After Paige's revelation, Chris orbed straight from his family's attic to the Ford home. He took a deep breath then knocked on Kira's bedroom door.
"Come in," Kira said.
Chris walked in, closing the door behind him. "You could've told me, you know."
Kira looked at him strangely. Inside, she had a sneaking feeling she knew exactly what she was talking about, but she didn't want to deal right at the moment. Maybe something would happen....
And then her morpher beeped.
"I guess you have a monster to face, Yellow Ranger," Chris said with a grin. "Give me a shout when you can talk, okay?"
Kira stared as Chris orbed out.
Her morpher beeped again. She sighed, resisted the urge to swear, and answered it. "Kira, go."
"Kira, we've got a monster over at the park," Hayley informed her. "Tommy says to meet him and the others by the swings right away."
"Um, didn't we, like, have a monster today?" Kira said, remembering that Chris was supposed to be a monster attack and not the Charmed Ones' plan to get the Rangers de-spelled. She wondered if the Charmed Ones and the Elder knew. She shivered a bit. An Elder knowing was not a good thing and maybe she could convince Chris that he was delusional, and.... No time to think about that now.
"Yeah, Mesogog must be in a bad mood or something," Dr. O replied. "I know it's rough, but we still have a job to do."
"I'm on my way, Kira out," Kira said, sighing and heading out for somewhere to morph.
* * *
Kira really didn't want to be in the battle, not when she was feeling as distracted as she was about Chris and the Elder situation. Chris seemed to be taking being Whitelighter to a Ranger well-- though she was not looking forward to the Whitelighter-to-Charge talk now that she was officially a Force For Good-- but she didn't feel ready to deal with it yet.
They still defeated the monster, partly because they were a team, and partly because she had an objection to being destroyed right after her Whitelighter found out that she was a Ranger.
"Kira?" Dr. O asked once everything was settled and they were safely demorphed in his lab.
Kira gulped, knowing it was probably better that she talk to Dr. O sooner rather than later. She wondered if they could possibly keep this from the rest of the team.
If Dr. O would let her, given how he felt about being open to one's teammates. Still, it wouldn't hurt to ask, right? He might understand on this one.
"Um, could I talk to you in private, Dr. O?" Kira asked.
"Sure," Dr. O said, without hesitation.
Of course, given the first time Chris had been bumbling around in her affairs, scaring the heck out of her teammates - and one future teammate - he was probably glad she was willing to talk to him. She kind of doubted he'd be pleased about why, though.
He ushered her above to his house, gesturing for her to have a seat at his kitchen table. "What is it, Kira?"
Kira took a deep breath, gripping the back of the chair. "Remember when I told you I had secrets I couldn't tell you?"
"Yeah," Dr. O, gesturing towards the chair again.
"I think I'd better tell you," Kira said, fidgeting. "You, um, might want to sit down."
Dr. O pulled up a chair, but reached out and squeezed Kira's shoulder. "You can tell me anything you know. I won't freak out. I promise."
Kira nodded, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot.
"My mom's a witch," she said, finally.
"You're mom's Wiccan?" Dr. O asked, obviously puzzled. "Or...." He paused, as if shifting through his memories. Probably from when he was one of the original Power Rangers . "Or witch as in real magic?"
"Real magic," Kira said, sinking into a chair with relief now that the worst part was over. "Pretty much every generation of my family, mother to daughter, has had magic... except for me."
Dr. O nodded. "Why not you?"
"It, um, might be 'cause I was meant to be a Power Ranger, at least, that's what Chris said. 'Cause some people are meant for things besides magic."
"I was wondering if he was going to figure into this," Dr. O said, thumping his fingers rythymically against the chair arm.
Kira shifted, debating standing up again. "He's, um, my whitelighter. It's sort of like a protector for witches. And yeah, he's actually what I wanted to talk to you about."
Dr. O frowned, reaching out to squeeze her arm again. "Is everything OK?"
Kira picked a spot on her hand, starting at it and refusing to look up. "Right before you paged me he came to my room and--well, when my morpher beeped, he called me 'Yellow Ranger'." She sneaked up to take a quickl look at her mentor.
Dr. O reached up, massaging his temple with two fingers, as if he'd developed an instant headache. Or maybe he had. They weren't supposed to reveal their identities. Not to anyone.
"I was trying to keep my two worlds apart, but I guess he found out," she said, quietly. She wasn't looking at the table anymore, but she was unable to meet Dr. O's eyes. "Chris and I haven't had time to talk, but I'm guessing he put the pieces together."
"I take it you staying with him had something to do with the spell that made him look like a monster?" Dr O asked, his face unreadable.
"Yeah," Kira said, shifting in her seat and wondering if the whole thing would become moot by him kicking her out or something. "How pissed at me are you?"
"Depends on what you tell me next," Dr. O said, leaning forward a little. "What happened while you were with Chris?"
Kira took a deep breath. "My Whitelighter isn't supposed to look like a monster. Since I'm from a magic family, Chris took me to some really powerful witches up the coast so that I'd stop seeing him as a monster. That's why you couldn't find me." She paused, trying to think of how Chris had known, and gave up. She wouldn't get answers until she interrogated her whitelighter. Her mom's whitelighter.
There was a thought. Maybe she could manage to get Chris reassigned. But that wasn't what she needed to concentrate on at the moment.
"You might have seen them. They were in the alley, breaking the spell on us. Chris was playing monster, and since none of them knew I was a Ranger, I got volunteered to be bait."
"Combine the missing Yellow Ranger with your clothing preferences and if they were astute enough, they might've figured out your identity," Dr. O said. Then he frowned. "What are the chances that Chris is going to tell your mom that you're a Ranger?"
"Whitelighters are supposed to take things in confidence, but I didn't exactly have time to tell him not to say anything to anyone," KIra said. "I just don't know what to say to him."
"Want help? Or is that against the rules?"
Kira grinned. Things were definitely looking up. "This whole conversation was against the rules, technically, but... Yes, please?"
"All right. Does Chris have a cell phone or something?"
"Chris has better than a cell phone," Kira said, for once grateful for her tie to Chris. "There's one advantage to being a Whitelighter charge...."
She breathed in, then out, closing her eyes for a moment. "Chris!"
Chris appeared in a stream of light. He looked from Kira to her teacher.
"Um..." he said, clearly calculating if he needed to rescue her.
Kira mentally rolled her eyes at his worried reflection. "Chris, this is my science teacher, Ranger mentor, and teammate. Dr. O, this is Chris. You've met."
"That explains a lot," they said at once. Not that their worried expressions really cleared.
Kira giggled. "Well, at least I don't have to worry about each of you thinking the other is abusing me anymore."
"No, I don't think that's a problem," Chris said, eyeing Dr. O.
It was worse than a look of suspicion, though. It was calculating, appraising. Kira hoped that this didn't mean that Dr. O was getting a Whitelighter. If she qualified as a Force For Good, Dr. O had done it a few times over at this point, mostly because he didn't seem to know how to retire as a Ranger.
"So it seems we need to have the 'Ranger identities need to be kept secret' talk," Dr. O said, standing to his full height so that Chris was no longer looming over him.
"Rather like witch identities? Believe me, Dr. O.."
"That's Dr. Oliver to you."
"Fine, Dr. Oliver, there's no reason to worry; I'm the Fort Knox of secrets. I can keep them from my own family even."
Dr. O crossed his arms. "What about Kira's mother?"
Chris shrugged. "She doesn't need to know."
"What about the elders?" Kira asked, standing up, seemingly just so she could shift uncomfortably.
"They do," Chris replied, crossing his arms like the annoying Whitelighter he was.
Kira tried to imagine him in a genie outfit instead - it always had worked when it was a bad time to yell at a whitelighter. "You can't tell them," she said, shifting to her left and hitting the chair leg with her foot. Wincing, she added, "You can't tell anyone."
"Who are the elders?" Dr. O asked, looking from her to Chris.
"The bosses of the Whitelighters," Kira supplied. "You are so not telling the Elders. It's not any of their business."
"Kira, they need to know," Chris said implacably. "If for no other reason so that other Rangers can get Whitelighters."
"Whitelighters?!" Not even the genie trick could keep Kira from yelling now. "Chris, are you kidding me? Rangers don't need Whitelighters."
Dr. O laid a hand on Kira's shoulder, mostly to keep her from attacking Chris. Or unleashing a Pterascream. "I'm with Kira on that one, we can take care of ourselves. But I'd like to know more about these elders before I let you tell them anything."
Kira rounded on him, but she managed not to shout. "They don't need to know Dr. O! It's bad enough Chris knows!"
Chris cleared his throat. "Of course you need Whitelighters. You're...."
"A force for good," Kira finished.
She and her mother had talked about it, in a general way, when the team had first started making the news. That the Power Rangers were on the side of good. It was then that she'd learned that the Elders had no clue as to their identities... and given the rules, it had to stay that way. "And it's not like most Rangers are active anyway."
"Most Rangers?" Chris echoed, raising his eyebrows.
Dr. O glared at Kira.
"Oh, right, there are other teams," Chris said, "I forgot about that."
Kira hid her face in her hands.
Dr. O gave Chris a dirty look. "Maybe you'd better tell me more about these elders?" He reached out, squeezing Kira's shoulder reassuringly.
"As I said, the Whitelighters' bosses," Kira replied. "I'd tell you more, but since I've done my best to duck every single Whitelighter I've ever had since I can't do magic...."
"Except we've never run across them," Dr. O pointed out.
"The 'don't tell anyone your secret identity' might have had something to do with that," Kira said. "And nobody came from a Witch family." She paused. "And almost nobody dealt with demons."
Chris laughed into his hand. "You wouldn't believe how hard Leo worked to try to get a job at Lightspeed Rescue, but he couldn't quite come up with the right credentials."
Kira gasped. "The Elders tried to infiltrate Lightspeed Rescue? Forget I asked that. Of course they would. I'm surprised they didn't figure it out then."
"The Lightspeed Rangers weren't exactly big on the whole secret identity thing," Dr. O pointed out. He was frowning, he had the look he often got when she or one of the guys couldn't quite get the martial arts move he was trying to teach them.
"Yeah," Kira said. "How come nobody bothered them? We're four teams later."
"By the time we could get to them, they weren't active Rangers anymore. And I have it on good authority that they were too..." Chris paused, as if trying to find the right word, "inquisitive for a whitelighter to work up a proper cover."
Kira nodded, relieved that somehow the Whitelighters and the Elders had been foiled. "It was probably a good thing, because no Ranger would see the point in having a Whitelighter, Force of Good or no."
Chris crossed his arms and glared at Kira. "Do you really think you're going to talk me out of this?"
"No, I expect you to be stubborn," Kira said, wishing she could have foiled Chris as well. "If you weren't, I wouldn't have run into problems the first time."
"And as Kira was saying," Dr O said, speaking up, "There's no point for us to have Whitelighters."
"We do have a talent for healing," Chris said, shifting position a little. "Not to mention provide a sounding board."
"Rangers have innate healing abilities, it comes with the Power," Dr. O pointed out. "As for a sounding board: we come in teams of five or six, it's not like we don't have each other to bounce ideas off of."
Kira nodded. "We have to," she said. "We don't have anybody but each other to share it with. Besides, Whitelighters can't k- destroy."
"Witches can," Chris replied, crossing his arms again and staring at her intently.
"In any case," Dr. O said, moving subtly so he was between Chris and Kira, "it's our decision to make too. If we have Whitelighters or not."
Kira nodded, opened her mouth, and thought better of it. She'd point out to Dr. O later how she'd ducked her various Whitelighters--or tried to anyway-- as well as what they could do and so forth, when Chris wasn't there.
"Kira's been trying to make that decision for years, ask her how much success she's had," Chris said, smirking at her.
Kira shifted uncomfortably. Could Whitelghters read minds? She took an unconscious step closer to her teammate. "Not much," she admitted, looking at the floor.
"Kira," Dr. O reached out, laying a protective hand on her shoulder, "Had to do it alone."
She marveled at how determined Dr. O sounded. "It's hard to duck someone who knows more-or-less where you are at all times," she admitted.
Dr. O raised an eyebrow. "Then how come it took him so long to figure out you were a Ranger?"
"I lost track of her sometimes," Chris said, shrugging "One time she disappeared after a demon attack and her mom freaked. Besides, she's not my only charge."
"That must've been the time I had to fight a monster in the middle of a demon attack," Kira said, focusing on the first part of what Chris had said. Then she took a deep breath and stared in his direction. "Wait, all I've had to do to avoid you is *morph*?"
Chris shrugged. "Apparently nobody knows how to track you guys in morph... yet."
Which still didn't help the previous teams, Kira thought. Of course, chances were that the Elders wouldn't put Whitelighters on retired Rangers anyway; they hadn't with Lightspeed. "Thank goodness."
Chris grinned. "Of course, all we have to do now is look for where the monster's attacking the city."
Kira spilled into a chair, burying her head in her hands.
"And you wonder why it was I was worried about how much Chris was hanging around you," Dr. O said, resting his hand on her shoulder again. "He freaks you out."
"Dr. O, I think we might want to cooperate," she said, her voice soft, tired. Whitelighters came when called, after all. Okay, sometimes they came when they were worried about their charge, but if the Rangers could be taught to cope....
"Cooperate?" Dr. O turned his back on Chris, squatting down to Kira's level. "Kira, it's clear you've been trying to ditch Chris at every turn up until now, and you were trying to convince him you don't need a Whitelighter. It's clear you haven't changed your mind because he knows your a Ranger, so why are you giving up? Never give up."
"Because I've spent pretty much most of my life ditching my Whitelighter, and...." Kira sighed, reaching up to rub at the bridge of her nose. "Whitelighters can be stubborn."
Dr. O smiled. "So can Rangers."
"Kira hasn't out-stubborned a Whitelighter yet--and I've heard stories that would curl your toes," Chris said with a snort.
"I mostly ignore them," Kira confessed. "As much as possible, anyway."
Chris cocked an eyebrow. "That doesn't work too well."
Kira glared daggers at Chris.
Dr. O laughed. "That's my girl. Look, Chris, Rangers take care of their own. We've managed for twelve years now without Whitelighters, and we've never lost a Ranger yet--well, not permanently anyway."
"And maybe the Elders and Whitelighters weren't meant to find out," Kira said. Maybe if he thought about it, he'd realize it too.
"Hey, we've been trying since 1993," Chris pointed out.
"And you don't find it suspicious that it took a Ranger who all ready had a Whitelighter for you to figure it out?" Kira asked. "This could be a sign that it's not meant to be."
"Maybe it took a Ranger in a witch family," Chris said, "To make everything fit together."
Kira bit her lip, wondering again if Eric might be, like her, a squib. Dr. O said he didn't know his father too well--maybe he had magic on his father's side.
"OK, Kira, I know that look," Dr. O said, putting a hand on her shoulder. "What aren't you telling us?"
Kira stood, shifting uncomfortably. How to explain to Dr. O without telling Chris more than he should know? "Eric. Not Conner's brother...." She paused, not sure how to explain. Wait, she knew. "He might be a squib too."
Dr. O raised an eyebrow.
"Kira, what have I told you about referring to yourself that way?" Chris snapped. "And Eric. Hm... E's...."
"What's he on about?" Dr. O asked.
"Chris is offended by the term 'squib'," Kira said. "I think most Whitelighters are."
"Most Whitelighters don't have all seven Harry Potter books memorized," Chris muttered.
"Seven!" Dr. O and Kira asked at once.
"Five!" Chris said, hastily. "I mean five!"
"Great," Kira said, throwing her arms up in the air in frustration, "I have a Whitelighter who can't count."
"I can count, I just get my book series mixed up," Chris said defensively.
"You mix up Harry Potter with what? The Chronicles of Narnia?" Kira asked, incredulous.
Dr. O was frowning, and Kira wondered if Eric was going to get a call about Chris that had nothing to do with magic. And more to do with Time Force.
"Never mind," Chris said, closing his eyes. "E...."
"F, G, H, I, and J," Kira added.
Chris frowned, crossing his arms. "Quit trying to distract me."
"Don't forget P, Q, R, S, and T," Kira said, trying to keep him from figuring it out.
"What are you two talking about?" Dr. O asked, looking from one to the other.
Kira sighed. This was more than she had wanted to get into today. "Witch family names fall under certain patterns by tradition. There's a reason my name and my mom's both start with K," Kira explained. "When Chris was being annoying before, I ran through everybody's names. One fit."
"Oh, is that why you were going through my Rolodex?" Dr. O asked. He frowned "Funny, I'm surprised he didn't let me know he'd heard from you."
"I didn't contact him, I wasn't so sure...." Kira paused, sighed. Hopefully, Dr. O wouldn't repeat what she was about to say. "From what I knew about him, I didn't think he really could be from a witch family."
"Oh," Dr. O said, clearly still unsure what was going on.
"Wrong attitude for someone from a Witch family," Kira explained.
"Could you two stop with the cryptic?" Chris said, brow wrinkling with consternation.
"No," Kira snapped. "You want to know, you figure it out."
Chris rolled his eyes.
"So really," Dr. O said, trying to return to the matter at hand, "we don't need Whitelighters, and I'd appreciate it if you quit driving poor Kira to distraction."
"What part of 'you don't get a choice in the matter' don't you understand?" Chris asked, looking exasperated.
"The part where Whitelighters seem to need their charge's cooperation," Dr. O said, looking as stern as Kira had ever seen him. "Or are you going to try to tell me Kira wasn't driving you to distraction herself a couple months ago?"
"We're still there," Chris said defensively. "And yes, but it was because I was worried about her. That's what Whitelighters *do*. We make sure our charges are safe."
"That's what Rangers have teammates for," Dr. O said. "To watch out for each other."
"Well, now they'll have Whitelighters as well," Chris said. "You're forces for good; it was a long-standing decision that if the Elders ever found out who you guys were, you'd get Whitelighters."
"How do we appeal this decision?" Dr. O asked.
"You don't." Chris paced up and down. "Why don't you get it? It's for your own good."
Dr. O drew himself to his full height, towering over Chris. "What if we threatened to expose magic?"
"You could kiss your own secret identities good bye, too," Chris pointed out, moving closer to Dr. O, as if trying to intimidate him back.
"In other words, the active team has to learn to cope?" Kira asked, deflating a bit.
Chris turned to Kira, frowning. "You do know most non-magical charges don't actually *know* about their Whitelighters, right, Kira?"
"Except us squibs?" Kira asked.
Chris glared at her, but didn't say anything.
She paused. "I didn't know that," she admitted.
"Sometimes even the squibs--non magic kids in magic families," he corrected hastily. "You see what you made me do?" Chris fixed her with another glare. "Anyway, it depends on how effectively parents can keep their kids out of their magical lives."
"I'm just unlucky, I guess," Kira muttered, taking a step closer to Dr. O.
"Your mom's pretty active," Chris said. "I guess you had to be taught to defend yourself."
"Always thought she was a quick study," Dr. O reached out to ruffle Kira's hair.
Kira blushed. Nice to know she was doing something right.
"She's not stupid," Chris said, smiling in her direction, too. "Stubborn, yes." He paused. "Now, will you let me go and tell the Elders, so they can do whatever they decide to do?"
"I don't suppose Hayley keeps a mind wipe device around here?" Kira asked, looking at Dr. O.
"Paige knows too, won't do you any good," Chris reminded her.
"We could mind wipe this... Paige person too," Dr. O said, crossing his arms.
"Trust me, Dr. O, we don't want to mess with a Halliwell." That would wipe out anything good that they'd done, and even if she didn't want to inflict Whitelighters on the team, she didn't want the Whitelighters against them either.
"A Halliwell?" Dr. O said, mystified.
"Let's just say one of the really powerful witches that just reversed the spell on us," Kira said, remembering what had happened.
There was a spell on us?" Dr. O turned to face Kira, his eyes widening.
Kira nodded. "We were attacking Whitelighters thinking that they were Mesogog's goons."
Dr. O blanched. "How many?"
"Um," Kira paused, stopping to think. "Three, right Chris? Including you."
"Yeah," Chris replied. "Try not to worry about it, most of them orbed out before there was any real damage though. And as you can see, I'm fine."
"But we still attacked them," Dr. O said, sounding disturbed.
"That's why you need Whitelighters. And it sounds like all of you do. There were demons involved, and most of you don't know a thing about demons-- Kira and the Lightspeed team excepted."
Dr. O frowned, and Kira didn't blame him. They were the Good Guys, and they weren't supposed to be attacking others like them, even accidentally.
"You mean in twelve years of Ranger teams, no one's ever had to pull in an expert consultant?" Chris said, raising his eyebrows slightly.
"Not with them knowing that they were Rangers," Kira said, looking to Dr. O. That part of Ranger history, she didn't know.
"Think of us as consultants for the supernatural," Chris suggested. "Because the demon community has pulled this once, and they're probably going to start targeting Rangers because you're so powerful... and it looks like you're a community."
Dr. O smacked his forehead, suddenly looking annoyed.
Kira frowned. "Dr. O?"
"Remind me I have beach party invitations for you to give to the guys," Dr. O replied.
"Um, Dr. O, wandering off topic," Kira pointed out.
"Beach party?" Chris echoed.
"You're not invited," Dr. O said sternly.
"We'll go morphed so you can't follow us," Kira added. "We're not going to let you be our Whitelighter! We don't need you."
"That's a good point, Kira, that is the main disagreement, isn't it?" Dr. O asked, smiling. "Okay, Chris, how about a compromise? If there's something we need to know, you tell Kira and she'll get word back to us. And if we need your help, she'll call."
Chris shrugged. "You're not going to know who your whitelighters are anyways," he said. "I can say that it's not going to be like me and Kira; your whitelighters will know when you need us."
"I don't see how we got from compromise to you getting exactly what you want," Dr. O said, crossing his arms. "And I"m sure Kira will be able to spot our Whitelighters."
"Not necessarily," Chris said. "And I'm not negotiating; I'm stating fact. Ask Kira. I have an Elder to report to." He leaned against the wall.
Dr. O raised an eyebrow at Kira.
"Yeah," Kira said, looking uncomfortable. "There was one hanging around the Halliwell mansion when they were researching the whitelighters-look-like-monsters spell."
"Great," Dr. O said, with a tone that said he didn't like where things were going.
"Anyway, I'm going," Chris said, disappearing without a goodbye in lines of light.
Kira collapsed into one of the kitchen chairs. "Sorry, Dr. O," Kira squeaked.
"It's okay," Dr. O said, reaching out to squeeze her shoulder. "So, what did you want to tell me that you couldn't tell me because Chris was standing there?"
"Oh boy," Kira said, trying to gulp, but it turned into a cough. She managed to regain her composure.. "There was a lot I couldn't say in front of him."
"Want some juice?" Dr. O asked, getting up without waiting for an answer.
"That... would be good," Kira said. "We're both going to need it."
Dr. O raised an eyebrow, but poured out two glasses of apple juice, and then set one in front of Kira.
Kira took a long sip, staring at Dr. O's bizarre brand of apple juice that had pulp in it. (She was pretty sure it was the same brand that Hayley sold at the Cyberspace.) "I'm not sure where to start."
"How about with Eric Myers?" Dr. O prompted.
"Eric." She frowned, remembering what she knew of him. "There's a witch family named Myers; by tradition, everybody's name starts with an E. That's what I meant by fitting the pattern. Eric's name could be a complete coincidence, or he could have a whitelighter that completely missed him or lost track of him or something."
"You said he had the wrong attitude?" Dr. O asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, growing up with Mom--my first thought once I'd accepted the Power was how much good I could do."
"Eric didn't know his dad too well...." He tapped his goatee.
"So, maybe missing whitelighter," Kira said, quickly putting the pieces together. "We'd have to know Eric's parents and grandparents' names to know for sure. But if he had a witch parent or grandparent, they weren't around."
"What was it like, Kira? Growing up with demons and monsters attacking?"
Kira's mind raced, and she looked at her mentor quizzically. "Dr. O?"
"Well, I'm just thinking," Dr. O said, taking a sip of his juice. "Maybe Eric's dad was a warlock..."
Kira blanched. "Warlocks are evil Dr. O!"
"Are they? Sorry, I didn't realize," Dr. O said, gently, squeezing Kira's shoulder again, "so maybe Eric's was a witch, and wanted to spare Eric all the demons and disruptions and things."
Kira frowned, forehead wrinkling. "Does that mean my mom doesn't love me enough, or that his dad didn't?"
"Oh, Kira, that's not what meant," Dr O said, his face softening. "Maybe that's how your mom grew up, so she raised you that way too, Kira."
"It still doesn't answer how, if he's Witch family, he got so lucky," Kira said, staring into her juice as if it might reveal the secrets of the universe.
"Lucky?" Dr. O said. "Eric's had a pretty rough life, Kira. No demon attacks, but I get the feeling he wasn't exactly loved the way you are with your mom."
"Still," Kira said. She took a deep breath. "I think I'm going to start giving lessons on how to cope with whitelighters."
"I don't think they're supposed to know we have one," Dr. O said. "I suspect they won't have it quite so rough as you do. Plus, I get the feeling Chris does have a bit of a big brother complex when it comes to you."
"Yeah, I think Chris has a big brother complex too," Kira admitted, shifting uncomfortably.
There was a minute or three of silence, just enough time for Trent to poke his head in. "Everything okay?"
"Will be," Kira said, trying to relax.
Trent nodded. "We'll be downstairs if you need us." He withdrew.
"As I was saying, Chris does have a big brother complex, and it's going to be so irritating the rest of my time as a Ranger."
Dr. O laughed. "Like it wasn't all ready?"
"Well, no," Kira said, gazing at her teacher. "But... what do we do now?"
Dr. O gave her a reassuring smile. "Hope that you can spot Whitelighters, and continue talk sense into Chris," Dr. O said.
"That doesn't sound like much of a plan." Kira wrinkled her nose. "It's not likely we'll get Chris to see sense."
"It's not like Whitelighters are monsters that we can destroy, Kira," Dr. O said firmly. "We're on the same side, after all."
"True, and it does help that Chris knows what I'm doing." Kira sighed, rubbing at her temples. "I just wish he didn't feel like he needed to lend a helping hand." She thought guiltily of the fact that her teammates, at the very least, would get guardian angels that they wouldn't even know about, and probably the rest would get them too. Well, unless Eric Myers had an absentee one, but then his Whitelighter would probably start paying attention to him again.
Dr. O frowned. "Quit beating yourself up, Kira, this isn't your fault."
Kira jumped. "How do you *do* that? Do they teach mind reading in teacher school or something?"
"No, but I know how to read expressions," Dr. O said, gently. "We'll live, Kira."
Kira nodded. "I'm just glad this team is the only one with active morphers."
Dr. O laughed. "That won't last long, at any rate."
"How do you know you're not going to have another really long run?" Kira asked innocently. Dr. O seemed to be good at the not retiring thing.
"I don't," Dr. O said. "None of us will." He looked thoughtful. "And the Whitelighters won't know about the new team, at least at first."
"Great," Kira said, sighing.
Trent stuck his head out again. "Kira, you're not suicidal or something are you?"
Conner's head followed his out. She could tell he was folding his arms. "Or do we need to beat up that Chris guy?"
"Seriously, Kira, if he's done anything," Ethan added, joining the other two.
"Hey, if anyone's beating up Chris, it's me," Trent said, obviously having a protect-the-girlfriend moment.
Kira got up, crossing her arms. "Are you three trying to imply that I can't beat him up by myself?"
"Um, no." Trent flushed.
"Good, 'cause if Chris needs beating up, I'm calling dibs," Kira replied.
"Well, let me know if you need a look-out," Trent offered.
"Seriously," Conner added, "We're a team. We can beat him up together."
Kira bit her lip, wondering if she should tell the others or if she should let them live in peaceful ignorance.
"I think we'd better tell them, Kira," Dr. O said gently.
Hadn't Dr. O just claimed he wasn't psychic. Kira sent him a pleading look.
"About Chris?" Kira asked.
Dr. O nodded encouragingly.
Kira sighed. "Er, Dr. O, could you try to explain? I'm kinda explained out right now."
"Chris is Kira's guardian angel," Dr O said.
"An obnoxious one," Kira added, trying hard not to pull a face..
"Obnoxious guardian angel?" Trent asked, his nose wrinkling in confusion. "Why do you have a guardian angel?"
Kira frowned at her boyfriend. He sounded almost jealous, and she could forgive him. Who wouldn't want a guardian angel, except for her?
"Because of her family," Dr. O said, prompting her with a look.
"My family's been fighting on the side of the forces of good for generations," she said, explaining. "The guardian angels are there to help those on the side of good. Which, technically speaking, includes us, as Rangers."
"Are you getting at what I'm afraid you're getting at?" Conner asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Chris figured out I'm a Power Ranger after the whole we thought he was a monster incident," Kira said in a rush.
"That's really not good," Ethan said, frowning.
"I've been explaining the whole thing to Dr. O, with a little help from Chris," Kira told him.
"And..." Trent prompted, leaning forward.
"Kira and I couldn't convince him that Power Rangers didn't need guardian angels," Dr. O explained.
So, we're all getting... guardian angels," Conner said, as if trying to wrap his mind around the concept. Kira wished she knew how to explain that it wasn't a good thing, though she bet that they could figure she wasn't happy. "Are we all getting Chris?" Conner asked after a moment. "Or you know, are there like, guardian angels that are babes?"
Kira smacked him upside the head.
"Ow!" Conner exclaimed. "Doctor O!"
Dr. O was hiding a smile. "Don't look at me, you deserved it."
Kira sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "No, we're not all getting Chris, I have no clue who you'd get, I've been too busy trying to convince Chris that this whole thing is a Bad Idea."
"Why?" Trent asked, studying his girlfriend carefully.
"Why what?" Kira asked.
"Why is it a bad idea?" Trent reached out, brushing a stray tuft of hair out of Kira's face.
Kira shifted uncomfortably. "Look, I've had guardian angels my entire life. They mean well, but... some of them get a bit overzealous in trying to protect their good charges."
"Overzealous how?" Ethan reached out, squeezing her shoulder.
"There's a reason I hide all my Harry Potter books in my locker at school," Kira said. "My last two Whitelighters kept trying to wander off with them."
"Whitelighters?" Trent asked, looking like he was about to scratch his head.
"That's what the guardian angels are called," Kira replied, looking at her teammates. "And sometimes they think that they should do things for your own good."
"Kinda like Dr. O?" Ethan asked, with a small smile on his face.
"Hey!" Dr. O said indignantly.
"You want to explain to me how else I ended up on MIT's prospective student mailing list?"
"Hayley," Kira said, shifting the blame where it belonged. "And imagine having such a being know where you are at a moment's notice." She wondered if she could eventually find someone who was comfortable with her being a squib. Though Chris sort of came close. At least closer than her other Whitelighters.
Trent cast an uneasy glance at Dr. O. "That doesn't sound so exciting all of a sudden."
"How'd you keep the fact that you were a Ranger from Chris so long then, Kira?" Conner asked, obviously thinking of what he should do.
"Chris luckily never bothered to check when I was out fighting. The only reason he did get antsy was because apparently he can't detect me in morph. Yet. When he couldn't find me... well, that's when he got all stalker-y. It's like checking a GPS; he doesn't pay attention to where I am all the time."
Ethan shuddered. "Oh, god it sounds like a parent with a tracking device."
"That would be pretty close," Kira admitted.
Conner grinned. "Dr. O with a tracking device?" Conner shot their mentor a mischievous look.
Dr. O huffed. "I'm sitting right here!"
"Sorry." Conner's response sounded more automatic than actually contrite.
"Chris might be the obnoxious big brother type," Kira said, acknowledging Dr. O's idea. "But I've never been able to dodge my Whitelighters before I became a Ranger - and they don't seem to get the message that we don't need protecting."
"We'll continue to work on getting the Whitelighters to not feel they have to protect us," Dr. O said, studying his team carefully.
"In the meantime?" Kira added, "It's likely that you won't even know who they are. I might not know who they are. Apparently sometimes they don't like their charges to know their identities. Once you do know, however...."
"Yes?" Trent moved his hands in circles, encouraging Kira to get to the point.
"Hopefully they won't annoy the hell- heck - out of you," Kira finished, blushing a little. Whitelighters were a little hard to explain, especially when they were being overprotective, as they often were.
Trent wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders. "If you change your mind and you want help beating Chris up, let me know, okay?"
"We can't beat him up, he's on our side," Kira said, repeating what Dr. O had said minutes before.
"Silly string attack?" Trent suggested with a grin.
Kira doubled over with laughter. Somehow, the image of Chris tangled in silly string was irresistible.
"I wonder if that still comes in all the Ranger colors," Dr. O mused, bringing a hand up to his chin.
"Anyway," she said, feeling better for her teammates' presence and words, "I can deal with my obnoxious Whitelighter. It's you guys I worry about."
"You're not that much tougher than us, you know," Trent said, giving her a squeeze. "I'm sure we'll cope admirably. We got childhoods without Big Brother watching, after all."
"That's true," Kira said. They were okay. She hoped.
"So, let's not worry about obnoxious guardian angels at the moment, and go home?" Conner said.
"We'd better, Dr. O's hiding a 'get out of here all ready look'," Kira replied, looking at him.
"I just don't want Conner getting grounded for being late again," Dr. O said as the boys gathered their things from the front hallway.
"Uh-huh, sure, Dr. O," Kira muttered as she followed the boys out the door.
* * *
Chris, in the meantime, had orbed himself up to the Golden Gate Bridge. He wanted to gather his thoughts before talking to Leo about the Rangers and their reaction.
So the famous Power Rangers thought they didn't need Whitelighters? That was *so* going to go over well with the Elders. Dealing with the Rangers had been frustrating. He had to wonder how Kira had dealt with her previous Whitelighters, and they with her, from the way she'd reacted. Of course, she'd reacted to him that way all along, so it wasn't just because he knew she was a Ranger. He didn't think.
And her mentor and teammate? Dr. Thomas Oliver had been a pain when Chris had only thought that he was causing problems for Kira; now he was a personal problem in another way.
Though given a choice he'd certainly take an overprotective teammate over a teacher of dubious intentions. It's just a lack of complication would be nice given that he had his hands full with the Charmed Ones. Why had Leo insisted that he take Karen and Kira Ford on as charges anyway? Because, of course, Leo thought he needed to focus on witches other than the Charmed Ones. He was a Whitelighter, after all, and so of course he needed multiple charges. It wasn't like the Charmed Ones weren't handfuls by themselves! Leo should know better. He used to be their Whitelighter. Of course, he also used to be Piper's husband, so he might not be terribly objective.
Shaking his head, he contemplated another mystery. "Names starting with 'E'," he muttered to the nearest seagull.
"Deep thoughts, Chris?" came a familiar voice from behind him.
"Annoying Rangers," Chris said briefly, not turning to look at Leo. "And a mystery." E. Which families fell into the 'E' pattern?
"Annoying Rangers? Mystery?" Leo said. "You want look at me and start back at square one?"
Chris turned around and ran his fingers through his hair. "I went to talk to Kira Ford, but she had a battle," he explained briefly. "She called me after to talk. Only her most senior teammate was there waiting to have a discussion with me about the fact that I'd found out she was a Ranger. Apparently they have as much of a secret identity thing as we do, and Kira decided that since one was broken, she might as well break the other."
"Do you really think he's a security risk?" Leo asked. "That doesn't seem to be your most pressing concern."
Chris sighed. *That* hadn't even crossed his mind. "I was told under no uncertain terms that Power Rangers don't need Whitelighters."
Leo frowned. "You did explain to them that -"
"Yes, Leo, I did explain to them, they just don't think they need us," Chris said, with more force than he intended. Why did he have to be the one to get stuck in the middle of all this? He had another job to do, damnit! "Apparently they don't need healers and they don't need a helpful ear."
"Or so they claim." Leo raised an eyebrow.
"That's what I thought," Chris said with a frown.
"So the mystery is why they don't want Whitelighters?" Leo asked, settling down beside him.
"Actually," Chris said, "There might be another Power Ranger from a witch family - 'E' name pattern, named Eric. Kira wasn't sure, and she certainly wasn't being very helpful." That had to be the understatement of the decade.
"E would be the Myers family, but I don't know of an Eric. I'll see what I can find out upstairs," Leo said. "And see if they have any suggestions about unwilling charges."
"Given that I'm still Kira's Whitelighter, I suspect you know their answer about that all ready." He hoped that he wouldn't get the rest of Kira's Ranger team, but of course he'd probably jinxed himself just by thinking about it.
"I know," Leo said, proving he wasn't obtuse.
"The rest of them... should be pretty easy, if they don't know who their Whitelighters are," Chris said.
"Which depends on Kira not spotting them," Leo said.
"That's the main complication," Chris admitted. Leo had put his main worry into words. "Somehow, neither Kira nor her mentor - who was the teacher I was worried about - see the point."
Leo held up a hand. "Stop. Back up. The teacher who had you so worried about before is also a Power Ranger?" Leo asked.
"Yeah," Chris said. "He's the team's mentor as well. Which probably explains my something's off about him vibes."
Leo nodded. "At least that's one less thing for you to worry about--we know why they seemed unusually close now. And that'll make it easier to find him," Leo said. "What about the rest of the team, do we know who they are?"
"Um," Chris looked down at his feet. "No, not exactly, but I have this weird hunch. Her teacher was wearing black and has been every time I've seen him; Kira always wears yellow. We know the Black Ranger is the Dino Thunder Ranger's mentor, so if Dr. Oliver is Kira's mentor..."
"Sounds about right." Leo had obviously either studied up on the current team, or had some familiarity from when he'd tried to infiltrate Lightspeed.
"So, all we have to do is find out who she hangs out with who wears white, red, and blue," Chris finished. He paused for a second. "It's a good thing it's not around the fourth of July, that might backfire."
Leo crossed his arms, looking at Chris intently. "And by 'we' you mean 'you', right?"
"Actually, the girls..."
"The girls?" Leo interrupted.
"The Charmed Ones," Chris specified. "I don't think that I can really spend so much time away from them." He had more important things to worry about than Power Rangers, after all.
Leo glared at him. "Chris, you have to pay attention to your other charges sometime...."
"I am paying attention to my other charges, why do you think we're now trying to figure out how to deal with the Power Rangers?" Chris interrupted, trying hard to keep his voice level. Leo made him want to scream sometimes. Well, a lot of the time. Seriously, he wasn't a teenager anymore, why couldn't he stop acting like one around Leo?
"That's not what I meant...." Leo was trying to keep a level tone as well, but it really didn't matter. Chris knew what was coming next and he knew he had to leave.
"Can't you ever say what you mean?" Chris asked testily and orbed away, leaving Leo to stare after him, considering what he'd just heard.
Maybe Leo should go himself and pay Kira Ford a visit.
* * *
Kira nearly jumped when she was greeted with orbing lights in the middle of her room while she was trying to do her science homework. "Chris!" she snapped, glad she was dressed, but irritated at the interruption. "Just 'cause you know I'm a Power Ranger doesn't mean you don't have to knock! What if I'd been changing clothes or something?"
"Sorry," said a strange voice. "Forgot."
Kira turned to face the visitor. It wasn't Chris; it was the Elder that had been with the Charmed Ones when she was seeing monsters instead of Whitelighters. Yeah. Totally not expected, but at least it excused orbing in on her, kinda. "Oh." The fact that an Elder was there filled her with dread, but she forced herself to not panic. Maybe he'd be reasonable. "Hello."
He smiled reassuringly, as if trying to put her at ease. "Hi, there, Kira."
No Dr. O, one Elder, and she so didn't want to be discussing things right now, but homework had to be put on hold when one hoped to convince the Elders that Rangers didn't need Whitelighters. But at least it gave them a chance. "I guess... Chris told you what was happening?"
"Yes, he did," the Elder said, still trying to project assurance. "He said you seem to think that Power Rangers don't need Whitelighters."
"Well, we don't, Mr. um... Elder...." She had no idea what his name was, she realized.
"Leo," Kira said, shifting uncomfortably a bit. She'd never wanted to come to the attention of an Elder. "The Power gives us super fast healing, we have each other for sounding boards, and Mesogog and his goons? Not exactly big on the subtle evil plans like demons are."
"And you're still forces of good," Leo said, smiling. He didn't seem upset; his tone was that of a person trying to convince someone else that they needed to do something for their own good. She'd never encountered an Elder before, so she didn't know if this was something they were used to doing. "I know that you're capable of taking care of yourselves. But as you said, demons are capable of subtle evil; just because the Power Rangers for the most part haven't encountered them and their plans doesn't mean you won't. Look at the most recent situation; evil certainly wasn't beyond making use of you and your team to prevent Chris from doing what he needed to do."
Kira blanched. "Oh my god. What if a demon followed me and knows I'm a Power Ranger? I mean, this is the first time that anyone knows of that Rangers have run afoul of the normal demonic world--did I just say that? Guess I did. Anyway, there has to be a connection." Kira flopped back on the bed, dispirited. "Great, even more things that are my fault." Just what she so needed.
"Not necessarily," Leo-the-Elder said, pulling Kira's desk chair near the bed and pulled it up to the bed. "Demons are cunning but the attack indicates they had no idea of your identity. If they had, it would have been harder for us to counteract." He paused, eyes narrowing in thought as if he were parsing the rest of her words, while settling down at her desk. "And more things that are your fault?"
Kira sat up, blushing. "No one else on the team would be saddled with a Whitelighter if I hadn't screwed up and let Chris figure out who I was."
She wondered what Leo-the-Elder, who had no doubt been the one trying to infiltrate Lightspeed, thought of that. It wasn't quite a betrayal of what she'd been born into, but it revealed her own dislike for her Whitelighters, and more of her dread about inflicting them on others, especially her friends and teammates. And maybe other Rangers.
"It's not a screw-up," Leo said gently. "If anything, we should have followed up post-Lightspeed and started keeping track of teams, but we didn't. Of course, the next team was pretty far to ground and after that... well we've also been pretty busy."
Kira internally wondered if Chris had put the name together for Eric Myers--if they were cross-referencing against people living in Silver Hills that year...
Leo-the-Elder didn't seem to notice her stray thoughts, and simply plowed ahead, "And I know you haven't had great relationships with your Whitelighters, Kira, but they're not meant to cause you pain. They're there to help. It's a partnership, if you'd let it be."
"Partnership?" Kira asked, springing up to her feet. "Paul hovered like a crazy man--I swear to you he was watching during my first date--the pervert, half the kids at school were convinced that Porter was my new step dad, and let's not even get into Anne! Not to mention what happened when Ami caught me reading Harry Potter! I've been picked on, shadowed, and driven half insane. Chris was the first one who even freaking bothered to *listen*, and even he was this close to sending me to the loony bin!" She held her thumb and index finger about a quarter inch apart.
What was that saying to him? That when it came to Whitelighters, Kira had not only issues, but a whole subscription? Kira wished she'd never had to deal with the angelic beings, having to hide her Harry Potter books, and being overprotected by every single Whitelighter she'd ever met... the issues went on and on.
"Sometimes Whitelighters get overprotective," Leo said, after a moment's thought. "And sometimes they just seem that way." He genuinely looked a bit sorry for what Kira had been put through, which could be an act or genuine, Kira wasn't sure which. "I can't apologize for your previous Whitelighters, Kira, just know they meant well. All of them did."
"I'm seventeen years old, I don't need a babysitter," Kira muttered, deliberately loud enough for Leo to hear. "Or a father figure."
Leo eyed her skeptically, and Kira wondered just what he was thinking. "Is there another reason you have for disliking Whitelighters so much, Kira?"
"Not really." She wasn't ready to talk about the other problems Whitelighters had caused in her life. There were so many things that they'd messed up that she was sure she couldn't inflict the well-meaning guardians on her friends and teammates. Where in the heck would she start, outburst aside?
Leo sat next to her on the bed. Kira glared at him, jerking away instinctively.
"There is something - was," Leo observed thoughtfully. "Something's gone wrong here, and it needs to be fixed." He barely flinched at Kira's glare, seeming content to stay placid. Kira wanted the Elder to Go Away, even if it could mean that he'd get so wrapped up in fixing her that he might forget to share her teammates with the rest of the Elders. She'd sacrifice a lot for the team, but this was a pain that she didn't want to go into at the moment.
"I don't need to be *fixed*," Kira said, petulantly. "I need to be *left alone*."
"You know it's not that easy." He was looking at her like he was going to sit there until she was "fixed" to his satisfaction. And she wasn't going to cooperate.
Kira smirked. "Wanna bet? Dino Thunder! Power Up!"
She transformed, knowing she'd get hell from Dr. O until she explained why she'd morphed outside of a battle - or an upcoming one. She was sure that Dr. O would be sympathetic.
"Kira, wait," Leo said, a tone of slight fear or panic lacing his tone.
Kira rolled her eyes under her helmet, opened her window, and neatly leapt onto the ground. She figured she was letting Leo off easy--after all, she could've just laid him out with a Ptera scream.
Somehow, that didn't seem like a great thing to do, so she just summoned her zord and mentally directed it to drop her at Dr. O's place.
Dr. O was waiting on his front porch, arms crossed and the expected stern "you can do better than that" look on his face.
"Okay, Dr. O, I just had to do a quick exit from an Elder who decided to follow up on Chris," she said breathlessly.
"Had to?" he repeated, eyebrows raised. "Kira, there's not being able to ditch a guardian angel, and then there's being downright careless."
"Um. Yeah." What she'd done wasn't bright; she wondered what Leo had made of it. He certainly now was going to investigate, and then she'd have to deal with everything again, and on top of it, Dr. O was going to not let her hear the end of it. "Sorry."
Dr. O sighed. "I'll let it go... this time. Why were you trying to ditch him anyway?"
"He was giving me the third degree about why I don't like Whitelighters."
Dr. O frowned, forehead furrowing. "Why you don't like them or why you don't want one?"
"As far as he's concerned, both," Kira said, flopping down onto the bench on the porch. "I guess I've had some really bad experiences with them and he wants to fix it. Except he can't."
"What happened, KIra?" Dr O asked, softly, sitting next to her.
Kira stared at her hands. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Clearly; you morphed in your own home and called your zord to get away from talking about it." Dr. O said.
"So you're saying that you can't take a hint?" Kira asked, eyes still trained on her hands.
"Not when it comes with an almost heart attack." Dr. O smirked, then his face softened. "I'm saying maybe you need to talk about it with someone you trust instead of a total stranger? I mean, you had your zord bring you here, right?"
Kira nodded. Dr. O had a point, and if she could explain things to him, she could maybe explain things to the Elder. Someday. She had no idea what he'd felt or what he was thinking; she wondered if he could track her now she was out of morph. Or maybe he was better at taking hints than Dr. O was. "I guess... I have an issue because Whitelighters don't deal with Squibs too well."
Dr. O frowned. "Somehow, Kira, I don't see you as the type of person who worries too much what a Whitelighter thinks."
"Thinks? No. Acts? Yes. I've had my Harry Potter books stolen. Chris isn't the first one who's gotten overprotective of me; he's actually one of the better ones about it. I don't have powers, so they feel like they have to be nosy. "
"I've tried to be nosy with you, Kira," Dr. O said. "You seemed quite capable of handling yourself."
"Practice, Dr. O. Lots and lots of practice." Kira sighed. "Besides, you were worried about me. These guys... I'm not sure what their angle was."
Dr. O frowned, giving her the searching look he sometimes got when one of the guys was trying to cover how badly he'd been beaten up in a fight.
"I had one where everybody seriously thought he was Mom's fiance," Kira said, trying to explain. "Another one that followed me on a date. He said hewanted to make sure I was safe, but he wasn't my father, that wasn't his job. When I started reading Harry Potter, I got lectured about it - and I'm sure that's when my books started wandering off. I got good at pretending that it didn't matter, and tried to stay away from them as much as possible."
Dr. O frowned. "Did you tell your mom about the missing books?"
Kira shifted uncomfortably. "I kinda wasn't supposed to have them."
"I see," Doctor O said, raising his eyebrows a little in thought. It was a familiar look, and she decided to speak up before it took forever for him to ask.
"Dr. O, you're getting that face where you look like you want to ask me something, except you don't."
"How much does your dad know about all this, Kira?" he asked, leaning back.
"He... um... he and mom divorced 'cause he thought she was having an affair." Kira shuffled uncomfortably. It was never something she ever intended to talk about with any of the guys.
"With her Whitelighter?" Dr. O asked.
"Yeah," Kira said. "I didn't know who he was at the time, and then...." She sighed, collapsing onto the swing on the front porch.
"He was there, and then your parents got divorced."
Kira nodded. "That's when I found out about Whitelighters, and every one that's been assigned to Mom just takes it for granted that I need protecting. From anything and everything."
"Um, Kira, do you think maybe you have a strong dislike of whitelighters because you think...."
"Dr. O, I didn't come here to be psychoanalyzed." No way was she going to deal with that on top of everything else.
"Which is why I haven't called Trini. But hear me out, okay?"
"You're not going to tell everyone else are you? About magic and whitelighters I mean? That could get ugly." Very, very ugly, and he probably knew it from his expression.
"Maybe I should call Trini."
"Maybe you shouldn't," Kira said, hoping to forestall getting anybody else involved in her problem. "I mean, I don't want them finding out about her and giving her a Whitelighter too."
"Kira, I don't think it'll come to that," Dr. O said. He paused. "Trini's good at taking care of herself. And it's not your fault."
"I still don't want to be responsible," Kira said. "I want to leave the Magic out of this."
Something flickered across Dr. O's face.
"What?" Kira asked.
"Kira, you're not afraid of losing us over this are you?" Dr. O asked, his eyebrows trying to rise into his hairline.
"Of course not," Kira said, staring at her shoes and playing with her shoelace. "I just... I don't want everybody having to deal with the same thing I did."
Dr. O raised an eyebrow at her.
Kira sighed. She'd come here for help, not to trigger Dr. O switching into overprotective mode. "I won't lose you guys, we're a team." She hung her head, a tuft of hair drifted into her eyes.
"You lost your dad over this," Dr. O pointed out, tucking the stray hair behind her ears. "Does he ever contact you, Kira? I don't think I've ever heard you mention him."
Kira shook her head, then batted her hair out of her eyes again. "Not really. In a way, I guess the Whitelighters are the nearest things I've had to second parents since then." Which was probably why it hurt. Her real dad had gone away, and she'd had guardian angels doing a crappy job in his place.
"So do you dislike Whitelighters because of who they are, or who they're not?"
Kira frowned. "Are you sure you didn't get a degree in psychology in college, Dr. O?"
Dr. O didn't answer, he just raised an eyebrow at her.
Kira sighed, considering his question. "And... I don't know. All I know is that I didn't want that Elder to try to 'fix' things. He's probably still sitting on my bed being confused."
Dr. O blinked, eyebrows tightening and frown setting so low it pulled his goatee in frighteningly evil like directions. "Sitting on your bed?"
Kira threw up her hands. "Dr. O, don't, okay? I got enough of that from you and Chris to last a lifetime!"
"I trust an Elder not to molest me," she said. "I think he was trying to be reassuring and failing."
"If you say so." Dr. O still looked worried, but he was clearly going to drop the subject.
A cascade of light appeared and Kira groaned. "Okay, so not having a good day."
The sparkley lights resolved into the Elder in question. Kira wondered if Elders were easier to call than Whitelighters. Either that or he just had freaky timing. She shuddered. Had he been listening in?
Dr. O squeezed her shoulder, addressing Leo.
"You must be the Elder that had Kira risking her secret identity."
"You must be Kira's teacher and teammate," Leo said in greeting, holding out his hand. "I'm Leo Wyatt."
"Dr. Thomas Oliver," Dr. O said, reaching out to shake the Elder's hand. Kira was faintly glad to hear the Dr.; it seemed much more formal. Which went with Leo and the handshake.
"I... got worried," Leo said, indicating Kira.
Dr. O smirked. "She seems to have that affect on people. On the other hand, she seems to have made it clear she wasn't ready to talk to you yet."
"How about giving me some space?" Kira suggested. "No one seems to find this a viable option for some reason." She shot a meaningful glance towards Dr. O.
"I get worried too." Dr. O paused. "You're my teammate."
Kira sighed, biting her lower lip.
"But I know when to step away," he said, shooting a meaningful glance at Leo. "I did it before, when you asked."
"And I came to him when I needed him," Kira added, pointedly staring at Leo.
Kira thought she heard Dr. O mutter, "Tonight too," under his breath.
"I got Chris to back off - I know when to ask for help. That was the deal." Kira glared, hoping he'd get the message.
"You're not asking for help now, are you?" Leo pointed out, in what he probably thought was a kind tone.
"Because I don't need it," Kira said. She raised her eyebrows, wondering why he - no, she knew why. He just didn't know how to give up.
Dr. O's face said otherwise, but to his credit, he didn't say anything in front of the Elder that was hounding her.
"It's a Ranger issue, discuss it with Dr. O," she said, gesturing at her teacher and hoping she'd get out of there before she lost something. Like her temper. Or break into tears.
Leo just raised an eyebrow at that.
Dr. O frowned, as if deciding something, and then nodding. "Kira, you want to meet me downstairs?"
Anything to get away from Leo. "Sure, Dr. O," she said, heading away as fast as she could without seeming like she was running.
"You sent her out of the proverbial room why exactly?"
"Did you know Ms. Ford's whitelighter was a factor in Kira's parents' divorce?" Dr. O asked, cutting straight to the point. "I believe this may be what's known as rubbing salt in the wound."
"So, that's her issue," Leo said quietly, realizing what the issue was quickly enough, and trying to figure out what to do about it. "It sounds like... she could have had better whitelighters."
"Probably," Dr. O said, seemingly unmoved. "Look, for now, Kira can call Chris if we need something, so I really don't see any reason that the whole team needs Whitelighters. And if you don't want Kira to find a way to dodge you all permanently, you might want to back off a little bit."
"I'll leave Kira to Chris," Leo said. "He and she seem to get along. As for the rest of you...." Leo paused, a look of pain crossing his face, "Even teammates sometimes get separated. And most of the time, it wouldn't be like it was with Kira. The only time they'd show up is if you needed them, and called to them."
Dr. O frowned. "What's wrong with the whole team being able to call Chris?"
"It's probably best if you had different whitelighters," Leo said. He looked at the ground for a moment, as if the words he was searching for were sitting there. "Chris has enough charges, and this way, at least you would have lots of help."
"Which part of 'we don't need lots of help' do you not understand?" Dr. O sighed.
"In a crisis, you might," Leo said. "Look, you might not be happy with this arrangement, but how about giving it a try? I think the other Elders would understand it better if they saw how you worked, than if you keep refusing."
Dr. O rolled his eyes. Seriously what was with this guy? No wonder Kira wanted nothing to do with these Elders. "I don't understand why we should worry about keeping the Elders happy."
"Because, technically, as protectors of all that's good, you work for them."
He wanted to retort, "I work for good. And Zordon," but his Ranger past was the LAST thing he wanted to explain. "And?" Dr. O asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Elders are dedicated to protecting the protectors," Leo said. "As well as making sure those who need to be protected are."
"We don't need to be protected," Dr. O said firmly.
"Maybe," Leo acknowledged. "But bear with us."
"I can outstubborn anyone, ask my friends from high school."
"I'm sure you can," Leo said, his voice was something between a challenge and a patronizing tone.
Dr. O crossed his arms, fixing Leo with his sternest look. "Look, I'm willing to compromise here. Assign Chris to the whole team or give up."
"I can't," Leo said. "I can assign one person to your whole team, but Chris is overloaded."
"Let me talk to Kira about this," Dr. O said. "I'll see what she wants to do. I don't suppose you'd be willing to assign one person the rest of the team? I presume Chris is Kira's whitelighter because he's also her mother's Whitelighter?"
"She is," Leo replied, nodding slightly. "Now that we know why she didn't inherit the magic... well, she works well with Chris, she can work it out with him. And yes, I think we can assign one person to the entire team."
"Well, we'll leave it up to her, then, but I think the rest of us can live with that." There were worse compromises. Until they convinced the Elders not to assign anyone at all.
Leo nodded. "Good." He orbed away, leaving the other man to his own thoughts.
After a moment of making sure the Elder really left, Dr. O took a deep breath and headed for the Lab, where Kira was waiting.
"So, did he finally give up and go away, Dr. O?" Kira asked. She'd been sitting down, hoping that the Elder would listen to whatever Dr. O had to say, at least consider things their way. Chris could be cool; maybe his boss could be cool, too.
"We... talked." Dr. O sat down beside her. "And I think we came up with something we can live with. At least a compromise."
"That sounds kinda discouraging."
"Well, the team's still getting Whitelighters," Dr. O said. At Kira's groan he added, "Chris and you - because you're used to each other - and one for the rest of the team. Leo thinks if we're to prove that we don't need Whitelighters, the best way to prove it to the Elders is to show our Whitelighters that we don't need them."
Kira gave up all pretense at decorum and flopped backwards on the floor, wincing slightly. "Great, Chris will never let me hear the end of it."
"Oh, I'm sure he will," Dr. O said with confidence. Kira recognized his smile as one that had just a bit of mischief to it.
"What makes you so sure?" Kira asked, eying her mentor with suspicion.
Dr. O's grin became almost feral. "Because he'll have me to answer to if he doesn't."
Kira laughed. "No offense, Dr. O, but not even you are a match for a Whitelighter hellbent on being a nuisance."
"I think the Whitelighters have a lot to learn about Rangers," Dr. O said. "And when Chris and whoever pulls Team duty start seeing how we operate, I'm sure that someone up there will be reasonable."
"I hope so," Kira said. She shifted uncomfortably, suddenly becoming very interested in her hands. "Um, do you think we ought to give Eric Myers a heads up? Just in case someone figures out who he is?"
"Do you think they've figured it out?" Dr. O asked, raising his eyebrows.
Kira sighed. "Whitelighters are pain in the necks, but they're not stupid. Mostly."
Dr. O laughed. "I'll give him a call, I guess. Unless you want to..."
"Not really," Kira said, shifting uncomfortably. He didn't sound like a very nice guy, and he certainly wasn't going to like what she had to say.
"He's a lot better than he used to be, Kira," Dr. O said, gently patting her arm. "Wes and Taylor have seen to that."
"Still, the whole blabbed to the Whitelighter thing wasn't such a great idea, even if he only has Eric's first name."
"Once they start hanging around us long enough to get the color coding, it won't be long 'til they start picking other people out," Dr. O said. "They know where the teams lived, believe me, it doesn't matter what you said or didn't say. They're going to probably unravel the entire Angel Grove team just based on knowing I was a Ranger."
"Really?" Kira asked, studying Dr. O carefully, as if looking at him would tell her if he was being honest or just trying to make her feel better.
"Justin's dad managed it after the Space team had to reveal their identities." He looked thoughtful. "He took it very well."
"Oops," Kira said. "I guess it couldn't be helped." She'd heard enough about Justin to have a good idea of him and his family. "I just hope they don't think civilian retired Ranger means they need Whitelighter protection." Of course, if Eric had a Whitelighter - if he was from a Witch family - he'd get Whitelighter protection anyway. She giggled as she imagined Eric's Whitelighter trying to deal with him.
"What?" Dr. O was studying her now, as if making sure that everything hadn't driven her around the bend.
"Just imagining what you told us about the guy together with your typical whitelighter and..." She shouldn't be so amused at the thought of an ex-Ranger trying to push a Whitelighter out of his life. With force.
"He has softened some... but yeah, he wouldn't put up with much," Dr. O said, catching on with the amusement. "He hasn't softened that much."
Kira giggled some more, knowing that she'd probably regret it later, but it felt good.
"And if we can convince ours that we don't need them, then we don't have to deal with them either," Dr. O said. "And we *will* convince them."
"Promise?" She looked at him with wide eyes.
"Do my best, Kira, we all will. Speaking of which, we should have a team meeting about this...."
Kira flopped over again.
"Yeah, I know you're happy about that, but if we're to going to have them get the idea, we might as well start before the Elders make up their minds."
"Just promise you won't let them make me wash the zords."
"That's reserved for Trent," Dr. O said with a straight face, a too straight face. "Washing the Zords, that is." He paused. "I take it... some of them took their duties seriously?"
"Some of who took what duties seriously?" She'd lost track of which they that the two of them were now talking about.
"Your Whitelighters," Dr. O said. "As Whitelighters."
Kira rolled her eyes. "They *all* take their duties seriously, Dr. O. "
"Did some of them try to be parents, too?" Dr. O sat next to Kira on the porch swing.
Kira sighed. "Are we back to that again?"
Dr. O held up his hands in an "I'm harmless" gesture. "What? I just want to know how carefully to watch Trent is all--if his dad's taking proper care of him, I'll eat my helmet."
"Right," Kira said, after laughing a little at the mental image of Dr. O eating his helmet. "They do whatever they need to do to ensure the safety of their charges. If that means trying to help, they will." She thought of how things might be for Trent and shivered. Yeah, a Whitelighter would probably feel protective of him.
"Warning Trent might be a good thing then," Dr. O said.
"Great," Kira murmered.
"Kira, it's going to take more than a Whitelighter to make him stop liking you." Dr. O was fighting a grin. She could tell.
"I know," Kira said. "It's just...." She shivered. "Trent...."
Dr. O reached out, squeezing her shoulder. "Don't worry, it'll all work out."
"I hope so, because... we'll never get rid of them now." Kira buried her face in her hands.
Dr. O pulled back gently on her shoulder so she had to sit up. "Kira...."
"I've lived with them all my life, Dr. O! You can dodge them, not get rid of them, they can track you and find you and...."
"Kira, breathe." Dr. O talked gently and a bit slowly, and she picked up what he meant.
Doing some breathing exercises her mom had taught her, she said, "Once they know who we all are, they'll keep track of us."
"Kira, calm down," Dr. O said. "We'll find a way out of this."
"All of us?" She had her doubts, even with Dr. O's confidence.
"As best we can," Dr. O told her. "They have no clue on how we operate and how they're not needed."
Kira nodded, though she wished she could tell Dr. O all of her stories. And then realized that she probably could. Maybe not right at the moment, though.
"We're a team, Kira," he reminded her.
"Right," Kira said, sniffling a little. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Maybe. Whitelighters tended to throw spanners in the works.
"I know it seems that we're giving in to them... but I don't think they'll go away until we do."
Kira nodded, and wondered why her whitelighters seemed to sap her self-confidence.
Dr. O bit his lip, then reached out and squeezed her shoulder again.
"We need a plan, Kira," Dr. O said. "You're going to be essential in coming up with it--you're the one who knows best on what to do."
Kira frowned. "I haven't exactly been great at ditching Whitelighters before now. I mean, other than tonight."
"No, I don't think we want a repeat performance of that," Dr. O said sternly.
Kira's exhaustion, for some reason, decided to catch up with her at exactly that moment, and she yawned.
Dr. O smiled indulgently. "We can discuss this as a team in the morning. In the meantime, you should probably get home before your mom starts worrying."
Sparkley lights formed on Dr. O's porch.
"It's a little late for that," Chris said, looking from Kira to Dr. O appraisingly. "Ranger emergency?"
"I had to get away from that Elder again." Kira shifted uncomfortably.
"Leo?" Chris asked, obviously surprised.
"He and Dr. O had a..." Kira paused, searching for the right word, "discussion."
"Oh?" Chris asked. He looked her over, as if trying to look through her.
Kira subconsciously stepped towards Dr. O.
Dr. O squeezed his shoulder. "We came to an agreement." Dr. O said looked remarkably calm considering he'd just basically agreed to become a Whitelighter charge semi-voluntarily.
"Okay," Chris said, sounding dubious.
"I'm sure he'll tell you," Kira said, getting up.
Chris turned to Dr. O expectantly.
"I meant Leo, not Dr. O," she said, mentally rolling her eyes.
"Oh." Chris shifted on his feet, staring at the ground.
Kira echoed the move unconsciously. "Um, can I ask you for a ride home? I kinda came via an... unconventional route. And Mom would probably freak if Dr. O dropped me off."
"Your mom wants me to bring you home anyway," Chris said, as if that was the most normal thing in the world for one's whitelighter to pick one up after one has had an argument with an elder and ran away.
At least he wasn't freaking out that she'd run away to Dr. O's house.
"See you tomorrow, Dr. O," Kira said, taking Chris's hand.
"Man, I miss teleporting," Dr. O said as Kira and Chris disappeared in a flurry of sparks.
* * *
Kira, on the other hand, was glad to get home, though how she'd explain her disappearance was a good question. It wasn't like she had gone off for a really good reason.
"Mom is so going to k-destroy me," she muttered, looking at the door.
"Maybe you should try telling her the truth," Chris suggested delicately.
"Chris, I can't!"
"Why not?" He asked. It would have been a reasonable question if it hadn't come from a Whitelighter.
"Do you tell your mother everything?"
"Exactly. Besides, what would I tell her, 'Mom, I'm a teenage superhero!'? That would go over well."
"No, probably not," Chris said. "So what do you want to tell her?"
"Really? I don't want to tell her at all." Just what she needed, an overprotective mother on top of an overprotective whitelighter. "But eventually I might. After I have a discussion with Dr. O."
"I meant about where you've been."
"Um." She paused and thought. "At the library?"
Chris chuckled. "That one never works, trust me."
"Remind me, next time? Come up with a good excuse beforehand." She thought about it. "Maybe I can get away with explaining later."
"Explaining what?" asked Karen Ford from the doorway that led from the living room to the hallway, her arms crossed.
"Kira was helping Trent close the Cyberspace," Chris said, smirking at Kira.
"Hayley was still there," Kira added hastily, not wanting to let her mom think that she'd been with Trent unchaperoned.
"Really?" her mom asked, making it seem like she didn't believe Kira at all. Okay, she really didn't seem like she believed Kira at all.
"Really," Chris said firmly. "Hayley was giving me the stink eye. You'd think that I had dishonorable intentions or something."
Karen eyed Chris, inspecting him as if she could d. "All right," she said. "But remember to call me, I was getting worried."
"I will," Kira promised, then decided she'd bring up the whole thing about identity reveals to Dr. O the next day. Her mom fought evil too; it wasn't like she wouldn't understand the whole thing. And it would save Kira from having to lie every time she had a monster attack come up.
Kira yawned, and Chris shot her a dirty look.
"It's late, Kira, time for bed," Karen said.
"Right," Kira said, giving Chris a small smile as she went upstairs.
* * *
Chris himself went to get some answers. From someone. Maybe named Leo. He chose his destination by focusing on Leo and was pleasantly surprised to find himself in Wyatt's nursery.
"Hi, Chris, what's going on?" Leo asked, beaming widely as he finished fastening Wyatt's playsuit.
"So, how did *you* get the Rangers to agree to Whitelighters?" Chris blurted. It probably shouldn't have been his most pressing concern, but he wanted to know. For future reference, as he often had trouble talking Kira into anything.
"I let them try to negotiate until they wore themselves out and agreed to what I wanted."
"Knowing Kira, that had to be amazing," Chris said, crossing his arms and somehow feeling protective of his Charge, even with Leo.
"I appealed to a higher authority," Leo said simply, shifting Wyatt into a comfortable position in his arms. "Doctor Oliver." He tickled Wyatt's tummy.
"Ah," Chris said. "And he agreed to it? With no terms or conditions?"
"Well, there was the condition that the rest of the team get the same Whitelighter--actually, he wanted you, but I get the impression that wouldn't have gone over too well." Leo watched Chris carefully, as if expecting him to somehow give something away from that statement.
Chris groaned, both at the idea of taking on more charges and Leo meddling. "No, thanks. Kira, her mom, and the Charmed Ones is enough for one Whitelighter to handle." It figured that Dr. Oliver would want the same person for the entire team - though he was surprised that Kira hadn't been asked to be reassigned to the same whitelighter. "But not Kira?"
"Doctor Oliver and I felt that since you're the first Whitelighter Kira's gotten along with in awhile, that it might be a good idea if she was still your charge." Leo paused, settling Wyatt into his crib, but casting contemplative glances at Chris, as if still hoping he'd say something.
"What is it?" Chris asked, hoping that Leo had Kira on the mind and not their own relationship.
"Did Kira or Karen ever tell you why Kira's father left?"
Chris shook his head. "Not a clue. Kira doesn't want to talk about it, and I've never found a way to bring it up with Karen." He'd tried, but she'd had her secrets, and he'd respected them as much as he could.
"Apparently he thought that her mom was having an affair with her whitelighter."
"That... explains certain things." He was sure said whitelighter wasn't doing the same, or Kira would have had a sibling most likely. "It could also explain why she's been avoiding me and every other whitelighter she's had."
Leo nodded. "That's certainly a traumatic association. But at least now that we know what's going on here, she might trust you more."
Fixing Kira's problem with her Whitelighters was not his job, not really. "At least I hope she'll avoid me less now." And lie to him less, too. Of course, she'd had a reason to, before.
Leo nodded, laying Wyatt down and covering him with a coverlet. "If nothing else, she won't be trying to hide something from you. That should make things easier all around."
"Yeah, it will," Chris acknowledged. And Kira wouldn't call on him, he knew it, unless there was good reason. Not because she was trying to avoid him, but because she was mature enough to know when to ask for help. Issues aside, she'd proven that over the last few days--running straight to Dr. Oliver when Chris had freaked her out. (He maybe needed to not do that so much.) "Maybe she'll open up more. How about the Whitelighter for the other Rangers, and anybody know about Eric Myers?"
Leo beckoned Chris out of the nursery, shutting the door behind them. "Eric's whitelighter has a shaky relationship with him at best--and an undercover one at that. She was loathe to confront him. Can you think of anyone that should be the Whitelighter for the other rangers?"
Chris shook his head. "I'm not sure who can handle four fifths of a Ranger team."
Leo's brow wrinkled in thought as he sunk into a chair in the master bedroom. "What can you tell me about them?"
"Dr. Oliver you've met," Chris said. "The others are Conner - all I know about him is that he plays soccer. Ethan, I guess, is a computer geek. Kira really likes Trent - and I know he's into art. I haven't gotten to know them too well, only what tidbits Kira's accidentally mentioned to me or her mom."
"So what we're looking for is a renaissance whitelighter?" Leo asked, still thinking.
"What?" Chris said, deadpan. "Is Leonardo Da Vinci free?"
But Leo was deep in thought and didn't respond.
Chris should've known better than to waste that joke on him.
Leo was tapping the arm of the chair. "I know the right person for Trent, but I'm not sure she'll mesh with the rest of the team. The same for any of the others."
"I don't think you want to cross Dr. Oliver if you've made him a promise." Chris said, remembering the man.
Leo nodded, still lost in thought. "Sarah might be best."
"Because she's an artist or she likes to play Cupid?" He could picture Sarah, who excelled at both, and suddenly wondered if Rangers married one another.
"Both, plus she's not easily shocked," Leo said with a distant, fading smile.
"Leo, are you even paying attention? Sarah would go insane dealing with four Rangers!" Just because he didn't want to have four new charges didn't mean that he didn't feel oddly protective of Kira's teammates.
"She can handle them," Leo said confidently.
Chris sighed. "This is a conspiracy to make me take on more charges, isn't it?" It had to be.
"Sarah will handle the others, you concentrate on Kira," Leo said. His smile returned, a little. "I think she has some healing to do."
"Uh-huh," Chris said sarcastically.
"You can take the rest of them on, if you want," Leo offered. "I'm sure that you'd be a good Whitelighter for them."
Chris's eyes settled on Wyatt, becoming determined. "No. I think I have my hands full."
Leo nodded. "I'll tell Sarah about her new assignment," he said. "I think she'll like it."
"Let's hope so," Chris said.
"You and she can coordinate things if needed," Leo told him, folding his hands.
"If?" Chris said. "With that group? When is probably a better descriptor."
"When, then," Leo said sagely.