Billy stared at the vidscreen; it was showing various scenes from Earth that he had programemd into it. The park at Angel Grove, the Youth Center, even a few shots of the Command Center. Not the Power Chamber, though. He had respected the second generation of the technology, but it was not something he wanted to remember.
He toyed mindlessly with a moment with a string on his blanket, and was reminded once again of how different he was from Cestria and the entire world of Aquitar. Their personal chambers were traditionally filled with water, not air. The public rooms, which were often inhabited by species from various environments, were oxygen oriented, and thus he could stay in them without too many problems. He could never visit Cestria's room, without special equipment that made it too difficult for them to do much of anything.
The former Ranger almost flinched at the thought of how she'd reacted when he'd suggested they at least kiss to seal their betrothal. You would have thought that he had asked her to dance naked in the middle of the Aquitian High Council. Then again, touching is practically taboo among them, except among bonded mates. And they wouldn't be that for a while yet. Aquitians believed in long, leisurely courtships. With a prospective lifespan in the thousands, they felt they had time for that.
And I won't live that long. The more he thought about things, the more he wondered if staying here was really the best idea for all concerned. Oh, yes, the others could and had done perfectly well without him. He'd watched them from afar, had seen how Jason had given the Gold Zeo powers back to Trey, how Divatox had roused Maligore, who had just as quickly been put back into permanent sleep by the new TurboZords. . .he had watched all of his friends.
All but one. One he didn't dare look at it. Not because he didn't care about her, but because he did. Because he respected her privacy and her life. Her life away from him. The life she had lived away from him for the last two years now. Jason came back. ..he thought, why didn't she and Zack? Was she that glad to be away from me?
He had never asked his friend why the other two ex-Rangers hadn't come back as well. He'd been too afraid. Scared that Jason would tell him how Trini had started dating someone else while they were there. Maybe even Zack. Though he would never begrudge her happiness, he would have been torn to shreds. In the end, he'd simply abandoned the romantic fields of Earth totally, going to another world with someone who, he knew in his deepest heart, he did not love, could not love. His entire soul rebelled against staying here. . .
But he had no where else to go.
I've lost him. ..I've lost him.. .I should never have left him. . .should never have left Angel Grove. . .why did I go? I have NEVER been this unhappy in my life. .and I haven't even considered going home. .and now there is no reason to. ..
"Trini?" she lifted her head at the familiar voice, and sniffled a little when she saw Zack standing there. "Trini, what's wrong? Bad news?"
The ex-Yellow Ranger nodded quietly, then handed her friend the letter. It only took him a moment to read it, then he paled visibly, even for his dark skin. "Billy's really moved to some other planet?" he spoke the words softly, out of habit and out of need. "Oh, man. ..what in the world has been going on since we left?"
"I lost him, Zack," Trini whispered, holding herself in her arms and keening. Her friend wrapped his arms around her, trying to do his level best to comfort her. "I wasn't there when he needed me. .."
Zack shook his head. "We weren't there, Trini," his voice was soft and light and soothing. "Jason had it right all along," he winced a bit at the thought of the arguments the three of them had went through before their former leader had made his final decision to leave Switzerland. They had made up before he'd actually left, agreeing to disagree. Zack had tried to do his best, had tried to believe that this Peace Conference would make the world a better place. Maybe it would, the future was held in the hands of the young, after all.
But it wasn't what the three of them needed. They needed to feel the power pulsating in their minds, to race against the clock to save the world, and to just barely make it. They needed the excitement, the challenge, the danger. They did not need the endless, unremitting, timewasting talking they were doing here.
"Let's go home," he said, tilting her head back to look at her. "Maybe. ..maybe he'll be there. .?"
Trini gulped a little, doing what she could to clear her thoughts from the welter of loss and pain. "Go. ..go home?" she asked, not quite certain she'd heard him correctly. "But. .why?"
"Because home is where we belong," he told her. "Home is where the heart is, Trini. And we aren't home."
I must be strong, she told herself. If it were the other way around, Billy would not be so weak as to continue living a lie. But now that I know the truth. . .she took a step forward, then turned around, no longer able to stay there. She wanted to say the words she so desperately needed to say to him. ..but as brave as Cestria was, she could not bring herself to do it.
"Cestria?" she looked up when someone called her name, and smiled warmly to see Corcus, the Black Aquitian Ranger, standing at the end of the hallway. He'd known what she'd come down here to do, and had plainly been waiting for her. "Did you tell him?"
She shook her head. "I wish I could have, Corcus," she half-whispered, hoping the sound of her voice didn't carry to him. "But. ..I just couldn't. The words refused to come out."
The Black Ranger almost reached for her, then paused, looking at something over her shoulder. Cestria knew at once what. . .or who. ..it was, and turned. "Hello, Billy," she said, her voice a marvelous mixture of love, friendship, courage, and fear.
"Cestria? Corcus?" the young human looked a little confused, and she didn't blame him. "Is something wrong?"
"No, Billy," Cestria stepped towards him, taking her courage and her heart in both hands. "I want..no, I need to speak with you. It is a matter of gravest urgency to the both. . .to all three of us?"
He looked at her, then at the Aquitian man behind her, and nodded, motioning for them to enter his chambers. "What is it?" he knew it was something personal, if it were something to do with Aquitian security, he would have heard alarms, and all the Rangers would have been there. Corcus was in his casual attire as well, which meant he was off-duty for the moment.
"Billy, we've known each other for. . .I believe four sleens, am I correct?" Cestria began as he slid the door panel shut. Billy thought for a moment, translating the 'sleens' into Earth time, then nodded.
"About three months, yes. And I've been here a week," he didn't know why she was reiterating the obvious, but perhaps it had some purpose.
Corcus touched Cestria's hand gently as she tried to speak again and failed, and in the way she turned to look at him, gratefully, Billy saw all he needed to see. "Corcus. ..Cestria. ..," his voice quavered as he tried to speak the fears that were flowing in his mind suddenly. Fears. .and was that a touch of relief?
"I love Cestria, Billy," Corcus spoke the words. "I'm sorry. I never wanted to hurt you, and neither did she."
Cestria nodded slowly, standing up. "When you came back, it was like seeing an old friend, one that I had missed a great deal. And that is exactly what it was. Seeing an old friend. I know we both thought there was more, but. . .I never believed I could be with Corcus. He is a Power Ranger, and you know how risky that life is."
The former Ranger nodded, his limbs shaking. "And you thought. .. to be with me would be safer."
"Not consciously," she corrected him. "I never deliberately decided that it would be easier to love you than him. I mistook my relief at seeing you young again for true love, and as I spent more time with him, and with you, I realized where my heart really lies. I wish it didn't have to be this way. .."
Billy closed his eyes, feeling the tears welling up and falling down his cheeks. But they were not tears of unremitting sorrow. They were tears of joy, and some of grief. "I. ..I'm happy for you," he forced a smile to his lips. "Both of you. Really I am."
"You are, of course, welcome to stay here on Aquitar," Corcus reminded him. Billy looked at them both, and admitted how good they looekd together, how worried they both were that they had hurt him. And he was hurt, but only that they hadn't told him right away. He knew he would heal from even that minor mental wound.
"No," he shook his head. "Your world is beautiful, and I respect and care a great deal for all of you, but. ..I don't belong here," he took a deep breath, then smiled at Cestria. "I have my own world to go home to."
Cestria nodded, then reached out to touch his face gently. "Do you love me, Billy?" that was something she had to find out, had to know before he left. If she didn't, it would haunt her all her days.
"Yes," he said honestly and simply. "But I've been thinking too, Cestria. Us. .together..it could never work. We can't have children, our bio chemistry is too different. I won't live as long as you will, even with the treatments of the Eternal Falls. I am not Aquitian, as much as I wish I could be to be with you. ..if you didn't love Corcus," his eyes flicked over to the other young man. "Good luck, both of you."
"And to you, Billy of Earth," Corcus made the Aquitian gesture of greeting and farewell, and Billy returned it with a smile.
Slowly he stood, glancing over the small room. He wouldn't be taking much back with him, except a lot of memories, and a heart full of hard-earned wisdom and knowledge. "I think I'd better go on and leave," he felt nothing wrong with leaving so soon. "I'll have a lot to explain to my parents." That was another reason he wanted to return; he missed his family a great deal. Cestria nodded.
"You will always be welcome on Aquitar, Billy," Corcus told him. "Please return for a visit."
Billy nodded as he headed for the closet to change into the Earth-clothes he'd brought with him. "I will," was all he said. His nerves were on fire as he prepared to go home. One name and one thought suddenly intruded into his mind, and refused to leave.
"We're here," Zack got out of the cab, helping her get her bags out as they stood on the curb. Their houses had been side by side since as far back as they could remember, and now they were home again. The Taylors, Kwans, Cranstons, Scotts, and Harts had been friends for four generations, regardless of anything else, and when Tommy had moved to town, the friendship had effortlessly expanded to include the Olivers. It was that lifelong legacy that had led to the five of them being practically raised together, to the point they knew each other's thoughts on some occasions.
Trini didn't care; she stood almost dumbly as the cab pulled off. She'd been responding only to Zack's requests since they had first decided to come back. Over and over the phrase repeated in her mind, I lost him. She could think of nothing else, she could do nothing else. All that mattered was the man she loved had left her for someone else. I wonder if this is how Tommy felt when Kim broke up with him. ..she thought distractedly.
A door banged somewhere not that far away, and a piece of her soul that had been half-dead since she had read Jason's letter suddenly leaped back to life. She knew that sound, it had been an intimate part of her life for over fifteen years. Slowly, not daring to believe what she might not see, she lifted her head to stare up the street.
Billy was walking towards them, no, he was running towards them, sprinting as Zack had never seen him move before. The look in his eyes and the way he was running wiped all doubt away. "I don't believe this," a broad smile cracked Zack's face. "I was right. I was right."
A yellow streak moved past him, and Zack watched with pride as Billy and Trini embraced for the first time in years. Neither needed to say a word. The look on their faces and the joy in their hearts was more than enough. They were together.