Disclaimer: "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" is owned by Saban Entertainment. No copyright infringement was intended and this story is not for profit. This story is free. Do not remove this disclaimer.

"The Machine Empire Strikes Back"
By Stephanie Moffett and Kristen Fallon

" I need help. I'm beat..." Billy coughed into his hand. " And this damn chest cold won't go away. You guys have got to start learning how to do some of this. " He gestured to the pile of electrical components littered all over the Power Center.
The rangers all looked nervously at each other. It wasn't that they didn't want to help Billy, they simply hadn't realized just how much time he was spending there.

It wasn't like Billy had mentioned it before, Tanya mused, though he was looking a little pale and tired. In fact, Zordon had called the meeting, not Billy. Billy had been prodded into admitting he was tired and not feeling well. Tanya sensed it was a difficult admission for some reason.

" Well.." Kat mused. " There's five of us. Why don't you take off for a week and let us take care of the place and see how we do? I mean, we're not idiots."

Tommy nudged the components on the floor. " I know a little about computers..."

" Yeah..." said Adam. " Take a week off. We'll be fine. Right guys?"

Three days later

" And, " Billy coughed, " Who spilled the chocolate shake on the control panel?"

Rocky guiltily raised his hand. Billy sighed and stepped over to the pieces of Alpha 5 littered on the floor.

" And who fried Alpha?"

" That was me... " Tommy said, " But it was an accident . We were trying to fix the green bull zord...its been...well..."

" We broke it in that battle. " Adam offered. " We were trying to fix it and Alpha just.... got in the way. "

Billy sighed and leaned up against a console. " This worked out so well. Now I'm still sick and I don't even have Alpha to help and you all made such a mess of this place... It'll be months before I get this done." He sighed again and put a hand to his head.

The rangers looked down at their feet. It was worse than they thought. " We're really sorry..." Rocky said softly.

" I know..." Billy felt bad suddenly. " I didn't mean to yell.... I'm just... in shock. " He looked over the power center, awed at the destruction. One console was in pieces, one was smoking. Alpha was, well, totalled. Apparently at least one of the zords was down. " I need an extra set of hands. " One set to work, he added in his head, and one set to strangle you all.

" Well, we seem to need an extra Billy. " Tanya was trying to lighten the mood. She knew it wasn't that good of a joke, but she was startled by the immediate negative reaction.

" God no. " muttered Tommy.

" Tanya, how can you say that?" asked Rocky.

" I don't even want to think of that..." Kat added.

Tanya blushed. Well, she thought to herself, there's a faux pas I had no idea about. Never suggest that again. " Sorry."

" Actually...." Billy said slowly, " That's not such a bad idea. Zordon, you still have Will monitored occasionally, don't you?"

" WHAT?" shouted Tommy.

" You've got to be joking!" added Kat.

" I thought he died." said Adam in confusion.

" Who's Will?" Tanya asked.

" Yeah," said Rocky. " Who's Will?"

Zordon waited for the immediate response to die off. " The last contact I had was well over two months ago. " That brought another flurry of responses.

" You've been in contact? I thought he died. Why didn't you tell us? "

" That bastard!"

" You mean he didn't die after getting shot?"

" Who's Will?"

" That's incredible... I mean, after a ten story fall and a gunshot..." Everyone just stared at Rocky. He blinked but didn't get the point. " Well, it is." he defended.

Zordon looked grave. Perhaps, he thought to himself, it was unwise to keep this information between Billy and myself. Well, it was too late now. " Rangers, " he intoned, " I realize this is somewhat shocking, but I have been keeping track of..."

" Why didn't you tell us?" Tommy interrupted. Tanya noted that Tommy was angry. Really angry. She'd never seen him like that.

Billy stood up. " I asked him not to, Tommy."

" Why?"

" Because WE made a deal, and I intend to keep it. " Tommy and Billy glared at each other. Then, much to Tanya's surprise, Tommy backed off.

" Well... there's no point in even discussing it." Tommy's voice dropped a few decibels. " He can't be trusted to be in the same room as the rest of us, Billy. "

" I disagree. " Billy leaned up against the console again. " He became violent because his life was being threatened. That is no longer an issue... and he could easily pick up the new technology here."

" Yeah, and he can spend his spare time setting bombs and plotting against us." Adam said bitterly. " I'm sorry but I really don't want to spend anymore time doing a code blue."

" Guys... do you understand how long this will take to fix?" Billy coughed forcefully. " By myself, working nonstop, it'll take a month just to fix what you all broke. I need help. Will isn't dangerous unless he is threatened. I think he deserves a chance. "

" Um.. excuse me?" Tanya was immensely confused. " Who's Will?"

" Yeah... since when does he use Will?" Tommy added.

Billy sighed heavily. " At last check, he was using Will Robinson for a name."

" Ok..." Tanya was getting mad. " Let's try again. Will Robinson?"

" A clone of me. " Billy said softly. " He took my place here for a while."

" And wrecked up Aisha's car and nearly killed her. And gave me a soda loaded with poison." said Adam.

" And hit me on the head with a lead pipe and left me in an ice locker. " added Rocky.

" He tried to throw me off the roof." Kat said.

" And slashed me with a scalpel. " Tommy hesitated, and then added, " And he tried to kill you Billy. Don't forget that. He was gonna pull you down with him."

" I know. And since he left, he has plenty of opportunity to come back and kill you all but he hasn't. " Billy said. " Its not like he doesn't know where we live."

" Well, that's a cheery thought." muttered Kat.

Zordon decided to intervene. " Kat, you have missed Billy's point. Will no longer has reason to fear the Rangers. It is not likely that his presence would endanger any of you. With Zedd and Rita's departure, you hold no threat to his existence."

" Which was what started the whole mess." Billy added. " I think it could work... "

" I'm sorry Billy, but this sounds creepy." Adam shuddered. "Not to mention dangerous. why don't we just give you a hand?" He set is hand down on a console, only to cause it to start sparking. " Sorry..."

Billy threw up his hands. " Fine. Forget I mentioned it." He stepped over to the smoking console and opened the panel irritably. The rangers looked at each other and began puttering around. Slowly but surely though, they all left.

" Billy?" Tanya gently shook him. She and Adam thought it was cute that he'd fallen asleep in study hall. She missed Adam's sudden look of warning as she shook Billy harder. " Billy, come on.." Without warning, Billy bolted upright, turned and pushed her away. For a second, she thought he was going to hit her. His eyes had the bleary look of someone not quite awake... and of someone who'd just had a bad scare. A real bad scare. A cough exploded from him, and he bent over from the force. When he stood up again, the look was gone. It was replaced by anger..and a hint of embarrassment.

" Don't ever do that again!" Billy snarled hoarsely. He grabbed his books and stomped away.

" I should've warned you..." Adam said softly. " He gets upset by that."

" By what?" Tanya was a little angry. All I did was keep him from being late to class. She sighed. It wasn't easy sometimes, trying to fit in to a closely knit team. It was pretty east to make mistakes.

" He doesn't react well to getting shaken awake." Adam hesitated. " Um... it has to do with all that time he spent in Lord Zedd's castle. He's a little touchy sometimes."

" Oh. Ok." She shuddered slightly. Adam and Kat had filled her in on the clone episode. It had occurred to her that Billy might have had less noble motivation for letting her have the crystal. Adam put his arm around her reassuringly.

" Don't worry." Adam said with a smile. " He's just upset." Tanya nodded. " I think I'll go apologize." She lead Adam off into the hallway and they searched out Billy. Billy was leaning up against a locker, coughing again, and looking miserable.

" You shouldn't have come to school, Billy." Adam was getting worried. Billy was still sick. He'd spent all his free time in the Power Chamber. Adam had pried him away the night before at one am..

" Yeah... um... " Billy swayed a little. " I'm a little dizzy... I think I'll go to the nurse..." Adam grabbed him just before he keeled off into a locker.

" That's a good idea, Billy." Adam steadied him a little.

" I don't need this..." Billy said softly. " There's so much work piled up at the Power Chamber... I can't stay sick like this.. my folks are going away in a few days...I don't want them to cancel their plans."

" Um..." Tanya couldn't help it, " What's so important? " Billy and Adam looked at each other. " I forgot, " Billy said as they walked down the hall to the nurse's office. " You didn't know. My father just married Donna. They put off their honeymoon until now. I really don't want to wreck it for them."

Tanya considered. " Your mom doesn't live in town?"

" Not anymore." They entered the nurse's office and dropped Billy off to the nurse.

" Too bad his mom doesn't live close by." Tanya said sadly. She kind of understood Billy's problem. She tried not to make hassles for the Hillards.

" Tanya... I know Billy must be sick because he was being awfully flip to you." Adam paused. " His mom was killed about a year ago. So, no, she doesn't live in Angel Grove anymore."

" OH...." Tanya hesitated. " Have you given any more thought to Billy's suggestion? About Will?"

Adam nodded. " I don't like it. But Billy is still sick and there's still a mountain of work in the power chamber. If... Will... " Tanya could see Adam was not happy with what he was about to say. " If Will could help Billy get the hard stuff done more quickly, and we did the rest, then Billy could get a break. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the clone wasn't really afraid of us. He was afraid of being caught by Lord Zedd. If Lord Zedd is gone..."

" Maybe Zordon and Billy are right." Tanya filled in. " If he doesn't feel threatened, he's not dangerous. "

" Well... its something to consider."

" I have conditions if we do this. " Tommy slammed his hand down on a console to emphasis his point. The console sparked and some loose parts rattled off the top. " First, he is never here alone. One of us has to be here with him."

" Preferably me, " added Billy. " I know there are concerns about sabotage." Everyone nodded.

" Second, I don't want him wandering around. He's under house arrest."

Adam held up a hand. " Um, Tommy... we're asking him to do us a favor.... I mean... how do you plan to keep him in?"

" And where?" Rocky said suddenly. " Where will he stay?"

" He'll have to stay at my house. " Billy said. " None of you would feel safe. " Or would offer. " Besides, I can pass him off as a relative. There'll be a lot of.... problems, otherwise. But as for house arrest... Tommy, do you even understand what that entails? And how impossible it is to really keep him out of the power chamber if he really wants in? I only get in because I pass a DNA test every time I teleport. Zordon and I set it up. Its foolproof. No one without a zeo crystal signature can teleport in. Except me, and I have to pass a DNA test." He paused. " But... Will's DNA is identical. And Will can make a communicator as easily as I can. " He hesitated, seeing that he had given Tommy a bad scare, " There comes a point where we have to trust him. In fact, if we don't, it'll only make him angry."

" You didn't mention that before. " Tommy's face grew dark with anger. " Do you mean we've been defenseless against him the entire time?"

Billy sighed. Tanya began to get the impression that Billy was loosing his patience rapidly. " Tommy, " he said slowly, " The only way that the power chamber can be completely safe from Will is to restrict me from entry." Billy sat down heavily, and Tanya knew then that Billy was not only loosing patience but still very very sick. He had an ashy color to his face that Tanya didn't like.

" I don't like this." Tommy stomped around the console.

" I think its a bad idea. " Kat said suddenly. " But... " Kat had been thinking about the clone. She had, she realized, forced it to violence. Billy was certain, and she was slowly coming around to his point of view, that the clone had been frightened, terrified beyond reason that he would be given over to Lord Zedd. " If you really need the help..."

" No. " Tommy put his foot down. " I don't think we should do this. He can't be trusted. He wants us dead."

" Which explains why after al this time, he hasn't done anything." Billy threw up his hands. " I think Tommy's right. This is a bad idea. Forget I suggested it. Lets set up a work schedule instead."

Billy was ticked off, and Tommy, for once had the good grace to be embarrassed. He readily volunteered to stay the rest of the day and help, as did Tanya. He didn't really know what to say though, since Billy was scowling and coughing off near a console. Billy had simply thrust some rags at them and muttered the word "clean". As Tommy bent over the milkshaked console, he felt worse and worse. Maybe, he thought to himself, I am being a jerk about this... Maybe Billy is right. He considered all the possible safety options and sighed. It all came down to trust. Trust in someone that, Tommy admitted, had lied to all of them, but maybe.. just maybe, had a good reason. That night, the night Jason shot the clone, Tommy would never forget. The clone had, at last minute, agreed to walk away. And seconds later had been summarily shot. Perhaps, Tommy thought as he scrubbed, the clone can be reasoned with. Maybe it was worth a try. There certainly was enough work to warrant it.

" Billy, I've been thinking.." he said as he scrubbed the chocolate away. " I was upset. I think you are right. We could try this out, if you still want to." He waited for an answer. There was none. He's still mad, Tommy mused. Then, he relented. Billy was not one to hold a grudge. " Billy?"

Still no response. Tommy cocked his head and listened. He could see Tanya off at another console. She had also stopped working when he had started talking. From over where Billy was working, there was silence. Not even the sound of tools hard at work. Tommy gave Tanya a look. Something was wrong. He stood and trotted over to Billy's work area.

Billy was lying on the floor, unconscious. Evidently he had collapsed during the long silence while they worked.

Tommy's decision was made.

* * * *

" Well... of all the people I expected to show up on my doorstep, I must admit, I really hadn't expected to see any of you again. But come in anyway." The clone grinned at their obvious discomfort and opened the door to his home. " You can call me Will."

The rangers all entered the small mountain cabin with a certain degree of trepidation. Zordon had told them where to find Will and it had been surprising to think that the clone had settled in the mountainous area just outside Stone Canyon. And, had set of housekeeping in such a rustic way. The cabin was nicely furnished, and there was electricity, but no phone and there was no car nearby. With the nearest town several miles away, it became clear that Will had chosen his home with privacy in mind.

The cabin was small but homey in a masculine way. The floor was covered with Indian throw rugs, the colors predominately dark blues, greens, and black. The furniture in the large open living room was old and matched the rugs in color. Overstuffed sofas were angled towards the large fireplace, decorated with throw pillows and blankets. A banged up, oak desk was set near a window. While the others nervously took seats on the couches, Tanya walked over to the sunlit desk and looked out the window. To her surprise, she could see several bird feeders set up, a bird condominium almost. Several sparrows and a cardinal were eating seeds and playing in the birdbath. She looked down at the desk and her eyes were drawn to a small framed photograph. It was a group photo, of Tommy, Adam, Rocky, Aisha and Kimberly. And Billy... though, in the picture his hair was different and he looked older. It wasn't Billy, she realized. It was Will...

But, she thought angrily, it's so obvious. She didn't even know Billy that well and she knew. Something..she looked more closely at the picture, but what?

A hand suddenly flipped the picture over with a slam. She started, suddenly afraid. The clone.... Will, was glaring at her. It was disconcerting. She'd seen Billy angry. Billy was rather short tempered, in her opinion and it was nothing to see him occasionally angry. It was different though. Billy, at the core, usually seemed upset with himself for loosing his temper. And sad, as if his loss of temper merely reminded him of other losses. The stranger standing before her lacked that inner core of grief. Or, she caught a flash in his eyes, maybe it just didn't show as much.

" Don't." He spoke coldly. " Do not paw my belongings. I don't recall inviting any of you here and my allowing you in my home was not a license to search the place. " He paused, taking in Tanya's shocked expression and smiled. " Who are you? And why, " he spoke louder, over her to the rest of the rangers, " have you all decided to suddenly pay a visit? " He paused. " Of course, the obvious springs to mind. So, did you finally kill Billy, or is he in the hospital, again?"

As the rangers all looked away in embarrassment, Tanya caught the sudden look of concern from Will, only to see it covered by his smirk. He leaned up against the desk and crossed his arms. Tanya stepped away. There was an aura of menace hanging around Will... an aura that was only being fed by the silence of the rangers. " Well? God, he isn't really dead, is he?"

" Like you care." muttered Adam. Will's eyes narrowed at that remark. He walked over to the fireplace and toyed with the wolf figurine knick knacks on the ledge.

" Adam..." Will smiled coldly, " Don't make me regret not killing you." His words caused all the teens to tense up and he grinned at the response. " Now, is anyone going to answer my questions? "

" Billy's sick." Tanya spoke quickly. " He went to a doctor this afternoon." She had never seen her friends so disconcerted before. Tommy and Rocky were clenching their teeth. Adam was glaring at his own feet. Kat was tense. No one seemed to care that Will was asking questions.

Will set down the figure he had been playing with, and examined Tanya with a look. She felt naked. Will chuckled, obviously intrigued with her.

" Who are you?" The question was more amused than angry, and Will smiled at her. A real smile. Tanya blinked. For a moment, the person smiling at her was Billy. She blushed and then shook it off. Billy was probably sitting in a doctor's office... he was not standing in front of her. Suddenly, she understood the power that someone like Will had. She knew that it wasn't Billy, but for a second, she.... she wasn't sure. She backed away a little.

Will sighed. " A name? You do have a name, don't you?"

" Tanya Sloan. " She took a seat next to Adam. Someone else can talk to him, she thought to herself. She suddenly didn't feel qualified.

" So..." Will pulled a chair over and sat down. " Aisha has left and been replaced. Replaced with Tanya Sloan, " The name rolled off his tongue, perfectly inflected. Kat smiled at that. Billy, and obviously Will, had a way of picking up accents. " And Billy is sick. " He paused. " So, you've broken your genius and you want a replacement on hand while you get him fixed. Have I got the basics down?"

" We didn't break him." Adam stood, his face flush with anger. " You know how stubborn he can be. I've been at him to see a doctor for two weeks. He wouldn't go..."

Will looked confused but quickly covered. " So... what's the urgency? I assume there's some other problem. Otherwise you would just make do."

" We can make do, " Tommy agreed, " But uh...you know Mr. Reeves got remarried, right? " As Will nodded, Tommy continued with, " Well, they put off their honeymoon until now... and now Billy is pretty sick and...."

" So, Dad actually pays attention now. That's a nice change. " Will mused. " I think I see the problem, but I hardly see how having me around will solve it. I think its safe to say that everyone finds me ...unsettling.... Mr. Reeves the most."

" Billy thought he could pass you off as a distant cousin. Kind of a convenient house guest.." Kat felt silly explaining Billy's plan to Will. She half expected him to explain it to her. " And you could give him a hand fixing the power chamber."

" The power chamber? No, don't explain..." Will considered her words. " This had something to do with that recent temporal disturbance.. no matter. " He paused. " Who came up with this plan anyway?" He seemed annoyed.

" Billy did. " Tommy's words were snarled. More and more he was regretting eve considering the idea. Will didn't seem any different. Unconsciously, Tommy rubbed the light scar on his chest. " Billy thought we should give you a chance..."

" You obviously weren't enthralled with the idea. Billy must be quite sick. " Will mused.

" He was coughing a lot. " Adam let his concern show. " I think it's just a chest cold but he just can't shake it and the work.."

" Is piling up, yes..." Will was clearly enjoying everyone's discomfort. Tanya noted however that his eyes were almost red with anger. " Of course I'll help. But..."

" But what?" Tommy's eyes narrowed. He looked menacingly at Will.

Will yanked Tommy up out of his seat and twirled him around and smacked him into the fireplace. Tommy gasped as the wind was knocked out of him. He was only dimly aware that his feet couldn't reach the ground.

In a calm voice that was shocking only because it was so calm, Will spoke. " But I want you to understand exactly how I feel about this. You all treat Billy like your doormat. Why he chooses to put up with it, I don't know... I would've thought that recent events would have showed him how little you really care, but that's his choice, not mine. I, however, am participating in this little travesty solely because I know Billy must be close to death to drive you all to my doorstep with your hand out for a favor. " He dropped Tommy abruptly. " I'll go pack. Does anyone have a cell phone so I can call and announce that "cousin Will" is stopping by?

* * * *

"Will! Come on in," Ward enthusiastically greeted the young man standing at the door.

As Will stepped into the house--the house that had once been his own--he was flooded with a sense of regret. And envy. It was just as he remembered it--familiar...homey, even. Except things were much neater. Will assumed this was Donna's doing.

"Thank you, Mr. Reeves," he replied, "Mrs. Reeves," he curtly nodded to the woman standing a few paces behind Ward.

"Please, call us Ward and Donna," Donna entreated. "Mr. and Mrs. Reeves makes me feel so old." She winked slyly at Ward. "We're really glad you could stop by. Billy's been ill the past few days."

"Um...Ward, Donna." Will flashed a winning smile. "Where is Billy?"

No answer. Will looked questioningly at Ward, and noticed he was being studied.

Ward examined the young man bemusedly. He couldn't figure out why Billy had warned him that he and his cousin Will looked almost like twins. From what Ward could see, they looked nothing alike. The young man in front of him was much more physically built that Billy, and at least five years older. He was wearing a faded L.A. Angels cap over short-cropped blond hair; gold-rimmed glasses (Billy had the sense to switch to contacts sometime ago); an Angels jersey, one that was at least two sizes too big for him, over a faded green turtle neck; a pair of ratty jeans; and a pair of even rattier tennis shoes.

For once, Will was glad he and Billy had the foresight to sense this moment have Will dress appropriately. They figured that his similarity to Billy--or rather, Billy's clone--would instantly cause Ward to freak out, if not handled properly. Therefore, they had Will purposely dress differently than he normally would have. He inwardly congratulated himself as Ward smiled approvingly at him.

"Well, Billy's in his room sleeping, if you want to go see him." Ward turned toward Donna, "Honey, will you take Will's bags to the guest room while I finish packing the car?"

Donna was already two steps ahead of Ward and was leading Will to the guest room. Will had always respected her as a fairly intelligent lady, if not a little misguided in her devotion to Ward. He just couldn't imagine what she saw in Ward. Then again, maybe it was a father/son thing--most sons could never understand what their mothers saw in their fathers. Will stopped suddenly--"he's not your father," he mentally chastised himself, "he's Billy's father. Get it straight."

The hinges creaked slightly as Will opened the door to Billy's room a few minutes later. Donna and Ward had gone off to attend to last minute details, such as running to the bank and the grocery store for last minute items, and had left him alone with Billy.

Will stood in the center of the room. At one time, this had been his room. Billy had changed very little around. He had moved the desk closer to the window and had taken down some of the pictures of his mom, but that was about all. The room was surprisingly neat, considering what a mess Billy's lab usually was.

He felt a pang of remorse--and guilt. He had to keep reminding himself that he had been acting in the best interest of the team. Had the others found out they had killed the real Billy, it would have destroyed them. Besides, he really thought Billy had died--he didn't mean to leave him in the palace. And while he slept comfortably in Billy's bed for a little over four months, Billy had suffered considerable brutality at the hands of Zedd and Rita's minions. And had suffered even more so at the hands of his so-called friends.

Billy now slept on that bed, fitfully tossing and turning, and had completely kicked off the covers. he was minimally dressed in a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt--something rather odd for someone as painfully self-conscious as Billy normally was--and his forehead was beaded with sweat. Dark circles rimmed his eyes and were painfully obvious due to his pasty complexion. He looked like hell. Come to think of it, Will couldn't remember a time when Billy *didn't* look like hell, other than their first meeting in Goldar's Dark Dimension.

Billy had been right about the antibiotics--it looked like he was still sleeping them off even though he had taken them hours ago.

Will gathered up the sheets, gently arranged them around Billy and sat on the edge of the bed. He had no right to be here--Billy had upheld his end of the bargain, and by coming into Billy's live again, Will was breaking his end of the deal. He had promised never to come back. Yet, he never could quite leave--his life was here. Deep down inside, he knew his life was with Billy somehow. He knew that when he chose his residence just outside of Stone Canyon. He had known that even when he tried to pull Billy over the roof with him. As one of Rita and Zedd's "monsters," he had the ability to auto-teleport to safety--in retrospect, it was probably the one thing that saved his life. Well, that, and Billy not squealing when Will contacted him a few months later to let him know he was alive and well and going to keep his end of the bargain.

That night, he had every intention of taking Billy with him. And if the teleport didn't succeed, it was only fitting that they died together.

Will sighed. He couldn't imagine what must have been going through his head that night--how he could kill the only person who remotely understood him. Bitterness? Anger? Revenge? At the others, perhaps, but that still didn't explain why he almost took it out on Billy.

Will spotted the clock--it read 2:30 pm. The others would be getting out of school soon and he still had things to do before they came over. He got up, straightened out the sheets and left the room, quietly closing the door behind him.

Billy waited until Will left to open his heavy eyelids. Knowing Will was alone in the house with him frightened him for some reason--this was the first time the two of them had actually been alone together. Except for that night in the hospital when Will locked him in the closet. He curled up underneath the sheets and pulled them tightly around him. "Why are you so scared? You have no reason to be frightened," he told himself, "Will is here to help you and the others. He hasn't threatened you in the least. In fact, he's been downright kind to you. Besides, if he wanted to kill you he had ample opportunity to do so before now..." Unfortunately, his words sounded much more brave than he actually felt....

* * * *

" Not like that." Billy growled hoarsely. Kat bit back her laugh as Will meekly stopped what he was doing. Will was very quick to do as Billy asked. Kat didn't quite understand why Will was so obedient with Billy, but it was amusing.

Topics that had to do with Will generally disturbed Kat. It stemmed from her original sense of unease. When Will was masquerading as Billy, she had always felt something was not quite right. Will's coldness came through, despite his best efforts. It was that and a sneak mission to the palace that had let to her rescue of Billy. Will had found out and offered her a deal. Billy's power coin for his life. She had refused. Will responded with a frenzy of violence directed towards the rangers. A frenzy of violence that had ended with a gunshot... a few tortured moments of struggle, and will falling off the roof to the pavement far below.

She didn't know how he had survived that. Rocky had asked and Will had snarled that it was none of their business. She guessed it was his business. She was curious though.

" Kat, why don't you and Tanya try tuning up the hydraulic system on Adam's zord?" Billy quickly explained the basics and went back to directing Will at the more complex task of rewiring the zord's control system. Tuning the hydraulic system was not difficult work, simply tedious and time consuming. She and Tanya went to work, chatting at first but slowly they turned to working in silence.

" So why wouldn't you go to a doctor?" Kat and Tanya both looked up at the same time. It was Will who had spoken, and obviously he was talking to Billy. Kat put her finger to her lips, gesturing to Tanya to keep quiet. Tanya nodded. It was wrong, they both knew, to listen in on a private conversation, but they couldn't help it. Curiosity about Will was driving all the rangers crazy. And, Kat thought as she listened to the footsteps come closer, its not like Will or Billy would even see them. The hydraulic system was high above the main computer in the bull zord. Kat and Tanya could look down through the grate and actually watch Will and Billy unnoticed. They both looked down at the same time, just in time to see Billy slowly shake his head.

" I don't like doctors." Billy turned to the console. Will leaned up against the nearest wall and chuckled. Kat grimaced. Will's laughter was cruel sounding and harsh.

" I can guess why. " Will said. " How long where you in the hospital? "

" About a week and a half. A lot of outpatient checkups. " Billy seemed to be trying to sound cool. Kat saw through it, Tanya saw through it, and obviously Will saw through it.

" Still in therapy?" Will asked as if it was a given.

" I go when I need to. I don't have an outpatient schedule. " Billy paused. " I haven't gone lately."

" Don't let me stop you. " Kat was struck by the sound of true concern in Will's voice. " If it helps you, then go. I'm sure the last few months haven't been easy."

" I'm fine now." Billy's tone indicated that there would be no more discussion on that topic. He coughed suddenly. He shook from its force and leaned heavily on the console.

" You sound like hell. " Will stood up. " Are you ok? Has the medication been helping?"

" I stopped taking it. " Kat and Tanya looked up at each other. Billy could be really hurting himself. It worried both of them.

It worried Will too. He grabbed Billy by the shoulders and shook him. " Has your brain gone on vacation? I am sure you were prescribed antibiotics for a reason."

Billy shook off his hands. " It doesn't seem right... When I take the pills, I just end up sleeping for hours. I've had to take antibiotics before and that's never happened..."

" Maybe you're tired and need sleep." Will said harshly. " Your so called friends may not care if you work yourself to death but it would bother me."

Billy leaned up against the console and wiped his brow. Kat realized that it was through shear force that will that Billy was standing. From where she was perched, she could see suddenly that Billy was sweating. She heard Tanya suck in a surprised breath beside her. Had they really not noticed? It dawned on Kat that Will might have a point.

" I wish you wouldn't say things like that." Billy said softly. " They are my friends..."

" I wish you would open your eyes and see that they use you like a piece of equipment." Will shook his fingers at Billy, a gesture Kat and Tanya seen Billy use when trying to explain something to them. " Look at yourself. You can barely stand. It took you passing out for your "friends" to even notice you were sick. You give them all your time and what do you get in return? Nothing. When was the last time you had time to yourself? Or were included in their fun? They don't care about your feelings."

" Oh.. shut up..." Billy slumped down to the floor.

" Why?" Will's voice rose in anger. " Because you don't want to admit it? Damn it Billy, you aren't even a ranger anymore. Doesn't that tell you what they think of you?"

" That's not how it happened." Billy's voice rose too. Kat was struck by how similar Billy and Will sounded when angry. Billy crossed his arms and hugged himself. " When... when I was in the palace... I found the zeo crystal. I didn't know what it was, of course but... I was sick and hurt. I thought I was dying. I saw it there and it.... reached out." He looked up at Will. " It was incredible. I can't even describe it.... I was so close to just giving up... that... experience... helped me hang on. When the time came to get new powers came around, it... just didn't seem right to take it. Someone else deserved to... I don't know. Enjoy it, I guess. It was fair." He paused. " And... Tanya seemed nice, and she'd given up a lot..."

" You are cursed by an overwhelming sense of fairness. " Will stated it as fact. " I bet you never once laid any blame on them, either, did you? "

Billy shook his head. " There wasn't any point. Everyone felt bad enough...."

" They should've felt bad. Dammit, I felt bad. " Will paused. " Until Jason shot me and I fell off the ten story roof of Angel Grove Memorial. Then, I became much more concerned about my own problems."

" You're good at that. " Bitterness crept into Billy's voice. Tanya shook her head in surprise. Billy had, to her at least, seemed very much on Will's side. Now though, she wondered if Billy had just been desperate.

" Damn right I am. I understand that no one cares about me except me." Will's voice cracked suddenly. He blinked rapidly and turned away from Billy. Tanya saw what Kat couldn't see... that Will was crying. He must be so lonely, she thought sadly.

" You know I care. " Billy said softly. " You think I don't worry about how you live like a hermit. Do you really think I don't understand how difficult this is for you?"

Will scuffed his feet and looked away. " Yes, I know.... Billy.... this place is killing you. I could set you up with a place...away from here. From Angel Grove... and the rangers. I... " he hesitated. " I don't have to come with you..."

" Will, I can't. You know I can't. " Billy sighed. It sounded, to Tanya, that if there *was* any way for Billy to just pick up an leave, he would. " Why don't you try going to college? We could fix the computer so you could get in..."

" Maybe later." Will picked up the tools they'd been using. " You need to go lie down. You don't look good. You need to take your medication."

" Oh fine..." Billy rose with effort. " We should tell Kat and Tanya we're leaving."

" They'll understand." With that the two teleported out. Kat and Tanya didn't speak for a long moment.

" Well... that was...." Kat struggled to find a word to describe how she felt. " Surreal."

" I feel sorry for Will. " Tanya spoke without thinking. To her surprise, Kat nodded.

" I don't.... understand what Will is, really. " Kat said softly, " He.... he's not Billy, but he is... in a way. And he's lonely...." Kat shook her head. She was feeling sorry for someone who months earlier had nearly killed her. It was unsettling.

" Lets visit them." Tanya suggested. " We can bring ice cream." We can try to be nice, she almost added.

* * * *

The two girls knocked on the door. Kat chuckled as the door flung open and Will stood before them, looking totally disheveled. His hair was out of place and he was breathing hard. " What!"

Before they could speak, he hauled both of them in an slammed the door. " Ok...do either of you have a cell phone?"

" No..." Kat said warily. " We brought you two some vanilla ice cream." Will just looked at her, and then smacked the wall. Then, noticing their worried looks, he ran his hands through his mussed hair and took a few deep breaths.

" Look. I need to call Billy's doctor." Will was worried, Tanya could tell.

" Um, Will..." she said calmly. " There is a phone here. In the family room..."

" By the couch, yes." Will's words were growled. " Billy yanked it out of the wall. If you can get it away from him, then fine. If not, then somebody needs to call his doctor for me, ok?"

Kat thrust the bag of ice cream at Will. " Dr. Reardon, right?" She took off as soon as Will nodded. She had no intention of arguing if Billy was so sick that Will was freaking out.

Will looked over Tanya. " Look... could you... I don't know... go talk to Billy?" He held up the ice cream. " I gotta put this away..." He sighed. " And why lie? I am so frustrated right now, I just want to strangle him. I need to calm down. Will you go check on him? He's in the family room."

" Sure..." Tanya wondered just what the problem was. Oh well, she thought to herself, if Will needed to calm down, then why not help him out. She walked into the family room.

It was a shambles. Lamps were broken, chairs and tables turned over. The phone was in a pile of bits. She shivered a little as the wind blew in the open window. Billy was curled up in a ball on the couch. He was staring vacantly at the window. He didn't acknowledge her.

" Billy?" Tanya walked over and closed the window. " What's up?" She sat down on the edge of the couch. Will was right. Billy was very ill. She could feel the heat rising off him.

Billy blinked. " The sun is up." He curled around the pillow he was clutching. " Its very warm in here." He sighed.

Tanya nudged the phone. " Um.... what did you do to the phone?"

Billy lifted his head and looked. " Oh.. the machine empire bugged the phone. I took care of it." He returned to lying vacantly on the couch. " The machine empire is after me...."

" They put a listening device in your phone?" Tanya was confused.

" No..there were bugs." Billy's eyes widened. " Big cockroach bugs. They had wings. " He shuddered. " I had to kill them all."

" Oh." The fog cleared from Tanya's mind. Billy was irrational. Whatever was wrong, the heart of the matter was that Billy was not able to think rationally. " So, how do you feel?"

He sat up and coughed. " Its very warm in here." He staggered over tot he window and opened it. He coughed again as he returned. " Why are you glowing? Have you been eating radioactive food?"

" No." Tanya tried not to smile.

Billy began shivering. " Everyone likes Will more than they like me. I can tell."

She suppressed her shock and reminded herself that Billy was ill. Even if he knew what he was saying, it was probably just a random musing. " No they don't Billy. "

" Yes they do Tanya. " Billy started counting off reasons on his fingers, not realizing for a few moments that he wasn't speaking out loud. Then he caught her odd look. " What was I saying?"

" How everyone likes me better than you." Will came in, holding out two bowls of ice cream. Tanya reached for the closer one but Will pointedly handed that bowl, sprinkled with M&M's, to Billy. Will gave her a dark look as she opened her mouth to ask what the problem was. Ok, she thought, it can wait.

" They do, Will." Billy took the bowl of ice cream and started eating as he talked. " They say they never noticed but you could tell right away, couldn't you?" Before she could answer he went on. " Kat knew something was wrong, and she never even met me... just Will." Billy glared at his ice cream for a moment. " This tastes odd..."

" No, its fine." Will jabbed Tanya and made eating motions. She got the idea and took a bite of the other bowl of ice cream.

" This is fine Billy." It was... nice Breyers Vanilla. Kat had good taste. Billy simply muttered and continued eating. Then, he curled back up on the couch. As Tanya watched, he fell asleep. Will closed the window and carefully draped a blanket around Billy.

" What was with the ice cream?" Tanya asked softly.

" He hasn't taken his medication in days. So... I sprinkled a dose along with the m&m's. " Will considered Billy's sleeping form. " I'm gonna have to talk to Dr. Reardon. That stuff is like a punch to the head.... Tanya, I appreciate you covering like that. I think he's been running a fever for a while and it spiked really bad."

" I wonder why he didn't say anything." Tanya knew she was in over her head with the situation. Adam had given her a quick rundown about Will, and after finding out that Billy had spent four months being terrorized by Zedd's lackeys, a lot of his behavior became a lot more understandable. A person who had been through that sort of horror deserved a few breaks. Still, Billy had been logical. Not going to a doctor, letting himself get so sick, it didn't really make sense.

Will looked at her in total amazement. " You really don't see it, do you?" He pulled her into the kitchen, obviously not wanting to disturb Billy. He pulled out a chair for her and poured them both some coffee. Will set the cup of steaming brew in front of her and took a seat.

" How long have you been on the team?" He seemed to be studying her as he sipped his coffee.

" Almost three months....since the Aquitain Rangers left." Tanya didn't understand why he was asking but she saw no harm in it. Despite the awful things Adam had told her, Will seemed ok. Not a particularly cheerful person, and definitely not much like Billy, but it was hard to imagine him poisoning Adam.

" Do you like it?" Will asked. His tone was probing, almost as if he really wanted to interrogate her.

" Yes." She smiled a little. " Its fun and I feel good knowing that I can help keep our planet safe. Did you like it?"

" Hmm?" Will seemed taken back by her question at first, Then, he chuckled, assuming his mask of unperturbabilty. " No. Frankly I was too nervous at first and too bored towards the end to look at it as anything other than a silly chore."

She considered what he said. " Why were you nervous?"

Again he chuckled. Tanya suddenly caught a glimpse of someone more dangerous than what she'd thought. Will grinned toothily at her, and she felt a sudden cold chill.

" Two reasons." he said lightly. " First, I was waiting for orders from Lord Zedd. After a bit, I realized he must've forgotten me. Second, I never realized what a good actor I was. I didn't think my deception would last as long as it did and at first I was very worried that I would be found out." He grinned rather nastily. " That rather soon ceased to be a worry."

She choked on her coffee at his words and he snickered slightly. The doorbell, and Will rose to get it, ending their conversation.

It was Kat, with Dr. Reardon. " I saw him jogging by... thought this would be quicker than calling." The doctor quickly checked Billy out while the three teens waited nervously in the kitchen.

Dr. Reardon entered the kitchen and helped himself to coffee. " I'm changing his prescription, Will. I'm guessing he's having some sort of bad reaction to the amoxicillan. He needs to take it, this time, and to stay in bed. I almost want to have him admitted to the hospital, but I think bed rest, medication and quiet will do the trick. As long as there's a responsible adult here." Dr. Reardon eyed Will, and Will quickly assumed a grim demeanor.

" Of course. I was just going to stay for a visit, but I didn't feel right about leaving Billy here so sick and his parents away like this. I was planning to stay until they got back anyway. Now I have a good excuse to give my own folks." Will smiled winningly, oozing goodwill from every pore. Dr. Reardon seemed appeased by Will and he left after writing out a new prescription.

" I see you can still lay it on like a pro. " Tanya drew back at Kat's harsh words. She'd never seen Kat be so... bitter sounding. Kat looked as though she wanted to rip Will's head off. " The bit about your folks was particularly touching."

" Retract your claws Kat, and think a minute." Will spoke harshly. " The whole point of this little charade is to prevent Billy from ending up in the hospital and forcing Mr. Reeves and his new wife to cut their honeymoon short. Am I really supposed to tell Dr. Reardon that I'm not a relative, but Billy's evil clone? That's going to make him feel better about my being here?" He thrust the prescription at her. " If you can't be rational, at least be useful and get this filled."

* * * *

" Why were you so nasty to Will?" Tanya was trying no to be judgmental but Kat had shocked her.

Kat slammed the brakes of the car as they pulled into the pharmacy's parking lot. " He tried to kill me Tanya.Its hard to get past that."

Tanya sniffed. " Well, he was afraid..."

" Afraid my ass!" Kat's face turned red at her uncharacteristic outburst. She got out of the car and slammed the door. " Tanya, he was going to kill me just for spite. He had a golden opportunity to get away after we all fell apart. Instead, he tried to kill me. That's the kind of person he is. Spiteful. Spiteful and mean."

Tanya almost pointed out that kat's behavior at the moment was hardly a stellar example of kindness and forgiveness. Instead, she dropped the topic. Kat was simply quite upset. So was Tanya. She'd never seen kat so upset, or Billy so sick. " Let's just get the prescription filled." she said as they walked into the pharmacy.

" Right." Kat stepped down hard on her emotions. What mattered was Billy getting well. She handed the prescription to the pharmacist, and didn't notice the odd glitch on the computer as the doctor ran a check on the prescription.

* * * *

Will sighed as he heard the excessive banging on the front door. It was, he was positive, one of the zeo rangers in an utter frenzy to check on Billy. Whoever it was, they most likely would insist upon waking Billy. Then, the ranger would stay until Billy fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. After that, Will could expect a series of lectures on how he wasn't doing a very good job.

As he got up, he suddenly crossed his fingers and wished it wasn't Tommy at the door. Tommy got on his nerves. He didn't believe that Tommy actually cared about how Billy was doing. Tommy was covering his butt. If it wasn't so ridiculous, Will would have laughed. Tommy didn't want to be fooled again. Not because he cared at all about a fellow team member. No, Will thought grimly, he just doesn't want to look stupid again. Tommy's ego had grown greatly in his absence. Will wondered how any of the rangers stood it.

Rocky, he knew, was simply a follower. If Tommy said he was Jesus, Rocky wouldn't have much problem going along with it. Adam was too awed by Tommy to challenge his authority. The girls... He rather liked Kat's fiery attitude towards him. At the very least, it indicated that she wasn't going to let him get away with anything. Tanya was another story. He was intrigued by her, pure and simple.

He put those thoughts on a backburner as he heard more pounding on the door. Definitely Tommy, he thought with a sigh. He flung open the door, just as Tommy was about to let loose with another volley of blows. " You rang, oh master of all?"

" Cut the crap." Tommy glowered at him. " What took you so long to answer?"

" I'm sorry... I didn't realize that responding to your every whim was more important than fixing Billy's dinner." Will smirked. " Come in."

Tommy walked through the door, feeling rather ashamed, but trying not to show it. Will disturbed him. Something bothered Tommy about the whole situation. Sure... Billy was sick and had gotten hit hard by the flue or bronchitis or whatever it was. That wasn't such a stretch. Billy had always had a tendency to ignore his health. Tommy still shuddered at the memory he had of Billy dipping twinkies in marshmellow fluff and calling that a nutritious lunch. Billy had been working too hard. Tommy felt awful that he hadn't picked up on it but Billy was so quiet about things. Now, they were all paying the price. Billy was sick and the team had to suffer Will's presence.

Tommy had to admit, Will was doing a good job. The Power Chamber was slowly returning to order. Will spent most of his time fixing the various bits of damage, teleporting back every hour to check on Billy. It was hard to complain about someone being so helpful. Will was, by any definition, being totally responsible and trust worthy.

Still, something set Tommy's nerves on edge.Something was wrong. He felt it. He wasn't one to have jitters and yet he couldn't shake it. Yet, he could find nothing. " I'm going to check on Billy."

" Let him know dinner will be ready soon. " Will didn't want to get into it with Tommy. Anything he said would fall on deaf ears. He only hoped that Tommy wouldn't tire Billy out.

Tommy nodded coldly. He stalked down the hallway to Billy's room. Billy was curled up on his side on the bed. Only a sheet covered him, the rest of the covers had been kicked to the floor. He didn't look any better to Tommy. Four days of bed rest seemed to have done nothing.

" Hey Billy." He shook Billy until the sick teen managed to pry his eyes open.

" Wha...?" Billy peered at the blurry figure looming over him. Blobbish red topped with black.... it must be Tommy. He rubbed his eyes and rolled over onto his back. " Hey...."

Tommy took a seat next to the bed. " Hi. I just thought I'd see how you were. Everything ok?"

Billy wiped the sweat off his brow. Some of the fuzz in his vision lifted, and Tommy became distinct. Tommy is worried, Billy realized suddenly. In a strange way, that revelation pleased him. He smiled. " Things are fine. I'm just tired...." He yawned.

" Are.... things all right here?" Tommy tried to keep any hint of animosity out of his voice. It worried him... Will was scary. Tommy vowed that once Billy was well, al the rangers were going to sit down and learn the technical functions of the power chamber, even if it killed them.

" Things are fine..." Billy said sleepily. He felt sick as a dog, but he could tell that Tommy was asking about Will. Will was fine, in a creepy , intrusive way. Sometimes Billy got the impression that despite all the sniping and negativity Will took from the rangers, he still really enjoyed being back in Angel Grove. It was a little unnerving to see a physical double of himself running around the house, but despite his unease, he got no feeling of hostility or threat from Will. Rather, on the rare occasion that Billy was well enough to think about it, he thought that Will had an almost desperate affection for him. That in itself disturbed Billy, but it was nothing he could put his finger on. To express his unease would only scare the hell out of Tommy and cause a serious problem. Tommy was his friend, but Billy did not blind himself to Tommy's shortcomings.

Tommy was, at the core, a sore loser. Normally he could turn that into a good thing by training harder and applying what he'd learned. To lose at anything seemed to rattle Tommy, and the last time Will had been in the picture, Tommy had lost big time. If Billy even hinted that something about Will was bothering him, Tommy would go ballistic just to make sure he didn't loose again.

" You sure?" Tommy pressed.

" Yes... I'm just really tired. And bored..." Lying around the house in a daze all day was getting to him. He had a sudden idea. " Say, maybe tomorrow.... someone could stop by and visit and... let Will get out to get me some library books. And groceries... I think we're low on stuff." Earlier , when Will had been at the Power Chamber, Billy had dragged himself to the kitchen for a snack, only to discover that there was only a day or so of food left in the house.

" Well..." It was a tough call, but Tommy saw the necessity. " Tell you what, Rocky and Kat will come over tomorrow after school, ad Tanya can take Will to the store."

" Hopefully there won't be any battles." Billy said with a tired smile. As he spoke, Tommy's communicator went off.

" Speak of the devil... I gotta go. I'll see you tomorrow." Tommy teleported out.

"Tanya, not now," Will groaned into the phone precariously balancing between his ear and shoulder.

"But..." she protested through the phone static as Will moved out of the range of the phone base to fetch a few items from the pantry.

"No," he repeated, pawing through the foodstuffs, "it can wait. I can't believe..." he paused as his fingers finally reached the coveted pasta box.

"Can't believe what?" Tanya crackled again.

His fingers slipped, sending the box and its contents tumbling to the floor. The box split open, scattering penne everywhere. "Damn," he cursed, reaching to clean up the mess and dropping the phone in the process.

Muttering various colorful oaths, Will picked up the phone. "Tanya...?" He heard other voices--hushed voices. They were having an argument. Will scowled--they had put her up to his.

"Hello?" Tanya's voice returned.

"Look--" Will snapped, barely able to contain his anger. A dull thud from the back of the house reached his ears. Billy must be awake and moving about, he reasoned. "wait," he ordered, placing the receiver on his shoulder to muffle the sound. "Billy?" he called, "you ok?" No response. "Billy?" Will called again. Another heavy thud and the shattering of glass answered him.

"I'll call you back," Will barked, hanging up the phone before Tanya could respond. He raced towards Billy's room, not sure what to expect. It was empty. "Billy?? Answer me!" he shouted.

The toilet in Billy's bathroom flushed. Slightly relieved, Will backtracked towards the bathroom. "You ok?" he asked, tapping lightly on the door. The door swung open.

"Oh god..." Will gasped, pushing the door all the way open. Billy lay on the floor near the toilet, his head bleeding. The shattered remnants of a bottle of after shave lay scattered on the floor next to the sink. Telltale smears of blood on the sink led Will to quickly conclude that Billy had slipped and hit his head on the sink, knocking over the bottle. But why--or how--Billy had managed to drag himself to the toilet was anyone's guess.

Will paused briefly to snatch a towel off the rack and dampen it before kneeling down next to Billy. He carefully turned Billy over and pulled him upright, propping him against the toilet. Gently wiping the blood off Billy's face, Will searched for the wound. It was a small gash near the hairline. Probably not large or deep enough to require stitches, Will mused, but, like most head wounds, bleeding profusely. He began applying light pressure with the towel.

"Mmmmmffff...ow!...stop it!..." Billy thickly protested, feebly attempting to push the towel away. His empty prescription bottle rolled out of his hands and clattered across the floor.

Slightly annoyed, Will easily swept Billy's hands aside and reapplied pressure to the wound. "Where's your medication?" he asked slowly. He knew Billy wasn't stupid enough to have taken them all, but he was just stubborn enough to hide them.

Billy took the towel from Will and gingerly held it to his head. "Don't know," he shrugged, crawling out of Will's reach.

"Don't play games with me," Will snipped," I know you better than that."

"Oh yeah...I forgot...we're *so* similar, you know..." Billy sarcastically called over his shoulder as he staggered into the hallway.

Hurt by the remark but trying not to show it, Will stood to follow Billy. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the remnants of Billy's medication floating in the toilet.

Billy sighed and collapsed lazily against the wall in the hallway. "I'm sorry..." he groaned, leaning heavily against the wall, "that was out of line. I'm just so...so..." he broke off, fuzzily grasping for what he wanted to say, "so...those pills..."

"You're so *paranoid*," Will chuckled, reaching out to steady Billy. His hands slipped and slid under Billy's loose fitting pajama shirt.His fingers skipped across a ridge of hard, smooth skin under Billy's ribs. "Billy?" Will questioned, lifting up Billy's shirt.

"Don't..." Billy mildly protested, sinking against the wall almost as if he wanted to sink into it. His face flushed.

Will audibly sucked in his breath. Jagged scars criss-crossed Billy's chest and stomach.

"I said no!" Billy snapped, pushing Will and moving away from the slightly larger boy.

"Billy...wait!" Will called, "I'm...I..."

Billy turned a scathing eye on Will. "You're what? Sorry? I've heard that before--from everybody. Everybody's sorry." He couldn't conceal the bitterness creeping into his voice.

"No...that's not what I was going to say," Will explained, reminding himself that Billy's current excessive moodiness was partially because he was ill, partially because he really needed to vent. Obviously, no one had given him that opportunity. "I...I..." Will noticed his hesitation had slightly piqued Billy's curiosity. He gulped. "I..I can fix those scars..."

Billy eyed Will disbelievingly. "How?"

Will chuckled nervously. "Its one of the perks of being one of Zedd's monsters. Self preservation abilities--teleportation, auto-healing...with you and I essentially being of the same genetic material..." he practically could see the wheels turning in Billy's head.

Then suddenly they came to a grinding halt. "No," he refused.

"No??" Will was flabbergasted. Now Billy was just being plain stubborn. "Why not?"

"Why bother?" Billy shot back. He fingered the scars lightly through his shirt. "I'll remember...so I'll always know..." his voice dropped to a low murmur.

"That doesn't mean everybody else has to know," Will softly explained, "and..its not something you're likely to forget...I'm sorry. But think--what happens the first time you want to be with a woman? How do you think she's going to react to those scars? She'll ask where they came from. And what are you going to tell her? That you were beaten into submission by some claw wielding bitch? I dunno...sounds pretty kinky to me--even for a guy who regularly wore blue spandex."

Billy flushed deeply and then began to giggle as Will's words sunk in. "I can't believe you just said that..." he chuckled, turning deep crimson, "I'd never..."

"I'm not you," Will smirked. "Promise me you'll at least think about it..." Will was serious again. An uncomfortable silence settled between them.

"I promise," Billy quite unexpectedly relented.

"Good..." Will lightly clapped Billy on the shoulder and steered him towards the kitchen. "And now that you're awake, you can help me finish dinner..."

* * * *

" You drive a mini-van?" Will's voice had a slight note of awe. Somehow, he had expected that from Tanya.

" Its Mrs. Hillard's but she never uses it." Tanya smiled. " I thought we'd hit the library first, then the grocery store and maybe stop at the juice-bar." She climbed into the driver seat.

" The juice bar..." Will considered that as they drove down the street. " I'm not sure that's such a good idea... I am technically under house arrest."

" I cleared it already." Tanya didn't mention that it had taken an argument to ok it... or that Adam had, in a surprise move, backed her to the rest of the rangers. She smiled inwardly. Adam wasn't the sort to go along with her actions just to please her. He believed her and trusted her opinion that Will was due a little courtesy. It made her feel good. Adam had treated her like her opinion mattered. Sometimes, as the newest ranger, she felt like she was expected to keep her mouth shut and let everyone else make the decisions.

" Ok then. " Will chuckled. " I have to admit, I've been dying for a chocolate shake."

They hit the library first. Will had a list so it was simply a matter of getting the librarian to help them fetch the books. The groceries took longer, only because Will was very fussy about produce and Tanya was a coupon shopper.

" Oh... I forgot," Will said as they neared the checkout. " We need to fill Billy's prescription."

" No problem... there s a pharmacy here." They went back to the pharmacist. Both were watching as Billy's prescription was called up on the computer. Both saw the sudden flicker on the screen. It was as if something had suddenly interfered with the computer. Tanya's forehead wrinkled with worry. " What was that?"

" Sir..." Will turned to the pharmacist. " Is your computer all right?"

" Been working fine." The pharmacist smiled at the two young people. He handed them a white bag. " Here's your order."

Both were quiet on the drive to the juice bar. Something about the computer glitch had set them both off. A feeling of wrongness hung around their transaction.

" Something was wrong back there." Tanya said hesitantly as they walked into the Juice bar.

" Yes..." Will said softly, " I can't put my finger on it but you're right. There's a problem ...." His reverie was broken as Ernie spied him.

" Billy! You look great - I thought you were sick." Ernie clapped Will on the back.

" Um... Ernie...." Tanya said with a smile, " This is Billy's cousin, Will. He's staying with Billy while his folks are away."

" Hi!" Will went into his "outgoing" mode. Ernie definitely was uneasy with his appearance. " Pleased to meet you!" He held out a hand to shake. Ernie took it tentatively and Will quickly triple pumped the heavy man's hand. Then he grinned broadly. " I like your place! I wish there was a juice bar like this at my college!"

Ernie smiled, his suspicions eased by the apparent difference between Billy and his near twin cousin. " I'll get you guys some smoothies."

Will quickly grabbed a seat and as soon as Ernie stepped away, he exhaled a breath of relief. Tanya sat down across from him, her jaw still gaping in amazement. " How do you do that?" she asked hesitantly. She added softly, " I mean...."

" You mean Billy never showed one ounce of acting talent and yet I can make people believe just about anything. " Will smiled grimly. " Tanya... let me clue you in on something.... I'm a copy. A pretty good reproduction actually, but there are differences. Its like when you photocopy a piece of paper. You get something very close to the original. The differences are slight, but essentially unimportant. " Will chuckled. " I lie quite well. Notice, I don't personally think that this is a difference."

" Um..." Tanya didn't quite know how to respond to that.

" I also have a lot more self respect than Billy. That *is* a difference. " Will chuckled again. " I'm amazed that we have the same essential background and yet he feels it necessary to be the power chamber lackey in some sort of pathetic attempt to have the friendship of people who treat him like garbage."

" We don't treat Billy badly." Tanya started to get angry. " I respect Billy a lot and I know he's important to the team."

" Respecting him isn't the same thing as liking him." Will's voice was suddenly cold. " Ever sit with Billy here in the juice bar like this? Or spend the afternoon together the way we did today?" She slowly shook her head. " That's about what I figured. You don't know Billy well enough to even answer the question."

" I guess not." Tanya said softly.

" Don't feel bad." Will added quickly. " You admit it, at least. And you've been on the team for what? Two months? That's barely enough time to get acclimated. Considering how long some of these people purport to know Billy... well.... some should be ashamed." He waved his hand, as if physically moving the debate aside. " There *was* something wrong at the pharmacy."

" It didn't feel right." Tanya agreed. " The computer was.... glitching, and it wasn't on the person who went before us."

Will fiddled with the bag. " I think we should test this." They both looked up as Adam took a seat with them. Adam gave Tanya an affectionate hug and even nodded to Will.

" What are you guys up to? Did you get groceries like you planned?" Adam asked.

" Yes..." Tanya picked up the white sack. " Adam, we think something is going on with Billy's medication."

" Really? How so?" Adam instantly lost his lackadaisical manner. " Is he still having bad reactions?"

" It's not helping him. And he's still sleeping nonstop." Will nodded to Tanya. " Tell him about the pharmacy."

" That is odd." Adam agreed after listening to Tanya's tale. " We should talk to Zordon... run some tests."

" Yes we should." Will said quickly. " But here's my question. Who would fool around with Billy's medication? And why?"

Adam eyed Will with a certain ironic humor. " Well, if it wasn't for the fact that there's many easier ways for you to do it, my first guess would be you."

Will frowned darkly. " That assumes I'd have a reason to. I'd certainly be more direct. I *am* alone with Billy quite a bit. Even if I was trying to trick you, this is overly involved." He paused. " I also probably wouldn't bring my plan to your attention."

" Um Will..." Adam snorted. " I was kidding. Withholding antibiotics isn't your style. Actually, you know who might be behind this? Mondo. I mean... computers are machines, aren't they? And it sure helps Mondo if Billy is sick."

Will considered that. " It makes sense."

" But what do we do?" Tanya asked." I mean... Billy needs medicine but if the Machine Empire is tampering with the pharmacy computers, we'll never get the right thing."

" Let's test this first." Will lifted the paper sack. Both Tanya and Adam nodded agreement.

* * * *

Tommy looked over at Billy nervously. He was starting to get really worried. Billy had barely stirred since he'd gotten there. In the two hours that Tommy and Rocky had been there, Billy seemed to get progressively worse. Billy was feverish and nothing they did seemed to help. He placed a fresh wet cloth on Billy's forehead. This isn't right, he thought worriedly. I've seen Will bring Billy his medication. I know he's been taking it, so why is he still so sick?

Rocky came in, holding a pitcher of ice water and a thermometer. " Wake him up... We gotta take his temperature and I'm not doing it the other way."

" Right." Tommy shook Billy until his eyes slowly opened. " Come on... you need your temperature taken." Billy sat up against the headboard and placed the thermometer under his tongue while Rocky timed him. Rocky took it back, looked at it, and frowned.

" Is it .... ok?" Billy asked.

" Um... its a little high..." Rocky gave Tommy a worried look. " Here... I brought you some cold water." He poured Billy a glass of the ice water. " Hey Tommy... could you give me a hand in the kitchen?" Tommy followed Rocky out into the hallway.

" What's the problem?"

Rocky held up the thermometer. " His temperature is 104.5..."

" Oh man..."

"Look, this happens with my little brothers." Rocky was surprisingly calm. " My mom usually just throws them in the tub with cold water and ice. We really can't do that here... the tub isn't big enough... "

"But we *could* do it in the hot tub at the Power Chamber." Tommy felt a wave of relief. The Power Chamber had a very well equipped sports medicine clinic. It included a large whirlpool hot tub for the easing of torn muscles and bruised bodies. It was very popular. It also would be very easy to get Billy into it and they could quickly fill it with ice. There was, right in the same room, an ice machine that they often needed to control swelling in some injuries.

" Exactly." Rocky said. " So let's get him on his feet and go. I'll leave a note for Tanya and Will, so they don't worry."

* * * * *

"It's c-cold." Billy balked at getting into the hot tub. He sat on the edge, with his feet just touching the water. " Look, there's ice in there."

Rocky came up behind him and shoved him off his perch and into the water. As Billy started to scramble to his feet, Rocky placed his hands on the smaller boy's shoulders, forcing him to stay in the water. " You have to stay put. I don't care if you're cold. Being cold is the point. "

Billy scowled at him, but didn't get up again. " Some bedside manner."

" Shut up." Rocky splashed the dry parts of Billy's t-shirt. He looked up as Tommy entered the room, followed closely by Alpha 5. Tommy held up a device.

" Zordon suggested a blood test." Tommy placed the device on Billy's arm. " It shouldn't hurt." The device whirred and in seconds Tommy walked away with a blood sample.

The cold started to clear away some of the fog in Billy's head and he started to really think for the first time in days. " Rocky, what are we doing here?"

Rocky chuckled. " Sounds like your fever is going down. We're in the power chamber... you're really sick. Does that sound familiar?"

" A little." Billy shivered. " Rocky, this is really cold."

" You have to stay in for ten minutes." Rocky checked his watch. " You have about two minutes left." He relented after a minute after listening to Billy's teeth chatter. " Ok, you can get out. Here. " He handed Billy a towel. " I brought you some clothes to change into."

" O-ok." Billy grabbed the towel and vigorously dried off. He peeled off his wet clothes, shivering as he changed. Rocky stared, suddenly surprised. The scars on Billy's back and chest, always harshly red and raised, were faded. Some were almost nonexistent.

" Billy, " he asked, " What happened? Your scars.... "

Billy blushed. His neck and back blotched with red, and Rocky couldn't bite back a chuckle. Billy quickly pulled on the fresh shirt that Rocky proffered. " Scars fade Rocky.... its no big deal."

" No way... I saw you change for gym at school last month. " Rocky waited, his concern growing.

Billy sighed. " It just happened. " Billy hoped Rocky would just drop it. He'd allowed Will to fix the scars but Will had asked him not to mention how. It hadn't eradicated the scar tissue but as Rocky had noticed, most of the scars had faded to barely visible. " Maybe it has something to do with the antiprotons I absorbed..."

" You ought to have Zordon check it out." Rocky said with concern. " But for now, why don't you st down? I'll see what Tommy is doing."

* * * * *

The house was dead quiet. Tanya, Adam and Will looked throughout the house but no one was there. Will was worried, both Adam and Tanya could see. " Where are they?" he snarled.

" Hey look." Adam pulled a note off of the refrigerator. " Its from Rocky. He and Tommy took Billy to the Power Chamber to.... " Adam peered at the note, " To use the hot tub...."

" That's odd." Will said. " We should call them."

" Will, they're not going to hurt him. If anything was seriously wrong, they'd call." Tanya held up the pharmacy bag. " Why don't we start testing this stuff?"

Will nodded. He led them into the garage lab. It looked a little dusty and Adam felt a touch of guilt. No doubt Billy just hadn't had time in the past few months to use his old lab. Even Will seemed a little perplexed by the dust. He quickly wiped off the counter and opened the pill bottle. " I think the most important thing is to verify that this is some sort of antibiotic. If its not... then I'll start trying to run down what it is. Adam, why don't you get the computer on and use the internet connection to get into the pharmacy's computer? The Machine Empire isn't particularly subtle. Look for signs of tampering. Also see if the computer lists just what this stuff is. Tanya, give him a hand. I can do this on my own."

Adam and Tanya went to the computer. After a half hour of work, they were in the pharmacy's computer. Adam called up Billy's name. His brow furrowed in confusion. " Didn't you say that Billy was on amoxicillan?"

Will looked up from his work. " Yes, why?"

" Well, according this, his prescription is for Haldol." Adam tapped the screen. " I know I've heard of this.... is it a brand name?"

" Tanya, on the shelf right by your arm , there a pharmaceutical text." Will pointed to the small bookshelf. She grabbed the book after a moment's searching and thumbed through the index. " Haldol.... it says here that its a tranquilizer."

" And according to the test I ran, its not an antibiotic." Will gestured to the computer. " Anything come up that hints to Mondo?"

" Look for yourself." Adam said. " I'm not a computer expert but this programming code definitely looks tampered with. Look at the way this whole little section is numbered differently. It looks like it was inserted in after the original programming."

Will glanced at it, and a grim, cold smile broke across his face. " Its Mondo all right. See the weird string of seemingly random numbers? If you look through the rare examples that Zordon has of the Machine Empire's wiring, this string is almost a kind of signature."

" We need to tell Zordon." Adam said quickly.

* * * *

Tommy frowned as he looked over the blood test. He hated the scientific jargon that he occasionally had to deal with, but the situation was too important for him to wait for one of the more technically adept rangers to help. Billy had been far too sick for far too long. It was time to take control of the situation.

" This stuff... it's a tranquilizer. That's not going to help Billy at all. Zordon, do you think you could find out who switched Billy's prescription? " Tommy's anger was written across his face. " My guess is that Will has something to do with it."

" Now Tommy... we must not jump to conclusions." Zordon said. " Will is a likely candidate but we must be sure. I will search the computer for leads." He paused. " This will necessitate my absence for upwards of an hour. You will need to remain here until I return from the computer data banks."

" That's fine." Tommy watched as Zordon's image disintegrated. He wanted to rip Will's head off, to tell the truth, but he wasn't going to rush off without confirmation from Zordon. Instead, he tried to think of reasons for Will to hurt, perhaps even kill Billy. Will must've been trying to fool us, Tommy thought angrily. Being so helpful, acting so concerned... it had all been an act. It suddenly became clear to Tommy. Will was killing Billy by withholding his medication. Once Billy was dead, Will would take his place, stating in his calm voice that it was necessary. None of the rangers were technically capable, after all. Once Will had Billy out of the way, he'd worm his way into the affections of the team. Tommy could already see that Tanya and even Adam were starting to like the clone. He started to pace around the power chamber, his anger growing by the second.

Rocky walked in. He was chuckling to himself and toweling off his arms. " Billy's getting dressed. I think he'll be all right...." His voice trailed off as he caught Tommy's angry look. " What's wrong?"

Tommy waved the bottle of pills. " This isn't any antibiotic. Its a damn tranquilizer!"

Rocky took that in. " You know... that does explain a lot." Tommy nodded angrily, his temper rising at Rocky's mild response.

" Damn right it explains a lot! We never should have agreed to let Will anywhere near Angel Grove!" Tommy shouted. Rocky recoiled from Tommy's angry words. As always, Rocky had gone with the flow as far as decisions on the team went. He hadn't been thrilled with including Will.... but Will had seemed normal enough. Rocky thought Zordon had been right. Without the threat of Zedd and Rita, Will was basically harmless.

" Do you have any proof? " Rocky asked.

" Will gets his medication... Will gives him his medication.... the only person who touches Billy's medication is Will... and funny how Billy's medication turns out be nothing but sleeping pills." Tommy fumed.

Rocky sighed. Tommy had a good point but Tommy also wasn't going to listen to any other possible reasons. Not that it mattered. It certainly sounded to Rocky like Will was up to something. " What did Zordon say?"

" He's checking the computer system. " Tommy slammed his hand down on the console. " I knew this was a bad idea! Dammit how could I have been so stupid! "

" We all agreed." Rocky started to feel uneasy. It was awfully strange about the medicine. Even though Will hadn't been anything but coldly polite, the sheer force of Tommy's anger started to sway him. " Billy doesn't.... doesn't seem to think Will is up to anything."

" Billy is barely conscious, Rocky. How would he know? And he's the one that's been all upset over his medication anyway. It has to be Will!" Tommy pounded his fist into his hand. " I'll kill the bastard!"

The faint rumbling noise of teleportation silenced any response that Rocky would have made. Will, Tanya and Adam quickly materialized. They all were immediately taken back by Tommy's obvious anger, but Tanya decided to keep focused on the most immediate problem. " Guys, we found something out!"

" So did we." Tommy's voice was a gruff snarl. In two leaping strides he crossed the room and grabbed Will by the shirt. " You thought you could just come back. That we'd be fooled. You'd lay on the charm, all the while slowly poisoning Billy so you could take his place. Well, this time its not going to work!" Tommy accented his words by slamming Will up into the wall behind them.

" Tommy!" Tanya cried. Adam started to step in between the two but Will frowned at him.

" Don't." he said coldly. To Tommy he said, " What else is in my master plan?" Something about his voice made both Tanya and Adam stop their protests. It was as if he expected to be accused. His whole body seemed tense with anticipation.

" You switched Billy's medication with tranquilizers!" Tommy shook him.

" Tommy, no...that's not what happened." Tanya protested.

" Shut up Tanya!" Tommy snarled. He shook Will again, but Will slid out of his grasp and sucker punched him. Then he kicked Tommy in the chest , sending the larger teen to the metal floor. Rocky started to rush him, but Will held up his hand menacingly.

" Don't try it Rocky." Will glared. He seemed to draw strength from Rocky's fright and Tommy's pain. He stepped away from the huddle of rangers and crossed his arms." I don't remember asking to come back. I only came because I was worried sick about Billy..." His voice was choked with emotion and he broke off his words. " I hope you all end up in hell."

" Will..." Tanya protested.

" Shut up! I don't deserve this and unlike Billy, I'm not going to put up with it!" In a quieter voice he added, " You know what's wrong now. You don't need me to correct it. Tommy?" He kicked Tommy again and tommy groaned as he curled into a ball on the floor. " You're getting your wish. I'm going. But understand this... I'm watching you. All of you. If I find out anything happens to Billy.... I don't care what... You just better pray I never see you again." His look took in the four rangers, his eyes red with anger. " I trust one of you will tell Kat my ultimatum. "

" But..." Tanya protested. She looked in his eyes and suddenly she could see the emotion on Will's face. It wasn't obvious but his eyes... Underneath the anger she could see tears glistening. His tight lipped frown and crossed arms... she'd seen it before. Not from Will, but from Billy. It was the same stance, the same cold hurt look that she'd seen Billy have time and again as they broke the zords or took off after a battle to do something fun. He won't stay, she realized suddenly. Not even if Billy asked. A line had been crossed, and there wasn't going to be any going back. She looked away.

" Goodbye." Will raised his hands together and a strange glow suddenly enveloped him. He teleported away, leaving nothing but the strange red after image of his energy.

Tommy rose slowly, clutching his stomach. Tanya her own anger rising, didn't help him at all. " Tommy.... the medicine was bad... but... " She couldn't go on.

" It wasn't Will." Adam's voice echoed. " It was Mondo, not Will. " Tommy stared at him. The truth was slowly starting to hit and Tanya just didn't want to watch. She spun around and ran through the airlock. She ran down the dark hallway, wanting nothing more than get out of the claustrophobic chambers.

She rushed out into the bright sunlight. Her eyes stung and tears fell onto her cheeks. She walked away from the Power Chamber and took a seat on one of the many boulders. For the longest time all she could do was shake. Tommy was so wrong... but in her heart she felt a certain relief that Will was gone. She hated herself for feeling that way. All her life, she had been taught to give people a chance and not prejudge them. What Tommy had said... even though she knew it wasn't true, she knew Will was capable of it. Something deep inside Will was broken and the truly sad thing was that he seemed to understand that something was wrong, but didn't know how to fix it. Worse, she sensed part of him relished his fault.

And she already missed him, that was the worst of it. Will and his cynicism and his way of saying just the right thing to tick everyone, she *would* miss him. Because she could see that underneath his cynical exterior and despite his broken emotions, Will was desperate for affection. And they had driven him away, even after he had tried to act normal. " Oh dammit!" she cried out.

" It can't be that bad, Tanya." She spun around on her rocky perch. For an instant, she thought it was Will, but the too pale features betrayed the truth. Billy, dressed far too lightly to be outside, walked up the steep path to where she was sitting.

" Billy..." she said.

" Will left. I know." he said quietly. " And I know he wasn't trying to poison me." He took a seat next to her. " Mondo was going after me... We'll have to take precautions so he can't try it again."

" But what about Will?" She looked at Billy intently. More than anyone else, Billy had been so quiet about how he felt.

" Will... will survive. That's what he does." Billy looked down into the rocky canyon and sighed. " He frightens me, Tanya. Not because I'm scared he'll do something to me. I don't think he could even if he wanted to. I look at him and I see what I could be... That's a scary feeling."

Tanya nodded.

" I think the worst is that I feel sorry for him." He hesitated. " I forgave everyone for what happened... even Will. He lost everything you know... the people he grew to consider friends, his home." Billy chuckled. " He even lost having Zedd and Rita back him. So he comes back, after the teams *asked* him to, and he does everything he can to gain some trust. And he's accused of something that even he wouldn't do. Tanya, I think he'd kill himself before he'd do anything to me. The rest of you... I don't know. His survival instinct might kick in... and that's not pretty."

" I just feel so rotten. Billy, he's not... a bad guy." Tanya said it softly, " He just..."

" Tanya, he's gone." Billy sighed again.

* * * * *

It was dark by the time Kat and Tanya got home and neither were in any mood to talk. Tommy had the good grace to apologize and, Tanya admitted to herself, he *had* been pretty upset with himself. Billy had gone through the motions of tracking Will down but he'd begged off after an hour. Tanya didn't doubt he was still sick but she did doubt that he'd been trying all that hard. Billy, she sensed, was as emotionally drained as everyone else.

She went up the stairs with barely a word to Kat or Kat's parents. All she really wanted was sleep. She doubted she would get much, she was just too upset.

The window to her bedroom was open. It was cold and the wind wafted through the things on her desk. Something was different but what? Her eyes fell on a sheet of paper folded up on her bed. Her name was on it and as she lifted the paper, a photograph fell. She picked up carefully. It was a picture of her, and Will. Sitting in the juice bar of all places. He was smiling, a wry grin and she was looking intently, as if his smile was inappropriate. She opened the note.

" Tanya, I hope you don't mind the picture. We'll see each other again. I promise. "

It was unsigned but it didn't need a signature. She wiped the tears from her eyes and carefully set the picture up on her desk. It was a promise, and she knew Will would keep it. She would see him.

The End.