Disclaimer: Saban owns em, blah, blah. You all know the drill. This fic is rated PG-13 overall because parts of it will have harsh language and harsher ideas than the usual PR monsters. Thanks to Kittie (da Moo!) and Ellen Brand for inspiration, help and encouragement -- couldn't do it without you guys! Now, on with our show!

Higher Ground
by Julia H.

Jason Lee Scott sighed. Eleven months after graduation from high school and everyone had gone their separate ways. Some days he wondered if the past several years had all been a dream, something he had made up from his wildest fantasies.

The scars he bore told him differently. Being a Power Ranger had been a blast, something he wouldn't have traded for anything. It hadn't always been safe, however. In fact, thinking back, he was amazed none of them had been hurt worse than broken bones and nasty slashes. None of them had died.

So why did he feel so empty now? Yes the power was gone, leaving only traces of it in his system. But it had been years since he'd held the Red Ranger powers, and almost a year since the disastrous encounter with the Gold powers. He was strong and healthy again....

Part of him felt lost.

Jason set aside the text book he had been trying to study and turned the t.v. on. The local station came on, reporting another clash of Piranatrons and the Turbo Rangers. Jason grimaced. Yeah, he was happy there were still Rangers to fight the evil -- he just hated being out of it. Had the bad guys always looked so cheesy? Leaning the chair back against the desk, Jason put his hands behind his back and watched the news story.

It was fairly predictable. Had always been, for the most part. The bad guy makes a monster, the Rangers face it. The Rangers almost beat bad guy, then bad guy grows. Rangers call on Zords. Battle ensues and Rangers win. Another day on the job.

Lips twisting in a slightly cynical smile, Jason changed the channel. Mmm...shopping network. Flip. Football. Nobody good. Flip. Soap opera. Flip. Racing. Flip -- wait.....

Jason set the chair on the floor with a thunk and leaned forward. Was it really Tommy? He flipped back and watched the race carefully, looking for the white and red car sporting all sorts of decals. There, towards the front of the pack, number seventeen. Jason grinned as he watched his one-time partner maneuver closer to the front. He turned up the volume.

"...and number seventeen passes -- that was close! Here they come into the number one curve and ... OH NO! Haslon rebounds off the wall. OH man! Number seventeen and twenty-four are out with him!"

Haslon's car bounded off the wall right into Tommy's path, forcing him to throw the car sideways as the car behind him veered sharply and went tumbling end over end into the infield. Tommy and Haslon skidded side by side off the track onto the grass where they managed to make a controlled stop.

"It looks like Haslon and Oliver are out of it, but safe. The yellow flag is out! And here comes the ambulance. It looks like Asthorpe is moving, but that was quite a ride he took."

Jason watched as Tommy climbed out of the car, shaking his head. He walked over to the other driver and made sure he was all right as a second ambulance came out on the track.

ESPN cut to a commercial and Jason sat back, a frown drawing his eyebrows down. He stood and walked to the window.

What were they doing? Kim was in Florida in training for the Olympics, Trini was in college back east and so was Zack. Billy was supposedly on Aquitar, but no one had heard from him for quite a while, and that wasn't like Billy. Tommy was racing all over the US. And I'm in college. The original six had split apart like a sunbeam hitting a prism. Even the replacements were gone.

Adam was in the midwest going to Northwestern, Aisha was in Africa, Kat was in England, Rocky was in Stone Canyon and Tanya was in Los Angeles.

They had saved the world -- yet here they were, living "normal" lives.

"So, that's it?" Jason shook his head. "We just pretend that none of it ever happened and go on our ways?" Something about that rankled him. They had gone through too much together to lose track this way -- especially the first six.

And what are we accomplishing now? Shaking his head, Jason turned the t.v. off and went outside for a walk. Not really intending to go anywhere in particular, he ended up in the park. With a wry smile, he sat and leaned against a tree. They had spent so much time in this park, as Rangers and as a group of friends.

He looked up at the leafy canopy above him, watching the shadows play across the leaves. His time in Switzerland had taught him some patience, but mostly it had pointed out how suited he was to action versus talking. All they had done at those peace conferences was talk. Debate. Discuss. Plan.

What good was planning if you never acted on it? No, after a while, he had realized his heart wasn't in it. That was when he had returned to Angel Grove. Then Tommy had found and recruited him for the Gold Ranger.

Even after he had lost the Gold Powers he had thought there was more to life than being a Ranger -- and he still thought that. But ....

This isn't it. Even Emily had left Angel Grove, and him. They had parted friends. The spark just hadn't been there.

_Maybe I'm just bummed from losing the powers._ Jason sighed. _I ought to be happy. In a year I can open my dojo -- I've always dreamed of that._ He shook his head. _So... what's wrong with this picture?_

The rush, the adrenaline, the danger. He missed it.

_Am I sick or something? Most people are content with living a peaceful life, that's all they want._ He knew better. Zordon had recruited them for good reasons. They were willing to risk it all for the better of mankind. _Once you gave all that you had, it's not good enough to go back to living a half-life. Watching on the sidelines sucks._

Jason stood, brushing his jeans off. _I'm willing to bet my incisors Tommy feels the same way. He held the power longer than any of us -- it's loss has to be hitting him the hardest._ He smiled. Maybe it was time to go look up his bro and see just how well he was handling life. Together they had always been able to figure out their problems.

Nodding, Jason headed for the University's computer center. Time to go on-line and see when the next race was scheduled for Tommy Oliver.

In a large room, paneled by mahogany bookcases full of hundreds of thousands of books, two people sat. One, cool and collected, sat at a desk. Upon closer inspection one would see the desktop was actually more of an oversized computer, complete with touch-sensitive controls and viewers. The woman glanced at the desk and smiled confidently. She really didn't need such devices, but they seemed to make her counterpart more comfortable.


"Well, what?" The man sat back, placing his face further into the shadows. He crossed his arms and scowled. "I suppose you expect me to congratulate you?"

"Nevil, things are falling into place just as I said." The figure stood, fingertips resting on the desktop. "We should be congratulating one another."

"It's a long ways from being complete, Aster." He shook his head. "They're scattered across the globe still."

"We don't need all of them, Nevil." The woman smiled coolly. "Allow me to make another small prediction -- just in case your faith in me is wavering."

The man's scowl faltered as a chill shivered his spine. The woman's ice-blue eyes seemed to be able to penetrate the shadow he hid in. God only knew how strong her abilities truly were. He nodded slightly.

"We don't want more than five or six at a time." Aster walked slowly over to a triangular prism and stared into it. "Two of them are already falling in. They are the foundation blocks. Once we have them, the others will be unable to resist." She looked up and smiled slightly. "It is inevitable. Power calls to power. They won't be able to resist."

"I hope you're right."

"Oh, I am." She stroked the prism and it flared, suddenly illuminated. Rainbows scattered around the room, lighting it's murky corners. "I am."

Tommy Oliver pulled the baseball cap off his head and ran his fingers through his hair to straighten it. _Who decided all racecar drivers should also be diehard cap wearers, anyways?_ His hair was only to his shoulders now. He'd trimmed it after getting razzed so badly by the other drivers and the crew. They'd teased him mercilessly about being recruited for a shampoo commercial any day, or maybe a modeling job. Tommy shook his head as he walked back to the garage. It was a insular group inside the racing world, and they didn't take to change readily. Jeff had warned him they wouldn't welcome him with open arms until he'd paid his dues. Winning only made enemies when you were a rookie.

_So what am I supposed to do? Throw a race to get into everyone's good graces?_ He snorted in contempt. _Nothing new. As usual, I don't quite fit in._ It didn't really bother him any more. True, in high school, he'd been part of a select group, the Rangers, but even that had been a fluke. Getting chosen by Rita to be the Green Ranger had been both the worst and the best thing in his life. Worst for obvious reasons, but without it, he would never have been part of the Power Rangers.

_And that, I wouldn't trade for anything._ No matter how painful the consequences sometimes. _Snap out of it, Oliver! There are other girls in the world._ But no one quite like her.

"Hey bro."

Lost in thought, Tommy almost walked right past the young man. He stopped suddenly and whirled, a disbelieving look widening his dark eyes. "Jase? Oh man! It's good to see you!"

Laughing, the two embraced and slapped each other on the back.

"Same to you, bro." Jason stepped back, a quiet smile curving his mouth. "How goes stock cars' newest wunderkid?"

Tommy grimaced. "Please." He held up the baseball cap. "Every time I turn around someone is putting one of these on my head, or telling me to start listening to country music or start chewing or something." He smiled wryly. "Somehow I don't quite fit the mold."

Jason shrugged. "You never did." He grinned. "You got time for an old friend?"

"Always." Tommy's dark eyes were solemn, a slightly worried look overtaking his expression. "Is everything -"

"Don't jump to conclusions, bro!" Jason held up his hands, laughing. "I got over the weakness thing a while back. I'm fine, I swear."

Relief brought back Tommy's lopsided grin. "Let me go get outta these greasy clothes. Meet you at the back gate in...." He looked at his watch, struck once again by how odd it was to wear just an ordinary watch. "..ten minutes?"

"You still have that four by four?" At his nod, Jason snatched the baseball cap out of his hand and shook his head. "Goodyear, huh?" He tossed it back with a smile. "See ya in ten." He turned and headed for the back gate, still grinning. Still the King of Worry. Some things never changed.

Forty-five minutes later, the two were sitting at Angel's Bluffs, looking out over the ocean. They were quiet as they ate the sandwiches they'd stopped to bring with them.

Tommy picked up a rock and threw it over the cliff. "Man, remember all the picnics we had up here?"

Jason nodded. He looked at his sandwich. "Kim and Trini could pull those things off at the drop of a hat. And the food was better than this."

Both were quiet for a while. Jason knew exactly what was running through his friend's mind from the slightly morose expression on his face. Part of him was amazed at how tenacious Tommy's feelings were for Kim. He hadn't been there when the now infamous letter had arrived, but Billy had filled him in on the details -- and how Kat and Tommy had seemingly hooked up not long after.

"Can I ask you something?" Jason picked up a rock and tossed it up and down in his hand.

"Sure." Tommy shrugged. "What?"

"Why didn't you go after Kim? Or call? Why did you just let her go?" Jason met his friend's gaze.

Pain lanced across Tommy's face and he looked away. He shook his head. "I did call."

His voice was so low, Jason almost missed it. "What did she say?"

Tommy made a strangled noise and shook his head. "She wouldn't talk to me. I got her roommate." He picked up a rock and threw it hard. "I took that as a pretty sure sign she didn't want anything to do with me -- that and the letter."

Jason was quiet a moment. He and Kim had talked when she had come to visit -- just before Divatox had kidnapped them. Sighing he decided to let it go for now. "That isn't the whole story, bro, but...." He shook his head. "Did you and Kim ever talk when she was here?"

"No." Tommy's voice was low. "I...I guess I was afraid to hear it from her." He grimaced. "I used Kat as a shield to keep Kim away." He looked up at Jason. "I know, pretty shabby way to treat a lady. Kat deserves better. That's why I'm glad she went to England." Tommy looked down. "I think she'll find someone there who will treat her like she deserves."

"Yeah, she does," Jason said frankly. "Look, all of us knew it was rebound. Kat included. She cares a lot for you, but she knows it wasn't gonna go any farther than good friends." It was harsh, but he felt his friend had it coming. From the guilty look on Tommy's face, he knew it too. "Let it go, Tommy." Jason tossed the rock over the cliff. "It's over and done."

"Yeah." From his bleak expression, it didn't seem to make Tommy feel any better.

"Let me change the subject." Jason sat back and looked up at the clear blue sky. "How long has it been since you heard from Billy?"

"Too long." Tommy frowned. "Not since Zordon left. I tried to contact Aquitar a couple of times, just to talk and see how he was doing...."


"Never could get through." Tommy shrugged. "I even asked Adam to try since he was better at manipulating those controls."

"No luck?" Jason's uneasy feeling grew as Tommy shook his head. "I wonder if he really is happy?" He noticed Tommy's frown grow. "What?"

"I dunno. Something about the last message we got from him."

"What did he say?"

Tommy looked up, dark eyes brooding. "Nothing. Cestria said he was so happy he was speechless."

The two young men exchanged doubtful looks. "That doesn't sound like the Billy I know." Jason scowled. "You think we could get into the Power Chamber?"

A crafty gleam entered Tommy's eyes. "Don't think we have to." He pulled his communicator from his pocket. "We all kept these, just in case we needed to contact one another fast."

Jason grinned. Tommy always had been the one who coolly plotted and planned. That was what had made him so dangerous as the Green Ranger. It was an attribute Jason was happy to utilize now. "What's your plan?"

"Contact Adam. Mr. Cranston still hasn't done anything about Billy's lab in his garage." Tommy's grin widened. "Bet ya Adam can figure out how to contact Billy with what's in that lab."

Jason stood. "Let's go."

Aster sat back in her chair, a long fall of gold-red hair spilling over the headrest. So far, all was going according to plan. She had no reason to doubt what she had foreseen. After all, she had watched these young people their whole lives -- waiting for the right time.

It was finally coming together.

Finally, after eons of waiting.

_Patience,_ she counseled herself. _ A little longer, and all will be in place._

"Sure boys." Hank Cranston led the way to the garage. "I haven't touched anything. It's all the way he left it." He unlocked the door and stepped back to let them enter.

"I'm sure he's all right, Mr. Cranston." Jason gripped his shoulder reassuringly.

Hank blinked back tears out of his sky blue eyes. "I hope so. I guess I expected to hear from him."

"We're gonna try to find him, sir." Tommy switched on the light and headed downstairs.

With a nod, Hank turned and walked back towards the living room. Jason followed Tommy downstairs. "Man, it's dusty." He sneezed as their feet stirred up the dust.

Tommy waved a hand to clear the cobwebs from the walkway. "Let's see. It's five here, so it's seven Adam's time." He looked up. "Hope he's not busy."

Jason shrugged. "Only one way to find out."

With a nod, Tommy pushed the green button on his communicator. The tiny screen flashed a signal that let him know it was working.

Minutes passed in silence as the two starred at the communicator, waiting for some sign of acknowledgment.

"Maybe he's -"

"This is Adam." The voice was slightly breathless, and held a note of surprise.

"Adam!" Tommy grinned in response to Jason's smile. "This is Tommy. You got some spare time?"

Before long a familiar figure appeared in a teleport beam. Adam looked around, frowning slightly before being engulfed by his friend's enthusiastic greetings. He grinned, pushing his dark hair out of his eyes. "Good to see you guys too. But, uh, why here?"

The two quickly explained their plans. Adam quirked one dark eyebrow and shrugged before setting to work.

First they cleaned the worktable off, raising a new dust cloud in the process that had all three sneezing. After some good-natured ribbing, they got down to work, with Adam directing the other two.

It took about an hour and a half before Adam nodded, satisfied. "We'll have to see if this works on just this little power cell Billy set up." He set the circular cell in place, amazed once again by Billy's ingenuity. "Here goes."

There was a low hum, that rose in pitch until it was beyond their range of hearing. Adam fiddled with the controls, frowning in concentration as he struggled to recall the coordinates of Aquitar.

Tommy leaned over and punched in a set of numbers, then stood back.

Adam and Jason stared at him in complete shock.


"You remembered Aquitar's coordinates?" Jason started to laugh.

"Yeah, this from the guy who couldn't remember to wind his watch?" Adam shook his head.

Tommy grinned wryly, long used to the vagarious ways of his memory. He shrugged.

"Go figure," Jason managed to choke out, still laughing at the dumbfounded look on Adam's face. "You always could remember the really important things."

"Let's see if it's right," Tommy said quietly.

Adam manipulated several controls and pushed a button. "I think that should do it."

Three young men held their breath in anticipation as the buzz of static filled the lab. A whine, rising and falling in pitch, began to replace the static as an fuzzy image appeared on the tiny screen.

"Delphine!" Adam and Tommy spoke at the same time.

"Rangers of Earth!" The Aquitian seemed as surprised as they were to have made contact. "To what do we owe this honor?"

Jason stepped back. He hadn't been present when the Aquitian Rangers had come to Earth's aide and was willing to let the other two handle the exchange.

"We're looking for Billy." Adam's voice was filled with hope.

"Delphine, have you seen Billy?" Tommy tried to stay calm as the Aquitian woman's expression grew somber. _Please, don't tell us something happened to him!_

"Indeed, I have Adam, Tommy." Steepling her fingers she stared at them long and hard. "Might I ask why it has taken you so long to inquire?"

Adam flushed red, while Tommy blinked in surprise. Tommy recovered first. "Delphine, we did try -- several times." He looked at Adam who nodded in agreement. "We could never get through."

Jason, quickly losing patience, stepped forward. "Is Billy there? Is he all right?"

Tommy controlled the smile that came to his lips at Jason's tone of voice. It was his "leader's voice". The one none of the Rangers had ever questioned -- not even him.

Delphine gazed silently at them. "Yes." She seemed to be weighing several options in her mind, and finally settled on one. "I will see if he wishes to speak with you. One moment."

The screen blanked to white, as a blue dot blinked on and off.

Jason scowled as three minutes passed and only the blue dot pulsed on the screen.

Before any of them could say a word, the screen cleared and a tired-looking young man's image filled the screen.

"BILLY!" All three chorused.

A faint smile curved his mouth. "Hello." There was a wary expression in the blue-grey eyes. "What's going on?"

"That's what we're wondering." Jason crossed his arms and smiled. "It's been a long time, Billy."

"Too long," Tommy echoed.

Adam just nodded.

Billy frowned. "Where are you? That doesn't look like the Power Chamber."

"It isn't." Jason grinned. "We're in your dad's basement."

Surprise widened Billy's eyes. "In my lab? Why? What happened to the Power Chamber?" His gaze went to Tommy and Adam, glaring at them slightly accusingly.

Tommy held up his hands defensively. "Nothing! It's still there."

Adam shrugged. "We're not Rangers anymore."

"What?" Billy looked shocked.

"It's a long story, Billy." Tommy sighed, suddenly feeling very tired and more than slightly sad. "None of us is on the team anymore."

"We were worried because we never heard from you." Adam frowned, going from defensive to a little put-out. "We did try to contact you, you know."

"No...." Billy looked shell-shocked. "I didn't."

"Is everything okay there, Billy?" Jason's voice was quiet, but held a current of concern.

"You never wrote or called," Tommy said with gentle humor. "It hasn't been the same without you, buddy."

"You guys really missed...me?"

Jason hadn't seen that particular look of uncertainty on his friend's face since their freshman year in high school. "Bill," his voice was gruff with concern. "are you all right?"

"Hang on." The signal suddenly was back on the white screen and blue dot.

Jason scowled, tensing as the moments ticked by. His patience was wearing very thin.

"Easy, Jase." Tommy put a hand on his shoulder. "You know Billy. He'll handle this in his own way, his own time."

Nodding, Jason quietly simmered, scowling at the screen. Tommy began to prowl around the basement like a big cat in a cage, while Adam just sat very still, his eyes never leaving the screen.

Suddenly there was a wash of white light that blinded all three guys and a woosh of sound. When their vision cleared, Billy stood before them.

All three pounced on him. "BILLY!" He was engulfed in a group hug and a great deal of back pounding as the four friends were reunited.

Jason shook his head, a wry smile on his face. "Welcome home, Billy."

"Oh man, your dad's gonna flip!" Tommy patted Billy's back again, almost as if to reassure himself he was really there. "He's missed you."

Adam noticed the screen now had a smiling image of Delphine. She nodded to him once, then the transmission was cut. Adam turned to Billy. "It's good to have you back, Billy."

Billy let out a huge sigh of relief. "It's good to be home, guys." He grabbed Jason and Tommy's arms, then Adams'. "You don't know how much I missed all of you." He looked up the stairs. "Guess I've got a lot to explain."

Tommy shook his head. "The Rangers filled him in, Billy. I think he'll just be thrilled that you're back."

"I've got a lot to catch up on." Billy looked around his lab and wrinkled his nose. "More than I thought."

Jason went up first, to ready Mr. Cranston for his son's return. He had only half-way explained before Hank was charging for the stairs. Billy met him halfway up, and the two embraced in a tearful reunion.

Tommy nodded, a satisfied smile on his face. His eyes met Jason's and he saw the quiet pride on Jason's face. He turned to Adam. "When do you have to be back?"

"Soon." Adam grimaced as he looked at his watch. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed his friends until now. A hand gripped his shoulder and he looked up to find Tommy's serious gaze on him.

"Don't be a stranger."

Adam nodded. "I won't." He stepped back and touched his communicator, disappearing in a wash of white.

Jason and Tommy left the Cranston home feeling happier and more at peace than they had in a long time. The moon was out, only a sliver of a crescent, allowing the stars to shine brightly. They walked to Tommy's car in silence then stood staring up at the stars.

"I get the feeling nothing's gonna be the same from now on," Jason said quietly.

Tommy just nodded, climbing into the car. He looked at the Cranston home before starting the engine.

*** Aster shook her head as Nevil left in a flash of white. _So short-sighted. As the human's say, he cannot see the forest for the trees._ Picking up a wooden staff, fully as high as her, Aster ran her hands over the runes carved on it's surface. _No. We will not use this. Not this time._

Setting the staff aside she walked to the desk and touched several panels on it's surface. An image of the Power Chamber sprang to life. Aster sat and watched, her mouth quirking in amusement as Alpha 6 and Dimetria briefed the Turbo Rangers on another of Divatox's creations.

_Let them play at the game. Perhaps in time, they too will become suitable for my purposes._ Aster brushed back her hair with languid grace. _Learn the game well, young ones. As long as there are fools such as Divatox and Zedd to amuse themselves with you, take advantage of it. Learn as those before you did._

Frowning, Aster leaned forward and switched the view to one of deep space. She sat back and stared long and hard at the view. _It comes, even now. Beyond Pluto, beyond the edge of this galaxy._ She knew there was no way to stop it. Yes, they probably could deflect it -- but it would just return again some other time. _No. These are the ones we will face it with. They will just have to be ready._

Her hand reached out and brought to life a small radio-like device. She was sure of the six she wanted. However, she was curious what the warrior would think. Both had watched these young Earthers grow and mature. Nevil was next to no help, so it was only fitting to ask her.

"Why?" Tommy watched Jason pace the small apartment, a smile quirking his mouth. "Don't get me wrong, I don't mind.... But, what makes you think that?"

Jason crossed his arms, a neutral look on his face. "I just..." He shook his head. It was hard to describe the urgency he felt in getting the team back together. This had gone beyond a simple matter of wanting to see his old friends for a reunion.

"Circling the wagons."

"Huh?" Jason stared dumb-founded at his friend. That was exactly the feeling he had. "How did you -"

Tommy shrugged. "Once someone points out the obvious signs, I'm pretty good at putting them together." He sat up and sighed, rubbing his temples. "Something or someone is messin' with us. I want to know why."

Jason raised an eyebrow at the cold tone of voice that came from his friend. It reminded him that Tommy hadn't grown up in the safe streets of Angel Grove. Somewhere along the line, he knew his friend had seen the darker side of life. They had never spoken of it, but Jason had always known that was part of why Rita had picked Tommy to be the Green Ranger in the first place. Rule number one in Oliver's book: Don't screw with my friends and expect to get away with it. A smile curved his mouth. Life had gotten a lot more interesting suddenly.

Nodding Jason said, "Then our next step should be to check up on Trini, Zack - "

"And Kim." Tommy nodded and looked away.

"Yeah, but first let's go get Billy." Jason left a note for his roommate. "I think we need to talk to him about a few things before we get any others involved."

Tommy just nodded and followed Jason out of the apartment.

They ended up at the Bluffs again. Tommy wandered off a ways, brooding on the upcoming meeting with Kim, no doubt.

Jason left him alone with his thoughts and turned his attention on Billy. "So, how was life on Aquitar?"

Grimacing, Billy ran a hand through his hair. "Wet. I can't tell you how much I missed the sun from my own planet." He leaned back on his hands and raised his face to the sun, eyes closed. "I could never get warm enough on Aquitar."

This wasn't gonna be easy. Jason took a deep breath. "Then why did you stay?"

Billy stiffened and sat up. The wary look of the night before was in his eyes again. He looked from Jason to his clenched hands. "You wouldn't understand, Jason."

"Try me." Jason steadily watched his friend, his face carefully neutral.

Fiddling with an apple, Billy twisted the stem until it popped off. "I didn't feel like I was needed or wanted here anymore." He looked briefly at Tommy who had wandered over and now watched with a solemn expression. "I really wasn't part of the team anymore, or in high school. I just felt...."

"Outside of it all." Jason nodded in understanding. "I know what you mean."

"Bill," Tommy knelt, his expression more serious than any Billy had ever seen on him before. "I know you blame me for a lot of what happened. I can take that. What I can't understand is that whole lie about the Golden Powers not being compatible with you and then running off to Aquitar without even saying two words." He shook his head, eyes full of remorse. "We were busy, yeah, but I don't ever want to be so busy that I don't have time to listen to a friend. Even if it's just so he can cuss me out."

Jason grinned as Billy's eyes widened slightly at the apology. "Here's your chance, Bill."

The blue-grey eyes went from Jason back to Tommy as Billy considered the words. "All right. You behaved like an egomaniacal, power-tripping dictator bent on controlling the fate of the world." A ghost of a smile tipped Billy's lips as Tommy blanched slightly and blinked. "But, if you'll go back to behaving like your normal self, I'll forgive you."

Tommy nodded. "Agreed." He held out his hand.

Billy gripped it in his. "As for the lie..." He shrugged. "I don't know. I guess part of me really didn't want to be the Gold Ranger and return to the team. Everything was different." He took a bite out of the apple and munched on it. "As much as I do appreciate attention, I don't relish being the center of it like you two."

Tommy laughed, sitting, as Jason shook his head.

The blue-grey eyes twinkled as Billy looked at them. "I never wanted to be in control, guys. Just to be included."

"Okay," Jason mock-growled. "I think we get the idea, Bill. Thanks." He grabbed another sandwich. "But you're definitely in on this. Tell me what you make of it."

Aster nodded. The three who held the foundation were together. Only three left. It was all so simple.

She walked to the prism and stroked it lightly. Bright, silverish light bubbled up but only murmured inside the prism, like a child tossing restlessly in a dream. The light slowly faded away until nothing but a gleam was left to illuminate the center.

"Uh...guys? How're we gonna teleport somewhere we've never been?" Tommy handed his communicator to Billy.

Billy examined it, noting the slight differences between the ones he'd designed and this one. "Interesting."

"I've been to Trini's." Jason shrugged as Tommy's eyebrows rose. "We got pretty close during the peace conference."

"Oh." Tommy's grin widened as Jason flushed slightly and looked away.

"I suggest you wear it," Billy said as Tommy started to hand the communicator to Jason.

"Me?" Tommy looked at the red band around the rim of the watch. Red still -- even after his stint as Zeo V and Red Turbo -- was Jason's color. "Any particular reason? Jase knows where we're going."

"But your body holds more of a residual of power than ours." Billy shrugged. "The teleporter is going to utilize that energy."

"I'll wear it." Tommy strapped it on. He knew Jason claimed he was fine, but there was no need to push him. "Jase, you do the imaging."

Billy stood on one side, Jason on the other, both holding one of Tommy's arms. Jason closed his eyes and got a clear mental picture of Trini's apartment complex. There was a good site to 'port to -- not far from the service entry. He got it crystal clear and pushed the teleport button.

There was a dizzying moment of disorientation -- and then a series of crashes as the three landed on the garbage cans left in the entry for the collectors to pick up.

"Ouch!" Jason rubbed his head where the lid had come off and smacked him. "Great. I forgot they put the garbage out here."

"Gross." Tommy grimaced as he stood.

"I suggest another spot for any future endeavors." Billy pulled a banana peel off his shoulder and dropped it into the can with a disgusted look.

"What the hell do you bums think you're doin'?!" A woman brandishing a broom came charging out the service door. Her hair was in curlers and she wore a robe that barely concealed the powder blue nightgown she wore. "Get outta here before I ream you new holes to cram food in!"

The three made a hasty retreat, not stopping until the woman's screech was only an echo. Tommy was the first to start grinning. "Nice neighborhood."

"Yeah?" Jason shook his head. "Just like your old home, huh?"

Billy broke up the good-natured bantering. "Is that Trini's apartment complex?" He pointed to a tall, grey building.

"That's the one. Come on." Jason waved for them to follow.

It took a few minutes to find a way in and climb up to the twentieth floor. Jason led the way through a maze of corridors, past numerous brown doors each with a different number on it. Finally he stopped at one. "Hope she hasn't moved." With a shrug, he knocked.

"It is kind of late...." Tommy glanced at his watch, realizing that it might only be nine in California, but here in New York -

There was silence for a very long moment and the three waited anxiously, looking around the empty hallway.

Finally the sound of locks being undone, the click of deadbolts being opened and chains being released told them someone had responded.

"You're right," Tommy said nudging Jason. "It is just like my old neighborhood."

The door opened slightly. "Jason?"

Before he could respond, the door shut and the final chain came off. Trini threw open the door. "Jason Lee Scott?" She froze, dark eyes wide as she saw who was with him.

"Hi, Trini." Tommy grinned.

Billy stared at her, before feeling a nudge from Tommy. "Uh...hello, Trini."

The slight Asian girl shook her head, a smile lighting her face. She reached out to pull them in, and shut the door, relocking several of the locks before turning to them. "I can't believe it." Tears sparkled in her eyes as she held out her arms.

The four held each other for a moment in a group hug, before Trini stepped back, wrinkling her nose. "What is that smell?"

"Um..." Jason grinned wryly. "We kind of hit the garbage cans when we teleported in."

Her eyes grew wide. "You teleported?" She looked at Tommy. "You're still a Ranger then?"

"No." Tommy's smile was bittersweet. "I just didn't follow the rules to the letter." He held up his wrist to show her the communicator.

Trini laughed. "Same old Tommy." She took Jason's and Billy's arms. "Let's go sit down and you three can explain to me what made you come all this way."

"It's a long story," Billy sighed. _Why do I feel so shy around her still?_

She gave him a long look. "I've got time."

Two hours and three pots of coffee later, the four friends were all comfortably talked out. Scattered around the small flat on couches and chairs, they sprawled regarding their coffee mugs.

"Well,..." Trini sat up and leaned forward to set her mug on the battered wooden coffee table. "I know where Zack is, but I really don't think he'll want in on this."

"What?" Her statement surprised Jason. "Why?"

"He's happy the way he is." Trini shrugged. "Zack was changed by the conference more than anyone, I think." She tucked her hair behind her ear. "Last time I talked to him, he said he was going on a trip to Africa, looking for his roots."

"Maybe he'll see Aisha." Tommy shrugged. It was a small world -- especially for the Rangers. "Shouldn't we try to at least ask him?"

"No." Jason shook his head slowly. "I think Trini's right." He sighed heavily. "Time to revise my idea of the original six."

"What about Adam?" Billy suddenly found every pair of eyes on him and blinked. He shrugged. "What? I always felt like Adam was part of us."

"I agree." Jason nodded. "And we know he won't mind being called back to action, right?"

Tommy held the mug in both hands, staring into the dark liquid pooled on the bottom. _Wonder if she'll want to come back. The Olympic trials aren't too far away._ He grimaced. _And it's not like I'm a big draw._

Jason leaned over to gently tap his friend's shoulder. "Tommy? You still with us, man?"

"Huh?" Tommy looked up blankly. "Oh...Adam? He won't mind at all. I think he's kinda lonely at Northwestern."

Trini hadn't missed the sadness haunting her friends' dark eyes. It was the same look she'd seen too many times in Kimberly's face. _How can two people love each other so much and not realize it?_ With a sigh she stood. "Well, it's definitely too late to go to Florida and you guys seem pretty certain about Adam. Why don't you crash here for the night and in the morning we can plan our next move?"

"Dibs on the couch!' Jason threw his legs across the length to secure his place.

"Billy, that rolls out into a futon bed." Trini pointed to the chair he was sitting in. "Same with that one, Tommy."

"I think we should secure Adam before proceeding to Florida." Billy said as he folded out the futon. "That way all the power we're drawing on to teleport won't be from Tommy alone."

"Good thinking, Bill." Jason tucked the blanket around him and yawned. "Just don't wake us up too early, will ya?"

Tommy already had his futon folded out and was trying to get comfortable. "Amen to that," he grumbled.

"Don't worry," Trini assured them with a smile. "I won't." Seeing Billy finally start to settle down, she turned off the lights. "Sleep tight, guys." A rumbling chorus of goodnights answered her as she padded back to her room. It was good to have the guys back around. Trini picked up a picture of her and Kim and smiled. "Who says you can't go home?" Setting the picture down, she turned off the light and settled in her bed. In moments, she was asleep.

to be continued....