I'm Kimberly Anne Hart. A Valley-Girl. A Power Ranger. A Pan-Global gold medalist. A warrior queen. Its like my life is so fragmented that it doesn't seem like a single life. Instead, its more like a montage of bits of the lives of different people, glued together into one. Each stage of my life was different, and it brought out different parts of my personality. My high school friends probably remember me as energetic and outgoing. My fellow Venusians more than likely view me as a determined leader and skilled warrior. Kinda strange, eh? Ever since I became the Queen of Venus Island, I've become a different person. Instead of letting others do the dirty work for me, I take on the load of an entire nation, getting my people organized after the centuries of turmoil that comprised the reign of my predecessor, Queen Syren.
When I glance over my old diary, or flip through my photo album, it feels so foreign. I know this is bad, because I made everlasting friendships in high school. Why does it feel like I don't even know them anymore? Its only been about four years since me, Jason, Billy, Trini, and Zack spent our lazy afternoons in Ernie's Gym and Juice Bar. We were young and innocent then. The best friends in the entire world. We had no idea what fate had planned for us.
One day, while flying over Ambrosia in the shape of a Crane as has become my custom, I saw a group of my sisters enjoying a game much like dodge ball. They were having a great time, and it made me somewhat nostalgic. Although I do love Venus Island, I can't say ruling a nation is much fun. As a child, I dreamed of being a beautiful princess, draped in silk and lace, with servants at my call, living inside a glowing palace. Well, most young girls have that dream, but for me, it came true. And its not such a dream living it.
Seeing the game made me feel... upset. I've become so disconnected with that fun-loving side of me, its astonishing. Its absolutely amazing how much I've matured within the span of a handful of months. I haven't spoken to my friends in ages. Sure, I saw them about a week ago, when Divatox attacked Aquitar. And sure, I was excited to see them all, the circumstances nonwithstanding. Yet, I haven't spoken to my friends socially for quite some time. I haven't seen Trini and Zack since long before I learned of my alien heritage, and the same holds for Billy. He returned from Aquitar with the Zeo Rangers, but he immediately returned home. Other than a formal hug and hello, I haven't seen Billy for a year. Its terrible, considering how close we were from elementary school on.
As I continued to reflect on my former life, I felt a growing nausea. I didn't even know my friends anymore. Since the last time I really spent time with any of them, I've become an alien queen. Billy lost his place on the Power Rangers, lived on a completely different planet for months, witnessed his fiance die, and gained the legendary power of the Silver Ranger. I've spent some time with Jason recently, but not enough. The constant loss and renewal of powers must've been difficult for him. And as for Trini and Zack, two of my closest friends, I don't know how their lives have been going. This thought left a bad taste in my mouth, and it was the impetus for my grand idea-- one that taught me an important lesson. No matter how much you want to, you just can't go back.
"Kim?" came a yell from behind the closed ivory colored doors, "Kim, are you in there?"
A smile crept onto Kimberly's face as she folded a cotton baby tee and laid it in her leather suitcase. She rose to her feet, and took another look at her closet. She frowned when she noticed just how little "normal" clothing she had with her.
"Kim!! You're starting to scare me here!"
"Come on in, Renee," Kimberly answered, not turning around from the closet. Renee Ryan, the head enchantress of the royal court, stepped into the bedroom of the monarch, her hands on her hips.
"So where do you go off ignoring me like this?!" Renee demanded, her head tilted slightly to the side.
"Sorry, 'Ne," Kim responded, laying a bright pink sundress on her bed, "but I've got alot to do before I leave."
"That's another thing," Renee said, making herself comfortable on Kim's bed, "What's up with this spur-of-the-moment vacation?"
"I decided I needed a little get-away," Kim replied, zipping her suitcase, "I had a life before I came to Venus Island, and I'd like to get in touch with it again."
A sly smile crossed Renee's lips. "So you're going on a tropical vacation with Tommy?"
Kim blushed, and shook her head in the negative. "Hardly. I'm actually going to Geneva, to see some friends. Friends that go way back, even further than Tommy."
"Who do you know in Switzerland?"
"Let's just say it'll be an original Power Ranger reunion."
"Really?" said Renee, glancing up at her queen and friend, "But don't Jason and Billy still live in Angel Grove?"
"Yes they do. All I have to do is convince them to come along with me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to change. I can't parade around Angel Grove in a silver toga, can I?"
Renee shrugged. "Cast a spell, transforming the molecules of your dress into something more casual. You do it all the time, Kim!"
"This time, I want to do things like I used to. And that includes getting dressed."
"Well, how do you plan on getting to Switzerland, if not with your Ninjetti magic?"
Kim grinned innocently. "Well, I can't help that. But as soon as we get to Switzerland, for three whole days I'm going to be simply Kimberly Anne Hart, typical American girl. I'm leaving this Venusian queen stuff here."
"Well, have fun," said Renee, walking towards the door, "We'll contact you if anything happens while you're gone."
"Be sure to. You're in charge, by the way. Keep the island in one piece."
Renee began to laugh. "When the cat's away, the mice will play!"
Kimberly hesitantly stepped towards the front door of the Lee family's house, fingering her magical string of pearls nervously. It had been awhile since she used the magical pearls, and she hoped Maggie and Scott Lee wouldn't recognize her. Also, she was slightly uncomfortable in her sundress. If felt strange against her skin, considering the attire she had grown used to. She frowned at how easily she adapted to her role as queen, leaving everything else behind.
After a few moments, her knocks were answered by Maggie Lee.
"Hello," she said, eyeing her visitor strangely, "can I help you?"
Kim smiled brightly. "Hi, I'm Kerri, a friend of Jason's. Is he around?"
Maggie shook her head. "He's working today."
Kim's eyes widened. "He has a job?"
"He's had a job for over a month now," Maggie said, leaning against the door, "He'll be home tonight. Would you like me to tell him you dropped by?"
"Nah, I'll go find him. Which martial arts school does he work at?"
Maggie's eyebrow rose. "Actually, he's a teller at CNC Bank."
"A bank?" Kim said, blinking. She saw Maggie's bewildered expression, and tried to hide her surprise. "Uh, he's at the CNC on Kennedy Boulevard?"
"That's the one," Maggie said, "He'll be there until five, so if you want to see him immediately, that's your best bet."
Kim nodded, and smiled at Maggie. "Thanks, Mrs. Lee."
Maggie closed the door, and Kim began walking down the street to downtown Angel Grove. As she walked, she smiled as she gazed at all the houses along Jason's block. She'd past these same houses hundreds of times, when she visited the young man who quickly became like a big brother to her. She shook her head in disbelief at what Mrs. Lee had told her.
Jason's working at a bank! I never thought he was interested in that sort of thing. I mean, he's always been good a numbers and things, but I thought he had his heart set on teaching martial arts. I was sure he'd either be holding lessons at Ernie's or working at a dojo somewhere. I really have lost touch, haven't I?
Kimberly continued to walk through Angel Grove, observing everything she past with the awareness of a tourist. Everything seemed the same, yet different. It was like a sense of deja vu. It was refreshing, yet eerie. Kim was glad to walk through the streets of her hometown, yet she was glad when she reached the bank, and left those streets behind.
There he is, she thought, walking towards one of the three tellers busily tending to customers. Kim stood in line behind the customer Jason was working with, and waited patiently.
"Forty, sixty, eighty, one-hundred," Jason counted, holding a few twenty dollar bills, "Here you go Mister Schwartz. Have a nice day."
"Thank you," he said, leaving the bank. Kim stepped up to the counter, and watched as Jason typed something onto a computer.
"Can I help you?" he asked, still looking at the screen.
"Actually, I'm here to invite you to a special reunion, Jay."
Jason looked up, and his eyes widened in surprise when he saw Kimberly standing before him. "Kim! What're you doing here?"
"I came to see you! What've you been up to?"
"Just a minute," Jason said, walking away from the counter to a friend of his. "Helen, could you cover for me for five minutes? I have to step out."
"Sure Jason," his collegue said, walking to the counter. Jason walked around, and greeted Kim with a fierce hug.
"What brings you to the real world?" he asked, as the pair walked out of the bank and onto the sidewalk. They sat down on a bench nearby.
"I decided I needed a break from royalty," she said, twirling a lock of caramel hair, "I see you're a working man now."
"Just for the summer," Jason replied, "Then I'm off to Penn State."
"Wow," Kim sighed, "That's pretty far away, Jay."
Jason nodded. "Well, I need a change of scenery. When I was in Switzerland, I wanted to come home so much, I actually left the Peace Conference. It took me awhile to realize that its not the town that's home for me. Its the people there. And everything's changed. Its not really home anymore."
"Since when did you start feeling this way?"
"Its been in the back of my head for awhile now. Being a Power Ranger was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but when I rejoined the team as the Gold Ranger, it just wasn't the same. And I don't mean about not being leader or anything. Its much more than the color of the outfit, or who gives the orders. I just knew that the people inside the costumes weren't the same. They're all great people, and excellent rangers, but they're not the original team. The team I fought with, played with, learned with, grew with. It didn't take long inside that gold armor for me to realize that no matter how hard I try, I can't turn back time, and re-live those glory days. My time as a Power Ranger are passed. My place isn't on the active team. My uniform is on display behind a glass wall. And that is the only uniform that'll ever really fit me."
"I see," Kim said quietly, "So have you been spending time with Tommy at all? You two are best friends."
"We are," Jason said, "but he's got his own life, and I've got mine. I keep myself busy with work and stuff, and soon, I'm off to college. Just gotta move forward."
"Well, before you say goodbye to your teen years, how about a little trip?"
"What do you mean?" Jason asked, looking at his friend.
"When was the last time you saw Trini and Zack?"
"Jeez, I haven't seen them since I left Geneva."
"How 'bout a trip? It'll be a reunion! The five of us had the greatest, strongest friendship in the world, and we've all lost touch. Its tragic, but we can at least try to get reacquainted."
A small smile crept onto Jason's face, but it quickly fell. "We can't. Not with Billy on Aquitar."
Kim blinked. "Billy's been back for almost a week!"
"What?!" Jason cried, "Why didn't anyone tell me? He didn't even call me!"
Kim touched Jason's arm, a serious expression on her face. "Billy's going through some tough times now. Aquitar was attacked by Divatox, and Cestria was killed."
Jason remained quiet for a moment. "How... how is he taking it?" Jason asked once he found his voice.
Kim shook her head. "I don't know. I haven't seen or heard from him since he got back to Earth. He's joined the Zeo team as the Silver Ranger, but I think he's just drowning his pain in his work."
"He's always been like that," Jason recalled.
"He really loved Cestria. It'll take alot for him to heal. If he can."
"Then a trip to Geneva will certainly be on the right track," Jason said, rising to his feet, "I'm for it! But let me check with my boss about getting the next couple days off. I'll meet you at Billy's house?"
"You got it," Kim said, standing up and hugging Jason again, "See you later, Jay."
Billy Mitchell had been away from Earth for months. During that time, he acclimated himself to the climate and scenery of an underwater kingdom, filled with an incredibly advanced technology, and a very formal culture. While on Aquitar, he secretly yearned for the rolling hills and sunny skies of his home planet. He was never very comfortable anywhere near bodies of water, and living beneath a large ocean wasn't his idea of a perfect life. Still, no matter how much he missed Earth, he enjoyed his life on Aquitar. He was surrounded by peers who appreciated his talents and respected him as a person. Billy was a hero to them, even without the helmet. He was almost a legend.
But the fame and glory isn't what primarily moved him to live on the blue jewel billions of miles away from Earth. Something much simpler gave meaning to Billy's life. It filled a void that existed in the young man almost all his life. Ever since his mother died, Billy Mitchell had been afraid of losing those he loved. He became afraid to love, to open himself up to pain. Years after his mother's tragic death, Billy became a member of an exclusive group of friends. Sadly, that too didn't last forever, as the five members of the team went in their own directions. He tried to hold onto the friendship, staying in the town and trying to acclimate to the vast differences within the group, but he couldn't. He simply couldn't truly accept the second generation like he did the first. To the original group, he was a close friend. To the second group, he was more of a behind-the-scenes genius, who remained in the shadows of the Power Chamber. The hole in his heart grew as he slowly lost his friends. But one single person managed to fill that hole to the point of overflowing.
That person was Cestria of Filleus, a member of the royal class of Aquitar. She was a brilliant doctor and scientist, a respected councilmember, and cousin to the Blue Ranger, one of the heroes of the planet. She was bright and charming, innocent yet not naive. She was so learned, but she was ready to learn more. And she was willing to give her heart to Billy, a young man with drives so like her own. They were perfect for each other, with matched intellectual curiosity and quiet bravery. Together, they would have been the backbone to the Aquitian Ranger team, keeping a protective eye on the heroes, and insuring the prolonged existence of the Aquitian culture. They both worked for the betterment of society.
However, tragedy again destroyed Billy's aspirations for happiness. One insane villainess, one twisted plot, and one powerful spell, brought the untimely demise of Cestria. She died an unecessary death, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She wasn't a target, nor did she sacrifice herself for her planet. She just happened to be in the room where a powerful torpedo struck, sending the young scientist crashing into the wall, where such damage was inflicted on her body that nothing could have been done. In a senseless tragedy so like the one that stole Rebecca Mitchell from her family, Cestria left this plane of existence. And once again, so much like the loss of his mother over a decade ago, Billy was absolutely crushed.
For the past week, ever since his return to Earth, Billy had remained in his bedroom. Back in his high school days, Billy didn't much like his bedroom. If he had something on his mind, he much prefered his garage laboratory to his room, where at least he would spend his time working out formulas, instead of brooding over problems that he couldn't fix. Even though his lab remains undisturbed in the garage, he didn't take solace in science. He feared it would remind him too much of the one he lost.
Instead, he remained in the quiet darkness of his room. The sunlight was shut out by blinds, and the windows were closed shut. Back on Aquitar, after Cestria's death, Cestro had taught him about the Aquitian rites regarding the death of a loved one. The ritual included a day long intensive grieving period, where the survivors would lock themselves in the darkness of their quarters, speaking to no one at all, and eating nothing. This time was used to concentrate on the lost loved one, to ponder the meaning of their life and the significance of their death. It was to bring to mind all the wonderful things the dead one brought to the world, and brood over how lonely life would be without that person. Billy had willingly taken part in the Aquitian ritual, despite his human heritage. And it certainly did help Billy get through the wave of pain that struck when he realized that he could have saved her. True, he managed to get past the blinding, irrational anguish that made him long for death. But the dull emotional void quickly took the place of the enraged sorrow. The void came later, when Billy realized that he would have to live out his entire life without her, the woman he was to share the rest of his life with.
This dreary realization brought with it a sea of depression, in which Billy is drowning. He refused to see anyone, or even leave his room. His family, who was informed of Billy's great loss, let Billy have his space, but this extended period of total grief had them all extremely worried. They didn't know at what point Billy's anhedonia crossed the line between normal grievance and clinical depression, warranting psychiatric attention.
Kimberly stood by the driveway of the Mitchell residence for a few minutes. She continued to glance at her watch, and look down the street anxiously. She really wanted Jason to arrive, before she approached Billy. She knew about Cestria's death, but she didn't know how serious his sorrow was. She knew the trip to Geneva would cheer him up, but she still wanted some help to bring him around. It would be difficult to convince Billy to go on vacation.
Finally, a red jeep pulled into the empty driveway. Jason climbed out, and waved at Kim. Together, they began walking to the front door.
"So," said Jason, looking around, "I don't see your Pontiac around. How did you get here?"
"I walked," Kim answered, "I mother sold the car not long after I left Miami. I really don't have much use for it."
Jason looked surprised. "You walked all the way from downtown Angel Grove? That's almost ten miles!"
Kimberly shrugged. "I enjoyed it. Besides, its been awhile since I've walked around a town like this. Venus Island is substantially different, and even there, I tend to fly around."
"You always wanted to fly," Jason said with a grin, recalling their grade-school years, "I remember you saying that if you had one wish, it would be to have wings like a bird."
"My twelfth birthday party," Kim reminisced, "The wish I made after I blew out the candles. And after I told you what I wished for, Zack scolded me, saying that it would never come true now."
"And it did."
"Yeah," Kim said quietly, "I never really believed that wish would come true, but I always thought that if I really, really wanted it bad enough, chances are that it would happen in its own way. I figured that I'd get the chance to go hang-gliding, or something that simulated real flight. But I actually did get a pair of wings. And, now that I think of it, I remember you telling me your deepest wish on the same occasion..."
Jason nodded, glancing up at the sky. "Yeah, I wished for the opportunity to be a hero."
"And that happened too. You've helped keep Earth on the universal map, Jason."
Jason shrugged modestly. "Just doing my job, I guess. But its all a part of my past."
Kim squeezed Jason's arm. "But its still a part of you."
The pair reached the front door, and rang the doorbell. After over a minute, there was no answer.
"Maybe no one's home?" Kim asked, peeking through the window beside the door.
"Well, Mister Mitchell's probably at work," Jason said, "and Stephanie's probably still at school."
"That's right!" Kim said, shaking her head, "I forgot junior high usually gets out about a week after high school."
"Right," Jason confirmed, "but Billy should be home."
"Could he be out with the other Zeo Rangers?"
"I don't think so," Jason said, "If I know Billy, he's probably working in his lab, trying to keep his mind off of Cestria."
"Yeah, that does sound like our Billy," Kim affirmed, "So, how do we get in?"
Jason smiled, an idea coming to him. "Billy leaves a key to the back door behind the flower pot in the window! Remember?"
"Yes," Kim recalled, "and the back door leads directly into the garage. Perfect!"
Kimberly and Jason circled around the house and retrieved the hidden key. Jason pushed the door open, and the pair entered the dark room. Sunlight from outside managed to brighten the pitch blackness somewhat, allowing them to see the majority of the garage.
"There's a light switch by the sink," Kim recalled aloud, making her way to the sink. She flipped the light, and she and Jason gasped at the sight.
"It doesn't look like anyone's been here for months!" Jason said, running his finger over the cluttered lab table. A film of dust coated his finger.
"Billy certainly hasn't been here since he came home," Kim said, shaking her head, "Then, where is he?"
For once, Jason didn't have an answer. The Billy he remembered would spend all day in his lab, and he was sure Billy would be fixing up the lab after its period of disuse. Billy always kept his lab clean, because he couldn't stand a filthy work area. It disturbed Jason to think that his close friend could have changed so much, in seemingly so little time.
"He must be inside the house itself," Kim said, opening the door leading to the Mitchell's kitchen, "I mean, where else could he be?"
"Do you know where the Zeos are? He may have tagged along," Jason said, shrugging. Although he doubted Billy was out with the current team, he couldn't deny the possibility.
"I... I haven't spoken to any of the Zeos ever since they returned from Aquitar," Kim said guiltily, "I guess there's no excuse for that."
Jason shrugged again, and the pair entered the kitchen. All the lights were turned off, giving the impression that no one was home.
"Let's try the Juice Bar," Jason said quietly, "It doesn't look like he's here."
"Wait," said Kim, grabbing Jason's arm to prevent him from leaving, "He is here."
"How can you tell?" Jason asked, glancing down at Kim. He was surprised to see her eyes spark with blue energy.
"I... I don't know why, but I can feel the presence of the Wolf spirit. Its here, in this house. That must mean Billy's here."
"But, Billy's no longer the Blue Ninjetti."
"I know, but the Great Power can never completely separate from a Ninjetti," Kim said, ascending the stairs, "Billy's in pain, and so the Wolf spirit is watching over him. That's why I can sense it."
Jason remained silent, slightly disturbed by the blue light emanating from Kim's eyes. He knew she had changed much since their years as Power Rangers, but he found it discomforting when he saw her use her powers so nonchalantly. It was hard to believe this girl was the same one he grew up with.
"Billy?" Kimberly called, gently knocking on the bedroom door, "Are you awake?"
Kim waited, but didn't hear anything. She frowned.
"Billy, I know you're in there," she pressed, "Please, let us in."
"Yeah," Jason added, "We really need to talk to you."
Kim and Jason waited a few moments longer, and the door slowly opened. Kim's eyes widened when she saw her friend, leaning against the door he just opened as if he didn't have the strength to stand on his own. His usually bright blue eyes were dull and dreary, like a cloudly lake.
"What do you want?" Billy asked, rather rudely. Kim and Jason were taken aback.
"We... we wanted to see you," Jason said, "I mean, I didn't even know you came back."
"I haven't been out much," Billy said curtly, "and please don't take offense, but I'd really prefer my solitude. If you'd excuse me--"
"No we won't," Kim said, sticking her foot in the door to prevent Billy from shutting them out, "Billy, now's definitely not the time for you to be alone. Its not healthy."
"I beg to differ. I'm alone in spirit, so I might as well be alone physically."
Jason blinked. It almost sounded like Billy was being philosophical, rather than rational. "Billy, we haven't seen you in months. We thought we should get reacquainted is all. We grew up together! We've always turned to each other when the chips were down. Don't shut us out now."
Billy frowned. "When the chips were down? Look Jason, its not like I just lost some Science Fair, and I need some cheering up. I just want to be alone. Can you not understand that?"
Kimberly raised an eyebrow. She found it hard to believe Billy was nearly yelling at them. "Billy, you know you can never be truly alone. Not in spirit. You are Ninjetti, and the Wolf is with you."
"Kim, I really don't feel like talking about this," Billy sighed, "And I'm not Ninjetti. I lost the Power Coin months ago, and you know that."
"You're not the Blue Ranger anymore," Kim affirmed, "but the Ninjetti power is different. Trust me on this. The Wolf is with you, and it knows you're in pain. Its strengthening you, but you just don't realize it."
Billy frowned, obviously unconvinced.
"Billy, I feel the Wolf's presence," Kim said, gently pushing Billy away from the entrance, allowing her and Jason to come into Billy's darkened bedroom. "That's now I knew you were here. The Wolf is with you, right here, right now. If you look inside yourself, you'd see that you aren't alone."
Billy slowly walked to the bed, and sat down heavily. "The Wolf can't replace Cestria," he muttered suddenly, "Nothing can."
"I can't say I understand what you're going through," Jason said, sitting beside Billy, "but I can tell you that no one is trying to replace Cestria, and we're not trying to make you forget her. We just want you to realize that your life isn't over. You can be happy again, and Cestria would want that for you."
Billy kept his focus on the rug beneath his feet. "I... I don't think I can."
"Yes you can," Kim said, standing at the window. She pulled up the shade, allowing the summer sun to pour unrestrained into Billy's bedroom. "Billy, healing is gonna be a tough process, and the first thing you need is a change of scenery. By locking yourself in your dark bedroom, you're cutting yourself away from everything and everyone that could help you appreciate life! So, we're taking you on vacation."
Billy looked up sharply. "Excuse me?"
"Kim and I decided we should have a reunion," Jason said, "Just the five of us-- the group of friends that stuck together like glue throughout high school, and even earlier. We let ourselves split apart, and now look at us! We don't even keep in touch."
"You know you miss Zack and Trini," Kim said, "What would be better than a weekend in Geneva? We'll go skiing, shopping, and just have fun with some old friends. We all need the break from our lives, you most of all."
"I can't," Billy said, "What if the rangers need the Silver Ranger? The Swiss Alps would surely interfere with communications."
"Billy, the rangers have been doing fine without the Silver Ranger," Jason pointed out, "and when was the last time Zedd and Rita attacked anyway?"
"But, how do we get to Switzerland? I can't afford a plane ticket, especially last minute."
Kim grinned. "If I can teleport from here to Paris, I can teleport to Geneva. That's the power of the Ninjetti. But once we're there, I've sworn off using all these abilities. I'm just gonna be Kim Hart, typical California girl."
"And you'll be Billy Mitchell, typical California guy," Jason said, "You're leaving all this stuff about the Power Rangers and Aquitar behind you, okay?"
Billy remained silent for a few moments, thinking over the proposition. "Well... I can't come up with any more reasons to the contrary, so... I'll go."
Kim smiled, and hugged Billy tightly. "You won't regret it!"
"How long will we be gone?" Billy asked.
"I got off until Tuesday, so we can spend three days," Jason said.
"And, did anyone contact Trini and Zack?" Billy asked, "To make sure they are even in the complex?"
"We're gonna surprise them," Kim said.
"Yeah," said Jason, "Now that they're done with their high school classes, they should be at a low point as far as the amount of work goes. But they don't start travelling again until mid July. At least, that was the schedule before I left in May."
"Sounds good," Billy said, a tiny smile creeping onto his lips, "So, when do we leave?"
"Pack up your bags," Kim said, "We're leaving tonight, so we can arrive at Switerland in the morning. Remember the time difference!"
"I'll be ready," Billy said, rising to his feet, "So, what're you guys doing now?"
"I've gotta pack, and tell my parent's I'm going away for the weekend," Jason said, "They won't mind, since I'm going back to Geneva."
"I really don't have anywhere to go..." Kim said, and expectant look on her face. Billy got the hint.
"Maybe you can keep me company?"
"Deal," she said, as she and Jason walked out the bedroom door, "I'll make you some lunch, Billy. You look like you haven't eaten in days."
Billy shrugged, and watched his friends leave his room. He moved to follow them, but a soft howling startled him. He turned around, but he didn't see anything. A smile crossed his lips, as the gentle howling comforted him, insuring him that he would never be alone.
Trini Kwan lay asleep in her comfortable bed, her arms wrapped loosely around Ticklesneezer. Despite being eighteen years old, Trini still received comfort from her stuffed toy. It was a piece of her childhood, that she managed to carry along with her throughout her years, through all the changes in her life. Being in high school, being a Power Ranger, being an American delegate to an international peace conference. They are all stages in her life, just like the stages that transform a caterpillar into a butterfly.
A forceful knock at her door drew Trini from her blissful sleep. Disoriented, Trini forced open her almond-shaped eyes, and looked around her room groggily. She sat upright, and blinked the sleep from her eyes.
"Anastasia went home for her father's birthday," Trini recalled, thinking about her Ukrainian roommate, "so who would be knocking at my door at seven in the morning on a Saturday?"
Trini sat Ticklesneezer on her bed, and wrapped her robe over her nightshirt. She pulled open the door, when she was suddenly embraced by three people at once. Trini was too sleepy to think straight, and too surprised by the people she saw to utter a sound.
"Trini!" Kimberly shouted, as the four friends disentangled the hug, "How are you?"
"K-Kim!" Trini stuttered, still in shock, "Jason! Billy! What're you doing here?"
"We decided to have a spur-or-the-moment Ranger Reunion!" Kim said excitedly.
"Ssh!" Jason uttered, "Is Ana still asleep, Trini?"
"She went home for the weekend," Trini answered, "The coast's clear."
The four friends entered the apartment, and Trini closed the door behind them.
"We planned on dropping in on Zack, since he doesn't have a roommate now that I left," Jason said, "but he didn't answer the door. We just had to hope Ana wasn't around. We'd like to be able to speak freely, you know."
"It's amazing how deeply Zack Taylor can sleep," Billy commented.
"He's probably not home," Trini said, "I'd bet he's with Siham."
Jason, Billy, and Kim stared at Trini in utter shock. "What?" they all asked in unison.
"He's been seeing Siham for months now," Trini said, turning on the coffee machine, "He's at her apartment almost all the time. She lives just down the hall."
"They're... that serious?" Kim said quietly.
"They're engaged, actually," Trini said, "He proposed to her last Tuesday, and she accepted."
"Zack? Engaged?" Jason said, shaking his head, "Our Zack?!"
"Zack never took anything seriously," Billy said, "He certainly has changed."
"Why didn't he tell us?" Kim huffed.
"It's been hard for us all to keep in touch," Trini said, sitting down with the others at the small table, "I haven't spoken to any of you in months! The mail system's so unreliable, we constantly travel around, and you guys are all over the place! You have to fill me in! How did you get here anyway?"
"We teleported," Billy said, "It certainly saves money and time."
Trini blinked. "Zordon let you use the teleporter for 'personal gain'?"
"Not exactly," Kim said, a small grin on her face, "We should probably start from the beginning, but we shouldn't exclude Zack. He'll need to hear this story too."
"We could always knock on Siham's door," she offered.
"We... uh... wouldn't want to interrupt them," Billy said awkwardly.
"Oh, its not what you think," Trini said, an amused smile on her face, "Zack didn't spend the night. He and Siham go for a jog every morning, bright and early. They should probably be back by now. There's no harm in checking."
"Zack never much liked waking up early," Kim said.
"Or jogging," Jason added, shaking his head, "and I didn't even know he liked Siham."
"Well, he does. Personally, I was surprised that he proposed to her. I mean, he's only eighteen. That's way too early for marriage..."
Trini's words died on her lips as she saw the pained expression on Billy's face. She also noticed how Jason and Kim glanced at the former Blue Ranger.
"Um, I'll go get dressed," Trini said, "Help yourselves to some coffee. Then, I'll check and see if Zack's at Siham's place."
"I'll do it," Jason offered, rising to his feet, "I know where her apartment is. I'll be right back."
Trini walked towards the bathroom, carrying a pair of jeans and a yellow sweater. She closed the door behind her, and paused in front of the mirror. She frowned at her reflection.
Just perfect, she thought, turning on the water and splashing her face, The first time that I see Billy in ages, and I'm a mess! What a way to get reacquainted...
As she spread cleanser on her cream-colored skin, Trini thought for a moment about the last time she had seen Billy. It had been what seemed like a lifetime ago, when Trini, Jason, and Zack boarded the flight from Angel Grove International to Geneva. Billy, along with the rest of the Power Rangers had come to see their friends off. After thinking about just how to say goodbye for over three days, Trini decided to give Billy a little hint. As the plane was boarding, Trini leaned over and kissed Billy on the cheek. It wasn't a particularly romantic kiss, but it was enough to make the shy genius blush. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to clue him in on exactly how Trini felt about him.
We were friends, Trini reflected, washing her face with cool water, We had been friends for years, and we knew we'd continue to be friends. But I've hoped, almost since the beginning, that Billy and I could be so much more than friends. I just wish I had the guts to tell him so.
Trini went on to reflect the time she spent with Billy. The times when he stuck with her through difficult situations, such as when she had to deal with her fear of heights, or when she searched for her lost Ticklesneezer. It was impossible to count all the times he helped her with her activities, just to lend her support. He was an integral part of her life before she came to Geneva, and she found that, once she was there, she wished he could still be an integral part of her life.
We kept in touch in e-mail for awhile, but all we ever were was friends. Nothing more. I just didn't know how to let him know what I felt, and now, years later, I still don't know. But I do know this... I want him in my life again. I missed him more than I anticipated during all this time. I didn't realize just how much he meant to me. But, we fell out of touch before, and more than likely it'll happen again...
Trini looked up and stared at her reflection for a moment, determination glinting in her dark eyes. "...at least, unless I do something about it."
Jason walked through the empty hallway of the apartment complex housing the international delegates. Even though it had been months since he left Geneva, it still felt like yesterday when he was strolling down this very hallway constantly, visiting friends, rushing to classes, dragging himself to the library, or chasing Zack to retrieve an embarrassing photograph. A sentimental grin crossed his face, and he stopped in front of Siham Saade's doorway. He knocked once, and waited for her to answer.
"One moment," came a heavily accented voice. The door opened, revealing a short, slender, olive-skinned Syrian with waist length mahogany hair and dark brown eyes. She smiled instantly when she recognized the visitor, and rose to her tip-toes to greet him with a kiss on each cheek: a typical Middle-Eastern greeting.
"Jason!" she declared in excitement, beaming happily, "I'm so glad to see you! How have you been?"
"Not bad, Siham," he responded, his hands in his pockets, "I'm basically working this summer, until September rolls in. Then, it's off to college."
"Fantastic!" she said, leaning against the doorway, "I'm glad to see you in such good spirits. The last few weeks before you left, you seemed rather despondent."
Jason shrugged. "Well, I made the right decision by going home. Still, it's great to visit."
With that, Jason glanced over Siham's shoulder into the room. "Say, is Zack here?"
Siham's full lips tugged into a grin, and she nodded. "He'll be surprised to see you. Come in."
Jason walked into the bedroom, which was decorated rather elaborately with both Islamic and Arabic paintings, statues, and accents. He walked through the entrance area, and glanced into the small kitchen, where Zack Taylor was sitting, with his head on the table. Jason chuckled slightly when he heard a soft snore escape Zack's nose.
"He's still not much of a morning person," Siham commented, "but he still accompanies me on my morning jog. He's so thoughtful."
"Same ole' Zack," Jason whispered, sitting down across from him. He reached across the small circular table, and grasped his shoulder. "Hey, Bud! Wake up!"
Surprisingly, Zack didn't budge. Jason blinked, and shook him harder. "Zack? You alive?"
Siham began to giggle, and stood behind Zack, her hands on his shoulders. "He stayed up most of last night at a club downtown," she explained, "He wanted to demonstrate Hip-Hop-Kido to a group of locals. He's quite a dancer."
Jason snorted. "And he knows it, too."
Siham smiled again, and leaned over towards Zack's ear, her long, thick curls tickling his cheek.
"Rise and shine, Habibe," she said into his ear. Jason shook his head in amazement when Zack's eyes weakly opened, and a yawn escaped him.
"Same ole' Zack," he repeated, folding his arms, "A gunshot wouldn't wake him up, but a beautiful woman's whisper snaps him right into reality."
"Hey, Sweetie," Zack whispered, slowly lifting his head from the table, "I thought I heard Jason just now."
Siham smiled, putting a hand to each of his cheeks. She then gently turned his head around, until he jumped in surprise when Jason entered his field of vision.
"Whoa!" Zack shouted, jumping to his feet, "What's up, Bro?!"
Zack practically leapt across the table, and greeted Jason with a bear hug. Jason laughed as he returned the hug, and punched him lightly on the shoulder.
"That's what you get for not keeping in touch," he chided. Zack rolled his eyes.
"Hey, I didn't get too many calls from you, Bro," he retorted.
"So, what brings you back to Geneva?" Siham asked, taking a seat at the table, "It seems like such a surprise."
Jason shrugged. "Well, I figured I needed to say hello to a couple old friends. So Siham, do you mind if I steal your fiance from you for a few hours? We have some catching up to do."
Siham smiled, and waved them away. "Good. Maybe without him around, I'll get some work done!"
Zack chuckled, and leaned over to plant a kiss on Siham's lips. Then, he and Jason strolled down the hallway, toward Trini's room.
"Man, this is such a surprise, Bro," Zack commented, his face beaming with joy, "And it's not even my birthday!"
"It gets better," Jason said with a conspiratory grin. He didn't respond to Zack's inquiring gaze, and turned the knob of Trini's apartment. Zack went in first, and his jaw dropped when he saw Kimberly and Billy seated at the table, drinking mugs of steaming coffee.
"Holy--!!" Zack exclaimed.
"SURPRISE!!" Billy and Kimberly shouted together, both rising from their seats. They both were practically tackled to the ground by Zack, who greeted them both with a powerful hug. Tears glinted in his deep brown eyes.
"I just don't believe it!" Zack said, letting Kim and Billy down, "I haven't seen you guys in years!!"
"I know," Kim said, her smile never leaving her face, "We decided we never should have let that happen."
"You're right," Trini said, re-entering the kitchenette in the apartment, "we never should have lost touch. No matter how busy we let ourselves get, or how many emergencies you guys had to deal with."
"So, let's say we start catching up again?" Jason said, grinning widely, "Over breakfast?"
"That's a fabulous idea!" Zack commented, his eyes lighting up. Kimberly giggled.
"Zack sure hasn't changed much!"
The rest of the team fell into a fit of excited laughter. It felt good to be together again.
"So, let me get this straight," Zack said, stirring a packet of sugar into his java, "Kimberly's great-great-great-great grandmother, or something, was the Queen of the planet Venus, and leader of the Venusians. They are a race of warrior women, who came to Earth when their planet was destroyed. And the Queen was overthrown by an evil Queen, who tried to kill her entire legacy, including Kim. And then Kim struck back, discovering she has magical powers, and beat this evil Queen one-on-one. Now, Kimberly is the Queen? And they live on Venus Island, as in that weird teleporting island Lord Zedd sent that little girl Hallie?"
"Uh, yeah," Kim said, nodding her head, "that's the gist of it."
Trini blinked, and stared at her longtime friend in disbelief. "You're part alien, and you never even knew it?!"
Kim shrugged. "Well, I'm only a small fraction alien. Mostly, I'm human."
"But you still have these weird powers," Zack said in a low tone, wary of possible eavesdroppers, "You can teleport, turn yourself into an animal, and cast other spells?"
"It's not really as impressive as it sounds," Kim asserted, "I'm not one of the sorceresses. They can cast heavy-duty magic. I'm a Ninjetti."
"The Ninjetti powers were given to the Power Rangers after the villain Ivan Ooze destroyed the Dino-Power," Billy explained, "Zordon sent us to Phaedos, where the Ninjetti priestess Dulcea introduced the six of us to our animal guides. Kim's the Crane, and I was the Wolf--"
"No," Kim corrected, gazing at her friend, "You are the Wolf."
"Fine," he conceded, "so, because Kim was exposed to the Great Power, which is the source of the Ninjetti power, so early, she has the magical and physical potential of any full-blooded Venusian."
"And that means what, exactly?" Zack inquired, turning from Billy to Kimberly.
"Basic magical powers, agility, super-strength-- but not moving trucks or anything-- and longevity."
"So you're immortal?" Trini asked, her eyebrow raising.
"Well, I'm ageless," Kim answered, "Once I reach the peak of my physical maturity, I don't go downhill. Therefore, I won't die of old age. But I can still be killed. Venusians are particularly susceptible to fire and heat attacks. Nearly everything else we can recover from. But again, since I'm not fully Venusian, I'm more vulnerable than most."
"That's... unbelievable!" Trini sighed, leaning back in her chair, "Our Kim, the monarch of an entire nation!"
Zack shook his head, taking a long sip of his coffee, "Well, I must admit, I wasn't expecting to hear that. It sounds like something from a comic book... no offense."
Kimberly suppressed a laugh. "None taken."
Zack then glanced at Billy, who was gazing out the window of the small café, "So Billy, anything amazing happen to you? Did you discover that you were destined to rule some alien planet?"
Kim grinned mischievously. "Well, not the ruler, but he was destined to become the mighty Silver Ranger of Aquitar."
At that, Zack nearly choked on his coffee. He had meant the comment as a joke. "You're kidding, right?"
"Billy?" Trini said in disbelief, "On another planet?"
"Affirmative," Billy answered, "You see, I lived on Aquitar, an oceanic planet of incredible scientific knowledge, for a few months. While I was there, a tyrant rogue-Venusian Divatox attacked, nearly destroying the whole planet's life in the same way she demolished Venus millennia ago. I was sent on a mission to recover the Silver Ranger powers, and I discovered that it was my destiny to become that ranger. The Sword of Tympanus is the key to that power, and it's my property. It goes where I go, even though I've left Aquitar for good."
"Why did you go to Aquitar in the first place?" Trini questioned, "I thought you hated water."
A shadow seemed to cross Billy's bright blue eyes. Trini was startled by this, and looked to Jason and Kimberly for an explanation. She was amazed by how much Billy had changed over time. He actually moved to an alien planet, leaving everything he ever knew behind. And the planet was aquatic, no less! Trini found it so bizarre that she felt she needed an explanation.
Billy took a deep breath to compose himself. "Sorry about that," he said quietly, "but the wound's still fresh."
Zack blinked. "What wound?"
Kimberly looked at Billy. His expression demonstrated how difficult it was for him to put into words what had happened to him. Gently, Kim reached out, and lay her hand on his to comfort him. She then turned to Zack and Trini, whose curiosity was clearly driving them crazy.
"Um... Billy was injured several months ago," she explained, "and the only cure was found on Aquitar. He already said that Aquitar is terrifically advanced in medical science. While he was being treated, he fell in love with the physician in charge of his care..."
Trini winced visibly when she heard that. Billy didn't notice, for his eyes were fixated on his bowl of cereal, which he hadn't touched since the topic of Aquitar was broached. Zack was too busy gawking at Kim's story to notice the former Yellow Ranger's reaction. Jason was worried about Billy's reaction to hearing the tale told, so his focus was on the Silver Ranger.
Only Kimberly noticed Trini's reaction. It didn't surprise her too much.
"...Billy decided to stay on Aquitar, even after he recovered," Kim continued, "He was there for a few months, and he was even engaged to Cestria. However, when Divatox attacked about a week ago... Cestria was killed."
"Oh no," Zack whispered, blinking in disbelief, "I'm so sorry, Man. I shoulda been there for ya..."
Billy shrugged, trying to hide the pain he was feeling. "It's not your fault Zack. Bad things just... happen."
Trini gazed at Billy, blinking back tears. She didn't know how to react; what to do or what to say. She wouldn't have been more surprised if a comet had landed in the café. Still, she determined from Billy's constant engagement with the bowl of cereal that he was feeling guilty about what happened.
"Billy," she said gently, gaining his attention. When her chocolate eyes met his blue-green ones, she almost shivered at the emptiness she saw, "you realize that it's not your fault either, right?"
Billy almost scoffed at Trini's attempt to comfort him. "You weren't there, Trini," he muttered.
Trini was hurt by his harsh tone. He was never harsh to her, in all the years they'd known each other. He couldn't be harsh. He was gentle and sweet. Had he changed that much?
Rather than get into an argument and aggravate the already emotional Silver Ranger further, Trini fell into silence. She turned away from Billy, absently nibbling on her croissant.
The silence reigned over the group for quite a while, creating a barrier between the old friends. After a few moments of this, Zack grew frustrated.
"So," he said loudly, gaining the attention of everyone present, "how long will you guys stay in Geneva?"
"Not too long," Billy answered, "I should return to my Silver Ranger duties anyway..."
"I'm sure even the Silver Ranger gets time off," Jason said, "We're planning on staying until Monday. That is, unless you guys have plans or something."
"No, this weekend's pretty much empty," Trini answered quietly, "Is there anything in particular you would like to do?"
"Why don't we walk around the city?" Jason suggested, looking around the table to see the reactions of his friends, "Kim and Billy have never been here, and they deserve the grand tour."
"Great idea!" Zack affirmed, finishing off his coffee, "I'm sure Kimberly would like to hit the Swiss malls!"
Kimberly giggled. "You know me too well, Zack."
He grinned. "Hey, even the Venusian Monarch has to squeeze in mall-time!"
A sigh of contentment passed through Kim's lips as she balanced the weight of her shopping bags between her two arms. The sun was shining brightly, the air was warm, and the people were friendly. Everyone she saw was enjoying the leisures of shopping along that particular strip, littered with clothing and shoe stores, video stores, quaint restaurants, and specialty shoppes. Kimberly was in heaven.
It had been months since she'd been able to simply go shopping. More often than not she was busy dealing with political matters, whether it be restoring Venus Island after a titanic battle, to overseeing the training of the assembled militia, to even honing her own skills. The amounts of studying recommended by Dulcea before her departure was truly rigorous, especially to Kim. Although she was a bright young woman, she wasn't really a quick study.
Also, it felt so good to be with her four friends. Although she had developed sturdy friendships with their replacements, it was never really the same. She had grown up with these four teenagers. They knew her when she was still the slightly air-headed cheerleader back in junior high. For the first time in quite a while, she was allowed to just let her hair down and be herself, without worrying about how her performance was being judged. That had been the norm as leader of Venus Island, as well as during the Pan-Globals, and even as the Pink Ranger before that.
It was time for the young woman, with so much responsibility weighing on her shoulders, to just be herself. Being Kimberly Hart was something she had to leave behind, for the good of her nation. She was thrilled by the opportunity to turn the clock back five years, to when five close friends spent their days hanging out, never even thinking about alien forces dropping from the sky.
She felt the resurgence of a perky, absent-minded teenager in the core of her being.
Despite the fact that he typically loathed shopping, Jason was having the time of his life. He felt invigorated and refreshed now that he was back with Zack and Trini, along with Kim and Billy. When he left Geneva months ago, he wanted so badly to go home.
He didn't realize at the time that home wasn't really home without the entire gang being there. He learned that the hard way when he did return, and learned everyone was gone. Soon after his homecoming, even Billy had left. He found himself surrounded by people he didn't really know, and who really didn't know him.
As the Red Power Ranger, Jason was used to being looked up to to a certain degree. After all, his teammates were counting on him. Yet, it was a different kind of responsibility. Kim, Billy, Trini, and Zack knew him for years, and had come to love and respect him as an older brother. That's a very different kind of respect from what exuded from the Zeo Rangers during his short stint as the Gold Ranger. To them, he wasn't an older brother. He was the revered veteran. They granted him the respect that civilians gave a war hero. He was a pioneer... the first leader of the Power Rangers.
Jason didn't feel comfortable with that.
Even Tommy was different. Back when Jason was the Red Ranger, Tommy was first the Green Ranger. He was constantly doubting himself, whether it be about his powers, his academic skills, or his athletic abilities. He knew he had a lot of potential, but he was almost afraid he'd let everyone down. Jason helped the young man deal with all this, yet it also worked in reverse. Jason took comfort in the fact that Tommy was expressing the feelings he himself harbored deep within. A fear... that he won't live up to what everyone expects of him. This common ground led to a powerful brotherly relationship.
However, as the Red Zeo Ranger, Tommy wasn't like that any longer. He was the leader, and he seemed to exude confidence that rather surprised Jason. He couldn't really tell if his old friend had truly dealt with all the confusions and uncertainties that characterized him earlier, or if he simply buried them deep within in order to function. But on the outside, it appeared to Jason that Tommy Oliver, the shy, quiet, almost constantly depressed young man, had realized the potential everyone wanted him to.
The role of leader changed Tommy greatly. Not necessarily in a bad way, but the change was evident. Jason didn't feel he knew Tommy any longer. Adding that to the other new faces on the Zeo team, Jason didn't really know anyone at all.
Only with his childhood friends did he ever truly belong. The ones that were with him long before the Power Rangers existed. It wasn't the uniform that made the man. It was the people that surrounded him.
Zack was soaring on cloud nine the entire day. His excitement continued to bubble every time he pointed out some tourist attraction, or cracked a joke to intensify the smiles on everyone's faces. The entire day was a dream come true.
When Zack had arrived in Geneva, he was scared. He wouldn't admit it to anyone, but that's what he felt. He was scared he had made the wrong decision... that he was putting himself in a situation in which he wouldn't be able to succeed in his goals. He was scared that he left behind the very things that would have kept him happy forever. After all, not only did he leave some close friends and family behind, he also left Angela. Just when she was starting to like him...
It wasn't until rather recently that Zack realized just how happy he could be in Geneva. He found his work very fulfilling. While Jason was discouraged by the fact that very little seemed to be accomplished, Zack prided himself in looking at the broader picture. And in working with an organization trying so diligently to disarm world powers, to aid suffering countries, and to stand up for the basic human rights that are so often ignored, Zack has found a higher meaning to his life.
After all, if the aliens don't destroy the planet, mankind surely would do it themselves.
True, much of what the organization did was talk. All the members were youths, after all. How much power can a group of teenagers hold?
The answer? They hold all the power. They control the future. And Zack was determined to see the seeds he helped plant in the future generation grow, and perhaps save the human race from destroying themselves.
True, Zack had found a purpose in Geneva. He also found love, in the form of a beautiful, logical, compassionate, intelligent young delegate, with a passion to making a difference so much like his own. Siham was so supportive of his interests, always there to give Zack the needed encouragement and companionship he thrived on. And the relationship wasn't a one-way street either; Zack found himself deeply committed to Siham as well. The couple passed through the initial difficulties resulting from the cultural differences, and on a smaller level represent how fulfilling it is for different people to get to know one another.
She was so different from Angela, with whom Zack always felt he was treading on eggshells. He didn't feel the need to constantly impress Siham with smooth moves or pearl earrings. She loved him for him, without feeling the need to refine him. And he loved her for her honesty, devotion, and love of life.
In fact, the only thing missing from Zack's life was those strong friendship bonds that were so vital to his personality in the past. And now that he was with those dear friends again, he couldn't think of anything missing.
Life was good.
The day's events did little to lighten Billy's mood. True, it was wonderful to be with his friends again, and touring the magnificent city of Geneva was something he had always wanted to do since he learned of the Peace Conference. Also, he was thousands of miles away from Angel Grove, this therefore being his first real separation from the Power Rangers. After all, even though he hadn't been an active Ranger since the Power Coins were destroyed, he had stayed close to the action, assisting the Zeo Rangers, and later the Aquitian Rangers.
Yes, it felt good to leave that "Super-Genius" persona behind, and enjoy some companionship for a change.
Plus, he couldn't have asked for better companions. These four teenagers were the ones that helped the shy, awkward nerd in junior high branch out and actually develop social skills. They helped fill a hole that was left years earlier, when his mother died.
Strong, noble Jason, always determined to be everyone else's pillar, and never allowing his own insecurities to stand in his way.
Fun, energetic Zack, constantly smiling and highlighting the joys of just being alive.
Bright, empathetic Kimberly, who always knew how to upbuild and encourage others with her shining smile and heartfelt support.
Brilliant, wise Trini. Beautiful and graceful, so giving and gentle. The girl he had a crush on for so long, but was never ready to do anything about it. The girl that won his heart with her warm grin, and kept it all those years. Over time, the love he felt for her went through phases. At first, he would have given anything to be her true love, to open his heart to her, and hear her say those three wonderful words to him. That lasted some time, even after the core group of friends solidified and then later became Power Rangers. That love for her altered just slightly, early in their Power Ranger days. At that point, his confidence in himself had grown, yet he saw Trini in a new light. He learned just how strong she was, and saw her determination shine when she served as the Yellow Ranger. He felt she was simply too perfect to ever be satisfied with him. Instead, he wanted to make her happy. His only wish was that she find the man she truly wanted to be with. That feeling remained, even when Richie first moved to Angel Grove. Although jealousy did rear its ugly head, Billy pushed it aside in order to support her.
Once Trini left, his love for her changed again. That was because Billy grew even more assured that he would never be with her. So, she became a close friend, whose presence remained in his heart despite the miles separating him. Still, since her departure it felt as if something had died inside himself. He lost something he cherished a great deal... perhaps more than he realized at first.
Later, Billy fell in love. It was actually much like when he first met Trini. Beautiful, caring, brilliant Cestria walked into his life, determined to help him survive his rapid aging. Once again, Billy's heart was swept away. Only this time, he wasn't the clumsy, awkward school nerd. Instead, he was the respected, and even admired, scientist that aided the Aquitian Rangers on several occasions. For once, he could act upon the feelings within his heart, with far fewer feelings of inadequacy. And it paid off... for Billy learned that he had won Cestria's heart.
Now, Billy found himself alone. He knew his friends were there for him, and he knew it helped ease the pain. But, did he want it to be eased? Did he want to put Cestria out of his mind, and live on as if those months on Aquitar never happened?
No, he didn't. He cherished his time with Cestria, despite its tragic ending. With all his being, he didn't want to let go of that. He wouldn't allow himself to abandon Cestria's memory.
But... what about his own life? He couldn't live in the past... he learned that when his mother died. He had to move on, if for nothing else then for those he lost. But how would he move on? Could he love again?
The presence of Trini increased Billy's anxiety. He was very sorry that he was so cold to her, but he couldn't stand the emotions raging through his heart. His relationship with Cestria was so much like the relationship with Trini that monopolized his dreams years ago. He knew that, on some level, he still loved Trini. Yet, how much of that love was simply redirected from his love for Cestria, to help ease his pain? Or even more frighteningly, how much of his love for Cestria was redirected from his love for Trini?
Did he love Cestria because of how similar she was to Trini? And now that Cestria was gone, what feelings did he still have for Trini that were genuine?
Those questions scared the Silver Ranger. It made him tremendously guilty to think that he would be untrue to Cestria's love. But, how would that be defined? Did holding Cestria's memory as sacred include never loving another woman, ever again?
The guilt for even thinking of these things was overwhelming. He tried to smile, and desperately tried to just put those thoughts out of his mind just for this day, so he could enjoy it with his friends. Yet, each time he locked eyes with fair Trini Kwan, the guilt resurfaced.
A day of shopping, laughs with old friends, sight-seeing, and carefree wandering was something Trini needed for some time. It had been quite a while since she felt so whole, being surrounded by those she loved the most. It was almost a dream come true. Almost.
When she came to Geneva, Trini knew she was leaving something special behind. She had to say goodbye to Kimberly, the closest girlfriend she ever had, and Billy, more like a kindred spirit than merely a friend. It was shattering to her sensitive heart to leave behind friends and family, but she did in order to work for a better world.
Yes, the work had been fulfilling. She truly enjoyed the challenge, with the goal of making the world a better place for everyone. Considering she was a girl who devoted herself to such events as park clean-up and regulation of pollution, it's not surprising that she found herself right at home in an organization designed to tackle such problems, along with other threats such as war and poverty.
However, the loneliness didn't really go away. Trini did manage to make quite a few friends, yet none were as innocent and open as Kimberly, nor as deep and sensitive as Billy. Not that she tried to replace them... yet they completed her in a way that no one else seemed to be able to do.
At first, Trini was comforted by the fact that she still had Zack and Jason, two of her closest friends. They were the only two whose friendship was similarly essential to her being. Yet, that didn't last, either. Jason returned to Angel Grove, and then Zack fell in love with Siham. Trini found herself, for all intents and purposes, alone.
Here, being with the four friends that were so vital to her, made her feel a joy that she hadn't felt in so long. A carefree, energetic happiness. The feeling of innocence reclaimed, of limitless possibilities. It was like the good old days... almost.
Everything would have been perfect, if it weren't for Billy's recent loss of his fiance.
Trini was still stunned by how much had happened to her close friend during her time in Geneva. He had actually been engaged! He had fallen in love with someone else. He was so close to marrying an alien woman, and never setting foot on Earth again.
It hurt Trini to think he would do such a thing without telling her. It hurt even more that, on some level, she was almost happy it didn't work out.
No, she wasn't being malicious. In fact, those feelings made her feel terribly guilty. How could she be happy that an innocent woman died long before her time? How could she be happy that her dear, dear friend had to suffer?
No, she wasn't happy. She just wasn't as crushed as she would have been had it been, say, Jason's bride-to-be that died, or if something had happened to Siham. In this case, she had her chance yet again. She was given a second try, to open up to Billy, and attempt to forge a relationship between them.
Yet... did she dare? Wouldn't she be taking advantage of his loss, for her own sake? Wouldn't she be trying to win Billy while he was on the rebound?
Those were the questions that plagued Trini throughout the day's adventures, and by the evening, she had finally made a decision.
She was going to be honest. She was going to support Billy, just as she always had in their younger days. She would stand by him, helping him cope with his loss, and offering the young man her friendship, and her love.
She'd let him decide what he wanted to do with that love.
"Honey, I'm home!" Zack called, pushing open the ajar apartment door with his shoulder. His arms were filled with shopping bags and his eyes were overflowing with the kind of fathomless energy that made Zack Taylor famous amongst the delegates at Geneva's Peace Conference.
"Zack?" called a gentle, accented voice. Then, Siham stepped out of the kitchen, her dark hair pulled into leisurely braid and gold-frame glasses and a thick hardcover book in her hands. "Is it Christmas already?"
Zack's grin widened as he placed the bags on the ground and wrapped his petite fiance in a warm hug. Despite her demure personality, Siham couldn't prevent a giggle from escaping her as Zack lifted her into the air and spun around in a circle.
"What's wrong with you?" she asked, her words obscured by her laughter.
"This has been the greatest day of my life!" Zack bubbled, placing his fiance on her feet, "We went everywhere! Museums, the malls, the parks...! It was dynamite!!"
Siham smiled in amusement at his antics, and took a seat on the couch. Zack promptly sat next to her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.
"Well, I certainly hope you haven't done everything already," Siham commented, "Aren't your friends going to be around for a few more days?"
"Yeah, we got it worked out," Zack answered, "We're going skiing! I know it's summer time and everything, but there's snow on these mountains all year 'round! But you know, some of the best times I had with the guys were just sitting around sipping on smoothies or watching tv. It's not like I have to do something with them to have a good time. Just being together is awesome."
"Then I'm glad they're here," Siham said, planting a kiss on Zack's lips, "Now, don't you think you should go back to them?"
"Well, everyone's getting ready for dinner," Zack replied, watching as Siham rose to her feet and leaned against the far wall, "Billy's in my shower now, so I have to wait anyway. I figured I'd stop by here and let you know the reservation's at seven."
Siham blinked her deep brown eyes. "Huh?"
Zack grinned. "I know how you like to have at least an hour to get ready..."
"Zack," Siham interrupted, shaking her head slightly, "I don't want to intrude. The five of you have been friends for years. I... I shouldn't tag along."
"Don't be ridiculous," Zack uttered, rising to his feet, "Kimberly and Billy are just dying to get to know you, and you're already friends with Jason and Trini. And... I made reservations at your favorite restaurant..."
Siham's warm smile returned, informing Zack that his persuasive tactics had worked. Zack's grin returned, and he wrapped his arms around her waist, his lips meeting hers in a sweet kiss.
"I'll be back in an hour," he said, trotting happily towards the door.
"I'll be waiting," Siham responded, watching him leave.
As Zack closed the apartment door gently, and hurried back down the hall, only one thought echoed in his mind, bringing a wide smile to his already happy face. How did a guy like me wind up with an angel like her?
A slight frown wrinkling her tan face, Kimberly pulled the curling iron along a lock of caramel hair, rolling it back toward her scalp once it reached the bottom. After holding it for a few seconds, she released the clamp, letting the curled lock fall to her shoulder. Carefully placing the heated device on the vanity, Kim picked up a silver barrette, decorated with clear rhinestones, and clipped the left side of her hair above her ear. Satisfaction in her eyes, Kim turned her head and examined the matching clip that held place directly opposite the first.
"Finally," Kim sighed, clipping on the matching earrings, "Honestly, Trini, I thought I was doomed to suffer a bad hair day! My hair just wouldn't hold a curl!"
Trini smiled in amusement at her friend's familiar preoccupation, while zipping the back of her sleeveless cream colored silk mini-dress, that narrowed past her chest and enclosed her neck. Nibbling on her lower lip, Trini stepped in front of the full length mirror behind the door, and examined her reflection.
"What do you think, Kim?" Trini asked, pulling down the hem of the dress slightly.
Kim turned around, and smiled in approval. The oriental design of the dress was quite flattering, and the short length revealed a daring amount of leg. Well, daring for Trini, at least.
"You're a knock-out!" Kim squealed in excitement, "Since when did you go for short skirts, Trini?"
Trini frowned slightly. "Is it too short?"
"No, not too short... just shorter than I've ever seen on you." Kim's smile suddenly subsided to a mischievous grin. "I'm sure Billy will like it."
Trini's eyebrow arched, and she tried desperately to prevent a blush from rising on her creamy cheeks. "Oh really?"
Kim rose to her feet, and pulled slightly on the cotton belt of her rose robe. "C'mon, Trini. We've been friends forever! Did you really think I wouldn't notice?"
A cold shadow seemed to pass over Trini's face. "I... I don't know what I was thinking. I don't know anything... about me, Billy, or anything."
Trini took a deep breath, and sat down on her bed, staring at her feet. "I don't know if I can build up the nerve to talk to him about us, after all this time."
Trini looked up, and fixed Kim with a weary gaze. "Kim, tell me about Cestria?"
Kim shrugged a bit. "I'm sorry, but I really didn't know her. I only met her once, at the senior prom."
Trini nodded. "I guess I can't help but wonder about the girl who swept Billy's heart away, you know?"
Kim nodded, slowly sitting beside Trini and enclosing her shoulder in her own hand. "Trini, I know this must be very difficult for you," she said in her calm, easy voice, "Trust me, I have an inkling on what you're going through. I have to tell you... facing Tommy about the letter was one of the hardest things for me to do. I felt like... I had missed my chance. I had screwed up, and I couldn't expect Tommy to still have feelings for me. But if I didn't build up the nerve to talk to him about it, I never would have found out the truth."
Trini covered her eyes with her palm and bowed her head, causing flowing locks of raven hair to sweep over her shoulders and hide her features in a dim shadow. "I feel so... guilty! Like I'm trying to steal Billy away from Cestria. Like I'm taking advantage of her death to get what I want."
"At least tell him what you're feeling," Kim recommended, "No one can ever blame you for being honest."
With that, Kim rose to her feet, and tugged once again at the cotton belt of her bathrobe. "Now, I've got to get dressed. Just think about what I said. You really don't have anything to lose."
Trini watched Kimberly disappear into the bathroom. She then sighed loudly, throwing herself backward upon her bed. Thick ebony hair cascaded around the bed in a dark halo around her head, and several tears streaked down the corners of her eyes as she stared at the ceiling.
"I don't have anything to lose?" she asked the empty room, "What about my self respect? What about Billy's trust and friendship?"
Billy stared into Zack's bedroom mirror, a bland expression on his face. He could see how sickly he looked. His eyes had lost their glimmer, he had clearly lost a significant amount of weight, and his healthy California tan was gone. His dark blonde hair hung rather limply about his eyes.
He looked so hollow it was frightening.
Taking a deep breath, Billy ran the comb through his damp hair slowly, pushing the blonde locks away from his face into a neat, reserved fashion. Once his unruly hair finally obeyed his command, Billy grabbed his navy tie from the chair of Zack's desk, and fumbled with the knot.
"Sheesh, Man," Zack commented, stepping back into the apartment. He walked over to Billy, and properly adjusted the tie, "My little brother can tie a tie better."
Billy grimaced. "I haven't worn a tie in ages, and even then, it wasn't often."
Zack shrugged, his dark eyes examining Billy's attire carefully. The slender genius was wearing a charcoal suit, with a white and blue striped shirt and a navy solid-tone tie.
"Lookin' pretty sharp, Billy-Boy," Zack approved, giving his friend a thumbs up, "Now, all you have to do is smile once in a while, and you're in good shape!"
Billy's lips pursed slightly in response, and he took a seat on Zack's bed. He watched absently as the former Black Power Ranger examined the contents of his closet.
"Is Jason still in the bathroom?" Zack inquired, not looking away from the ebony suit he selected.
"The shower had ceased about ten minutes ago," Billy answered, "He should be out momentarily."
Zack nodded, lying the suit on the bed and rummaging through his drawer. "Why don't you go check on the girls? You guys can go get a cab if they're dressed. I won't take more than ten minutes, and I'll get Siham and meet you downstairs."
Billy nodded in agreement, grabbing the jacket to his suit as he walked out the door. He slid his slender arms into the blazer as he strolled down the narrow hallway of the apartment complex. Moments later, he arrived outside Trini's door. He quickly knocked on the door.
"Just a minute," Trini's serene voice called. Billy watched as the door parted before him, and his breath caught in his throat as his old high-school crush came into view.
Trini felt the intense manner in which Billy observed her appearance. She felt slightly uncomfortable at the attention, yet it encouraged her that he would even notice her.
"You can come in," Trini said, trying to suppress her excited smile as she stepped out of Billy's way, "Kimberly's just about done."
Billy remained wordless as he entered the apartment. Kimberly turned around from Trini's vanity, smiling at her friend as she sprayed a hint of floral perfume to her bare neck.
"So, what do you think?" Kim asked standing up from her chair to display her pale pink tank dress. She could tell that, while Billy was indeed looking in her direction, something else was occupying his mind. It didn't take much to notice that he kept glancing at Trini.
Kim smiled, as she began twirling a lock of caramel-brown hair. Things are definitely looking pretty good for Trini...
"Uh, Zack recommended that we procure transportation while the others finish their preparations. They will meet us at the gate expediently."
Trini blinked in surprise at the flurry of Billy-speak that just graced her ears. It brought back a warm feeling of yesteryear, when Billy only managed to communicate in a manner so completely incomprehensible to most of the populace of Angel Grove High. As time passed, he only used techno-babble when he was nervous or uncomfortable.
This observation didn't get passed Kimberly either. "Why don't you two go ahead?" she suggested, sitting back down, "I still need to put a top coat on my nails. I'll be right behind you."
"See you soon," Trini called, quickly picking up her purse and walking behind Billy into the hallway. Kimberly watched the door close behind them, and leaned against the back of the chair she was sitting on. A warm smile crossed her face, and she rubbed her hands in excited expectation.
"This is going to be great!" she gasped, chewing on her lower lip, "Well, so long as Trini does go through with it..."
The group of close friends enjoyed a relaxed yet elegant dinner at one of Geneva's most cherished formal restaurants. Thanks to the lax alcohol restrictions in Europe, the teens were able to enjoy a touch of wine with their meals, and they toasted all the concepts that brought them together. They toasted friendship, loyalty, and each other.
Zack remained wonderfully animated throughout the dinner, detailing for Kimberly, Billy, and Jason just how he had fallen in love with Siham, and at what point he realized that she was exactly what he had been searching for all his life. He also announced their wedding plans, which included a wedding in America and a honeymoon in Syria and Lebanon. Their wedding would take place after the Peace Conference was over, in the spring of 2000.
"Wow," Jason commented, "that's a pretty long engagement."
"We're not in a rush to get married," Siham said in her reserved, gentle voice, "After all, we have the rest of our lives to enjoy together. We want to complete the duty we were chosen for. In the countries bordering Syria, there has been war and hatred for generations. It must come to an end, and I'm prepared to work for it."
Zack grinned proudly at Siham's demure strength, and planted a kiss on her cheek. "Isn't she the best?"
Siham blushed charmingly at the compliment, especially when the question was answered by a chorus of affirmatives from the others.
Kimberly sighed lightly, her fawn gaze drinking in the obvious love that glimmered between the young couple. She leaned her head against her hand, and a serene grin held her rose lips in place.
"You two are so cute together!" Kim declared, "I can't wait for your wedding!"
"Speaking of weddings," Jason said, a cunning grin on his face, "when are you and Tommy finally going down the aisle?"
Kim's eyes widened at the sudden comment, and a blush rose on her cheeks. "We... haven't gotten to that point yet."
"Tommy?" Siham repeated thoughtfully, "I remember you speaking of him, Zack."
"Yeah, he's a close friend of ours," Zack replied, "Actually, I'm a bit surprised he didn't come along for this reunion."
"Well, we didn't grow up with Tommy," Jason brought out, "He's a different kind of friend. And besides, he's got responsibilities at home."
"You know what?" Zack said, pushing his chair from the table and rising to his feet, "I feel like dancing."
"There's a surprise," Kim giggled.
"Care to show 'em how it's done?" Zack said to Siham, offering her his hand.
"Let's," she responded, taking his hand. Together, the couple walked to the dance floor.
Kimberly watched them join the crowd of couples swaying to the live violins, and eyed Trini and Billy. Both had been rather quiet the entire evening. It was clear that Trini wouldn't make her move with a crowd around.
"C'mon, Jase," Kim said suddenly, reaching across the round table and grasping his hand, "Let's dance."
Jason blinked in astonishment. "Come again?"
"Let's dance!" she repeated, walking around the table and pulling out his chair, "It'll be fun!"
"But I have to left feet!" he protested, as his friend practically lifted him from his chair.
"I think Trini and Billy want to be alone," she whispered into his ear. Jason's eyes widened, and Kim shrugged her eyebrows in response.
"Oh," he said, adjusting his tie, "Um, we'll be back soon," he called to Billy and Trini as Kimberly tugged on his arm.
Trini's eyes locked with Kimberly's as the petite Venusian Queen and the tall former Red and Gold Ranger disappeared onto the crowded dance floor. Her quiet smile collapsed as she dropped her eyes to her unfinished fish dinner. Timidly, she glanced up at Billy for a moment. His crystal eyes were half-closed and unfocused, as his fingers gingerly brushed along the edge of his full wine glass.
Trini's heart ached terribly, despite her nerves. She could see Billy's intense pain in his absent stare. He seemed so withered and ill. His skin was pale, and his fingers almost shook with feebleness. It was clear the loss of Cestria had truly destroyed him.
Taking a deep breath to steel herself, she prayed that perhaps, on some small level, her opening up to him might help heal his fragile condition.
That was why she was doing this. It was for him... not for her. Had Cestria been alive, Trini knew she would have been happy for them both. The thought of being honest to Billy then... to try and force a wedge between Billy and Cestria wouldn't have even occurred to her.
Her only desire was Billy's happiness... and she flattered herself in the notion that perhaps her love was key to that happiness.
Almost coyly, Trini reached across the table and touched Billy's hand as it slid across the clear glass. Billy jerked suddenly from the unexpected touch, and his hollow blue eyes locked with Trini's deep brown ones.
A question lurked in his eyes, while his lips remained sealed.
"Billy," Trini said, her voice low and even, "I have something to confess."
Trini continued to examine Billy's expression. His eyes were focused upon her, but his face didn't undergo any change. True, he was listening to her, yet his attention was still dispersed on other topics.
That would change quickly enough.
Trini cleared her throat, and kept her hand gently resting on Billy's. "I'm in love with you."
Billy jumped at the revelation. He was so shocked, he barely managed to prevent falling off his seat. His crystal eyes widened astronomically, and his jaw slowly sank. His brow knitted in confusion, and his lips began to tremble.
"Tr... Trini..." he gasped, his azure eyes darting around the restaurant in awestruck agony, "I... I..."
Trini couldn't help but smile at Billy's bewildered expression, and slowly leaned over to meet his lips in a gentle kiss. That silenced him immediately, and to her sudden joy, she detected a small sigh of content pass through Billy's lips as she leaned back towards her chair.
"I know you're hurting, and the last thing I'd ever do was make you uncomfortable or force you into something," she continued, never taking her eyes off Billy. She smiled at the charming pink blush that finally brought color to his pale ivory cheeks. "I understand that you've just gone through a terrible experience, and you lost someone very special to you. I also will have you know that my intention is not to replace Cestria in your heart. I just want you to know that you've always been in my heart, and I'm just hoping that somewhere in your heart you'll eventually find a place for me."
Trini waited patiently while Billy digested this information. Despite his incredibly articulate speech, the young genius was completely without words for over a minute. Finally, a weak, yet truly genuine, smile tugged at his lips. "Trini... I... thank you," he said quietly, "Thanks for your love and support. Now, I'm going to be honest with you, too." He paused yet again, his eyes rolling to the ceiling as he carefully selected his next words. "Trini, I've always cared about you deeply. You're my best friend, and even when you weren't with me your confidence in me gave me strength. Thanks for your friendship." Another pause interrupted his speech, and he licked his lips nervously. "But, I'm not ready for another relationship. I... I know I won't be able to give you the love you deserve."
Billy watched Trini carefully, trying to detect her cringe or display any other painful reaction to his words. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt Trini... especially considering how far she went to try and make him happy.
Thankfully, Trini's only response was a gentle smile.
"That's fine," Trini said honestly, "I understand. Time heals all wounds, and when you're ready to face the future, you know where to find me."
That said, Trini leaned back into her seat, and lifted the desert menu once again. "Now let's see... the blueberry topped cheesecake looks fabulous, but it's way too much for me to be able to eat on my own..."
She then glanced over the top of the menu, and eyed Billy expectantly. He bit his lip to prevent a laugh.
"How about we share one?" he suggested, "Blueberry cheesecake is my favorite dessert."
"Now you're talking!" Trini said, Billy's suppressed laughter igniting her own. At once, they both broke down into a light-hearted laughter, that attracted a few amused stares from the neighboring tables. Yet, these two typically shy teenagers didn't let embarrassment ruin the moment. They continued to laugh gleefully, overjoyed that they found each other once again, after so much time.
"What's all the noise?" Kim asked, her hand placed on her hip and a smirk on her face.
"Yeah," Zack chimed, standing close beside Kimberly, "Didn't you know the rule? No one can burst into laughter without me being the primary cause!"
Trini calmed down, waving air into her face to reduce the blush on her cheeks. "Just... reminiscing on the past," she said.
"And slowly moving forward," Billy added, the smile on his face returning.
Kimberly pursed her lips together in excitement. She couldn't believe how well the vacation was going. Billy finally found a reason to live. Jason got in touch with a part of himself he thought was lost forever. Zack had finally found true happiness and love. Trini finally learned how to face her fears. And she had reminded herself about the joys of true friendship. All that Kim had wanted to accomplish during this short reunion had been realized, including a possible relationship between Trini and Billy in the near future.
This moment was perfect. Everyone was exceedingly happy, filled with the energy and sparkle that was their daily lives all those years ago, in the age of innocence. With all her heart, she didn't want it to end.
"Guys," Kim said quietly, tears starting to shine in her eyes, "I've missed you all so much! I wish we could just stay this way... happy and unified."
Jason smiled. "Hey, just because we're going our separate ways again, doesn't mean we can't be unified. We're not making the same mistake twice."
With that, Jason stuck his hand out, palm down. "Let's make a promise to ourselves. No matter how we live the rest of our lives, where we go, and what we accomplish, we will always be best friends. We won't lose contact again. Okay?"
"You got it, Bro," Zack said, placing his hand atop Jason's.
"Well said," Billy said quietly, tears in his own eyes.
"No mistakes this time around," Trini whispered, her gaze locking with Billy's as she lay her hand upon his.
"Friends forever?" Kim finished, adding her hand to the circle.
"Friends forever!!" the five teenagers shouted, a bit too loudly. They turned around when they heard murmuring coming from the other diners, until a low applause started. The applause built, until finally, everyone in the restaurant was showing their support to the notion of friends sticking together.
Slightly embarrassed, yet still overjoyed, the five friends folded into a warm hug. Then they parted, and Zack quickly wrapped Siham into his arms, who was also crying quietly at the display.
They were all friends forever, and they knew it. True, time had passed, and much had changed. They all had to deal with experiences that were very trying, yet they knew they could gain strength from one another.
Still, one truth remained clear. They were forever changed, and were forced to leave their carefree days behind. They could never go back, and undo the mistakes they made.
They couldn't go back... but they could always go forward.