*Later that morning
"Tommy, can I talk to you?"
Tommy looked around in surprise at his brother. "Sure, man. What's up?"
David glanced uneasily at the other teens, who were wolfing down a breakfast of pancakes and muffins.
Feeling a touch of concern, Tommy led the way through into the family room, and they sat down on the sofa.
"What's wrong?" Tommy asked.
"Well, it's sort of a good news/bad news situation. Tommy... I've been offered a scholarship to study Native American History."
Tommy's face lit up with pleasure for his brother's luck. "That's great, man!"
"Wait till you hear the rest. The scholarship is for a university in Chicago."
Tommy froze. "Chicago...?"
"Yeah. I know it's a weird place to have it, but apparently they've got a really good faculty. I... I've been thinking it over, and I've decided to take it."
The Red Ranger paled slightly as he realised just how much they were relying on David, as a friend and as part of the ranger team.
"Well... What about the team? We need you, man..."
"You need a Green Ranger. You don't specifically need me. This is important to me, Tommy. I really want to take this scholarship. I think I'll be able to do a lot of important work through it."
"You've gotta do what you think is best," Tommy conceded. "I'm sorry... It's just a shock."
"I know, and I'm sorry to throw it at you like this. The truth is I don't have any time left. I have to be in Chicago in a week if I accept."
Tommy's mind reeled with shock. A week... A week to find a new Green Ranger There was no way he could expect Jason to take on the responsibility. His near-death experience in holding the Gold Ranger Powers for Trey had left him incapable of supporting any other Ranger power. So, who...?
A smile filtered onto his face as the obvious solution came to him. Perfect...
The friends were just finishing breakfast when Tommy and David came back into the kitchen.
"Guys, listen up!" Tommy called out, bringing silence down on the group. "David's got something to say."
David spared Tommy a wrathful look. "Thanks. I think."
Tommy smiled and shrugged. David sighed inwardly and spoke.
"I've been offered a scholarship to study Native American History at a college in Chicago and, ah.... I've decided to take it."
A deathly silence fell as they all stared at David in disbelief.
Finally, Rocky spoke.
"You can't do that. We need you, man..."
"It's all right," Tommy replied. "Listen, finish breakfast, and we'll go to the Power Chamber. Everything's gonna be fine. I promise."
They did as Tommy asked, and finished their breakfast in heavy silence.
Zordon listened patiently as David explained his position, then spoke seriously.
"I understand, David. You have made yourself a valuable member of the team, and we will miss you greatly. But now, we must locate someone else to wield the powers of the Green Ranger."
"Who do you have in mind, Tommy?" Alpha asked. Tommy turned around slowly, and his gaze came to rest on Billy.
"How do you look in green?"
Billy's jaw dropped. "Me?" he asked incredulously. Kat clapped her hands together in excitement.
"That's perfect! The Zeo Powers are different to the Gold Ranger powers. Theres no way they'll reject him!"
Zordon couldn't resist a grin. "That is a very good idea, Tommy. Billy, do you accept the responsibility of becoming Zeo Ranger IV?"
Billy stood frozen for a long moment, barely able to believe it was happening. He was going to be a ranger again... Finally, he pulled himself together and spoke, barely able to keep his voice calm.
"I accept, Zordon."
"Very well. We will transfer the powers immediately."
Only minutes later, the team had found a new Green Ranger in an old friend. The friends teleported back to the Cranston house after the surprising succession of events, and piled into the family room once more to talk.
"Does this mean I have to start wearing green clothes?" Billy asked doubtfully. Adam looked indignant.
"What's wrong with green?"
"Uh Nothing. Nothing at all."
Laughter swept across the group as Hank came in, holding something behind his back. He coughed loudly, and silence fell as they all looked around at him curiously.
"Adam, I have something for you," he said, and sounded a little nervous. "I would have given it to you last night, but I don't think you would have appreciated it in front of so many people."
He hesitated, then brought a big, furry teddy bear out from behind his back and held it out to Adam. Adam froze, staring at the bear in disbelief. Silence reigned, and no one laughed. They all suspected there was some meaning to the bear that was between Hank and Adam alone.
Finally, Adam reached up with trembling fingers and took the bear into his arms. It was a moment before he realised that he'd started to cry.
"Thank you," he whispered in a strained voice as he hugged the furry gift close. A moment passed, and then Tanya sat down next to him on the sofa, silently putting her arms around him. Adam shuddered and slumped against her, the tears coming in a flood.
*Six months later
Adam walked slowly through the front door, Billy close behind him. Though Billy was no longer in school, and was free to spend most of his time in his beloved lab, he had been at the Youth Centre almost religiously at 4 p.m. every day, to meet Adam and walk him home. Adam silently appreciated it. Over the past few months, he had grown steadily weaker, and suspected it would not be long before he was incapable of making the journey between home and school on foot.
He stumbled just inside the doorway, and Billy quickly caught his arm in a tender grip.
"Easy. Take your time."
Adam sighed inwardly. He felt like an invalid, what with being so unsteady on his feet.
"Thanks," he murmured.
Billy put Adam's bag down, then ushered the teen into the family room. Hank looked in from the kitchen.
"Can I get you boys anything?"
Billy looked at Adam for a moment, then nodded. "Hot chocolate would be good. It's cold outside."
"Two hot chocolates coming up."
Adam looked away from Billy, to the fire. Hot chocolate... A simple pleasure that he found hard to enjoy, now. His hands shook most of the time, now, and he found it difficult to hold anything steady. Most people seemed to understand, but it could be embarrassing, sometimes.
Hank came back in, and handed a mug to Adam that was only three quarters full. Adam bit down hard on his lower lip so he wouldn't cry. He couldn't even cope with a full mug... Hank handed the second mug to Billy, then sat down on the sofa.
"How was school?"
"Okay," Adam replied softly. "Got some Chemistry homework to do."
"I'll help you with it after dinner," Billy said quietly. Adam felt a touch of hurt.
"I can do it alone. I'm not stupid."
Billy blinked, taken aback. Then, he nodded. "I'm sorry. I'll help, if you want me to."
Adam sighed audibly that time, and shut his eyes, sinking down into the soft armchair. Within minutes he was sleeping soundly.
"He still has his pride," Hank remarked softly, once they knew Adam was asleep. Billy fought back a single tear.
"Dignity. Not pride."
Billy looked around at his father.
"What did Dr Sutton say yesterday, when you took Adam in to see him?"
"Just the same as usual."
"Don't lie," Billy growled, feeling as tired as he knew Adam was. "I'm not in the mood for it."
Hank stared at the floor. "He said it won't be long now. Adam has less than a month left. He wanted to admit Adam to hospital, but I refused. He's accepted dying, and it will only make it worse to be sustained in hospital for however long, on a whole lot of machines. I think he'd much rather stay here."
"I didn't think he had a lot of time left," Billy said sadly. "It's been around seven months since it was diagnosed and he lost a month because of Mondo. That's about the original time frame that Dr Sutton gave, isn't it?"
"Eight months." Hank hesitated, then stood up and went over to crouch down beside the sleeping boy. "This world can be so damn cruel. Why is it that the innocent ones are taken first?"
He reached up to gently brush a single lock of hair out of Adam's face. Thankfully, losing his hair had been one indignity that Adam had been spared. A month after the incident with Mondo, Dr Sutton had decided the best method would be to step up the Chemotherapy, and so the radiation therapy had been abandoned. It had been one torture that Adam had been grateful to do without.
"Are you going to put him to bed?" Billy asked. Hank nodded.
"Yes. Go into his room, and pull back the blankets, then close the shades." Billy went to do as he'd been asked, and Hank rose up, sliding his arms carefully beneath Adam's still form and lifting the boy up out of the chair. It was disturbing, how easy it was to carry the seventeen year-old, but convenient as well.
He carried Adam into the now dark bedroom and placed him gently in the bed, quickly removing Adam's jacket and shoes. Billy followed suit by pulling up the blankets to cover Adam fully. Hank started to leave, only to stop when Billy didn't move.
"Billy? Are you coming?"
"I think I'll stay with him Just for a little while."
Hank hesitated, then consented. "All right."
Billy pulled up a chair and sat down as his father backed out of the room. He could hardly believe that six months had passed, or that six months could mean so much. Adam had grown painfully frail over that time, and it was clear, even without the opinion of a doctor, that he did not have much time left.
Billy shut his eyes, trying hard to remember the times they'd spent together, the way that Adam's incredible bashfulness had made him seem like an extrovert by comparison. He smiled to himself, recalling the first time he had met Adam. It had been pure chance, an accident in the park and a race to save a baby that had caused them to first meet. Almost instantly, Billy had felt a connection with the quiet young Asian boy, a sort of kinship that had been realised when Rocky, Adam and Aisha had learned their Power Ranger secret by accident.
Then, when Jason, Zack and Trini had left for the peace conference, and Adam had taken over from Zack, Billy had realised just how well they fitted together. Two peas in a pod, Miss Appleby had once remarked when she'd found the two of them together in the school library, studying up on Physics. Billy smiled a little. As if that wasn't cliche at all... But they _had_ been like that.
The change had come when they'd journeyed to Phaedos to find the Great Power, stop Ivan Ooze and save Zordon's life. He had been both honoured and thrilled to be taken in by the wolf spirit, but Adam had been less than excited about his frog spirit. Of course, he'd taken it in his stride, as Adam took everything in his stride, but it had still hurt. Then, later on, when the trouble was ended and they were back to dealing with Zedd and Rita... Suddenly, Adam seemed uncomfortable around him, and was forever making excuses to avoid spending time with him.
After a long talk with Zordon, he had realised that Adam felt inferior to him. After all, who ever heard of a frog hanging out with a wolf?
Billy brushed away non-existent tears. Adam had still been insecure enough then to honestly believe that being a frog made him inferior to the rest of them. It had been a blow that his self esteem had very nearly not recovered from.
Now... Only God knew what was going through Adam's mind. To know he was dying... It was a frightening thought for the rangers, so how terrifying was it for Adam? As much as the knowledge that he might not even make it to Christmas, which was only three weeks away....
*if you could have any wish you wanted, what would you ask for?*
Billy rose up and walked over to the window, peering out through the shades at the clear, cold day. He knew what he wanted, and he wanted it more than anything else he had ever asked for. He wanted to have one last Christmas with his best friend and adopted brother. Adam deserved to have that happiness, to survive long enough to enjoy that time together. But was it a wish that would be granted...?
Billy hung his head in sorrow. No one had answered their prayer that Adam would go into remission; why would this one be answered? They all knew the odds. Adam was likely to die within the next two or three weeks, and would most likely not live to see Christmas. Tears finally worked their way out of the new Green Ranger's eyes. Christmas was going to be a very painful time for all of them, this year.
Adam sat on the misty ground in silence, watching the small, yet noble frog that stood some distance away. He was closer now, much closer than six months ago. Adam felt no fear, though. Instead, replacing the terror that had consumed him six months ago, there was a calm acceptance of his fate.
"I don't have long, do I?" he asked aloud. The frog remained silent, watching his young charge with intelligent eyes. Adam hesitated, then tried again.
"Can't you tell me how long I have? A month? Less?"
Still no answer. Adam looked away, into the distance. There, far away, it seemed, Billy sat by his side in the bedroom, keeping watch in a silent vigil. Billy had kept the promise that he'd gotten out of him, and had stayed away from the Power Chamber, except to deal with Mondo and his hordes. There'd been no talk about looking for a cure, only the support that Adam had asked for.
Adam smiled sadly to himself. He would be sad to leave Billy behind like this, but now, he was looking forward to the time when the frog would take him on to whatever lay beyond life.
Of course, it wasn't only Billy. He would miss all of them. Tanya, whom he had grown to love over the past few months. Sweet Tanya, who wouldn't hurt a fly, but could kick a cog into the next millennium...
Kat... Who had overcome the evil that had controlled her, just as Tommy had so long ago. He hoped Tommy and Kat got together. They were so perfect for each other, but they were both too blind to see it.
And Tommy... Adam looked down, at the misty ground. The gallant leader of the Power Rangers. Stubborn, thick-headed at times, but brave, smart and caring at the same time. Admittedly, he had all the subtlety of a house brick, and the memory of a dodo, but that was just Tommy. Yes, he would definitely miss Tommy.
Rocky.... Adam felt an especially deep touch of pain and longing. Rocky, who had been his best friend through thick and thin, had been the one to protect him from the bullies and other heartless kids How, he wondered, would Rocky react when he was gone? He hoped they would get Aisha back from Africa after he was gone, if only to balance Rocky's volatile nature. He doubted any of them were capable to settling Rocky down the way that Aisha had always been able to do.
And, of course, then there was Jason. Jason, Adam reflected, was the unpredictable one. They had only known each other a short while, and though a friendship had developed, it hadn't seemed very deep. Not like the friendship that Tommy had with Jason. They'd opened up to each other a little while being held by Mondo, but still... He wished he'd had the chance to know Jason better. He had the feeling it would have been a very interesting thing, to have Jason Scott as a close friend.
He heard a faint scuffing sound, and looked around to see the frog had moved closer still, within a couple of metres of him. Adam swallowed hard.
"Not yet," he pleaded. "Please, just let me have a little while longer..."
The frog remained ever silent, watching him intently for several seconds before turning and disappearing into the mist. Adam watched him go, tears flickering in his eyes. Not long now. Soon, he would be with his parents....
*The next day
"Feel like walking to the Youth Centre?" Billy asked, watching Adam cautiously. Adam hesitated, then spared Billy a dejected look.
"I don't think so. Not today. Sorry... I'm just too tired."
Billy nodded, and forced himself to smile. "It's okay. I just thought I'd ask."
Silence reigned for a while, and then Billy spoke again. "I could drive us, if you wanted to go..."
"I'd rather just stay here," Adam said softly, too weak to sound impatient or annoyed. "If you don't mind?"
"No," Billy murmured. "Adam?"
Adam regarded Billy warily. "What is it?"
"Did you dream last night?"
Adam looked away. "Yes."
He offered no more, and Billy didn't press the topic. Again, silence reigned, to be broken eventually by Adam.
"I'm not going to make it till Christmas."
Billy put his book down quickly. "Yes, you will. Try and be positive, Adam."
"The frog came even closer," Adam murmured, ignoring Billy's words. "I could almost touch him. I don't think its going to be much longer." He looked up to see Billy crying silently in the other armchair. "You're more scared than I am."
"I don't want to lose you."
,br> Adam slumped down in the chair. "I keep wondering how you guys will all react... you know, after it happens. I keep wondering what my funeral will be like..."
Billy stared at Adam in distress. "Why are you talking like that? It's not anything to be happy about! It's not like you're going on a holiday..."
Adam's hands curled into fists on the arm rests. "I know that, Billy. I am a bit scared... but I'm tired! I don't want to fight anymore. I just want to be with Mum and Dad."
"We'll all miss you," Billy whispered. "A lot..."
"I know," Adam murmured. "I'll miss you guys, too."
,br> Billy hesitated, then got up and went over, throwing his arms around Adam in a tight hug. Adam coughed in pain at the strength of Billy's embrace, but didnt pull away. He shuddered a little, and rested his head on Billy's shoulder, taking comfort in the close contact.
Jason looked up from the table to see his mother standing there, a tablecloth in her hands.
"What is it?" he asked, sounding impatient and grumpy. Mrs Scott sighed.
"You said you'd set the table for dinner. Half an hour ago."
"Oh..." Jason reddened. "Sorry."
She laid the cloth over the table as Jason got up. "You're thinking about Adam, aren't you?"
Jason shrugged, trying to look casual. "A little. It's okay."
"Well, I don't really have the right to be upset," Jason said nervously. "I mean, I don't know Adam all that well."
Mrs Scott put down the plates she was holding, and sat down, motioning for Jason to do the same.
"It shouldn't matter that you havent known Adam for very long. You're still friends, aren't you?"
Jason conceded, picking uncomfortably at the tablecloth. "Well, yeah... I just feel like I'm intruding on the others. They've all known Adam for a lot longer. Rocky, especially... I only came back from Geneva a couple of months before all this happened."
Mrs Scott reached over and gently squeezed her sons hand. "Why don't you go and see Adam? Tomorrow morning, perhaps?"
Jason hesitated, then nodded. "Okay."
On the other side of town, Tommy lay on his bed, staring towards the window and the darkening sky. He couldn't get it out of his head how frail Adam had looked that day. It was frightening, to say the very least. Not long now, he had overheard someone say. He shut his eyes, and fought back the anger. There were students who were actually betting on whether Adam would die before or after Christmas...
He was having more self-doubts now than he'd ever had as the Green Ranger... or even as the White Ranger. What, he wondered with a feeling of distress, would they do without Adam? Quiet, reflective Adam, with an IQ equal to Billy, and a heart of gold to match. They'd gotten pretty close in the time preceding the last eight or nine months. Theyd spent a lot of time sparring, and working out, or taking the karate classes together...
Tommy sat up with a start. Karate classes.... Adam had a special group that he had started, and that Rocky had needed to take over, a group of beginners, kids with little to no self-esteem. Rocky was doing fine with them, but they had flourished under Adam, who understood their every fear and concern.
Those kids had all been confused and hurt when Adam suddenly ceased taking the classes, and even moreso when theyd been told the reason why. Adam was rarely at the Youth Centre anymore, particularly over the past seven months, except briefly after school. He probably hadn't seen any of the kids from his special group in as much time...
He lay back down slowly. Adam had said only a few days ago that he hoped to have the chance to say goodbye to everyone before he died. Hopefully, that also meant the kids of the karate classes. He shut his eyes, starting to drift off to sleep. Tomorrow... He would go and see Adam about it tomorrow..
Read into that what you will.
[All disclaimers in part 1.]
"Is something happening here?" Adam asked, looking around at the Christmas decorations that were starting to go up. Jason smiled a little.
"Yeah. There's gonna be a dance here in a week." The two boys sat down at a corner table, and Jason slid a coke along the tabletop to Adam. "Ernie thought it'd be nice to have a party, and since the school was planning to have a dance before Christmas, they decided to run one together."
Adam nodded wordlessly, looking around slowly at the decorations. He had missed the last school dance because of a minor bout of the flu that had kept him in bed for two weeks. It would have been nice to be able to come to this one, he thought. Jason watched him curiously.
"You wanna come?"
Adam sighed a little. "I don't think I'm in the condition for a dance, Jase."
Jason leaned across the table. "So? C'mon, Adam, you want to come, I can see it. What's stopping you? Ill bet Tanya would be happy to go with you."
Adam reddened. "I doubt she wants to be seen with me now. And she'd probably prefer to go with someone who can actually dance."
"You're a stubborn son of a bitch, aren't you?" Jason retorted. Adam glowered at Jason.
"Excuse me?" he growled. Jason spoke in a low, almost threatening tone.
"Okay, pleading obviously won't work, so I'm gonna try blackmail. You either ask Tanya to the dance, or I tell her myself, and we show up on the doorstep on the night and take you there by force."
Adam gaped at Jason in disbelief. "You wouldn't..."
"I would," Jason warned. "Your choice. Tanya's right over there, bro."
"And you call me a son of a bitch..." Adam grumbled. Jason smirked and leaned back, satisfied with himself. For a long moment, Adam neither moved nor spoke. Then, finally, a devious grin lit up his pale face.
"I'll ask Tanya... if you ask Kat."
Jason's jaw dropped. "What...?"
Adam smirked. "I may be dying, but I'm not blind. You've had a thing for her ever since you came back from Geneva. She and Tommy broke up two months ago. If you don't make a move, you'll lose her."
Jason groaned softly. "Cut off at the pass...." He sighed with resignation. "Okay. But it's not really fair, man. At least you know Tanya will say yes."
Adam only smiled a very self-satisfied smile.
"Here they come," Kat whispered, and put on a bright smile as Adam and Jason came over to them. Tanya looked around, and offered Adam a brave smile. She didn't see him all that often anymore outside school hours, and when she did, it was hard to cope his steady deterioration. She pulled the chair next to her out for him to sit down.
"What can we do for you two handsome fellas?" Kat asked, causing both Adam and Jason to blush.
"Can I talk to you outside?" Jason asked Kat. "It's sort of... personal."
Kat's smile became a puzzled one, but she conceded and stood up. "Sure. I'll be back in a minute, Tanya."
Tanya nodded casually, watching them go before looking back to Adam.
"So, what's with Jason?"
Adam smirked. "I blackmailed him into asking Kat to the Christmas dance."
Tanya couldn't help but giggle at that. "Oh, poor Jason. That was cruel, Adam. You know how shy he can get." She gently squeezed his hand. "Just like you."
Adam blushed again, then remembered he was supposed to be doing the same as Jason. "Um... Tanya..."
"I was just wondering.... are you going to the dance with anyone?"
Hope flickered in Tanya's eyes. "Not yet. Why?"
Adam glanced furtively at her, and was encouraged by the smile that lit up her face. He spoke, fighting the nerves that twisted up his stomach.
"Would you, um.... Would you go to the dance with me?"
Tanya promptly leaned over and hugged him as tightly as she dared. "I would love to, Adam. Thankyou!"
Adam blushed crimson. "Thank Jason. He sort of blackmailed me as well. Said he'd kidnap me on the night if I didn't ask."
Tanya laughed. "I should hope so!"
He sighed softly. "I'm sort of glad to be going, though. I want to make the most of the next couple of weeks."
Tanya's smile faded, but she forced herself not to say anything. "I... I wonder how Jason is going with asking Kat."
"Knowing Jase," Adam said with a faint smile, "he probably hasn't even asked her, yet."
"So what's up?" Kat asked curiously. Jason looked, to her, painfully nervous. She wondered what could possibly be wrong. He offered her a tentative smile.
"I talked Adam into asking Tanya to the dance. I thought we should leave them alone."
Kat nodded her agreement. "How'd you get him to do it?"
"I told him I'm kidnap him and take him by force if he didn't go willingly."
Kat snickered. "Oh, that is definitely like you, Jason." She paused, watching him curiously. "Is that all?"
Jason wrung his hands nervously. He had to ask, not only to appease Adam, but also to end his own inner conflict.
"Kat, would you go to the Christmas Dance with me?"
He almost shouted it, he was in so much of a panic. Kat blinked in surprise, taking an instinctive step back.
"Is that a request or an order?"
"You mean asking someone out on a date?"
Jason nodded sheepishly. "There was Emily... But she said I was too... too..."
"Too shy?" Kat suggested, and Jason nodded quickly.
She smiled warmly. "For all your acting so tough and strong... You're as shy as Adam when it comes to women, aren't you?"
The former Gold Ranger sat down abruptly, his cheeks burning red. Kat hesitated, then sat down beside him.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to embarrass you. Tell me, are you just asking me because it was the only way you could get Adam to ask Tanya?"
Jason was mortified that the thought would enter her mind. "What? No!" He faltered, then sighed. "Well, that was part of the agreement.... But I really would like to go to the dance with you, Kat."
She had to smile. "I'd be happy to go with you, Jason." She squeezed his hand reassuringly, and Jason tentatively returned the gesture.