It had ceased to startle him that he didn't think of this place as home. He'd thought once that it would be forever. But now, he knew better. It just wasn't the sort of world he could live on. Quite literally. He coughed a little, placing a hand on his chest as a sharp pain went through it. _Can't stay out here long._ He didn't need the pain to remind him of that, though it helped.
The sky here was different. Constellations weren't the familiar ones he'd studied for so long in school. Cestria had told him some of their names, but he didn't remember a lot of them, much less pronounce them. He remembered endless nights gazing up at the stars with his friends. He'd spent at least one night with all of them like that, even Tanya, whom he had had the least contact with by the time he'd left. It was almost a game, a rite of passage into the Rangers, to spend a night with him watching the stars. He'd even done with Alpha.
Memories flooded into his mind just then, of star-watching, of battles, of powers being lost and regained, of old friends moving on and new friends arriving in their place. Of time twisting and an explosion that had changed his life forever.
"Billy?" it was a strong male voice, and he looked behind him to see Trey of Triforia there. The Gold Ranger had come to take him home. "Are you ready?"
"Yes." The ex-Blue Ranger slowly stood up, pulling the cloak he had tighter about him. Aquitar had no temperature changes, since their entire civilization was in pressurized domes that needed no such things. He'd had the cloak made from the clothing-replicators shortly after his arrival. It was a weird, archaic thing, not like anything he'd have worn on Earth, but he found himself liking it. He was going to be taking it with him. "Where is Cestria?" He had already made his farewells to the Aquitian Rangers.
A flicker of shadow moved behind the lord of Triforia, and Billy saw the woman he had once dreamed of spending his entire life with. _Second woman._ The phrase spun into his mind, and he stopped himself from thinking it at once. He'd deal with that later. Right now, he had something else on his mind. Something far more important. His life. "Cestria, I'm sorry. I--I wish I'd known sooner, before we'd started making plans."
"I know." Her voice was quiet and matter-of-fact. She had studied Earth culture briefly since his arrival, and knew how much this had to be hurting him. It was against Aquitian tradition to show strong emotions, however, especially ones of the heart. Therefore, she simply allowed the usual mask to blanket her face. She had broken the custom once when she had seen him in the Power Chamber, so old and decrepit. She would not shame her family so again. "Aquitar's waters cannot sustain you as they do us. It's food gives you no nourishment and the air is too thick for you to breathe. Our diseases can kill you far swifter than they can us. Our world has never truly encouraged visitors from other planets. We had hoped you would be different."
Billy nodded at her calm category of why he couldn't stay. He knew her well, however, and could see beyond the almost frosty exterior she was presenting him with. This was as hard on her as it was on him. Perhaps harder. When they had met, there had not been the 'click' he had, in retrospect, thought there might be when he met the woman of his dreams, the one with whom he would always be. There had been many shared experiences during his first trip to Aquitar, long nights of speaking with one another, in the closely chaperoned quarters of her family. A strong friendship had formed, and when he had needed her, she had been there for him, saving his life. He had decided to repay her in the best way he knew how: by staying with her. Even if he did not love her as completely as he did someone else, he had hoped they would be able to stay together and grow to an old age.
A sudden bout of racking coughs reminded him harshly of reality, however. Trey placed a hand on his friend's shoulder, trying to calm him. The Gold Ranger had recently reclaimed his powers from Jason on Earth, and on his way back to his homeworld had stopped off to visit with Billy. The two of them had become good friends during Billy's visit to Triforia in a previous, and failed, attempt to heal Trey enough to rejoin his tri-fold being and become the Gold Ranger again. Trey couldn't stay long on Aquitar, but he would at least give his friend a ride back to the world he had to stay on.
"I will miss you, Billy." Cestria stepped closer to him, her resolve breaking just the tiniest bit, and wrapped her arms around him.
"I will miss you, too, Cestria." He replied, hugging her. "Maybe. . .in some other world. ..we can be together. . ."
She touched his face gently, a gesture so rare among her people that it shocked him to the core. "You have to go home. You can't live here." Her fingers traced gently down to the small bag hanging from a cord around his neck. "And you are needed."
He touched the bag as well, feeling their fingers graze. "I know. Good-bye, Cestria."
Billy felt Trey's power enveloping the both of them, and then he was standing on the bridge of Pyramidus. The Gold Ranger took his seat and glanced at his traveling companion, who was gazing out the nearest window at the planet he'd once, for a few brief weeks, called home. "Are you ready?" he asked gently.
Billy turned to the alien nobleman, and smiled briefly, weakly. "Yes. Let's go."
With a touch on the control panel, the two of them headed away from Aquitar. Billy touched the pouch around his neck again, feeling the Power flare up from inside of it. Slowly he reached inside, removing a small blue crystal. A flash echoed deep inside of the stone, and he smiled.
_It's good to be back._