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Note:
* This idea of mine kept nagging at me, as did my lovely muse until I decided to start writing it...and this is what resulted. :) Thanks to both Kari and Cynthia for helping me pick out name for my "semi-non-canon-character", who shall remain nameless in the disclaimer at least, and thanks to Suzy for beta-reading this with a passion like she always does. :) And the title of the fanfic came from a line of lyrics in the song, "If You Want Me To" by Ginny Owens. ;)

Also, those who are looking for more installments of "Reflection Of Love"...I'm working on it! ^_^ The best parts always take a little longer, no? ;)

Clinging To Promises
Written By: WhiteZeo

The room was dank and cold, smelling of cobwebs and thousand-year-old dirt. The darkness that permeated the crypt was scary and frightened him; he felt little solace from the small torches of light that penetrated the shadows just barely, allowing him to see. "Do not be scared," the monster that held him in his large ghostly arms stated blandly.

Six-year old Ryan Mitchell found it terribly hard to NOT be scared. He, after all, was only a child...a kid scared to death of what was going to happen next; so frightened he found it difficult to think of anything else but fear. He nodded his head ever so slightly, acknowledging the monster's words.

The monster slowly kneeled down to the stone slab floor, sliding Ryan roughly out of his arms. The young boy turned around and stood staring at the monster, - who could have been called his savior and kidnapper at the same time - visibly shaken. "Who, who are you?" Ryan was near tears and his lower lip trembled viciously as he spoke mutely.

The monster grinned, a cold grin, that made Ryan forcibly shiver in his state. It was then that he realized the monster wasn't looking at him, but at someone behind him. "Victoria," his voice slid with a warm welcome, "come meet your new companion."

The blond boy glanced warily over his shoulder and behind him to see a lightened doorway. In that very doorway, a girl his age stood, her dark brown hair spilling just over her small shoulders and her hypnotizing almond brown eyes meeting his ethereal green ones in a strong gaze. Her hands hung at her sides, pulling at the baggy black fabric of her pants awkwardly. "Yes, Father," Victoria obeyed, walking precariously towards the monster and Ryan.

Ryan now faced her, not as frightened as he had been before when he was alone with the towering monster. He saw the girl. He saw that she was like him and that she was not scared. If SHE wasn't scared of the monster, then he couldn't be scared at all. Girls were supposed to be scared of monsters, boys were always supposed to want to bash monsters' heads in; or so he always thought. "Where are we?" Ryan queried once again, his voice louder and stronger than before, barely betraying his deep-set fright.

"This is your home now, Ryan," the monster answered calmly, seeming to be glad that Ryan didn't fear him as much. "Victoria will be your companion and you will be hers."

Ryan faced Victoria once again now that she was standing beside him. "She's a girl," he spat somewhat venomously, shielding away from the other child.

"So what?" Victoria rolled her eyes in displeasure at Ryan's comment. "Trust me; I don't have cooties."

The blond boy looked wary and glanced up at the monster, feeling more at ease than before. "Why do I have to stay with her? Why can't I go home?"

"Your father doesn't want you anymore, Ryan," he explained, kneeling down to both children's height. "He only saved your sister because he wanted her alive and you dead. I saved you from death because I want you. This is my home and this is where you must stay with Victoria and train to be a great warrior, just as I am."

Ryan's mouth fell open and tears instantly rushed to his eyes at what the monster said. He ran away from where he stood and screamed, "YOU'RE LYING! My dad wants me! You just watch...he'll be here any second to take me home! YOU'RE A LIAR!" He ran into one of the corners of the crypt and buried his face, sobbing into his arms.

"Stay with him," Diabolico whispered to Victoria, stroking her cheek softly with his claw. "Don't let him be alone. He needs someone to be with, just like I was there when you needed someone."

Victoria nodded her head obediently. "I will be here for him, Father," she answered quietly. "Where will you go?"

"I will go where I must," Diabolico replied confidently. "For now, take care of him." He pointed towards the corner where Ryan continued to huddle in.

The little girl nodded yet again and Diabbolico disappeared into a soft mist, vanishing from sight.

***

Ryan sobbed for hours on end until he realized he had no tears left, and even then he still continued to cry, wailing for his dad to come and take him home. Victoria sat beside him the entire time, quiet as a mouse, watching him steadily.

Sometimes, between his anguished cries, Ryan would quickly peek next to him at Victoria and she would always smile at him comfortingly. When she did, he would instantly hide his face away from her view until the next time he would dare to look at her.

After a long while, Ryan calmed down and a silence befell the entire crypt. He lifted his head up to look at Victoria beside him, as a kind of assurance, and found her to not be there. The boy looked frantically around the shadowy room for the girl, terrified of being left alone.

"Your dad isn't coming." Her voice echoed within the cold walls.

He followed the voice to see Victoria playing with one of the small torches that had lit the room, all of them latched to the walls conveniently low for their height.

Ryan immediately cringed at her declaration. "You're wrong!" he snapped back in his angry tone. "My dad is coming and he's gonna beat up that monster for taking me!"

"No he won't," Victoria remarked spitefully, turning away from the small source of light. "That's what I thought when Diabolico brought me here. But my mom didn't come. She never came and she won't ever."

"My dad's different than your mom! He loves me and he's gonna come for me!"

"My mom said she loved me too," Victoria sighed pathetically, bowing her head and letting her hair fall over into her face. "They were lying. Diabolico cares about us and he doesn't lie."

All the blood drained from his face and his mouth hung agape. He couldn't believe what she was saying, but she had been there before him and she was still there. He had waited a long time, but his dad hadn't come for him either; he loved his little sister, he didn't love him. The monster had been nice to him, and the monster didn't lie to him. Victoria was right.

"Is that his name?" Ryan asked shyly after a long moment. "Dia...Diabolico?"

The little girl lifted her head and met his eyes. She smiled gently and motioned for him to come over to her. He walked over to where she stood next to the small flames of the torch, running her palm over the flames swiftly back and forth. "Diabolico is his name, but you can call him whatever you want if it's easier. I used to call him "Master," but now I call him "Father.""

"Why do you call him that?"

She shrugged carelessly. "I like to, I guess."

Ryan shrugged also and watched her in fascination as she continued to run her palm just above the burning fire. "How do you do that?"

Victoria took her attention away from her hand and grinned at Ryan. He grinned back at her. "Here." She removed her hand from the flames and wiped it against her pants, trying to rub the soot off. "I'll show you.

"You gotta lick your hand, like this." Victoria stopped speaking, and licked her entire palm with her tongue. He followed her lead and did the same with his own hand. "And then you do this with your hand." She demonstrated what she meant by waving her palm back and forth over the flames. "You do it."

With a slight amount of hesitancy, Ryan stared at her but stuck his palm into the fire and began to wave it back and forth. "WOW!" he giggled loudly, watching his hand pass through the flames unharmed.

Together, the two children started to play with their new gift: a friendship forged within the flames.

***

Diabolico studied his two protégées as they played amongst themselves finding the most basic of toys to have fun with.

He knew he had been right to leave Victoria with Ryan, to have her draw him out of his belligerent cries and excitable fears. She was a resourceful young girl who longed terribly for a playmate; Ryan was exactly what she was looking for and he knew she would do whatever she could to not scare him off. Though she was not of his blood, she certainly could have passed for his own true daughter. She knew how to think things through and she also knew when she needed to go with her instincts. She was almost...primal at certain times during their training.

Ryan, on the other hand, was emotional but strong and cunning. He had the mental and physical ability to become a warrior with the right training, which Diabolico was going to offer him. His emotional side would come in handy as well, for when he would be older, vengeance would be an idea that would lurk closer to reality than it would in his young years. Yes, he would make a wondrous warrior: one driven by hatred and passion.

Diabolico couldn't help but chuckle hideously as his plan ever so slowly fell into place. It would take many years until he could actually put it to work, but it would be well worth it. "The children they could bare..." he hissed pleasurably to himself imagining the future, which may have been far beyond anyone else's reach but seemed to only hover slightly out of Diabolico's own claws.

He only had to be patient.

***

Eight years rolled along quite swiftly, carrying Ryan and Victoria through their fourteenth birthdays, but that didn't matter much to the pair anymore. Nothing really mattered to them anymore; only their training, Diabolico and their loyalty to one another truly made a difference in their lives now.

Ryan skills grew with every session of training he took with Diabolico. He moved with an unparalleled grace and agility that was only helped by the fact that he had been trained in the basics of martial arts before coming into Diabolico's care. At fourteen years of age, he had mastered things that probably could not even be preformed by the greatest martial arts master on Earth...and Diabolico insisted he was barely brushing over the surface of Ryan's talent.

Unlike Victoria though, Ryan would never be able to master the art of demonic magic. Demonic magic, different from the regular everyday magic that sorcerers could easily teach to an apprentice, required more than just the proper guidance. To use demonic magic, there was a need for the mentality of a demon, and sure enough, Victoria possessed it. She was always on the rebound, always fighting and always wanting something more than what she had. She was willing to do whatever to get what she wanted, but knew when to back away.

Victoria was trained in everything Ryan was and also became quite the skilled warrior in her own respects, but never would she become as good as Ryan. He excelled her in many things from the beginning when they were trained together, and even though it frustrated her, unconsciously she wanted Ryan to be the better of them both. She accepted that and in turn, chose to excel in magic - making them an ideal team of power.

Ensuring their cooperation as a team, Diabolico made them part of each other's lives from the very start. They ate together, slept together, training together, played together...never separated for one moment in the large crypt that served as their home. Ryan and Victoria were the best of friends and respected each other more than anything. Together with Diabolico, they were a family of three; as close as brother and sister could be, and maybe even more beyond that.

***

"Hungry?"

Victoria glanced up at Ryan from where she sat, flipping through a book on their bed. "What are you eating?" she asked him curiously while he climbed off of a chair that he had used to get into their cupboard of stashed food.

Ryan continued to munch on his snack, tossing a bag at Victoria. She had returned her attention to the book for an instant, but sensed the object coming and caught it with her hand. "Good catch," Ryan laughed, plopping down beside her on the bed. "What are you reading?"

Ripping open the package of dried pineapples that both Ryan and her loved dearly, Victoria popped one into her mouth and chewed away. "A book Father gave me," she answered him, flipping to the cover momentarily. The book was ragged and bound with faded leather. Emblazoned on it were the words, "Demonic Spells." "He said if I want to get better with my magic, I'm going to need to know all this stuff."

He leaned over her shoulder, turning the first few pages written in an ancient language. "This is a lotta stuff," he murmured to her, scanning the pages that he knew how to read. "Weapons, healing, protection...how many different forms are there?"

"Ten," Victoria replied, stringing a long strand of her dark bronze hair around her finger. "I've got the healing spells mastered though. Those are the easier ones. Want me to try?" She faced Ryan, her eyes questioning hopefully.

Ryan cracked a grin and slowly backed away. "Last time I let you use me as a test subject my hair went red for a month," he reminded, unconsciously reaching up to brush his hair. "I think I'll pass."

She picked her book up and threw it aside, pouting. "Oh, come on Ryan! I was only eight when I did that! I didn't mean to!" He still was unconvinced, so she resorted to the next best thing: bribery. "I'll give you the rest of my pineapples!" Victoria waved her package in front of him temptingly.

"Ohh...alright." Ryan gave in, sitting back down on the bed. "What do you want me to do?"

Victoria grinned excitedly. "Lay down on your back. I'll fix that cut I gave you this morning in training."

Following her instructions obediently, Ryan removed his shirt and tossed onto a nearby chair. He then laid down on his back on the bed, trying to get comfortable with his friend hovering over him, her eyes shut while she tried to concentrate.

Ryan couldn't help but stare at her with her eyes shut, her hands held steadily above his chest where the stinging skin deep cut was. She was still wearing her training uniform - which consisted of a simple sports bra and pants - even though they had finished working with Diabolico more than an hour before. Sweat glistened on her forehead and her bare shoulders, running down the front of her chest and over the tops of her developing breasts. Her lengthy hair spilled against his shoulders and face when she bended over his body, yet he didn't dare move. He didn't know why he hadn't noticed it before, or even why he had noticed it just then, but Victoria was actually kind of pretty.

Suddenly, he felt a coldness against his chest and he looked to Victoria's hands to see a soft blue mist almost eating away at his small wound, causing it to disappear into nothingness. Once it was gone, he watched as she opened her eyes in triumph. "I told you I could do it," she snickered, jumping off of the bed. "What do you say now, Ryan?"

"Thank you, I guess," Ryan acknowledged dubiously on purpose. He grabbed his shirt and put it back on, crawling beneath the covers of the bed. He picked up his dried pineapples he had set aside and began to eat a few of them before going to sleep.

Victoria went into her closet and peeled off her training uniform, changing into a pair of shorts and a shirt for sleep. "You're so mean," she laughed knowingly, moving over to the torch that lit the room and blowing it out.

Lifting the covers of the bed, she laid down next to Ryan and softly whispered, "Goodnight, Ryan."

"Goodnight, Victoria."

***

The following morning Victoria awoke to find her arms wrapped snugly around Ryan and his arms around her body like two animals cuddling for warmth.

As far as she could remember sleeping with Ryan, Victoria always recalled waking up in the same position: both of them clutching each other. She figured it was because when they were little they just didn't want to be alone; they felt comforted by knowing that they were still together. Many years had passed since they felt that way about each other, but they still continuously woke up together the same way. And the funny thing about it was that Victoria didn't mind it at all; she LIKED waking up in Ryan's arms.

His strong arms always circled her waist, pulling her closer to him. Her head lay against his broad shoulder and she could smell him. He smelled of pineapples and she enjoyed that; they both liked pineapples for some odd reason. Her arms would be slung around his back lazily and sometimes their legs would be caught in a tangled mess. Ryan always felt secure and safe to her every morning when she would wake up with him. He would always have a look of pure bliss on his face: one Victoria used to tease him about when they were younger, but now, she just admired.

Gently, she slowly removed herself from him, trying not to wake him up, but he immediately protested. His arms wove around her tightly from their loose grip in his sleep and Victoria couldn't help but laugh. "Ryan!" she cried quietly, nudging him. "We should get up. It's almost time for training."

"Hmmm...what?" he mumbled, his green eyes slowly flickering open.

"Get up," she told him clearly, staring him in the face. "We have to train."

"Oh!" Ryan finally realized what she had been implying and slipped his hands away from her, allowing her to move out of the bed. "Sorry about that..." He blushed, a soft red rising in his cheeks.

"No problem," she assured him, opening the closet and getting dressed.

***

Diabolico studied Ryan's attack on the creature that he had Victoria conjure up from her spell book just for that very exercise during his training session.

The creature was small compared to Diabolico's towering size, but compared to Ryan they were evenly sized. It was lithe and its strongest attack was speed, and at that very moment was beating up Ryan fairly easily, landing blow after blow faster than he could react to stop them.

Of course, Diabolico did not only watch Ryan in his battle; he glanced at Victoria out of the corner of his eye. The spell book lay open in her lap, but she paid it no attention. Her unwavering brown eyes stared at the fight, her facial reaction to Ryan's losing screaming out how badly she wanted to help him. She knew better than to interfere with his training, however.

"Victoria, does something bother you?" he voiced over Ryan's cries of anguish.

Both quite aware of the fact that when in battle, Ryan paid no attention to the outside world because of his deep concentration, Victoria responded to his question. "No, Father. Do I look as if something is amiss?" she queried innocently, unaware of how intently she had been looking at her companion before.

Diabolico grinned knowingly at the young girl, and thrust his hand out towards the magical creature causing it to disappear in mid-fight with Ryan. "What happened?!" the young warrior shouted in frustration, the dagger he had just thrown lodging itself into the stone wall.

"I want you to battle Victoria, Ryan," Diabolico declared, causing Victoria to suddenly rise from where she sat, quite confused. "You will use your fighting skills and she will use her magic...only."

Mentally, Ryan questioned the fairness of the fight, but didn't voice his concerns. Father had never made them do anything that would cause them harm. "Very well," he accepted, grabbing his sword off of the ground where it had been discarded in the previous quarrel.

Ryan lined himself up on one side of the room, while Victoria did the same on the other side, making sure she was standing directly across from him. They both took attack postures, and then waited for someone to unleash the first move.

Confident as he always was, Ryan took the first move; pulling a dagger from inside his boot and pitching straight towards her head.

Victoria easily deflected the dagger with a wave of her hand that was glowing a deep crimson, and threw an energy charge at him: one she knew he would simply flip over and avoid.

True to her thoughts, Ryan did flip over the attack and unsheathed his sword in mid-air, his hilt making solid contact with her forehead causing her fall backwards onto the cold floor. He landed over her, straddling her body, his blade swiftly coming down to make the finish. Before the sharp blade could touch her flesh, Victoria blocked it with a temporary shield, flinging Ryan backwards.

Hastily pulling herself back onto her feet, Victoria's thoughts fell back to a healing spell she had just learned to use. She wasn't severely hurt, but the results from the spell would be able to get her out of the spot she was in.

Ryan recovered from his stumble, and began to rush Victoria when she lifted her hand to her face and blew softly against her palm. A deep blue mist rose from her hand and swirled around Ryan's figure a few times before he collapsed to the ground, his sword clanging as it fell with him.

"Very good," Diabolico complimented the winner of the battle, moving to her side. "You used a healing spell to stop him."

She nodded, her gaze turning to look up at Diabolico. "The fight wasn't fair, Father."

"Of course it wasn't," Diabolico agreed, resting his large hand upon her shoulder. "But is it fair when you fight Ryan in combat only? He is far more superior than you are in that art of battle. In those matches, you were bound to lose.

"Magic dominates combat; it always has," he paused, gazing at the fallen warrior. "Combat is strong though. When you combine the two they are unstoppable. They are a team, complimenting one another: never to be separated."

A gentle smile graced Victoria's face as she returned her gaze to Ryan, fully understanding the meaning of her teacher's words. "Yes, Father."

***

After that battle, Ryan and Victoria never fought one another again. Ryan learned from his defeat: never doubting the capabilities of magic and to always be aware of them. Victoria learned from her victory: always saving her strongest suit until it was desperately required to be unleashed.

With five more years they grew under Diabolico's tutelage, maturing into young adults with a fierce power held easily at the end of their fingertips.

Ryan grew into a handsome and fierce young man, one of deep powerful passions and strong, upstanding morals. Over the years, he had remembered the car accident that had brought him into Diabolico's care much more vividly; remembering just the parts that seemed to justify what Diabolico had told him at a young age. His REAL father had left him to die, letting Ryan go while hanging onto his younger sister. Bitterness and hatred singed his soul, though it was mostly filled by a lustful passionate want for another.

Specifically, Victoria.

Ryan didn't know what to make of the feelings. They were completely foreign to him, and yet they felt so natural. Every single part of his body ached when he was near her and his body throbbed when they slept together. He wanted to be close to Victoria with every particle of his being. His respect for her prevented him from doing just that though. She was his companion; he couldn't do such a thing without talking about it with her.

Which was exactly why when Victoria slid her petite legs underneath the bed covers and took to the bed that night, Ryan huddled as close to his side of the bed as possible without falling off.

Victoria tossed in the bed slightly, trying to find a comfortable position. Once she found it, she turned to Ryan and was about to voice a goodnight when she caught sight of the great warrior's huddled form at the other side of the bed. "Ryan, what are you doing?" Her voice held a sultry flavor to it, as she slinked over to his side of the bed and peered down at him.

Realizing he had been caught, Ryan turned over to face her, trying to seem casual. "What?"

"Staying all curled up on the side of the bed," she replied, her small feet brushing against his calves. Ryan nearly groaned out in pure pleasure at her caress.

"I'll stay here then, alright?" He scooted towards the middle of the bed and spread his legs and arms all over the bed so there was barely any room left for Victoria.

A joking grin spread across his face when she took her own pillow and hit him hard with it. "Scoot over!" she hissed playfully, her legs kicking him over to his side. "You big monster!"

Ryan didn't budge from his spot even after all her prods and pushes. Quickly, with an effortless swipe of his hand, he rammed her off of the bed. Out of the darkness of the room he heard her fall to the floor with a minimal thump.

After a few minutes of waiting for Victoria to crawl back into the bed, Ryan became somewhat worried. "Victoria? Are you alright?"

When no one called back to answer his questions, he suddenly felt a dread come over him. What if he had driven her off the bed too hard and she had hit her head? Scrambling, the blond man moved over to her side of the bed and bent over, looking at the floor below the bed.

His eyes, which hadn't totally adjusted to the darkness quite yet, had a hard time of distinguishing the different shadows, so he was completely caught off-guard when Victoria's hand grabbed for his wrist and hauled him to the ground.

Ryan fell down on his stomach and let out a low grunt of surprise. "That's what you get!" He heard Victoria's voice snap from underneath him. It was only then he realized he was lying directly on top of his best, and only, friend.

He felt like he was on fire. Every nerve in his skin that touched her skin sparked within him crazily, little fires within him raging out of control. All of the small hairs on his body stood on end and he could feel his blood rising to the top of his skin. His brain couldn't handle all of the maddening impulses that his nerves were sending to it, and in compensation he let out a relaxed groan.

"Ryan?" He could hear her small sensual voice overriding all of his other senses.

"Hmmm?" he replied her after a moment, gazing down at her now that he could finally see her; drinking up her beauty with every blink of his eyes.

"Ryan..." It wasn't a question anymore to Ryan's ears; it was an invitation. Victoria was inviting him to touch her...hold her...caress her.

"Mmmmm..." He moaned excitedly and met her halfway, his lips indulging hers in a desperate, soulful dance.

He barely noticed when her arms grazed down his bare chest, her fingertips leaving fresh trails of fire on his skin. He was much too involved with her mouth, and how it leapt out to his own, caressing it and pleasing all of his desires and longings for her.

It was intoxicating, the touches that she lavished on him and how they magically met the demands his body would unconsciously call for. Her legs came to his own, running her toes up and down his calf causing him to pull away from her and moan delightfully.

"Ryan?" Victoria gasped just before he moved to capture her lips once more; her deep brown eyes staring hungrily into his own green ones.

This time he answered her with more than a grunt or moan. "Yes?" Ryan whispered, his voice deeper and throaty accompanying his primal hunger for her.

"Will we ever grow up?" she panted fervently, her hand slipping slowly down his arm.

"Ohhh...I hope not," he groaned fiercely, his hand weaving into her cascades of reddish brown hair, kissing her once more.

***

Over the last five years, Victoria had matured. She had grown beyond the crush she had had on Ryan when she was fourteen; the one she had been taught to suppress by Father after he had recognized the primal look of warmth in her eyes towards the blond boy. She had full control of her bodily actions through her mastery of demonic magic and self-control.

Or so she thought.

What Victoria had thought of herself over the last five years had completely changed within the very millisecond her lips met Ryan's and she felt a surge of unrequited lust run rampant through her body, breaking the bonds of magic that had held it in place for so many years. It hastily took over all her systems, leaving nothing for her higher brain functions to control. It was all primal...all instinctive...and oh so right.

How had Ryan resisted the hunger for all these years? She couldn't help but wonder that as his hands roamed her back and his tongue probed her collarbone with a whisper-delicate touch that drove her insane. Her hands gripped his back tightly, her long nails digging into the flesh of his shoulder blades and causing blood to slowly trickle from his skin. Yet he still persisted in nourishing her long cast-off desires any way he could possibly.

The way he stroked her and almost seemed to pay heed to her groans and moans, pulling away where she didn't want it and giving more when she did. It was a dance. She gave and he received. He gave and she received.

She couldn't put down a name to what she was feeling. Lust it most definitely was, but there was another feeling hiding behind it in the shadows just lingering out of reach. And Victoria couldn't put a name to it. She wanted to know what it was, but how could she describe something she couldn't even name?

She broke from her thoughts, and glanced at her hands which were slicked with Ryan's warm red blood. "You're bleeding," she breathed deeply, trying to tell him of his injury. "I made you bleed; let me heal you."

"I'm fine," he murmured into her neck, nibbling gently on her ear. "It doesn't hurt.

Victoria insisted once more, while directing a wayward thought towards the blood and causing it to evaporate, cleaning the mess of red. "Ryan, you'll have scars on your back if I don't heal them now," she half-moaned, his hands sliding beneath her shirt and onto her stomach.

It was then he gently withdrew from her, grinning softly. "Scars are good," he told, running his thumb along her lips. "They'll always give me something to remember this night by."

The young woman blinked brightly, returning the same grin. He wanted to have scars...scars from her. How...kind? No, that wasn't the right word she was searching for. How...sweet? Yeah, that was the word that she wanted, but she couldn't quite understand what the flavor of pineapples had to do with him wanting scars from her...

***

"Finally," Diabolico chuckled to himself as he spied upon his two near adult charges through his own demonic magic. "After thirteen years of sleeping in the same bed together, tension breaks!"

His hissing laughter rang through the buried room of the crypt, his ghost image resting upon the large tomb that incased his corporeal body as well as Queen Bansheera's other lackeys. "Soon, the humans will come to free us like the prophecy has always foretold: with the loss of innocence, brings forth the freedom of the demons...

"Of course it certainly won't be the end," he continued to talk out loud to himself, liking the sound of his bellowing voice recounting his eventually victorious plan to recapture what was rightfully his. "Once we are freed, I will feign my loyalty to Queen Bansheera and take back her palace for her, just like she would demand of me if she still was in this realm. But once my two protégées have produced the perfect offspring for me - one born of the knowing magic and battle - I will destroy my captor, retain my Star power and enslave her as one of mine. Then no one will stop me and I will rule all within my clawed clutch."

***

Ryan awoke later the next morning with a huge lump on his shoulders. It wasn't heavy, but it was definitely warm. He nearly laughed out loud when he was more conscious and realized what - more like who - was on him. "Mmmmm..." he moaned softly, remembering her warm caresses from the night before.

His hands gently glassed up Victoria's calf that laid on either side of his hips. Ryan could feel her stir from her sleep at his touch and grinned privately. "Hello, my scarred warrior," her heard her voice murmur, her delicate fingertips tracing along the ten little crescent moon scabs that had formed on his shoulder blades.

"Same to you, my enchantress," he warmly replied, slowly flipping onto his back so that he had Victoria sitting down on his stomach on top of him.

Victoria couldn't help but give a silly grin, her hands sliding up his bare chest. "Have you ever felt this way before, Ryan?" she asked curiously.

Ryan met her gaze and held it for a long moment, answering her question in the process, "I feel...happy. I don't know...it's hard to describe what I feel, but I've never felt it before. Although," he chuckled, his hands slipping underneath her tank top to hold her waist, "I do LIKE the way it feels."

"Will Father approve of it?" Victoria queried once more. That very question was her truest worry about whatever had taken place between her and Ryan. She hoped to death he would approve because, like Ryan she enjoyed the way she felt when she was with her companion.

"Father will approve," he assured her confidently. Always so confident, Ryan was. But then Victoria thought that that was his best trait because he continually managed to make her perceive their little world as the safest place to ever be. "He'll be happy and we'll be happy and it will be alright."

Victoria's eyed looked unsurely upon him, still a child in many respects; somewhat untrusting. "You promise?"

"I promise you."

***

Few hours following, Ryan and Victoria ran into their training room clad in their clothing, ready to follow their father's orders.

"We will not be training today," Diabolico declared blatenly as the two lined up before him.

The team of two looked completely taken away. Never in all the days, weeks, months and years they had lived with Diabolico and trained under his tutelage had they taken one day away from training. Learning and living to Diabolico's expectations was their lives. There was only one possible question that could sum up their thoughts.

"Why?"

Diabolico looked to Victoria, the one he had known would ask the question. "I need to explain everything to you now. You both are old enough now to know the reasons of your training and why I offered you a home in my sanctuary," he carefully explained, trying not to foreshadow to what he was going to reveal in their continuing conversation.

After a pause of silence, Diabolico began to tell his reasoning to his intrigued students. "Three thousand years ago I lived on Earth as a demon serving my queen, Queen Bansheera. I admit, during that time I did some horrible deeds, but it was always for the benefit of my queen; I could not very well deceive her.

"Soon enough, a powerful sorcerer came along to challenge my queen's power. He ended up banishing my queen into another realm of existence and entrapped me and my fellow warriors in a tomb to be sealed forever."

"And you're still trapped?" Ryan queried with a confused expression.

Diabolico nodded his head, to the shock of both. "Yes, I am. What stands before you know is my spirit's projection; it is just as real as I would be if I stood before you in my real body.

"Before I was captured, I was made aware of a prophecy that had predicted my queen's demise and my entrapment. While before I didn't believe it, I do now. It was foretold that two children would free me from my prison; two children who possessed the minds and souls to become a great warrior and enchantress."

"And we are those children," Victoria succinctly stated. It wasn't a question to her. She knew...she felt like she had always known she was special, destined for something great.

"Yes," Diabolico replied, then continued on. "For the many, many years that followed my capture, I allowed my spirit to search endlessly for these two children...and I did not succeed until I came upon you two.

"When I first saw you Victoria, roaming the dark streets on that fateful cold night with your mother, I knew right away you were my enchantress. So swift and resourceful you were, slipping your hands into the right places and coming out rewarded nearly every time; you never got caught in your game. You were a quick study, eager to learn and craving the new knowledge to be found in your games." He chuckled, recalling the girl when she was younger. "You despised me when I first brought you here."

Victoria blinked rapidly, and Ryan could have almost sworn it looked like she was on the verge of tears. He immediately banished the thought though. Victoria never cried, at least he had never seen her cry and ever since that first night he had spent with her in their home, Ryan hadn't shed a tear either.

"I grew to respect you, Father," she insisted, her eyes baring into the monster that raised her. "Despising you wasn't an option."

"It was never logical either," Diabolico agreed, then paused as if to signal his continuation of his story. "When I first saw you Ryan, you were in a terrible situation, forced to hold on for dear life while your father chose to save your sister, rather than you. Your strength and willful determination was what drew me to you. Though sorely misplaced, you placed blind faith with your father...same faith that you have now learned to place in yourself as a warrior of great strength. I saved you from death - the same death your father condemned you to - because I knew you worthy of my attention. Such a great life, I certainly would not allow to go to waste. While you did not appreciate the help I bestowed upon you at the start, I have come to believe you respect me the same way Victoria does."

Through his anger at the memory, Ryan lifted his dark eyes and nodded tersely towards his savior. "I do respect you, Father, and I cannot thank you enough for this great power you have given me," he voiced tightly, but meaningfully.

Victoria noted her companion's anger, and while she always knew he was very emotional, she never knew him to display such a deep anger towards anything before. She had never heard the story of his life before he came to be with her, but from what she had just heard, Ryan had every right to display his emotions the way he did. After all, he had never heard her life story before today as well and she had seen him studying her expression to it being revealed. It took all she had in her to control her tears. "How do we free you, Father?"

"You have already freed me," Diabolico answered easily. He laughed at the furrowed brows of both of his students. "You two children are no longer children. I have told you the truth. You are no longer oblivious; you have both given into your desires for one another. You are no longer innocent."

"How did you know?" Victoria cried in bewilderment, frightened of his lack of acceptance.

"I see everything, Victoria," Diabolico responded, moving forward to cradle the young woman's jaw within his claws. He turned his head dismissively towards Ryan. "Leave us, Ryan. I will speak to you later."

It was evident in Ryan's eyes that he objected to leaving Victoria's side, nonetheless he followed his father's command and returned back to his quarters.

As soon as his warrior left the room, Diabolico returned his gaze to his enchantress. "You are the enchantress, Victoria. You wield demonic magic within your fingertips, therefore you must also have a demonic persona."

Diabolico moved away from Victoria and started towards a stone table that had gone unnoticed in the back corner of the shadowy room. She slowly followed him, until her eyes caught upon a gleaming silver object lying on the table. Edging closer, Victoria spotted a strong silver sword set next to its leather sheath among many other silvery things.

Her brown eyes wandered the table in excitement as she came to realize that everything there was for her. All together they created an entire suit of body armor, colored silver and black. "For me?" she whispered, still quite in surprise. Awing over it all, she gingerly slid her fingers over the silver wings lying before her.

"For you," Diabolico nodded, standing beside her. "From now on, when you don this armor you will be Vypra. When you leave this armor behind, shed it for your humanness, you will be Victoria once more."

"My humanness?" She faced him, eyebrow raised in a peculiar fashion.

"When we leave here, which we will soon enough, we will reside in Skull Cavern; one of my queen's many hidden hideaways. Everyone who resides there with us will be demons: Impus, the queen's son, Jinxor and Loki, my two lackeys, and all of the battlings, our henchmen. You and Ryan will be the only two humans, but I want you to appear as demonic as possible to everyone else."

"And what about Ryan?"

"He will be fighting by your side of course, but in a different fashion than you fight."

"That would be?"

"Many ways...but mostly by your side, in your bed," Diabolico bluntly declared. "I do approve of the turn your relationship has taken with Ryan, Victoria. I trained you for great power, but I also trained you to breed."

Her excited brown eyes were now clouded with slight disappointment. "We were just animals to you, Father?" she demanded, her tone tempered. She had never yelled at Diabolico - she had never had a real reason to - but now, being angry with him seemed only decently right!

"No! I do not see you as animals." The monster shook his head, wanting to chuckle at his protégée's misunderstanding. "You see, there is one bit of information I lacked to reveal to you when Ryan was present before."

"Oh?"

"The prophecy that was told to me also spoke of the two children giving birth to a child, a child born of both worlds - magic and strength. This child was to overthrow Queen Bansheera and her son from their powerful perch...which has always been my true mission. To banish her evil ways..." The words flowed easily from his mouth, half-truths mixed along with his lies. Slowly, Diabolico twisted his voice to produce the sounds of sorrow and begging. "This will sound like an odd request to you, Victoria, but...I NEED a child from you and Ryan."

Victoria stared into her father's eyes, her lips pursed tightly. As she searched, she found the look of need in his eyes hiding his true intents. Yet she stood quiet, not knowing how to respond to his plea.

Diabolico pushed his acting skills to the limit, cupping the woman's cheek with his large hand. Whipping out his trump card, he gently let it slip from the caverns of his mouth, "Grant me my wish, dear daughter..."

Her eyes swelling with love towards the monster - her only real father figure - that had raised her from such a tender age, Victoria tore herself from his gaze. The long strands of her dark bronze hair that hid her features from Diabolico for a moment were pushed away from her face with the aid of his claws. "Daughter..." He pushed her again, hoping that she would acceptingly play into his hands.

Her voice was a ginger and gentle whisper, but it did touch his ears.

"In time, Father, in time..."

***

Victoria walked down the hall towards her quarters, her steps tentative and her mind jumbled. She hadn't experienced the feeling of such a thick confusion clouding her thoughts. Mostly everything had been laid out for her in life: clear and concise, black and white.

It was no longer like that anymore. She was confronted by ceaseless doubts and so many different shades of gray at the decision she had just made with her father. So many that she felt utterly uncertain, and she hated that feeling. It made her feel uneasy.

She was going to give her father a child.

Did that seem so awful? Did it seem wrong? Was it right? Should she have not agreed? The questions barraged her and she did all she could to suppress them with her magic, but one question insistently remained.

Was it right?

In her mind, she believed it to be right...or at least MOST of her thoughts believed it. It was only fair, for he HAD saved both Ryan and her from lives of misery. One new life, for both of their lives? It seemed like a decent equation. Maybe even they were getting the better part of the bargain!

Victoria approached her quarters and pushed open the stone door, stepping inside the room and nearly bursting into laughter.

There Ryan was, laying lazily on their bed before her, tossing pieces of dried pineapple into his mouth casually. His appearance contrasted to her own tumultuous emotions so much, she couldn't help but give a small giggle.

"You're finally back?" Ryan sat up on the bed, pushing the pineapples aside and eagerly scooting up to the bottom of the bed.

She watched him, his eagerness and childishness showing upon his face. They were both still were children, no matter what Diabolico had told them. "Seems so," she replied, taking up a seat beside him. She could smell the scent of the pineapples on his breath and she grinned.

Ryan and pineapples. If anything, she always wanted to remember that about him.

"What did Father talk to you about?" he asked, not even looking at her face. He was far too busy tracing and memorizing the skin of her neck, causing little tingly sensations to run crazily down her spine.

She gave a little moan before replying. "He gave me new armor and a new name." Victoria slyly left out the part about them conceiving a child for Diabolico; she didn't want to talk about it and bring her mind into more chaos.

"A new name?" He looked at her intrigued.

She nodded, lolling her head back to allow room for Ryan's finger which had begun to graze downwards towards her collarbone. "I am to be called Vypra when I wear my armor," she told him, her voice a throaty whisper. "When I don't, I am Victoria."

A slow, opulent smile grew upon Ryan's lips as he replaced the touch of his fingers for the caress of his tongue along Victoria's skin. "You are my Victoria...my enchantress," he claimed, one of his arms slipping around her waist and pulling her down onto the bed.

A teasing smile tickled her lips momentarily as she watched him hover over her, forgetting everything else but Ryan. "I suppose," she whispered hungrily, bringing him down to her.

***

She hadn't committed the act.

She couldn't bring herself to do it so long as Ryan didn't know what their father wanted...and as she told herself before, she was not going to tell him until Diabolico did. It already was too complicated.

Quietly, she lay in the dark of their quarters, gazing off into the nothingness the shadows occupied. Ryan's arms held her to him, her head resting lightly against his bare chest while one of her arms remained draped over his side.

Victoria tried and tried again to let her mind completely blank out, to be free of thoughts, allowing her the sleep she longed for. The sleep would drown her in fantasies, and for awhile let her forget of her promise to her father. If only it would come and take her away...

Sleep did not come to her rescue that night.

To be continued...

Part Two

A month passed dreadfully fast for the two prophesied children and their world was hastily thrown upside down, as well as rearranged.

A few days following their enlightening, Diabolico was released from prison along with the other demons and they all moved to reside in Skull Cavern. Almost immediately, they attacked the city of Mariner Bay with one of Diabolico's many monsters, looking to reclaim it for Queen Bansheera...disguising their true mission, which Victoria and Ryan were led to believe.

As if a retort to their attack, a team of five appeared from nowhere and attacked their monster, destroying it rather easily. Both Ryan and Victoria had been surprised by their seemingly vast power, but Diabolico reassured them that these people were weak for they could hold nothing to his two protegees.

It was on their third attack that Victoria first made her appearance in front of these "Power Rangers" as her demonic persona of Vypra. Though she did not succeed, through this battle it was finally revealed to Ryan that his father was in charge of the group of "Power Rangers" and that his younger sister, Dana, was also part of the pathetic group.

Upon the discovery of that information, Ryan erupted; the lava of his passionate hate slowly oozing it's way through Skull Cavern little by little.

***

"I ask you, Father," Ryan demanded, Diabolico standing before him in the quarters he shared with Victoria in Skull Cavern, "let me go out and fight beside Victoria! Give me the chance to destroy all of them all at once!"

"Not right now, Ryan," Diabolico insisted, his arms folded across his large chest. "We must wait until the time is right, THEN you may get your chance for vengeance."

"I CAN'T wait!" he shouted back heatedly in protest. "I must kill them NOW!"

A split second later, a slap resounded through Ryan's ears and he found himself sprawled out on the bed on his back. A jutting pain ached through his entire jaw as he tried to speak, finding that he couldn't.

"You will obey me, Ryan," Diabolico growled lowly, flexing his hand a few times. "I raised you to not be foolish and to think things through; to have a bit of common sense. I won't tolerate stupidity or selfishness from you!"

The blond man watched from his place on the bed as the monster left the room in a simple flourish. Rising to sit up, he gently cradled his aching jaw within his hands and continued to stare at the door in astonishment for many minutes. His father had hit him...

"Ryan!" The voice of his companion echoed through the door, and soon enough, she appeared in the doorway, still dressed head to toe in her armor. "RYAN!" she screamed once more, running to the bed where he sat and eyeing his jaw.

Though he couldn't tell her anything, Victoria could see the throbbing pain in his eyes as well as his sudden shock. She knew of his conflict with Diabolico, for just moments before in the gathering room he had told her of what he had done to Ryan. "He broke your jaw," she told him softly, sitting down beside him and cupping his face with her hands. Closing her eyes, she took to concentration and blue light emitted from her hands, healing his face.

Victoria drew her hands away from his face, allowing him move his jaw around a few times, making sure it was in working condition. "He hit me." Ryan finally spoke with a mixture of wonder and resentment.

"I know that," she retorted, moving away from him and slowly stripping herself of her armor.

"But...he hit me!" he cried once more, stunned. The thought simply was unbearable for Ryan; his father had never hit him! What possessed him to do so now?

The enchantress sighed, while sifting through her clothes searching for something halfway decent to wear to bed. "Ryan, you ASKED for Father to hit you! You were ordering him around...playing the role of a stubborn child!" She ultimately found a simple black silk slip from one of their explorations out in the human world hiding at the bottom of her wooden chest and slid that over her armor-less body. "I know you are furious about-"

"I am NOT stubborn!"

"Oh, really?"

"If anything, YOU'RE stubborn!"

"Me?" Victoria was now standing at the foot of the bed where Ryan still sat, glaring. "How am I stubborn?"

"You never stop until you get what you want," Ryan replied quite seriously, his voice tempered. "Like that time when we were seven, you wanted my pineapples and wouldn't stop pestering me until I gave them to you because I couldn't stand your whining!"

She gasped, her eyes wide. "I do not whine!"

Ryan was about to let out another spiteful remark, when he realized how immature they actually were acting and began to laugh. "What?" She glared at him, the most childish pout upon her features.

"When was the last time we fought like this?" he queried through his laughter.

"When we were ten," she quickly responded, then caught on to what Ryan was implying and began to giggle. "We fought over who should get the bigger pillow on the bed..."

Both of them burst into a louder fit of laughter, Victoria falling back onto the bed beside Ryan, clutching her stomach for dear life. Their howls of laughter must have filled the caverns for over ten minutes until they eventually began to spiral down from their high points and calm down.

They laid beside one another, tired and worn from their fun, trying to catch their breath. Victoria rolled over onto her side and propped her head up with her arm, gazing down at Ryan with his eyes closed as he tried to slow his breathing to normal. Compelled out of a need to touch him, she took one of her long nails and dragged it down the side of his face, creating a light scratch mark.

His eyes flickered open slightly at the unexpected touch, but he didn't push her away.

Victoria ran her finger over the little scratch, trying to rub it away, while her eyes wandered over his face. She could see him peeking up at her with his intense green eyes through his half-open lids, watching the movement of her own mysterious brown ones as they brushed over his lips. His pursed lips - a light tone of red - held in a straight line so quietly when just before they had expelled the beautiful sound of his laughter.

She moved her thumb to graze across his lips when he softly kissed the tip of her thumb, causing a slow shudder to overcome her. Ryan's hand now began to move also, taking her hand into his and holding it up to his mouth so that he could devour her sensitive skin - calluses and all.

Gasping in pleasure at his touch, Victoria moaned, "Ryan, did Father tell you everything?"

"Tell me everything of what?" he murmured, his lips gliding up her arm from her fingers.

"Tell you everything about the prophecy?" she managed to groan out as he tugged her on top of him.

Totally involved with her neck now, Ryan barely even heard her question; nevertheless, he was able to grunt his answer to her. "Uh-huh..."

The promise she made to Diabolico was the last conscious thought that entered Victoria's mind before Ryan finally made his way up to her mouth, catching her lips in a fiery kiss.

***

Ryan awoke the next morning to feel the warm petite body that had been sleeping closely against him leaving him and the confines of their bed. Without even opening his tired eyes, he could hear her bare feet against the stone floor and stopping, just as a creak from her old chest sounded.

"What are you doing?" he mumbled with a deep yawn, sitting up in the bed as he heard the shuffle of clothing.

"Here."

He finally ripped his eyes open just as a pair of clothes hit him in the face. "Hey!" he cried, rubbing his face with his hands, trying to wake himself up fully. "What am I supposed to do with these?"

Victoria rolled her eyes at him from where she stood, watching him stare at the black zip-up shirt and black cargo pants she had thrown him with a puzzled look. "They're clothes, Ryan; you wear them," she snorted sarcastically, yet grinning at him.

"I know THAT part," he remarked, tossing the clothes aside and glancing up at his lover, who was bent over her chest digging deeply into the clothes. His eyes widened as his gaze remained glued upon her back for many minutes before he spoke once again. "Ummm...who says we need clothes for whatever you're planning? You look delicious without clothing...almost as good as pineapples."

Victoria chuckled, removing her head from inside the chest and shaking her head at Ryan. "Almost?" She stuck her tongue out at him playfully and returned to her search. "Actually, if you want to walk around Mariner Bay nude, I don't mind. Just as long as you don't get yourself into trouble."

"We're going into Mariner Bay?" Ryan queried, his brow furrowing slightly with tension. "Why? Does Father need us to do something for him?"

She noted the strain in the tone of his voice and turned around, plopping down on the bed before him. "We are not going to kill anybody today," she declared sternly, meeting his wavering glance. "Father is attacking Mariner Bay today on his own with one of Jinxer's monsters. I guess you could say I have the day off, and while I usually would spend it training with you, I feel like going shopping."

Ryan blinked a few times in bewilderment. "You want to go shopping? Is this another one of your weird magic urges?"

Slapping him once in the arm, she snickered. "Actually, I think it may be one of those human womanly urges that I just can't suppress with magic."

"And I'm going with you?"

"Yes."

"Do I have a choice in the matter?"

"No."

"Are you sure?" Ryan questioned once more, his hand slipping up her bare calf. "Because I was really looking forward to doing a little more training today."

A smirk fell upon Victoria's lips as she saw a wicked grin curl upon his own. "And what kind of training did you have in mind?" she teased, a mischievous glint in her eye.

"Oh, just one that involves the use of a bed, that's all," he winked back, patting an empty spot on the bed next to him.

Victoria feigned a look of fright, gazing down at the bed. "That sounds a little too dangerous for me I think..."

Ryan huffed at her mockingly, grabbing her and pulling her onto him as he fell back into the bed. "Dangerous? Since when did we limit ourselves to dangerous?!"

***

Several hours following, when Victoria finally managed to actually remove Ryan from bed, she found herself browsing through the flea market that was set up smack dab in the middle of bubbling city, Mariner Bay.

If there was one place where Victoria wanted to be at that very moment it was the flea market. It was the complete opposite of her: chaotic, noisy and crowded. She knew she would be able to loose her thoughts in the swarm of craziness; maybe even make her stop thinking about what had taken place between her and Ryan the night before.

Of course, that also was the real reason she had chosen to go shopping in the first place: to get her mind off Ryan. She supposed she shouldn't have dragged him along with her because it most likely wasn't helping her forget him, but she couldn't help but want to be with him. He was intoxicating, like some kind of drug. Whenever he touched her, she lost all conscious thought and simply needed to drown in everything that was him.

Her eyes roamed the many stands around her, until she noticed Ryan admiring one of the stands behind her. He had his fingers coiled around something, and it was shiny because she could see the sunlight of the beautiful day glinting off of it. "Hey, I thought I was the one interested in the shopping," she remarked, pressing up behind him and staring down at the thing in his hands. It was a plain silver ball necklace. "Attracted?" she questioned curiously, nodding towards the item.

He glanced back at her then brought her to his side, his arm wrapped firmly around her waist. "It reminded me of you," he chuckled softly, allowing the necklace to dangle from his fingers. "Your armor, and how the sun hits it when you battle those nasty, pesky, Power Rangers."

Victoria smiled back, glad he was back to tossing out petty insults about the Power Rangers. Maybe his father breaking his jaw had knocked some sense into him, or maybe she had just managed to make him completely forget about his anger towards his blood family. While her logical side hoped that the first thought was true, a little piece of her wanted the latter reason to be the answer. She shrugged mentally; either way, he wasn't dwelling upon his wicked father or sister and that was more than enough for her.

She cast her gaze back towards his hand, where he still examined the necklace. "Did you want it?"

Ryan shrugged absently, fingering the little price tag attached to it. "Twenty dollars," he commented with a scoff, laying the jewelry back down on the table. "Are you willing to pay that much for a piece of metal?"

A sudden swell of emotion overcame Victoria as she thought of the necklace. She had seen how Ryan gazed at it, almost longingly; like it was a piece of her he never wanted to be without. The feeling was warm and gentle and determined; it made her feel the NEED to buy the necklace for him, no matter the cost. "Don't worry," she assured with the smallest of smiles, "I'm pretty sure I could bargain her down a few dollars. Besides, you want it...I'll get it for you. It's not like I'm going to run out of money anytime soon, and if I do I can make some more."

"You don't have to buy-"

"Nonsense!" She quieted him, waving down one of the ladies running the stand while Ryan stepped back to watch. "Miss, I was wondering, how much is this necklace?" Victoria smiled brightly and motioned to the silver ball-chain.

The middle-aged woman grinned back at her, playing into Victoria's hands. "This one?" she questioned, picking up the necklace and examining the little tag. "It's twenty dollars."

Victoria pulled a small fist of bills out from her pocket and counted them out before the woman. "Twenty? Oh, I only have twelve dollars!" She feigned a soft frown, appearing to look disappointed. She then returned her solemn gaze to the object in the older woman's hand. "I really wanted that necklace too; my cousin would've loved it. See, her birthday's in two days and I haven't been able to find anything to give to her, but when I spotted that necklace I KNEW it'd be perfect!" She quickly finished weaving her little lie before the woman, hoping that her plea of desperate help would get her to go down on the price.

Ryan watched in awe as the woman slowly smiled and said a few words to Victoria, handing her the necklace. In turn, the petite woman handed over the twelve dollars in her hand and voiced a, "Thank you so much!" before moving away from the stand and towards where he stood, a few stands ahead.

"I told you if you wanted it, I'd get it for you," she told him with a grin as they headed towards a bench and sat down.

"You are so stubborn," he remarked, softly kissing her lush red lips, "and you're a liar."

She shrugged absently, leaning forward to slide the silver chain around his neck. "So I'm both, I'll admit it. But why are you complaining? It got you what you wanted, right?"

"Whoever said I was complaining?" he replied, relishing the touch of her arms around his neck. "I like it when you're evil!"

As Victoria finished clasping the chain around his neck, she abruptly felt something soft and warm against her own bare shoulder and groaned happily. Ryan could choose the most inappropriate times to be intimate, but that's what she most enjoyed about him.

Closing her eyes, she sunk into him and returned his gesture, nibbling at his ear hungrily. She let him ravish her with his caresses, all the while sensing the stares they both were getting from some onlookers. Being the center of attention was such a wondrous feeling...one she hadn't experienced very often before that point.

She and Ryan continued on with their make-out session, oblivious to the world around them until a rather loud and obnoxious voice snorted, "Geez, you'd think they'd learn to get a room or something!"

The two lovers almost instantly pulled away from one another, both recognizing the annoying voice. Arching their heads behind them, they saw Joel Rawlings - cowboy hat and all - shaking his head in a scolding manner. Dana Mitchell and Kelsey Winslow weren't far behind him, all of them wearing their tacky-looking Lightspeed Rescue jackets. God, how Ryan wanted to rip those things off them!

The Green, Pink and Yellow Rangers standing directly before them, not even knowing they were staring at their sworn enemies. Victoria ducked her head, fighting off the urge to burst out laughing. The situation was just too ironic.

On the other hand, Ryan was blazing mad. He was literally glaring daggers into the three rangers for many moments, until Joel finally spoke up again, snapping out at Ryan. "What are you staring at? I'm simply voicing my opinion. Freedom of Speech; the First Amendment, you know."

"Joel!" Kelsey cried out nervously, grasping him shoulder and pulling him away slightly. "What are you doing? That guy looks like he could eat you!"

Victoria's head shot up at Kelsey's words, and she faced her companion to see the glinting predatory glare he gave only when he was preparing to attack. And it wasn't solely focused on Joel...it was focused on all three of them.

She quickly laced her arms around his shoulders and crawled into his lap, making sure she kept him steady in his seat. The last thing they needed was for him to go all animal-like on the three of them and have their entire cover blown; they were normal Mariner Bay citizens for the moment, and that's all they could show. "Ryan," she pleaded, her eyes darting between the group of rangers and her lover. It was because of that she was able to catch the slight wince to appear on Dana's face when she voiced Ryan's name. Bitch, she deserved to wince and more; however, Victoria wasn't about to risk them both for her own little vendetta against the Pink Ranger. "Ryan, just leave them alone. We can go somewhere else. Just forget it."

Gazing persistently into Ryan's eyes, she managed to finally get through to him and the dark, predatory look vanished from his eyes. Victoria smiled tightly, trying to tell him of the precarious position they were in and he immediately took heed. "Come on," he declared, standing up from the bench and taking Victoria's hand. "You're right. He's not worth it."

The couple walked away arm in arm, and she could still sense his intensity from the confrontation in his body as he walked somewhat rigidly. "That was close," she heaved nervously under her breath, just so Ryan could hear her. She had never felt nervous before, and she never wanted to again. "I can't believe the nerve of those rangers! All haughty, thinking they own the city!"

"I would've killed them where they stood," Ryan whispered heatedly, as they continued to walk towards the end of the flea market.

Victoria nodded solemnly, her arm squeezing his gently while she continued to stare straight ahead as if nothing had happened. "I know you would have."

***

Another two months passed by swiftly for all the occupants of Skull Cavern, as those two months became desirably forgettable.

Every battle fought against the Power Rangers for control of Mariner Bay was lost. Victoria found herself being sent out more often into battle situations where she was always able to keep her ground against the rangers, but as soon as Diabolico ordered Jixner to send out one of the monsters to finish the job, the battle was lost.

It drove both her and Ryan to the point of madness. Victoria couldn't understand why her father wouldn't let her finish off the Power Rangers when he very well knew that she could blow them to pieces with an easy wave of her hand. Ryan couldn't understand why his father refused to let him fight against the Power Rangers at all when he most certainly had the skill to destroy all five of them. Instead, he was stuck training himself with an axe; training that Diabolico insisted would soon become very useful. Ryan rolled his eyes at the thought. A dagger was the most useful of all his weapons; an axe simply seemed too clumsy for his agile grace.

The two were left in the dark until one night when Diabolico called them to him.

***

Diabolico stood before his two students in the gathering room; Victoria appareled in her body armor and Ryan in his usual casual clothing of black. Within the blond man's hands sat the axe given to him by Diabolico a month prior.

"You wanted us, Father?" Ryan questioned, his fingers running along the dull side of the axe's blade.

"Yes," the monster answered. "I know you wonder why I let us continually loose to the Power Rangers; I can see your eyes. So I will tell you why.

"I let us loose because I have been waiting for this chance that those stupid pathetic rangers and their Lightspeed Rescue commander have laid out for us." He paused momentarily to see the fascination light up in their eyes. "For the last month, I have been quite aware of the experiments they've been running in the Aquabase. One of these experiments caught my eye: the creation of a sixth Power Ranger, the Titanium Ranger.

"Just earlier today, the experiment was taken a step further as the Red Ranger was used to try and harness the powers of the Titanium Ranger. He wasn't able to because he was an ordinary human and due to this, the experimentation on the morpher was stopped."

It was like Victoria was reading Diabolico's mind because she knew exactly what he was going to say, and the excitement caused a incredibly large smile to peel across her face. "And you want to give this morpher to Ryan?" she queried, trying very hard to keep the happiness out of her voice. Her companion was finally going to be able to fight by her side!

Ryan glanced at the woman beside him, shocked at the words that had just flown out of her mouth. He was going to harness Ranger powers? Oh, how glorious the idea sounded to him! With that type of power, he would become undefeatable! "Is it true, Father?" he prodded, trying not to sound forceful or too excited for that matter. "Will I finally get my day of revenge against my blood?"

Diabolico chuckled at the antics of his protegees. He had raised them to think just like him...they had practically read his thoughts. Diabolico was glad; he had tutored and created a fine warrior and enchantress. "Yes, you will Ryan," he paused, studying the man as a lust for vengeance began to fill his eyes. "I will allow you to have your way with all the Power Rangers, so long as you destroy them. That is my only demand."

"Very well," Ryan agreed easily, his mind wandering to the many possibilities and ways he could destroy them all. He usually wasn't so bloodthirsty, but since the chance of revenge lingered so near he couldn't help it. The chance that was being handed to him was what he had longed for since he was fifteen. Five years of waiting...he couldn't wait any longer. "Where is the morpher?"

"You will retrieve it from the base, Ryan. Victoria will disengage all the alarms for you; all you will have to do is go into your blood father's office and remove the morpher from his safe."

Ryan grinned, glancing at Victoria who had the same sly grin on her lips. "This is going to be too easy; those Power Rangers won't know what hit them."

***

"So this is what Mariner Bay looks like in the morning?"

"This is it." Victoria wandered away from her post at the edge of the tall building, standing next to Ryan while their group of battlings stood silently around them. "Are you ready to face them?"

His eyes glittered eagerly from within his helmet, his visor up, so he could enjoy the sunrise over the city to the fullest. "I've been ready since forever, my dear Vypra." He chuckled, caressing her cheek with his gloved fingers. It had been the first time Ryan had ever called Victoria by her alter ego's name, and she loved the way he said it. The name had jumped off his tongue fast and hard, like a striking cobra - just the way she wanted the Power Rangers to remember her.

"Then let's get to work," she returned, walking up to the side of the building once more, the battlings following her obediently. She brought her hand up, closing her fingers and their long red nails into a tight fist and began to concentrate. After a few moments, Victoria's eyes flashed open and a devilish grin appeared on her features. "Isn't it beautiful? The last sunrise Mariner Bay will ever see!"

Her fisted hand began to glow an iridescent blue and with a swift thrust of her arm, she sent the tenacious ball of energy catapulting forward into one of the tall skyscrapers of Mariner Bay's skyline.

The city's demise now lay tightly in the two prophesized children's grip.

***

Victoria held out her sword in front of her as she trooped down a ramp and through the lower part of the building, her battlings right behind her. She stopped in the middle of the abandoned warehouse, and laughed wickedly while bringing her fist to her face again, gazing around the room. "Next target..." She waved her fingers around, trying to pick and choose.

Before she had the chance to fire a free blast, a rain of laser shots fell upon her and she shied away momentarily, protecting herself from the sudden shower. When she glanced up, her eyes smoldering, she saw the group of five Power Rangers facing her on the opposite side of the room.

"There's not gonna be a next target this time, Vypra," Carter Grayson - the Red Peppermint Ranger, Ryan teasingly called him - yelled out at her, supposedly trying to intimidate her. It had yet to work. "Get outta here!"

Her dark brown eyes twinkled in amusement at the empty threat, and a smirk soon followed. How glorious it would be for her to watch Ryan mash them into a bloody pulp; she couldn't wait for the moment. "It's only a matter of time before Mariner Bay FALLS to Diabolico!" she retorted easily, playing their little game of words.

The snooty Green Ranger stepped up, and folded his arms across his chest while shaking his head at her. His actions were nearly enough to make her blood boil; they were the same actions he had taken with her and Ryan when he saw them at the flea market months before. "Oh, I know when that'll be...NEVER!" he mocked terribly, and his words were what pushed Victoria over the top.

Her voice came out harsh, a crack of a whip. "ATTACK!"

The plan hadn't been for her to attack the rangers, but to just draw them out into the open for their introduction to the new Titanium Ranger. However, she decided to change the plan a little bit and get into a little squabble with the color-coded defenders of the city. That stupid idiot Joel certainly provoked a fight since he had literally gone about asking for one.

Besides, would Ryan protest to her wearing them down a bit? She doubted it.

Victoria returned her attention to her fight with Carter, watching the delicate movements of his sword to note his next move. He easily knocked her away though, due to her mindset still wavering in thoughts of her lover. She was far too anxious to carry on a serious and intense sword battle.

Studying the team as they regrouped, she saw the Red Ranger move forward once more, taunting her with his sword. Sure, like that thing would scare her. Victoria couldn't help but roll her eyes. "I'm not gonna tell you again. Get outta Mariner Bay!"

"Yeah...forever!" Kelsey chimed out, taking a stand beside Carter. Victoria felt slight revulsion creep through her at the Yellow Ranger's predictable move. Ugh! How she utterly despised those female rangers! They showed no backbone at times...at least, not one that Victoria could see.

She swallowed her revulsion away instantly though, as she could feel the strong magnificent power of the Titanium Ranger close by. Her Ryan would soon show them all what REAL power was. "Wild horses couldn't drag me away," she declared in a pleased tone, slowly darkening it for what she had to say next. "This is the moment I've been waiting for; the moment you meet your match."

As if cued by her words, a blue light began to emanate from the ceiling of the warehouse and hastily grew. Using her arm as a shield from the blinding light, she waited until it dissipated completely to reveal Ryan in all his glory.

Well, to her he was in all his glory. To the rangers, most likely, they'd still be recovering from the initial shock of the Titanium Ranger's arrival.

Ryan rapidly snapped out a pattern of arm movements and took to his normal battle stance, his arms shaking with a deep intensity. His anger and excitement radiated off him like the smell of pineapples did when they were in bed together, and she picked up on all of it.

Oh, how wondrous he'd look stained in their blood...

***

As Ryan laughed at the retreating figures of the Power Rangers, Diabolico appeared on the rooftop beside him, congratulating him on his victory. "Excellent work. I knew you'd be the perfect addition to our team." The two of them turned to face Mariner Bay's skyline. "With your new powers this city will soon be ours."

Ryan nodded his head, his axe swung on his shoulder. "Yes, very soon."

A short silence followed their exchange of words, soon to be filled with the click of Victoria's boots on the ground. Coming up from the bottom level, she sauntered over to where her father and companion stood. "So, I saw the rangers retreating," she commented flippantly. "I take it things went well?"

She came up behind the newly-powered Titanium Ranger and pressed her body tightly against his back, causing a loud groan to emit from Ryan's mouth. If he weren't morphed, he'd be ravaging her with kisses at that very moment; his blood throbbed fervently throughout his body from his victory. Though it didn't involve death and blood like he had hoped for, it was a victory nonetheless. And there was no one he wanted to spend the aftermath of his victory with more than Victoria. "Things went very well, with your aid," he answered passionately, flipping up his visor to gaze hungrily into her eyes.

Victoria laughed merrily as she spotted the primal look his vibrant green eyes that only emerged when he wanted one thing from her. "Father," she quickly ripped her eyes away from Ryan, "you wouldn't mind if we left abruptly, now would you?"

Diabolico shook his head at his two children and gave a throaty laugh. "So long as you do not tire my warrior out, Vypra," he warned teasingly. "He must be ready for the second attack later this afternoon."

"Of course!" she replied rather hastily, and the two lovers almost immediately melted into Victoria's aura, out of Diabolico's sight.

***

The afternoon came quickly, and Ryan was again dispatched into downtown Mariner Bay to wreak havoc so as to draw out the Power Rangers once more. The rangers came running as usual and the battle between the group and him began, Victoria watching the entire scene unfold from her perch atop one of the many buildings surrounding the area.

In the first few minutes, Ryan appeared to have the upper hand in the fight; blasting them over and over again with his weapon. However, in the midst of their losing streak, the Power Rangers pulled out one of their new little weapons; V-Lancers, Victoria had heard them named. The battle suddenly turned into staff combat and that was when Ryan began to falter.

He blocked them with a swift skill - that was to be sure - but his axe didn't seem to stand up to their long stick-like weapons. Sure enough, Carter managed to knock away Ryan's axe from him, the weapon landing a good ten feet away from him.

She studied his form as he eyed his fallen weapon even though the rangers stood lined before him prepared to fire on command. Ryan would go after his axe, and the rangers wouldn't hesitate in firing on him; Victoria could see it in their tense stances. And as the act played out just as she had predicted, she yearned for the chance to interfere in the battle and defend her Titanium Ranger, although she knew she couldn't. It simply wasn't her place.

So, there she stood high above the fight and watched as Ryan grabbed up his axe and aimed it at the rangers, just in time to catch a glimpse of the powerful laser blast from their V-Lancers rushing straight at him. He didn't dare shy away from the attack, and took it head on to his companion's painful dismay.

A fiery explosion followed the blast and an agonizing wince washed over Victoria's features as she saw Ryan's body fly into the air and collapse to the ground heavily. She heard the gasps and awed voices emitted from the five Power Rangers when they saw him slowly pull himself up from the ground. Waves of spite and deep hate ran through her at the noise, her eyes still glued to the Titanium Ranger's fatigued figure as he shakily stood clutching his axe.

For a moment he stared at the Power Rangers vengefully, his visor open due to the force of the explosion. He quickly turned down the visor and stomped towards them, aiming his axe, ready to fire. The rangers tried to warn him off, but he wouldn't be swayed. Ryan was unaccustomed to losing and he wasn't about to become accustomed to it right then either.

The rangers rose their V-Lancers again and this time, a trembling fear swept through Victoria as she looked on. Ryan wouldn't be able to take another hit. If she was fighting them, she could handle five or six more hits with the protection of her magic. But he didn't have magic on his side, he only had his brute strength...and his brute strength was wavering. He continued to press on, taking one step at a time when his legs would allow.

In spite of this unrelenting progression on Ryan's part, the group of five suddenly lowered their weapons and seemed to be arguing with their captain through their helmet comms. The new turn of events immediately brightened Victoria's spirits even further when she saw the group relent, walking away from the fight entirely.

Ryan fell to his knees in the rubble of the melee, his hands desperately grasping out toward the five retreating figures. "We're not finished!" He cried out in anguish. "COME BACK!"

As if scoffing at his words, the Red Ranger turned momentarily and looked back at him, then turned away and walked off with the rest of the Power Rangers.

Once they were out of sight, Victoria jumped down from the building and ran frantically to Ryan's side. "They nearly killed you," she stated in a growling manner, slipping his arm around her body so that she could help him stand.

"I was supposed to nearly kill THEM!" he snapped back furiously, letting her help him up from the ground. "They should have finished me off...I utterly failed."

Victoria shook her head vigorously. "You did not fail," she restated persistently. "It is a stand-off; both sides are in control right now."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" Ryan scoffed at her, shifting his weight so that it wasn't solely on her. "Because it most certainly doesn't."

"Stop being a spoiled, stubborn brat," she jeered, finally adjusting to how they stood. "We'll go home, I'll heal you, and you'll have your day soon enough." With her last words, the two of them faded away into Victoria's usual blue mist.

***

Many meters below the ocean, Ms. Fairweather stood in the operations of the Aquabase, staring at the monitor before her. One of the many cameras they had posted all around Mariner Bay had just recorded the scene that took place between the Titanium Ranger and Vypra and her natural curiosity was most definitely piqued.

In the small exchange that she had witnessed on the screen, both Vypra and the Titanium Ranger acted far too human-like to be demons. They were very close; like they had some sort of bond. Perhaps they were close friends, or even lovers! No matter what they were to each other, the fact remained that both of them appeared more human than demon.

Ms. Fairweather let herself linger on the thought awhile longer before she pushed it to the back of her mind for future reference, heading towards the conference room to meet up with the rangers and Captain Mitchell.

***

Ryan sat stonily on the bed, staring straight at the brick wall before him. It was already near midnight, but he still couldn't remove his thoughts from the battle that had happened earlier that day. He had failed, no matter what Victoria said. The thought festered in his mind, spawning other angry and depressive thoughts about the rangers, his blood father, Diabolico and even the rare angry thought about his lover. Least to say, he didn't expect sleep to come to him that night.

Victoria re-entered their quarters, carrying plate of chocolate cake in her hands. She closed the door behind her with her bare foot and then began to attack the cake with her fork, swallowing down as much of the dessert she could in one mouthful. Neither of them had been indulged with those kinds of foods until they arrived in Mariner Bay a few months ago and ever since, Victoria had been binging on everything from tapioca pudding to large tubs of pure honey whenever she could - which usually was at night when their father couldn't catch her.

Ryan wondered where she had gotten the sweet treat from at that late of an hour, but he decided against it. If he said something, she'd think he wanted to talk and that was the last thing he wanted her to think. She'd already spent the entire day trying to get him to talk and cheer him up about his loss to the Power Rangers. Even Diabolico had given him a pep-talk of sorts, and that was even more bothersome than Victoria's constant prattle.

He ignored her casually, continuing to glare ahead at the wall.

Out of the periphery of his vision, he saw her move to the other side of the bed and crawl across it to sit directly behind him. The smell of the strong dark chocolate wafted into his nostrils and he nearly gagged. Chocolate was too strong of a sweet for him; he much preferred the lighter taste and smell of vanilla. Victoria knew this as well, yet she asked over his shoulder, "You want some cake?"

Ryan shook his head tersely in response to her question, hoping she would take his hint and leave him be for awhile. However, he had known since earlier that morning that Victoria was extremely moody and noticeably aroused, so he was more than sure she wouldn't be leaving him alone until she got what she wanted from him...and Ryan wasn't in the mood to give her what she wanted, even though he may have been previously.

Victoria whimpered in reply to his rejection, and pressed her body against his back; her breasts crushed against the middle of his back, her lips brushing against his scarred shoulder blades and her arms and legs wound around his stomach.

He fought off the urge to moan to the stimulus he gave her, when he felt something different against him. Strangely enough, he could feel her stomach through the silky green material of her nightgown at the small of his back, which he usually never felt. He had felt it there against him in the morning when he had been morphed also, but had tossed the thought aside. Now that he could feel it again, Ryan wondered if Victoria had been lacking in her training and putting on weight from all the sweets she had been eating. If Father knew about that, he wouldn't be happy at all with her.

She slowly began to work her tongue against his shoulder, and this time he couldn't resist the urge and he moaned lowly. Ryan felt her grin into his flesh at his response and he quickly snapped, "Victoria, no; not tonight."

"You're making a big deal out of nothing," she huffed, pulling herself away from him and returning to her cake that she had set on the bed. "Tomorrow is another day; you'll get another chance to kill those rangers." Her eyebrows were furrowed as she pouted, stuffing herself with the chocolate cake - partly hoping Ryan would take pity on her pathetic look and come to her.

He did no such thing.

Ryan sighed depressively, moving from where he sat to crawl underneath the covers of the bed on his side. He lay down on his back and folded his hands behind his head, closing his garnet green eyes. "It's not about killing the rangers anymore."

"It isn't?" Intrigued by the turn in his thoughts, she hastily scooted up the bed and lay beside him on top of the covers with the remains of her cake. "What IS it about then, Ryan?"

"It's about being human, Victoria," he responded, confessing his guts though he really didn't want to. "Do you want to live forever in Skull Cavern, fighting the Power Rangers and continuously training?"

"Who says we're going to be living in Skull Cavern forever and fighting the Power Rangers?" she questioned rhetorically. "It's only a matter of time before we defeat the rangers and reclaim Mariner Bay for Father...and besides, don't tell me you don't love our training! We get stronger everyday, gaining new abilities-"

"Don't you feel it being monotonous though? We do the same things everyday!"

He now lay on his side, facing Victoria and waiting expectantly for her reply. "After thirteen years of the same routine, you finally say you have tired of it?!" She glanced at him skeptically. "What ideas this melancholy mood has brought out in you!"

Ryan shook his head, sitting up in the bed and staring down at his companion. "Don't you ever wish we could live like normal people, Victoria? Like those people we attack everyday in Mariner Bay?" His voice rose anxiously, his true thoughts pouring out of him. "Don't you wish for more than the closed life we carry on here?!"

"That's the point, Ryan!" Victoria retorted, trying to bring him back down into reality: her reality. "We ATTACK those normal people you want to be like! The fact is we aren't normal; we are SPECIAL! Diabolico chose us because we were destined to fulfill a prophecy...a GREAT prophecy that needs us still!"

He blinked at her a few times, his thoughts clearing from his mind and allowing back in the warrior mentality that had been instilled in him from a young age. "You're right," he agreed softly, cupping her cheek in his hand. "I will kill the Power Rangers tomorrow; it is another day."

Satisfied with his normal thoughts returning to him, the crazy ones fleeing, Victoria took his palm to her lips and gently kissed it in reassurance.

***

As Victoria told him, the next day turned out to be another day; another opportunity to get back at the Power Rangers and Ryan took full advantage of it.

Striding down the streets of Mariner Bay, blasting away at anything in his path and waiting for the rangers to show...it was a tedious job, but someone had to do it. He was more than willing to do it, but he just wished they would show soon; patience was never his forte. He preferred action and movement to anything else.

So he was quite overjoyed when the Pink Ranger - his little sister - eventually appeared, stopping him from shooting an innocent citizen.

Innocent.

The word caused a little twitch in his thoughts, as if there was a battle going on inside of his mind over the very word. Ryan quickly shook off the feeling and returned his gaze to his sister, approaching her in the wide courtyard.

He pointed at her menacingly and forcefully, his hot and fierce voice rushing from the confines of his mouth. "It's you! After all these years, I've been waiting to meet you again." He growled deeply, literally seething venom. "I finally get to pay you back, Sister..." Quickly, Ryan raised his blaster and fired several shots upon the younger girl sending her tumbling.

Hungrily, Ryan pressed the fight on and chased after her with his axe. Since forever he had longed for revenge, and it finally seemed to be all falling into place. His plans were going to be fulfilled.

He swung his axe down on her sword, knocking his sister to her knees while the blade of his axe remained locked with her sword, pressing down on her. "No brother of mine could be as evil as you are," she spat hastily, pushing against his weight.

"You're right," Ryan easily agreed in a spiteful tone, watching her quiver underneath his obviously stronger power. "Unless his father let him fall from a cliff to save his younger sister!"

He released his axe from her blade and they continued to fight on, a new resolve pushing him on. Who was the more evil one? Was it he, who only sought the proper revenge that deserved upon these cruel people? Or was it her, who spat lies into his face and had taken his entire life from him?

As they kept going, it became fairly apparent that Ryan had and kept the upper hand in the one on one battle from the beginning all the way through. He was a warrior of course, and he had trained all of his life for moments like the one he was caught up in at that very second.

Gradually, Dana tired and with a neat blow from Ryan, she collapsed a few feet away from him, panting furiously. He chuckled at her weak state, slinging his axe on his shoulder casually. "Ryan," she called to him, still trying to catch her breath, "Father didn't LET you fall; there was nothing he could do!"

He slowly felt his blood begin to boil. Would this girl ever realize that he refused to swallow her damned lies?! He threw down his axe, pointing it directly into the Pink Ranger's face. "But you're the one who survived that night on the cliff," he replied in a succinct and clear fashion.

"But now it's over, Ryan." She spoke softly, only loud enough for him to hear. He stopped for a moment, listening to how she said his name. She didn't say it like Victoria did. Victoria said it...well, she said it like he thought a lover would. But Dana's way was different; and for a moment, he liked that difference.

But Ryan instantly shook off the feeling, returning to his agenda at hand. He was going to kill her; destroy her. He couldn't suddenly feel sentiments for the sister that stole his entire existence from him; things just didn't work that way. "It's over for you..." He trailed off menacingly, switching his axe back into its blaster mode.

He kept his blaster trained on her for many seconds, but for some reason unknown to him, Ryan found that he couldn't pull on the trigger. His burning eyes remained glued to her as she slowly stood up from the ground. "He loved you," she insisted in a pleading voice, Ryan trying to not give into her ploy as she tried to force-feed him her lies. "You wanted to grow up to be a fireman, just like him!"

In the back of his mind, he could feel a soft hum cutting through the fog of his early childhood memories. The hum slowly progressed to become louder and louder, until his efforts to block it all out became completely vain. "QUIET!" He screamed, partly at Dana and partly at the sound in his head.

Ryan continued to struggle with the hum, when he heard Dana's voice momentarily cut through. "What's wrong with you?!" He felt her throw herself onto his blaster, taking hold of his arm and shaking him a bit. "Don't you remember anything?"

Unexpectedly, the hum stopped and fog cleared in his mind; a few solitary memories flashed through his mind. "I remember..." he whispered delicately, his head bowed.

"RYAN! DON'T!"

He was knocked out of his brief lapse and snapped his head around to see the other four Power Rangers running toward him and Dana; the Red Ranger's voice being the one he heard.

Utterly startled and frightened by what had just taken place between him and his sister, Ryan reverted into his comfortable and safe warrior mode and gave Dana a good swift kick to the gut and hit to the back, pushing her aside. Once she was out of his way, the confused Titanium Ranger began to frantically run through the courtyard, away from them all.

***

The minute she saw Ryan run, Victoria knew something was most definitely wrong with her companion. He needed her, but he didn't need those five rangers following him.

Borrowing one of Jinxer's monsters from him, she hastily confronted the Power Rangers, giving them Liztwin to tango with while she went searching for Ryan. First, she went back to Skull Cavern, assuming he had returned there to sulk or do whatever it was he was going to do there. When she found no trace of him there, she went back into Mariner Bay and eventually found him on the outskirts of the city, along with the rangers AND his blood father. "Do they have a homing beacon on him?" She growled angrily, standing on one of the little hills around where they stood below her. Her expression instantly switched from annoyance to shock when she realized two things: one, Ryan wasn't morphed and two, he wasn't fighting them at all. "What the hell is he doing down there?!"

Her shock expanded into horror when she saw the glimmering silver-blue object that was his morpher fall from his wrist. "RYAN!?!?!" she shrilled, not caring just who heard or saw her at that moment. He was giving up his morpher?! HE WAS GIVING UP HIS MORPHER! He wasn't supposed to do that...WHY WAS HE DOING THAT?!

Her deep brown eyes, which were as wide as saucers, spied the entire group below glancing up at her. Though they were far away, she could see the confusion on their faces wondering just what she was doing there...except for Ryan. Ryan's bright green eyes seemed to be glaring daggers at her from where he stood.

Victoria's heart nearly stopped beating at the sight of his face.

She watched as he looked away from her and began to run up the side of the hill to her, the Power Rangers and his blood father also watching his every step as he climbed up towards her. "What were you doing down there?" she asked casually as he soon joined her at the top of the dirt hill, trying to forget the nasty look he had given her.

"I could ask you the same thing." He glowered, meeting her face with a cold and stony gaze.

Few things actually frightened Victoria, and the way Ryan was acting right then became one of those things she did fear. She had never seen him that way before, at least not directed towards her, and it truly scared her. "Did I do something?" she questioned, her voice wavering slightly.

Ryan glanced back down at the six people below still staring at the two of them, then forcefully grabbed her arm and dragged her away from their view. "I don't want them watching us," he stated blatantly, then returned to answering her former question. "You LIED to me, Victoria!" He growled loudly, his fingers squeezing tightly around her arms. "You and Diabolico LIED to me!"

"How?" was the only thing she could get out of her throat.

"I remember how I was taken away that night when I first came to live with you," Ryan sneered in her face, jerking her close to him; his anger had completely taken over and he was starting to loose all control. "Diabolico did save my life, but he STOLE me away from my family. My father wanted me all along, and you made me believe that he didn't! YOU LIED TO ME!"

Tears were streaming down Victoria's face for the first time in fifteen years while he yelled at her. "I didn't know!" She bawled persistently, clutching him tightly. "My mother...abandoned me with Diabolico at the first chance! We were poor and we stole for our survival. I thought...I THOUGHT my mother loved me, but she didn't!" Victoria took in a deep breath before continuing. "She GAVE me to him without a second thought...she didn't WANT me! I thought the same had happened to you!"

Ryan's anger instantly dissipated at the sight of the woman's tears and turned into awe, as she cried openly in front of him for the first time in her life. She was now on her knees, clinging to his legs and sobbing. "I have to leave Skull Cavern," he slowly voiced after many long minutes filled solely with her sobs. "I can't stay with Diabolico...not when I know the truth."

"NO! YOU CAN'T LEAVE ME ALONE!" Her scream echoed around them as she pulled herself up from her knees and gazed intently at him with her red, wet eyes.

"I have to," he said solemnly, refusing to meet her gaze.

"LOOK AT ME!" Victoria commanded desperately, grabbing his face in her hands and forcing him to look at her directly. She didn't even think twice before letting the words fly out of her mouth, "Ryan, I NEED YOU! I LOVE YOU! YOU CAN'T LEAVE ME!"

Ryan simply gawked at her for a long moment, totally stunned and taken aback by her sincerity and frankness. Out of fourteen years of companionship he had spent with the woman before him, it was in that moment when he realized just how he felt for her; her declaration of love triggered the emotions hidden deep inside of him to gradually surface and need to be seen. "I love you, Victoria," he replied tenderly, cupping her tear-streaked cheek with his hand.

At his response, Victoria pulled herself to his chest and buried her face there, her sobs at last slowing. Ryan removed her stupid armored crown from her head and threw it aside, running his hands freely through her soft hair - cherishing its feel - and leaned his chin against the top of her head.

He knew he would have to leave her in the long run, as much as he didn't want to. He couldn't stay with Diabolico a day longer, not with his memory intact the way that it was. And she wouldn't leave Diabolico for him, no matter how much she said she loved him. Ryan's family waited for him in Mariner Bay, while Victoria's only real family was Diabolico. He was still HER father, even if Ryan no longer viewed him as that.

But they both knew that they loved each other, and Ryan desperately hoped that that would be enough to keep them together - no matter which side they were on.

***

"...none of that matters. The past is gone; forgotten!"

"I remember it all too clearly."

Victoria stood in the shadows of the gathering room in Skull Cavern, studying the final confrontation between her lover and father. Ryan was being spiteful, pulling away from it all. Diabolico was being tempting, reminding the man before him of all that he could give. But at last, she knew that Ryan would win the fight; perhaps his first and last win against Diabolico at all.

"Stay here and your future will be to follow in my footsteps. Master, ruler of the Dark Kingdom!"

"Never," Ryan spat coldly, turning his back and walking into the shadows that lead out of the room.

Diabolico strained for one last effort to keep Ryan from walking away from him. "Do not walk away from me..." he warned in his threatening voice. When Ryan didn't stop his progression towards the exit, the monster pressed on his with threat. "You'll pay for this. Mark my words, Ryan..."

As a last gesture, Ryan faced him for a second and shook his head tersely at the threat made before disappearing into the shadows completely.

"Do you have anything to say about this?" Diabolico glanced towards Victoria, motioning her closer to him.

"He packed his things," she quietly responded, her eyes averting his heavy stare. "He is going to leave."

"And you are not going to stop him?"

Victoria maintained her gaze on the floor of the dark room, shrugging her shoulders ever so slightly. "He's determined to leave. I can't stop him."

All of a sudden, Diabolico grabbed her by the arms viciously and gave her a hard shake, causing her to yelp loudly in surprise. "Since when did you give up so easily?! Don't you want him to stay?!" he barked angrily into her face.

She pulled her face away as far as she could from his, and shut her eyes tightly for a long moment, recomposing herself. "Of course I want him to stay! I need him to stay!" she snapped back, not quite as loud as he had.

Diabolico removed one of his claws from her and pointed towards the shadows where Ryan had just left. "Then go after him!" Letting go of Victoria's arms, he pushed her towards the exit vigorously. "Or are all of those sentimental emotions getting in the way since you proclaimed your "love" for him?"

A shuddered gasp left her body at his expression. He had been watching them on that hill earlier? She spun around fiercely, glaring heatedly at her father. "You were...spying on us?" Victoria rasped sickeningly, clutching her churning stomach with her arm.

"I knew Ryan was wavering," he stated casually, as if was everyday news. "I wasn't about to let him go off into Mariner Bay without keeping an eye on him. You just happened to choose the wrong moment to declare your "feelings", Vypra."

Victoria took a few paces around the room, steadying herself and allowing her mind to take in everything Diabolico had said. "You know what?" she pondered out loud, reaching for her armored crown on top of her head and holding it in her hand. "I AM NOT VYPRA!" She flung the armored crown, letting it skid across the floor. She began to roam the room in a hasty and frantic fashion, her eyes darting left and right. "Maybe Ryan was right about leaving here...maybe I should go too...maybe-"

Her rambling was cut short when Diabolico wrapped his hand around her neck and lifted her a good two feet off the ground. Swiftly, he tossed her from his grip and into one of the pillars. Her back hit the pillar and she let out a piercing cry, grunting as she fell a good three feet before she eventually came in solid contact with the ground once more.

He waited until she slowly raised her head, blood dripping quietly from a large bruise on the back of her head as well as from her split lip. "If you weren't-"

"I know." She groaned painfully, licking her lower lip carefully. "I was asking for that and you were right in doing so...I'm sorry, Father. I didn't mean to talk back to you; I didn't mean to be disobedient."

Diabolico nodded, satisfied that his actions had curved her waywardness. "Of course you didn't," he agreed. Moving over to where her broken body lay, he picked Victoria up and cradled her in his large arms. "Now, what shall you do for me once you have healed yourself, Vypra?"

She looked at him through her half-lidded eyes, drowsy with pain. "I'll find Ryan and bring him back home to me, no matter what it takes..."

"Very good," he complimented her, taking her away from the gathering room and back to her quarters to rest.

The only remnants of Victoria and Diabolico's squabble in the gathering room sat in a small shadowy corner next to the pillar she had been thrown against.

An armored crown lying in a small, drying pool of crimson blood.

To be continued...

Part Three

Ryan walked along the abandoned piers down at Mariner Bay's sole beach, taking in the cold salty ocean breeze brushing against him. Of course, everything in Mariner Bay seemed abandoned at two in the morning as Ryan quickly found out upon his explorations of the city in its night hours.

After leaving Skull Cavern with his few earthly possessions in his backpack, he found himself wandering the streets of the large city aimlessly. He had decided he didn't want to go see his dad - calling his real father "Dad" would distinguish him apart from the monster that he called "Father" for so many years - or Dana at the Aquabase. As much as they were his family, he didn't quite think he was ready to embrace them with open arms.

At first, the big city had been incredibly disorienting to him. Ryan had never really roamed through Mariner Bay casually by himself before. He was either there as a student/shopper with Victoria when she insisted they should become more aware of human culture through shopping or he was there on business, all his intents exclusively on killing each of the rangers one by one, mercilessly. The first role was always fun for him to play, as it always ended in their quarters with his lips on Victoria's. The second role he certainly didn't relish now; it just brought a fierce shudder to his thoughts.

He had done awful things when he was Diabolico's puppet. There were plenty of other ways to describe what he was, but that simply seemed to be the best way. Sure, Diabolico had saved his life, but essentially he had also taken it from him...turned him into a fighting machine, supposedly born to fulfill a prophecy; a prophecy he was pretty much sure was just a whole bunch of crap now that he thought about it. The things he did for Diabolico's approval...it made him furious and nauseous at the same time.

As much as he hated to admit it though, Diabolico had given him one good thing in his life: Victoria. Without Diabolico, Ryan would have never met her. He loved that woman with all his heart. Sure, if he ever told anyone, they would say, "How would YOU know what love is? You were evil!" But that wasn't the way Ryan saw it at all: He wasn't raised evil even though he did believe he was; Diabolico raised them like his own children. He had shown them love - even if it was a cruel kind of love - and he taught them to value that love and invest it in each other. Ryan supposed that it had been Diabolico's plan all along to have Victoria and him fall in love with each other, but he didn't care. At least the monster had taught them SOMETHING useful to use in real life.

Strange as it was, maybe he had more to thank Diabolico for than he thought.

***

Victoria awoke slowly from her numb slumber, her eyes crusted with sleep and her head pounding ferociously. A terrible, throaty moan escaped her swollen lips as she forced her eyes open, rubbing the sleep from them.

She was lying on her back in the bed, still dressed uncomfortably in her armor; she suspected Diabolico had removed her wings to allow her to lie down in the first place.

Slowly, Victoria moved her fingertips to the bruise on her head and brushed against it lightly. It stung violently and she winced, swallowing the urge to yelp. Unfortunately, she didn't think she had enough energy to conjure up even a small healing spell to remove the painful scars from her encounter with her father, so she let them be for the time being.

Her stomach growled at her angrily and she sighed unpleasantly. Oh, how badly she wanted a tub of popcorn covered in honey and pineapples! It sounded so good at that moment, but she didn't want to move one inch. Where was Ryan when she needed him?

The question flashed through her mind, and the entire events of the day before fell upon her like a ton of bricks. "He left," she forced out, the mere thought of her loss somehow giving her the energy to push herself up to sit on the bed. "He left us alone," she voiced once more, the hollowness of her voice echoing through the quarters.

Tears easily and furiously spilled from her deep brown eyes, driving down her cheeks like mad rivers. She moved to distract herself from the tears and slowly began to pull off her knee-high metal boots. Once she removed them, she then removed her leather, metal-guarded gloves and her armbands, tossing them all into a pile forming at the side of the bed.

Clad in only her breastplate and leather black pants, she scooted off the bed and padded gently towards the cupboard for some food - any food - to satisfy her gnawing hunger. She owed it to herself and Ryan to keep eating; it was what both of them shared that made her want to keep going.

Pulling open the cupboard and spying its contents, Victoria began to laugh brokenly, her tears turning into full blown sobs wracking her petite frame. Her legs soon enough gave out below her and she collapsed to the ground, but not before she grabbed the item of food that had been mocking her from within the cupboard. She unfurled her fingers from around the object and simply stared at it through her watery eyes.

It was a package of dried pineapples.

Victoria sat in that same position for what felt like forever, even after her sobs faded away and her tears had run dry. All the while she clutched the pineapples, not daring to even open the package and eat one to curb her distinct hunger.

Eventually, the absent thought dawned upon her to heal her wounds and she did, applying fierce concentration. Her thoughts were so mangled that she needed all the concentration she could get to cut through it all and apply her attention to the activity. The blue mist that always emitted when she was healing something wasn't as strong as it could have been, but it was enough to hide the evidence of Diabolico's abuse.

Worn from her crying, she crawled on her hands and knees back into her large lonely bed and shut her eyes trying to sleep. "It's too cold," she murmured to herself, rolling over and grabbing the other pillow and hugging it to her chest tightly. However, it didn't help - it just couldn't replace the warmth and safety Ryan's embrace brought her every time she slept.

"VYPRA!"

Victoria snapped her head up to see Diabolico standing inside the doorway of her quarters, staring down on her. "Father?" she questioned.

"Ryan has joined the rest of the Power Rangers," he stated in irritation.

The way she saw it, it had been bound to happen. His family was part of the Power Rangers. Nevertheless, she kept her mouth shut and queried once more. "Did you want me to do anything?"

"Go to him tonight and convince him to come back," Diabolico ordered her insistently. "You have more to persuade him with."

Victoria's dull eyes lit up slightly. "You mean, I can tell him about-"

"No." Diabolico cut her off, swiftly chopping down her growing hope. "I have given Ryan the curse of the cobra. If he returns to our side, I will remove the tattoo and he will not suffer. If he refuses, he will face the consequences. Do not tell him anything else of your predicament."

Frowning ever so softly, she nodded her head. "Yes, Father," she replied, then asked, "Father, wasn't the curse of the cobra originally meant for the Red Ranger?"

"Yes, it was, but it seemed more useful to use on Ryan," he remarked, dismissing her as he exited her chambers.

The door shut behind him and Victoria gazed at it for a long moment before she began to formulate her plan to get Ryan back. It was vain to create a plan to bring him back, but she did nonetheless, knowing it was positively useless.

***

Ryan shot up in his bed, a good thick sheen of sweat covering his forehead. He had just had the worst nightmare ever...or at least he hoped it was a nightmare. The pain he had felt when Diabolico gave him the tattoo in his dream...it just seemed far too real for his own liking.

Frantic to prove to himself it was just a dream, Ryan jumped up and rushed up to one of the many closets in his new room in the Lightspeed Aquabase. Seizing the door open, he turned around so that his back was facing the mirror on the inside of the closet door and slowly pulled up his night shirt, staring into the reflection. At the base of his back was a large cobra tattoo, exactly like it had been in his nightmare.

He blinked, unbelieving, and continued to gaze at his reflection in the mirror. "This can't be happening," he mumbled, running his hand along his back attempting to feel the tattoo.

"It's real and you know it."

Startled by the new voice, Ryan spun around in the darkness to see Victoria sitting on his bed, wearing his Lightspeed Rescue jacket. And as he could tell by her bare legs, that was most likely ALL she was wearing at that instant. "Father didn't tell me that he was going to give you the curse of the cobra; he only told me after he had done it. If I had known, I would have tried to stop him." She sighed as he closed the closet door and began to head in her direction. Ducking her head into his coat, she took in a deep breath and grinned. "You haven't even had this jacket for a day and it already smells like you; like pineapples."

"You wouldn't have stopped him, Victoria," Ryan remarked casually, joining her on the bed. "You wouldn't have disobeyed Diabolico."

"Want to make a bet on that?" She arched her eyebrow at him. "I nearly followed you last night when you left. I told him I wasn't Vypra, that I wanted to leave...he, of course, threw me into one of the pillars. He knocked some sense into me, I guess you could say."

Ryan gaze softened from his guarded look. "You're okay now, right? I mean, you did heal yourself, didn't you?" he queried in a worried tone. Instinctively, he reached out and caressed her cheek with his hand, but quickly tried to pull away when he realized what he had done. They were on opposite sides...she was his enemy, even if he had feelings for her.

"No, keep it there." Victoria stopped him, placing her hand against his and keeping it against her cheek. She raised her eyes to meet his, utterly tossing her "get Ryan back" plan out the window. There was no possible way she was going to execute it on him in their position. "I couldn't sleep; I missed you beside me. It was too cold." Tenderly, she pressed her lips to his wrist, leaving a feathery kiss on his skin.

Ryan trembled at her light touch and found himself gravitating closer to her body. "Victoria..." Her name lingered on his lips softly, his other hand cupping the other side of her face.

Before he could say anymore, they were kissing gently, lips brushing against each other in a slow dance. Sensations ran wild through them like nothing before, longing for their love's touches after only a day of separation. Soon, the kiss deepened into an ardent flame of want.

Victoria's mouth roamed, searching for the flesh of his neck to taste him fully. The subtle scent of pineapples that filled her nostrils was intoxicating as she slipped her hands up his shirt and began to unbutton it quickly. Ryan moaned at her urgent caresses, his hands running through her hair madly.

She continued to unbutton his shirt and was nearly done when she felt a sharp stinging pain and pulled away with a cry of pain. "OW!"

Panting, Ryan also pulled away, untangling his fingers from her hair. "What happened?" he gasped in concern.

"I think you accidentally touched my bruise." She chuckled softly, touching it at the back of her head and wincing a bit. "When I tried healing it, I didn't have enough energy to actually heal it correctly. Which reminds me," her stomach growled on cue and she laughed, "I didn't eat any food today. Could I possibly get some here?"

"I'd have to go down to the galley, but that's no big deal." Ryan assured her with a grin, re-buttoning his shirt. "What did you want?"

Victoria winked. "Anything and everything."

***

"So you like life away from Diabolico?" Victoria commented lightly, licking the last of the mango pulp from her sticky fingers.

"Well, I've only experienced one day, so I wouldn't call that my life," Ryan joked flippantly, chewing on a fresh piece of pineapple, "but yeah. I like life away from Diabolico. It's not so structured; I'm totally free to do whatever I want whenever I want."

"Diabolico let us do whatever we wanted." She piped up, trying to defend her side a bit. Although, she found it ridiculously fruitless because of the fact that Ryan made life without Diabolico sound so tempting.

"Within reason," he replied, propping his head up with his clean hand as he laid on the bed across from Victoria with their platter of fruit between them. "I mean, we always had to return to fight. And whenever you were fighting, I was always training with that stupid axe."

She giggled, pulling a banana off the tray and peeling it. "You have to admit, Ryan, him having you train with that axe two months before you received the Titanium powers was pretty smart. You handle that axe with such ease now!"

"True." He shrugged absently, pulling a grape off its vine and popping it into his mouth. "Here, at the Aquabase, I know I'll be in training still, but I don't think it'll be as hard as it was with Diabolico. After all, I am the greatest warrior of all time, am I not?" he teased, grinning at her through the darkness of his room.

Victoria grabbed a lone cherry and pelted him on the forehead with it. "I think you're getting drunk on all this change; it's making you hallucinate," she retorted playfully. Taking in the last bite of her banana, she laid the peel back onto the tray and rolled over onto her back with a satisfied sigh. "I feel so full, I don't think I'll ever want to eat again."

Ryan took the platter and moved it down to the floor, scooting over to lie beside her. "I only wish there had been some leftover watermelon from the party we had earlier. I wanted you to taste some; it was so sweet, not as tart as pineapples," he murmured, his sticky fingers playing with her bangs on her forehead.

"That plate was more than enough." She smiled quietly. After a few minutes of tender silence, she changed subject. "How are the other rangers like...when they're not fighting?"

He noted her shy, tentative voice - one he had never heard from her before - and smiled inwardly to himself. The thought of Victoria turning towards his side teased him endlessly; it was a good feeling. "They're different, that's for certain." He chuckled softly, staring off into the darkness and thinking back on his first impressions of the people behind the Power Ranger uniforms. "Joel, the Green Ranger, he's a lot like the same person we met at the flea market that one time; I don't think he remembered me, or if he did, he didn't say anything. He's kinda cocky, but fun-loving in a real good way. He knows how to have a good time.

"Kelsey, the Yellow Ranger, she's a lot like Joel. She's a little more reserved than he is though. Dana tells me she's a real daredevil, someone who likes a real thrill. She's real friendly."

Victoria arched her eyebrow curiously, staring up into his face. "How friendly?"

Ryan laughed, bending down to lightly kiss her lips. "I didn't know you could be jealous," he remarked humorously, his green eyes brightening.

"I'm not jealous," she protested with a short pout. "Just continue."

"If you wish," he complied, returning his thoughts to the question he had been answering. "Well, I guess Chad, the Blue Ranger, he's pretty subdued. Seems pretty open and honest, and to tell the truth I think he's as good a fighter as you even."

"I'll take that as a compliment."

"It was meant as one. Anyways, Carter is probably the most different when he's out of uniform. Not as ruthless, is the best that I can think of. He seems protective of everyone, and he was so easy to accept me into the fold. That made me feel much more comfortable around them all."

Victoria fiddled absently with the zipper on his jacket that she continued to wear while listening to him talk. "What about your sister?"

"Dana's the same way I remember her, and so is my dad. I don't feel like they've changed at all since I was six. Dana's my little sister and I want to protect her from everything. My dad is my dad, still looking out for me and Dana like he did when we were younger."

She gazed into his face for a long time after he finished, watching his expression. It was completely content and free. Not a single negative emotion appeared to linger in him at that peaceful moment. "You were never evil," she whispered tenderly, causing him to turn his gaze and meet her solemn brown eyes. "You were always good. For awhile you were misguided - lies and your emotions led you - but you eventually got your head on straight...and now look where you are. You're in a place that makes you happy."

"No; YOU make me happy," he murmured quietly, bringing his lips down to her forehead. As he studied the woman lying beside him in the stillness, a question popped into his mind that he couldn't help but ask. "What would Diabolico do if he saw us...together, like this?"

"He isn't watching us." Victoria guaranteed him, taking his hand into her own and caressing it. "He assumes whenever we're by ourselves that we are always having sex for some reason. Either he actually wants to give us privacy, or he just doesn't like to watch."

A slow grin crept onto Ryan's features as he slipped his hand from hers and ran it across her bare stomach beneath his jacket she still wore. "Don't you think that we should at least live up to Diabolico's expectations of us for one night?" he whispered throatily, his mouth edging towards the hollow of her neck.

"Since when did you decide you wanted to live up to MY father's expectations?" she scoffed at him, a sly grin also peeling across her lips.

"Since they involved you, me and nothing else," he retorted fiercely, burying his face into her neck and effectively stopping all word communication between the both of them.

***

As he awoke, Ryan found himself tangled up in the sheets of his bed with Victoria's body resting lightly on top of him. He adjusted himself ever so slightly to gaze down upon her while she continued to sleep contentedly with him.

One of her arms hung off his shoulder, her fingers gripping onto the curve of his neck ever so gently. Her head lay on his chest with her lips pressed delicately to his flesh and her hair splayed against his other shoulder. Her eyelashes lay softly against her tan, flushed skin and her eyes remained peacefully closed. She was absolutely radiant to him in her calm and safe beauty.

Ryan bent his head forward and laid a kiss at the crown of her head, his arm slipping around her nude back and hugging her close. She stirred slowly at his touch, her eyes blinking open. "Leave me alone, I'm sleeping." She grumbled into his chest, snuggling into his embrace.

"We're going to have to get up sooner or later." He grinned, his arm sliding up around her shoulders and nudging her a little. "Carter's supposed to be coming to pick me up for my first day as an official Power Ranger." His voice held a small amount of jest in it, but he was being serious.

Victoria hid her face in his chest and pouted. "Don't talk about that. Don't talk about anything outside of this room." She insisted sleepily. "Better yet, don't talk, period."

He laughed yet again and was about to say something to her when the doorchime rang. "Who is it?" he called out casually while Victoria placed a kiss against his jaw, neither one truly startled by the uncalled interruption.

It was who responded that startled them above everything.

"It's me, Ryan...Dana. Can I come in?"

Instantaneously, the couple jumped out of bed. "Go hide!" Ryan hissed towards his lover as she made a beeline towards the nearest closet. He then replied to his sister through the door, "Ummm...give me a second, Dana!"

Quickly, Ryan grabbed for his usual black attire that was draped on a near by chair and hastily put his clothes on. Once he had done that, he raced towards his bed and picked up his nightclothes off the floor, dumping them onto the bed with his crumpled bedsheets. Lastly, he kicked the platter of fruit under his bed before running into the common room to open the door.

Taking in a deep breath, he opened the door and came face to face with his younger sister. "Hey, Dana." He greeted her with a heaving grin. "Was there anything you wanted?"

The blonde girl took in her brother's flushed appearance in confusion. "Are you alright, Ryan?" she questioned in concern.

"Yeah," he answered, reaching around and rubbing his neck. "I just woke up kind of late; Carter's supposed to come and pick me up in a few minutes."

"Oh." Dana nodded slowly in understanding, but was still slightly suspicious. "I just stopped by because I heard some loud noises last night through the wall...you know I sleep in the room next door, right?"

Ryan gnawed furiously on his lower lip. "Oh, yeah! Well, sorry about the noise, but I'm kind of a restless sleeper. Just must've been me yelling in my sleep or something." He lied hastily, grinning nervously. Taking his chance, he quickly spoke, "Well, I'd better finish getting ready. I'll see you later, Dana."

"Right. I'll see you," Dana returned, allowing Ryan to speedily shut the door after her leaving. Sighing heavily, he collapsed against the door.

"You should've told her the truth. I would have loved to see her reaction when she found out just what those noises actually WERE," Victoria teased, stepping out of her hiding place and standing in the doorway between his bedroom and the common room. "You lie a lot better than you used to," she commented, returning to the bedroom and sliding back onto the bed to lie down.

He shrugged, following her in and walking over to where his jacket laid on the floor. "Lying for the good of us is worth it," he replied, picking up the jacket and hanging near by chair. He turned to face her. "Didn't you bring any clothes with you?" he remarked, shaking his head at her pitifully.

Victoria nodded to his surprise. "Sure I did," she answered, poking her arm underneath his bed and coming out rewarded with a knee-high metal boot. "I stuck all of my armor underneath your bed last night." She grinned wickedly and he cocked his brow at her.

Snatching another chair, Ryan flipped it around and sat down on it backwards while he studied his companion pulling on her armor piece by piece. "You know, I don't think I'll ever get tired of watching you do that," he declared.

"Put on my armor?" She glanced up at him skeptically as she tightened her armbands. "Is that supposed to make me want to change sides?"

"I don't know." He shrugged, smirking a bit while he ran his hand through his hair, combing it out decently. "Did it work?"

Victoria rolled her eyes as she pulled her breastplate over her chest and wiggled into it. "Nope." She paused for a moment, thinking while she tugged on her leather pants. "You know, why are we acting so casual about all this? I mean, we're on two different sides that are fighting each other...shouldn't that be a big deal?"

***

Carter walked down the corridor of the Aquabase, headed straight towards the newest ranger's quarters. He was psyched...beyond psyched even. Ryan, who had once been evil and now retained the Titanium Ranger powers, was on their side: The good side. There was no way in Hell that Diabolico and Vypra would stand a chance against the six of them united. He bet Ryan could finish them both off easily.

Approaching Ryan's quarters, the Red Ranger slowed his pace and stopped before the chime. Just as he was about to push it though, he heard an oddly familiar voice radiate from within the quarters. "You know, why are we acting so casual about all this? I mean, we're on two different sides that are fighting each other...shouldn't that be a big deal?"

He nearly fell to the floor. What was Ryan doing with a girl in his quarters at this hour? Carter KNEW it wasn't Kelsey or Dana; he would've recognized their voices on the spot. He decided on not ringing the chime and simply eavesdropping for a moment; it was invading Ryan's privacy, but he figured it was better off than barging into the room itself.

Leaning in towards the door to listen in better, he suddenly noted that the door had been left slightly ajar. Moving his eyes over to the crack, he got a pretty good view of the entire room. When he spotted Ryan and his mysterious companion through the doorway of the bedroom, Carter's blood began to boil furiously. "Vypra." He whispered harshly to himself.

He could see her standing before Ryan, pulling her gloves on, while he sat down on a chair shaking his head. "It IS a big deal, Victoria," the blond man replied her question, shaking his head. "I was just kinda hoping we could forget about it for awhile. Like you said, don't talk about anything outside of this room?"

Carter arched his eyebrow in confusion. Who the hell was Victoria? And why was Ryan talking to Vypra in the first place?

"Alright." Vypra prodded on, crouching down beside Ryan and beginning to unzip his shirt.

Ryan eyed her oddly and chuckled. "What are you doing?"

"This," she insisted, peeling Ryan's shirt off of his back and leading him towards the closet.

Carter's eyes went wide at the sight of the rather large cobra tattoo sitting at the bottom of Ryan's back, but remained still and silent in his spot.

Vypra opened the closet door and turned Ryan around, forcing him look at his back's reflection in the mirror attached to the inside of the door. "Ryan, this is one of the reasons we've got to think serious about all of this. You've got a lethal tattoo on your back!" she cried out hysterically.

A lethal tattoo?!?! The warning bells in Carter's head were going off crazily now.

"Weren't you always the calm and rational one of both of us?" Ryan arched his eyebrow, while shrugging his shirt back over his shoulders. He spun around and faced her, his hand sliding up her collarbone to rest on the inside of her neck. "Of course, I'm still thinking about the tattoo; I know it's there. But what can I do about it? Diabolico isn't going to stop me from fighting him with it...even if it is lethal. I have a debt to society - to myself - to pay before I let Diabolico get to me."

Vypra slammed the closet door viciously, the breaking of the mirror on the inside of the door muffled slightly. She glared at him in frustration for a moment, before her gaze gradually softened and her brown eyes became sympathetic. "Did you ever think, Ryan, that Father just might send me out to battle you? One on one?" Carter saw Ryan's loose and casual stance immediately stiffen at her line of questioning, his hand falling from her neck. "He knows how we both fight and he knows we're relentless. He's stopped us from killing each other before, but now...we both know he won't." Her voice was cold and harsh, forcing him to face the truth.

She waited a few moments for a response of some kind from him and when he didn't give her any kind, the woman shook her head softly at the man before her and faded into a bluish light.

Ryan only dared to move after she left, edging his way over to the sofa in the common room and plopping down on it, a long and deep sigh leaving his lips. For awhile, Carter watched as the younger blond man stared at the ceiling. After some time, he threw his hands over his face and bent forward to lean his elbows on his knees, letting out a shuddered gasp for air.

Standing up from his crouched position, Carter pressed the doorchime, finally alerting Ryan of his presence outside his quarters. As he waited for a reply to the ring, the Red Ranger could hear Ryan's hastiness in trying to recompose himself; the sounds of the Titanium Ranger's deep breaths not escaping his ears. "Come in," he acknowledged eventually, allowing the door to open and Carter to enter the room.

"Are you okay?" were the first words to slip out of the older man's mouth. "I mean, it took you a long time to open the door."

Ryan looked up into Carter's concerned face from his place on the sofa and forced himself to smile widely. "Oh yeah," he replied cheerfully, running a hand through his hair. "I was just thinking back on how glad I'm finally away from Diabolico. Freedom! It's good to have in heavy doses."

"And Vypra?" Carter pushed. He had to push, even when he saw Ryan's face pale drastically at the mention of the demon. Something was going on...and he had to know; he deserved to know as leader of the Power Rangers.

He glanced away from Carter, and then faced him once more; the emotions passing rapidly across Ryan's features completely indiscernible until they stopped at something near neutrality. "What about Vypra?" he queried, his voice laced with feigned bafflement.

Carter walked around the room for a minute before he answered Ryan's question. "When I came over, your door was open." He had stopped in front of the coffee table before Ryan and stared intently at the other man. "I heard and SAW you talking with Vypra. I saw the cobra tattoo." The younger man's bewilderment washed away, revealing a mix between horror and surprise. "So don't lie to me, Ryan. What was she doing in here?"

"She was..." Ryan's confession was cut-off by the blaring sound of the emergency alarm going off. He quickly sighed in utter relief.

Carter held his ground, torn between wanting to hear what Ryan had to say about his precarious situation with Vypra and rushing down to Operations to find out just what monster was going on attack. He finally ended up choosing which avenue to pursue and ran out of the quarters towards Operations, Ryan hot on his tail.

***

Victoria walked through the busy Lightspeed Plaza, her battlings following her as she unenthusiastically blasted aimlessly at people and structures. "They named a plaza after them." She sighed, letting loose a few red energy sparks at a nearby tree. "I wonder if Ryan knows that..."

She continued to march under the orders of her father to draw the Power Rangers out and warm them up for battle against his three "dependable" monsters. Right when she had returned from her supposedly unsuccessful attempt at luring Ryan back to the side of evil, Diabolico directly commanded her to go battle Ryan and destroy him.

A sad smirk grew upon her mouth, for she had seen it coming a mile away and she had told Ryan. His silent response was all that she had needed to know that he knew she was right. And Father did her the great pleasure of placing her thoughts into action within minutes...she couldn't disobey him; her mind simply wasn't programmed to.

The sound of soft-soled boots against pavement quickly filled her hearing, and she brought her sword in front of the battlings, causing them to stop in their march when she did. Victoria waited until the rangers were a good thirty feet away, still running at her group with full speed and then she unleashed her warriors on them, forgetting the usual banter that took place. "ATTACK!"

Ryan was shaken to the core of himself when he heard the simple word fall from her lips in a forceful, yet almost mournful, cry. His feet instantly stopped, holding him in his place as the other five rangers ran past him to intercept the battlings. Pulling out his Titanium Blaster, he held it loosely in his hand preparing for the do-or-die battle to come between him and his lover. Why did it have to be so soon?!

Victoria weaved her way through the onslaught of Power Rangers and battlings, taking a cheap shot at a ranger when she could spare a second or find an opening. She tried vainly to slow herself down, buying herself time before her confrontation with him. But doing that was like trying to slow down the inevitable; if didn't happen in that battle, it would happen in the next to follow.

Ryan seized breathing when he saw her appear out of the jumbled mess of forms. She was his personal goddess, and yet at the same time she was his death. A petite woman of powerful force, she knew his every movement, his every strength and his every weakness. How could he possibly stand up to her? How could he possibly gather the nerve to bring his weapon upon her...his enemy, his love, and his life?

Victoria blinked furiously as she stood mere feet away from the Titanium Ranger that was staring at her. She couldn't see the Titanium Ranger though. All she could see was him, holding his Titanium Blaster - no, his axe - by his side while his piercing green eyes captured her gaze and his spiky blond hair rustled in the cool breeze. She had the ability to kill him where he rested. She was supposed to kill him where he rested. But it was hard, oh so hard, to do when all she could see was the handsome face of the man she loved and not the cold, faceless helmet of the Titanium Ranger.

Ryan refused to make the first move, insisting on holding his ground.

Victoria refused to make the first move...but gave in, realizing that defying her father would result in death, and dying at her lover's hands sounded so much more honorable and comforting. She threw her sword aside, letting it clang mercilessly against the pavement and ran at him with all the might she possessed in her little frame.

***

Captain Mitchell watched the monitor before him in wide-eyed amazement as he witnessed Vypra relinquishing her weapon and simply charging Ryan. "What is Vypra doing?" He turned to look at Miss Fairweather, who was toting a small smile. "Is she crazy?!"

"No," the brunette scientist replied, her mind rapidly putting two and two together, using the revelations of the last few days to fuel her thoughts. "She's human."

***

Shocked beyond belief, Ryan stood frozen in his spot as Victoria barreled into him head on, causing them both to fall to the ground. His visor popped up automatically and he found himself face to face with her, the absolute desperation of her situation flashing in her eyes. "Fight me," she whispered hoarsely, nearly in tears. "God, RYAN! PLEASE! Just fight me!"

He swallowed guiltily as he stared into her face welled with fright. Fright he knew she wanted to be rid of, but that could never be...for the fright stemmed from Diabolico and bloomed into Ryan. She was frightened to kill him...so she was offering herself to him on a platter. She wanted him to kill her instead.

His gaze turned to stare at his Titanium Blaster, which had been thrown from his hands in the melee of her attack. She sat on top of his chest forcefully, effectively restraining him, even though he wouldn't have moved if she hadn't been there. No, he refused to take the dish she was serving him on the platter; he would not take Victoria's life, even if she begged him to. There was something better than that for her and he would eventually find it.

"RYAN!!!" Dana's voice seemed small and far away as he flicked his visor downwards again and sat up partially...as much as Victoria would allow him. "FIGHT HER!"

"No..." he vocalized softly, reaching out to dab away his companion's tears that were about to breech her soft brown eyes. "I won't kill you...you've got to fight me, Victoria. Fight me with all you've got; let's make Diabolico proud." He spat the last line viciously in jest, but fully meaning every word of it. Ryan wanted her to battle him...battle him like they used to as children, intensely training and simply obeying their father's orders - at that time in their lives, they were the most primal; never gave a single thought to love or each other, just the need to win and please.

For a moment, Victoria's face contorted into confusion at his words, but realization dawned on her and she quickly flashed him the smallest of smiles. Rising to stand up from his chest, she clawed her bright red nails down his uniform-clad chest lightly. She opened her mouth to reply to his suggestion - more like command - and was about to, but instead let out a shrill cry as red laser fire suddenly exploded upon her lower bare back and she fell forward once more.

Startled, Ryan caught her in his arms before she could tumble face first into the asphalt and gritted his teeth in anguish, staring at Carter standing a good ten feet away with his laser pistol still out in shooting position. "Why'd you do that?!?!" He screamed, the words somehow dislodging from his throat. He didn't let his gaze linger long on Carter and returned it to the small woman collapsed against his body.

"What do you mean?!" Carter shouted back, utterly puzzled by Ryan's actions. The other four remaining Lightspeed Rangers grouped behind him, backing the Red Ranger up. "Vypra was attacking you! She was gonna DESTROY you!"

Ryan took little heed to Carter's words, ignoring him completely and demorphing himself with a willed thought. "Ryan!" Joel barked out angrily at him, all of them too shocked to move forward. "What the hell are you doing?!?"

He shook his head of their voices and let them drown into the background and focused on Victoria, and only her. He kneeled down to the ground, cradling her limp body tightly against his chest. Holding onto her, his shut his tear-ridden green eyes and buried his face into her hair, hoping she would survive the brutal assault his teammate had laid upon her. It wasn't even honorable; she had her defenses down, and he took a nasty and cheap shot. That wasn't the way they were taught to fight; they were to uphold the honor code of battle, not back-stab each other at any chance they could get.

"Survive, Victoria," he murmured into her ear quietly, passionately. "Just survive and I'll make everything alright. We'll be fine together, we'll be free together...you and me..."

Ryan found himself so involved with Victoria he didn't hear the sounds of his friends yelling at him, warning him of the danger that had appeared behind him. It wasn't until he felt a familiar clawed hand rest on his shoulder that he lifted his head to see his tall shadow cast on the ground.

"Diabolico," he rasped, choking back the sob that wanted to rip through his body. The blond man arched his head to look up into the monster's eyes, not with anger, but with concern. "You have to heal Victoria. You're her father, you have to," he insisted, his brain completely on overload as it tried absorbing the meaning of the words he had just uttered. Hadn't he wanted to separate himself from Diabolico? To fight him until he was destroyed? Then what was he doing there, on his knees and begging his former guardian to save Victoria's life...his life?

Ryan continued to stare at Diabolico when he caught a glint in the monster's eye. It was the glint he knew so well after years of living with him: it was a signal that he had yet again made another dent in Diabolico's emotional armor that he continually denied to having; the monster would relent to his pleading. "Stand up." He growled lowly, gripping Ryan's shoulder tightly with his claws.

The young man obeyed the order immediately, standing up while holding Victoria in his arms. "RYAN!" His eyes snapped up to see Dana running towards him, apparently trying to "protect" him. "Get out of there!"

Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan saw Diabolico raise his hand and prepare to fire at Dana. "Don't," he quietly spoke. "I'll stop her."

The towering demon hesitated momentarily, but then dropped his hand at the request.

"Dana, stop," Ryan called out to his sister, causing the Pink Ranger to slow down and lift her visor. Her pretty blue eyes were clouded with fear and confusion. "I'm fine," he paused, shooting a nasty glare at the other rangers including Dana, "but Victoria isn't."

At that instant, Diabolico's clawed hand crept over the man's shoulder and pressed against Victoria's head. He began to stroke at the young enchantress' cheek as a flow of blue light began to emit from where he made contact with her, encompassing her entire body in an almost heavenly blue glow.

The five rangers simply gawked in amazement at the show, not knowing what else they could possibly do. Diabolico wasn't trying to kill Ryan and neither was Vypra for that matter...so they just stood there and watched.

Victoria began to stir awake in Ryan's arms and Diabolico pulled his hand away from her head. Before stepping away from the two lovers, he calmly told Ryan, "You are lucky to have the approval of both sides in this war, but it doesn't mean you are completely safe from it all."

"Ryan?" Victoria's questioning voice caused Ryan to tear his startled gaze away from Diabolico - who had moved aside - obviously waiting for his "daughter" to return to him.

"Hmmm?"

"Let me down; your little ranger friends are staring."

"Oh." Ryan quickly lowered her to the ground, allowing her to retrieve her sword from where she had thrown it.

She then returned to him, sliding her sword into its sheath on her belt. "You begged Father for my life?" She broke the awkward silence between them.

"Yes."

"You are in his favor again, it seems."

"I don't think I ever lost his favor, to tell you the truth. But I respect him more for it now that I know I still am in his favor."

"This was an interesting first battle, huh?"

"It wasn't a battle; it was something Diabolico set up for us. He wanted to gauge our reactions."

Victoria looked at her father in the background curiously, studying him for a second before returning her gaze to Ryan. "Perhaps Father meant it to be more than that."

"What more could he want?"

"For me to tell you a secret I've been hiding from you. A secret Father insisted I kept until he allowed me to tell you."

Ryan's eyes widened slightly at the new discovery. "And you think he wants you to tell me it now?" He continued to keep his tone somewhat casual sounding.

"Yes."

He blinked, waiting for her to speak up. "Well, are you going to tell me or should I just go back to the other rangers and try to explain what the hell just took place between us?"

Victoria fidgeted, and Ryan blinked yet again. He had never seen her fidget in his entire life with her. "I am carrying your child, Ryan. I will see you tonight; good-bye." Before even letting her words sink in she reached up and kissed his cheek, walking past him towards where Diabolico waited.

Ryan rewound her words in his mind and replayed them mentally, trying to affirm that he heard exactly what she had said. Victoria was carrying his child...okay. He obviously knew how it had happened...okay. So why the hell did it feel so surprising to him?!

He spun around, his eyes catching Victoria as she strode over to her father. "How long have you known?!" he cried suddenly, the urge to know swelling deeply within him.

Without even turning around, she held up two fingers for him to see and he assumed she meant two months. Two whole months she had kept it a secret from him and he had been dense Ryan, not noticing any change in her at all.

Was she even supposed to change? He sighed inwardly, watching Diabolico and Victoria fade away into their usual lights. Diabolico had been quite thorough with his explanation of sexual intercourse to them, but the aftermath of it...well, he never really had bothered with explaining too much about that.

He continued to stand in the same spot, musing on what Victoria had just revealed to him. He had a child with Victoria...a new life that they had created out of their rabid love-making sessions in Skull Cavern. How the hell was he going to explain this all to his dad?!

To be continued...

Part Four

"Okay," Captain Mitchell declared twenty minutes later, shutting the doors to the conference room behind him as the six Power Rangers and Miss Fairweather filed in, "now that we're finally here, in private, care to clue us in on what happened out there, Ryan?" He gave his son a strong look of bewilderment.

Ryan found he couldn't meet the gaze of his dad, and ducked his head to glance at the cold gray floor.

"Yeah," Carter piped up, propping himself sturdily against the side of the large conference table in the middle of the room. "You never told me what Vypra was doing in your room earlier."

"Vypra was in your room?!" Dana cried in surprise, her blue eyes wide.

"This is just getting too weird for my taste..." Joel muttered, taking a seat at the table and placing his hat down.

A long, unnerving silence passed as the seven of them waited for Ryan's answers to their questions, but he didn't speak up. How could he? He was still reeling himself from the shock of the actual fact that he was going to be a father!

But as he thought it over, it did make some sense. It explained her weight gain and perhaps even her moodiness over the last few weeks that he noticed but always seemed to dismiss. Ryan continued to ponder, avoiding the confrontation of questions until Miss Fairweather finally spoke up.

"Ryan," she paused, as he glanced up at her, "maybe you could start answering everyone's questions by explaining how Vypra is human."

His jaw nearly dropped to the floor. How did she know?! Victoria's demon-persona of Vypra was made so that everyone would assume she was Diabolico's real blood daughter, at least that's what he had always assumed in his mind. Everyone believing she was a demon hid the real truth behind her powers...and it kept her safe. "How did you know?" he insisted darkly, somewhat upset his lover's cover had been blown.

The rest of the group appeared taken aback by the sudden turn in his attitude. "So she IS human?" Miss Fairweather pressed, not backing down on her curiosity.

Ryan hesitated, lingering on whether to admit it. "Yes, she is," he replied finally. Figuring they would want to know more and would be relentless until they found out the entire truth of his situation, he continued to explain. "That's not her real name either. Her name is Victoria.

"When Diabolico kidnapped me, he took to me to a crypt and left me with her. She had been their a year longer than I had, but she had been brought there the same way I was; her mother gave her to Diabolico by choice." He wasn't so sure if he should be telling them her entire history, but decided to because it would help him explain Victoria's attachment to Diabolico. "Diabolico is the only real parental figure she's had in her life, so she calls him her father; I used to as well."

Ryan spotted the pained look that fell upon his dad's face, but continued before anyone could say anything. "Victoria and I, we grew up together: slept together, ate together, played together...we were never alone. It's what we both were afraid of.

"Diabolico raised us for fourteen years, trained us and molded us. I trained to be his warrior; Victoria trained to be his enchantress. She mastered all ten arts of demonic magic, that's why she's always so strong when you fight her. She uses her protection spells. It's also why she wears all that armor; it's her disguise. To be Vypra, is to be demon and to be demon allows her easier access to the magic."

"That still doesn't why she was in your room this morning," Carter pointed out, trying not to be controlling but not being able to help himself.

Ryan paced the room once, stopping by the window and staring out into the watery depths of the ocean. He knew explaining his relationship with Victoria would be the hardest point of his story because he didn't want to tell them he was madly in love with her. However, he knew it would be the only answer that would satisfy Carter's query.

He faced the group again, all of their eyes intently focused on him. "Victoria and I slept together for thirteen years without one sexual thought about each other. We were just friends and companions, training together and sleeping with one another. That relationship changed around six months ago."

"Aww, man," Joel abruptly groaned, covering his face with his hat as everyone glared over at him. "Do we have to hear about your love life, Ryan?"

"This time, you do," Ryan remarked flippantly. Somewhat irritated by the interruption, he ended up snapping out his next comment with a kind of harsh nonchalance. "You see, Victoria's pregnant; two months pregnant. And she just told me that a half-hour ago."

"WHAT?!"

"Well, that explains the time we saw you at the flea market making out with her," Kelsey coughed quietly, recalling the day and totally veering away from the pregnancy subject.

"You remember that?" Ryan questioned eagerly, happy that someone was choosing to avoid the subject he had brought up.

"Wait a minute," Chad spoke up, interrupting Ryan and Kelsey's talk and steering them back to the uncomfortable and shocking subject. He was on his feet, leaning forward on the table towards the blond man. "So you mean, neither one of you used protection?"

Ryan shoved a trembling hand through his hair and rolled his eyes at Chad's question, which he thought was utterly stupid. At that moment, to him EVERYTHING seemed utterly stupid except his dad's reaction that he hadn't seen yet because Captain Mitchell had his back turned to Ryan completely. "What do you think, Chad?" he scoffed, trying to get his nervous trembling under control. He had never trembled before, except for when he was with Victoria in bed and they were...he stopped himself before he started thinking of that again. "It's not like Diabolico was handing out condoms or something!"

"Well, ain't that great?" Joel remarked with a sarcastic sigh. "You got your girlfriend, who just HAPPENS to be our enemy, pregnant. What do you want us to do? Stop attacking her altogether and let her take over Mariner Bay for Diabolico?"

Ryan groaned angrily, whipping his foot out to viciously kick at the wall. "I don't know why I told you all this," he muttered in regret, his voice slowly rising as he glared heatedly at everyone in the room. "I should've known you would react like this...like she was some kind of manipulative person. I should've never told you all about her...it was better off before!"

"No," Ryan's dad's clear and loud voice cut through the air swiftly, bringing silence with it.

Glancing over at his dad, Ryan arched his eyebrow in confusion. "No?"

"It's better off that you told us, Ryan," Captain Mitchell persisted, taking a few steps towards his son. "Has Diabolico ever told you about a prophecy-"

"The one about the two children raised to become a warrior and enchantress?" the blond man finished for him. "Yeah, Diabolico told us all about that right before we came to Mariner Bay, just about the same time he gave Victoria her Vypra armor."

"Did he tell you the entire prophecy?" The older man pressed, resting a hand down on the table next to him while staring directly into his son's eyes. "Did he tell you that the two chosen children - the warrior and the enchantress - were supposed to bear to a child of both worlds: magic and strength? And that their child would overthrow Queen Bansheera's rule and launch Diabolico into power?"

"What!" Ryan cried, completely thrown and stunned. "Diabolico didn't tell me anything about that!"

Captain Mitchell nodded his head, expecting Ryan to have not known that part. "Vypra probably knew when you didn't," he suggested, leveling with his son and telling him what he believed. "She may have manipulated you so that she could have the child for Diabolico...you did say that she looked up to him like her father, right?"

Ryan's head was swimming. Had Victoria known? Did she manipulate him into making love to her so that she could help Diabolico? "No," he declared quite strongly, glancing around the room once more and suddenly feeling incredibly claustrophobic. "She couldn't have; she wouldn't have lied to me...even for Diabolico..."

The need to get out of the conference room became even more intense and he suddenly burst, pushing through the group of people to run out the door and down the hallway.

Watching her brother become completely frantic, Dana tried to follow him out the room, but Captain Mitchell stopped her. "Dana," she turned to look at her father, her eyes welling with worry for her older brother, "leave him alone. He needs some time to absorb it all."

***

Diabolico and Victoria stood alone in the gathering room of Skull Cavern on opposite sides in complete silence. Many hours had passed sionce they returned from Mariner Bay, but they continued to simply stare at one another in silence, waiting for the other to speak first.

Victoria eventually gave in, sitting down against a pillar and playing with the folds in the billowy skirt of her emerald green sundress that she had changed into out of her armor. "You didn't attack, Ryan," she stated, being terribly blunt to start the conversation that had to take place between them both before they could move on with their lives.

"You told him you are having his child," Diabolico shot right back, standing a few feet away from where Impus slept on his own pillar.

"I assumed it was what you wanted me to do, Father," she replied, arching her brow while her brown eyes shifted slightly from him. "It WAS what you wanted, correct?"

"Ryan deserved to know," the demon remarked meaningfully. "Even if he doesn't know of the prophecy surrounding the child."

Victoria gasped, her face taking on a frazzled look of horror. "What do you mean, Father? You didn't tell him?!"

"Never."

She lifted herself from the ground and began to wander the room in a dazed fashion. Biting her lip furiously, she touched a pillar tentatively and snapped her head around to look Diabolico's way once more. "But, he said you told him the entire prophecy?! He told me before we...before we had sex the first time; he said he knew everything!" Her voice was frantic, trying to understand what had happened.

"Perhaps he believed he knew everything," Diabolico responded, sounding somewhat cryptic in his answering.

"I have to go tell him everything," she declared out loud to herself. Before she moved to leave though, she swiveled on her father. "First, tell me why you spared Ryan's life?"

"It would be a waste to destroy such a warrior as he." He folded his arms across his chest, tapping his claw absently as if he were trying to kill time.

"If that is so, then why did you give him the cobra?"

"I had to take my vengeance somehow."

"He is still in your favor, even though he betrayed you?"

"I raised Ryan and you in my image." Diabolico walked over to where Victoria held her ground steadily, and cupped his surrogate daughter's cheek with his large hand. "I expected you to leave me, to betray me, to lie to me and to disobey me eventually. It is only human...and that is what you both truly are, no matter how I may wish it.

"You, my dear Victoria, are human. Yes, your thinking is of my child - of a demon - but you are human no matter. I have come to accept that, and I respect that of both you and Ryan."

The petite woman gazed up into her father's face, the fury dissipating from her own eyes. What was he saying? What was he trying to imply? "Are you...letting me go?" She stammered, totally thrown by his words. "I thought you wanted me to stay."

"You can only stay where you feel you belong."

Victoria bowed her head quietly, understanding the full extent of his words.

***

Ryan sat subdued on the sofa within his quarters, his iridescent green eyes staring blankly down at the floor.

Shards of broken glass littered the room, reminders of Ryan's fury. When he had stormed out of the conference room, he returned to his own private sanctuary within the Aquabase and began throwing things in his fit of frustration.

At first, it had been little and light things - like pillows - but when the pillows ran out, he advanced to the glass cups and pitcher filled with water resting on the table; in the middle of the common room was a puddle of standing water. When the glasses ran out, he turned to the chairs until his flame of anger suddenly burned out.

So there he sat, cradling his glass cut hand to his chest, letting all his confusing emotions engulf him and swallow him whole. Pain, regret, loneliness...they were all there, churning within him and he couldn't do anything about it. Fact was, he didn't know WHAT do to about it.

Ryan didn't even react when a knock came to his door and Kelsey's voice wavered into his hearing. "Ryan, open up. It's me, Kelsey. I just wanna talk to you."

Kelsey's knocking persisted when Ryan didn't answer - and after awhile of waiting - the Yellow Ranger simply forced her way into his quarters by opening the door herself. "Ryan, are you alright?" She instantly shut her mouth when she glanced around, surveying the damage he had ravaged upon the room. "Ohmigod! Ryan, what happened here?" The brunette rushed up to him, kneeling down before him.

His gaze never wavered, never left the floor, no matter HOW much Kelsey tugged on him or pleaded with him.

"Ryan, TALK TO ME!" she cried insistently. Pulling the arm that he had cradled away from his chest, she gasped at the sight of the angry crimson gash cutting cleanly across his entire turned-up palm.

Finally responding to some kind of stimulus, Ryan raised his eyes to glance at his bleeding hand within Kelsey's grip. "I cut myself," he whispered meekly in a somewhat detached voice, not quite believing what he was seeing.

"Yeah," she agreed, leaving him for once minute to find a towel. Once she found one, Kelsey quickly pressed it down against the cut, trying to stop the blood from oozing. "Here," she took his undamaged hand and moved it so it was holding the towel down on his cut, "hold that and keep it like that for now."

Ryan nodded dazedly as Kelsey slipped her fingers over to her communicator on her morpher and called the other rangers hastily, hoping they'd be able to help her get Ryan out of his trance.

Waiting for the others to arrive, Kelsey watched Ryan intently as his concentration and all his thoughts appeared to be directed towards simply holding down the cloth of his wound. It truly frightened her...just how withdrawn he seemed.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!"

Kelsey was knocked out of her observation of the young man by the familiar yell, and when she snapped her head in the voice's point of origin she was met with a startling surprise.

There, standing in the doorway between Ryan's bedroom and the common room was Vypra...or should she have called her Victoria?

She wasn't dressed in her usual armor, instead she donned an airy dark green sundress, and she carried herself much more lightly that she did when they were in battle. She looked far more human that she had ever before. So perhaps calling her Victoria WAS appropriate.

Victoria's eyes were as wide as saucers while she surveyed the room, and became even wider when she saw the condition of her lover. Without one bit of hesitation, she dashed across the room madly through the mess to Ryan's side.

Easily shoving the brunette aside, Victoria took Ryan's hands into her own. "Ryan, you've gotta take this off towel off your hand," she said; her voice was tender and coaxing, but incredibly shaken at the same time. She eyed the blood-soaked rag in worry.

"Okay," he replied in a child-like manner, removing the towel from his bruised hand.

She looked directly into his eyes before she began to heal him and let out a shuddered breath. They were clouded and completely out of focus; he was in shock.

She let her hand hover over his cut and quickly Victoria forced herself to concentrate her thoughts. To heal Ryan she had to. To SAVE Ryan she had to.

As Victoria began the process of healing Ryan, someone at the door knocked and Kelsey, who had been simply watching the couple, moved to open it, allowing the other rangers and Captain Mitchell to file in. "What is she doing here?!" Joel hissed, sounding somewhat spiteful.

"She just showed up." Kelsey shrugged, just as confused while watching Victoria go to work. "I think she's healing Ryan though."

They continued to watch in silence as the usual blue mist formed from Victoria's hand, eating away at Ryan's cut and healing it shut so that there wasn't even a scar left behind. She then turned her attention to his shirt that was soaked in the blood from when he had held his hand against his chest. Gently unzipping his shirt, she stared at the blood splotch on his chest and easily "thought" away the blood.

From there, her hands slid up to clutch at his head. Victoria shut her brown eyes once more and almost instantly a halo of orange light flared up around her hands placed on either side of Ryan's head. After many long minutes of no movement from either Victoria or Ryan, both of their bodies suddenly shook from a violent tremor and their eyes snapped open at exactly the same time, gazing at one another.

"I have questions," Ryan stated bluntly, his hands moving to absently re-zip his shirt.

"And I have your answers." Victoria pulled her hands away from his head. "That's why I originally came, but when I saw the room and I saw you bleeding..."

"...you got scared." He reached out to brush a stray lock of her pretty bronze hair from her face. "I got angry. I'm sorry."

"Anyone care to explain what's going on here?"

Ryan and Victoria, who had completely forgotten they weren't alone in the room, turned to face Captain Mitchell and the rangers.

Victoria instantly froze up and stood up from where she had been sitting on the floor, trying to leave as quickly as possible. Before she could leave however, Ryan grabbed her arm and stopped her. "Stay, Victoria," he urged her, meeting his leader's harsh gaze, but still talking to his girlfriend. "You didn't do anything wrong."

Listening to him, Victoria took her spot beside Ryan and held her ground. Sure, she hadn't wanted to face all of them at once...but there they were and here she was. She wasn't about to show fear and back away now. "They certainly don't share your sentiment, Ryan," she retorted heatedly, crossing her arms across her chest and almost reverting into her persona of Vypra; just simply lacking the armor.

A bitter feminine chortle came from the back of the group of people confronting the villainess and Dana quickly stepped forward, facing down her brother's supposed lover. Dana was a forgiving person and well, she was pretty open-minded, but she couldn't bring herself to play nice with Victoria. Not after she knew that the woman had most likely USED her brother like an inanimate tool. "You LIED to Ryan and forced him to have sex with you so you could give Diabolico a child," she spat hideously, her voice laced with acid. "Of COURSE we're not going to see you like the innocent that you may claim to be!"

"Dana-" Ryan was cut off by Victoria as she placed a calming hand on his arm, slowing his building rage.

"No...let her yell at me; I deserve it." She shrugged, leaving Ryan's side and pacing before her "jury". She realized she had to let Vypra go for awhile, that it was about time Victoria took responsibility for her alter-ego's actions. Vypra had created a reputation of true and forceful evil for Victoria, and now she needed to clear her name. "Even if there is no truth behind your words, Pink Ranger, you should all be allowed to take one shot at me. However, before you do, let met just tell you a few things.

"When I first met Ryan he was scared and frightened. He wanted his father and his sister, his family." She paused to direct a light glance at Captain Mitchell and Dana, then returned to her monologue and pacing. "I knew he wouldn't be able to have that; I knew Diabolico, my FATHER, would keep him locked up in the crypt with me until he wanted to let us go. So I gave Ryan solace; I calmed his tears. I TRIED to replace his family the best way that I could by myself, being only but a child. I would always be there by his side, hugging and holding him when he needed it and he did the same for me. Anytime Ryan got injured, I was the one to heal his wounds - life-threatening or otherwise. I've spent the last fourteen years of my life with him as his only family; I know him better than any of you will no matter how hard you may try.

"I know his favorite color is gray. I know that his favorite food is pineapples. I know that he hates chocolate because it's too sweet. I know that he keeps a dagger hidden in his right boot at all times. I know how dreadfully loyal he can be...and I know that he is torn between his loyalty to my father and to his own father. You don't see it, but I can."

"Why would he have any loyalty to Diabolico?" Carter spat at her insinuating words. "Diabolico only kidnapped Ryan and brainwashed him!"

Victoria gritted her teeth, nearly grinding them. They had no right to speak of what they didn't know! "You don't know anything, Red Ranger," she retorted fiercely, snapping her hand out and allowing it to pulse a beauteous crimson before extinguishing it. "You never LIVED with Diabolico...you never experienced the attention or the emotion he fed to us, and ONLY us. We were raised as his children, in his image."

"And that's exactly why you are dangerous, Vypra," Joel finally spoke in an accusing tone, pointing his finger straight at her. "You were raised like Diabolico...we can only expect Diabolico-like thoughts from you."

Ryan, who had remained fairly quiet in the time where his companion had tried defending herself, let out an deeply angered growl from within his throat. "If that's the way you all insist on seeing Victoria, then maybe you should see me the same way too." He reached out to grab the petite woman's small wrist within his hand. "After all, I was raised from the same mold she was!"

Before anyone could protest, the couple was swept away by Victoria's usual aura.

***

"You brought us here; you accessed my magic..."

"Yeah, well...the mental bond was still there from when you entered my mind."

Victoria stood behind Ryan's kneeling form as he stared out into the endless horizon from his perch on the jutting edge of the cliff they now were on. "Aren't you going to ask me any questions?"

"I could."

"Then please do."

Ryan cocked his at her awkwardly, arching up to look her in the face. "Why didn't you tell me about the rest of the prophecy?"

Seeing his uncomfortable position, Victoria bent down and sat beside him, her legs dandling over the edge of the cliff like it was no big deal and there was no big drop below her. "I asked you before we first had sex if you knew the entire prophecy." She spoke rather casually, her brown eyes simply gazing at her swinging feet. "You said, "Uh-huh" and I went with that."

"I would've said that I said I was a COW in that position when you asked me!" Ryan cried, laughing a little while recalling the moment exactly when she proposed the question. "I'd think any guy with half a brain would've said yes to that question if they were in my place, Victoria."

Her pretty head of brown hair instantly shot up at his response and she looked at him with a fairly hurt expression mirrored in her brown eyes. "You were using me then?"

"No!" Ryan registered her obvious interpretation of what he had just said and quickly tried to amend his last comment. "I mean, I wasn't totally conscious of what the hell I was saying when you asked me. I was utterly enamored with YOU...because, well, to me you're like a drug: the best drug this Earth has to offer; a drug that I'm completely happy to be addicted to." He paused, picking up a nearby pebble and tossing it over the cliff with a sigh. "Besides, I THOUGHT I knew the entire prophecy...that is until my dad told me the entire thing."

Victoria's hurt faded into understanding, returning her gaze to her feet. "Father said he was going to let me go," she told after a long silence between the two of them fell again. "I don't know what's wrong with him...I always thought that he WANTED me to stay with him! And I always thought I wanted to stay by his side, but recently, that's all changed..."

Ryan was truly excited by the news that she presented him with, but he certainly didn't express it. He didn't want to startle Victoria, and he didn't want to get his hopes too high up far too fast. He knew Diabolico was capable of lying...even to the woman that he claimed as his surrogate daughter.

Besides, it sounded a little odd to him. Diabolico was acting a little too friendly for Ryan's taste, even after all the years he had spent with the demon. Why would he let Victoria go, when she carried the key to his reign of terror? "Where would you go if he did let you go?"

"Somewhere where I'd be free to make my own choices, and live comfortably." A bright smile swept over her features as Victoria leaned back on her arms and stared up towards the darkening sky, daydreaming. A smile befell his own mouth as he studied her, so content with a mere fantasy; it was hard to imagine she was the same woman who had insisted on bathing him in the rangers' blood when he had killed them. Then again, perhaps all the change that had taken place in last few days had made her blood-thirsty core a little less red. "Where no one knows me, and where I can spend my life with you," she reached over to take his hand into hers, "and our baby."

Ryan's eyes lingered momentarily on her fingers entwined with his before glancing up into her glittering eyes. With his other hand he silently brushed the back of his hand across her cheek and she nuzzled into his caress. Oh yeah...this baby had made them both incredibly sappy. But no matter how corny they both sounded or looked or felt, he didn't mind...so long as Victoria was his always, no matter her state of mind.

And then in the most unexpected move on Victoria's part, her deep brown eyes - which were locked in a loving gaze with Ryan - suddenly rolled up into her head and she collapsed dead away with a shuddering breath.

***

"She took off with him!" Dana cried, staring at the spot in Ryan's quarters from which her brother and his lover disappeared from. "I can't believe this!"

"He's talking irrationally," Carter insisted in frustration, suppressing the urge to grab a tray off the counter and throw it to the floor. "Vypra could be influencing him. It did look like she formed some kind of mental connection with him when she was supposed to be "healing" him." His voice came out harsh and skeptical.

The room fell silent to Carter's words as Joel simply nodded to show his support to the other man. Chad and Kelsey conveniently busied themselves with cleaning up the mess of Ryan's anger, avoiding having to choose sides in the situation.

"He was speaking out of love."

Everyone turned to look at Captain Mitchell standing off to the side, a look of consideration lining his features. "Ryan's right, no matter how much you want to deny it, Rangers. We really have no right to accuse Victoria the way we are doing." He emphasized the usage of Vypra's human name. "Before, I didn't believe him...but after what just happened, I can't help but believe Ryan."

"But we have every reason TO accuse her!" Joel remarked, challenging the older man's statement. "She's tried to destroy us a thousand times!"

Captain Mitchell came right back with the perfect retort. "Ryan tried to kill you all more than once, but you all still accepted him."

"But that's different," Dana protested. "Ryan's changed."

"Who are we to say that Victoria can't change for the better too? She's human like the rest of us...her entire life isn't set in stone. We should at least give her the benefit of the doubt."

Kelsey stood up from where she had been kneeling and picking up glass shards. "The Captain is right." She wasn't surprised when she earned three glares while tossing the glass into the garbage. "When she showed up, Vypra seemed totally sincere; like she truly cared about Ryan. And she didn't even try to attack me. Sure, she did sort of shove me aside, but that's only because she wanted to get to Ryan and heal him."

Carter groaned unpleasantly. "Can't you see?! Don't you see what she's doing?! She's manipulating you and turning us against each other!" Before he was allowed to rant any further, his morpher started blinking and Ryan's frantic voice could be heard.

"Carter? Carter, answer me! I need help!"

The Red Ranger glanced meaningfully around the room at the other five people, the lifted the microphone close to his lips and replied the call. "What's wrong? You alright, Ryan?"

"I can't explain it right now...just bring the hummer and pick me up at Seaside Bluff; HURRY!"

***

Diabolico watched the images play out before him in interest, but more so in guilt.

Ryan kneeled in front of his companion who has abruptly passed out without even a slight warning. His companion being Diabolico's surrogate enchantress daughter that he had forced into unconsciousness with a casting of his magic.

He hated having to hurt her to get his way with her, but it just sometimes was direly necessary; like when he had to toss her into a pillar to help Victoria regain clarity. It had been necessary.

It was necessary for Victoria to be unconscious in order for the Recovery Spell to work. It was necessary for the Recovery Spell to work because it would speed up the progression of his daughter's pregnancy. It was necessary for his daughter's pregnancy to be sped up because he needed her child in his possession soon. And it was necessary to have her child to save his life.

Perhaps he was being somewhat selfish in his intents, but Diabolico couldn't see that he had much of a choice. Either he overthrew Queen Bansheera while he still had a chance or his Star power would be stripped from him and passed down to her sniveling son, Impus. He couldn't, and he wouldn't allow that to happen. So, he had to use Ryan and Victoria as pawns against each other, and he simply couldn't regret that choice now.

***

"You expect us to help HER?!" The vicious words came exploding out of Dana's mouth as she got out of the Lightspeed Rescue hummer and stared at her brother accusingly. "We thought YOU were in trouble...not HER!"

Ryan stood up with Victoria in his arms and glared at his younger sister, resisting the urge to slap some common decency into her on the spot. "Why do you feel the need to be so mean?"

Caught off-guard by the question, Dana solemnly shut her mouth and backed down, allowing Carter to move up and confront Ryan. "Just get her into the back of the hummer," he growled angrily, shifting his gaze away from Victoria's limp body to the vehicle. "We'll take her down to the Aquabase and see if Miss Fairweather can figure out what's going on with her."

Even though Ryan was sure Carter wasn't helping him and Victoria out of the goodness in his heart, he was nonetheless grateful and quickly climbed into the back of the hummer, carrying Victoria.

Dana and Carter climbed back into the vehicle following Ryan, and Carter started up the hummer, driving in back onto the rugged dirt path which lead back to the main highway. "So what happened to her?" Dana questioned, her voice clipped.

Ryan glanced up from staring at Victoria's peaceful face to meet his sister's gaze as she turned around in the passenger's seat. "I'm not sure." Just as those words left his mouth, Victoria's body began to viciously convulse in his arms. Stunned by her sudden movement, Ryan tried to vainly hold her down, cursing loudly. "DAMMIT! Carter, step on it! I think I know what's happening!"

***

"Did you really think I wouldn't notice, Diabolico?"

Diabolico was pulled from his quiet reverie in his quarters by the bodiless voice he knew could only belong to one monster, and one monster alone.

"Notice what, Queen Bansheera?"

"Notice your unfolding plan." Diablico didn't need to turn around to determine that Bansheera's "spirit" floated just above his shoulders behind him. "How you have purposely gotten Vypra pregnant and are now speeding up her birth process. Or did you forget that you DID do these things?"

Diabolico found it futile to deny her accusations because of the rather forceful tone of her voice. There was no other way he'd be able to convince her that it wasn't what it seemed. "I haven't forgotten, my queen." His voice was flat and completely obedient.

He heard her scoff heavily and could just imagine her rolling her eyes. "Interesting how you should address me as your queen...when it is SO terribly obvious you are trying to fulfill the prophecy to overthrow my power."

Diabolico remained uncomfortably silent, not exactly sure of how to respond.

"I should just kill Vypra," she hissed spitefully into Diabolico's ear, causing him to cringe. "I can just imagine how you would react to your dear "daughter's" death; you've always had too much of a heart."

"I wouldn't care."

"Oh, how I beg to differ." Queen Bansheera chuckled, returning to her former train of thought. "But I'd rather not kill her or her unborn child. They both show great potential. So instead, I choose to take away your Star power, Diabolico."

Queen Bansheera spoke with such a calm finality that Diabolico didn't even realize that she had started to drain his Star power until it was too late; the red thread of energy flowed away from him and towards her spirit, allowing her to absorb it. He stood paralyzed by his own shock as the last of his Star power exited the glowing red star upon his chest. "You..." the monster gasped and reached his hands out at Queen Bansheera vainly, collapsing forward onto the stone floor of his chambers.

"I what, Diabolico?" Queen Bansheera's disembodied voice chuckled as her spirit hovered over the former monster's still form. "You shouldn't have betrayed me, Diabolico...look where it got you. You're dead and you've left my son with an ugly mess to clean up." Her voice turned from one of scolding to excitement as a tinge of red flashed through her ghostly blue spirit. "And as soon as I transfer this power of your to my Impus, Diabolico, he will be far more powerful that you as Olymypus; smarter as well."

Queen Bansheera stared long and hard at the empty shell that had once belonged to her most loyal subject and shook her head. "What a waste."

***

Victoria's eyes fluttered open to find herself surrounded by a hazy, disorienting fog of darkness. "Ryan?" she called out, slowly pushing herself off the ground to stand. "RYAN?!"

"Ryan isn't here, but I am."

Victoria shuddered at the voice: slippery, mocking, and most of all, cold. "Who are you?" she asked, shaking off the ominous feeling that had begun to grow within her. Being scared wouldn't get her anywhere. Finding answers to her questions would. "Where am I?"

"You mean, you don't recognize my voice?" The feminine voice held a playful lilt to it.

"Should I?"

A sudden rush of silver light appeared from out of nowhere, cutting through the haziness and brightening the area in front of Victoria. For minute, she couldn't see at all - as she had to allow her eyes to adjust to the sudden flow of light - but when she was finally able to make out the person before her, Victoria nearly collapsed.

"Okaa-sama?"

The tall and leggy woman before her laughed a tinkly laugh and tossed her long jet black hair over her shoulder. "I thought you almost forgot me, Vicki-chan!" She winked at Victoria with her dark - nearly pupil-less - brown eyes.

The shock at the sight of her mother finally wore off and anger began to peel off Victoria in waves. "How DARE you come back!" she screamed fiercely, fending off tears. "How DARE you invade my life after leaving me so long ago!"

"I'm not trying to invade your life, Vicki-chan. I-"

"It's Victoria-san to you, Okaa-sama."

"Fine then." Victoria's mother didn't even bristle at the coldness of her own daughter's voice. "I'm not trying to invade your life Victoria-san," her mother assured, her face becoming quite serious. "I'm trying to look out for you...to spare you the grief I've gone through."

Victoria's eyes bulged. "Grief?!" she cried cynically. "You've gone through GRIEF?!"

Her mother ignored her words and continued on. "Give your baby up to Diabolico, Victoria-san. Don't keep it; he'll be nothing but a burden to you."

"No...I was a burden to you because you never wanted me in the first place," Victoria restated firmly, her fists tightening at her sides. "My son will NEVER be a burden to me; I want him. I LOVE him!"

A silence followed Victoria's passionate declaration where she and her mother simply stared each other down. Victoria felt sick to her stomach at her mother's urges. Deep down Victoria knew that the woman before her was never her mother. She may have given birth to her, but never was she her mother.

Victoria's mother spoke, breaking the silence. "Alright. If you can't make the right decision for yourself, I'll just have to make it for you." She grabbed Victoria by the wrist, jerking her daughter closer as she pressed her hand against Victoria's stomach.

The enchantress - stunned by her mother's actions - tried to squirm out of her mother's grip when she suddenly felt a sharp pain within her stomach. Victoria's eyes darted upwards to gaze directly into the older woman's and she gasped loudly. "You...you're taking him away from me..."

"You left me no other choice," she replied solemnly, her forehead furrowed.

Another stabbing pain overcame Victoria and she screamed.

***

Miss Fairweather shook her head in uncertainty as she looked at Ryan. "There's nothing to explain what's happening to her, other than the fetus is going through an abnormally fast growth. She's already five months into her pregnancy when according to you told me, she should be in her second."

Ryan nodded his head mutely, his eyes glued on Victoria's body as he sat beside her bed. After they had gotten her to the Aquabase, Victoria's spasms had stopped. Ryan brought her down to the Med Bay and Miss Fairweather quickly hooked Victoria up to several machines, analyzing her condition.

Lifting his head momentarily, Ryan looked to his father standing beside Miss Fairweather, then to Miss Fairweather herself. "It's alright. I already know what's wrong." He returned his gaze to Victoria, taking one of her limp hands into his own. "It's called a Recovery Spell, at least that's what Diabolico always told us; it acts as a kind of catalyst.

"I remember when we were younger, Victoria and I both got chicken pox which prevented us from training. Diabolico used the spell on Victoria first, causing her to go through the illness at a faster rate; she went through it in one night. During the spell she was feverish and lucid and would go through spasms. After Victoria went through it, so did I."

"So now you think Diabolico is using the Recovery Spell on Victoria so she'll go through he pregnancy faster?" Captain Mitchell voiced, shaking his head disapprovingly.

Ryan nodded his head to the rather rhetorical question.

"It must be dispelling the baby like a foreign virus or bacteria in body; trying to get rid of it as quickly as possible," Miss Fairweather mused to herself in fascination and disgust.

"We can't stop it either. It has to run its course." Wearily, Ryan rose from his seat to stand. "I'm going to go grab some coffee."

Captain Mitchell watched his distraught son as he pulled the curtain surrounding the bed aside and headed out the door into the corridor. Ryan's father wanted to do something - ANYTHING - to take away Ryan's pain; the same exact pain he has gone through when his own wife has been suffering. Nonetheless, he knew there was nothing he could really do...Ryan had to work through it himself.

***

"Ryan?" Dana cautiously approached her brother, watching him quietly nurse a cup of streaming coffee in the deserted galley.

Ryan's head snapped around instinctively at the sound of her voice and he somewhat relaxed when he identified his sister. "I'm not in the mood to fight with you Dana." His shoulders slumped while he took a moderate gulp of his coffee. "If you're looking for a fight-" She cut him off calmly, almost sheepishly.

"I'm not looking for a fight."

Ryan simply replied her with a period of silence.

Dana uncomfortably walked across the room and pulled out a chair, sitting across from her older brother. Quietly, she sat, staring at her brother's head, bowed and buried in his hands. "What are you here for, Dana?" His voice was crisp and precise, looking to get the conversation over and done with.

His green eyes emerged from hiding to meet her hazel ones tiredly. The Pink Ranger bit on her lip guiltily. "I'm here to apologize to you?" First, she asked permission; the least she could do was ask.

Letting his finger trace the rim of his coffee mug, Ryan's eyes shifted focus and became somewhat distant. "Go ahead." His voice was nearly toneless for the exception of a bit of weariness that he released in the form of a sigh.

Studying him from where she sat across from him, Dana felt that ball of guilt lodge tightly in her throat. How could she have been so cruel when it was so obvious that Ryan was deeply in love with Vypra...Victoria? Why did she become so fiercely mean?

"I was afraid to lose you, Ryan. That's why I was so cold and such a bitch. Yeah, that doesn't justify what I did or said...but I was just so scared- threatened - by Vypra; I mean, Victoria. I could see her connection to you; she is obviously so much closer to you that I am. I wanted to have that same kind of connection to you."

"You were jealous."

"Jealous beyond belief," Dana agreed, continuing on with her apology. "I mean, she got to spend fifteen years of her life with you. Fifteen years that I should've gotten to spend with you! You were, and still are, my brother; I figured it at least was my right."

Dana peered at her brother as he took a long drag from the coffee mug, trying to gauge his reaction. However, she found she couldn't gauge his reaction due to the simple fact that he had his face buried behind the large mug; whether on purpose or by coincidence, she didn't know.

Instead, she returned to her "confession" sketching lines absently on the smooth tabletop with her fingers.

"I thought that it was impossible for you to be so closely bonded to someone that wasn't me. So I deluded myself. I told myself that she had you under some magic spell or whatever that kept you in love with her; a power over you that I didn't have.

"But when I think about it, that power she holds over you is only love...and even so it's a kind of power that you LET her keep over you. So yeah, I'm sorry for being a bitch about this all." She ended abruptly and quite awkwardly, mentally pleading for a response of some sort.

"You're forgiven."

Stunned, Dana blinked and then looked straight at Ryan, eyes wide. He merely stared at her from over the rim of his mug, green eyes forever unwavering. "I'm forgiven?" The Pink Ranger has yet to fully compute the words. "Just like that...I'm FORGIVEN?"

He nodded, carefully placing his coffee cup down and smoothing out his hands against the table. Reaching up to cover his face, Ryan rubbed his forehead, trying to conjure up some semblance of strength from his deep reserves.

"I don't have the strength to argue with you and debate with you, Dana." He moved his hands away from his face and took in his sister's confused face. "I know it's been weird the last few days - and HAS it been weird - having me thrown back into your life after being "dead" for fifteen years, but, DAMN, you gotta understand that it's been weird for me too; weird and incredibly hard!"

Dana shook at the sudden rise of Ryan's voice. "I do!" she insisted fiercely. "That's why it's been so hard to accept everything at face value!"

Ryan blinked tiredly, smiling slightly. "So now you can't even take me forgiving you at face value?"

"I guess so." She shrugged sheepishly.

"I forgive you, that's the full truth," he assured her, reaching out to take her hand into his own. "I get why you were cruel to Victoria, but more of my forgiveness lies in the fact that I don't have the energy to fight you. Victoria's lying unconscious in the Med Bay and I don't know whether she's gonna make it out of the Recovery Spell alive. And then there's the small fact that she's also carrying my kid who has less of a chance making it out of the Recovery Spell than the woman I love. My child might die." Ryan paused, bringing his trembling hand to his mouth and forcing down his emotions momentarily. "This new life that I helped create...I may never get to know him. Listen to him laugh or see him smile, or even see if he looks more like Victoria or me!"

Dana watched her brother as he scoffed at himself. "Listen to me; I sound like rotten pineapples."

"Rotten pineapples?"

"Never mind." Ryan shook his head and pushed himself out of chair, stepping away from the table. For a moment, he just stood there gazing down on his little sister. "My point is, Dana, just give me a damn break. I've already got a nice gigantic burden to carry without all of your bitching."

Ryan headed towards the exit of the galley, but before he could, Dana's voice stopped him yet again.

"Ryan?"

He turned around. "Yeah?"

"I believe you."

"I believe you too."

***

Ryan shoved his anxious hands into his deep pockets, trying to keep them occupied with picking the lint from inside his pockets. Of course, to everyone else, Ryan looked cool and perfectly composed - not the terrified and nervous wreck he felt on the inside.

"Your training is actually coming in handy," he muttered lowly to himself, thinking of Diabolico. "For once."

Channeling all of his emotions into the simplistic action of picking lint allowed Ryan to disguise his weakness. It was already eating him up inside about how he had left himself utterly vulnerable to Dana.

His sister.

Even if she was his sister, Ryan felt like he had somehow betrayed himself by cluing her into his innermost workings. His weaknesses and flaws had been completely exposed; he felt unsafe, the fierce need to be on-guard for a sneak attack.

Walking down the corridor headed to the Med Bay, Ryan forced his thoughts away from his own insecurities. They could wait. Victoria most certainly-

"AHHHHHH! STAY AWAY FROM ME!!"

The piercing voice which echoed down the halls instantly sent Ryan running the rest of the way to the Med Bay. He knew how she screamed. He had heard he many times when she'd wake up from nightmares shaking violently.

Ryan broke into a stride and dashed down the hall until he entered the Med Bay to see the curtain that had been pulled around her bed pushed aside and Miss Fairweather, Carter and Chad pinning Victoria down to the hospital bed. Her eyes were wild and she thrashed madly, her mouth open as if she were screaming, but there was no sound to be heard.

"Victoria!" Ryan quickly ran over to the bed, shoving Carter aside. He took her face into his hands and stroked her sweaty hair away from her forehead, effectively calming her. "Victoria, shhh...Calm down. I'm here, everything's alright."

Victoria's eyes finally stopped darting and she focused on Ryan's face as he tried to comfort her. "She, she, she...she took him away, Ryan!" She screamed in a hoarse manner, panic flushing her features.

Confused, Ryan continued to question her in efforts to keep her calm while watching Miss Fairweather run scans on Victoria out of the corner of his eyes. "Who, Victoria? Who took him away? Who's he?"

Before Victoria even had a chance to answer, her face contorted into a tight mask of pain as she gritted her teeth and squeezed her blood-shot eyes shut. "Victoria?" Ryan pleaded once more, fear rising in his throat.

"Ryan," Miss Fairweather's voice brought him out of his worried trance, "Victoria's gone into labor. It seems she's having contractions and that they've been happening about four minutes apart since she's been awake.

"I don't think I'll be able to get Doctor Guerin here in time, so we'll have to do this on our own. I need Dana down here for help."

Chad, who was sitting in the corner of the room with Carter after being pushed out of the way, quickly volunteered. "I'll go get her."

For many moments after Chad left, a hushed silence took over the Med Bay, only to be interrupted by Ryan whispering softly and encouragingly to Victoria. Miss Fairweather was prepping for the baby's birth and Carter stood silently in the corner, unsure of what to do.

Out of nowhere, Ryan snapped his head and glared at Carter. "You can leave now."

It was within that very moment of clipped coldness that Carter finally accepted Ryan's disdain of his hate towards Victoria and simply respected his teammate's wishes, exiting the Med Bay.

***

Ryan woke up seven hours later to the smooth feel of fingertips running through his hair and tickling the sensitive skin of his scalp. "Mmmmm..." He moaned into his arm pillow, slowly blinking his eyes open to see the pristine hospital blue sheets of Victoria's gurney where he had laid his head down to sleep two hours prior.

"I know you're awake," Victoria taunted him with her sing-song tone, fingers slipping away from his hair and down the back of his neck to play with his silver chain. "So wake up."

He grunted into his arms playfully and lifted his head up to look at Victoria at last. "Aren't we demanding?"

"I can be when I want to," she answered with a grin.

"I know," he agreed, grinning back. A solemn look took over his features moments later and Ryan leaned forward, pressing a gentle kiss to Victoria's lips. "God, I love you," he whispered, gazing deeply into the brown pools of her eyes. "Don't ever leave me."

Victoria slipped her hand around his neck and pulled him to her so that their lips were nearly touching. "Only if you never leave me," she promised, whispering the word against his mouth before claiming his lips with her own.

Ryan moaned against Victoria and crawled halfway onto the gurney to sit beside her, his hands cupping her face. Victoria's hands rested on the collar of his shirt, keeping him as close to her as possible.

They remained glued to one another until they heard someone cough from behind them. Quickly peeling apart, they both looked towards the doorway to see Dana holding a little cooing blanket bundle in her arms. "I thought you might want to see your son," she smiled widely, making her way over to Victoria's bedside.

Instinctively, Victoria reached out to take her son from Dana's arms and cradled him close to her body protectively. She smiled peacefully as he cooed up at her incoherently, reaching up with his small chubby hands to touch his mother's face.

Watching his beautiful companion lean forward to lay a delicate kiss to the crown of their son's head, Ryan glanced up at his little sister who was rather misty-eyed and smiled reassuringly at her. "Thank you," he mouthed silently to her and she nodded her head in acknowledgement.

Dana left the room to leave Victoria and Ryan alone with their son, and Ryan stared in awe at the new life he helped to create in his girlfriend's arms. "He's beautiful...amazing. What should we name him?"

Victoria's eyes glazed over momentarily as she remembered something and spoke softly. "My mother used to tell me stories about my father when I was young." She looked at Ryan and held his gaze. "She met him when he was on leave from the Navy; he was American. He had dark hair and dark eyes. He died before I was born; I never found out how. The only thing I did know was that his name was Evan; never did find out what his last name was..."

Her eyes had taken on a haunted look and Ryan reached out to stroke his girlfriend's cheek in comfort. "Evan it is then," he voiced with a small grin, brushing some of Victoria's hair from her face.

"Are you staying here?"

"Hmmm?" Victoria glanced up from her beautiful newborn child to face her lover; his question had surprised her.

"Are you staying here or are you going back to Skull Cavern?"

The blissful look that had been upon her face dissipated and her usual calm, yet concerned look returned. "I don't know," she murmured softly. "Father...well, he told me to leave, but I don't know if I CAN leave him."

Ryan nodded his head understandingly. As much as he was skeptical and wary of Diabolico, he realized how much Victoria relied on him emotionally. "Stay here tonight and think about it, alright?" Ryan suggested, hoping one night could convince her to stay longer.

Victoria nodded and turned her gaze away from Ryan back to Evan. Instants later, she lifted her head up to distractedly stare into nothingness. "You know, I could never take him away from you," she blurted out as her son began to fall into a tender sleep in her arms.

Blinking, Ryan tried to appear caught off-guard by her statement, but in all truth he wasn't. Victoria has been thinking about the same thing he had: the prophecy.

"I know you wouldn't."

***

"How should we go about doing this? Suppposed suicide or simply kill her in cold blood?"

"What makes you think she will return here?"

"She will return. She owes too much to Diabolico; she's indebted to him. And then when she does return, she'll find her dear father dead and my son the new champion."

Olymipus bowed slightly at his mother's praise. "Thank you."

"No need to thank me." Queen Bansheera grinned to herself. "With Diabolico out of the way, nothing can stop me - not even Vypra's child..."

***

"Okaa-sama?"

"Victoria-san."

"Why are you here?"

"I'm here for you."

"And how does your being here help me?"

"I'm trying to help you see the light...trying to get you to realize that you and your son belong with Diabolico."

"NO! We belong with Ryan!"

"Are you sure? Is a place filled with hatred for you and your son really a place you want to live?"

"What do you mean, "hatred"?"

"My dear Victoria-san, please don't tell me you were so naïve to believe that you would live happily ever after just because you have your little boy toy by your side. The rangers despise you; you will never belong there."

"I do belong here - with Ryan!"

"Poor delusional child. Even after a life filled with broken dreams, she still hangs onto her last one desperately."

"IT'S NOT A DREAM!"

"You belong with Diabolico - your father-"

"I BELONG HERE!"

***

Victoria woke up with a start from her nightmare, sweat beading down her brow. Pushing her sticky hair out of her face, she slowly sat up in the bed she was sharing with Ryan in his quarters.

It had been a week since she left Diabolico and given birth to Evan. Marnier Bay remained quiet on the demon front and Victoria couldn't help but wonder if it was out of her father's respect for her. Ryan still had his cobra tattoo and Victoria thanked whatever higher power there was for the lack in attacks.

Sitting up in the darkness, she looked to the corner to corner to watch her son peacefully sleeping in a cradle that had been brought in just for him. Victoria found herself becoming accustomed to motherhood and was enjoying it; her life felt full and filled with so much more meaning than it had been before. Of course the downside of it all was that she hadn't left the bed for the past week because she was still recovering from the aftereffects of the Recovery Spell.

Including her nightmares of her mother she hadn't told anyone about.

Ryan was a heavy sleeper so he never was awakened by her cries, and she couldn't even fathom how Even slept through them; but he did, and Victoria was grateful for that. She didn't want anyone to know that she had dreams of her mother telling her that she didn't belong with Ryan; that he was good and she was bad. No one could know because, in all truth, Victoria believed the dreams were right.

She sighed heavily with a slight shudder as she pushed her legs over the side of the bed to stand. Slowly and carefully, she stood up and took a few cautious steps, trying out her feet for the first time in awhile. Once she was sure she would be able to walk, she grabbed Ryan's gray robe and threw it on over the pajamas she had borrowed from Dana.

Victoria headed out of the quarters and wobbled down the barely lit corridors in her bare feet until she reached her destination.

The galley.

"Leave it to me to have a passion for food," she scoffed to herself, tucking her hands into the overly large pockets of the robe she donned.

The room wasn't lit very brightly and Victoria nearly ran into the main counter. She lifted herself onto one of the stools, clasping her hands in front of her on the cold metallic surface before her.

For a long time she just sat there staring into the darkness until a peculiar shadowed object sitting in the fruit basket caught her attention. Reaching out, she ran her fingers over the rough surface of the fruit. Intrigued, Victoria lifted it into her hands and held it to her nose, sniffing deeply.

"Pineapples." She sighed softly, a gentle smile peeling across her face.

Her face immediately took on a frown when she realized that the fruit she was holding was hard and painful. She couldn't quite understand: how could something so yummy and sweet be so hard at the same time? Why was there something so hard blocking her from what she really wanted?

Victoria sat cradling the pineapple in her hand for many moments, solemn tears trickling down her cheeks as the realization of her situation wash over her in tremendous waves.

***

Ryan rose from his slumber at the waking cries of his son. Moaning, he stretched his arm out to pull his girlfriend into his embrace so that he could greet her good morning before attending to their son. However, as he reached out he found Victoria's spot in the bed to be empty and cold.

Evan's wailing continued and Ryan clambered out of the bed over to the cradle. Leaning over it, he gently lifted his son up into his arms, effectively calming the baby. "You were just looking for some attention, weren't you?" he chuckled, watching Evan yawn quietly and snuggle into his father's arms.

Ryan paced up and down the room for a few minutes, waiting for the baby to fall asleep before placing him back down in his cradle. "Now, where is your mom?" Ryan rhetorically asked in a whisper as he pulled Evan's blanket gently over his tiny body.

Crossing the room, he picked up his gray rode and put it aside before sitting down in the chair, anxiously awaiting Victoria's return from wherever she had gone.

***

Victoria walked aimlessly around downtown Marnier Bay, swishing her hands absently through the long green skirt of her sundress - the only other piece of real clothing she had besides her borrowed pajamas.

Eventually, she stopped in front of a small little corner shop - the sign above it declaring it as "Charlie's Donuts" - and stared at it for a moment. Ryan and her used to frequent the donut shop when they first came to Mariner Bay and discovered the wondrous world of baked sweets; Victoria hasn't been there in the last two months.

When she pushed open the glass door to enter the shop, the bells hanging on the inside of the door jingled, alerting the empty room to her presence.

Everything was still the same as she remembered it. There were booths lining one side of the shop, while the display of all the freshly baked donuts took up the other side. In the middle of each booth there was a powdered sugar shaker. Littered all along the wall beside the booths were carious pictures of some of Charlie's favorite customers; Ryan and Victoria had a picture just a little to the left of the third booth.

"VICKI!"

Victoria turned to see a man in his late fifties come out from the back kitchen behind the main counter. Wiping his hands quickly on the apron he wore, he came out from behind the counter to approach Victoria. "My pretty pineapple princess has returned!" he exclaimed with a bright smile.

She smiled back and briefly hugged the old man. "I was starting to miss my donuts, Charlie, what can I say?" She shrugged innocently with a friendly wink. "Could I possibly get one of my special ones?"

"Of course! Anything for the princess!" Charlie grinned and headed back into the kitchen. "And if you want some coffee, go ahead and grab some; you remember where it is?"

"Uh-huh," Victoria answered, also heading behind the counter and pouring herself a cup of rich black coffee.

Taking her coffee, Victoria slid into a booth and began to nurse he cup of coffee, letting her momentarily chipper façade to fall away. "Where do I go next?" she whispered quietly to herself.

For a long time she simply sat in her silence until she finally stood up from the booth knowing where she had to go. A green mist materialized in her hand, forming a twenty-dollar bill that she laid flat down on the table next to her unfinished cup of coffee.

Charlie came out from the kitchen just moments later to find the room deserted. His eye caught on the twenty sitting on the table and he simply smiled.

"She always was a great tipper, that princess..."

***

Ryan awoke to the sound of the irritating door chime in a startled fashion, nearly falling out of the chair he had been sleeping in. However, his son wasn't fazed by the sound as he continued to sleep.

Grabbing his robe and throwing it on, Ryan padded out of the bedroom and into the common room. "Who is it?" he called as he approached the door.

"It's me," the voice outside - which Ryan recognized as Carter - answered.

Unconsciously, Ryan winced. The last person Ryan wanted to see was Carter. The Red Ranger had been very adamant at having Victoria remain in the Aquabase while recovering from her pregnancy. Ever since their encounter in the Med Bay when Ryan had told Carter to leave, there had been a strong tension between them.

Even though he was somewhat wary, Ryan opened the door to come face to face with Carter. "Yes?" he asked curtly.

"I found this outside your door as I was walking by." Carter awkwardly handed Ryan a blank white envelope. "I thought it might be yours or something."

Opening the envelope and removing the letter from within it, Ryan nodded. "Thanks," he acknowledged, his attention focused on the letter rather than Carter still standing before him.

After a few minutes, Ryan's face went completely pale and his eyes widened. "Oh God..." he murmured, the letter trembling in his hand.

Literally slamming the door in Carter's face, Ryan ran into the bedroom and dressed as quickly and quietly as possible. Sticking the letter in his back pocket, he then ran out of his quarters and began to bang on his sister's door while Carter watched him in utter shock.

"What do you want, Ryan?" Dana yapped at her brother when she finally opened her door, looking like she just woke up which she had.

"I need your to take care of Evan, Dana," Ryan blurted out frantically, nearly bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Stunned by her brother's strange actions, Dana tried to calm him down. "Ryan, what's wrong? What's going on?"

"There isn't time to explain!" he insisted. "Just watch Evan for me, okay? I've gotta stop her." And with those words, Ryan began sprinting down the corridor, leaving a confused Carter and Dana in his wake.

***

"Father?" Victoria's voice echoed throughout Skull Cavern. "Father, it's me, Vypra." Her demon name hesitantly rolled off her tongue.

Victoria walked cautiously down the corridors of her home, very much confused by the lack of activity in the cavern.

Skull Cavern was home.

She opened the door to the quarters she had shared with Ryan and smiled sadly at the mess before her eyes.

After returning from telling Ryan she was pregnant and following her conversation with Diabolico, Victoria went to her room and had torn it to pieces searching for Ryan's old training shirt that he always used to wear. She had wanted it so it would remind her of her lover and somehow make her feel closer to him.

She never did find the shirt.

Perhaps, it had been for the best. Better for her to forget him as quickly as possible and make a clean break. Father wouldn't STAND for her sulking around the caverns like a little lovesick fool.

Following her own advice, Victoria lit the torch in the room and began tossing all of Ryan's scattered clothes into the crackling fire. Standing still for a moment, Victoria stared at the hungry flames while clutching a pair of Ryan's sweats in her hands. "Forget about him, Vypra," Victoria coaxed herself. "Forget about him and-" Her voice choked up, but someone finished her sentence nonetheless.

"...and your son."

Victoria spun around towards the door and gasped.

"QUEEN BASHEERA!" Victoria peered at the red demon beside the floating spirit of Queen Bansheera. "Impus?!"

"Olympius, Vypra," Olymipius scoffed at the young woman, shaking his head in pity.

Still gripping onto the gray sweatpants tightly, a look of utter panic and fear crossed her features. "What are you two doing?! Why are you here?! Where is my father?!"

"Dead," Olympius informed with a shrug, not an ounce of sympathy in his voice.

"YOU LIE!" Victoria spat viciously in his face.

Queen Bansheera sighed pathetically. "If you don't believe us, go to his quarters."

Fright welled up within her and Victoria dropped the sweatpants, darting out the door. Striding down the corridor, she made it to Diabolico's room rather quickly and shoved open his door.

Moments later, Olympius and Queen Bansheera arrived behind Victoria to find her standing in the doorway, still with shock. A few feet in front of her laid Diabolico's spiritless body sprawled out on the floor. She knew he was dead without touching her father; his star no longer glowed a bright red. Victoria slowly moved her hand to cover her mouth as tears began to brim her saddened eyes.

As the two demons looked down on Victoria in glee, the young woman suddenly snapped around to face the two, her eyes now dark and wet. "YOU DID THIS TO HIM!" she screamed vengefully, her open hand glowing a deathly black. "YOU'LL PAY FOR THIS!"

Queen Bansheera snickered as she blew a fine white mist from her ghostly lips, allowing it to encompass Victoria. "No, my dear. YOU will pay for it..."

***

"VICTORIA! ARE YOU HERE?"

"He's come for her. Should I kill him?"

"No, I'll deal with him. You just set her down there and do what I told you to."

"Yes, Mother."

***

"VICTORIA!"

Ryan ran down the corridors of Skull Cavern frantically, screaming Victoria's name as he searched for her.

The closer her got to the quarters he had shared with her, Ryan began to notice how the corridors seemed to fill with a think and heavy smoke; most certainly no kind of smoke Victoria would produce with her magic.

Ryan pulled his shirt over his mouth and nose to protect him from inhaling the smoke and continued until he could see the shadows of the blazing flames of the fire playing upon the wide open door of his former quarters. "Oh please no..." he murmured to himself, running up to the room. "VICTORIA!

When she didn't respond to his call, Ryan began to get desperate. Running back down the corridor into Diabolico's quarters, the Titanium Ranger found his former guardian lying dead on the floor. "Oh no, no...no!" Ryan's mind began to put pieces together and painted a rather dismal picture of what could have happened to Victoria for him. He quickly grabbed a cape out of Diabolico's many chests and ran back toward the burning quarters.

Draping the cape over his head, Ryan went into the fiery room. "Victoria!" he coughed, looking around the room, but it was hard searching as everything was engulfed in flames.

Ryan's eye eventually caught upon a form lying on the floor near the overturned torch which was the source of the fire. He quickly kneeled next to the body to find it was indeed Victoria and swept her into his arms. Placing the cape over the both of them, Ryan carried her out of the room and into the corridor.

Ryan laid Victoria down on the cold stone floor, checking for her pulse; she didn't have one. He was about to perform CPR on his lover just as Dana had just taught him a few days ago, but then he stopped, realizing it was futile.

Victoria's body was covered with soot and burns from the fire's intense heat, but that wasn't what stopped him. What stopped him was the blast mark on her bare chest that scorched her beautiful tan skin with dry blood and exposed flesh. He knew the blast mark all too well; it was the mark left behind by her most lethal spell.

Blinking furiously, Ryan let his tears flow down his cheeks as he reached over and shut his lover's eyes for her - her big brown eyes that he probably would never see alive and bright again. From her eyes, his fingers grazed down her paling cheeks to outline her lifeless lips.

"Victoria..."

Ryan cradled Victoria's limp body in his arms and clutched her to his chest as he began to rock back and forth, sobbing uncontrollably over her.

"It's a shame she had to die..."

Turning his head in the direction of the dying fire, Ryan looked up at the spirit of Bansheera. "You killed her, didn't you?" His voice was toneless.

The demon queen scoffed. "Now why would I do that?"

"The prophecy."

"If you hadn't noticed, Ryan, I already disposed of Diabolico. The prophecy is pretty much null and void with his death."

Ryan's green eyes narrowed on Queen Banhseera. "Then who did this to her?!"

"She did it to herself."

"NO! I don't believe that! WHY WOULD SHE DO THAT?!"

"Grief over Diabolico's death." Queen Bansheera hovered closer to Ryan. "Personally, I don't see a reason to grieve for a traitorous demon like him, but Vypra seemed to think otherwise."

Ryan shook his head fiercely. "Even if she did loose him, she still had me and Evan and-"

"Diabolico was her FATHER, Ryan," the demon emphasized, carefully luring the distraught Power Ranger under her influence. "Besides, the evidence of her suicide is staring you right in the face; she's the only one who could have inflicted that wound from demon magic upon herself."

"I can't loose her." He stared longingly at Victoria's dead body.

"But you already have. Even though, I am truly sorry for your loss, Ryan." Bansheera slowly began to warm up her acting skills. "I mean, if there was ANYTHING I could do-"

Right on Queen Bansheera's expected cue, Ryan spoke up with renewed hope, "But you CAN do something! Can't you bring her back?! Isn't there some kind of demonic healing spell for that?!"

She pretended to ponder. "Well, I suppose I could, but there would be conditions attached to me reviving Victoria."

"Like what?"

***

"Do you know where he went?"

"No, Dad. He just told me to watch Evan and ran out."

"How long has be been gone?"

"For the last two hours. I was there with Dana when he left. I gave him this letter, he read it, freaked out-"

"What letter? Do you know what it said?"

"No. Ryan took it with him."

"Well, Victoria is gone too. Maybe Ryan went to go look for her or something?"

"I found her, Kelsey. She's dead. Victoria's dead."

***

If Ryan had known about the craziness that was to ensue after his declaration of Victoria's death, he wouldn't have said a word.

Of course, all of them were in shock, even Carter. Ryan ended up explaining what had happened when he left the Aquabase and the other rangers and his dad had nothing to offer him but mounds of sympathy, and lots of busy work. Neither really helped, but Ryan figured that they thought if they managed to keep him busy, they could stop him from sacrificing his life. Unfortunately, they were already too late.

Night had fallen on Mariner Bay and the Aquabase and many hours has passed since Ryan's beloved's death. He now sat in his bed rereading the content of the letter he had received that very morning...

***

Dear Ryan,

I wanted to start this letter differently. You know, not as sweet and tender as it sounds. This isn't a love letter, Ryan - you should know that now.

I was in the galley earlier this morning and I had my first encounter with a real pineapple - not like the pineapple chunks we used to eat like candy as children - the real fruit. And as I smelled it and looked at it, I realized it was actually rather ugly. It had a rough skin with pokey things on it; they weren't thorns, but they were pointed and poked me, so I dubbed them pokey things. As I saw this, I suddenly thought of you because you and I know that you are absolutely addicted to pineapples; you are sweet and yummy and so are pineapples. But the pineapple has something holding it back from being sweet and yummy - that skin.

I'm that skin, Ryan. Yes, I realize that it's a kinda of stupid analogy, but it applies to us. I stop you from reaching your full potential, Ryan. You're good, but I'm bad. I hinder you in every way possible. Okaa-sama always told me I could never make anyone happy and, you know, I didn't believe her until now. Your life had been nothing but misery and horror since we met fourteen years ago; its all been a lie. You can do better than me; I don't deserve you - I'm evil.

I'm going back to Father. He needs me and I need him; I will never make him happy, but that's okay because Father is Father.

I promised you I would never take Evan from you and now I'm keeping that promise. I know you will take care of him. And maybe once in awhile remind him of his mother and remind him that she loves him desperately. Tell him I left because I had no choice and that it was never his fault. I don't want him to see me as I see my Okaa-sama.

Lastly, Ryan, forget that you ever loved Victoria, it will make it easier on you. After you read this letter, Victoria will no longer exist anymore, only the evil demon Vypra will live on. I will meet you on the battlefield that is to be sure. Don't hesitate to kill me - I'm the enemy.

Good-bye, Ryan. I hope you lead a good life.

Vypra

***

...Tears dribbled down Ryan's cheek unchecked as he stared down at the letter in his hands; he really didn't need to read it, he had practically memorized it after read it so many times. His fingers grazed across the worn paper and her inked words. "I can't forget," he whispered to the air. "I love you too much to let go. But soon, we'll be together."

Setting the letter aside on his nightstand, Ryan quickly wiped the tears off his cheeks away and rubbed the heels of his palms against his thighs. He then stood up from the bed to walk over to the side of his son's cradle.

As soon as Evan spotted sight of his father, he began gurgling happily and flailing his chubby little arms upwards. Ryan couldn't help but smile- even in his morose mood - when he caught sight of Evan's glee.

Carefully, Ryan lifted Evan from the cradle and held him closely in his arms. He had his mother's hair, a small patch of soft black fuzz on the top of his head and a smile that was wide and teasingly playful. That also belonged to his mother.

"Your mother was a beautiful woman," he whispered softly to his son, pacing the room slowly. "She saved me from misery, even though she never believed it. She was strong, smart and stubborn; I loved her for that.

"She loves you. Even now when she's gone she loves you; you can't forget that. I love you just as much as she does. You are a miracle to us both; you were unexpected, but a miracle nonetheless. You made me realize I couldn't live life without you mother, and soon, I won't.

You have a destiny, Evan. Bansheera says that it doesn't exist anymore, but I don't believe her. I know your destiny: it's to save your parents from eternal torment. You're already on your way to your destiny - I have faith you will complete it."

***

Dana awoke the next morning to the cries of a baby.

Confused somewhat, she sat up in her bed and looked around her room, but saw no baby. Nonetheless, the wailing continued persistently.

Dana dragged herself out of bed and headed into the common room of the quarters. "Oh my God..." she gasped in utter shock.

There in the middle of her common room stood Evan's cradle with Evan wailing within it.

Rushing up to the cradle, Dana was about to pick up the wailing child when an envelope placed on the outside of the cradle caught her eye. She quickly tore it open and read its contents.

A few minutes later, the letter fluttered out of her hands to the ground and Dana immediately followed, slumping down to the floor in solemn tears.

Evan's painful wail echoed off the walls.

*GASP* Yes...I have ended "Clinging To Promises" like so because there is a sequel in the works! ^_^ So, stay tuned for that and tremendous thanks for reading! :)

***

"Clinging To Promises" Mini-Soundtrack

I decided to add this little part here, just to show you the music behind the fic and my inspiration. :) These are the primary songs that inspired me to write certain parts of this fanfic.

"If You Want Me To" by Ginny Owens

The pathway is broken
The signs are unclear
I can't find the reason
Why you brought me here
But just because you love me
The way that you do
I will go through the valley
If you want me to

Now I'm not who I was
When I took my first step
And I'm clinging to the promise
That you're not through with me yet
And if all of these trials
Can bring me closer to you
I will go through the fire
If you want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
Cause it leads me through a world that's not my home
But you never said it would be easy
Only that I'd never go alone

When the whole world turns against me
And I'm all by myself
And I can't hear you answer my cries for help
I'll remember the suffering your love put you through
And I will go through the valley
If you want me to

As I first began to write "Clinging To Promises" this song really came into play in shaping my ideas of Ryan and Victoria's relationship as well as giving me the eventual title of the fic. ;) I first heard it on "Roswell" at the end of the first season episode "Blood Brother" and since then, it's been one of my all-time favorites. :)

"Wasurenaide (Don't Forget)" by Oomori Kinuko

How are you doing these days?
I hope that those are good dreams
coloring that heart of yours.

Are you well?
That, and that alone, is always on my mind.
When times get hard
don't cry alone, O.K.?

Don't stop, baby, dreaming
Don't stop, baby, loving
Don't stop, babe, believing
Don't forget...
Don't stop, baby, dreaming
Don't stop, baby, loving
Don't stop, babe, believing
...that I'm here.
I'll always be by your side.

On lonely nights,
remember that you've got a friend,
who waits for you unchangingly.

The dazzling smiles you gave me
are locked away, like treasures,
in the jewelbox of my heart.

That night, crying, you and I
gazed up at the stars,
and I wanted to protect you from
everything that hurts you.

Don't stop, baby, dreaming
Don't stop, baby, loving
Don't stop, babe, believing
Don't forget...
Don't stop, baby, dreaming
Don't stop, baby, loving
Don't stop, babe, believing
...I will always love you,
even though we're far apart.

Don't stop, baby, dreaming
Don't stop, baby, loving
Don't stop, babe, believing
Don't forget...
Don't stop, baby, dreaming
Don't stop, baby, loving
Don't stop, babe, believing
...that I'm here.
I'll always be by your side.

"Wasurenaide" was critical in giving me the idea of how to end "Clinging To Promises" and create the sequel. Originally, this is a Japanese song that I heard for the first time on the third episode of the Japanese anime "Bubblegum Crisis". It really struck home when I heard it in Japanese with its melancholy chords and when I read the translation of the lyrics I just loved it more. :) It has remained one of my all-time favorites since I first heard it as well. ^_^

"Road To Mandalay" by Robbie Williams

Save me from drowning in the sea
Beat me up on the beach

What a lovely holiday
There's nothing funny left to say

This somber song would drain the sun
But it won't shine until it's sung

No water running in the stream
The saddest place we've ever been

Everything I touched was golden
Everything I loved got broken
On the road to Mandalay
Every mistake I've ever made
Has been rehashed and then replayed
As I got lost along the way

There's nothing left for you to give
The truth is all that you're left with
Twenty paces then at dawn
We will die and be reborn

I like to sleep beneath the trees
Have the universe at one with me
Look down the barrel of a gun
And feel the Moon replace the Sun

Everything we've ever stolen
Has been lost returned or broken
No more dragons left to slay
Every mistake I've ever made
Has been rehashed and then replayed
As I got lost along the way

Save me from drowning in the sea
Beat me up on the beach
What a lovely holiday
There's nothing funny left to say

I was listening to this song as I wrote the final two scenes of "Clinging To Promises". I just recently found it after borrowing Robbie Williams' "Sing When You're Winning" CD and I love the entire CD, but this song just has great chords. *grins* And parts of it are incredibly fitting to Ryan's ending scene and also Victoria's leaving scenes... :)

Just a little extra, from yours truly! ^_^