She had quit the Pan-Globals. She believed now she should never have even tried for them. It wasn't that she wasn't good enough. She was. But being away from her friends, her family, the people she cared about, it was just wrong. She wasn't afraid of being alone, but she didn't like the people she was with now. The coach screamed at he and the other trainees constantly, the trainees treated her as something less than dirt, and she was forced to deal with the largest dose of homesickness possible.
Silently she glanced around, then reached into her nightstand drawer once she knew she was alone. Out of it she pulled something that had never left her wrist willingly during the years she had spent as a Power Ranger. Her communicator. [I haven't worn it since I got here. Maybe. . .maybe that's part of what's wrong. I'm not a Ranger anymore.]
Almost without thinking about it, she strapped the device onto her wrist, and at once a sense of pure peace and contentment welled up within her. She might not have powers anymore, but wearing it made her feel closer to the only people who had ever really understood her.
"Kim?" she turned to see the coach in the doorway. "Are you ready to go?"
She stood up, picking her bag up easily. All the indecision and doubt that she'd been plagued with the last few months were gone now. She knew she wasn't going to be a Power Ranger again, but she also knew she was going towards something even better, even more meaningful. It wasn't the Power she had missed. It was the closeness, the companionship, the knowing that no matter what, there were people more than willing to give their lives for you, and that you would do it for them. It was nothing like the chill indifference that this place was filled with. These gymnasts might be friends, but it was all superficial. It was just something to kill time with until the next training session, the next meet. There was nothing truly of the heart involved in it.
"Yes." She said simply. The coach wasn't angry at her for leaving; he simply accepted it. She had seen a new face at breakfast that morning, and she suspected that was the new 'wonder gymnast' that he had went out to pick up a few days earlier. She wished them luck. They were going to need it.
Without a single backwards glance, she carried her bags out to the cab that was waiting to take her to the airport. Kimberly Ann Hart was going home.
Tommy Oliver smiled to himself as he watched Kat going through another lesson with her ballet class. She'd asked him once if he wanted to help her out, but he'd quickly turned that little offer down. As much as he liked spending time with her, and he did like spending time with her, he had no intentions of dressing up in one of those outfits and mincing around on his tip toes. Not when he could watch Kat do it instead.
He glanced briefly over to where the rest of the team was sitting. Rocky, Adam, and Tanya were studying, while Trey was observing everything around him with a slightly curious air. Even though the Machine Empire had been temporarily defeated, the Triforian prince hadn't left Earth. He had told them that his parents were ruling over Triforia, and unless he was needed back home, he would be staying with them.
The Red Ranger flinched mentally at the thought of two who weren't staying with them just then. Jason had went to spend some time at Tommy's uncle's cabin, to deal with the last vestiges of losing the Gold Ranger powers. Billy was still on Aquitar, slowly recovering from his own brush with death. Both of those events sent chills down Tommy's spine. He had come so close to losing two of his dearest friends, and it had made several things come clear to him.
[When Jason comes back, I'm going to have to talk with him. And when I get a chance, I need to talk to Billy.] He didn't know if he'd ever be able to do that, however. The ex-Blue Ranger looked as if he'd been incredibly happy to be on Aquitar, with someone he loved. [I just. .can't feel it, though. I can't feel like he's doing the right thing.] Tommy had always had faith Billy knew what he was doing, but this sort of thing just wasn't like him. Supposedly he and Cestria knew each other from Billy's first visit to the planet of water, but while Billy had told them many things about that time, he couldn't remember hearing about the girl. [Well, I guess he didn't have to tell us everything. But I still don't like the vibes I was getting from her.]
Tommy shivered, remembering how . . .how chilly he'd felt when Cestria had arrived in the Power Chamber. The Aquitian Rangers had seemed to trust her, and Billy did as well, obviously, but something had really and truly struck him wrong about her. He had concealed it as best he could, and later his misgivings had been overwhelmed by Jason's predicament, and then he had begun his relationship with Kat. He had simply stopped thinking about it, chalking it up to nerves over Billy almost dying.
Now, for some reason, it was starting to come back to him. He tried to put it out of his mind for the moment now as he glanced down to the letter in his hands. He hadn't told any of the others about this one, which had arrived at his home. He took a deep breath, then looked up to catch Kat's eye. At the expression she must have seen, she paused quickly. "Okay, that's it for now." She told her students softly. "See you next week."
The girls nodded, used to Kat sometimes cutting off class without warning. She always made it up to them, however, and they chattered among themselves as she picked up her towel and casually headed over to Tommy. "Something up?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah. Come on." He headed over to the others and she followed curiously. Ever since she and he had started dating, Kat had felt more completely at peace in her heart than she ever had in her entire life. She knew she had found her true soulmate.
When they got to the others, it was Trey who looked up at them first. The Gold Ranger looked no differently from any other human, clad in black jeans and a gold-colored shirt, and with his tattoo hidden by a clever make-up job from the girls, but he was quite obviously impossible to sneak up on. "Is there a problem?"
"Not really." Tommy tossed the letter onto the table. "But it's something you guys should know. Kim's coming home: to stay."
Kat's eyes widened at the words. Kim had told her just before Tommy asked her out that she would be returning in a couple of months, but she'd had no idea it was going to be [forever]. "When?"
The Red Ranger took a deep breath. "Today. Her plane should be landing in just a few hours."
Kim stared out the small window as the plane coasted down towards Angel Grove Airport. She had written Tommy before she had come, and told him just when and where she was going to be arriving. Her mother and current stepfather were still in Paris, and her father was traveling on business again, so she had to stay somewhere. She'd wanted it to be with Aisha, as she had before she had left, only to find out that Aisha had also left the team, and was living in Africa.
[Billy's on Aquitar. Zack and Trini are still in Switzerland. We're spread out so far now.] The young girl sighed deeply, toying with a strand of her brown hair. [I wonder.] She really wanted to get them all back together, to have the team and the friendship she had grown up with back. [I'm going to be staying with Tommy. I'm glad his parents offered me a place, even though I broke up with him. I want to try and get the others back together. I'll do what I can.]
Her thoughts turned to the new team, some of whom she'd never met before. Tanya and Trey. The latest Yellow Ranger and the Gold Ranger. Her thoughts almost tingled at the conception of meeting someone of alien royalty. [I wonder what he's like,] she thought. [He must be something special. A Ranger and a prince.] She'd never thought herself to be impressed by royalty, but ever since Tommy had told her Trey's name, the word had echoed over and over in her mind.
"We are now descending towards Angel Grove, California, Monster Capital of the World." The stewardess declared, her voice breaking into Kim's thoughts as she delivered the words without a trace of self-consciousness. "The temperature is a balmy eighty degrees and local time is 10:12 a.m. Please fasten your seatbelts and thank you for flying Orlando Airlines."
Kim nodded briefly as she fastened her seatbelt and took another glance out the window. Her home was fast rushing up, and her heart began to beat a little faster.
The small group of people watched the Florida passengers disembarking with care. Trey was watching with perhaps more than care, with interest and an almost childlike delight. Triforia had dispensed with planes many centuries back, in favor of planet-wide teleportational facilities. It certainly made travel much easier.
Tommy caught his breath at the sight of the last passenger. She was no taller than she had been the last time he had seen her, but she was every bit as beautiful, if not more so. Though the scars of the wound her letter had caused had healed by now, he had wondered just what he would be thinking when he saw her again. Now, as he did for the first time in years, he knew.
[She's a friend. A good friend, and in some ways I will love her forever. But I don't love her like I do Kat.] He smiled widely as he walked over to Kim and surprised her by catching her up in his arms. "Welcome home!"
Kim almost jumped out of her skin when arms wrapped around her, but quickly recovered once she recognized the feel of them. "Tommy!" she giggled. "Put me down!"
"Do I have to?" the Red Ranger grinned as he whirled her around a few times, then set her down practically in the middle of the others.
Kim gasped as she found herself in the grip of strong arms and various voices, including a few unfamiliar ones, telling her hello and welcome back. She stumbled a little as she tried to recover from being swung around, and a hand landed on her shoulder, steadying her.
"Thanks." She turned around, smiling automatically at whoever it was, and then the words she'd meant to stay stuck in her throat. She was staring directly into the eyes of Trey of Triforia.
The alien prince, who had seen more women, of more different species than he could count, also stared into her eyes as if they held the mysteries of the entire universe. For one single moment, both of them saw the exact same thing: a silver cord wrapping around the both of them, linking their hearts and souls for now and forever.