Rocky stared down at the grave. It had been almost a year since he'd been here. He closed his eyes as the memories pushed against his eyelids, wanting to be released. He took a shuddering breath and dropped down to his knees. Looking down at the grass covered ground; Rocky pulled the gift out of his pocket and placed in front of the slab of stone. "I earned another belt today, Papa. This one's yours. I've got enough of my own." He said softly.
Rocky looked up to find Billy standing there, a small smile on his strained face. "Billy? I…uh, what's up?" He took one look at his father's grave and then stood up. "Is there an emergency or something?"
Billy shook his head. "No, and I didn't mean to interrupt. Is that your dad's grave?"
Rocky shrugged. "Yeah, he died when I was ten. He was a firefighter, and he went in to save a little boy. The boy got out, Papa didn't. My mom was 5 months pregnant."
Billy glanced over at the new Red Ranger. He didn't know much about Rocky, and from what he'd seen they didn't have much in common. Rocky was always on the go, ready and willing to do anything as long as it involved the outdoors, while Billy preferred quieter pursuits indoors. As matter of factly as he could he recited his own tale.
"My mom and I were in a car accident. I got through with just a few scratches, but my mom she wasn't so lucky. She survived for about a week, before she just let go. I was eight. I resented her for it. At the time, I couldn't understand why she could fight harder; I thought that if she loved me enough she wouldn't have died. She wouldn't have stopped fighting for her life."
"Life doesn't work that way. I was never mad at Papa, but I was furious at God. I didn't understand why he so badly needed Papa that we had to suffer without him."
Billy nodded; he could clearly see Rocky sneaking out into the backyard to shake his small fists at the sky and scream out "why".
"If you don't mind me asking, how did you cope with the loss?" Billy noticed Rocky flinch a bit and regretting asking the question. He may not have a lot in common with Rocky, but he never wanted to maliciously bring up bad memories.
Rocky turned away slightly and glanced down at the grave. "We did all right, considering. Momma was a kindergarten teacher and after Papa died there wasn't much to go around. My uncle Joe, he helped us out a lot in the beginning. He's never been married and I think he considers us his surrogate family. It was really hard on Momma. All of sudden she had six kids with number seven on the way and no husband. There were a lot of times when I'd hear her crying late at night and I knew there was nothing I could do to make her feel better.
"The first year was the worst, but after that, we all sort of got with the program. Momma was there if it was an emergency, but for a lot of little things we turned to each other." Rocky rubbed the back of his neck.
Billy caught what Rocky didn't say. His siblings turned to him. He became their father, whether he had wanted to or not. Billy felt bad for Rocky, but at the same time, he had a feeling that Rocky wouldn't want it any other way now. Still, it wasn't much a childhood, not that he had much of a childhood either. "My dad didn't take it very well either. He didn't cry, at least not that I could remember, but he closed himself off from everything, and buried himself in his work. My mom, she was the glue that held my dad and I together and without her, we didn't know how to relate to each other.
"My dad was a literature professor at Northwestern University, now he's at Angel Grove University, and my mom was a computer programmer. She loved science, and she taught me her love of science. I was never very good at communicating with other people, and that was my dad's way of life. He taught literature and composition. I guess after a while we both just…gave up. Especially after we moved here. I hated my dad for that. I understand that he couldn't live in the house anymore, but I needed it. I needed to have my memories of my mom surrounding me in the old house. What few friends I had were there in Chicago, and I was terrified of not making new ones. I felt strange, on the outside all of a sudden. Different, not like all the rest of the kids." Billy looked down at the grave of Ramon DeSantos. In his mind, it felt like he was seeing Janelle Cranston.
"They all had moms and you only had your dad. People ask you funny questions and then get embarrassed when you tell them what happened. Know the feeling. My uncle Joe helped out a lot with that though. He'd come and stay with us during his off-season, and he'd totally rearrange his schedule if Rosa, or Carmen or any of the others needed a dad for some dad/kid thing. He's great like that." Rocky smiled, still looking down.
"Mr. Park and Aisha's brother helped out too. They were more than willing to have man-to-man talks with me and to help out if I had a problem. I didn't like going to Uncle Joe. I think I wanted to prove to him that I was the man of the house. I idolized him, like I idolized Papa." Rocky gave the Blue Ranger an embarrassed shrug. "It was nice having so many guys around for me to go to."
"It's one of the reasons you guys are so tight." Billy added quietly.
Rocky nodded. "Some of it. We got a lot tighter after Papa died. They really pulled me through, and wouldn't let me shove them away. Aisha really knew exactly what I needed, Adam too in his own way. He made sure that I was invited everywhere and when we were together he'd let me bring up Papa. One night I was staying at his house and he snuck out with me to visit the cemetery. That was when I realized that I had these friends for life. No matter what happened, we'll always have each other."
Billy smiled at the images Rocky's words brought up. "Kim was like that for me. For the longest time she was my only friend. Anytime she would go play with Jason or Zack, I would always tell her I was busy. That is, until she figured it out and sent Jason and Zack over to drag me with them. I think they were surprised that I existed." Billy blushed faintly.
"After that the five us were tight. I already knew Trini and Kim and then Kim forced me to get to know the guys. Every time I declined after, she would send Jason, Zack or both over to my house to come get me. It helped me get over losing my mom. It didn't go away, and there is still the ache, but the hole wasn't so big and it didn't hurt quite so much anymore. It was amazing."
Rocky smiled. "Yeah, hey do you have a picture of your mom? I'd like to see her."
Billy nodded and pulled out a creased and much loved photo from his wallet. A young blond boy was sitting on the lap of a pretty blond woman. Both had blue eyes and were grinning like madmen. "This was taken right before she died. We were at the park having a picnic. We would have lots of picnics during the summer. Chicago doesn't have much of a summer, so we would make the most of them. Dad was at home most of the day since he had the summers off, being a professor, and mom worked, but in the evening we would play card games or just sit on the back porch and watch the fireflies. After Mom died that all changed. We both just went through with our days."
Rocky had already pulled out a picture from his wallet. "This is just as Joey was being born. We were all waiting at the hospital. Notice, I'm not so happy? I wasn't looking forward to having another sibling running around. Papa noticed and we started having father/son afternoons. Just the two of us. We'd go see a movie or go bowling, or sometimes just go to the park and field baseballs for a while. It was great, and I didn't resent Joey. I think that was Papa's whole theory behind it, but we had some really good times together before he died. Sometimes I'd wait a whole week for our father/son afternoons just to ask Papa a question about something. Uncle Joe tried to revive the tradition after Papa died, but I wouldn't let him. I wanted that to be special, just Papa and I. No one else."
Rocky rubbed his neck and shifted nervously. "It probably seems pretty stupid, but I didn't want to share those memories with my siblings. I had to share everything else with them that this was all mine, and I didn't want to share those. Sounds selfish, but I don't really care. I needed something that was all mine. Nobody else's."
"Doesn't sound stupid at all. I could see why you would want something just for yourself. Your house always seems like…" Billy trailed off as he tried to come up with a good word.
"Controlled chaos?" Rocky supplied.
"Exactly." The two teens were silent for a moment. "When you first joined the team, I was positive that we had nothing in common at all. In fact, I believed that we were complete opposites, but I was wrong. We have more in common than we thought." Billy added.
"True, want to go for a smoothie? My treat." Rocky declared as he
slung an arm around Billy's shoulders. "We can get to know each other