Legal Disclaimer: The Rangers and everything else belong to Saban.

Author's Note: This takes place in the same universe as "Passing of the Pink", which technically could be the same as Saban's, but we'll never know, will we? This clarifies a particular reference made in that fic concerning Billy and Kimberly's relationship.

Second Note: This is a rewrite of the original. Well, not really. When I started to write 'Romancing Red', I realized things needed changing and fixing in the first two, so I went back and sealed up some plotholes, and to make things a bit more interesting to write about.

by Cynthia

Billy Cranston. He had been her best friend for years, as far back as they could both remember. Both of them had been born and had grown up in Angel Grove. They had so many shared experiences they had literally forgotten them all. He had been with her when she had attended her first gymnastics show. She had been with him when he had went to the first science fair. They had been with each other when Zordon had chosen the first Power Rangers, and they had comforted each other when Jason, Zack, and Trini had left the team to pursue world peace in Switzerland.

Kim Hart stared deep into the glass of water, trying not to think about the day she had left for Florida. Tommy had come to pick her up, and she had come so close to not coming here at all, it was amazing. But she had wanted this for years, and she hadn't been able to stop herself from trying for that dream. She'd went, and nothing had been the same ever since.

It almost hurt her to think of how she had changed in the intervening years. When she had moved across the country, she had left thinking she would love Tommy forever. But as the months had passed, many things had become achingly clear to her. First, though she was good at gymnastics and had dreamed about attending the Pan-Globals all her life, actually training for them wasn't the dream she had thought it was. The other gymnasts all looked down on her, some of them even making snide remarks about 'small town hicks' and 'monster town kid'. A lot of people on Earth didn't believe that the aliens attacking Angel Grove were real, and that the Power Rangers were just people in funny suits.

And the really weird part is, she mused, is that if I hadn't been in on it all myself, from day one, I would have probably thought the exact same thing. But they ARE real, they ARE trying to conquer this planet, and I used to be one of those fighting them.

Her thoughts returned themselves effortlessly to Tommy, and to Billy. One of the other things that had become clear to her was that she didn't love Tommy anymore, not in the way she had always thought she would from the first day onwards. She had thought when she left she would love him forever, that one day she would return to him, and they would spend the rest of forever together.

That hadn't happened. She had met a young man at the town just outside the Coach's compound, and they had begun to date in her spare time. He had been funny and handsome and smart and witty, and he had loved her a great deal. She had thought she had fallen in love with him, and had even written Tommy to break up with him. She admitted to herself that hadn't been a good idea. She had never thought she'd be that sort of person, but something about Clark's warm eyes and honest smile had just caught her heart and soul. . .

I really thought I loved him, she smiled to herself, then sighed. Once again she'd thought she'd found the man of her dreams, the man she would be with forever. Once again, she'd been wrong. This time, however, she hadn't broken up with her boyfriend. He had broken up with her, and to her face. He'd been gentle with her as she hadn't been with Tommy, and it had wounded her soul to think of what she had done to her ex.

Having Jason come to visit her after Clark had broken up with her had really changed things, though. He told her all about how he had temporarily carried the Golden Zeo Ranger powers, and how they had nearly stripped him of his life. He had left Angel Grove to recuperate, and had decided to come see one of his oldest friends. It was from him that she had learned where Billy had went, and for some reason, thinking of her old high IQ friend living on another planet had seemed so outlandish that the first words out of her mouth had been, "And you just let him?!"

Jason had been kind of shocked at the vehemence of her reaction, but once he had explained that Billy was in love with Cestria of Aquitar, she had calmed down some. I never thought he'd find a girlfriend from another planet. just doesn't feel right, she thought. He always wanted to explore the stars, not marry among them.

She and Jason had talked a lot during his visit, with the end result that two months later that they had returned to Angel Grove, intending to help out with a martial arts tournament they had learned about from Rocky. Taking some time out to scubadive before they joined their friends, they had found themselves captured by the space pirate Divatox. Her memories flinched away from everything that had happened after that. The trip to Murianthus, being lowered into the volcano, attacking her friends. ...her entire being flinched away from that.

Well, we got through that, she reminded herself. She'd returned to Florida after the tournament had been won, and after having an extremely long talk with Tommy that had worn out both of them to the bone, but had been worth it afterwards. I really hadn't expected him to fall for Kat when I sent that letter. ..but now that I think about it, it really does make sense. Those two were practically born for each other.

She fiddled a bit with the water glass. She'd lost track of how long she'd been holding it now. A slight dip of a finger inside told her it had been long enough for the formerly ice cold water to be almost warm enough to bathe in, if there'd been enough of it. They were born for each other. A karmic link. Will I ever find the person that I was born for?

Kim had never told anyone, but she had always believed there was quite literally someone for everyone. Twice already she had thought she had found that person, in Tommy and in Clark. She'd been wrong both times. Both times she had given her heart, and either taken it back or had it given back to her.

Everyone finds someone. Tommy found Kat. Jason found Emily. Billy found Cestria. As that last thought passed through her mind, she was startled out of her reverie by the sound of a knock on the door. "Who could that be?" she muttered to herself, getting up to answer it. She doubted it was anyone she knew, she was alone in the compound for the evening. Everyone else was out on the town; Coach Schmidt had given everyone three days off, since the Pan Globals were just a week away. She was the only one who had remained behind, except for the staff, having nowhere she really felt like going. Getting kidnapped once on her last return to Angel Grove had been more than enough.

Peering through the peekhole, her jaw dropped to see the distorted figure of someone she knew very well, and had never expected to see here in a thousand years. She quickly undid all the locks, almost jamming the door open in her eagerness. "Billy!"

The young man on the other side looked different than he had the last time she'd seen him. Somewhat taller, with firmer muscles, and a look in his eyes of wisdom and experience that literally made her shiver, Billy Cranston almost fell at her feet. "Kim," he whispered, grabbing hold of the door before he could complete his collapse.

"Billy, what's wrong!?" she'd never seen him in this bad of condition before, not even after the worst fights the Rangers had ever been through. "What happened?"

She stopped asking questions when he didn't answer, and just did her best to get him over to the couch where he could rest. For almost five minutes she spun around in a miniature whirlwind, pulling as much clothing off him as she could get him to part with {restricted to shoes, socks, and his jacket}, bringing him an ice-cold soda, and finally coming to perch on a chair just opposite the couch where he was laying.

He literally just lay there too, breathing deeply and apparently trying to compose himself. She could tell there weren't any cuts or bruises on him, so whatever it was that was bothering him wasn't physical. "You've always been here for me, Kim," the words startled her, she hadn't really expected him to talk so soon, he looked so torn up. "For all of us."

She looked down, a sudden pang in her heart. "No, I haven't," she whispered. "I wasn't there when you aged. When you decided to stay with Cestria."

"We broke up," he said distantly, and at once she knew there was more to it than that. Her eyes flashed when she jerked her head up and looked over at him.

"Don't you lie to me, Billy Cranston," she snapped. "I've known you since we were both two years old, I know when there's something you're not telling me."

He chuckled a little, sipping at the drink, then staring at it. "You're right," he said. This wasn't quite the Billy she knew, however. This was a Billy who had been hurt in some way, some way that was eating at his very soul. "We didn't just break up. It was worse than that."

"Whenever you want to tell me, I'm ready to listen," Kim's voice shifted at once to quiet calm. "It's not like we've ever had any secrets from each other. About anything."

Billy almost smiled at the way she stressed the last word. They'd always shared a lot, and after that unfortunate experience with his mind-reading device their freshman year, they'd shared even more. Neither of them had ever said a word about it, or done anything to indicate it in anyway, but they had shared an extremely sensitive empathic bond ever since. They couldn't read each other's minds, but both had known each other's feelings. It varied in proportion to their distance from each other, which roughly meant the closer they were, the easier they could pick up on the other's emotions. Right now, Billy knew Kim was serious about wanting to listen, and Kim knew Billy was going to tell her.

"The short version is simple: I thought I was in love with Cestria, and she had plans to sell me to Divatox," he bit the words off literally. "Apparently my intellect is rather the fame of the galaxy, thanks to me being a Power Ranger. There's roughly nine or ten intergalactic empires that would just love to use my brains for some reason or another, and Divatox is one of them. Only she wanted me for . ..other reasons as well. It seems Divatox has agents on planets all over the universe, scouring for anyone she can use for . . .personal pleasure, to put it politely."

As Billy spoke, Kim drew closer to him, putting a very careful hand on his shoulder. She could tell by the feelings in his mind nothing had actually happened that was too horrible, but just what had happened was bad enough. He continued talking. "Cestria was one of those agents. That was her entire purpose in making friends with me and coming to help me get my youth back when I started to age. She mixed something in with the water once I was cured: the Aquitian version of a love potion. That's why I thought I was in love with her and was going to stay with her."

"What happened then?" Kim wondered, gazing into his troubled eyes. As he unfolded his story, they were slowly losing their trouble, however, and that made her feel better. "It obviously didn't happen like Cestria wanted it to."

"No, it didn't," Billy closed his eyes for a moment. "But I certainly didn't do anything to stop it. The Aquitian Rangers did that. Cestro, to be exact. You see, he and I got to be really close friends while they were helping us protect Earth during the time crisis. He knew something was up when I decided to stay, because I'd already told him on my last visit that Aquitar was nice, but there was nothing in the universe that could make me want to live there. As soon as he found out I was going to remain with Cestria, he ran a complete bio-analysis on me, with every known version of Aquitian and Earth science. Cestria's little love potion showed up as clear as day, and that was all that was necessary for the legal authorities to start a very thorough investigation into her affairs. Her connection to Divatox came up, along with some records on what she'd planned to do with me as soon as she could get me out of the city unnoticed."

Billy clenched his fists for a moment, then sighed. "Once it was all out in the open, and Cestria had been dealt with, Delphine offered to teleport me back to Earth. They'd cleared the love potion out of my system by then. I thought about going to Angel Grove, but there's no one there I wanted to see. The guys are all busy fighting Divatox, and Jason and Emily are fairly tight with each other now. Oh, guess what?"

"What?" Kim raised an eyebrow; she hadn't really been keeping up with all the activities of her old friends.

"Zack and Trini are back in town. They set up a dojo in Stone Canyon with Rocky and Jason, and Tommy and Adam are probably going to buy in once they pass their powers on to someone else. They've been making arrangements for that, I hear."

Kim smiled a little. "Somehow, I'm really not surprised. It should be interesting there."

"Yeah," Billy sighed. "And I didn't want to interfere with them, and hanging out in the middle of the African Savannah isn't how I really felt like spending my free time, so going to see Aisha was sort of out."

"So coming here was a last resort?" she kept the teasing tone to her voice, sensing something odd was going on, both in his heart and hers.

Billy turned over to look at her, and despite their connection, she was startled by the depth of emotion in his eyes. "I came here for a lot of reasons. The very least of them was because I didn't have anywhere else to go. I could have stayed on Aquitar, I would have been welcome there. But I wanted to come here. I wanted to see you again, to talk to you again, and to tell you. ..," his voice dropped off suddenly, then picked up. "Before I started to age, and Cestria turned my world upside down, I was planning on taking a vacation from Angel Grove. I knew you'd broken up with Tommy, I was there when your letter got there. I was going to ask you why, and if you were serious about it, and not just trying to be noble and let him go while you guys were separated by three thousand miles, I was going to tell you something."

She was trembling. Kimberly Ann Hart, who had faced Putties, Tengas, and Piranatrons, the depths of Maligore's volcano, and more, was trembling. Billy touched the side of her face tenderly, then leaned in a little closer. "I was going to tell you. . .I love you. I've always loved you, but I didn't know it until I saw how much you loved Tommy."

"Why then?" she whispered, slowly stroking his hand where it was touching her, holding it there with her own fingers.

"Because I wasn't jealous," he said softly. "I only wanted you to be happy, and I knew that you would be happy with Tommy, and not with me."

Kim smiled quietly. A lot of things had just come very clear to her, and she knew there was only one way to really express what she knew now. Quietly, she leaned over and placed a kiss on Billy's lips, one that literally set both of them afire with love, as she let only how much she loved Billy play in her heart, mind, soul, and down their empathic link. "That was then," she said quietly, looking in his eyes so he would know she spoke only the truth. "This is now. Then I loved Tommy. Now I love you. You're the reason I couldn't ever be happy with anyone else. You're the one I was born for. You're the one I'm karmically bound to."

Billy's heart was singing. The pain he'd been experiencing only moments earlier was dwarfed by the love that pounded in his body now. "I love you, Kimberly Hart," he whispered, holding her closer to him.

"And I love you, Billy Cranston."

Their lips met again for another kiss. Karma, fate, destiny, had brought them together again, and they would never be apart.