He was really, really, really cold.
Was he dead?
No… he hurt too much to be dead.
Adam regained awareness slowly, in a trickle. Cold, pain… an absolutely bone-deep weariness he couldn't explain. Why would he be awake if he were so tired? It felt like he was buried in tons of sand; even opening his eyes was an exhausting effort.
His gaze first fell on a heart monitor and, like flipping a switch, he suddenly registered the incessant beepings of various monitors, squeaks from wheels going down hallways, and hissed, angry voices to his left.
Was he in a hospital?
Why the hell was he in a hospital?
"I can't believe you didn't take the morpher away!" Though it had been a long time, Adam picked out Aisha's angry hiss easily. Wait, wasn't she in Africa?
"I already told you, I hid his Zeonizer! I didn't think he'd be stupid enough to try to morph with a burnt-up coin!" And Rocky… he heard the young man's voice and grew angry, though he couldn't remember entirely why; a memory flitted almost mockingly, just out of reach.
Fuck… what the hell was going on?
Adam took a deep breath and tried to turn his head toward where the two were still arguing rapidly; after a moment he settled for rolling it sideways - lifting it just hurt too much. "Guys?" It came out as a raspy whisper, and only then did Adam realize how dry his throat was.
Still, they were as finely attuned to him as they used to be, and both were on their feet in a heartbeat.
"Adam!" Aisha crossed the gap between their seats and his bed. She began mother-henning immediately, brushing his hair from his forehead, pressing a kiss to his cheek, and snagging a cup from the bedside table. "You're awake! How are you feeling? Do you need anything?" He opened his mouth to answer and she shushed him, putting a straw to his lips. "Here, water. You've gotta be bone-dry with how long you've been out."
He knew better than to argue with Aisha, and his throat was sore, so he sipped the drink while eying her warily. After a few seconds, his eyes wandered to where Rocky still stood, his arms crossed, looking uncomfortable and wearing a guilty expression.
"What-" Adam coughed, and grimaced. "What happened? Why 'm I in the hospital?"
"If you ever try such a stupid thing again," he seethed, eyes suspiciously bloodshot, "I swear I'll-" Rocky floundered for a suitable threat.
"He won't," Aisha said determinedly. Dark eyes bored into Adam, making him squirm. "We won't let him."
"Won't let me what?" Adam asked, frustrated now.
Aisha and Rocky exchanged worried looks. "What do you last remember?" she asked, seeming to finally realize that he wasn't being flip; he honestly wasn't sure what was going on.
His brow furrowed as he tried to recall… but shuffling through his memories felt like digging through sludge. "Um…"
He was spared their anxiety over his memory lapse when a doctor knocked and walked in. "Mr. Park? Good to see you awake; your friends have been quite concerned."
Adam blinked and for the first time, it occurred to him to wonder how long he'd been there. Aisha had mentioned something, but it hadn't really registered. Before he could say anything, though, the doctor shooed Aisha and Rocky out, and pulled out a stethoscope.
"Now, we'll do a few check-ups, and have a nurse come in to draw some blood for tests. You should be ready to go home this time tomorrow, if you remain stable… I want to keep you under observation another night. You're responding to the medicine well; you haven't had a seizure in the past twenty-four hours, but I'd rather be safe than sorry."
One word stuck out and grabbed Adam's attention. "Seizure?"
The doctor looked up from scratching notes onto Adam's chart. "Yes, you were brought in here three days ago after having several seizures. According to the notes, you were shocked at home; considering the strength of the shock, I'm not surprised you don't remember it. I suggest you be more careful in the future. However, I'm concerned by the results of an EKG and lingering possibilities that…"
The doctor continued talking, mentioning things like follow-up tests, anti-seizure medication to be safe, driving restrictions - one thing after another that completely overwhelmed the former Ranger. In the end he simply nodded, too wiped to asked questions.
Adam wasn't sure when the doctor left, but suddenly Rocky was standing next to him, clutching his hand fit to break it. "What'd he say?"
"He wants me to stay another night…"
Aisha patted his free hand. "You look exhausted."
"I am." He wanted badly to ask what he had done that was so wrong, but even thinking felt like a strain.
"Get some sleep, then. We'll take you home soon."
Adam gave in to his exhaustion; he'd get his answers later.
It was evening when the three arrived at the apartment Rocky and Adam shared. Aisha trailed them up the walkway, but Adam could feel her eyes on him the whole time. He all but stumbled in and instinctively noticed the answering machine blinking; moving slowly, he made his way to the table and tapped the 'play' button.
"You have eight new messages."
"Hey Rocko, it's Jase. I got your notes from Doctor Burman – we have a test next Tuesday, but he says you can postpone it. Let me know how Adam's doing."
"It's Tanya… I know it's early there but I thought Rocky might be awake. Maybe you're still at the hospital, though. Tell Adam I love him; I'm sorry, I just can't get away right now. Call me back and tell me how he is."
"We'll be back on Wednesday. Thank you for taking such good care of our son, Rocky." Adam scowled as his mother's voice filled the room; he hadn't meant to worry her with… whatever he'd done. Nor had he meant to cut their trip to England short.
Rocky tapped the button again, stopping the stream of well-wishes and worried friends. "There are a lot of people really worried about you," he said pointedly, though he didn't look in Adam's direction.
Adam lowered himself to the couch gingerly. He wondered if this was what getting old felt like – creaky, as though his entire body protested simply existing. "Is this the part where you tell me what actually happened?"
Rocky's fists clenched and he scowled at the Black Ranger. "You-"
"Rocky, stop it." One look from Aisha had Rocky's jaw clicking shut, though he seemed far from happy.
Aisha knelt by Adam. "The doctor said you had a couple seizures. It was about one day after you fought that monster in the park."
Okay, that sounded familiar. He furrowed his brows, thinking. "I remember that I met up with Carlos," he slowly replied. "We were working out and then he ran off… he came back later to tell me he quit."
"He quit?" Rocky barked. "What the hell?"
"Yeah. Said he didn't have what it takes to be a Ranger. Then the monster came back and…" His eyes widened. "I morphed."
"With a burnt coin," Aisha added, glaring at him now. "When Alpha specifically told you it would be a bad idea; don't pretend you didn't know."
"I had to protect him," Adam tried to explain as the day began eking back into his brain with stunning clarity. "I just had to, you guys should understand that. He didn't have any powers... was a civilian again. But I was still a Ranger and-"
Rocky slammed his fist into the wall angrily. "You're weren't! And you aren't! Damn it, Adam, we just had this argument!"
Adam blinked in confusion. He couldn't recall that.
His tirade continued, "I know that being a Ranger and a hero meant a lot to you. I know that! Especially with how you were as a kid, and making such close friends… but you're not one anymore, man. And that's okay… it's time to move on. Let the new kids fight the fight."
"I couldn't leave this to them," Adam offered in defense. "I told you, he quit and didn't have a morpher."
"Neither did you!"
"I obviously did, because I morphed!"
"And you damn near killed yourself because of it!"
The two were nearly an inch apart, shouting at each other when Aisha stepped in and firmly pushed each back. "Knock it off!"
They fell silent, though it was heavy between them. Adam panted with the exertion of arguing and felt weak, like he was less of a Ranger and less of a person.
Like he had when he'd handed over his powers.
When his morph had begun to fade.
"I'm going to bed."
He dodged Aisha's light grab, shaking his head. "I'm… I'm just really tired, and I still don't know what's really going on, but I just don't have the energy to fight over it today. I'll see you guys in the morning." He retreated into the bedroom, searching for a clean pair of boxers before slipping between the sheets.
He fell asleep wondering when Aisha had arrived, and trying in vain to push Rocky's devastated expression from his mind.
"Adam? Come on, Adam, wake up." Aisha flung open the curtains, letting light stream through the windows and onto Adam's face.
He groaned. "Knock it off, 'Sha... 'm tired."
He felt the bed dip as she settled herself next to him. But rather than melting comfortably into the warm hug she gave him, he stiffened. A wave of feeling he had believed long buried washed over him; a mass of frustrated betrayal, abandonment and lingering loneliness. He'd be lying if he said he hadn't missed her… but how long would it be before she took off again?
"Hey, what's wrong?" She poked him in the side, a sharp nail making him wince. "I know you're not asleep, so what's with the deep thoughts?"
"Where's Rocky?" he asked instead, hoping to deflect her questioning until he was a little more awake, and a little more in command of his thoughts and emotions. Between the hospital trip, the lingering pain and exhaustion, and yet more apparently unresolved feelings coming into play, he was having trouble getting everything sorted in his head.
"Class. He was out the whole time you were in the hospital, even yesterday after you woke up. He came back here a few times… but we spent every minute of visiting hours with you. He'll be back to drive us to the hospital for your follow-up MRI." Her voice was hard; she wasn't going to be swayed. "Adam, talk to me. I get that you feel you had to morph and stuff… but why would you do that to yourself, when you know it would be foolish?"
"When did you get here?" Adam asked a little wildly, starting to feel a bit trapped. The idea of having seizures was terrifying – he thought he was past the concept of fear, having been a Power Ranger for so long – and the fact that he still didn't have a clear idea of what happened made him edgy.
His eyes peeked open when Aisha remained silent. It appeared that was what she was waiting for, because the moment he looking her in the eye, she tugged him onto his side.
"If I explain how everything happened… from what I know… will you finally actually talk to me?"
"We're talking now," he responded petulantly, then sighed when Aisha wasn't swayed. "Fine, fine. Just… I'm still confused."
Aisha nodded. "I'm sure that doesn't help. Well, Rocky says you've been moping lately, and been watching all the Ranger battles on television. Last Friday, you took off while he was at class, and came back all bruised and sore. I surprised y'all for a visit about an hour after you got back. Ring any bells?"
It sort of did – in a fuzzy, disconnected-from-him sort of way.
She must have guessed from his expression, because she continued, "You guys were fighting. Rocky was yelling at you for morphing with your coin, and you were saying something about not having your Zeonizers…" She frowned. "You were actually really cruel, you know that? You told him that it was fine for him to be happy with things the way they were, but you wanted something more than what you had."
Both were silent; Aisha watching Adam as he processed everything she was saying. He still didn't recall much of the argument… he vaguely remembered Aisha arriving, yelling…
"One minute you were shouting, the next you were on the ground in a full-blown seizure. It was scary, and we weren't sure what to do. You had a bunch of Black Morphin energy around you, kinda like how Kim looked when Kat took her coin. We couldn't take you to the hospital, so Rocky got ahold of Trini, who got ahold of Billy, who contacted Andros. He's the new Red, and he severed your connection to it for now."
Adam's face fell. Was that why he felt so empty? Like everything was wrong? Except everything was wrong, and there was no way to make it better.
"The seizures didn't stop, so we took you to the hospital afterward. Andros said something about power backlash, and how Earthling brains can sometimes be overwhelmed with it. You almost died, Adam, don't you realize that? Died! As in dead, for always."
"I don't care!"
His outburst took both him and Aisha by surprise, but the words were truth. They tasted bitter, but they were exactly what he'd been biting back ever since he handed over the Power. "I… I don't care, 'Sha. I'm sorry, but I don't."
"How can you say that?" Aisha wasn't prone to tears; in fact, she tended to see crying as a waste of time when she could be tackling the issue behind the feelings. But she seemed perilously close.
Adam sat up, then bent almost in half, running his hands through his hair and clutching at his head. "I don't know. I just… what else is there for me? Everybody has something. Tanya's getting a recording contract. Kat's at a fancy dancing school. Tommy's racing. Rocky and Jase are going to school together to open a dojo and you're doing your vet school stuff God only knows where. What does that leave me with?"
"Us." The voice, filled with anger, came from the doorway. They looked up to see Rocky leaning against the doorjamb, arms crossed. "You have us, Adam. Jason and I have been trying for ages to get you to join us when we launch the dojo. We want you to be a part of everything, and we love you, but you keep pushing us away."
He strode to the bed, slipping down on Adam's other side. "Man… I hate to say this, but I think you need to get some help." The words were harsh but honest. "You can't go around thinking that it's fine if you die, because it's not. You have a lot of people who love you. You just… gotta stop running away."
"I didn't run away," Adam's anger burst out again. "You two did! You left! Aisha, you went to Africa without so much as a good-bye, and Rocky… I know you didn't want to get hurt, but afterward you wouldn't even see me until I called all upset about the Power transfer. Then suddenly you wanted to be all buddy-buddy again, but-"
"Don't you get why?" Rocky interrupted. "You know how you feel when you watch the fights now? When you watch the news?" When Adam nodded, he mumbled, "That's how I felt. I know what you're going through, because I went through it first. Neither of us wanted it to be over – and neither of us should be jumping back into it. Me because of my back and you because you really can't. I know it's not fair. I know it's not easy, and I know that you feel empty and lost right now… because I did, too."
A heavy, blue-clad arm wrapped around Adam's shoulders and pulled him back to lie on the bed. "We can't live in the past," Rocky said softly as Aisha scooched over, until they were sandwiching Adam closely. "We have to keep moving forward. We'll always be Rangers here," he placed his hand over Adam's heart, then trailed it up to knock lightly on his sore head, "but here, you have to be who you are now."
Adam shifted to get comfortable, then let his head rest on Rocky's chest. "I'm not sure I know who I am right now." God, he sounded pathetic. But like everything else, it was a truth he had avoided for far too long; it was embarrassing, to say these things, but they wouldn't be held in any longer. And who better to tell than the people who claimed they cared so much?
He supposed if they were overwhelmed, if they couldn't deal with it, he wouldn't be much worse off than he was now. Apathy had begun to encroach on his anger, subduing it and leaving him weary.
"So we'll help you find yourself again," Aisha said, breaking through his thoughts. She twined her arm around Rocky's, embracing them both somewhat awkwardly. "Adam, we're here. Here for you, and we're not leaving."
His head twisted to hers, and she met him halfway in a soft kiss. "But what if-"
Behind him, Rocky snuggled up tighter. "Nope. No what-ifs. Just us and this and you. We're Rangers, Adam, and we don't give up. Not ever, no matter how hard it is."
Adam sighed… for the first time in months, content.