Kimberly Hart: Amy-Jo Johnson

Tommy Oliver: Jason David Frank

Zach Taylor: Walter Jones

Jason Lee Scott: Austin St. John

Trini Kwan: Thuy Trang

Billy Cranston: David Harold Yost

Rocky de Santos: Stephen Cardenas

Aisha Campbell: Karan Ashley

Adam Park: Johnny Yong Bosch

Dirk Rashkae: Devin Sawa

Zordon son of Eltar: Bob Manahan

Kethry O'Donnell: Alicia Silverstone

Kirstan: Brad Pitt

Kadiya shena keNyara: Catherine Sutherland

Bulk: Paul Schrier

Skull: Jason Narvy

Thank You for Always
A love story of sorts.
Part One: Something Old, Something New
by Ranko

Tommy was having problems.

Lord Zedd had found _some_ way to separate him and Kimberly from the other Power Rangers, take their powers somehow, and throw them somewhere. Of course, they didn't exactly know where that somewhere _was_. And it didn't help that there were the additional difficulties that being alone with the Pink Ranger, Kimberly, were causing for him.

Tender brown eyes, wavy chestnut hair that shone and gleamed with her every movement, soft, clear skin, a body fine-honed by training and practice, a sense of style to shame any model, and her natural gymnastic grace. She seemed to perform every single movement. To Tommy, she was beautiful. He didn't really care that there might be others who might think otherwise. And she had proven to him time and time again how sweet and kind and gentle she could be. Yet how spirited! Why, even Lord Zedd had wanted her for his queen!

And it wasn't _any_ kind of fair that of all the Power Rangers, _he_ was the one that, he thought, was most lacking in looks. And talent.

He analyzed himself, ruthlessly.

[Hmm... long brown hair, (Tommy, you need a trim!) nose that looks like it'd look better on a hawk, brown eyes, straight mouth, muscled body, tall, dammit, admit it, Tommy, you're nothing much out of the ordinary! And what are you good at? Martial arts. But Jason's just about as good as you at that. Short, dark hair, a perfect nose, high cheekbones, more muscle than you, half-slant brown eyes, basically, he's got the looks and body of a young god. Not just that, he thinks Kimberly's pretty, too. The only reason, I think, that he hasn't gone for her is that he's your best friend and he figured out how you feel a long time ago. And being the great guy he is, he's not going to go for the lady his buddy's 'sweet' on!]

[Look at Zach: he's a damn fine dancer and he's good-looking to boot. And he's such a great guy: different from the rest of us in looks and personality, which makes him stand out more: his dark skin, with his dreadlocks. And Billy: smart as anything, and he's no slouch in the looks department, either, even with his glasses! Hell, he's the Cassanova of all of us! Even though it does get sort of hard to figure out what in the world he means!]

Tommy smiled at the thought. Billy, the Blue Ranger, was as smart as they came, and when it counted. He had gotten them out of many a situation either by fast-talking them out, or simply braining their way out of it with his knowledge of computers and all. In fact, when he was six, he'd taken his mother's vacuum cleaner apart-- and put it back together again.

"What's up, Tommy? There's not much reason to be smiling." Kimberly said from beside him, arms wrapped around her legs and her chin resting on her knees.

"I was just thinking that if we had Billy with us, we'd probably be out of here by now."

Kimberly rolled her eyes. "I don't think even Billy could get us out of this one!" she told Tommy.

They looked around them. They were in a small chamber made completely of ice. Kimberly shivered. Tommy half-smiled at her sympathetically. _He_ was wearing a white flannel, a cream T-shirt under that, and white slacks. _She_ was wearing nothing more than denim shorts and a pink short shirt, with a light denim vest over it. Not to mention his 'powers' protected him against most elements, cold being one of them. "Cold?" Tommy asked, compassionately.

Kimberly, teeth starting to chatter, nodded. Tommy moved closer to her, sat down beside her, half-took his flannel off and shared it between them. Kimberly snuggled into his warmth reflexively, then paused and pulled away as Tommy stiffened. "Oh! I'm sorry, Tommy. I'll stop, if you like."

Tommy unstiffened and laughed somewhat self-consciously. "No, it's O.K. I don't mind. We're friends, right?"

"Always." Kimberly said, gratefully. She nestled into his arm, tempting him strongly to put his arm around her shoulders and pull her closer.

Kimberly wished that Tommy would pull her just a _little_ closer. Or maybe more than a little. Here she was, separated from the curious eyes of the other Power Rangers, with no other company than the gentlest, sweetest, and one of the nicest guys she knew, and she couldn't do anything. O.K, so she had a crush on him. Trini had hinted it might be more than that, and that Tommy just _might_ feel the same for her, but somehow, she doubted it. Trini was always a hopeless romantic, for all her fearlessness, anyway.

[Look at him. Long, silky brown hair, well kept and brushed out, those gentle brown eyes of his, that cute hawk-nose, his sweet mouth, that charming smile, that soft voice and--ooooh!--that body of his! Mm-mmm! I bet there isn't a girl in Angel Grove High that doesn't either have a crush on him or Jason. Of course, I haven't got much chance with him. I'm just not pretty enough. My hair isn't straight and smooth and tame blonde, it's the color of red dirt, and it's wavy. I haven't got big blue eyes, I've got brown ones. No full lips, my mouth is tiny. I'm just not good enough for a guy like Tommy. I mean, he's the White Ranger!]

"Tommy?" she said, right in his ear. He jumped a little, startled.


"How are we going to get out of here?"

"I... I don't know, Kimberly. If we had something to make a fire, we could melt our way out. If we had our powers... we could teleport out of here..."

Then, suddenly, they could hear Jason's voice, ecoing and resonating all around them. And, amazingly enough, on the wall of ice in front of them, appeared a huge face! "Tommy! Kimberly! Are you two O.K?"

Tommy and Kimberly leapt to their feet, throwing off Tommy's white flannel. "Jason!" Tommy cried.

The Jason-face on the wall in front of them smiled. "You're fine! We were worried! Hey, where _are_ you guys?"

"You tell us!" Kimberly pointed out.

"What is it like in there?"

Kimberly shivered. "Cold."

Jason nodded sympathetically. "From here, it looks like you two are in a room of ice. Must be zero degrees in there."

Tommy smiled his infectious smile. "Not _that_ cold! Where are we? You must have found us to be able to see us!"

Suddenly, Billy's and Trini's face appeared near Jason's. "Well, actually," Billy began, "you seem to be trapped in a pane of a quartz-feldspar compound coated liberally with silver nitrate."

Tommy and Kimberly looked at each other, questioningly, then at Billy. "What's that in English?" Kimberly said, halfway sarcastically.

Trini interposed on Billy's behalf. "You're trapped in a mirror."

Kimberly and Tommy looked at each other once again. "A mirror?"

Jason nodded. Zach appeared beside Trini. "We can teleport into there, but Alpha's still working on a way to get you guys out. We could bring in a blanket or something, if it's _that_ cold..."

Trini giggled. "Oh, I don't know, they looked pretty comfortable to me!"

Kimberly and Tommy stared at their toes and blushed. Tommy protested, "Oh, come on, Trini, it _is_ cold here."

Jason rolled his eyes, and the quirk in the corner of his mouth said, clearly, "whatever you say, buddy."

"Give us a sec, we'll be there in a flash!" Zach said, smiling. The screen went quite blank, and within seconds, the other Power Rangers had appeared in coloured beams of light. Tommy exchanged high-fives with Jason and Zach, and Trini started chatting with Kimberly, as Tommy was placed on the interrogation board by his best friend, Jason.

"Kimberly, how are you?"

"I'm fine, I guess. It's cold here, but that's it."

Trini winked. "With Tommy around, I'm sure you couldn't have been _that_ cold!" she murmured good-naturedly.

"Oh, come on, Trini, he'd have done the same for you."

"Being the gentleman that he is, I don't doubt it! Except that he would have just taken off his flannel and given it to me. Simply put, he won't take any nonsense from me. He wouldn't have sat down beside me and shared his body heat. He wouldn't have let me snuggle into his side, either."

Kimberly blushed. "Was I _that_ bad?"

Trini smiled. "You were flirting like crazy. But that's O.K. when you're sweet on a guy, I guess. I don't think he noticed, anyway. Like I said, he goes soft when he's around you."

Kimberly blushed anew.

"Don't worry about it, Kim. Everything will turn out fine. You'll see."

Kimberly replied, "But what if I'm not good enough for him? I mean, he's the leader of the Power Rangers and all, and he deserves it. I can't match that!"

Trini smiled. "Don't worry about it."

Meanwhile, Tommy was getting much of the same treatment. Only worse, because his tormenters weren't _quite_ as sympathetic as the Yellow Ranger, Trini.

"Tommy, man, you two were like _this_!" Zach teased, holding up two fingers pressed together. "If you two had gotten any closer, it looked like you'd have stuck together for good!"

"Affirmative! Doubtful, but I agree." Billy confirmed, smiling.

"Tommy, you lucky dog, you!" Jason said, smothering laughter and punching his best friend's arm good-naturedly.

Tommy was blushing furiously, but he still managed to get out a denial. "Look, you guys, nothing happened! She was cold, and, well, what could I do?"

Jason and Zach exchanged a look and bent double in helpless giggles. Tommy watched them with a patient look until they had uncrooked enough to answer his question. "You could have done what you would have done with Trini. Handed her your flannel. You didn't need to go cuddling up there with her. Even though it _was_ a nice thing to do. Of course, Trini's no pretty hothouse flower: she wouldn't have felt cold in the first place."

"Look, man," Zach said, putting a hand on Tommy's shoulder. "You've been makin' it pretty obvious that you're sweet on _one_ of the girls, and I bet my dancin' shoes it ain't Trini."

Tommy blushed so hard that he thought his cheeks must be on fire. Zach and Jason exchanged another glance. Then looked at Tommy's expression.

"Aw, man!" Zach whispered to Jason. "Cupid hit this guy hard!"

They both converged, by silent mutual agreement, at Tommy's shoulders. "Look, Tommy, there isn't anything wrong with that! Kim's a perfectly great girl."

"I know that." Tommy mumbled. "What I'm worried about is _me_."

Zach and Jason looked at each other, worried. They _knew_ Tommy didn't have a high self-esteem. They were starting to feel strange in the ice-room, so they teleported back to the command center with promises to come back soon, and watched as Trini did the same. With unspoken agreement, they left their own thoughts alone and went to beard the Sabretooth Tiger in her lair.

They pounced on the Yellow Ranger, Trini, as soon as she left _her_ best friend, Kimberly, alone.

"O.K. So what's the scoop on these two?" Zach asked her, rhetorically.

"I think the lovebird hit them right in the heart." Trini replied. "How is Tommy about all this?"

"Tommy's completely love-struck." Jason replied with no preamble at all. "But he thinks she's too good for him. And you _know_ what a low self-esteem he's got."

Trini shook her head. "Kim thinks _he's_ too good for _her_! And that's not going to be good for the team."

Zach and Jason stared. "So you want to get them over their crushes? It's going to be hard to do that, 'cause we just left them alone again. Without blankets. Which means they're probably huddled together again."

Trini frowned. "What gave you that idea?"

"That's what they were doing before they knew we were watching."

"Exactly. _Before_ they knew we were watching."

"Affirmative! I surmise that they would greatly appreciate it if we could devise a manner in which they could spend some quality time together away from their peers' prying eyes."

"What?" Jason and Zach asked.

Trini rolled her eyes. "What he says is that we should figure out a way so that they could be left alone, in a park or something."

"Alone? No." Jason objected. "Tommy gets a little shy around Kimberly."

"But they won't get anywhere if we're there, Jason. They _do_ respect their privacy, as it is. Maybe we should interfere, you're right, but not privately. Openly."

"Yeah! Maybe we should tell Tommy, right out, how Kim feels about him. She might not like it, but it'll be better for her and the team in general in the long run."

"Right. I agree completely."


"Let's do it, Power Rangers!"

Then, suddenly, Zordon started to speak. "Power Rangers! I have figured out a way to get Kimberly and Tommy out of the mirror. Simply tell Tommy not to reach for the power outside him, but to reach for the goodness inside him. It will restore his powers, as they were not stolen as they believe, simply tucked inside Tommy by the force of being pressed into the mirror. Even though Kimberly's powers _have_ been stolen, Tommy's powers cannot be taken away, as they are anchored inside him by his purity. Hence the 'White Ranger.' The same power will keep him warm in the Mirror Ice."

Zach had a horrifying thought. "Hey, Zordon! What if Tommy were to, say, fall for some girl. Just if. Would he lose his 'purity?' Would he lose his powers? And what about Kim? We can't take Tommy out and leave her there!"

"I do not know, Power Rangers. I do not know. But when the White Ranger activates his powers, I'm sure that he will figure out a way to get Kimberly out of there. That is what makes him a good leader: he thinks for his team, first, himself, later."

They nodded, and quickly teleported back to the ice-room.

Instantly, they were hit by a wave of cold. _Extreme_ cold. Trini and Jason were basically untouched, but Zach shivered instantly, and wrapped arms around himself. Then they thought of Kimberly, especially susceptible to cold, and looked around the room. Sure enough, Kimberly was asleep in Tommy's arms... literally. In fact, they were _both_ snoozing. Kimberly was curled up in Tommy's lap, his flannel draped loosely around both of them, Tommy's back against a wall and Kimberly's head against his chest, pillowed in her hands.

"Aww... how sweet. Jase, I hate to wake them up." Zach whispered.

"Yeah, me too. You think we should leave them alone?"

"Guys, if we do, then they may freeze, remember?"

"Negative. _Kimberly_ may, but Tommy won't." Billy reminded her.

Trini cast an _extremely_ dirty look at Billy.

"Just making an observation, Trini."

"No, really, should we wake 'em?"

"Yeah, I guess we should. Kimberly first?"


Trini went over to Kimberly, and shook her ever so gently. She murmured softly and yawned before opening her eyes. "Huh? Trini? Where am I?"

"Shhh..." Trini said, gently. "You fell asleep. You're in the Mirror, remember?"

"Oh. Right. That was because you guys took so long!"

Trini looked at her strangely. "We were only gone a few minutes..."

"Huh?" Kimberly said. "You've been gone for hours!"

Trini exchanged a look with Jason and Zach, who shrugged. Then Jason smiled. "Before you move any, Kim, look who you were sleeping on."

"Hmm?" She turned her head and looked straight into Tommy's napping face. "Oh!"

The exclamation seemed to wake him up somewhat because he blinked a few times and removed his hands from around her waist to stretch, joints popping a little. Kimberly scrambled up to shake him gently.

"Hmmm?" he said, somewhat sleepily. "Kim?"

"Yes, Tommy." she said, softly.

"Where are we?"

"We're in the mirror, remember?" she replied, gently. More gently than any of them had ever heard her talk before. Trini and Jason exchanged a glance and rolled their eyes, smiling a bit.

Tommy's eyes snapped open completely, and he jumped up. "Geez! How long have you guys been here! Sorry, I fell asleep..."

Jason grinned at him. "We noticed." he commented wryly. Then, he grabbed Tommy by the arm and led him to a corner of the room. "Look, man, Zordon figured out a way to get you out of here.

"That's great!" Tommy exclaimed. "What is it?"

Jason smiled a slow, cat-and-canary smile. "I'm not telling you--"


"--until you promise to ask Kimberly to dance at the Valentines prom next Friday."


"You heard me. Promise you'll ask Kim to dance with you at the prom, and I'll tell you how to get out of here."

"This isn't the time for matchmaking, Jason!" Tommy exclaimed, agitated. "How will I _get_ to the prom, anyway? You've got to have a date, remember? Pair Dance? And... and... what if she says no?"

"She won't, man. She's head-over-heels, y'know what I mean?" Zach interjected. "Besides, you'd rather go around like some lovesick seventh grade Junior High School kid, not knowing how the heck _she_ feels?"

"Well... no..."

"Then go!"

"Whoa, wait a minute, guys. Tell me how to get us out of here _first_, and I'll not just ask Kimberly to the prom, I'll ask her to be my girlfriend. I promise. O.K?"

Jason and Zach thought for a while, then mutually agreed. "O.K."

"Now, how?"

"Your powers never left you. They've just been in you all this while. So all you have to do, according to Zordon, is reach inside yourself and find your 'goodness inside of you.'"

"The _what_? How am I going to do that?"

"I dunno. Maybe," a mischievous gleam came into Jason's eyes, "you could ask Kimberly?"

"Thanks!" Tommy nodded, much to Jason's surprise. "I'll do that."

He walked over to where Trini was trying to convince Kimberly to ask _him_ out. As soon as he drew nearer to them, they instantly shut up.

"Oh, no." he protested. "Don't mind me, ladies. Go on as you were..."

Trini and Kimberly exchanged a glance and were lost in helpless giggles, a puzzled Tommy watching them laugh. As soon as they stopped, Trini hastened to explain. "We were just talking about--"

"--that guy who works at Ernie's asking Trini out. Isn't that the coolest?" Kimberly interrupted smoothly. That was, in fact, only a half-truth, as Richie _hadn't_ asked Trini out, but it would suffice...

Tommy grinned. "Really, Trini? That _is_ cool."

"So, Tommy, what brings you to the girl's side of the mirror?" Kimberly asked quietly. Trini could see what she was hoping, but...

"Well... I was just wondering why _I'm_ the leader of the Power Rangers and not one of the other guys."

"Well... you're strong..." Trini supplied.

"Jason's just as strong, I think."

"You're a good martial artist..."

"And the others aren't?"

"You're smart..."


"You can solve problems that even Zordon can't."

"Everyone gets lucky sometime!"

"You're cute..." Trini said, wrinkling her nose with a smile. Kim suppressed a momentary twinge of jealousy.

Tommy threw back his head and laughed his irresistible laugh. "I don't think that's in the running, Trini! Besides, I'm not."

Kimberly cocked her head and said, softly, "I know. What it is, I mean."

Tommy cocked his head back. "Really? What?"

"You think of others before you think of yourself. You don't insult people, you're always handing out compliments, and you're the kind of person someone can always count on. When you're needed, you'll always be there . In other words, you're a really sweet guy."

"Really?" Tommy asked, after a few seconds of silence. "You think so?"

Kimberly nodded, and so did Trini. He turned to Zach, Billy and Jason, who were behind them. They, too, nodded silently. "I think Kim said it better than any of us could have."

"Well, then..." Tommy said, taking a deep breath. "I'm going to try to teleport back to the command center. Wish me luck, people."

"Good luck, Tommy."

"Good luck, man."

"Best of luck."

"Felicitations, Tommy."

"Go get 'em, Tommy."

This last was Kimberly, who rested a hand on his shoulder and looked into his brown eyes with her own. He nodded to her, then took a deep breath--

--and teleported out in a beam of white light.

He reappeared in the command center, where Alpha was very relieved to see him. "Tommy! You're back!" the little robot chirruped.

"Yes, Alpha. I'm back."

"Tommy. Are you aware that Kimberly's powers are not anchored to her as yours are? And that they are no longer with her?"

"WHAT?!" Tommy yelled, stricken.

"They have been stolen by an clone, a creation of Zedd's, who looks exactly like her. But the Kimberly in the mirror is the _real_ Kimberly, as far as I can tell."

"But Zordon... if she hasn't got her powers, then isn't she trapped in the mirror?" asked Tommy, somewhat distraught.

"No. Anything in direct full or almost-full contact with a teleporting Power Ranger will teleport with them. If you were to carry her, for example, she would teleport with you. But it would use up a lot of energy. You, of course, have limitless energy, but the other Power Rangers..."

"I read you, Zordon. No problem."

Zordon nodded, and Tommy disappeared once again in a stream of light.

He reappeared in the chamber, which seemed _much_ colder than when he'd left. Kimberly was nodding off from the cold, and despite Trini's best efforts to wake her, kept dozing off. As soon as Trini saw him, she gestured him over, worry evident on her face. "Tommy," she said, "you've been gone for hours!"

"How's Kim?"

"Not good. The cold's getting to her, I think."

Tommy crouched beside Kimberly, and gently touched her face with the back of his hand. He recoiled away. She was ice-cold.

"We've gotta wake her up!" Tommy said, urgently.

"I know. I tried, but... she just won't stay awake!"

Tommy took off his flannel and cradled Kimberly in his arms. He wrapped the flannel around both of them, and carefully warmed her hands with his own. Slowly, slowly, she came to.

"Hmmm? Tommy?" she murmured. She burrowed into him. "Lemme sleep..."

"No, Kim..." but it was too late. She'd already drifted off.

Tommy, frustrated and worried, started to fret. "Guys... what are we going to do?"

Suddenly, Alpha appeared on the wall of ice. "Power Rangers! The _real_ Kimberly has been placed under a spell called the Sleeping Beauty. She will sleep until someone breaks the spell..."

"How?" Tommy asked desperately.

"I am still working on that, Tommy."

Tommy hung his head and clenched his teeth. Zach dropped his hand on Tommy's shoulder. "Damn, I'm sorry, man. But what'd he mean when he said the _real_ Kimberly?"

Tommy raised his head. "Zedd... created a clone of Kim. He took her powers and gave them to the clone."

"Oh, man!" Then, suddenly, Tommy's watch sounded, clear as a bell.

"Tommy, Alpha and I have ascertained that only _you_ can destroy the clone."

"What?! But..."

"Yes, Tommy. Lord Zedd is aware of your... weakness for Kimberly." Zordon spoke. "You must destroy the clone. She looks and acts exactly like Kimberly."


"But what, Tommy?"

"I couldn't hit Kim even if my life depended on it! There's no _way_ I could destroy her!"

"You must. The real Kimberly will never regain her powers otherwise."

"I'll... I'll do what I can, Zordon."

"Get Kimberly out of there. Get her to the command center. Alpha will have a bed ready for her."

"We read you, Zordon."

"Good luck, Tommy. May the Power protect you."

"Yeah. Whatever. Tommy out."

Tommy picked up Kimberly easily, and they promptly disappeared in the beam of white light that was Tommy's trademark.

The other Power Rangers exchanged a glance that said as clear as daylight, "Poor guy." before they, too, teleported back to the command center in their signature banners of colored light.

At the command center, Tommy placed Kimberly in the soft pink room Alpha had prepared for her. He lay her in the downy pink mattress, and smoothed her hair under her head in a brief, loving caress. He turned at a brief cough from behind him.

"Tommy... you really care for her, don't you." Trini said, quietly. It wasn't a question.

"Yeah." he replied, briefly.

"What are you going to do about Kimberly's clone, Tommy? You won't be able to destroy her, will you. And Billy and Zach and Jason are working on a way to break Kimberly's Sleeping Beauty spell."

"Just... just leave me alone, Trini."

"O.K... just... good luck, Tommy. Zordon told me to tell you... the clone's in the park. You might want to... you know... talk to her."

"Why me?"

"Because she'll be most receptive to you. The _real_ Kimberly was."

Tommy smiled a little. "Thanks, Trini. I'll give it a shot. Watch over Kim, would you?"

She nodded. Tommy disappeared.

He reappeared in the park. He wandered around, lonely, because normally, if he'd been in the park, he would have been with either Jason, Zach or Kimberly.

And suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He threw it off and whirled, battle-ready... and came face-to-face with --


He dropped out of his battle position as fast as he had dropped in, his mind completely blank. He blinked. Blinked again. Kimberly smiled up at him. "I'm sorry, did I startle you? It's just that you looked so blue that... well, I had to cheer you up."

Tommy's mind cleared, and he smiled a little. This was _exactly_ the type of thing Kimberly would do. In fact, that was how he'd met her. But this was her _clone_! "Did I really look that bad?"

"You looked that bad. Want an ear?"

"Ah... well, yeah. Oh, I'm Tommy. You are...?"

"I... well... I don't really have a name. I've been calling myself Kimberly, after the person I was cloned from, but..."

"I know."


"I know. I know you're Kimberly's clone. Come with me for a minute, O.K?"

"Well... O.K... but where are we going?"

"You'll see." he picked her up easily and teleported to the command center.

There, at the command center, the other Rangers were having little success. No matter what they tried, Kimberly's sleep could not be broken. So you could imagine their reaction when Tommy appeared in the command center, carrying the pseudo-Kimberly in his arms.

They were furious. He tried to explain, but the others would not listen... until they realized the pseudo-Kimberly standing at the side, looking at them all with mournful eyes.

"Look, girl, I don't know _why_ he brought you here, but you're gonna get out of here as soon as possible. You're a creation of Lord Zedd, which means you can't be on our side." Zach said, angry and brusque.

With that, Kimberly's clone started to cry.

They exchanged a glance. None of Zedd's other monsters had been capable of _feeling_, before. "That's what I was trying to tell you." Tommy said, frustrated. "She can _feel_. She saw me looking depressed, and she came and tried to cheer me up."

"So what are you telling me. That she's Kim?"

"NO! No, nothing could ever replace Kim... I of all people know that best."

"Wh..." the clone-Kimberly asked, "Who are you people?"

"You guys, you're scaring her." Trini admonished. She trusted Kim's clone. To a certain extent, of course. "I'm Trini. I'm the Yellow Ranger."

Jason and Zach froze. "Why the heck did you do that?!"

Tommy shut them up. "Doesn't matter. She's already in the command center. You know me already, but I'm Tommy, the White Ranger. He's Jason--"

"The Red Ranger." Jason said, grudgingly.

"I'm Zach. I'm the Black Ranger."

"I'm Billy. I'm the Blue Ranger."

"I am Alpha, Kimberly-girl."

The pseudo-Kimberly cocked her head at him. "Wh.. what's going on? I don't understand. You're the Power Rangers? Then... then where's the Pink Ranger?"

Their faces turned grave, but Jason answered the question. "For now, girl, you _are_ the Pink Ranger. The _real_ Kimberly is under a spell cast by Lord Zedd, called the Sleeping Beauty. Lord Zedd took her powers and gave them to you."

A week passed, slow and sure. Tommy trusted the new Kimberly... but simply couldn't feel the same way about her that he did about the real Kim. Where Kim was a beautiful ring of gold, shaped by experience, her clone was clearly not much more than a nugget of rough pyrite. But it didn't mean that she couldn't feel...

"I... I..." Kimberly's clone faltered, "Can I see her? Kimberly?"

Tommy gestured her over to the room, where Kimberly was lying on the bed. The _other_ Kimberly walked in, and looked at herself.

"She's very pretty. Prettier than me. You care for her, don't you." It was not a question.

Tommy laughed. "How can she be prettier than you if you look exactly like her?"

"You're avoiding the question."

Tommy evaded her eyes. "Yes. Yes, I do care for her. A lot. But... well... how did you know?"

"I can see it in your eyes whenever you look at me. You _want_ to hate me, because I have the body and powers that are rightfully hers, but you can't bring yourself to, because you're such a nice guy. Pure and light, that's the power of white." she said, quietly.

Tommy nodded, looking ashamed. "You're right. It's... it's silly."

"No, it's not. I think it's rather sweet. Proves it's not just the face you care for."

"Speaking of which, how _can_ she be prettier than you if you look exactly like her?"

She rolled her eyes. "I've only been alive a week, Tommy. I haven't had any of the experience that makes her, her. I don't have her spirit, just her body. I have her powers.. but well... I'm my own person, but I'll always be in her shadow."

"Why do you say that? I _won't_ destroy you, you know. You're too much of Kim for that. It's not your fault that you have her powers. And her face."

"My _mind_ is mine, but I feel the same way about things that she does. I like the people she does, and I despise the people she did. But everyone can tell that I'm only a copy. But..." she looked down. "Is it really so bad if she never wakes up?"

Tommy turned on her, eyes blazing. "WHAT?!" he roared.

The girl squirmed. "I'm a fast learner, Tommy. Tell me what she was like, and in a few days I could _be_ her. I've already learned most of the martial arts that she knew. How many girls do you know that can do that in a week? And..." she said, looking almost ashamed. "I think I'm in love with you."

Tommy's mouth fell open a crack. He looked at the girl who wore the face of the one he loved. "No." he said, weakly. "Oh, no."

"I'm sorry, Tommy... but I couldn't help it... you're so sweet...gentle..."

"Oh, no. This can't be happening." He sat down with a thump in Kimberly's bedside chair and cupped his face in his hands.

The pseudo-Kimberly touched his shoulder gently. "I know I can never really replace the real Kimberly... but it doesn't mean I can't try..."

"You don't understand. Kim was... unique. No one could ever be like her." Tommy murmured.

"You forget, Tommy, I _am_ Kimberly. Just... different. Please, Tommy, give me a chance."

"No, no, it's not like that. Look, if Kim there is a diamond, you're one too... but she's been carved by seventeen years of life... seventeen years of pain and sorrow, as well as joy. You... you've only been alive a week. You're a rough diamond, and even though a little more comes out each day, it'll take a long time for you to finally be shaped. And when you are... it won't be the same as the original. You said that yourself."

"Are..." Kimberly's voice broke. She tried again. "Are you saying... you don't love me?" she squeaked out.

Tommy bit his lip. She was Kimberly, all right, but there was something lacking. The glow that he loved just wasn't there. The _real_ Kimberly would never have sat him down and talked like this, she would have grabbed him, danced around with him, and kissed him hard on the lips. That was Kimberly's way. To live life the way it was meant to be lived. He simply didn't--couldn't-- feel the same way about _this_ Kimberly that he did about the real one. Other one. Whatever. No matter how much he wished he could.

He didn't need to answer: she could read the pain in his eyes. With a cry she stood up and ran to the room Alpha had assigned to her. The other Power Rangers stared after her, then turned to each other. Then to the room that she had come out of. Tommy was standing in the doorway, horror, grief, pain and utter and complete bafflement flitting across his face. "Oh dear." Trini said, quickly figuring out the situation.

Tommy was still in the doorway, looking upset. "O.K, Tommy, what did you say to her when she confessed that she was in love with you?" Trini sighed. The other Power Rangers turned to look at her. Then at Tommy.

"Huh?" Tommy said, still somewhat shocky.

"Look, Tommy, what did you say."

"Well... I didn't say anything... much. I just told her the truth."

"Which wasn't what she wanted to hear, I'm sure. I take it, you told her that she and Kim were diamonds, but Kim's a carved one and she's one in the rough?"

"What.... yes! That's exactly what I said. But... why me? I'm no better than any of the other guys... no smarter... no stronger... I'm not good-looking..."

Trini smiled slightly. "Quite the contrary, Tommy, you are a _very_ good-looking guy. And what sets you apart from the other guys has little or nothing to do with that. I suppose you'd never believe me if I told you."

"Told me what?"

"Why you're a girl-magnet."

"But I'm not--"

"You don't _think_ you are. I can name ten girls offhand who are sweet on you. And I'm sure there are more than that. It's because of the way you carry yourself. You're a natural-born leader, and you show it, even if you don't know it. You are one of the sweetest guys I know. And any girl who looks at you knows you're faithful until death."

"But-- what am I going to do about that Kimberly?"

"Considerate, too. Well, Tommy, you'll have to handle it yourself. I can't help you there. No one could. That's something that you have to take care of yourself."

"But... she probably hates me now!"

"And you're probably right." Trini agreed, much to Tommy's dismay. "But go see her anyway. She knows it's not your fault, you know. And it isn't."

Only Jason heard his best buddy's muttered "Yeah, right." as Tommy headed for the second Kimberly's room.

"Kim?" he said, softly. "Kim, you in here?"

His only answer was a muffled sob from the bed. He padded in, silently, and sat on the edge of the bed.

"Go away." was the brusque reply.

"Look, Kim--"

"Don't call me that!" she shrieked. "I'm not her! I can never be her! You said so yourself!"

But Tommy read between the lines. What she was saying was that she could never be as _good_ as her. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean--"

"You didn't mean what?" she sobbed.

"I didn't mean to hurt you..." he said, eyes wide with pain. "You can never be Kim, you're right... but it doesn't mean you aren't your own person... Why would you _want_ to be Kim? She's different... you could never be happy living the way she did."

"B--because you love h--her."

There _is_ that. "I'm sorry... really I am... I don't want to see you upset..."

Tommy stood up and sat down closer to her. Gently, he picked her up and gathered her in his arms, letting her cry against his chest rather than the unfeeling pillows. He really wasn't sure what to do, so he did what his heart told him to. When she had spent her tears out, he touched her face with a rough, gentle hand, tilted up her chin, and wiped a stray tear away with the thumb of his other hand. "Now," he said, softly, "I really _am_ sorry... if I had a choice on who I loved, you know what I would do."

"Yes... I do... you would do that just so I wouldn't be hurt?"

"Yes!" said Tommy, surprised. "Of course!"

From the door, Trini shook her head, smiling slightly. And he _wondered_ why women adored him?

Later in the day, at the park, Tommy, Jason and Zach were playing basketball with Kurtis and the others. Trini and Billy were watching from the sidelines, but Kimberly was nowhere to be seen... Kurtis noticed, and at their break, asked his elder cousin Zach about it.

"Well... uh... she's got some... uh... problems on her hands."

"Oh. You mean Tommy?" For the other Power Rangers hadn't been the only ones to notice Tommy's infatuation. And they hadn't been the only ones to notice Kimberly's softening towards Tommy, either.

"Neh." Zach said, firmly. "It ain't Tommy."

Then, suddenly, the _other_ Kimberly came skipping into the park. Not like the real Kimberly would have done, literally skipping, but somberly walking. "I see what you mean. Something's _got_ to be wrong for Kim to look so down!" Kurtis commented.

"Uh, actually, Kurtis, that's not Kim." Jason blurted. Then he thought fast. "That's her twin sister, uh, Katrina, that's it!" Tommy raised an eyebrow at him, and Jason shrugged. Then Tommy smiled slightly, rolled his eyes, and went to meet her. She smiled at him, warmly. _Very_ warmly. The other guys noticed, and traded grins. Tommy walked the girl to the others, having explained to her how she was now _Katrina_ and not _Kimberly_ any more. He introduced her, having to bear with nudges from almost all the guys.

"I don't believe it. Tommy's got all the luck." one of the boys complained, smiling. "First, he charms Kimberly, now Kimberly's twin sister, and he doesn't even know he's doing it!"

"Did you ever think, Rocky, that that may be what the ladies think is so alluring?" Billy commented, smiling.

"Hey, Tommy and Jason both are natural-born girl attractors." another boy, tall, half-Korean and handsome himself, exclaimed good-naturedly, shrugging. "It's not their fault. Except Jason knows it. If Tommy does, he sure doesn't act like it!" They slanted glances at where Tommy and 'Katrina' were playing Frisbee, and even though she didn't have half as much of Kimberly's natural grace and style, and none of her hyperactive glow, she was still a pretty woman. Tommy was laughing, and Katrina was smiling a crooked smile that was, nonetheless, attractive. "I just think that they should be glad none of us are the jealous type."

"You should talk, Adam! You're not exactly chopped liver yourself!" Aisha teased.

They all nodded enthusiastically. And Tommy had to bear with more nudges when he and Katrina sat down to rest.

Back at the command center, the alarm started to go off. "Ay ya yay ya yay!" Alpha exclaimed. "Lord Zedd has unleashed a living time bomb in the shape of a one of the Power Rangers. I cannot figure out who it is!"

Outside in the park, Katrina stumbled as something hit her and sunk in. She missed the Frisbee. Tommy, concerned, asked her, "What's wrong?"

The dizziness had passed, so she just shook her head and went on playing.

"He has tired of toying with the Power Rangers and now wishes to be rid of them, permanently." Zordon explained. "Call in Tommy and the others. This is a _real_ emergency."

Suddenly, the sounds of the call came in through Tommy's wristwatch. And Tommy sighed. "I read you, Zordon."

"Tommy. You and all the other Power Rangers report to the command center immediately."

Tommy looked at Katrina. "Let's go."

"Uh... how?"

"Whoa, whoa, she's a Ranger, too?" Rocky interposed.

"I'll explain later. Sorry, gotta go. Look, Katrina, just touch that button-- no, not that one, _that_ one-- and think of where you want to go."

"Like this?" she asked. She promptly disappeared. Tommy rolled his eyes and teleported himself out.

"I _hate_ it when they do that!" Aisha exclaimed.

At the command center, all the Power Rangers wore grave faces. The news was _not_ good. It was _anything_ but good.

"Power Rangers. Even without her powers, you need Kimberly. She alone can defeat the monster that Zedd has created."

"But-- how will she do that without her powers? And how are we gonna wake her up?" asked Zach.

"I think I may have figured out a way." Billy said, thoughtfully. "The spell she's under--Sleeping Beauty-- is part of our folklore. It would follow that if one of us kissed her, then perhaps the spell's effect will be broken."

All heads turned to Tommy. "But--"

"You've gotta be the one, Tommy!" Zach said.

"You're the only one she won't slap silly if she finds one of us a few inches from her face." Jason stated.


"Go ahead, Tommy. Even if it doesn't work, it couldn't do any harm..." Trini added.

Tommy cast a baleful look at her. "But... I won't kiss her without her consent!"

"Look, Tommy, time's running short." Katrina expostulated. "If it's permission you need, then as her clone, I give you permission. Now go!"

Tommy strode silently to Kimberly's bedside, and sat on the edge of the bed, next to Kimberly's arm. "C'mon, buddy, this is no time to be getting cold feet!" Jason exclaimed. "You've got to do it!"

Tommy leaned down and touched his lips to her forehead. As expected, it didn't work. "You might try kissing her _lips_, Tommy." Katrina commented somewhat acidly.


"Tommy... you've got to." she said, her eyes, Kim's eyes, begging. He couldn't resist. "Not for her... not for me... for _you_."

He took a deep breath, and let it out in a "whoosh." Once again, he bent over Kimberly. Once again, he slowly leaned closer and closer to her... studying the quiet beauty of her unadorned features... the ripples of her hair... ever so gently, he cupped one hand against her cheek and touched his mouth to hers... their lips pressed together in a gentle kiss.

He held it for a short time, then sat up and stared into her face. No sign that she was going to wake up. No fluttering eyelids, no twitch of lips, no yawns or stretching. Nothing. Tommy turned to the other Rangers, discouraged, for he had been hoping that it would work. Without saying anything, he shook his head.

The other Rangers looked at him. Then behind him. They seemed to be finding something very funny indeed.

Then, suddenly, a soft voice sounded from behind him. "Tommy?"

"What is it, Katrina."

"Uh... Tommy... my name's Kimberly. Not Katrina."

Tommy whirled, and all the other occupants of the room could swear that they had never seen a human face looking more like a stunned ox in their entire lives.

"Kim!" he exclaimed, joyfully. "It... you're awake!"

"I'm awake." she agreed, sitting up in the pillows. "What's all the fuss about?"

"We were so worried about you! You've been asleep for over a week now!" Trini cried.

"Well, I'm back. But--" she said, anguish in her eyes, "my powers!"

Tommy looked into her golden-brown eyes and said, quietly, "You're going to meet someone who will give you quite a shock, Kim. So prepare yourself."

And he gestured towards Katrina.

"Hi." Katrina said, wiggling her fingers at Kim.

Kimberly looked at herself. Then the clone. _Then_ she fainted.

A few minutes later, having recovered from the shock of seeing herself, Kimberly was finally told the truth about her powers. And about Katrina.

"Look, I'm sorry..." Katrina apologized for the hundredth time.

"There's nothing to be sorry about! There was nothing you could do." Kimberly said, patting her clone on the back.

"But... but..." she murmured, "But there's something I could have done about Tommy."

Unfortunately, Kim had keen ears. "What about Tommy?" she asked sharply.

"Nothing... nothing..." Katrina stammered.

Kim narrowed her eyes at the clone. Then stalked off to find Tommy.

"O.K. Tommy, what is it between you and Katrina?" she asked, somewhat miffed.


"What is it between you and Katrina?" she repeated.

"Nothing! Absolutely nothing. We're friends." he replied, puzzled. "Why?"

Kimberly told him what Katrina had said.

"Oh. Ohhh." Tommy said, understanding. "Well..." he tried to stall.

"Well what, Tommy?" she said in a tone that brooked no reluctance.

Tommy told her. About Katrina's feelings for him. How he was the only one who could destroy her. And how Kimberly could only get her powers back if Katrina was destroyed.

Kimberly looked at him. Then she looked down. "I... I guess..." she said, tears in her eyes, "I guess I'm not a Power Ranger any more, huh."

Tommy looked at her in shock. "Kim! Don't say that! You'll always be--"

Kimberly cut him off. "Don't say anything, Tommy. Just don't. You didn't hang around when you lost your powers. You were only a Power Ranger in spirit. Why am I different?"

"You're a part of the team, Kim! One of us. Katrina isn't. Even Aisha, Adam and Rocky are more Power Rangers than she is ! And they don't even have _powers_! She's a great girl, sure, but... the other Rangers still don't trust her much, not like you! You can't go! We need you..." he said, quietly. And somehow, the quietness made him all the more convincing. " Who'm I kidding. _I_ need you..." he said, under his breath.

She looked at him through haunted eyes. "No. No, Tommy. I can't stay. Won't. Not under the same roof as the girl who took everything I cared for."

Tommy frowned. "Now Kim, that isn't fair--"

"Isn't it?" she said, looking at him from hooded eyes.

Tommy had nothing to say. Or rather, he _could_ say nothing.

With that, Kim left the room and had Alpha teleport her home, and left Tommy sitting with his face in his hands.

Part Two: Fly with the Skies, Roar with the Thunder

Sometime in the next few days, the day before the dance, Tommy was sparring half-heartedly with Adam, in the grass of the park. Adam could tell that something was on Tommy's mind, but chose not to comment on it, until a feint that not even a child would have fallen for slipped Tommy's defense, and connected with his shoulder. It was a light punch, true, but for Tommy, a much better martial artist than Adam, to let such a punch through his defense was unthinkable.

"Tommy... something bothering you, buddy? You don't have a date for tomorrow's Valentines dance?"

"Yeah... something like that."

"Kim hasn't asked you yet? You haven't asked her? How come? You've got to do it, you know. Let her know how you feel."

Tommy looked downcast. "Kim... she's not in such a good mood..."

"Why?" Adam asked, gesturing for Tommy to sit beside him on the soft grass.

"Well... Adam, Katrina's not Kimberly's twin."

Adam nodded. "We sort of figured it out."

"She's her clone. Kim's lost her powers, and Katrina has them."

Adam sat bolt upright. "What?! But... how did that happen?"

"Zedd happened. He made her. Took Kim's powers, gave them to her. We think he was trying to make his own little puppet. But he gave it a brain. And that 'it' turned out to be Kat."

"So... Kim's not a Ranger any more. And she feels like she's a drag on the group. And Katrina's sweet on you, and you feel nothing for her." Adam added.

"Yeah." Tommy sighed. "Exactly."

Adam patted him on the back. "I'm sorry, Tommy. "

"Yeah. Not just that, the guys made me promise that I would ask Kim to dance at the prom on Friday-- no, tomorrow. That was _before_ we knew her powers were gone."

Adam shrugged. "Do it anyway. It'll make her feel better."

"I... I know what she's going through. It hurts. A lot. You know that you can't ever fit in with the people you know best again, because you're different from them."

"What? You lost your powers?"

"And who do you think the Green Ranger was? Besides, I can't go to the prom without a date!"

"So ask Trini if she'll escort you."

"She's already _got_ an escort, I think. Don't take my word for it, but I think that guy who works in Ernie's is the lucky fellow. Richie, yeah, that's his name. Besides... _Trini_?"


[Is it just my imagination,] Tommy thought, [Or does Adam sound disappointed?]

"Well, I was thinking of staying home and catching up with my reading anyway--"

"You're not _going_? C'mon, Adam, you've got to go! This is the _prom_, for goodness sakes!"

"Yeah... but it's so _embarrassing_ not to have a date, you know!"

"Well, tell me who you want to go with and I'll see what I can do."

Adam blushed. "No... no, it's O.K. I didn't really want to go anyway."

"Uh-huh. Look, Adam, _I'm_ going, and _I_ don't have a date, either."

"You forget, you _have_ to have a date to get into the prom floor! No, you don't have a date _now_, but I can name five girls off the top of my mind who are going to ask you to be their date for the dance as soon as you walk into the school on t'morrow. The only reason you haven't been pounced on yet is that you keep a wide berth from most of the other girls. No one's going to ask me..."

Tommy frowned. Adam was more like him then he'd ever guessed. "That's what you think, buddy. I'm sure someone will ask you."

Adam snorted. "With you and Zach and Jason and Rocky and Billy around? I don't think so."

"Oh, c'mon, Adam, I'm sure there's got to be at least _one_ girl who knows that what you are inside is worth ten faces like Jason's."

Adam laughed somewhat bitterly. "I get too nervous around girls. That's not going to work. I go tongue-tied."

"What about Kim and Trini and Aisha?"

"What about them?"

"They're girls, too."

"Well... yeah, but... that's different. They're _friends_. Besides, Aisha's planning to ask Zach to go with her, Kim... well... Kim's _your_ girl, and like you said, Trini's already got a date."

"But seriously, would you ever think of going to the prom with any of them?"

"Well... maybe... why?"

Tommy's eyes flicked to the tree nearby where he saw a flash of yellow that could only be two things: a canary that got out of its cage...

Or Trini eavesdropping on them. Which proved that Trini really _did_ like him.

"Because I think that Trini really likes you. You're her type of guy: you're about as Oriental as she is, so her parents can't really object, smart, quiet, and a good martial artist." And he heard a slight grumble of annoyance from the tree. The sound that someone makes when they trip on a twig and barely manages to balance themselves. Unless canaries could grumble, then he was _sure_ it was Trini.

"You think so?" Adam said, eagerly. _Too_ eagerly.

Tommy snorted. "Is there something that you're not telling us, Adam? Like how you feel about Trini, maybe?"

"Well... no--"

"--and the pigs are sure flying in tight formation over Angel Grove today, right, Trini?" Tommy said, grinning, looking intently at the tree. With a grumble and a grin, Trini dropped out of the tree and landed, like her proverbial animal, the Sabretooth Tiger, on her feet.

"T-Trini?" Adam stammered. "I... I didn't know you were there..."

Tommy chuckled. "Well, it would have been bloody unlikely for you to have said anything _useful_ if you _had_ known... You can come out now, Aisha."

In a flash of lemon-yellow, Aisha too dropped out of another tree. "You didn't need to tell him I was planning to ask Zach, you know." she said, grumbling. "He didn't exactly need to know..."

"As if you weren't planning to tell me yourself!" Tommy commented. "So, Adam, what do you say?"


Trini came forward. "What that silly boy means is for you to answer my question."

"What question?" Adam said, confused.

"Would you like to be my escort for the Valentines dance?" Trini asked in a somewhat small voice, suddenly shy. "Please?" she added.

Adam stared at her with wide-open eyes. "Etoo... this is sudden..."

"Anoo... I know... would you?"

"Trini... do you speak Mandarin?"

"Yes... a little..."

"Wo ai ni, Trini."

Trini's head snapped up. Those were words she'd dreamed of for many a night... but never thought she would hear... "Does that mean yes?"

"Of course!" he laughed. He then picked her up and swung her around, her squealing happily. Tommy walked away, happy for them... wistful as he was... he teleported to the command center. Then he sat down hard on a chair and tried to stifle tears.

[Dammit, you idiot, if you miss Kim that bad, then go see her!]

[But if you do that, she might not want to see you... I think she might have been happier... if you hadn't woken her up at all...]

Alpha tottered into the room and saw his eyes moist and red. "Tommy! What is wrong?"

"Nothing, Alpha. I'll be O.K."

"Are you positive about that, Tommy?" Billy asked, worriedly poking his head into the room. "You don't look so good."

"I'm sure I'll be fine, Billy. Thanks anyway. Hey, what does 'wo aye nee' mean anyway, Billy?"

Billy blinked. "I believe that is Mandarin Chinese for 'I love you.' Wherever did you hear such a thing?"

"Oh... Trini and Adam."

"Oh. That's good. It's about time, too."

Jason popped his head in. "Look, buddy, if you miss Kim that much, then go see her. See how she's feeling."

"She doesn't want sympathy. I _know_. I lost my powers too, remember? She doesn't want pity or sympathy, she wants to be alone. That's why _I_ ran away when I lost my powers, anyway."

"Yeah... yeah, we know. Kim was having a fit trying to find you. You might have told us you were going..."

"That's in the past. What matters now is Kim."

Suddenly Katrina was in the doorway, her eyes liquid and melting and full of tears. "Tommy..."

[Oh damn. I can't handle this.]

"Tommy... I've done something... that isn't so good."

"What, Kat." Tommy asked tiredly.

"Tommy... promise you won't be mad?"

"I can't promise what I might not deliver." Tommy said shortly. "I'll try, but no guarantee."

"I... I went to Lord Zedd... there was a message in my room... it said I only have two more days to live.. I went to him to prolong my life... in return I gave him Kim..."

"WHAT?!?!" Tommy bellowed, surging to his feet in a single fluid movement.

"Ay ya yay ya yay!" Alpha said, horrified. "Then _you_ are the living time bomb that appeared a few days ago! Zedd must have activated some chemical imbalance inside you!

Katrina flinched away. "There was a note in my room... telling me that I have two more days to live... I told him I'd give him Kim... if he prolonged my life... I told him how to get Kim... and he told me not to trust anyone... he sent me away..."

She looked up at Tommy, whose eyes were as hard and as cold as steel. "I can't even feel sorry for you, Kat. How can you, a Power Ranger, SELL ONE OF YOUR OWN FOR YOUR OWN BENEFIT?! That was in the code that we swore when we were made Power Rangers!"

"But... I wasn't made a Power Ranger..."

"Bloody _Hell_!" Tommy spat. "Where's Kim?"

"I think... she's at her house right now... hurry... before Lord Zedd gets her..."

The siren blared, but Tommy was already gone."Power Rangers!" Zordon commanded when all of them arrived in the command center. "Kimberly is about to be taken and killed by Lord Zedd, to ensure his place in the heart of the Rangers through one of you."

All eyes flicked to Katrina, who looked as guilty as anything she had ever been capable of. "Where's Tommy?" Trini asked, looking around.

"He has already taken charge of the situation."

There were knowing glances all around. They would have smiled had the situation not been so grave. "Beware. Zedd has sent a decoy to Kimberly in the form of Tommy to lure her to his Dimension of Doom, and if that is not possible, kill her. Only you Power Rangers will be able to tell which is the real Tommy-- and strike well, for your powers can and will harm Tommy as well as the decoy. May the Power protect you all."

"It's morphin' time!" Jason yelled.




"Sabretooth Tiger!"


They found themselves, suited and armed, in front of Kimberly's house. There, they could hear the sounds of two men fighting, and a woman trying her best to get the hell out of their way without hurting either of them. They burst inside--

And were struck dumb by the sight of two Tommys, dressed identically, fighting identically with the same moves, and both claiming in the same voice that _they_ were the _real_ Tommy. And no one could differentiate anything between them.

Then they noticed something. "Katrina... doesn't Tommy usually take the defense?If he can?" Kimberly whispered to the Pink Ranger.

"I don't know." Pink Ranger whispered back. "I haven't known him for that long."

Kimberly cast her a look half of contempt and half of sympathy. "Well, I think he does. And if I know him, he'd rather take the defense unless he has to. So I'm going to aim for the one on offence, and when he's down, hit him with all you've got. Tell the others. Got it?"

"But..." Katrina faltered, "what if it's the wrong Tommy? You'll die... and so will he."

"I don't _care_ if I die! I'm not important. My life doesn't matter. If he rubs me out, then Zordon'll find someone else to be the Pink Ranger. You, probably." Kimberly gritted out. "And there're the other Power Rangers. If it's the wrong Tommy, there's still Jason to lead the Power Rangers and get rid of the fake Tommy."

Katrina stared at her, aghast. "You... don't... care?"

"See, that's where we're different. I'm willing to die for my cause. Tommy is. All the other Rangers are. It's just you that won't. You'll die because of that bastard Lord Zedd, who made you to destroy us. And he's doing a damn fine job of it, too.""

"I... I'm sorry, Kimberly..." Katrina whispered, "I led _him_ here... to kill you... so Tommy would turn to me..."

She looked up and there was no accusation on Kimberly's face. Only sympathy and understanding. "I know." she said, quietly. Just before she launched a flying kick at the Tommy who was stridently trying to beat his other into a bloody pulp. It connected solidly with his head, and combined with the hardness of Kimberly's high-heeled pink boots, the effect was devastating. He went crashing to the ground. But then he did something that proved without a doubt that he was _not_ the real Tommy. He sprang to his feet, red blood dripping down the side of his face, and backhanded Kimberly into the wall, snarling. There was the sickening _snap_ of a backbone breaking, and a scream... then... silence. A silence as oppressive as the clamor had been earlier. Tommy cried out and ran to her, as the other Tommy was readying a single knife, which he threw with deadly accuracy at his noble counterpart...

The world slowed to an instant as the knife screamed through the air. There was a single cry of "Nooooo!!" A flash of pink in the path of the knife... a lone scream... a shriek of rage... Trini drew her Power Daggers, and with the reflexes of a cat, a single yellow dagger that glittered with a yellow light like fire flew from her hand and the false Tommy shattered into a million fragments of golden glimmer. And it was over.

Tommy cradled Kimberly in his arms, she barely conscious, Tommy's shirt patched with blood of which at least some was his own... "Kim... Kim..." he murmured, his eyes misty and wet with grief and fatigue, for the battle had taken more than it showed out of the indomitable leader of the Power Rangers.

Almost indomitable.

"Tommy? Tommy..." she murmured. "It... it hurts..."

"I know, Kim, I know... You'll be O.K. I promise." he turned to the other Rangers. "Guys we need an ambulan..." he trailed off when he saw Katrina lying on the floor, her costume shimmering away, little by little by little...

Ever so gently, he stood up... careful not to jar the woman he held in his arms... even so, Kimberly let out a low moan...

Quietly, fluidly, he went to Katrina's side. She, too, opened her eyes slowly... "Tommy?" she murmured, as if from far away.

"I'm here, Kat. I'm here."

"I did good, right, Tommy?"

A solitary tear trickled down his face as his eyes moistened again. "You did good, Kat."

"Tommy?" her voice grew weaker. "Tommy, do I have a soul?"

This was too much for Tommy. Kimberly and Katrina were both dying before his very eyes... and with all his supernatural abilities, he was powerless to stop it. Tears started trailing along his cheeks in earnest, and the other Rangers were weeping quite profusely as well... "I'm... I'm sure you do, Kat."

"Thank you, Tommy. Thank you for always... I love you..."

And with that, she disappeared in a wash of golden dust. Kimberly gave a cry as she felt her powers rushing back to her... and went limp quietly in Tommy's arms.

Tommy looked down at the extra weight to his arms, gasped in alarm, and teleported back to the command center as fast as he could.

The other Power Rangers exchanged identical looks of absolute grief and horror. They, too, teleported back to the command center.

Tommy lay Kim, as gently as he could, on the bed, and stormed outside to yell at Zordon. "Look, Zordon, isn't there _anything_ you can do?!" he shouted, half-mad with grief.

"Tommy, she has broken her spinal cord. I do not know--"

"All this power you gave us, and we can't do anything to stop one of our own from dying?! _Nothing_?!"

"There is... something..." Zordon said, slowly. "Your powers... they come from the Ladies of the Six Powers... you may appeal to them..."

"How do I get there?"

"You may contact them by sending out tendrils of your power. Six."

"Six." Tommy said, somewhat sardonically. "I should have guessed." But he closed his eyes and sent out six questing cords of power, strong as steel, thin as thread.

And he was supremely surprised when he received an answer. There was an answering thread of power, which seemed to give him the notion of blood... yet he knew that it wasn't evil... no, indeed, it was the supreme good...

Six women appeared before him; one woman had black hair and black eyes, with rich brown skin and wore a long dress all of yellow; she stood meek and gentle, and her eyes shone with tenderness. The second, a redhead with green eyes, wore a skirt-not-a-skirt and a simple shirt, all in rich blue; she looked proud, but not proud enough not to admit when she was wrong. The third, blonde with sunny blue eyes, wore an outfit that may have been much like his own-- until he looked close and saw that the rich red leggings and jacket-like outer layer was made up of tiny linked chains, in which she looked as graceful as the wind. The fourth wore what looked like a trail or a hiking outfit of a pretty shade of peach-pink. She had waist-length black hair and sky-blue eyes. The fifth looked like a hunter, with breeches and a short tunic of black velvety material, and close-cropped auburn hair, with amber-gold eyes. And the last looked like... well, a little like him. In fact, a lot like him. Rather than stunningly beautiful as the other five women were, she was handsome, with a strong face and long brown hair and brown eyes. He had only to look into her eyes to see that they shone with an intelligence that the other five couldn't match.

"I am Haramis shena keSelenay. The Mother." the first said, curtseying deeply.

"I am Kadiya shena keNyara. The Maiden." the redhead said, giving a slight bow.

"I am Anigel shena keMiribel. The Warrior." the blonde woman said, inclining her head slightly and giving him a once-over.

"My name is Elspeth shena keResczia. The Guide." the trail-girl said.

"Tarma shena keTalesedri. The Hunter." the gruff-looking woman in black told him.

"My name is Nyara shena keTsia. I am the Guardian." the last woman told him. "Your request goes with me."

She paced around him slightly, looking at him all over. "So. You are my Color's representative. Good, good. What do you need of us?"

"I need to ask a favor of the Ladies of the Power." Tommy said, thinking formally.

"We are they. State your name to all, and what you require." Nyara spoke for them all.

"I am Tommy Oliver, the White Ranger, my lady. I would like to ask if it is possible to save the life of my... friend and colleague, Kimberly Hart."

"It is possible." Nyara replied. A smile twinkled in her brown eyes. "But she is more than a friend and colleague to you, is she not, Tommy White Ranger?"

Tommy blushed, and Haramis stepped forward. "She is, we have noticed. You care for her more than anyone else in the universe, ne?" she said. She had a pleasant, husky voice. "Just as one of my representatives and one of Tarma's do for each other."

"Well... yes, yes, I do."

"I have judged your heart and found it pure, Tommy White Ranger, Guardian of the Power Rangers." Nyara intoned. "It is possible to save Kimberly Pink Ranger... but it will come at great price to yourself. You may die from it. So may she. What price are you willing to pay?"

"I don't care! If you can save her, it doesn't matter if I die. Make me a cripple, if that's what it takes!"

"What about your powers, brave little brother? Would you be willing to lose those? Would you give your powers back to me and lose your chance to ever be a Power Ranger once again if I demanded it, my price for saving her life?"

"_Anything_!" Tommy said, defiantly. "Anything. What good are my powers if she's not there to share the joy of them with me? She's... she's worth more to me than anything. Take my body, my powers, my _life_ if that's what it takes to bring her back."

"Do you feel that strongly, then?"

"Yes." He scrubbed at the tears that started coursing down his cheeks again.

"It is-- well." came the surprising answer. "And what price your obedience?"

"Price? _Price_? I put no price on obedience, Lady. I serve you and all you stand for, as I always have. Just let Kim live... maybe find someone to love... even if it isn't me... and most of all, be free. That's worth anything you might ask of me."

The Guardian regarded him thoughtfully for an eternity and an instant, measuring, weighing.

Then-- she laughed--

And as Tommy stared in numb shock, she held out her hands, palms outwards, one palm facing Tommy, the other facing Kimberly. Bolts of blinding white light, like a laser bolt of silver magnified many times over, leaped from her hands to Tommy, and the woman lying so still on the bed.

Or, possibly, to the shimmering shieldlike coating of golden dust that lay just over Kimberly.

Tommy did not have much chance to see which, for the dagger of light hit him full in the chest, and suddenly he couldn't hear, couldn't see, couldn't breathe. He felt as if a giant hand had picked him up and was squeezing the life out of him. He was blind, deaf, dumb, and made of nothing but the excruciating pain--

[Only let Kim live-- only let her live-- and it's worth any price, any pain--]

Then he was on his hands and knees, panting with an agony that had left him in the blink of an eye-- half-sprawled on the cold floor of the command center.

While beside him, on the bed, there lay a dazed, shocked-- and completely healed-- Kim. Only the tattered wreckage of her clothes and the blood pooled on the bed showed that it had not all been some kind of nightmare.

As Tommy stared, still too numb to move, he could hear the melodious voice of the Guardian Nyara singing in his mind.

:It is well that you have opened your heart, my Sword. My Ranger was meant to be without taint, not without feeling! Remember this always: her life is chained to yours, so take care of her! To have something, sometimes you must be willing to lose it. Love must live free, little brother. Love must live free.:

The other Power Rangers blinked, trying to force what they had just seen into some semblance of sense. They had arrived just to see Nyara point her hands at Tommy and Kimberly, with the other women standing impassive behind them, seen the white bolts shoot out, Tommy scream, disappear, and suddenly reappear next to Kim's bed.

[One moment Kim's dying; there's no chance she's gonna survive, then Tommy 'ports her away, calls on something divine and--]

Kim stirred groggily on the bed; Tommy struggled to get to his feet again. And they all stared. Kim's wounds were completely healed. They were staring at flesh that, a minute ago, had been lacerated, bleeding and broken and was now whole.

"What... happened... Trini?" Kimberly asked weakly. "Where's... where's Tommy?"

Tommy got slowly to his feet,wavering like a drunk, and staggered over to her. He looked completely drained, and his face was lined with pain and exhaustion. His cheeks were hollow, and his hair had come out of its tie and straggled around his face, wet with sweat.

[For that matter, Kim looks the same, if not worse-- what am I thinking? Anything is better than being a heartbeat away from death!] Trini thought pensively.

Tommy sat down heavily on the bed, scrubbing away the remaining tears with the back of his hand. He reached out gently with the same hand and smoothed back Kimberly's disordered hair carefully. The hand he used was shaking, and with the other hand he was bracing himself upright, though the joints of _that_ hand were trying their best to buckle. "It's all right." he sighed, his voice sounding raw and worn to a thread. "I did something-- and it worked. Don't ask what. By the Powers, I'm tired!"

He collapsed into something vaguely like a crouch before them, head hanging; he leaned on both hands, braced against his knees, breathing heavily as if he had just run an endurance race that he could not run all the way yet knowing he had to keep going.

Kimberly tried to move, to get to her feet, and fell right back into the pillows. She held out her hand and watched, fascinated and somewhat confused, as it shook so hard she wouldn't have been able to hold a glass of water without losing half of it.

"I feel awful-- but--" she said, looking down at the shredded remains of her shirt with utter bewilderment. "--I'm alive!"

Tommy gave her a tired smile. "Yes. You're alive."

"Could you tell us what you just did?" The other Power Rangers, baffled, asked.

"I... I called on the Ladies of the Six Powers... and they answered."

"You called on the Ladies to save Kimberly's life," Alpha chirruped, "And you're still around to tell of it?!"

"Well... yes..."

"Do you know how _rare_ that is, Tommy?" Alpha said, his tinny voice incredulous. "That you're still alive and so is Kimberly? Normally, they demand a life in exchange for another."


Suddenly, in a flash of yellow, Haramis appeared. She sighed. The others stared. "I am Haramis, the Mother, and the Guardian sent me to clear things up for you, since you seem to be confused.The reason we spared both of you is that you were more than willing to give up anything, _especially your powers and life_, to save hers. You offered everything you had: your powers, your self, your mind, your heart, your very soul. To save her. It is very rare in this day that one has such selfless devotion to another. So we tied you together permanently; from this day forth, all that happens to you, happens to him, Kimberly. Good luck; you'll need it."


Haramis rolled her eyes. She gestured lightly, and a slight wind gusted through the room. Tommy's shirt drifted open, and there, on his chest, was a beautiful tattoo of a pink firebird twined with a graceful white tiger. It seemed to twitch as he moved to look at it, and it seemed to stir with every motion. Experimentally, he rippled a muscle of his chest, and the firebird flew around the tiger. It _was_ moving!

"It is Nyara's last gift. And yes, it _is_ alive.You both will always wear that tattoo as a reminder of your sacrifice. Kimberly, look."

Kimberly looked down. She, too, had an identical tattoo, except it was in the general vicinity of her stomach. Then she gave a tiny yelp as she realized that her blouse was hanging on the very knife-edge of 'decent.'

Everyone cast glances at Tommy, who had obviously noticed that fact, too, and was blushing furiously. "I, personally, don't think it's fair that Nyara did not replenish the power that she took from you, Tommy, so I will do that now. Remember, White Ranger, if you ever have need of the services of the Ladies... just call. You have won our respect, and that is a hard thing to earn. Best of luck, Tommy. Remember, all of you, not just Tommy: love must run free." With that, she disappeared.

"What a strange thing to say!" Trini said, wonderingly.

"Hey... I feel a lot better!" Tommy said, springing to his feet easily.

"Me too. I think I'd better get home and-- my powers!" Kim said. "They're... they're back? That means--"

Tommy bowed his head and his eyes misted. He dashed away what was starting to form into tears with the back of his hand. "I... I could only save one of you... so I chose the one who was my friend and not just my colleague. But... it didn't make it any easier..."

"Thanks, Tommy." Kimberly said. Her eyes said more than that. "Look, people, I'm going home to change, then I'll see you guys at the park, O.K?"

"Uh... O.K..." they said, somewhat surprised at her fast recovery. They all teleported out of the room... except for Tommy.

He called out for a single name in his head.


Tommy was quite surprised when she actually answered, though.

:Nya, Nya. We're friends, even if I am your Color's keeper.:

[Nyar-- Nya, I 'm confused. I thought that you, being the Guardian, might understand...?]

:What are you confused about, Tommy?:

[Well... about Kim. She was beautiful before... and spirited... and I loved her. I still do. But now it's worse because now she believes she owes me her life--]

:She does.: Nyara commented somewhat acidly.

[--and now I won't be able to get an honest answer out of her! If I'd asked her out before this all happened, I would have gotten the answer I deserved. Now... what?]

:Now she loves you more than she already did, because she knows you love her back. She's not stupid, Tommy. Offering to sacrifice your body, mind and soul so that she could live is not something you do for an ordinary friend. She knows that. Or, she will, with a little help from Elspeth, anyway. We normally don't meddle with the affairs of our Rangers, but there has never been possible romance between two Rangers, before.:

[She... loves me?]

:Only a very hard-hearted woman could not love you, Tommy. Just in various degrees. Trini loves you as brother--:

[Oh. So Kim feels for me as a brother, too, then?]

:Wait, let me finish. And Kim, well, loves you as more than that. It is just ingrained into her upbringing that women are simply not the ones who make the first move. She will ask you to escort her to the dance. She will ask you to dance with her, and you will be as close together as water to the surface of a glass. And you _will_ ask her out.:

[I will?]

:You will. You're being foolish and a coward, Tommy. That's not like you. But then again, the wantings of the heart are strange enough to warrant that, neh?:

[Yeah... yeah, I guess so. Are you sure I should?]

:I think you should. It's your decision. And you did make a promise to your friends. So now go change, silly boy, and I want Kimberly to be your girlfriend by the end of that Valentines dance, you got me?:

[I got you. Thanks, my Lady Nyara.]

:The pleasure was mine, Tommy White Ranger. Ah, yes. I nearly forgot. Tomorrow is Valentines day, is it not? I have the perfect gift for Kimberly. You will find it on the bed as you open your eyes.Don't open it, though, or the magic will be broken! It's for Kim to open.:

With that, Tommy opened his eyes and realized that only two or three seconds had passed. Slowly, he looked at the bed. There was a small pink box of some opaque stone there, and it was carved with the image of a flying firebird, so realistic he expected it to flame and fly. Slowly, he studied it. Then he teleported out of there and back into his home, where he quickly changed, and teleported to the park.

Kimberly had had an equally otherworldly experience, with her own Color's keeper, Elspeth the Guide. Who had materiallized in front of her and only her alarms not going off and only the manner and bearing of her 'guest' kept Kimberly from attacking the Lady.

"Who are you. What are you doing in my house?"

"My name is Elspeth, Kimberly. Of the six Ladies of Power, I am the Guide. And I am here to advise you."

"In what? I don't think I need any help, but thanks anyway."

"Quite the contrary, sister, I believe you need a lot of help. You don't know what happened, how Tommy pledged his life to save yours, do you."

"No, not really."

"What Kadiya was saying was that he offered his powers, his body, his heart and his soul so you could be saved. Do you know what kind of _love_ that takes, Kimberly?!"

Kimberly stiffened.

"I didn't think so. Anyone else, I doubt he would have done it. He would have offered something else. Something that didn't matter as much. But you... he loves you, you know that?"

"I want to believe you... really I do..." Kimberly whispered. "But..."

"But what, little sister?"

"But I don't have proof! What if I make an idiot of myself? I don't know if you're lying or not!"

"I am a Lady of the Power. I cannot lie." she said with immense dignity. "But you're right. You don't have proof. Is this enough?"

The Guide projected a picture into Kimberly's brain.

Begin Flashback!

{"I am Tommy Oliver, the White Ranger, my lady. I would like to ask if it is possible to save the life of my... friend and colleague, Kimberly Hart."

"It is possible." Nyara replied. A smile twinkled in her brown eyes. "But she is more than a friend and colleague to you, is she not, Tommy White Ranger?"

Tommy blushed, and Haramis stepped forward. "She is, we have noticed. You care for her more than anyone else in the universe, ne?" she said. She had a pleasant, husky voice. "Just as one of my representatives and one of Tarma's do for each other."

"Well... yes, yes, I do."

"I have judged your heart and found it pure, Tommy White Ranger, Guardian of the Power Rangers." Nyara intoned. "It is possible to save Kimberly Pink Ranger... but it will come at great price to yourself. You may die from it. So may she. What price are you willing to pay?"

"I don't care! If you can save her, it doesn't matter if I die. Make me a cripple, if that's what it takes!"

"What about your powers, little brother? Would you be willing to lose those? Would you give your powers back to me and lose your chance to ever be a Power Ranger once again if I demanded it, my price for saving her life?"

"Anything!" Tommy said, defiantly. "Anything. What good are my powers if she's not there to share the joy of them with me? She's... she's worth more to me than anything. Take my body, my powers, my life if that's what it takes to bring her back."

"Do you feel that strongly, then?"

"Yes." He scrubbed at the tears that started coursing down his cheeks again.

"It is-- well." came the surprising answer. "And what price your obedience?"

"Price? Price? I put no price on obedience, Lady. I serve you and all you stand for, as I always have. Just let Kim live... maybe find someone to love... even if it isn't me... and most of all, be free. That's worth anything you might ask of me."

The Guardian regarded him thoughtfully for an eternity and an instant, measuring, weighing.

Then-- she laughed--

And as Tommy stared in numb shock, she held out her hands, palms outwards, one palm facing Tommy, the other facing Kimberly. Bolts of blinding white light, like a laser bolt of silver magnified many times over, leaped from her hands to Tommy, and the woman lying so still on the bed.}

End Flashback.

"Oh." Kimberly said. "Oh."

"Oh, indeed, Pink Ranger. Do you choose to believe me now?"

"Yes... oh, yes... oh, thank you!" she threw her arms around her neck and hugged the taller woman. "You've made me so happy!"

"I did no such thing." she said, quietly. "You did it for yourself. You just needed to know about it. I am the Guide, not the Creator. And Tommy is a very lovable fellow. Even if he _didn't_ want to go, he'd say 'yes' to avoid hurting anyone's feelings."

"But... but now... asking him to be my escort for the Valentines dance seems like so little..."

"It is.. but it is enough... for now. Tell him how you feel. Nyara, the Guardian, has tried to convince him... he'll have it from no lips but yours. So go, join your friends, Kimberly. Talk to Tommy. Ah, yes, give him this. For your Valentines present." She took out a tiny little box carved of some beautiful rich white stone, and exquisitely stylized with a white tiger which looked so realistic it seemed to move. "And good luck!"

"Thank you... for everything!"

"You have only yourself to thank!" she said as she faded out. Kimberly looked once more at the cute pink tiny Tee that she wore, which came only up to the barest three inches below her breasts and which displayed the firebird-tiger tattoo perfectly, even though the tattoo _had_ seemed to shrink a little to accomodate for the Tee shirt...

She teleported out, as happy as a lark.

Part Three: Dancing with Deception

The next day, Valentines day, Kimberly was at a pretty little grove, with small benches and lush overgrown trees, with creeping rose vines along the edges. It was, altogether, a very romantic place. Then she stared. For walking head-on-shoulder, hand-in-hand, pressed together, were Trini and Adam. Trini saw her and disengaged from her boyfriend long enough to run up to her and greet her. "Kim! How come you're in this section of the park? I haven't seen Tommy anywhere..."

Kimberly blushed. "Trini... you... and Adam?"

Trini smiled shyly. "Yes... it happened while you were... out of it... I would have told you... but you weren't anywhere, so..."

"Speaking of anywhere, shouldn't Tommy be with you?" Adam pointed out.

"Well... no... we're not a couple..."

"Seriously though, Kimberly, you shouldn't lead him on like that. The poor guy is going to go out of his mind." Adam commented, soberly. Then he noticed someone walking up the path. "Oh my... is that Aisha? And _Zach_?"

"Yes, well, you _did_ tell Tommy that Aisha was going to ask Zach to be her dance partner... guess she took it a step further." Trini replied. Indeed, Zach and Aisha were walking hand-in hand pressed together down the soft, romantic path.

"Has everyone paired off?" Kim asked, amused.

"Not everyone. Rocky said he wouldn't, Billy hasn't, I don't think Jason has, and... well... Tommy..."

"Don't look now-- but there's Billy with Laura."

Indeed, there was Billy sitting on a bench with Laura on one arm, most likely chatting about a subject so dry it made Kim thirsty just thinking about it.

"Billy? That's hard to believe!"

"Believe it. Oh, there's Jason, I think he's alone... no, scratch that. He's smiling and walking with Jessica Cassenan."


"Well... you know what they say... promises are made to be broken... he's pushing a pretty lady over there on the swings. I think it's Princilla."

Kimberly shook her head, smiling. Even if the smile did have a touch of wistfulness to it. "Now all we need is Tommy to show up with a girl on his arm, and everyone will be completely matched up."

"What about you, Kim? Oh, there's Tommy--"

Kimberly's heart lurched for an instant until she saw him for herself. He did _not_ have a pretty girl hanging over one arm, he was by himself, and he looked bewildered, until he saw them. He loped up to them gracefully, and said, slowly, "I think I need to get my teleporter fixed. I tried to get to the basketball courts... and I arrived here."

Kimberly nodded. "Me, too."

"Well, I'm here because I want to be." Trini said, bumping Adam's leg gently with her hip and cuddling into his side tenderly. He looked at her and teasingly put an arm around her.

"Me too." Zach said. He grinned at Aisha, who grinned back.

"Same here."Jason said. He had brought his date in to talk with his friends. "And I bet Billy would say the same."

Tommy shook his head, smiling. "Looks like I'm the only one without a date! Ah, well."

"_Jesus Christ!_" Adam exclaimed. "Kimberly, where did that tattoo come from?!"

"Um... it's a long story, Adam. I'll explain later. Well... Tommy, you don't have a partner?"

Tommy squirmed slightly, embarrassed. "No."

"Though not for many a girl's lack of trying. He" Adam said, adroitly, "was pounced on by half the school-- the female half --as soon as he walked into class. I think that Power Ranger White Tiger business must have rubbed off at least a little on you, because you just seemed to disappear until the school bell rang! I can't see how you managed to lose all-- Oops." he said, glancing over at Jason's date. "He, uh, likes the White Ranger a lot. Thinks he's cool and all."

"Not _that_ cool." Tommy said, his mouth quirking.

"Oh, the White Ranger." Kimberly sighed dramatically, without cracking a smile. The other Rangers mouths curved in mirth, and they stifled their laughter as best they could. But every so often, a titter would escape from someone's lips. "I bet he's really cute."

Tommy looked at her sidewise, unable to discern whether she was joking or not.

Jessica nodded. "Me, too. With a voice like that... why, he sounds almost like Tommy! You know," she told him, "if I hadn't gotten Jason here first, I would have gone for you."

The other Rangers looked slightly alarmed. Jessica had come too close for comfort for their tastes. But then, in the nick of time, Jessica pleaded that she had to go and get changed for the dance. Billy's and Rocky's companions excused themselves in similar manners. They said their adieus to their respective dates, and went off.

"Phew. That was close." Tommy said. "Your lady's a smart one, isn't she, Jason."

"Top honor-roll student, second only to Billy and Laura." Jason said, proudly.

"I guess that _is_ something to be proud of." Tommy laughed. "I can't even come close. She asked _you_, though, and not Billy or some other super-smart guy? I can't imagine."

"Same here. She's smarter than I am. I still can't believe she chose me." Jason admitted. "Seriously, man, you need to get a girlfriend. You're too much of a loner as it is! Being with a girl will do you good." His eyes flicked to Kimberly.

"And what do you call us?" Aisha, Kimberly and Trini demanded in chorus.

"Ladies." Tommy chuckled.

The other Rangers, Rocky and Adam rolled their eyes. "You're too much of a ladies' man as it is, Tommy. You don't need to suck up!" Rocky commented teasingly.

"I'm not!" Tommy protested. "I don't suck up to people!"

"He doesn't because he doesn't need to." Trini remarked offhand. "All his teachers are female and every woman who sees him loves him on sight."

Tommy blushed. Trini, Aisha and Kimberly looked into each others' eyes, nodded--

And jumped on him, throwing him down; Trini went for his shoulders, Kimberly for his waist, and Aisha for his knees. Only the intervention of his brain screaming that they were _ladies_ and they were his friends kept him from dropping into fighting position and causing them some serious damage.

He lay on the ground on his back, Kim sitting on his chest, Trini holding his hands above his head and Aisha sitting on his legs. "Hey!" he complained. "What was that for?"

The girls giggled as the others stared in amusement and astonishment. "Well, Rocky said every girl in the school pounced on you--"

"--and now, every girl has!"

They giggled again. Tommy rolled his eyes, smiling. "Lord, save me from feminine humour!" he pleaded, casting his eyes up to the sky. "Won't you guys let me up?"

"You could get up if you wanted." Kim shrugged, smiling.

"Yes, and he'd dump all of you on your pretty little butts, is what he's too polite to say." Zach added. "And Kim would have pretty far to fall."

"I don't think he could." Aisha challenged. "You can't get up with two people holdin' you down and one sitting on you. Prove it. "

"You sure?" Tommy said, cocking an eyebrow. Aisha nodded. "O.K!"

He surged to his feet, throwing off Aisha, Kimberly and Trini in a single fluid motion. Trini had enough sense to let go of his hands, and Aisha bounced off his knees, but Kim had no such opportunity. When he flowed to his feet, she fell, clutching for a handhold--

--and was caught by a pair of strong arms. "Now, I'm not _that_ mean!" Tommy commented, holding her soft as thistledown and grinning at her.

[Tommy, you idiot, you're showing off! You are! You are! And for Kimberly, too! Don't you have any shame?]

[No, I don't. Yes, I _am_ showing off. Shut up.] he told the nagging little mind-voice of his conscience.

He smiled at Kim gently. "You see?" Zach complained. "And no wonder the rest of us never have any chances with the girls!"

Zach was quickly pinned down by five brown stares and one blue."Uh--"

"Wow... Tommy, I didn't know you were that strong!" Aisha said, eyes wide, after turning her stare--glare-- away from Zach.

"Yeah... well, neither did I, and I'm your sparring partner!" Jason said, blinking rapidly. "I'm glad you were never mad at me!"

"Well, why should I have been?" Tommy said, blinking.

"Good point." Jason said. "Well, what about that spell that made us fight each other? You could have done me some serious harm."

"I didn't want to _hurt_ you, I think. I just didn't like you much. Then."

"Uh, you know, Tommy, you can put her down now."

"Put _who_-- oh." he lowered Kim to her feet. "Sorry, Kim. I didn't realize..." he apologized, flustered.

"Gee, Kim, I knew you'd lost weight, but I didn't know you'd lost _that_ much!" Trini laughed. "Hey, who are you losing it for?"

This time, Kimberly didn't deign to turn away the question. She took a chance-- and answered it.

"For the prom. For the person who I hoped would be my date."

Tommy gave a wistful little smile. "And who's that, Kim?"

She drew close to him, wrapped her arms gently around his neck and kissed him softly on the lips, greatly daring. To her great delight, he didn't pull away. Not that he wanted to, of course. Tommy was in proverbial heaven."Haven't figured it out yet?" she queried, as soon as she had brushed her soft kiss away from him.

The others stared at her gape-mouthed... then with smiles, for she'd never before admitted out loud in front of all of them how she felt. Tommy looked like someone had hit him with a board, he was so surprised. "Well," he said, recovering. "This is... sudden... After that, I guess my next question should be easy! Kim, would you be my date for the dance?"

Kimberly turned away, and took two steps away from him. Tommy, who had been _sure_ for one time in his life, was suddenly unsure all over again. "Kim?" he asked, worriedly. "What's wrong?"

He, of course, couldn't see her smile prettily and wink at the others. She turned around. "I couldn't make it _too_ easy for you! Of _course_ I'll be your date for the dance. But only if you'll be mine!"

"Oh, you!" he exclaimed in reply. But his exasperation was more joy than anything else.

Tommy gave her a smile that seemed to envelop her with its warmth and block everyone else out. Fast as lightning, he reached out, picked her up, and swung her around. "I'd love to go with you, Kim. What was it you said, Adam? Wo aye nee?"

"That's 'wo ai ni', Tommy!" Adam laughed. "Still, like with gifts, it's the thought that counts."

"I don't get it." Kim said, after Tommy had set her down. "What does 'wo aye nee' mean?"

"That's 'wo ai ni'!" Trini giggled. "It's Mandarin. Directly translated, it means 'you are mine and I am yours forever.' Indirectly, 'I love you.'"

Kim looked at Tommy, with an expression of wonder on her face. She had been _hoping_ that Tommy would ask her to the dance, yes, but she hadn't dared to hope for anything as deep or as profound as a confession of love! Then at Trini. Then back at Tommy, who was looking at her with a completely 'poker face' expression on his face. Which she had learned long ago meant that he was extremely on edge. He, too, was probably wondering if their relationship would ever go past being simply 'friends,' just knowing each other better than friends normally did. And Tommy, who was as much unlike the White Ranger as could be, was normally shy and reserving as any boy could be. Not including his karate, of course. For him to ask her out was a feat none of them thought he _could_ do. To admit his love, well...

She sprang at him with a shriek of joy, and practically strangled him with an embrace.

He was caught by surprise, and so was unprepared for the Hurricane Kimberly that came rushing at him. He thought at first that she was angry... until she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him as hard as she could. Then, he could do nothing but hug her back, closing his eyes, and neither had been so happy in their lives. She could feel the easy restrained strength in his body, and he could feel the lithe muscles of hers.

For a few minutes, they were conscious of nothing but each other. They had let each other go and simply gazed into the others eyes... until they remembered their friends.

"Finally!" Aisha commented, somewhat acidly. "I thought they were going to stay that way forever!"

"Oh, I don't know." Trini purred good-naturedly. "They looked pretty happy to me." She was in Adam's arms, his front to her back, his arms around her, and her hair tickling his nose. She, too, was so content that if she'd been a cat, the rumble of a purr would be heard throughout the park.

Then, Kim looked at her watch. "Oh my gosh! I need to get ready for the prom!"

Trini looked at her watch and disentangled herself from Adam's arms. "Me too."

"Same here. Look, boys, you guys aren't going to see us until the dance, so see you later!"

Tommy gave Kim a quick kiss on the lips, Trini did the same for Adam, and Aisha waved and smiled fetchingly at Zach. Then they teleported out.

The boys then converged on Tommy, all doing the verbal and physical equivalent of a pat on the back, and Tommy trying his best to convince them that it had all been _Kim's_ doing...


That night, at the prom, Kim, Aisha and Trini walked into the gym of Angel Grove High. Aisha wore a fancy embroidered-bodice dress, puffy sleeves, and it was loose all the way to her feet. It emphasized her gentle curves and made her look even more fetching then she already did. She wore a tan eyeshadow, and brick-red lipstick, as well as a light touch of concealer that blended perfectly with her complexion. Trini wore a high-neck yellow Chinese dress which came to her mid-thigh with two slits coming up to her hips and tan embroidery stylizing a Sabretooth Tiger. Under that, she had chestnut leggings and high heels of brown leather. She wore a light tan blusher, a touch of tannish-gold eyeshadow, and a lipstick that was more white-and-cream than pink. Kimberly was wearing a floor-length pale-pink off-the-shoulder dress of a heavy stretchy material which hugged her body until her hips, then hung loose and swung to her ankles, giving tantalizing flashes of leg every so often through a slit through the side. Her shade of eyeshadow was so much lighter than Trini's, it was paler than the finest citrine. Her blusher was a faint pink, and her lipstick was a coral-pink.

They all looked marvelous. All heads turned their way as soon as they walked in. They saw the men, all as formal as anyone could wish, Jason with a deep maroon tuxedo, complete with a gold tie, Rocky in red with a surcoat instead of an overshirt, Billy in a tuxedo a little lighter than navy-blue with a white undershirt and a tan tie, Zach in traditional regalia of black-- except with a rainbow-colored shirt and black tie, Adam in a silk full-body Korean mens' outfit of black with silver embroidery and lastly, Tommy in white pants with a black undershirt and a translucent buttoned overshirt of white, embroidered with gold thread. He had braided his hair away and tied it with a gold hair-tie.

Between the men and the girls, in appearances no one could match them. Tommy, once again, looked as if someone had hit him with a lead pipe. Jason noticed this, slapped his buddy over the shoulder and said so. "Man, if this was Cluedo, you'd have been killed by now."

"I say it was Kimberly in the Prom Room with the Dress, I don't know about you guys!" Zach laughed.

"Kim..." Tommy squeaked out. "You look... beautiful."

Kimberly blushed and looked at her toes. "No, I just look O.K. Nothing special."

"No, really." Tommy said, earnestly. "You look amazing."

"Yeah." Zach piped up. "And he's not just sayin' that because he's sweet on you. _You_, of all people should know that Tommy never lies!"

Kimberly cuffed him gently, blushing. "And what about _me_, you bad boy!" Aisha scolded playfully. "I _am_ your date!"

"Oh. You." Zach said, teasingly. "You look O.K."

Aisha pouted prettily. "Only O.K?"

"Look here, Isha, I'm bein' generous as it is!" Zach said, somehow managing to keep a straight face. How, no one could guess.

"Now see here, you--" Aisha said, her eyes narrowing.

"I was just kidding, Isha." Zach said, worriedly.

Aisha grinned brightly. "I know."

Tommy turned to Adam, and found him being smothered by kisses, and giving equally in return. It was only when Aisha giggled softly and cheerfully and told Adam that it was a _dance_, not a kiss-fest, did Adam and Trini stop smooching.

After a few fast dances, in which Trini and Kimberly noted to their delight (and no little relief) that their dates were marvelous dancers, unlike many of the boys they'd met. And unlike Billy and Rocky, who simply couldn't dance and had to be taught by Jason, Zach, Tommy and Adam. Who weren't very succesful at all. But they tried, and kept on trying. Zach, it went without saying, was a marvelous dancer, able to do anything and everything from snap to break-dancing. After all, he _was_ Angel Grove's champion dancer.


Strummin' my pain with his fingers.

Singin' my life with his words.

Killin' me softly with his song

Killin' me softly, with his song.

Tellin' my whole life,

With his words, killin' me softly.

With his song!

Tan-nan ta na!


I heard he sang a good song.

I heard he had the style.

And so I came to see him

And let him sing for a while.

And there he was, this young bu-oy,

Stranger to my eyes


Strummin' my pain with his fingers

One time, time.

Singin' my life with his words.

Two time, two time.

Killin' me softly with his song

Killin' me softly, with his song.

Tellin' my whole life, with words,

Killin' me softly...

With his song...


But their dancing reverie was interrupted by Jason's date, Jessica, who wore a black dress which made her look pretty but sallow. She went up to Tommy and whispered in his ear. Tommy's eyes widened, and he looked at Adam. Jessica then whispered something in Adam's ear. Tommy and Adam exchanged a glance. They both nodded in Jessica's direction. She beckoned to them, and Tommy was quick to apologize. "Look, uh, guys, Adam and I've got to go. We'll be back in a sec, but--"

"Don't tell me you're going off with Jason's date!" Kimberly cried.

Tommy blinked at her. Obviously, he hadn't expected a jealous onslaught from one who was unofficially 'his girl.' "Huh? Wha? He--Of course not!" he protested. "We just need... to go off for a while."

Jessica's eyes fluttered with surprise. "Waitta minute! Aren't you going to tell--"

"No." Adam said firmly. "Nuh-uh. Definately not. Look, ainan, I'm sorry, but we really have to go. We'll be back in a few minutes, but, well, you know how it is... "

"Fine. Then go." Trini said. "Airen." she said, bitterly, almost mockingly.

"Kim?" Tommy said, pleadingly. "Please, don't be mad..."

She smiled disarmingly, and he was relieved. But not by her words, which cut as disarmingly as her smile. "Why should I be mad? You're just ditching me. Go ahead. Go, go. I insist."

Tommy and Adam puffed a part-exasperated and part worried breath in unison and turned their backs and followed Jessica. The last words Kimberly and Trini heard was Jessica asking, "Jealous girlfriends?"

Tommy and Adam sighed identical sighs and nodded. "You _could_ say that." Jessica shook her head in sympathy and smiled, clucking her tongue gently. They were swallowed up by the rest of the prom crowd.

Trini and Kimberly turned away, bitter expressions on their faces. The other men turned to them, worried. Not to mention that both of the girls had very volatile personalities! _They_ knew where Tommy and Adam had gone. All they needed to do was convince them that nothing was the matter... and wait for Tommy and Adam to unveil their surprise.

"The next song is The Sun, The Moon and The Stars by Color Me Badd!"

Kimberly looked up. And so did Trini. "This is my favourite song." Kimberly sighed.

"Mine, too." Trini agreed. "I told that to Adam."

Kimberly nodded. "That's good."

"And remember, ladies and gentlemen, you _do_ have to dance to this! All men or ladies without a partner will be thrown out of the gym! This is a Sway dance, so get swayin, people!" the DJ announced.

Kimberly sighed. "Jason?"

"Yeah. You'll have to walk me through this, I'm not really sure how to do this anymore."

"That's O.K." Kimberly smiled a sad smile at him. "Who do you suppose Tommy's dancing with?" she murmured. Step, step, backstep, sway. Step, step, twirl, other way. The rhythm was hypnotic.


When I was lost,

I couldn't see

All the beauty and wonder

And all that could be

I was alone

Dreaming of you

I could not imagine

This dream coming true!

So much joy around me

In all that I touch.

You make me feel

Everything so much!

I will love you for the earth at my feet

I will love you for the sun in the sky

I will love you for the falling rain.

Whoa, whoa wooo

I will love you for the heart that could break

I will love you for the dreams that we share

I will love you for the falling rain.

Whoa! Haaah.

Facing the wind

Tears from my eyes

Baby, Where have you been when I was, hoping.

Waiting for you,

To pull back the dawn

To take me by the hand

And leave me through.

This whole world was a stranger to me.

Now you have opened my heart to everything!

I will love you for the earth at my feet

I will love you for the sun in the sky

I will love you for the falling rain.

Whoa, whoa wooo

I will love you for the heart that could break

I will love you for the dreams that we share

I will love you for the falling rain.

Oh whoa oh, whoa oh.

I'm in love with you.


Oh... yeah... baby.

I ...WILL ...LOVE ...YOU!

I will love you for the earth at my feet.

I will love you for the sun in the sky!

I will love you for the falling rain,

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

I will love you for the heart that could break

I will love you for the dreams that we share!

I will love you for the earth at my feet

I will love you for the sun in the sky

I will love you for the heart that could break

I could love you for the dreams that we share.

I will love you for the falling rain!

Whoa, who.



"Oh, Tommy's not dancing with anyone. Neither's Adam. You didn't notice?" Jason murmured from somewhere above her left ear.

"Didn't notice what?"

"They're the ones singing." Jason replied.

"What?!" Kimberly said, somewhat shocked. In fact, she was so surprised that she let go of his hands and stopped dancing. She turned, and saw that Trini had done the same. Indeed, Tommy and Adam _were_ up on stage. It was _their_ voices they were hearing, _not_ Color Me Badd's. And they sounded simply marvelous.

"They were practicing this for days." Rocky informed them as he danced past with his date. "And they were working pretty _damn_ hard."

To their relief, the song came to an end soon, and Tommy and Adam stepped down from the stage amidst tremendous applause. As fast as they could, they hurried to their partners. "Look, we're really, really sorry." they apologized profusely. "We weren't sure how you would take it, so we decided to surprise you. We apologize if you felt abandoned or something."

"We did." Kim said, mournfully, elbowing Trini to keep her from denying it.

Tommy took her into his arms. "I'm sorry, Kim. Is there anything I could do to make it up to you?"

"Yeah, me too." Adam said, looking apologetic. "She-she ni, ainan. For being so patient with this poor idiot."

"Well," Kim said, cocking her head at them. "You could get our lipsticks from my bag, I suppose. It would make us feel better."

"You only had to ask, milady." Tommy said, chilvarously bowing. He and Adam went off to get their lady-loves their facial-enhancers.

Kim and Trini stifled giggles. Aisha noticed, and looked at them strangely. "What's so funny, guys?"

"Those two are going to be looking for quite a while!" Kim giggled. "I didn't _bring_ a bag! I suppose he didn't notice. Or maybe he thought I had left it somewhere."

"You forget," Aisha reprimanded. "Tommy's got the Power, and he'll use it. It's no biggie. Your boyfee-rend's a smart fellow, Kim, no matter what he says. He'll just teleport to your house and Trini's when he realizes it, and pluck the lipstick off the dressers."

"Ooh. You're right. Oh, well. It serves them right for not telling us about the song! And he's _not_ my boyfriend." Kimberly protested.

"Ah, but you wish otherwise, don't you?"

And just then, Bulk and Skull came swaggering up with another cockamamie story about saving the Power Rangers once again. And little did they know they had saved them --one of them-- again, even if only from further embarrasment. "Good grief." Trini whispered. "They only saved us _once_, for goodness sakes."

"Yeah, and we still owe 'em." Jason reminded them. "Without them, we'd be wandering around brainless and the world would be Lord Zedd's."

"True." Trini sighed.

They looked back over at Bulk and Skull. Who had just had major holes poked through their made-up story. And who were being booed at by a crowd who were unravelling from around them and going back to their dancing.

Trini and Kimberly sighed, and by unspoken agreement, went up to Bulk and Skull together.

"Bulk! Skull!" they chimed. "We were looking for you."

"Yeah." Bulk said, downcast. "You and all the rest of that lynching mob!"

"No, really. We believe you. We think that you must have saved the Power Rangers _once_, otherwise you'd have nothing to base your story on."

"Really? You believe us?"

"Uh-huh. That takes guts." Kimberly said, turning a thumbs-up on them.

"And strength!" Trini chimed.

"We're intelligent!" Skull remarked brightly.

"And strong!" Bulk added.

"And brave!" Skull mentioned.

"And steadfast!" Bulk replied.

Trini and Kimberly exchanged a glance, and their shoulders heaved with a mutual sigh.

"And loyal!"

"And honest!"

It was easy to see the thought flitting through the heads of the two Power Rangers.

[Yeah, right.]

But Bulk and Skull didn't notice, and kept on extolling their virtues which they most certainly did not have.

"And virtuous!"

"And handsome!" said Bulk, winking and nudging Trini.

"And available!" said Skull, leaning in towards Kimberly.

"Wanna go out?" asked Bulk and Skull together, leaning in towards what they thought were sure lady-kills.

Kimberly and Trini looked towards each other, duly horrified expressions on their faces. They both thought up the same excuse at the same time, but the excuse was, unlike most other excuses, true. Or _mostly_ true.

"I have a boyfriend." they both said at the same time.

"Oh." Skull said, looking disappointed. "Too bad."

"Wait a minute." Bulk whispered in a very audible murmur to his compadre. "They might be bluffin'."

He raised his voice."Well, show us your boyfriends, and we'll beat 'em up! There ain't nobody we can't beat in this school!"

"Yeah! Nobody!" Skull repeated.

"Are you sure about that? You can't beat Tommy, or Jason, or Rocky or Adam or Zach."

"Except for those _stupid_ martial artists. And you girls are smart enough not to go out with _them_, right?" Bulk asked, mightily, entirely sure of himself. "And I bet we could beat them up if we tried. I promise you that, Kimberly, Trini."

"_We_ promise you that."

"Show us your boyfriends, girls!" Bulk growled.

"Ah, Bulk?" Trini said, quietly. She pointed behind them.

Just then, Tommy and Adam came striding up behind Bulk and Skull. In a minute, Trini and Kimberly insinuated herself past the skinny and fat pair and planted _very_ enthusiastic kisses on the lips of their sweethearts. They detached themselves from their respective darlings slowly and mellowly, savoring every second of the kisses they shared.

"Man!" Tommy said, wide-eyed. "If that's the welcome-back I'm going to get every time I leave, I'm gonna have to start leaving more often!"

Adam echoed his sentiments. "You better believe it!"

"What were you saying, Bulk?" Kimberly asked sweetly, her arms still draped closely around Tommy's neck and her body still pressed against his.

"Uh, I think I hear my mother calling. How 'bout you, Skull?"

"Yeah. I'm coming, Mama!" Skull called, rushing off and gaining some very strange stares in the process, with Bulk at his heels.

Not the least of which were Tommy's and Adam's. "What was that all about?" Tommy asked her, puzzled. "I got your lipstick, and Adam's got Trini's--"

"She's going to need it." Kim giggled. "I think she left most of it on Adam!"

"Speak for yourself, Kimberly!" Trini grinned. "I think I can most distinctly see shades of pink that aren't a blush on Tommy--"

Tommy coloured.

"--And now shades of pink that _are_ a blush!" Zach finished for Trini, the entire group of the Rangers and Ranger-adoptees having moseyed over. "How come--"

She never finished the sentence, because the DJ suddenly called out, "O.K. all you Angel Grove High couples out dere! I wanna see every one of ya High Schooler bits with a partner, ya hear me? This ain't no Sway song! Open Arms, by Mariah Carey!"

The song started, and Kim sighed happily. She loved this song, and would have been happy just to enjoy it--

Lyin' beside you

Here in the dark

Feeling your heart beat with mi-ine.

Softly, you whisper.

You're so sincere.

How could our love be so blind?


--But it made her think of Tommy, and love. Which were, in _her_ eyes, two things that went together perfectly. She needn't have worried. With a confident, (maybe this is an exaggeration?) mischeivous smile, Tommy offered his hand to her, and murmured, "Uh... May I have this dance?"

Kimberly smiled and put her hand in his, quickly burying her cheek in his shoulder, holding him in a very-close but not strangling grip around his neck. She could easily feel the play of barely-concealed hard muscles that hid under his handsome exterior, like a paper screen hiding a stone barrier. She also felt him stiffen up, a little, at her close contact-- then, as she had hoped he would, he relaxed. He wrapped his arms around her waist, leaned down closer to her, bending his cheek to rest on hers. She could taste the rich sweetness of his aura, and feel the hot kiss of his breath against hers.

We stand all together

We drifted apart

And here you are by my si-ii-ide!


So now I come to you

With open arms!

Nothing to hide

Believe what I say!

So here I am

With open arms!

Hoping you'll see,

What your love means to me

Open arms.


Living without you

Living alone

Doesn't the house seem so cold?

Wanting to ho-old you

Wanting you near

How much I wanted you-- home.


But now that you've come back

Turned night into day

I need you to stay!


So now I come to you

With open arms!

Nothing to hide

Believe what I say!

So here I am

With open arms!

Hoping you'll see

What your love means to me

Open arms.


They,-- Adam and Trini; Tommy and Kimberly--much to the delight of the other Angel Grove High Schoolers, stayed in their impromptu embrace for long after the music had ended. In fact, they were in a complete joyful stupor, eyes closed and soft smiles on their faces. When they finally came to realization of the applause, the foursome opened their eyes and released the dance position... but not their sweethearts' hands.

Mrs. Appleby was among the most enthusiastic applauders. "You know," she murmured to the student next to her, who was dressed in a maroon tuxedo and a gold tie. "If I hadn't seen those four, I would say that true love at eighteen wasn't possible. Now I suppose that I should know better."

"I couldn't agree more, Mrs. Appleby." replied Jason. "I couldn't agree more."

All around there were female sighs about how lucky Trini and Kimberly were.

"Humph." said Bulk from behind Jason. "What do those musclebound idiots got that I haven't?" he asked the world in general.

The girls around him looked at him in disgust. "They're cute." one sighed.

"They're not idiots. They're really smart, both of them." Jessica said, artfully.

"That martial arts thing is _sooo_ darling." another girl breathed, eyes wide and hopeful.

"Yeah." Bulk said. "So what have they got that I don't?" he said, spreading his hands and grinning. The girls cast him looks of twisted lips, and other assorted expressions of disdain and loathing.

"Maybe the discipline not to eavesdrop on other peoples' conversations!" Mrs. Appleby replied sharply. "You are going to detention, Farcus!"

"Uh... yeah, Mrs. Appleby. I'm goin'..."

"--he said as he stood there scowling at Tommy." Mrs. Appleby finished. "Will you go willingly, Farcus, or will I have to drag you by the ear?"

Bulk left in a hurry. Jason laughed, but looked back at the two couples with eyes that were more than a little wistful. Zach, beside him, noticed. "What is it, man?"

"I dunno, Zach. It's weird, I've felt this way before... I...I don't think I like it."

"Nah, can't be love... Can it?"

"No, it's not love." Jason laughed. "It's like... it's like they have something special, and I'm happy for them, but at the same time..."

"Oh, man, you're jealous?"

"No, not that either. I've _been_ jealous. I know what that's like. Man, it's like I want them to keep what they've got, but I... I think I want to have something special like that with special someone, too. Look, you've got Isha, Billy's got Laura, Rocky's got Princilla, Adam's got Trini and Tommy's got Kimberly, but who have _I_ got? Isn't there that special someone for me?"

"I think the word you're looking for, Jason, is longing." came Tommy's not-quite-bass but not-quite-tenor voice. "I can relate to that."

"Me, too." hinted Kimberly's sweet alto, right in his ear. "Look, Jason, you'll know when you find the right girl for you. You'll _always_ know. Trust me on this one. Ask Adam. Ask Trini. Might not have been love at first sight,--in fact, he was either biting my head off or trying to kill me for the first week or so-- but I knew when I found the right guy."

She nudged Tommy lightly, and Tommy shook his head. He had been under Rita's spell at the time, and had fought with them--and nearly killed them--several times. Only their destroying the Sword of Darkness had kept the world from utter domination by Rita.

"And I knew when I found the right girl." added Tommy, their voices still hardly louder than a breath. "You'll know. Just be patient."

"I've never been good at that." sighed Jason. "But I'll try. I just wish... you know, I envy you guys. That's not right. We're Power Rangers."

Tommy blinked. "Quite the opposite. We're Power Rangers, yes, but we're people too. I think a little healthy selfishness never hurt anyone. I mean, if it hadn't been for mine, Kim wouldn't be alive."

:He is right, Red Ranger. I am the Blue Lady. I am not your Color's keeper, but I understand. It is only healthy to feel that way. You are human, as I am not, and even me and mine feel that way occasionally, so don't be upset. I can doubly relate to that.: said a rich musical voice in his head.

[Who are you?]

:It's O.K. Don't be upset. Tommy can vouch for me, if he's gotta.:

[I repeat, who are you? What are you doing in my head?]

:The same that Nyara's doing in Tommy's, and Elspeth in Kimberly's. Keeping you from doing something stupid. If it wasn't for the White Lady and the Pink Lady, those two would have never admitted anything to each other. Look, a little envy and a little jealousy never hurt anyone. Specially if it makes someone happy. Like I said, look at them. Certainly not one of the Power Rangers should be envious and jealous. Yeah. Right. Whatever. You're not supposed to be perfect, you're supposed to be people, dumbbutt! Stop trying to be Mother Teresa, and start _living_!:

Jason's thoughts colored with a mental blush, which thankfully did not show on his face. [Uh... O.K.]

:Stupid me. Now I've embarrassed you. I'm sorry. It's just that you're so naïve that it's not even funny! Say, Kimberly and Zach and Trini and Rocky and Aisha and Billy could face down the facts of life without blushing. They know they're not supposed to be perfect. I bet Adam and Tommy could, too. With quite a bit of difficulty. They're boys, and Kimberly and Trini will bring them out of that. But you...: she shook her mental head. :You are _sheltered_, boy. You're lucky I don't have Tarma's ability to reduce someone to a quivering heap with insults, or you would be dust by now!:

[Who are you to talk?] Jason spat mentally. [You're not human, you don't understand.]

:You're right. I'm not.: The softness hid a strain of underlying steel. :But I was. I used to be a Power Ranger. Long ago, I was the Blue Ranger. We were _all_ Power Rangers at one time, all us Ladies. Hence came Hunter Tarma shena keTalesedri, Warrior Anigel shena keMiribel, Mother Haramis shena keSelenay, Guardian Nyara shena keTsia, Guide Elspeth shena keResczia and myself, the Maiden. We didn't come from the same place, the same world, or even the same time. Oh, my, Jason, perhaps you should come out of your trance, because Kimberly is staring at you kinda funny.:

Jason snapped out of it, and Kimberly looked relieved. "What is it, Jason?" Tommy asked, looking somewhat concerned.

"The Maiden." Jason said shortly.

"Ah. The Blue Lady?"

"Yeah... how'd you know?"

"I met her, briefly. Very briefly."

"Ah." Jason said.

Zach came up behind him and slapped him sharply on the shoulder. "Hey, man, you missed The Incident!"

"Huh? What happened?"

"Well, there are five new couples, if that tells you anything..."

"Hmm..." Jason thought. "That would be... Trini and Adam, Kim and Tommy, Rocky and Princilla, Billy and Laura, but I can't imagine--"

He looked at Zach. Zach looked back at him. And grinned. Jason's jaw dropped in an amazed smile. "No!"

"Uh-huh. I've got a girlfriend, man."

"That's great! Angela?"



"Third time's the charm!"

"Aisha? You really have this thing with girls whose names start with A, don't ya!"

"Yep! Now it's _your_ turn, my friend."

Jason backed away teasingly. "Nuh-_uh_! I haven't found the right girl for me yet, Zach."

Zach shook his head mournfully. "Well, better find a partner for the last dance. You don't want to go the whole prom without a single slow-dance. I mean, even Bulk and Skull have got partners, man!"

Jason's jaw dropped with surprise a second time. "Wha?"

"Yep. Some punk-girls took a liking to 'em. I dunno who I feel sorrier for."

Kimberly grinned behind them. "Well, I feel sorrier for the girls. You know how many times Skull's asked me out?"

"Nope. And I don't wanna know."

"Eight, counting today."

Tommy looked at her strangely. "You've been keeping count?"

She swatted him lightly on the arm, grinning. "C'mon, you silly goose, before the dance finishes." She grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the dance floor.

But Tommy held her back. "Don't worry, Kim, this is a long song. A reaallyy long song. Jason's not got a partner."

"Don't worry about me, man." Jason said, giving them a smile that was, even for him, melancholy.

"You've got to dance at least _one_ slow dance, even if it's just because all the other Rangers are." Kim said, adamantly, changing her mind and deciding that maybe dancing could wait for at least a while. "Tommy, can't you do something?" She turned to her boyfriend. "Aren't there any girls who are free?"

Tommy closed his eyes. At first Jason thought it was with exasperation, but a few seconds later, Tommy opened his eyes and said, quietly, "Just wait a second, Jason, and your dance partner will be here."

Jason looked at him bug-eyed. "What did you do, call a tiger-spirit for me to dance with?"

Tommy smiled. "Not quite." was all he said. With that, he swept Kimberly off onto the dance floor, leaving Jason puzzled.

When someone rested a hand on his shoulder, and Jason said, without turning, "Zach, why aren't you on the dance floor? Isha rejected ya?" he got the shock of his life.

"Because," replied a soft voice like music behind him. "I'm not Zach."

He turned, and there, behind him, was a beautiful girl no older then he, wearing a cerulean velvet dress, ankle-length, which shone with opaque blue light with her every movement. He was _sure_ he'd never seen her before... but for some reason, she seemed familiar. He seemed to _know_ that wavy waist-long red hair, and those glittering green eyes... "Want to dance?" she asked, grinning at him mischeivously.

"Uh... sure." he said, rather too awestruck to ask who she was. Not to mention lost in those _gorgeous_ eyes of emerald...

He led her out on the dance floor, where she pressed her body against his; not so close that he felt uncomfortable, but not so far that he felt alienated. And they swayed to the music. Gently, he touched her, realizing much to his surprise that he had never danced before. He'd somehow managed to charm his way through junior high and most of high school without 'suffering' through a single dance. He'd simply not thought about it before.

And now that he _was_ dancing, he decided that it had nothing to do with 'suffering.' In fact, it was rather nice.

For all those times you stood for me

For all the truth that you made me see

For all the joy you brought to my life

For every wrong that you made right

For every dream you made come true

For all the love I found in you

I'll be forever thankful, baby

You're the one who helps me up

And never lets me fall

You're the one who saw me through

Through it all

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn't speak

You were my eyes when I couldn't see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifting me up when I couldn't reach

You gave me faith 'cause you believed!

I'm everything I am

Because you loved me.


You gave me wings to make me fly

You touched my hand; I could touch the sky

I lost my faith; you gave it back to me

You said no star was out of reach

You stood by me throughout the cold

I had your love, I had it all

I'm grateful for each day, you gave me

Maybe I don't know that much

But I know this much is true

I was blessed because I was

Loved by you!

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn't speak

You were my eyes when I couldn't see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifting me up when I couldn't reach

You gave me faith 'cause you believed!

I'm everything I am

Because you loved me.

Ohh. You were always there for me

The tender wind that carried me

You're the light in the dark,

Shining your love into my life!

You've been my inspirition

For all the lies you said were true.

My world is a better place

Because of you!

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn't speak

You were my eyes when I couldn't see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifting me up when I couldn't reach

You gave me faith 'cause you believed!

I'm everything I am

Because you loved me!

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn't speak

You were my eyes when I couldn't see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifting me up when I couldn't reach

You gave me faith 'cause you believed!

I'm everything I am

Because you loved me.

I'm everything I am

Because you loved me...


"Because you loved me..." he heard his dancing partner murmur along before she pulled him closer for a second, like a hug, and released him. The disco lights were going off, and the real lights were coming on. The other couples were disengaging with reluctance. He looked at the girl who was still in his arms... she looked at him...she looked into his partly slanted brown eyes... he looked into her fiery green eyes flecked with black...

And they fell head over heels in for each other, in that one second. Jason felt his heart throb in wonder at the sight of her. She saw his chocolate-brown eyes melt, and suddenly felt her heart do the same... Know him? She didn't. Not personally. But know his heart, know his mind and his feelings? She knew those well.

She looked at him... he looked at her... he bent in to touch her lips with his own... and felt a hand on his shoulder. "Jason." Tommy said, lips quirking with amusement, though Jason couldn't for the life of him fanthom why. "Won't you introduce me to your lovely friend?"

"Oh, don't be silly, Tommy." the mysterious redheaded beauty said, a smile twisting her lips. "You know me well."

Jason felt a brief stab of jealousy as Tommy grinned at his friend. "I know you, pretty lady, but I don't think that your dancing partner does!"

"Ah." she said, archly. Something seemed to pass between them, and it made Jason feel even worse, even though he knew Tommy would never even _think_ of doing something that was with another woman aside from his beloved Kimberly. "I _am_ sorry, Jason. I know who you are, but you know nothing about who I am. My apologies. My name is Kadiya sh--Nyara, as Tommy well knows."

"Oh. Have we met?" Kimberly said, coming up beside Tommy and Jason and looking at Kadiya intently.

"Doubtful. Perhaps, you've met my sister?"

"Your sister?"

"She's not really my sister, but sort of my adopted-sister? She likes the colour pink a lot? Her name is Elspeth."

Kimberly's eyes grew round. She understood.

:Say nothing of this to Jason, please, Kimberly Pink Ranger, Tommy White Ranger, please. I would like to know... what it is like to be loved... even if it is just once in my lifetime... it's awful lonely, being a Lady of Power...:

[I understand.] Kimberly replied.

[Me, too.] Tommy said. [How do you think _I_ ended up with _her_?]

"So, Kadiya," Kimberly began. "Where are you from? I heard that _someone_ just moved in, and since you're the only girl I've heard that's moved in for a long time, I presume that you're her."

"Yeah. Are you going to go to Angel Grove High?" Tommy asked.

Kadiya decided in that moment that Kimberly and Tommy were fully qualified for sainthood and cast both of them looks of undying gratitude. She owed them. Big time. And she knew that they would never collect, or in fact know that she was in their debt. And that made them even more special. "Yes," she said, slowly. "I was planning to..."

"Oh. That's good." Jason said, giving her a warm smile. _Very_ warm. She returned it. Just as warmly. Zach and Tommy exchanged a _look_.

"Well, I would suggest getting a boyfriend to ward off any potential troublemakers..." Kimberly said, in a friendly manner. She nudged Jason's arm gently.

"Maybe I should." Kadiya said, just as friendly. It was obvious that the two of them would get along very well. "But what do you mean by troublemakers?"

"Yaaahhhh!" Bulk and Skull screamed, running past them with two women, one as obese as Bulk, one as emanciated as Skull.

"Come here, Bulky-poo!" the thin girl screamed.

"Come to me, my sweet little Skull-darling!" the fat girl howled horribly.

Bulk shrieked and ducked behind Tommy. "Tommy! You've got to help me! Get her away from me!"

"Yeah! Get her away from me!" Skull ducked under Kimberly's arm, echoing his companion's words.

Kimberly sighed. "Hey, who you that my Bulky-poo be askin' you foh help, huh, ya little do-gooder?" the fat punk-girl snapped.

"Hey," Kimberly said, shrugging a shoulder and showing open hands, "If you want him, he's yours. I've _got_ a boyfriend."

She smiled at Tommy. Bulk and Skull, realizing they would get no help from them, ran off howling at the top of their lungs. The two punk-girls smiled predatory smiles and followed, wailing Bulk's and Skull's new pet-names at the top of their lungs.

"They're what I mean." Kim said, tiredly.

"Ah." said Kadiya archly. "Look, aren't we supposed to be going home? I mean, I thought the prom was over."

"It is." Kim replied. "Everyone's going. Where are you staying?" she asked, a perfectly normal question. Then she remembered who Kadiya was. "You could stay at my house for the night, if you like. I'm sure you're tired, and my house is probably nearer than anywhere you're staying."

"Yes, yes it probably is." replied Kadiya, with an artful little yawn. "Thank you, I think I will take you up on your offer."

"O.K! Great. Zach, Rocky, Adam, Isha, Trini, Jase, see you guys tomorrow, 'kay? Tommy, will you walk us home?"

"'Course." he replied, with a smile. Jason felt another completely unreasonable twinge of jealousy. He quickly squelched it. What was he thinking? He didn't even know her! But there was just something...

[Kadiya...] he murmured in his thoughts... [What a pretty name.]

Tommy, Kimberly and Kadiya came out of the gym and when they were most of the way down the two blocks that it took to get to Kimberly's house, Tommy and Kimberly turned on Kadiya.

"O.K. Kadi, you've got a bit of explaining to do." said Tommy.

Kadiya sighed. "I guess you guys deserve it. I guess you'd understand better then most of the other Power Rangers. Look, I'm supposed to be some perfect deity, a goddess. Well, it's awful lonely up there. And Jase looked so sad... so apart from all the couples... my heart went out to him... I don't know what happened..."

Kimberly sighed. "You fell in love. That's what happened. I know the look you had on your face; I've seen it on mine. But it can never work out! I mean... you... and him?"

Kadiya sighed. "I know. ... my sisters don't understand me at all... they can't understand that I don't like being alone... Friends? I've never really had any, not since I stopped being human and started being... well... what I am...But... you don't know how sweet it feels... to love and be loved back... when I've been by myself all my life."

She looked over at Tommy and Kimberly, hoping for vindication. Their eyes softened. "I do know how it feels." Kimberly replied softly, assaying any fears of accusation. "_We_ know how it feels... how sweet it is."

Tommy gently gathered her in against his side. He spoke without words.

"I'm going to go back to my sisters now..." Kadiya sighed. "But I'll be back."

Kimberly nodded. "Best of luck, Kadiya Nyara."

Kadiya nodded. "Same to you, Kimberly Hart." With that, she disappeared in a flash of blue.

Kimberly and Tommy walked most of the rest of the block in silence. When they arrived at the door, Kimberly and Tommy just looked at each other.

"Kim..." Tommy finally broke the silence. "Thank you."

"For what, Tommy?" Kimberly asked, curious.

"For... for... for being the way you are. For just being you." He held out an open palm, and suddenly, in a tiny little puff of white light, a small wrapped pink package appeared. He handed it to her. "Happy Valentines Day, Kim. It's not really from me, it's more from Nyara, but she told me to give it to you."

Kimberly placed a hand over her own mouth, and skittered into her house with a hurried "Wait a second!"

When she emerged, she was carrying a little white wrapped box. "Happy Valentines Day, Tommy." She handed it to him. "Just the same, this isn't really from me, but I was told to give it to you..."

She took the small package from him, and she took it from her. With half-trembling fingers, they undid the pretty bows, and undid the wrapping carefully. Then they both gave a sigh of pleasure and amazement. "Oh, Tommy, it's beautiful..."

"Kim... open it."


The answer came to him unbidden. "Touch the firebird box to mine." he told her. So she touched the long side of her box to the long side of his. For a second, nothing happened. Then, suddenly, the two boxes fit together, side to side. And the design of the firebird meeting the tiger was the same as the one that decorated both their bodies. Then, suddenly, both boxes were back in their owners' hands... with their inner treasures revealed.

Both boxes held a ring. Beautiful thick bands, each with the creature of its owner; the tiger was inlaid with white opal and onyx, with topazes with black centers as eyes; the firebird supplanted with pink mother-of-pearl and fire opal, and it had brown citrines for its eyes.

"Oh, my." Kimberly exclaimed softly. "I've never seen anything like it."

"Me neither." Tommy said, just as soft. He gently touched her hand, and she carefully released the box into his hand. Ever so tenderly, he took out the ring--

And just for a second, it sang. It sang a note higher than humanly possible-- but it sang.

Tommy was so surprised he nearly dropped it but for some reason, his fingers wouldn't let him. With hands that trembled, he put it on Kim's finger, and gently inclined his head. "Kimberly," he said, firmly, "I am _not_ asking you to marry me. I think we're a little young for that. I'm not entirely sure _what_ I'm asking. I guess... I'm asking you to be my fiancée, but not my wife. Not yet."

Kimberly blinked at him. And blinked again. "So," she began with the deadly deceptive slowness of a rattlesnake about to strike. "you're asking me to marry you... but not yet?"

"Uh, exactly."

"Then why did you ask me in the first place?" Kimberly said, wryly.

"I... I don't know, Kim. It just felt right." he replied, rather uncomfortably.

Kimberly smiled and shook her head. "I don't understand you, White Ranger. I bet those little children who adore you for some reason understand you better than I do."

"So... you're saying no?" Tommy said with a calmness he most certainly did not feel. In fact, if she said no, he believed that he would go home and kill himself.

"No, of course not, you silly goose. Of _course_ I'll be your fiancée... but please don't ask me to marry you until we understand each other!" She kissed him firmly on the lips, grabbing his face to press it against hers.

Tommy laughed into their kiss. When they broke the kiss, he murmured, "Then we're both going to be single all our lives!"

She laughed, took the white tiger ring out of its box--

--and it, too, sang a single note. Kimberly's eyes widened... but she slipped it on his ring finger.

And suddenly, their heads were filled with thoughts and feelings.

:Finally!: came an explosion of two voices in their heads. Kimberly and Tommy snapped their heads up: they knew those voices; they were Elspeth and Kadiya.

[O.K, you two, you have a little explaining to do...]

[He has a gift for understatement!] Kimberly replied. [What just happened?]

Then Tommy and Kimberly looked at each other, astonished. They had _heard_ each other in their heads!

:Rings of Power.: Kadiya said succintly. :They know their rightful owners: that's why they sang. They recognized you two.:

[What are those Rings of Power?]

:What do they sound like? You heard each other's voices in your hearts. You connected each other when you gave each other the Rings. Normally, they would give you powers you wouldn't normally have-- but since you gave them to each other, the effects could be unpredictable... What were you thinking, you two?: Haramis admonished.

[We didn't do anything--] Kim exclaimed, sounding like a frightened child.

:Not to worry, Kimberly. I wasn't talking to you. Them. Kadiya, Elspeth, spit it out.:

:We... we decided they were worthy, Mother--: Elspeth began, sounding like a five-year-old who's just been caught.

:And so they are.: Haramis agreed. :But why them? If they are separated, it may kill them! Did you think of that before you gave each of them the _opposite_ ring? You know what may happen, besides their being connected?:


:Silly girls!: Haramis spat. :You always think of the romance before you think of the good, don't you.:

[Wait, Lady Haramis. It was not Kadiya nor Elspeth who gave me the gift... it was Nyara.]

:Is that so, Tommy? Well, you may think so, but dear Kadiya here is a master of disguise. Her physical disguise would not be as realistic, but I suspect that she could disguise her mind-voice well enough to suit that purpose... I only hope you two are strong enough to bear the burden.:

[What burden?] said Tommy, frustrated.

[Yeah. I've had enough of all this cryptic talk! I want an explanation, and _now_!] Kimberly exploded.

With a small sigh of white, Nyara appeared before him. When his eyes narrowed in speculation, she looked at him with equally slitted eyes. "Don't look at me like that, Tommy White Ranger. I _am_ Nyara shena keTsia."

"I don't know that." Tommy replied suspiciously.

"Believe it. After all, what else can you do?" Nyara said shortly. "I don't know what came over those two... I can only apologize for their youth and foolishness."

"Fine. If you _are_ Nyara, then what are these rings for?"


Six are one and one are six

The first, the Red Dragon:

The ring of might.

With it you may

Your enemies smite.

The second, YellowGriffon

Invisiblility, fly fast

So that you may

Your ordeals last.

The third, the Blue Unicorn

Forever pure

Healing powers

Are always sure.

Fourth, the Pink Phoenix

With heart of fire.

Burner of evil


Fifth, the Black Lion

So proud yet so bluff

Trickery for you

Will never be tough.

Last, the White Tiger

With bands of night

Empathy bonds

Will never have blight.

Six are one; one are six

Two are caught

by heart and soul

One is taken

Through a scry-seeker's bowl

One is lost,

Through heart a-bound

One is broken

Through love a-found

Astray by betrayal

The death of us all

This is how

The Colors will fall.

Destiny is a double-edged sword

It cuts both friends and foe.

If you are to break the sword

These words you must know.

Six are one; one are six


"There is more." Nyara said, quietly. "It is a prophecy, about the end of the Power Rangers. I think that Kadiya and Elspeth have taken it upon themselves to make sure it comes true."

"What do you mean, the end?" Kimberly asked. "You make it sound like the Power Rangers have been around a long, long time."

"You think you are the first Power Rangers? Hardly. _I_ was a Power Ranger, Kimberly. Kadiya, Elspeth, Haramis, Tarma, and Anigel, we were all Power Rangers. And I have been alive since time immemorial, and we were not even the _first_. That prophecy is about the end of the Power Rangers... for _good_."

"Oh." Kimberly said, somberly. "Oh."

"Oh, indeed." Nyara said, somewhat sardonically. "Oh, indeed."

"I don't get it though, Lady Nyara." Tommy said, frustrated. "Does this mean that _we're_ going to be the end? The last Power Rangers?"

"I hope not. I most _certainly_ hope not. But you are certainly shaping out to be."


"What the prophecy means is that the Power Rangers will be broken by love. By betrayal. By one of their own. Kadiya is not helping. Neither are you two, or _any_ of the other Rangers, for that matter."

"How would _you_ know how it's like to be in love?" Tommy said, bitterly.

A sad smile came to Nyara's lips. "Just because I'm not human _now_ doesn't mean that I wasn't before. I know what it's like... to be young and so much in love that nothing else matters..."

"What happened?" Kim felt compelled to ask, woman to woman.

"Ah." Nyara said, embittered. "After I was given my Ring of Power, I didn't age anymore. But the same could not be said for the rest of the world. He... died even though our life together was long and happy. That is why falling in love... is not a good idea. You should tell Trini... she has the right to know. She has already received her Ring of Power. Hara decided it was time she hit realization. Adam will age. Trini will not..."

"Oh... oh no. Poor Trini."

"Poor Trini indeed." Nyara agreed. "I am sorry to put this burden on your love, Kimberly, Tommy. But... it would have been better indeed had you two not exchanged rings. But now... you have already fulfilled part of the prophecy: Two are caught, by heart and soul. You cannot be separated now... not until you choose to be separated, because you will feel the other's pain as if it was your own..."

"Oh, no." Tommy murmured. "Oh, no."

"That is the only thing to say, Tommy. I am sorry for you, Power Rangers. The prophecy is yours indeed. I only hope that your knowledge of it can help you break the yoke of destiny. May the Power protect you."

"And you, Lady. And you." Tommy murmured back. With that, Nyara disappeared, and Tommy escorted Kimberly to her door... but held back from giving her a kiss.

"What, Tommy? What is it?"

"I need time... to think it over. Maybe... it's better if we don't..."

"Don't what, Tommy?" Kimberly said, hurt.

"I love you... always... but I've gotta do what's best for the team. And if us being together will hurt the Power Rangers... then maybe we shouldn't." Tommy said, looking down at the ground. He couldn't look up and meet her eyes.

A tear leaked down from Kimberly's eyes... and she slammed the door and ran upstairs, sobbing.

He walked home, pain echoing through him. When he got home, and lay down... after thinking for a while, he realized that some of the thoughts reverbrating around his head weren't his: he could hear Kim's thoughts as clear as his own... and like his own, they were tear-filled and painful.

:Why? Why us? If we'd been normal teenagers, then we'd have no problem. We'd finish school, get married and be happy. But no, we have to be Power Rangers. Always, always it's gotta be for the good of the world, for the good of Angel Grove, for the good of the team. Isn't it ever just for _us_?:

[If it was only that simple, Kim.] Tommy replied. [If it were only that simple.]

He felt a brief rush of shock that wasn't his own... then there was the feeling of her trying to shut her heart's door to him... and failing miserably. Her soul began to weep, and his heart cracked in two, no matter how hard he tried to make it.

:I hate my life!: Kimberly shrieked. :Hate it! I wish I'd never become a Power Ranger, never met the others... if I hadn't, I'd never have fallen in love! I'd just be a normal girl, with a normal life, and a normal--:

[Kim, SHUT UP!] Tommy yelled, his store of patience finally exhausted.

Kimberly's thought-howling shut up instantly. Tommy had _never_ spoken to her like that before, no matter how much she had deserved it. _Never_. In fact, she'd never heard him speak like that to _anyone_, before.

:T-T-T-Tommy?: she stuttered mentally, no mean feat.

[Look, Kim, I'm sorry I yelled at you. But howling about it isn't going to do any good! Not for the world, the team _or_ you and me. You're _not_ a normal girl. You heard what Nyara said, we can break the prophecy. But you have to pull yourself together!]

:O...O.K. I'm calm... I'm listening...:

[First, we have to figure out who the prophecies might mean. We know that "caught by mind and soul" is us, right? Well,"taken through a scry-seeker's bowl" could be Billy--]

:He was always so curious about mechanics. I think you're right, Tommy. And "lost through heart a-bound"... that could be Trini.:

[Right! And "broken through love a-found" could be Zach. In the Power Ranger men, he's the only one who can be broken. He doesn't bend: he snaps. He _does_ love Aisha, you know.]

:How can you tell?:

[I've known Aisha since we were children. He loves to show off... but when Aisha tells him that it's too much, he stops.]

:What's so remarkable about that?:

[B'cause he's never listened to anyone _else_ before...]

:Ah. But... well... that leaves Jason. And he's the most loyal of the Power Rangers.:

[Yeah. I know. It _can't_ be him...]

:But there's no one left!:

[I know. There's gotta be something wrong with our logic. There must be some mistake. There isn't anyone in our Rangers team who I can imagine betraying the rest.]

:Me neither. Look... Tommy, if it's going to be destiny... why fight it? You know how it is... I want to be your fiancée... but...:

[I know. Look, Kim, I take back what I said at your house. I don't give a damn if this is part of the Power Rangers' destruction, I love you. I've thought about this. We're already bound, like Nyara said. It's too late to change that. I'm going to fight to the end... but only if you're right there by me. So... what do you say?] He sent out a mental 'hand' raised for a handshake

She took it. :Forever, Tommy. Forever.:

She gave him a brief mental caress, and lay down to sleep. :Good night, Tommy.:

[Sweet dreams, Kim. Sweet dreams.]

Kimberly lay back down. Her thoughts no longer roiled with fury and sadness and despair combined. She had found love this day, and would not give it up for anything.

Then came Tommy's voice in her mind, one last time.

[One last thing, Kim. If we hadn't been Power Rangers, then we would never have gotten to know each other as well as we do now!]

Kimberly slept with a smile on her face. And her dreams were indeed sweet.

Part Four: Revelations
The next day, much to their amazement, when all the Rangers plus Adam, Rocky, Laura, Princilla and Aisha, of course, were playing in the park, no monsters, creepy-crawlies or horrifying things showed up. In fact, the day was beautiful. Everyone was laughing, and playing Foxtail with an abandon that they normally didn't have. Even Billy, bookish as he was, had taken off his glasses and abandoned his lab for one day to join the fun.

"Here it comes!" Zach yelled, spinning the Foxtail round and round his head. He threw it. Adam reached for it; it slipped through his fingers. Jason lunged; he touched it, but it slipped through his fingers, too. Then Tommy, laughing, leapt for it... With a flip, he caught it, hit the ground, rolled, and braked on his left leg--

Right into Kim. She fell over him, shrieking with laughter, and you couldn't have seen Tommy looking more surprised. The others were howling with mirth, bent over double, and Zach had tears streaming out of his eyes, he was laughing so hard. Tommy got to his feet with artificial, teasing dignity, and with a mock hauteur, offered Kim a hand. With all the grace of a young court lady, she accepted and slid with automatic agility to her pink-shoed feet. They stood there, smiling in a dignified manner until one of the others--Laura-- got her composure back long enough to talk.

"Nice catch, Tommy, but you're not supposed to bowl over any more girls! Wasn't one enough?" Laura said with mock sternness.

Tommy looked embarassed. Then he looked behind Laura's shoulder, at Jason. Who was daydreaming again, once the laughter had worn off. Tommy's brow wrinkled. It wasn't at all like Jason to daydream: he was rooted in the real world. In fact, he was more _human_ than any of the others!

[Kim, he's really head-over-heels for Kadi, isn't he.]

:Believe it, love. I can catch little thoughts coming from him if I 'listen', and they're about her. Try it. You're linked to me, any powers my ring gives me it should give you too. Right?:

Tommy listened. And Kimberly was right. He _could_ hear the Jason's strongest thoughts. And he _was_ thinking about Kadiya. In fact, he could hear the strongest thoughts of _everyone_ around him, if he tried.

He strode to his friend's side, after throwing the 'Tail in the opposite direction, and watching passively as both Rocky and Zach dived for it and crashed promptly into each other. "Thinking about Kadi?" he asked, softly, so that only Jason and Kimberly could hear him.

Jason looked at him, and smiled weakly. "Am I that transparent?" he asked, delicately.

"It's not that." Kim smiled. She told him about her ring.

"Ah." he said. "Um... Tommy, a favor. Do you know where Kadiya comes from? Who she is?"

"Uh... yeah..."

"Would you mind... if you could arrange for us to meet somewhere... I'd really like to talk to her again. Get to know her better and all that."

"Would you like to talk to her right now?" Tommy asked.

"I'd... I'd love to. But... how?"

[Hey, Kadi, Jason's asking for you.]

:Give me a second, I'll be right over.:

In a second, she appeared (thankfully, while the others' backs were turned) in a bolt of blue light. Jason stared. "Kadiya... you're a Power Ranger?"

"Uh... something like that." Kadiya said, somewhat weakly. "I guess that's close enough..."

[Kadi, if you're not going to tell him, I will. You're going to hurt him if you keep tricking him this way.] Kimberly said, worriedly.

:I know. I'll tell him myself, Kim. But later.:



"Oh, it's Jason's pretty dancing partner!" Zach exclaimed. "Jason, introduce us!"

"Careful, Zach." Aisha said, her mouth turning up. "You _might_ make me jealous!"

Zach smiled, gathered her into his arms, and kissed the top of her head. "Don't worry about it, Isha." he laughed.

Aisha giggled. "Yes, Jason, introduce us."

"This is Kadiya." Jason said.

"Call me Kadi." she smiled, friendly. Aisha and the other girls liked her instantly, and took her and Kimberly off to chatter and socialize, and to get to know each other, while the men converged around Jason, to see where he'd met her, ect.

The girls returned a few minutes later, giggling, and quickly grabbed their respective boyfriends away from the interrogation circle... leaving a rather confused Kadiya and Jason behind. Finally, Kadiya broke the surprised silence. "So." she said, wryly. "We meet again."

"Nice to see you, too." Jason said, rather ironically. He'd dreamt about this woman nonstop since yesterday's prom, and now he couldn't think of anything to say. So they just gazed into each others' eyes... and didn't realize until they heard giggles that they were lip-locked rather firmly.

Kadiya separated from Jason with a wide-eyed gasp, her lips brushing across his lips for a brief second. . Jason looked as surprised as she did... more, even. They had _not_ seen Trini touch her ring and blank out their minds, with invisibility at her command... They had _not_ seen Kimberly, behind the bush, touch her ring and give them just the _merest_ mental suggestion to kiss... And lastly, they had not seen Tommy, sitting in the crotch of the tree above them, simply control their bodies to come together!

The others giggled: _they_ knew what was going on. Princilla and Laura had gone home to fetch something, and therefore the others were _quite_ safe in their secret.

Kadiya turned around, rested her hands on her hips and growled at the tree. She'd felt and identified the scraps of Power from around her."Tommy! You are _not_ meant to use your Ring of Power that way!"

Jason was _quite_ confused. Why was Kadiya growling at a tree? He was puzzling... until Tommy dropped out of the branches without so much as a rustle. _Then_ he understood-- somewhat.

"What just happened?" he asked, frustrated.

Kadiya had just shed her cover of a playful teenage girl, and now, despite the tight blue jeans and short-striped T-shirt, looked every inch a _lady_.

"My lady, I apologize," said Tommy, courteously, "But you and your sister should not have conspired to give us the rings unless you intended us to use them!"

"Not on _us!_" Kadiya cried.

"Then who did you _think_ we would use them on? You're the one who put us through all this trouble in the _first_ place!" Tommy countered smoothly.

Jason stopped them. "O.K, people, I think I deserve some answers, here. A) what just happened; B) why did Tommy just refer to Kadiya as 'my lady,'; C) will someone tell me what's _going on_?!"

"One question at a time, Jason." Trini sighed. "What just happened, is that between Tommy, Kim and I, we took control of your bodies for just a brief second... and made you two kiss. The temptation was too great, to see you two together. You deserve each other! Now--" she said, waggling a finger at him. "--don't deny it. We weren't trying to play matchmaker, there's not a single soul here who can't see you were daydreaming the entire day, and it's not like you. We weren't playing matchmaker; you did it on your own."

Jason pinked.

"Second," Tommy responded. "I called Kadi 'my lady' because she _is_ a Lady, and I don't just mean female."

Jason looked at Kadiya with mute query in his eyes.

Kadiya sighed. The cat was out of the bag. "My name is Lady Kadiya shena keNyara."

When Jason looked like he _definitely_ didn't get it, she sighed once more. "The Blue Lady." she said, quietly. "The Maiden."

He got it. Fast. He just looked at her with a look that was part anger, part astonishment, part reverence, and all hurt.

"Don't look at me like that, Jason." she snapped, still a Lady. "It wasn't my fault."

"You tricked me." he whispered.

He whirled on Tommy. "Why didn't you _tell_ me this, before I fell in love with her, you idiot!" he snarled at him, taking out all of his hurt, anger and frustration on his friend.

Tommy backed up a step, his eyes wide. "I didn't know you _would_!" he protested. Kadiya's eyes narrowed.

"Jason... be reasonable!" Kim appealed to him.

"It's all very _easy_ to say 'be reasonable,' isn't it, Kimberly." Jason snapped. "Your 'boyfriend' is someone you can count on. Someone _reasonable_."

"That's not what I meant!" Kimberly cried. But it was too late. Jason was advancing on her.

"What, aren't I _rational_ enough for you, Kimberly Hart?" Jason growled, menace oozing out of every pore. "No, you have to have a nice, _gentle_ guy like Tommy, don't you. Someone who can be _trusted_."

A bolt of white light hit him square in the back, and he was thrown to his knees. "Leave Kim alone!" Tommy said, deep in his throat. "She's done nothing to you. If you're going to pick a fight, then pick it with someone who's your equal in martial arts. You're not a coward, whatever else you are."

With a snarl, Jason sprang at him. With animal fury at his side, plus Tommy's unwillingness to harm his friend who obviously wasn't in his right mind, he quickly gained the advantage. Finally, when Jason had knocked Tommy to the ground and was about to do some _serious_ damage to him--

--Kadiya intervened. "Stop it, Jason." she said, tiredly.

"As you wish, _my lady_." he said, mockingly. He rose from his position, and Kimberly ran to check Tommy for possible injuries.

"Look, it's _me_ you're angry at. If you wish to take your anger out on someone, I suggest it be the one who started it." she said, her emerald eyes cool and ancient. "I was the one who told Tommy not to tell you who I was. I came when he asked, not told, me to come. Yes, I am a demi-goddess. But I am also human."

"And _how_ is this possible?" Jason spat. His heart rebelled at speaking this way to someone he had been daydreaming about a few minutes earlier, but his mouth still had control.

"I was a Power Ranger, just as you are. I told you that. I still am a Ranger: just with more powerful abilities. We can be touched; we can feel. It is thanks to Tommy's heartfelt plea that Kimberly is alive today."

"Then why did you come down here? Turn all our lives upside down?"

[Turn my heart and my world upside down.] his mind added.

"Because it's _lonely_ up there. My sisters are not the best of company. The next-youngest, Elspeth shena keResczia, is over a century older than me. Many were the times I wished I was human again. No matter what people think, it's no fun being a goddess."

"Fun? _Fun?_ You call this _fun?_" Jason yelped, too astonished to be upset.

"No. I had forgotten how dangerous the game of hearts is." Kadiya said. She looked very young and very old at the same time. "I never expected to lose my own... now what will I do? I can't tell my sisters... they'll think me biased."

Jason blinked. He turned his gaze back to her. Back into her eyes. "You... lost your own?"

Kadiya nodded mutely. She looked positively miserable. "I love you, Jason. You're so much like me that it's not even funny."

With that, she began to cry.

_That_, Jason could respond to. Having grown up with three younger sisters, he knew that girls, when crying, just wanted to be held. So he did. His anger and hurt had dissipated as soon as the battle-madness; it just wasn't like him to be angry. He gathered her into his strong arms and chest and held her as delicately as a feather as she wept out her pain.

[Why is it that all women have some secret sorrow inside them?] he asked one of any various gods.

Much to his shock, he got a reply.

:Because we hold our pain inside instead of letting it out.:

Then he realized who it was.




:This thrice-damned ring gave me this ability to talk to people in their heads. It's not something I would choose...:

:Me neither.: said Tommy. :But now that we've got it, we may as well use it.:

Jason felt a brief rush of anger once again, which again dissipated as quickly as smoke.

[Whoa, _both_ of you?]

:Both of us.: Tommy replied grimly. :We gave each other our rings. And when I saved her life, it linked us, somehow, so now we share everything. And when we traded rings, it just made it worse. So she probably felt every blow you landed on me...:

[I'm sorry. Really I am. All I can say is that--]

:It's O.K. It's better you took it out on me than on someone who wouldn't have understood. I do. Deal with Kadi, first. She needs you, no matter how strong she seems to be. She's not perfect any more than we are.:

:T-t-t-tommy?: Kadiya entered their little mental talk-circle. :J-j-j-jason? Whose mind _is_ this? There's not supposed to be more than one voice a mind!:

Kimberly giggled mentally. :Well, thanks to you, Kadi, there are two in mine and Tommy's. When we traded rings, we started feeling what the other felt and hearing what the other thought! And if that wasn't bad enough, we started sharing powers!:

:Oh, dear.: Kadiya sighed. :I'm sorry. I forgot, you two are spirit-bonded. That's right: you two got the Pink Firebird and the White Tiger rings. "Fourth, the Pink Phoenix; With heart of fire; Burner of evil; Thought-magnifier." "Last, the White Tiger; With bands of night; Empathy bonds; Will never have blight." I had you two exchange the Rings that were specifically for the mind and heart. I should have thought before I planned to have you two exchange rings.:

:Yes.: Kimberly said, archly. :You should have.:

:I should stop meddling in the business of the living, shouldn't I.: Kadiya sighed. :Go home and never come back. Yes, that would be best.:

[_No_!] Jason cried. But he didn't yell it in his mind: he shrieked it in his heart. And so was surprised beyond belief when Kimberly and Tommy winced.

:Ah... Kadi, no offence meant to your decisions,: Tommy began courteously, :but someone just gave out a very painful heart-scream. And I don't just mean painful for _him_. I think that there would be several someones would be very unhappy indeed if you left for good. Not the least of which are Kim and I: not only will we miss you, but Jason will make it difficult to be _alive_ if that scream is any indication!:

They popped out of their mental worlds. "Look, Jason, I think it's for the best if I go. And don't come back. You'll be better off without me. I'm not even human!" Kadiya protested, no matter how it pained her. Trying her hardest --and not doing very well--to ignore the gentleness with which he held her to his chest with almost amazingly strong arms, and the sensitive warmth of love coming from his eyes...

"But you were." Jason said, softly, pressing her against his chest. "You said so yourself."

Kimberly gasped suddenly. "The prophecy!" she said.

"What prophecy?" Aisha asked, puzzled.

"How many prophecies do you know? Kadi, if you leave, you'll break him!"

Kadiya's eyes widened. "One is broken through love a-found. Kim, you're right!"

Suddenly, in a white flash of light, Nyara appeared. "Kadiya, _you_ are right."

Kadiya gasped, horrified. "Nyara! How..."

"How did I find you?" Nyara said, ironically. "Well, you've been mooning around calf-eyed since yesterday, so it only follows that _something_ happened... By the Powers, girl, why didn't you tell me?"

"T-t-tell you what?"

It was very obvious that Kadiya was quite frightened and very much in awe of Nyara, so Jason stepped in to protest. "Look, _I_ don't know who you are, and personally, I couldn't care less. But I _do_ know you're scaring Kadi, and that you've got no right to talk to her that way! She's a Lady of the Power, for godsakes!"

"Uh... Jason, you didn't see her teleport in, did you."

"Why, no. You mean..." he looked at Nyara, paled, and pointed. "...her?"

"Me." Nyara agreed, her mouth quirking in amusement. "I have _every_ right to talk to her that way. _I_ alone am older than her by several millenia, and _Haramis_ is older than I by almost twice that. What does this tell you, Jason-Red-Ranger-Who-Will-Brook-No-Nonsense?"

"You... you..." Jason stammered.

"I am Nyara shena keTsia, the Guardian; Kadiya has been shirking her duties for a long time now!"

Jason seemed to shrink away. But he stood his ground, and apologized, if rather shakily at that. "S-S-S-Sorry..."

Nyara sighed. "That's all right. You couldn't have known, after all. I should be thankful that Kadiya has good taste, at least."

Kadiya blushed. "I... I thought..."

"You thought I wouldn't know? Of _course_ I would! I'm no naïve fool. Neither am I a doting, blind-to-reality mother. By the Power, Kadi, you're my _daughter_!"

There was an simultaneous chorus of "Daughter?!" Tommy and Kimberly were passing mental notes faster than anyone could track.

"I know what it's like to be young, and so _very_ much in love." Nyara scolded. "You know that. You know the story of your father. Why did you think I wouldn't understand?"

Kadiya flushed again, but with anger. "You spied on the prom night?"

"I would have _never_ spoken to my mother again if _she'd_ spied on _my_ prom night! Not that she _could_, but..." Nyara said, somewhat distractedly.

"Answer the question, Nyara. Did you, or did you not spy on the prom night." Kadiya said, angrily.

"I did not. I am the Guardian; I am your mother; I am _not_ your nursemaid. You lead your own life; I just keep you from doing stupid things. And what I am telling you right now is what Kimberly just pointed out: you go back to the Color Palace, you fulfil yet another part of the prophecy. Since you were instrumental in fulfilling the _first_ part, I suggest, Kadi, that you _not_ be the perpetrator of the second. The Powers would _not_ be pleased, and neither would the other Ladies."

"Y-yes, Nyara."

"Good. I will leave you to yourself, then, Kadiya. And to your chosen." She grinned at him. Jason blushed tremendously, though nervously. "I don't bite, you know. You only have to ask Tommy and Kimberly to know that I _do_ retain any human emotions and sensibilities that I had when I was a Power Ranger. Even though I admit there weren't very many of the latter. Ay, no one's perfect. And I am still as blunt as a Power Ranger's helmet. So I will say this straight. I _do_ approve of you, Jason, no matter how against it I seem. I watched you grow up, and I do say that I think your parents must be as proud of you as I would be if I was the Red Lady. As it is, managing _one_ Ranger who seems to get into more trouble than he's worth is enough for me!" she looked over at Tommy with a smile in one corner of her mouth.

Tommy smiled back. He _liked_ this lady.

"Tommy," Nyara began, "it's a pity that you're so devoted to Kimberly there. I wouldn't mind having you as a son-in-law, and my daughter confided in me not so long ago that she found you quite attractive."

Jason's eyes narrowed, and Tommy's widened. Kadiya was horrified. "Nyara!" she exclaimed, blushing furiously. "You weren't supposed to tell them that!"

"If it's true," Kimberly pointed out, "then she _should_ have told them that _before_ they made any commitments."

Kadiya regarded her sourly and amusedly at the same time. "You've become too sensible for my liking, Kimberly. You've changed." she remarked. "If Tommy had met you as you were before, it's likely he would only have derision for you."

Kimberly was horrified. "What?"

"It's true. You had the potential to be a real hero... but also to be an absolute airhead."

"What do you mean?" Kimberly asked. She was puzzled... but also slightly upset.

"Now... don't get mad. I'm only telling you the truth as I know it. You want to see where you'd be right now if Zordon hadn't called you?"

"Y-y-y-yes." Kimberly stammered. "I would."

Kadiya cast a look at her that said, plainly, "no, you don't."

Kadiya sighed. "Girl, you would not. I will show you how you _were_. Once you've seen that, _then_ you can decide on whether you want to see the present as it would be."

Kimberly sighed. "O.K."

{"Why don't you, like, go get a life?" Kimberly snarled at Bulk and Skull, with Trini beside her falling into fighting position.}

"Why?" Bulk jeered. "Aren't we cute enough for you?"

"Yeah!" Skull echoed. "Aren't we cute enough?"

"Why don't you just go away." Trini reasoned.

"Make us!"

"Yeah, make us!"

Suddenly, Zach came up behind them and rested a possesive hand on their shoulders. "These guys bugging you girls?" He asked, quite friendly.

"Yeah." Kimberly half-whined.

"Oh, so the dancer wants to tangle with the martial artists, huh?" Bulk taunted.

"It's O.K, Zach." Trini said, quietly. "We can take care of these two."

"O.K, ladies." he said, walking off. Though Kimberly was the more agile and Trini the more trained, he was perfectly confident that they could take care of themselves. Half of Ernie's turned around to watch the spectacle of Bulk and Skull against two girls, one who, despite having a reputation as something of an airhead, was slim from gymnastics and martial arts practice, and one who was simply good.

"Ooooh." Bulk said, a lip curling in derision. "So the girls think that they could tangle with us, huh? Let's show them some karate moves, Skull!"

With howls that wouldn't have curdled the blood of a five year old, Bulk and Skull charged at Kimberly and Trini. In a long fluid movement, the oldest in a judo book, Kimberly and Trini used Bulk's and Skull's weight to flip them over their shoulders onto the gymnastics mat.

The regular customers roared with laughter. Kimberly just looked at Bulk and Skull with a 'you're pathetic' look on her face.}


{The command center. Their first mission as Power Rangers just finished.They had all decided that they wanted to be Power Rangers.

All except one.

"I don't know, guys. I mean, taking orders from a flying _head_? And that helmet thing really messes up my hair." she picked up a lank strand. "I don't think I could do it." she shook her head.

The other new Rangers all surrounded her closely. Alpha could feel the close bond between them, even though they were so different, and knew that if Kimberly didn't join, the others would repudiate their bond to the Zords and the Power. "Come on, Kim!" Zach pleaded.

"Not!" she shouted.

The others all relaxed in relief.}


Kimberly and Kadiya faded out of the visions, if that was what they were. Kimberly looked somewhat nauseous. "I... I was that bad?"

"You were that bad." Kadiya agreed. "All I showed you were pictures from the past, Kim. You've changed. A lot. The _real_ Kimberly has come out. All of you," she gestured around, "have changed. Even you, Tommy. Even you."

"What do you mean, the 'real' Kimberly?"

"That 'ditzy' image you put up was your protection against the world. It kept others away... except for those who recognized the real Kimberly inside. They recognized her--you-- because you have a great heart. Maybe you've forgotten what Zordon told you when he gave you your Zords. Why you had them."

"Jason: Powerful and a leader.

Zach: Intelligent and courageous.

Kimberly: Graceful and smart.

Billy: Patient and wise.

Trini: Strong and fearless."

"But what does that have to do with all of us?" asked Tommy.

"You had a bond of kindred spirits before. Now you have more. You're more than friends... you're family. Right?"

Slowly, they all nodded.

"All people are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. You six belong to the same puzzle. But before you became Rangers, you were near, but not together. Now the pieces have been brought together, and the only one who can defeat you is yourself. Six are one, one are six." she quoted.

"Six are one; one are six." Jason murmured.

"Powers Above, hear my cry." Trini muttered.

"Let the circle be unbroken." Tommy said, quietly.

"Let us never be alone." Kimberly whispered, gently touching Tommy's hand.

"Let there be no harsh words spoken." Zach said, quietly.

"Unseat Lord Zedd from his dark throne." Billy finished.

Then, all together, "Six are one; one are six. We are six; we are one. Power Rangers!" they shouted, jumping into the air with high-fives.

Kadiya and Nyara simply smiled. There was _no_ way the thrice-cursed prophecy was going to take place _now_!

Suddenly, Nyara cupped her hands, and a ring with a black lion stylized on it in black opal and jet pearl appeared. It's eyes were of pink tourmaline. She handed it to Zach with a smile. "You deserve it, Black Ranger."

Again, she cupped her hands. This time, a blue ring appeared. The design was of a unicorn, in blue amber and lapis lazuri. Its red eye was a ruby so dark, it was almost black. With a nod, she handed it to Billy. "You are wise enough to handle the healing powers this gives, Blue Ranger."

Once more, she would have cupped her hands... but Kadiya stopped her. She shook her head mutely. "What is it, Kadiya?"

"Allow me, Nyara."

Nyara started in surprise. "You... you are sure, Kadiya?"

Kadiya nodded assuredly. She cupped her hands, and there was a blood-red glow in them. Then the glow faded, and a thick band with a dragon stylized on it was in her hands. It was encrusted with something that _would_ have been fire opal, had it not been such a rich red color. For eyes, black diamonds, and for claws and teeth, it had pearl.

Kadiya smiled at Jason with teeth as white as the dragon's, and slipped it on his finger. "We are bonded now," she whispered. "Not as Kimberly and Tommy are, not as mind-mates and soul-mates, but as equals. You will not hear my voice in your head as Kimberly and Tommy do, unless you choose it, nor will I hear yours. But I will always know when you are in danger, for when you are in danger, so will I be." She kissed him quickly, allowing her soft lips to brush against his in a gesture she had dreamed of doing for centuries. "May you find all that you seek!"

"I've already found it." Jason murmured.


Lord Zedd growled at his dark minions. "Rrrr... those meddling Ladies of Power have emerged into the world once again! I need... a monster of epic proportions! No... I need a Power Ranger of my own! A... yes! Yes, a Black Ranger... no, the dark makes the light lighter. I need... I need..."

"Think, you idiot, _think_!" one of Zedd's henchmen, Baboo, berated the other, bonking him over the head.

"Shut _up_, you fools!" Zedd growled. "I can't even hear myself _think_ with you imbeciles around!"

"Yeah!" Squatt whined, whacking the other.

"I know..." he articulated. "I know... not a Black Ranger... nor a White Ranger... not Yellow nor Pink nor Red nor Blue. I need a totally new Ranger. A... a Violet Ranger? Yes!" he cried, curling his fingers. "And the beauty of this is, Zordon and those blasted Power Rangers won't be able to tell the difference... until it's too late..."

Lord Zedd pointed his Z staff at the beautiful blue Earth.

On the Earth, a strikingly handsome young man appeared. He was from no obvious race: his hair, like Tommy's, was long. Unlike Tommy's, though, it was styled into a fashionable undercut and hung to his shoulders in smooth waves. It was gold as the sun's rays, and, just like Tommy's, was silky and smooth. His eyes were as blue as Kadiya's clothes. His cheekbones were high and straight, and his skin could have been the envy of any model, it was so soft, smooth and creamy; his sensuous mouth could have charmed the life out of any woman alive.

He was dressed in shades of black and deep violet. He wore tan Doc Martens, a violet T-shirt, a black-and violet flannel--

--and what was be the male equivalent of a very, _very_ mini-skirt. Tight form-fitting black jeans. He was handsome. _Oh_, yes, he was handsome, and more. Beautiful as life itself, he was. And yet he was beautiful as a child, as a young boy's beauty, not the beauty of a mature man or a sensuous seductor. No, he was beautiful, but the beauty of innocence.

He smiled. It was a handsome smile. And touched the panel on his wrist. With a burst of violet, he disappeared in a flash of teleporting light.

He suddenly appeared behind the other Rangers. Who suddenly felt the burst of extra energy. They had been a 'family' of six, now they were--


"Hi." the newcomer greeted. His voice was rich and sonorous. "You don't know me, but my name's Dirk. I'm the Violet Ranger."

They stared at him. Then blinked. Then stared again. Jason spoke, albeit slowly.

"Uh... excuse me?"

"I know this comes as a bit of a shock, Red Ranger, but I guess it's about time I put myself into the open. By the way, what's your name?"

"Jason." he answered reflexively. Then paused. "Just who are you, anyway?"

"Dirk Rashkae." the new kid answered, patiently. "I'm the new Ranger."

"Well... this is sudden..." Kadiya said, as surprised as the rest. But also the most suspicious.

[I didn't hear any word of this from Nyara or any of the other Ladies. Something's up, and I'd bet my Ladies' Staff that this 'Violet Ranger' is neck-deep in it.]

"I know." he said, looking her straight in the eyes. "I am sorry... but this is important."

"What's important?" asked Tommy, coming forward.

"This." 'Dirk' said, taking something out of his back pocket. It was a morpher... but the picture in it was of a deinonychus. And the glass surrounding it was broken. "I can 'port, and I can feel the power, but I can't morph."

"Ah." said Trini, succintly.

[I don't know, Tommy.] she sent a mind-message to Tommy, knowing that with his and Kim's shared powers, he'd get it. [Should we take him to the command center?]

:I guess. He's got a morpher... I can't feel any evil intentions or feelings coming from him... and he's a Ranger. He's got power. I can feel that. What do you think, Billy, Jason, Zach, Kim?:

:Affirmative. Power Ranger or not, he needs our help.:

:I dunno, guys. There's something awful fishy about this...:

:I agree with Zach. I don't like the feeling of this guy.: Jason agreed. :What about you, Kim? Kim?:

There was no reply from Kimberly. Who was gazing at Dirk with little stars in her eyes.

[Thrice dammit!] Kadiya swore, looking at Kimberly. Maiden or not, she _knew_ that look. Kimberly was smitten. It wasn't love, that much was obvious. But Dirk had enough sex appeal to make most any woman swoon. And Kimberly was bound to think that it _was_ love.

And the very predictable effect it would have on Tommy was not good. True, Tommy was the White Ranger.

[But also true, no matter his 'purity,' he's human. Only human. And very much in love. I wouldn't want to be Dirk when Tommy's almost-endless supply of excuses and patience comes to an end. This is not going to do very well on his self-confidence, either. As it is, only being with Kim keeps him from thinking that he's not as good as the other Rangers. What more now, spurned by Kim for a more handsome fellow? Damn you, you slick bastard!]

[No matter what he told Jason, he's going to just plain hate himself for something that's a very natural reaction. Dammit, what do I do?]

:You do whatever you think you should, Kadiya.: came Tommy's tired reply. :I saw the look in Kim's eyes. I saw the look in his, and he feels the same for her. I'm not going to do anything stupid. If she likes him better than me-- and who wouldn't?-- then she's his. I just want her to be happy.:

[Let me correct myself. You're stupider than I thought, if you think that you're not jealous.]

:Who said that? I'm... I'm just glad... it's not often I get my wishes fulfilled so exactingly.:

[WHAT?!] Kadiya roared.

:Remember, when I called on the Ladies for the first time? I asked that she find someone to love. Even if it wasn't me. She deserves someone better than me. Better than someone with a bad memory and who can't devote the time that she deserves to her. Well, if she's happy with this new guy, then I'm happy.:

[You're lying to yourself, you dumb human! You're not happy. No one could be! And you're very damn well the most devoted fiancée I've ever seen! Your bad memory? Who cares?! You'll never forget _her_!]

:Remember what Nyara told me? To have something, you must always be willing to lose it? Well, I had Kim's love for a short while, and it was sweet. But I lost it.:

It was only then that Kadiya realized that the reason why Tommy's mind-voice sounded so calm was because he was trembling on the very knife-edge of despair.

[Tommy... Tommy, wait...]

Tommy touched his wrist and teleported out.

"Damn you, Kim, you bitch, for doing this to him." Jason growled deep in his throat. He had seen the look on his friend's face, and knew that Tommy had been on the very verge of a break-down when he had teleported out.

Kimberly had been surprised at first, when Dirk appeared. Then she had noticed the finely-carved planes of his face. And his blue eyes. She had become dizzy for a second-- just a second...

Then she'd truly _noticed_ Dirk, and forgotten Tommy completely.

She hadn't even noticed when he had disappeared from behind her.

The other Rangers had noticed. They had exchanged worried looks... then looked at Kim. And noticed the same things that Kadiya had: starry eyes, half-parted lips, down to (and this made Billy and Jason blush a little) the taut points of her nipples. She was smitten, as sure as the sun sets in the west.

"Oh..." Dirk said, his eyes wide... and starry as well. "Who may you be, fair lady?"

"I'm... I'm Kimberly." was all she said. But it held a world of meaning. "You... you need help?"

Dirk nodded soberly. "I can't morph." he repeated patiently.

"But I'd never heard of a Violet Ranger before." Trini said, somewhat suspicious.

"That's because there wasn't one. I was only _made_ a Ranger a few minutes ago. I know enough about Power Rangers to know that you can teleport, jet... and you can morph. But when I looked at my morpher, well, the glass was broken."

"Well, we can fix that! Or at least Alpha can." Kimberly said, determinedly. "Since you don't know where the command center is, then I guess I'll have to take you."

"Wha?" Dirk said, very suprised, as Kimberly attached herself to him in a hug. He was not altogether displeased, though. With that, Kimberly teleported them out in a burst of pink.

"Damn it!" Kadiya swore verbally.

"What's going on?" Zach asked. "I don't like this. A second ago, Kimberly was Tommy's faithful-till-death girlfriend. Now, that angel-faced bastard charms her, sends Tommy to the edge of nuttyness and _she_ takes him to the command center!"

"I don't think it's his fault." Kadiya said. "I'm the best at the Healing arts: that's why my chosen animal is a unicorn. Kimberly's under a spell... again!"

"Damn! Now what?"

"A) we could try to convince Kimberly. That's not something we should try."

"How come?"

"Because," she said, slowly, "if I wanted to break up the Rangers, that's what I would do. Make a new Ranger, but make sure he has no knowledge of what he was and what he was made for."

"How come?"

"Between Tommy's and Kimberly's rings, they'd have him found out faster than you can say 'busted!' Make him so handsome that it would only be natural for Kimberly to fall for him... if she wasn't so attached to Tommy. Stick a spell on her, to make Cupid hit her for him, and --voila!-- Tommy's ready and willing to kill himself, and the Power Rangers are being divided where they can be picked off in little pieces."

"Damn, you're right!" Trini said.

"B) we can try to find Tommy. Also not a good idea. For one thing, he's pretty much impossible to find unless he wants to be found. Another, he probably wants to be alone right now. And C) we can let things run their natural courses. Dirk _is_ a Ranger, his claims are legitimate. He and Kim should get along famously; I don't think Zedd ever thought about how _his_ Ranger might feel."

"I don't like it. I just don't like it." Zach said, worriedly.

"Neither do I, Zach." Kadiya said, sadly. "Neither do I."

Suddenly, their wrist panels went off. "What is it, Zordon." Jason asked.

"Jason. You and the other Rangers must come to the command center at once."

"We read you, Zordon. Jason out."

With a sigh, the Rangers and Kadiya teleported out.

Part 5: A Problem of Attitude

They appeared in the command center. Alpha was puttering about as usual... until he saw Kadiya. "Oh! Oh my! Lady Kadiya shena keNyara! It is an honor! Oh, my!"

Kadiya, despite the grim situation, had to smile. "I'm just Kadi, Alpha. Only Kadi."

Her smile disappeared when she saw Dirk and Kimberly. They were smiling at each other lovingly, and holding hands. "Ahem. Well, what did you call us here for, Zordon shon neEltar, shon keRalaya."

"This does not concern you, Lady Mistaya shena keNyara, shena neSongwynd."

"If this concerns my friends, then it concerns me." she said, determinedly. "And don't call me 'Mistaya shena neSongwynd.' Mistaya and Songwynd no longer exist."

"As you wish, Lady."

"Alpha, can you fix it?" Dirk asked worriedly, looking at the morpher that was his in Alpha's hands.

"Just give me a few seconds, Dirk." Alpha said amiably. "And it will be as good as new!"

"Thank you." he said, politely smiling. Then he turned to Kimberly. "How about you and me get a drink at the local soda shop?"

"Sure!" Kimberly chirruped happily. "Just give me a second to get changed." She teleported out.

Dirk was about to do the same, but Kadiya caught his arm. "No you don't, fire-eater. I need to talk to you."

"But Kim's waiting for me!"

"This is more important. Do you know who Kimberly is? Do you deserve to call her that nickname? _Did you know you aren't the only one who loves her_?" Kadiya asked, her eyes narrowed.

"No..." Dirk faltered. "But... but who?"

"She wears his ring on her finger, one of a firebird. And she wears a tattoo on her stomach of a firebird twined with a white tiger. She does this for love of him. His name? Tommy, the White Ranger. And _you_ have driven him dangerously close to the pit of despair!"

"What... what do you mean? And who are you, anyway?"

"I am Kadiya. Jason's 'girl,' if you must put it that way. And Tommy is an empath. He wears Kimberly's ring. As she wears his."

"But... are they married?"

Kadiya shrugged. "You could say that. Where it counts, they have been married for years. Where it matters, they've been married forever."

The other Rangers were startled-- shocked, even.

"And she is so quick to leave him? He mustn't have been much of a husband." Dirk pointed out hopefully.

"Quite the contrary. Lord Zedd's had it in for her ever since she refused to be his Queen of Darkness. Look, you don't even know Kim."

"You're... you're right. I don't. But I feel like I've known her my entire life."

"Instinct isn't always a good thing." Kadiya said, grimly. "My mother learned that."

"I don't care! Your mother could be a whore for all I care!" Dirk cried. "I don't know what the bloody heck it is that I feel for Kim--not yet-- but sure as heck it's more than just plain liking! _No_ one could feel what I'm feeling! How can you judge? You're not even a Power Ranger! How would you know what it's like to see someone-- and know that her soul is exactly like yours?"

Kadiya stopped. Her green eyes became so cold they seemed to frost.

Jason bristled. "Now see here, buddy, I don't care who you are. But _no one_ talks to Kadi like that... and gets away with it!"

Kadiya held up a hand and stopped him. "I can take care of myself, Jason."

She turned to Dirk. "You obviously don't know who I am, so I'll forgive you. _This_ time. But the next time you speak to me like that, you'll find yourself facing Counsil, Dirk Rashkae."

"Oooh." Dirk said, sarcastically. "I'm scared. Who _are_ you, anyway? Aside from Jason's little pet, of course."

Kadiya drew herself straight-- and became a lady again. "My name is Kadiya shena keNyara. I am the Maiden. I am the Lady of Blue Healing. And for that insult, I could have your powers stripped from you."

"Oh, yeah? You and what army?"

Suddenly, Kadiya lifted her right hand. One by one, the other Ladies of Power appeared.

"Wowee. Now I'm really terrified. A bunch of ladies is going to get rid of me now. You can't do anything, can you." he taunted. The other Rangers narrowed their eyes at him, liking him less as each minute passed.

Nyara stepped forward. "This 'bunch of ladies' are those who gave you your powers, Dirk. To name you Violet Ranger as I name Tommy White Ranger would be insulting those who deserved the name."

Haramis came forward, and her expression was grim. "We have never before _needed_ to strip Power from one who had it, probably because they deserved it."

Tarma stepped forward. "I vouched for you, because you had spirit. Now, what was spirit seems to be arrogance."

And last, Anigel stepped forward. She said nothing, only looked at him with accusation in her eyes.

Dirk looked at her. His eyes grew wide. "Annie?" he said, wonderingly. "Annie, is that you?"

"My name is Anigel shena keMiribel." she said, coldly.

"Ann-chan, it _is_ you!" he cried. "Kuso! Where have you been all these years! We met when I was in junior high... but you left my first year of high school! You were my best friend... until you left me." Hurt reigned high in child-like eyes.

"As I said, Dirk, my name is Anigel. Anigel shena keMiribel, shena neRetruance, Lady of Red Strength. _Not_ Annie, and not Ann-chan. You lost your right to call me those names when you challenged one who has been named my sister-kin."

"But... but..."

"In the name of 'love,'" with that, her lip twisted. "or not, you still did something that went against anything any of us have ever taught you. Do you not remember the old woman who used to tell you stories? Or the black-haired girl who taught you how to use a sling? Or the woman in pink who always appeared when you were lost? Perhaps you remember the woman in blue who always appeared by your bedside when you were sick. Or maybe the white woman who always was near when you were in danger. Do you remember those women, Dirk?"

"Yes. But--"

"But what, foolish boy?"

"But I didn't know they were you!"

"So what? Tommy and Kimberly didn't know who we were. Jason and Trini and Zach and Billy couldn't have known. Yet they treated us with courtesy and respect, always. And even when they _were_ disrespectful, it was in the defence of others. So what do you say, Dirk?"

"I say, go to Hell." he said in a somewhat desperate tone of voice. "I'm going to catch up with my date with Kim." He touched the panel on his wrist...

... and nothing happened. He tried again. And again. And still, he was still in the command center. Zach looked at him, quite amused. "Shoo, man, you shouldn't try anything funny with _these_ chicks!" he commented.

"Shut up!" Dirk growled. Then he capitulated. "O.K. Fine. What do you want me to do?"

"Change your attitude." Anigel said, quietly. "I left when you didn't need me anymore. Your attitude was fine. It seems that it has deteriorated once more, and you are an arrogant know-it-all bastard once again."

"When you left," Dirk growled, "I changed. I got better-looking. I got better at sports. I grew taller. But I didn't have any friends. All the people in school were so blasted _nasty_ to me, that becoming arrogant --like them-- was only a defense against the world. The girls despised me --I don't know why-- no matter how good-looking I became. You don't know how good it feels, to be loved by someone in return."

Tommy teleported in. "Yes, I do."

Dirk looked at him with hostile eyes. "You're Tommy, aren't you. Kimberly's husband."

Tommy shook his head, smiling wistfully. "I'm Tommy, yes, but I'm not Kimberly's husband. Not yet. Her fiancée, yes."

"Well, I'm sorry, man, but she's mine, now."

Tommy sighed and turned his head away, facing the viewing globe. "I know. Just, just make sure she's happy, O.K?"

With that, he teleported out. Dirk stared at the spot where Tommy had stood a few seconds earlier. "What did he say?"

"You were trying to provoke a fight, weren't you." Anigel said, calmly, her eyes narrowing. "And a good thing Tommy didn't rise to it, or you'd be a bloody heap by now. He's the strongest, best martial artist for miles around."

"No, what did he say?"

"He said to make sure Kim's happy." Zach replied flatly, abjectly disliking the new Ranger now.

"He did?" Dirk asked. "Then why didn't he get mad? I mean, that's not _human_! _No_ one wishes that his girl'll be happy with another guy!"

"Tommy does. Because Tommy is the White Ranger for a reason, you fool." Anigel snapped. "You know how many times he's put his own life on the line to save the others? How many times he gave up his shields so that the others could be protected? He even offered his own powers in payment when Lord Zedd took the powers of the others. And as a result, he lost them. Only temporarily, though."

"He offered anything he had --his body, his powers, his life-- to us to save Kimberly's life when she was dying-- and as a result they're both alive." Haramis said softly. "She owes him. A lot. But he'll never ask for the debt to be paid."

"Oh." said Dirk in a small voice. "Why?"

"Because that's the way Tommy is. He doesn't like it that you're the object of Kim's attentions, now, but he wants her to be happy. And if she'll be happy with you, then so be it."

"But... but that's insane! _No_ one could be that, well, that nice! Isn't he jealous? At all?"

"Probably. He's only human. But he's not going to let that get in the way. I know Tommy better than all of the other Ladies, and he's just going to want to be by himself for a while." Nyara explained.

"I... I don't understand. He'd give her up... just like that?"

"Why don't you talk to him?" Kadiya asked with deadly calm.

"He, he probably hates me now." Dirk said, bowing his head. All could now see that this arrogant man was indeed destined to be a Power Ranger. His arrogance was gone, or at least seemed to be, and his haughty spirit bent into manageable terms.

Kadiya nodded in sympathy. "Probably. Any _other_ man would. But Tommy's not exactly any _other_ man. If he _does_ hate your guts--and I can't blame him if he does--then I guess he prefers not to show it. If you'd become a Power Ranger in spirit and not just in body, you have to understand how his heart works."

Dirk nodded. "I'll go. But where is he?"

"Tommy? He's at his uncle's cabin by the lakeside."

"Then I'm gone."

With that, Dirk teleported out in a burst of violet light.

"You think he'll do?" Jason asked Kadiya, worriedly.

"He'll do." Kadiya said, grimly. "The world depends on it."


Dirk appeared by a rustic little stone cabin. From the other side, he heard distinct splashing sounds.

Slowly, he paced around and saw a beautiful little lake. The water was clear and clean, and it was not mud that coated the bottom, but a thick, fine sand. And in the center of this, Tommy swam. He reached the end of his lap and stood, smoothing back long, tangled skeins of brown hair. "Oh. Hello. Dirk, isn't it?" Tommy said, his voice carefully neutral.

"Yeah. Look, could I join you?"

Tommy shrugged. "Sure. I've got a spare pair of trunks that should fit you in the house."

Dirk went into the cabin. Sure enough, there was a pair of swimming trunks in the top drawer --not white, of course, that would be disastrous in a swimming hole-- that seemed to take on a purple tinge as he slid them on.

With a "sploosh," he jumped into the water. Soaking Tommy in the process, of course.

Tommy gave him a friendly grin. "So, I guess you're moving into Angel Grove, huh?"

Dirk gave him a strange look. "Mind if I ask you a personal question?"

"Go ahead."

"Why the hell are you being so _nice_ to me? I mean, I steal your fiancée, I invade your privacy, I just plain screw up your life, and you still treat me better than I would treat my own best friend."

Tommy's smile faded, and he shrugged, somewhat melancholy. "Why shouldn't I?"

"Why _should_ you?"

"You didn't do any of this on purpose. It's not your fault. I mean, you didn't do anything, man. Besides, if you're going to be a Ranger, what point would there be in hating you, if it'll slow down the team? Why should I take it out on you? "

"Because if I hadn't come, then you'd still be happy with Kimberly! Who _cares_ if I didn't do it on purpose? Besides, it's not right to keep it all inside." Dirk protested. He couldn't believe he was doing this, practically _asking_ for a martial arts expert to get mad at him.

"I don't."

"Then what _do_ you do?"

Tommy pointed to a training post wrapped with rope. The ropes were nearly frayed away, and there were stains of rusty red on them. Dirk wondered what those stains of red were, and where they came from, and as Dirk looked down at Tommy's fists, wrists, shins and ankles, he understood. They were raw and red around the edges of bandages stained crimson with blood, and occasionally let out a painful-looking little thread of blood into the clear water.

"But that's not _fair_! You should have something to take your anger out on that _deserves_ it. Like me. Go ahead, hit me. Right here." Dirk said, pointing at his perfect chin.

Tommy smiled. "No."

"He'd break your jaw, peacock." came a female voice from the lakeside behind him.

Dirk whirled. There, dipping pretty little feet in the water was Aisha.

"I've seen him jump up when there were three girls sitting on him. He can most certainly take care of _you_. I'm Aisha. You must be Dirk." she introduced herself.

"How come everyone knows me?" he asked, rhetorically.

"We used to go to the same school!" she laughed. "Stone Canyon High?"

"We did?" he asked, wide-eyed. "I never saw you around."

"Yep. You had a rep as the cutest guy around, but also the biggest butthole." she informed him cheerfully.

"I really needed to know that." he quipped.

Tommy laughed. Aisha turned to him, concerned. "Look, Tommy, I came to lend an ear if you want a sounding-board."

"I'm O.K. Really." he assured her.

"You're _not_ O.K." Aisha told him, quietly. "Taking your anger out on your karate training post won't do any good. You need a sparring partner."

"Yeah." Adam said, poking his head out from around the house. "You do. Hey, aren't you Dirk Rashkae?" he asked, his lip twisting in dislike.

"Yeah." he sighed. "And if you're going to be mad at someone for you're buddy's condition, I'm the one to blame."

"I'm O.K!" Tommy protested.

"Aside from the fact you want to kill someone, right? Remember, we learned to read you a long time ago."

"You're right." Tommy sighed.

"Then why _don't_ you get mad at me?" Dirk asked him, not understanding at all.

"What good would that do?" Tommy asked him, pointedly. "You can't fight back."

Dirk bristled. "I can, too."

Aisha rolled her eyes. "Prove it, then. If you can beat me, then maybe you have a chance to beat Rocky. If you can beat Rocky, maybe you could beat Zach. If you can beat Zach, maybe you can beat Trini. If you can beat Trini, then you have a chance at Adam. If you beat Adam, if you're lucky you can beat Jason. Only after you beat Jason over in the Command Center can you even come within a hair and a breath of beating Tommy."

With that, Dirk climbed out of the water. He was handsome, yes, but his body was one of someone who had that build by nature, and not by working for it.

"I can't fight you!" Dirk protested. "You're a girl!"

"And? I can give you two points head start and still beat you three out of five." she said, succinctly. "Trini can still whip Zach's butt. And Rocky's. Gender doesn't matter. Not in the Power Rangers. And not in the long run. You need to learn that before you can get along with any of the other Rangers. They won't stand for foolish pride, peacock."

"Look, enough talk." Dirk said, flustered. "And _stop_ calling me _peacock_!"

"You know the rules, right?" Aisha said.

"Yep." Dirk answered.

Suddenly, Dirk launched himself at Aisha, using punches. Yet, with minimal effort, she was keeping them off. Frustrated, he drew back. He tried using kicks. Again, with no result. Of course there was no result: his kicks and punches were clumsy and untrained.

Finally, he launched himself at her. To _that_, she reacted. With an easy tug on his arm, and a shift in her weight, she flipped him in the classic judo flip that quickly knocked the wind out of him.

"Don't brag about abilities you haven't got." she said, quietly.

Tommy was in spasms of laughter, and Rocky was howling. With immense dignity, Dirk got up and, when Aisha's back was turned, pushed her into the lake.

With a shriek, she fell in. She emerged, drenched to the dregs. Tommy was in stitches, and she looked at Adam, who was trying his best not to burst into laughter. Tommy eyed her thoughtfully when he had recovered enough not to laugh, said, "Oh, if Zach could see you now!"

That sent him into new laughter, and much to Dirk's surprise, Aisha was laughing too. Adam gave in to the temptation and started to giggle right along with them.

Suddenly, the entire bunch teleported in: Trini, Jason, Kadiya, Zach, and Billy, all dressed in swimsuits of their signature colors.

All except Kim.

"Well, Tommy, we came to cheer you up, but I see you don't need it!" Trini said, smiling at him.

Tommy looked around. "Where's Kim?"

Dirk slapped a hand over his mouth. "Oh, no! I was supposed to meet her at Ernie's!"

"Don't bother." said Kim, her voice cheerful. She was standing by the poolside."I'm here." She pounced on Dirk playfully, half-drowning him, as he could barely take her weight. She giggled and nibbled on the edge of his ear, then reached around to give him a quick peck on the cheek.

Suddenly, the cheerful, comradelike attitude all around the pool faded as Tommy turned away. He was one of them, and his team knew him as well as they did themselves, and they knew what he was thinking. No matter that he wanted her to be happy, no matter _how much_ he wanted her to be content, he just couldn't stand to see Kimberly and Dirk together.

"Tommy, what's wrong?" Kimberly asked, her eyes wide with surprise.

"Nothing." he said, his voice rough with tears. He climbed out of the water, brushed past her and loped into the cabin.

"What's wrong with Tommy?" she asked, hurt.

The others exchanged looks. "Uh, Kim, this is going to sound like some really weird question, but who are you in love with?" Zach asked, cocking his head to the side.

"Dirk, of course. Why?" she asked.

Zach made as if to go inside the cabin... but Adam stopped him. "No. Let me do it."

Zach nodded, understanding. _He_ had never been in love, and doubted it--he knew what love was, now, but it had never been in question-- but Adam had. Adam was like Tommy in that way: always doubting himself and all that he could be.

Adam gently opened the door of the cabin, and turned to each of the doors in turn. From one, the very furthest, there came a sound that could only be a muffled whimper.

Adam opened the door, and it broke his heart to see the strong, proud leader of the Power Rangers sitting on the bed, crying his heart out into his hands.

He sat beside Tommy, and put a comeradely arm on his shoulder. Tommy shook with sobs that he could hold in no longer. Finally, when he had worn out most of his grief, he spoke. "Don't bother saying anything, Adam. Don't bother saying that I should give her up or something like that. I wish I could... I thought I had..."

It bore him into a fresh bout of tears, and when he had worn his grief out once again, Adam spoke.

"I wouldn't say anything like that." he replied compassionately. "How could I? I know what it's like to love... and be loved. Trini would kill me if I even thought about giving her up for something or someone else. If Kim remembered how close you two were, she'd say the same."

Tommy nodded, tears choking away his voice.

"Look, I'm--we're--not asking you to be happy. But Kim's under a spell. _That's_ why she's so devoted to Dirk now when she used to be so faithful to you. Until we find a way to break it, be strong, White Ranger."

"Easy for _you_ to say."

"Don't give me that." Adam said, forcefully. Tommy's head snapped up at the normally quiet boy's vehemence. "Now, I'm not asking you to promise anything-- If I were you, I'd want to rip that slick bastard's head off!-- but you've got to _try_!"

Tommy nodded again, and dried his tears as best he could without hurting his eyes. "I'll, I'll do what I can, Adam. Thanks."

They clasped hands. Trini and Dirk peeked into the door. "Is everything O.K, now, airen?" asked Trini. "Have you closed your wounds?"

Tommy started. "Is she talking to me?"

Adam nodded.

"Doesn't ayeren mean 'lover' or something like that?"

"That's airen. It means 'dearest,' Tommy. And you are dear to her. It hurts her to see you in pain. It hurts all of us. We're your friends. We always have been. And we always will be."

Dirk looked in. "I feel like I'm intruding." he said. "Maybe I should go."

Tommy shook his head. "Stay. It's O.K, I'm fine now."

"That's what you said last time. You sure?"

Tommy nodded.

"Look, I'm sorry about all this." Dirk said, his eyes in pain.

"No, you're not." Tommy replied. Dirk jumped. "You're sorry that I had to be hurt. You're not sorry that Kim fell for you. Even if it _is_ a spell."

"A _what_?"

"A spell. Cast by Lord Zedd." Adam supplied. "Didn't you know?"

"No! You're lying! You've got to be lying!" Dirk said, desparately.

"Why would I lie?"

"To spare Tommy some pain. To get revenge." he said.

"For what?" Tommy asked, puzzled.

"For... for being so nasty to you in the command center. For making you go through so much pain. I can name a million reasons." Dirk said, futilely. "You're lying!"

"I don't lie." said Tommy quietly. And the quietness seemed to make it that much more convincing.

And it was that truth that Dirk had to face. He didn't want to believe, but he knew what was the truth and what wasn't. He didn't have to like it, though.

Suddenly, Tommy's wrist-panel went off. "Yeah, Zordon? Tommy here."

"Tommy, it's Nyara. I think Kadi and I have figured out, maybe, a cure for Kimberly's spell. Between the Lady of White Light and the Lady of Blue Healing, there's not much that could stand in our way." she said.

"I hear you, Nyara. Tommy out."

He turned to Dirk. "What do you think, Dirk?" he asked.

"Why are you asking me?" he asked, bewildered.

"I've seen the look in your eyes when you look at Kim." Tommy replied. "I know that look. I've seen it on my own face. I know the heart-twinges you get when she's near. You love her." he said, quietly. It was not a question.

"I... I guess I do. But you'd risk breaking up the Power Rangers, destroying the world... just because of me?"

"Love is a special thing." Tommy said, quietly. "If you would choose to keep it, I understand. If I was you, I don't know _what_ I would do."

[Is this guy for real?!] Dirk asked himself. [If I was him, I wouldn't even think twice! I'd go for it! But now... he's asking me?]

"What'll it be, Dirk?" Adam asked.

"Go for it, Tommy." Dirk choked out.

Tommy looked at him. "Are you sure?"

"I'd rather have... her not love me honestly... then have her love me... because she's under some spell."

Tommy nodded. "Well said."

"I bet you're happy now." Dirk said, bitterly.

"Yes. I am." Tommy said, simply. "But I don't want to hurt anyone. That's why I gave you the choice."

"You knew what I would say."

"You're right. I did. That's why you're a Power Ranger." Tommy said, completely honest.

"Fine." he sighed. "Go, then."

Tommy made ready to teleport. Then he put down his wrist panel. "Dirk?"

"Yeah?" Dirk said, glumly.

"Thanks. I owe you." he said, sincerely. "If this works, I've got you to thank."

"For what?" Dirk asked, puzzled.

"If you had said 'no,' she'd still be yours." said Adam, simply. "She'd still be yours, and the Rangers would be out of a leader."

"Huh? Does... does she mean that much to you? That you can't stand to see her with another guy? You're _some_ devoted boyfriend!"

"It's not seeing her with another guy that hurts. I-- we, Kim and I-- can feel what the people around us are feeling. We can hear what other people are thinking. And I hear all her thoughts and she hears all of mine unless we purposefully block each other off."


"Oh, indeed. Well, I've got to get going."

There came a throaty chuckle from behind him. "Nyara." Tommy said, pleasantly. "Got tired of waiting for me?"

"You take too long, Tommy White Ranger."

"Hey, hey, hey, how come you call him Tommy White Ranger, but you just call me Dirk?"

"You didn't have the Ranger spirit until you found it in yourself. Even so, you're still bitter."

"I am?"

"Damn straight you are!" Kadiya said. "Look, Tommy gave her up, and he was jealous, but he wasn't bitter. If you can be like that, _then_ you can be the leader of the Rangers."

"I'm not good enough to do that." Dirk admitted.

Kadiya smiled. "You admit it, proud one?"

"Yeah. I guess. I know when someone's too good for me."

Nyara smiled as well. "Good. There is someone that maybe you should meet, Dirk. Oh, excuse me, Dirk Violet Ranger."

"What?" Dirk squeaked. "Me?"

"You." Nyara said, nodding. "You are a Ranger, now."

Someone appeared in front of him. "Annie?" he said, wonderingly.

"Hello, Dirk-chan." Anigel said, smiling. She wasn't dressed in her Warrior outfit, but in a simple frilly tie-top and shorts. In red, of course. She embraced him. Then held him at arms' length. "I missed you, my second-childhood friend."

All the while, Tommy had been waiting patiently. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, Nyara turned to him. "It seems logical that Lord Zedd, being somewhat lazy, would have given Kimberly a spell which has the same cure as the _last_ one, it being the most difficult to accomplish."

Dirk did not understand why Tommy, Adam and Trini paled.

"What's wrong? Does it take some weird herbs or something?"

"No." Trini said. "The spell was called Sleeping Beauty. And in the folk tales, _how_ did they wake up Sleeping Beauty?"

Dirk's eyes widened, and he bit his lip. "Uh-oh."

"Uh-oh, indeed." Billy said, from the door. "How will Tommy be able to kiss Kimberly if she just _happens_ to be so devoted to Dirk?"

"Man, we're in trouble." Zach said.

"Uh... where's Kim?" asked Dirk.

"Rocky and Isha're keepin' her occ'pied." Zach assisted.

Tommy slowly stood up. "I think I know."

"Know what?"

"How I can get near enough to her to kiss her. She'll never forgive me, though."

"Wha? There ain't _nothin'_ you can do, man, she won' forgive." Zach said, slapping Tommy's shoulder comeradely.

"Thanks, Zach." Tommy said, smiling. "But you don't know what I'm going to do."

He touched his ring. Suddenly, the tattoo that Dirk had never noticed before-- a firebird twined with a white tiger-- started to writhe and move.

"According to Nyara, she owes me life-debt, because I offered my life in exchange for hers. So she owes me. I could _collect_ that debt... she couldn't stop me."

"Of course she could!" Dirk said, horrified.

"No, she can't." Nyara said. "Life-debt. That's why they both have that tattoo. That's why they wear joining rings. They are linked, body and soul."

"You're right." Trini said, grimly. "she'll never forgive you. But what other choice have you got?"

Tommy nodded.

"Well," Dirk said, quietly, "you may as well do it now."

Tommy cast a look of undying gratitude at Dirk. "Thanks."

"No problem. You'll have to set this up pretty well, though."

"No, I won't." Tommy replied, shaking his head. "All I have to do is walk up to her."

"I dunno, Tommy. I don't like it."

"Neither do I. But what else can we do?"

Dirk could only shake his head. Tommy sighed, and strode outside.

Kimberly and Rocky had pulled Aisha into the pool, fully clothed, and they were both slick with water and were having a splash fight. The other Rangers exchanged a _look_. Then they turned to Tommy. "You're sure you're ready for this?" Trini asked softly.

"I haven't got a choice." Tommy said, grimly. Then he with barely a splash, he eased into the water.

Kimberly turned to him, in all her shining, resplendent, joy, and Tommy's heart stopped. It thrummed when she asked him, "Tommy, you O.K?"

"I'm... I'm fine, now. Look, Kim, I've got a favor to ask of you."

"Yeah, sure. What is it?"

"No matter what I do, will you not damn me?"

"Yes. 'Course!"


All this talk was making Kim very nervous. "Why do you ask?" she questioned suspiciously.

"It's important." Tommy said, urgently.

"I can't promise what I can't give." Kimberly replied, honestly.

Tommy sighed. "Forgive me." he whispered.

Then he grabbed her and brushed his lips across hers in a gentle kiss. For a second, a brief second, he held her to him. Then she pushed away from him, outrage in every line. She drew her hand back for a slap...

Tommy closed his eyes, ready to receive it...

Her hand came swinging towards his cheek...

And mere centimeters from his face, her hand stopped. Understanding came into her eyes. She touched his cheek, rough from lack of shaving. And kissed him back. Hard.

Tommy's eyes flew open with shock and surprise. Despite his willingness to go along, just like the previous time, he had not really expected the kiss to work. Then he capitulated and melted into the kiss, closing his eyes blissfully and wrapping his arms around Kimberly and pulling her closer.

"I guess what they say is true." Trini murmured.

"What's that?" Dirk asked.

"A kiss really _is_ the cure for any ailment." she replied.

Dirk smiled a little, rolled his eyes, and thought how lucky Adam was to have a girl like Trini. Or for that matter, how lucky _any_ of the guys were to have their girlfriends. They had never actually _said_ anything... but the feeling was there.

Finally, as soon as they ran out of breath, Tommy and Kimberly drew apart. "Oh, Tommy, I'm so sorry..." Kimberly apologized, her eyes liquid.

"It's O.K, Kim." Tommy replied, smiling down at her. "It's not your fault."

"But it _is_." she insisted. "I just saw Dirk... I got dizzy for a second... then I don't know what happened... I literally forgot about _us_. Until you kissed me."

"It's _not_ your fault." Tommy said, gently thumbing her chin and tilting it up towards him. "Lord Zedd. Again."

Kimberly's eyes closed, and she shook her head. "Him? Again?"

Then they both remembered Dirk. And turned towards the shore. He was standing there, wistful smile on his handsome face. They exchanged a glance, and a thought passed between them at the same time.

[We've got to help him.]

They submerged themselves and swam towards the shore. They reached there quickly, and clambered out as fast as they could. "Dirk..." Kim said, softly.

"Don't say anything, Kim." he said, gruffly. "Just don't. Please."

Tommy turned to the man. "Dirk... I think... we could help you. We could only try..."

"Unless you could get rid of this gnawing down here," Dirk said, touching his chest gently, "you can't help me."

[Empathy bonds; will never have blight! Kim, we can help him!]

"I think we can help you there." Kimberly said, smiling.

Dirk stared at them.

"Our Power Rings." Tommy supplied. "Kim's is thought-reading. Mine is empathy."

"Empathy." Dirk said, dully. "What can _that_ do."

"I don't really know." Tommy confessed, with all honesty. "Kim and I, we're always _hearing_ other people's thoughts, feeling their feelings... I guess we could try to do more than that. It's the least we can do."

Dirk nodded and grinned slightly. "Can't make it any worse than it already is!" he said, cheerfully. "Besides, you don't owe me anything."

Kimberly smiled tentatively at him, and touched Dirk's face gently. "You could have taken advantage of me... of my love... but you didn't." she told him. "You could have chosen to keep me, through Tommy's offer... but you didn't. That's why we owe you. Choices you could have made could have ruined our lives. The fact that you _didn't_ make them is why we thank you."

Dirk blushed. "Aww, t'was nothing."

Tommy gently touched Kim's shoulder. "Kim, could you step back for a bit?"

Kimberly did.

Tommy closed his eyes. He felt around for feelings, looking for love... the first one he encountered was tinged pink and white. He realized that was Kim. The next, red and blue. That was Jason. And the next after that was yellow and black. Trini. Only then did he bump into a love that was simply violet... and throbbed with pain.

He did what was simply reflex: he turned it off.

Suddenly, he found himself out of the empathy-world. His eyes flew open. He looked at Dirk expectantly.

Dirk was gaping like a landed fish. He looked down at his self... then at Kimberly. And there was no longing in his eyes. No love. No feeling at all except comeradeship and friendship. "Tommy... what did you _do_ to me?!"

"I... I don't know!" Tommy said, bewildered. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No, no! It's great! But... I don't know, it feels like there's something missing."

"There is." Tommy said, soberly. "I think I turned off your love for Kim."

"Thanks, Tommy. And... could I call you friend? I've never really had one, except for Annie..."

"Sure. We're _all_ your friends here." Tommy said, generously.



With a gentle shove, Dirk shoved Kim into the lake. "That's for stealing my heart in the first place!" he announced.

Kim shrieked and landed in the water with a huge splash. "O.K, buddy, no one does that to Kim and gets away with it!" Tommy announced with a huge grin on his face.

With almost-ease, though Dirk was barely an inch or two shorter than him, Tommy picked him up and threw him into the lake. He emerged with a sploosh, with a grimace on his handsome face. "You really _are_ as strong as Aisha said!" he said with surprise.

"Of course he is!" Aisha said, surprised. "You expected otherwise?"

"Hmm... you guys are almost all paired up, aren't you." Dirk said, shrewdly. "Except for Rocky, Billy, Aisha and Zach, right?"

Aisha looked at Zach, and they chuckled. "You're almost right." Rocky said, smiling. "I have a girlfriend. She's just not a Ranger."

"Affirmative!" Billy said, with a small half-smile on his face. "I have a girlfriend, too."

"That leaves you guys, Aisha and Zach." Dirk said, turning to them--

--and saw them kissing rather firmly. "Ah." he said, resignedly. "So I'm the only one unpartnered."

"With a face like yours," Jason replied, "as soon as you head for Angel Grove High school, you _won't_ be unpartnered!"

Dirk smiled. "Maybe you're right."

"Of course he's right." Trini said, surely, gently holding Adam's hand.

Part 6: Teaching and Teachers

The next day, Kadiya and Dirk headed for school with the other Power Rangers, Adam, Rocky and Aisha. Sure enough, girls took _one_ glance at Dirk and started swooning. There were whispers all around about who the handsome new stranger was. Jason looked around him at the girls who were staring at Dirk, starry-eyed, and whispered, "I dunno, Dirk. I _may_ get jealous!"

"And _maybe_ the stars might fall from the sky!" Dirk retorted, grinning.

Jason and the others smiled.

They walked into the school hallways and signed Kadiya and Dirk up for classes, then got him a locker. Dirk was tugging at the handle when he felt a light tap on his shoulder. Standing behind him was a beautiful, petite girl with long, layered, amber-gold hair and huge green eyes, a round-ish face, and a body to kill for. She carefully made a motion with her hands.

He stared at her, uncomprehending. If this was a pass at him, then he sure wasn't getting the point!

Again, she made the motion.

Kimberly came up behind her, and touched her on the shoulder. She turned to Dirk. "This is Kethry O'Donnell." she said, solemnly. "She can't talk."

"Oh." said Dirk, feeling foolish.

Kethry started signing at Kimberly, who translated slowly. "She wants to know if you want help with your locker." she said, smiling. "She's really very friendly."

"Did she sign that at you?" Dirk asked wryly.

Kimberly giggled, and signed at Kethry. Kethry smiled, and made a motion that looked rather like a chattering mouth.

"No, she didn't." Kim translated.

"Oh, well, yeah, I'd love help with my locker." he said. Kethry wrinkled her eyebrows at him, and tapped three fingers into her palm.

"You talked a little fast for her to read your lips." Kimberly translated. "She would appreciate it if you would repeat."

Dirk smiled and repeated what he'd just said. Kethry smiled at him and nodded. With a single movement, she high-kicked the door of the recaltrant locker, and it flew open.

Dirk's eyes flew open. "Is everyone here a martial artist?" he asked the world in general.

Kethry smiled. Again, she made that chattering-mouth motion and then gestured out at everyone else. Dirk got the general meaning. He nodded at her. She nodded back and headed for a classroom.

"You'd better learn sign language fast if you want to get to know her." Kimberly said, smiling. "She's one of the nicest girls in the school, and one of the prettiest, too. She was raised by the Cherokees. Even if she _is_ mute."

"She's mute?" Dirk said, startled.

"You didn't notice? Even when I told you that she can't talk?"

"Well... I sorta thought she was under silence treatment or a dare or something."

"No, Kethry's been mute all her life. She's deaf, too, I think."

"Poor girl."

"Oh, she makes up for it. She's good at most everything. I think that her muteness and deafness was something she just had to get over." Tommy said, from behind Kimberly. "She's in our class. Speaking of class, if we don't get going, we're going to be late!"

"Is everyone as nice as you guys and her?"

"No. Not everyone." said Tommy, wistfully. "Not everyone."

They entered Mrs. Appleby's class and introduced Dirk and Kadiya to her. Dirk bobbed his head good-naturedly with a charming grin, and Kadiya favored her with a pretty smile. Mrs. Appelby couldn't help but smile back. She turned to the class. "Class, we have some new students to-day."

The girls all went wide-eyed and small smiles appeared on their faces. "Ohh..." some of them sighed.

"This is Dirk Rashkae, and this is Kadiya Nyara." said Mrs. Appleby cheerfully. Kadiya was _quite_ striking enough, with her red hair and green eyes, to elicit lusty glances from the boys and jealousy from the girls.

"Now, who would like to be Dirk's partner for the day?"

All female hands went up, and so did Mrs. Appleby's eyebrows. They they narrowed in thought. "Who would you like for your partner, Dirk?"

"Um, maybe Kimberly?"

Mrs. Appleby's eyes narrowed as she thought.

[Hmm... Kimberly seems to be sensible enough not to be taken in by a pretty face. Besides, she already has a boyfriend. And I saw her and this pretty-boy walk in together, _with_ Tommy. Yes, that seems right.]

"Kimberly it is, then." she agreed. Kimberly came to the front and grinned at Dirk; there was nothing in the grin except mischief and friendship. "Now, Kadiya, who would you want to show you around school?"

Without any hesitation, she said, "Jason."

Mrs. Appleby smiled. She _knew_ that his pretty youngster looked familiar, and now she knew where she'd last seen her. Jason's dancing partner at the prom, indeed.

Some of the other boys quickly made this connection and grumbled good-naturedly: Jason was well-liked. He came to the front, and the smile Kadiya favored him with held more than just friendship. But Bulk took one look at red-haired Kadiya and fell in love--or rather, lust-- at first sight.

He surged to his feet. "Mrs. Appleby, that's not fair!"

"And why not, Farcus?" Mrs. Appleby asked, reasonably. "She chose him, after all."

"Because... because..." Bulk said, striding to the front and thinking at the same time. He reached the front and tried to shove Jason out of the way. Jason simply took a step back, and Bulk overbalanced and fell at their feet.

The class laughed. "Because I'm better than this loser." Bulk finished, clambering to his feet in front of Kadiya. Kadiya was hardly tall; shorter than 5'11" Jason, who in turn was taller than Bulk, but she was about an inch taller than the squat, fat latter.

"Uh... Bulkie? What are you doing?" asked Skull uncertainly from the back of the room.

Jason made as if to interfere, but Kadiya shook her head gently. Jason nodded. Mrs. Appleby's eyes narrowed. So they had a relationship of equals? "So," Kadiya asked Bulk conversationally, "why do you say you're better than him?"

"I'm stronger than him;" Bulk began.

Jason smiled wryly. "Care to prove that?"

Kadiya gave an even more wry grin. "Strength isn't everything." she said, gently. "Intelligence is what counts."

Bulk started swaggering. "Hah! If _that's_ all it is, I can out-brain that caveman anytime!"

"Bulk," Kim said derisively, "isn't it out_smart_?"

"Yeah, yeah. I said that."

Kadiya smiled, rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Sorry, Farcus or Bulk, or whatever your name is, I think my boyfriend _might_ get a _tad_ jealous."

"So what?" boasted Bulk. "I bet he's some blowhard who couldn't throw a kick to save his life! I bet I could beat him anytime!"

"Do you even know who my boyfriend _is_?" asked Kadiya with a slight smile.

"Well... no... but it doesn't matter! I can beat up any guy in this school. Right, Skull?" he said, turning to his one companion. "Tell you what, I'll challenge him, and if I win, will you go out with me?"

Skull had turned several shades whiter, and the entire class was having suppressed fits of giggles.

"You're welcome to try." Jason's deep bass rumbled in from behind him. Bulk turned, to see the sight of Jason with his arm around Kadiya and Kadiya's arm around him.

His eyes tried their best to pop out of their sockets, and he quickly repudiated his offer and slunk back to his seat amid scornful laughter.

Kethry grinned and signed something to her neighbor, who giggled. Kimberly smiled.

"What did she sign?" Dirk asked, curiously noticing this.

"I thought you had to have a brain to be in this class." Kimberly chortled. Then she sobered as Dirk looked hurt. "No, no, I didn't mean that. That's just what Keth signed."

"That's quite enough, class." Mrs. Appleby reprimanded. "Dirk, you could sit next to Tommy for the meantime. Kadiya, you can sit between Kimberly and Trini."

They nodded, and Tommy, Kadiya and Trini pulled up desks and chairs for the newcomers.

"Sure you won't _forget_, Tommy?" hissed Bulk from behind him.

"Yeah!" Skull repeated. "Sure you won't forget."

Tommy took a deep breath and simply ignored them.

"What're they talking about?" Dirk whispered.

"I have problems... remembering things." Tommy confessed with a rueful smile. "They never let me _forget_ it."

"You do?" asked Dirk, surprised that the seemingly-perfect White Ranger had an imperfection.

"Yeah." Tommy admitted.

Dirk digested this with difficulty. He'd always thought that the Power Rangers were human... but _flaws_?

Then he re-thought. _He_ was a Power Ranger, and his flaws were many. He'd just always believed otherwise of the salvation of Angel Grove.

"O.K, class," Mrs. Appleby said, cheerfully, "What can you tell me about the Power Rangers."

Everyone's hands went up... except for Dirk's. He was bewildered. Why were the other Rangers raising their hands?

The answer came to him in the form of Kimberly's and Tommy's combined voices in his head.

:To keep suspicion off us, of course. Jason's the one who originally spread the rumor of them --er, us--being space aliens.:

He almost jumped in surprise. Then remembered their combined ring-powers.

[But isn't that awfully risky?]

:Isn't keeping your mouth shut and risking suspicion awfully risky?:

Dirk shut up and raised his hand.

After school, they went to Ernie's, where Jason and Tommy had their karate class.

Dirk just gaped in awe. Even the _students_ could have whipped his butt! He watched as the mat was cleared and Jason singled out a student to spar with him.

He nearly died of heart-attack, though, when he realized who it was.

Kethry O'Donnell.

The girl who was deaf and mute.

He watched as Kethry executed the flips and spins that would have had him on the mat in a second. Jason neatly evaded them. Then she stood, narrowed her eyes and measured him.

Suddenly, Jason rushed her. She used the same technique on Jason that Aisha had used on Dirk...

Except that Jason centered his weight lower, landed on his feet and flipped her over his head. She air-rolled once, and then she, too, landed on her feet. Jason smiled at her, and nodded his head. Kethry smiled back, and bowed over her fist.

Jason carefully wove his hands' words in front of her, and she grinned and shook her head, cocking her head to one side. She signed something back.

The other students giggled and rolled their eyes. Tommy's warm laugh alerted Dirk's curiosity, and when Tommy signed back, Dirk just _had_ to ask.

"What did he say?" murmured Dirk to Kimberly.

"Who, Jason? That very soon, she would be as good as Tommy."

"And what did she say back?"

"That _no one_ was as good as Tommy."

"And I take it Tommy denied that?"

"Well, of course. But he also said that he agreed with Jason."

Tommy and Jason strode over to the table where they were sitting, and brought Kethry, wearing a black-belted karate gi, with them. "Now, Dirk," Jason said, cheerfully, "it's time for your private lesson."

Dirk stood up, knocking the chair over, and backed off. "Oh, no. Uh-_uh_!"

"Oh, come on, Dirk." Kimberly cajoled. "We all had some martial arts training, formal and informal. We need it, you know."

"And you'll have Keth here as a teacher and sparring partner." Jason added. "She's the one most likely to have mercy on you on your first lesson."

"I'll be standing by the side and correcting you." Tommy finished. "You may as well go."

[They're right.] he thought, ruefully.

Kethry turned to Tommy and signed something. Tommy turned to Dirk. "She wants to know if you know the sign alphabet."

"Yeah, if the person signs slow enough." Dirk answered.

Kethry turned to him. <I can't hurt you unless you let yourself get hurt.> she signed slowly and sensibly. <Can you dance?>

"Dance?!" Dirk said, startled. "What does dancing have to do with anything?"

<Can you dance?> she repeated.

Dirk made the tweety-bird gesture, taking it to mean no, and Kethry couldn't help but smile. <Pity. It would make it easier for you if you could.>

She led him onto the mat. She moved slightly, and he copied her. Tommy shook his head. "You're not supposed to imitate her, Dirk. Face her across the mat."

Blushing furiously, Dirk did so. Kethry bowed over her closed fist, and he did the same. Suddenly, he felt lighter as if a burden had been taken off him. "Now," Tommy began. "This is just to see what kind of reflexes you have. Just react to her the way you would naturally to someone attacking you. Just make sure to pull your punches: if you don't, you're both likely to get hurt. She's fast enough to avoid most of it, but you're not fast enough to avoid _her_."

Dirk nodded nervously. Suddenly, Kethry jumped over him and caught him in the backbone. It was a gentle kick and she was barefoot, but still it hurt. He fell, caught his weight on his shoulder and tried to roll. He clambered to his feet without any of Tommy's, Kethry's or Jason's natural grace. He charged her blindly, and she flipped him onto his back. He tried to land on his feet, but without any training, he only succeeded in landing on his stomach instead of his back. And that _hurt_!

Kethry stood over him, untouched. He swept his foot out in a move that he'd seen in a movie, to try to trip her. She jumped and rolled over it, neatly. He stood once again, and panting, thought what would catch this pretty opponent off-guard. Again, he tried a movie move: a flying kick. She caught his foot, faster than he thought possible, and _twisted_ it--

Again, he ended up on the mat.

[Hmm... if showy stuff doesn't work, maybe a trick will...]

He yelled "Look!" gazing past her--

And only remembered as she came at him with the same flying kick that he had used that she was deaf.

The kick connected solidly with his jawbone, and knocked him down and threw him a little. He touched a jaw that felt bruised, if not dislocated.

He gave up. She was too good. He stood up and shook his head. <I concede.> he signed resignedly.

She nodded and smiled. She bowed over her fist, and he made the same motion. She held out a hand to help him up, and he accepted it and climbed painfully to his feet. But he had one last trick up his sleeve--

He tried his best to trick her. He swept out a foot, so fast that he was sure she wouldn't be able to dodge it. She didn't. But as she fell, he found out that his leaning-forwards position was a liability as she crooked her legs around his neck and took him down with her, bruising most of his body as she twisted and landed on his back, wrenching his arms behind him. "Yoww!" he yelled.

"Serves you right!" Kimberly reproached him. "Trying to trick her, indeed."

"I... I give up! Owww!" he wailed pitifully.

Kimberly made a quick sign at Kethry, and Dirk found her weight--not considerable, but way too heavy for him--lifted off his back.

Zach frowned. "Man, tryin' to trick someone ain't the right way to go."

"I've never done this before. She has the reflexes of a cat! I never stood a chance!"

"Not true." Jason said, sternly. "Kethry's first day here, she signed up for the karate class-- and came very close to beating me. The second day, she _did_ beat me. And she'd had no karate training at all."

"Well... but..."

"First lesson: don't make excuses, Dirk." Jason said, quietly. "When I lost my first match to Tommy--when he first came to town-- I accepted that he was better than me. Keth _is_ better than you. In fact, in a few more days, she'll be better than me."

"Well, we need to get you loosened up. You need to work on your balance, too." Tommy said, one eyebrow raised eloquently.

They all exchanged looks of amusement that most certainly did _not_ include Dirk. "What's so funny?" he asked irritably.

"Just ask Billy: he was the first one we tried this trick on. It worked very well, as you can see." He pointed to a mat where Billy was trying his best to take Zach's head off with a combination of a stretch and side-kick. Dirk winced in pain just imagining it.

"I'll go change." stated Kim, heading off to the dressing room.

"What? Huh?" Dirk said, surprised. "Where's she going?"

"To get changed. When we want to get people loosened up, we turn 'em over to Kim!" Zach asserted cheerfully.

"Why?" asked Dirk, suspicious.

Kimberly came out in a leotard of pink. She did _not_ have toe-shoes, much to Dirk's relief. But when she headed for the balance beam, Dirk figured it out.

"Ohno. Nonononono. You can't make me. Nuhuh." he backed off.

"Yup! Kim's the local gymnastics champion. And as of now, you're her pupil."

Dirk's eyes narrowed as he tried to think his way out of this particular predicament. "Uh... I'll only do it if Kethry goes through it with me." he spoke fast.

She shrugged, having read his lips. She signed <O.K. No problem.>

Kim mounted the beam in a single fluid motion. She said and signed at the same time "<O.K, now you guys try that.>"

Kethry accomplished it easily, but Dirk, upon trying it, soon found it to be much more difficult than he had thought. He fell off some eight times before he lost his temper and kicked the beam's foundations--

And only succeeded in hurting his foot. And through this all, Kimberly and Kethry were standing, serene, on top of the bar. He growled at their giggling. They dismounted with a gentle flip, and only then did Dirk realize what was bothering him.

Kethry was about as good at it as Kim was.

"You tricked me!" he growled. "Kethry's a gymnast."

Kethry shrugged an assent. <I'm only good on floor and beam. I can't do vault and bars.> she admitted.

"But that's not fair!"

"You chose her to be your partner." Kim pointed out. "It's _every_ kind of fair for her to be so much better than you if you're as out of shape as I think you are!"

Dirk grumbled, "I can't do this. And I _still_ don't think it's fair."

"Fine, then." said Tommy, patiently. "We'll change your activity to floor. Choose another partner, if you like."

"Even you?" Dirk said, cannily, for he'd heard someplace that people who were good martial artists were not necessarily good gymnasts.

"Sure." Tommy shrugged. "It doesn't really matter. Here, we guys are mostly equal when it comes to gymnastics."

Jason chuckled throatily. "Y'got that right!" Zach affirmed cheerfully.

"Fine, then." Dirk grumbled. "You're my partner, Tommy."

Kimberly smiled and rolled her eyes. Tommy quirked his lips and raised one eyebrow in a half-smile. "You sure?" he asked, quietly. "You won't be able to change partners again."

"I'm sure." Dirk said doggedly, conveniently forgetting that Tommy was the local martial arts champion. And so therefore, _had_ to be very flexible.

"O.K, now that _that's_ finished," Kim said, somewhat annoyed, "let's try... mmm... something easy. A forward roll." She demonstrated the quick tumble. "Tommy?"

Tommy easily copied her.


"Piece 'o cake." he boasted. And he, too, did the roll perfectly. Kimberly rewarded him with a smile.

"Now... handstand." she said. She stepped back, turned one foot forward, and did a perfect handstand. She fell back on her feet.

"Now, Dirk."

"Hey, can _he_ do that?" Dirk asked, suspiciously.

"He'll do it after you." said Kimberly, annoyed. "Now go."

Dirk sighed. He tried--

And fell flat on his back. He lay there for a few seconds, the wind knocked out of him. Then he clambered to his feet and glared at Tommy's and Kimberly's smiles. "What're _you_ smiling at?" he asked rhetorically. "Why don't _you_ try it, Tommy? It's not half as easy as she makes it look."

"Nuh-uh!" Kim contradicted him. "He's not going to go until _you_ do it. I'll help you." He tried again, and found that Kimberly was holding his ankles to keep his legs straight. But he collapsed downwards with surprise. Kimberly sighed in exasperation. "I can't help you unless you can take your own weight on your arms."

"_I_ think that you're trying to protect your boy-fee-rend. But I'll try." he said, stubbornly. Again, he tried the handstand-- and with Kim holding him up, he _stayed_ up. Kim let go of his legs, and he wobbled there for a few seconds before he toppled and fell, but this time, on his feet.

Kimberly and Tommy smiled at him, and their smiles were rewarding. But his return grin was partially malicious. He gestured towards the mat. "It's _your_ turn, Mr. Tommy-Martial-Artist."

Tommy smiled and walked towards the mat with grace. He stood, one foot in front of the other, and leaned his weight quickly towards the front. And he rose quickly into a perfect handstand. He held it for over ten seconds before Kimberly giggled and told him he could come down. He dropped to his feet with a perfect flair and smiled at the discomfiture in Dirk's face.

Wisely, Dirk stayed silent.

"Now, let's make it easier for poor Dirk." Kim said, smiling. "A handstand with a forward roll at the end. It makes it easier to fall down and not hurt yourself. Which one of you wants to go first? I don't think I need to demonstrate."

"I'll go." Tommy volunteered.

It goes without saying that he did it perfectly.

Dirk was getting annoyed. "What are you, a natural at everything?"

Kimberly tactfully chose to ignore that and cheerfully went on. "O.K, let's try... a split? Or a cartwheel."

"A cartwheel." Dirk was quick to agree. "Please?!"

"I guess that's only fair to you." Kimberly agreed. She demonstrated it, and it looked much more complicated than the simple handstand. Dirk groaned.

"I'll go first." Dirk volunteered. "I'll look stupid anyway."

Tommy smiled. "No, just try your best."

"Why _are_ you so good at this, anyway?"

"In my old school, it was a requirement. If you were on the martial arts team, you had to be on the gymnastics team, too." Tommy admitted. "I didn't _need_ Kim's tutoring: I'd been at gymnastics and martial arts for years. I won my first tournament when I was eight. My first martial arts tournament, anyway. My first gymnastics tournament I won when I was ten."

"Geez!" Dirk shouted. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"You didn't ask." Tommy pointed out.

"Besides, if you were looking for someone who looks as bad at you on floor, you'd have to take Bulk or Skull. All the kids in _this_ group have _been_ under my hand already!" Kimberly told him.


"You need gymnastics to be good at martial arts." Kimberly said, matter-of-fact. "So they either took dance _and_ gymnastics, or just gymnastics. I teach both."

Dirk groaned.


Within a week, he had become _somewhat_ proficient at gymnastics, and Jason and Tommy thought that he was ready to try out the _real_ martial arts.

"Mind," Jason said, matter-of-factly, "You'll never be as good as Keth or Tommy or Trini. You may not even get to be as good as me. But you'll be able to hold your own in a fight, anyway."

"Gee, thanks." Dirk replied, sarcastically.

<He's telling it as it is.> Kethry signed at him, not needing to use the sign-alphabet anymore. His command of the language had improved drastically over the past week.

<Doesn't mean I have to like it!> Dirk replied. <Not fair. How come you're so smart, _and_ you're so good at martial arts?>

She grinned at him, displaying perfect white teeth. <I'm a natural at it.> she told him, quietly. <I'm a natural at a lot of things. I was such a good lip-reader, for example, that I aced all my tests in a regular school, and the teachers never noticed I was deaf. But the kids noticed, and they used to try to beat me up on a regular basis.>

Dirk was horrified. Who would want to beat beautiful, gentle Kethry up?<Why?>

<Because I was different, and the nature of man is to hate what's different.>

He nodded. He understood. <We don't hate you.> he said, in the way of comfort.

She looked up at him from her small size with huge, grateful eyes. <Thank you. I know it, but it makes me feel so much better to hear someone say it.>

He smiled at her with gentleness that came from the heart. He'd never felt this warm glow before, he knew he hadn't...

[Can't be love, I loved Kim and it didn't feel anything like this.]

Satisfied that his emotions weren't getting away from him, he turned his attentions back on Kethry.

<Now, aren't we supposed to be sparring?> Kethry signed at him.

Dirk grinned. <Probably. But I don't want to. You'd win. You always do.>

<Pity.> she signed back, grinning. <You don't have a choice, dearie. Prepare yourself!>

Then he had no more time for idle thoughts as all his attention was concentrated on the whirlwind that came flying at him.

The next afternoon, a Saturday, all the Angel Grove High Schoolers was astir with the prospect of another dance the next week: no formal prom, but just a simple dance at Ernie's. And, of course, Jason, Tommy and Dirk had been pounced on as soon as they had walked into the park. How Jason and Tommy had managed to get away without making any commitments, Dirk didn't know, but the best he could do was avoid any offers that were made of him, and slide away as fast as he could to the basketball courts.

All he could do was sit by the side watching Tommy, Zach and Jason shoot hoops, while he waited for them to finish, chin in hands. "Hey, man, why don't you join us?"

He replied in a small voice, "I don't know how."

"Oh. Well--"

He felt a tap on his shoulder. <I could teach you.> Kethry said from behind him.

He gape-smiled in amazement. <Is there anything you can't do?>

She shrugged. <Sing. Tune an instrument. Anything that requires me to hear.>

She swirled into the court and 'asked' for the ball from Jason. Then she aimed and shot in a single fluid movement.

It goes without saying that the ball shot in without a hitch.

Jason and Zach blinked; Tommy didn't look the least surprised. Dirk gaped. "I'd play one-on-one with you," Jason said, slowly, "But if you can shoot like that, then you'll probably win."

Kethry blushed and looked away. <I'm not that good.> she replied bashfully.

"Sure y'are." Zach said, encouragingly. "C'mon, have a go."

She nodded determinedly, and passed the ball to Jason. Who immediately started dribbling. Kethry stole the ball out from under his nose and made a shot at the basket. It bounced on the ring, but went in.

Jason made a wry face, but went on playing. This time, he didn't allow Kethry's small size to sneak under his defense, and he layed-up it in with a flair worthy of Michael Jordan.

And so the game went. They were both sweaty and tired--after a tie game--when Kadiya came to take them to the dinner that Kim and Trini had planned.

"Let me go home, take a shower, and I'll meet you at Kim's place." Jason puffed, worn out.

<We all need a shower. It's not as if there's a breeze here.> Kethry agreed, wryly.

"I agree with Keth." Dirk said. "Just one problem: I don't know where Kim's house is."

Kethry tapped him on the shoulder. <I'll pick you up. It's a little hard to find, if I gave you directions, you'd probably get lost."

Again, Dirk felt that warm glow in his chest. He smiled down at Kethry. "<Thanks.>" he signed and said at the same time, spreading his hands.

<It's nothing.>

With that, she jogged off and Dirk and the others headed to their respective homes.

Tommy, Jason and Kadiya walked off together. They looked at Dirk, who seemed to be daydreaming somewhat. He looked back over his shoulder where Kethry's amber hair could be seen gleaming in the sunlight. "She's amazing." he spoke at last.

Kadiya nodded. "Of course." she said, matter-of-factly. "Anyone who can get over everything _she's_ had to get over is a living miracle."

Dirk nodded, and there was something in the warmth of his blue eyes and the dreamy smile on his lips that made Jason curious. "Dirk," he spoke, finally. "Is there... oh, I dunno... something special about Keth? Something you like a lot?"

This startled Dirk somewhat, and his mouth spoke before his brain thought. "She's really a great girl. Even if she _is_ deaf." he said.

_Then_ he realized the implications of what Jason had said. He flushed a deep crimson, which showed even through the red of sweat and exertion. Kadi had to smile. "Feh, Jason, he's worse than you were!"

"Whoa, _wait_ a minute," Dirk protested.

Jason shook his head. "Another lovestruck Ranger. What's this world coming to?" he asked the skies in general.

"Oh, c'mon, Jason, be fair." Dirk objected.

"I _am_ being fair." Jason said with immense dignity. "I don't see why you refuse to admit it. Tommy did, right out, and Adam did..."

Kadiya snorted. "You didn't."

"Huh." Jason admitted. "Yeah."

"Well," Dirk asked, quietly, "what does love feel like?"

"It's different for each person." Kadiya replied, smiling. "For _us_, Jason and I, it was like burning, like fire. It was almost painful, to tell the truth. I know that for Tommy and Kim, it's a part of them as much as anything else; they've had it for such a long time that it's impossible to tell apart from anything else. For Adam and Trini... it's just _there_, and for Zach and Aisha, it's teasing, laughing. Love is different for everyone."

"So how am I supposed to know?" asked Dirk, frustrated. "I've _been_ in love, and it _did_ hurt. So does that mean that I'm now _not_ in love?"

Kadiya could only shrug. "I don't know everything any more than you do."

Dirk gave out an annoyed grumble.

"You know, you don't have to love her to ask her to the dance." Jason prompted. "You like her a lot, I can tell. _Anyone_ can tell. You can thank your lucky stars that Kim hasn't caught on yet, what with Tommy's ring and all. She'd be bugging you until the cows come home!"

Dirk didn't have to answer, because, thankfully, Lord Zedd had chosen that precise moment to drop Putties down on them.

The gibbering things frightened Dirk more than he wanted to admit. He found himself sandwiched between Jason and Kadiya, both of who had dropped into battle-stance as soon as they had appeared.

"Putties." Kadiya murmured. "Stay between us, Dirk, unless you're sure you can take care of yourself."

Suddenly, one of the Putties started somersaulting towards them and aimed a flying kick at Jason. He ducked, caught the ankle, dangled the Putty and socked the Z on the thing's chest.

The gray monstrosity squirmed in agony--

And flew apart into a million glowing yellow pieces.

Dirk's eyes gaped wide. "Nuh-_uh_!" he said, ducking between them.

Jason caught one Putty's punch and shoved it at another, punching the Z in the process with a "HIYA!" Both Putties shattered into a thousand fragments.

He turned to Kadiya, who had just dispatched of one with a punch and another with a high-kick in the chest.

Still, more kept coming, overwhelming Kadiya and Jason. "Dirk!" Jason gasped. "Call for backup!"

"How?!" Dirk asked desparately.

"Your communicator: talk into it!" Kadiya expostulated, dispatching another Putty.

Dirk started talking, no matter how silly he sounded.

"Guys, we're in trouble here! Kadi and Jason are being overwhelmed by these Putty things, and I can't fight! We're right by Jason's place!"

Tommy looked down at his wrist panel. He bit his lip, replied "I'm coming,"and teleported out, his long wet hair whipping his face.

Kimberly clicked off the shower and jumped out, tossed on a robe(pink, of course) as fast as she could and teleported out.

Zach, shirtless, pulled on a pair of shoes, growled at the panel, and disappeared in a flash of black.

Billy abandoned his beakers and test tubes and touched his wrist panel.

Trini shook black, wet strands of hair out of her face and grabbed a pair of yellow sandals before jumping into netherspace.

They all appeared at the same time before they launched into combined martial arts techniques that left Dirk gaping.

Trini: the Praying Mantis Kung Fu;

Tommy: flawless and flowing Karate;

Zach: dancing his way out of trouble before delivering a lightning-fast move;

Kimberly: somersaulting and using her gymnastic training;

Billy: hit-strike-kick-play coy-hit.

Jason: Karate that obviously belonged to one who had used it often, even if not as powerful as Tommy's.

Dirk marvelled at the way they swirled like water between each other and the Putties, how they defended each other, how each move seemed to interact with another person's to wreak havoc on the Putties. Soon, all the gray monstrosities were squirming in agony in unlikely places before disappearing.

Only then did he notice that Zach was topless, Kim was in a bathrobe and she and Tommy looked like they had just stepped out of the shower (which they had), Billy had chemical stains and a laboratory apron and safety goggles on, and Trini was wearing an underdress and a pair of yellow flip-flops.

"You guys came right away!" he said, amazed. "You literally dropped everything and ran."

Tommy shrugged; his wet hair slipped over his shoulder. Kim retied her robe which had come somewhat loose during the fight. Billy smiled and pulled his safety goggles on top of his head. Zach hitched his pants a little higher: he'd forgotten his belt. Trini smoothed back her dripping black hair and smoothed down her underdress.

"Of course they came." Jason said, surprised. "You expected otherwise?"

"Well... if I were Tommy, I would have dried off a little, Kim, I would have thrown on some clothes, Zach, pulled on a belt and a shirt, Billy, taken off all my lab stuff, Trini, changed into some clothes that could get dirtied, just in case. It would have only taken a few seconds."

"Maybe," Kimberly said, slowly, "but those few seconds might be the ones we need most."

Dirk shook his head, amazed. "I don't know how you guys do it." he admitted. "You guys seem to... I dunno, flow together."

They looked puzzled. Dirk was astounded. "You mean you _didn't notice_?"

"What was there to notice?"

"Like when Kim ducked, Tommy suddenly kicked backwards right over her head to catch one of those Putty things flat in the chest. If it had been anyone else's head he'd kicked over, he would have hit the _person_ smack in the back of the head. And when Jason bumped someone, he caught Trini's hands, and swung her around and around to get rid of some eight of those things. If that had been one of the guys, he would have been too heavy to try that on. How do you guys _know_ just who's going to be there and when to be there? Your timing's amazing!"

They exchanged twenty-one glances, and shrugged. "We've always done that." Trini explained.

"There's no rational explanation that I can cogitate on at the present time." Billy said, puzzled.

"Is that English?" Dirk asked, curiously.

Trini grinned and shook her head. "He says he doesn't know why."

"Then why doesn't he just say that?"

"He's too smart. His mind can't formulate uncomplicated thoughts, and so his mouth can't say rudimentary things." Trini said with a smile.

"Huh? Trini, you been taking up Billy language?" asked Zach.

"He can't think simple, so he can't talk simple." Kim re-translated.

"Ah." said Dirk, finally getting the point.

"It's what makes him Billy. Just like gymnastics and style is what makes Kim, Kim. And Kung-Fu and being able to understand what Billy says makes Trini. Dancing makes Zach, teaching is Jason's strong point, and leadership and sports is Tommy's. Not to mention women and kids love him." Kadiya supplied, winking.

Tommy had the grace to blush.

Kimberly feigned annoyance. "Kadiya," she scolded, "stick to flirting with your own boyfriend!" A grin lingered at the corners of her mouth.

"Well, I'm going to go finish my shower." Tommy said, smiling.

"Me, too." Kim agreed.

"I'm going to complete my experiment." Billy stated.

"I'm going to put on the rest of my wardrobe." Trini stated with a tickling beam.

"Ditto." Zach conceded. "Kim, the dinner still on for tonight?"

"'Course." she replied.

They teleported out.

All but Kimberly. She gave him a tiny little beacon of a smile. Then her smile quickly disappeared.

"Kim." he greeted. "Don't you need to finish off your shower?"

"Yeah. Later. Look, Dirk, what do you think of Keth?"

Dirk's eyes narrowed. "Have you and Jason been passing mind-messages?"

She blinked. "Of course not. Why?"

"Because he asked you the same thing."

Kimberly smiled. "He would. All of us have _some_ degree of empathy, after all. So what _do_ you think of Keth?"

Dirk shrugged casually. "She's really nice, helpful, charming, kind, and gentle. And a great martial artist."

"She is that." Kim agreed. "But that's not what I meant."

"Huh? Oh. Well..." Dirk fidgeted nervously.

"She's a really good friend of mine, Dirk. And she likes you. No, scratch that. I think she's either got a really serious crush on you or she's in love with you."

"No, no, of course not." Dirk replied, hastily.

"Oh, yes. _I_ think you should try to talk to her or something." Kimberly said. "I don't want her to get hurt. She doesn't deserve that."

Dirk nodded. "But... I don't _know_ how I feel about her."

Kim beamed. "_Now_ you're being honest."

"Kadiya couldn't sort me out. So maybe _you_ can help me?" he said, hopefully.

Kimberly shook her head and smiled at his hopeful tone. "Sorry, Dirk. I can't help you. Maybe Tommy could?"

"Tommy?" Dirk frowned. "But aren't you two one and the same? That's what Kadiya told me."

Kimberly's mouth twisted with her eyebrows. "Trust Kadiya to say something as dramatic as that. It's not really that. We're more one-made-two, and people have a 'fun' side and a 'thoughtful' side. So." she concluded.

:Shouldn't you be in the shower?: asked Tommy curiously. His thoughts had a decidedly wet overtone. :You're never going to be ready in time unless you wash up now.:

[I'll be in the shower in a second, handsome. I'm just talking to Dirk.] she replied.

Dirk was staring at her. "What happened? You just spaced out for a second, there."

"Tommy was reminding me that I'm supposed to be in the shower."

Dirk shook his head with a bemused grin decorating his handsome face. "I'll never get used to that." he admitted. "You know, how most of the group talks mind-to-mind."

"Billy and Zach don't use it much, and I think it makes Jason nervous." she told him. "And we've had to get used to stranger stuff than that. And Tommy's right, I _should_ be in the shower." she promptly changed the subject. "I'll see you t'night, O.K?"

"O.K." he conceded. She teleported out, and Dirk blinked at the pink spots that appeared under his lids each time she did that.

He walked the rest of the way home alone, his hands in his pockets and his mind in the clouds.

[I don't really fit in with any of them. They all have 'love' to keep them through anything. I can't fight like them, I don't mesh with them. They're all so perfect. Dammit, I'm so alone here.]

:No.: three voices --womens' voices: Kim, Trini and Kadiya-- silently reprimanded. :Never alone. Different, yes. But you'll never be by yourself.:

:I couldn't do gymnastics like I can now. It took practice.: Kimberly supplemented.

:Nor could I fight like I can now, before I took Kung-Fu.: Trini added.

:I didn't fit in with the other Ladies of Power.: Kadiya admitted. :I do now, because I understand that no matter what I used to think, they _do_ understand me, and they _do_ watch out for me. The details are what matter, not the mold they came out of.:

:They're not all perfect. The other Rangers, I mean.: Kadiya totalled up :Take this from someone who hasn't been one of them. Zach's too slow to trust, Billy too unwilling to defend himself. Billy and Tommy think very little of themselves. Jason is too concerned with what others think. Tommy's forgetfulness gets to be a problem. Trini gets too involved, and Kimberly tends to panic. They balance each other out, though. Where Trini is involved, Billy is aloof. Where Zach distrusts, Tommy welcomes. And where Kim panics, Jason is always calm.:

Then who balances all of _my_ defects off? Dirk asked sadly.

:I hate to say this, Dirk, but it's true. We _all_ balance your imperfections off. Where you're too proud, Billy is so deprecating about himself that it's not funny. Where you're clumsy, Kim's as graceful as a deer. Where you're impatient, Tommy and Jason have got patience enough for the world. Where you're humourless, Zach loves to laugh. Where you try and take control even though you shouldn't have it, Jason and Tommy are born leaders and likely don't even know it.: Trini admitted, completely blunt.

:And where you hate to get close, Trini can do that for you.: added Kimberly softly.

"So where does that put me?" he asked, aloud. "I don't belong with you guys. I've seen you flow in battle, and I can never do that."

There was no reply for a short while, until he arrived at his house. Suddenly, Tommy's baritone-tenor voice thundered into his mind.

:You don't belong, Dirk, any more than I do. Any more than Trini or Kim or Jase or Zach or Billy do. Billy's a scientist, Kim's a gymnast, Zach's a dancer, Trini's an intellectual, Jase's a teacher, you're a pretty-boy and I'm a martial artist. Those combinations don't go together. If this were a normal situation, Kim would be with a team of airhead-girls, Billy would be in the labs all day and would never have met Laura, Zach would have joined the dance club and would have had a girlfriend a lot less sensetive than Isha, Jase would teach his students and never find one good enough to improve his own skills and me, I would still be in my other school. That's past, now, but I didn't have to come to Angel Grove High. My former school's just as near. I don't know what possesed me to apply... and I was accepted.:

Dirk sighed. Even though his logic _seemed_ to make sense, he just couldn't imagine that Tommy could understand what it was like to be so different.

:You never know.: came the echo at the back of his head. Then Tommy's voice faded out, and Dirk was alone with his thoughts.

[No.] he reprimanded himself. [Never alone. Never really alone.]

It seemed almost as if from the back of his mind there came a sigh of approval.