodded her head as Tommy reached down and hugged the Pink Ranger fiercely, almost as if he would never, EVER, let go.

When he did let go, Cassie had to bite her lip hard and to fend off her tears of happiness. To distract her, she abruptly broke out into song, her tears still falling as she sung.

Kiss me out of the bearded barley
Nightly, beside the green, green grass
Swing, swing, swing the spinning step
You wear those shoes and I will wear that dress

Oh, kiss me beneath the milky twilight
Lead me out on the moonlit floor
Lift your open hand
Strike up the band and make the fireflies dance
Silver moon's sparkling
So kiss me

Kiss me down by the broken tree house
Swing me upon its hanging tire
Bring, bring, bring your flowered hat
We'll take the trail marked on your father's map

Her voice was silenced as Tommy stopped her in the middle of the song, reached out, and did as she said.

He kissed her passionately, putting a stop her tears and her fears.

When they came up from the kiss, Cassie tried to speak but Tommy put his finger to her mouth and hushed her. "No," he insisted. "No words. No explanations."

And there they stood in the middle of the bluff as the sun diminished over the horizon and the moon rose into the midnight sky, silently cradling each other in a lover's embrace.