"Are together." he smiled at her, brushing a strand of her hair back away from her face. "And they have been for about two weeks now."
Her eyes widened in shock as she almost whirled on Billy. "Why didn't you tell me!?" she almost shouted the words out. "Why did you make me think Kat was with Tommy!"
It was the Pink Zeo Ranger who answered, her voice tinged with Australian accent. "Because for a short time, I was, Kim. But . . .something happened."
The small group exchanged glances, and Kim noticed that Kat's face had suddenly turned a deep shade of red. "Umm. .. .it was like it."
Tommy sighed deeply as he escorted Kat back to her house. They had had a good time, but it just wasn't what he wanted in a relationship. He wanted. . .heck, he knew exactly what he wanted, and it wasn't what he was getting. He wanted Kim back. He wanted her in his arms, and to hear her sweet voice telling him that everything was all right. He wanted his Kimberly, his sweet pink Crane back.
"Tommy." Kat's voice was gentle, and she reached out to touch his cheek gently. "Tommy, would you like to come in for a minute? I. ..I want to talk to you."
The Red Zeo Ranger felt a shiver of fear going down his back, and prayed that Kat wasn't about to tell him that she loved him. He didn't think he could deal with that. They might have only dated twice, but he knew he didn't love her. Not in that way, of course. But he couldn't say no. Not yet. "Sure."
The Hillard house was beautiful, and he admired the various furnishings as a way to keep his mind off his hostess as they sat down in the living room. "Nice night, isn't it?" he said, his mind groping for words. She nodded quietly.
"Tommy." Kat clenched her hands together, trying to find the words she herself needed to say. He wouldn't want to hear them, she felt, but it was either say them now or let them fester in her heart until the end of time. She finally just said it. "I don't love you. I love Billy."
He almost fell out of the chair. Billy had been on Aquitar for almost two months, and he and Kat had been semi-dating for two weeks. He'd known both of them for years, and though he did believe they would make a fine couple, it had been rather plain that they didn't consider themselves in such a fashion.
Or at least it had seemed that way. Until this little bombshell. He spoke the first words that came into his head. "You what?"
"I love Billy." Her voice was quiet and calm. "I think I've loved him ever since I saw him, but things just never worked out so I could ask him out, and he was too shy. But now. . .I guess what they say is true. You never know what you have until it's gone. He's gone. . .and I want him back." He could almost hear the tears in his voice, and he reached out to take her hand gently. "I'm sorry, Tommy."
He smiled briefly. "It's all right. It's better we figure it out now, instead of putting ourselves through several years of heartache. Come on."
She raised an eyebrow as he stood up and held his hand out to her. "Where to?"
"The Power Chamber. We're making a call to Aquitar."
Kim nodded slowly, comprehension starting to dawn in her eyes. "What happened next?" she was caught up in the story already as they got her bags and moved on out of the airport.
Billy chuckled. "Well, while Kat was declaring her undying love for me on Earth, I was kind of in trouble on Aquitar."
The ex-Blue Ranger stared at Cestria with confusion writ large upon his face. "You have got to be kidding." His voice was flat and almost angry. How in the world could she be asking this of him? He'd thought when he had come here that she loved him, that it was understood he wasn't of Aquitar and couldn't be part of their culture completely, his body just wasn't designed for it. Then she had to go and ask this of him.
"I am not joking, Billy. It is a rite of passage for all Aquitian males or those who wish to marry into our culture." Cestria's voice held not the slightest bit of compromise or reason in it. "You will swim the Slvian Channel tomorrow. If you don't, then we can never be together."
Billy sighed. He could swim, that wasn't the problem. The problem was that he couldn't swim as well as an Aquitian, and both he and Cestria knew it. The Slvian Channel was almost fifty miles across, and contained the roughest seas on Aquitar. People had died trying to swim those, and those had been Aquitians! But he knew she was right about one thing: it was a rite of passage, somewhat akin to getting your driver's license on Earth. If you could swim the channel, then you could do anything, it was reported.
Kat wouldn't have made me do something like that. She would've done it herself. He almost chuckled at the thought. Kat would be able to swim it, he felt. She was that good. He wasn't. There was no sense of inadequacy in it, it was a simple fact. At the very least, he couldn't hold his breath that long, and it was a rule that if an off-worlder tried it, they couldn't use any artificial aids to help them.
His eyes narrowed suddenly as memories began to flicker into his mind. Off-worlders were only permitted into certain places on Aquitar, supposedly because of the massive quantities of water there that few other species could handle. Off-worlders were never permitted into the holy places of Aquitar, nor could they buy and sell property. They weren't considered citizens, so would never be able to be heard in court or even stand up for their own defense. He'd seen a trial during his first visit there, and hadn't realized what it had meant. An off-worlder had somehow insulted an Aquitian, and the punishment had been exile. Billy hadn't noticed just how grateful the visitor had looked to leave. Now, in retrospect, he did.
"Billy? Are you listening to me?" Cestria's voice almost sounded shrewish, and he turned to look at her. His decision was made.
"No, I'm not." The former Ranger said flatly. "You're right. We can't be together if I don't swim the channel. And I'm not going to swim it. I'm going back to Earth. Back to where I belong."
She stared at him in disbelief as he stood up and walked out, heading for the Aquitian Rangers' headquarters. This was not what she had expected! But as he turned the corner and left, she realized. . .she didn't care.
Kim leaned against Tommy as they drove to the Youth Center, still reveling in the tale. "Wow. I can't imagine some culture like that. . .so strictly . . .strict."
"There was a lot more to it than that." Billy's voice was thick with remembered pain. "I think I was just so overwhelmed with the thought of being on another planet, I didn't notice it for a while."
Kat hugged him. "I'm glad you did! And I'm glad you did when you did!"
"So am I." Tommy agreed, hugging Kim himself. "I'll never forget what happened when you got back."
Adam chuckled. "Neither will I. I thought Kat was going to faint."
"Oh?" Kim was interested again. "What happened?"
Cogs were everywhere. Cogs were everywhere. There didn't seem to be any end to them as the Rangers fought. Trey had been taking out huge chunks of them with his Gold Rushes, but there were always more. The Rangers were getting tired.
"We can't go on like this, Tommy!" Tanya gasped, trying to stand up. Adam did what he could to support her, despite being ready to fall over himself.
The Red Ranger muttered a few acidic words under his breath, and turned to see what looked like several hundred more Cogs sweeping towards them. The only consolation to this massive attack was, if they survived it, then Mondo wouldn't be able to mount anything like this for months to come. He'd be down to just regular monsters until he could restock his Cog supply. Of course, that means we have to survive it first.
Tommy grit his teeth as one batch of the Cogs started to blast at them, while another group ignored the fire to rush in and pound on them physically. It was taking every bit of his strength, even augmented by morphing, to even stay on his feet, much less fight. We're not going to survive it. The realization swept through him like a beam of darkness. Then determination replaced it. But we're going down fighting. He didn't have to ask it of his friends. He knew they felt the same way.
Then it happened.
A strange oscillating sound swept across the battlefield, causing pain to the humans. For a moment, each wondered if this might be some other new weapon of Mondo's. Then as the Cogs began to blow up one by one, holding their heads in metallic agony, they knew better. "Thanks, Alpha, Zordon!" Tommy spoke into his communicator. "Whatever that was, it was just what we needed!"
"You're welcome, Tommy." A very familiar voice returned. "Glad I could help."
The six Rangers stared at one another. That. . .that couldn't be. . ."Let's go find out." Adam decided softly. That voice. . .he didn't look at Kat. He had always known about her crush on Billy, and his silent depths of love for her in return. When Billy had left, it had been his shoulder she had cried on that night. He'd been surprised, just a little, when she'd started to date Tommy, but not so much when they had broken up. Could her real love be back?
Kat was convinced that the teleporting back to the Power Chamber took longer than it ever had that day. She wanted to be there, to see if he was there, and to tell him how she felt if he was. When she and Tommy had went to the Power Chamber earlier that day, they hadn't had a chance to call Aquitar before the massive wave of Cog attacks had begun. Now, she was almost glad. She wanted to tell him how she felt face to face, not over a communications device.
As she turned from energy back into herself, the first thing she saw was Billy standing where he had so many other times before. Her legs shook. Her hands trembled. Her mouth went dry.
Billy looked at her. His decision had long since been made. It had been made when he was born, he thought. Now he just had to say the words. "I love you, Kat Hillard." Forget about welcome homes. Those could last some other time. When Zordon had told him that Tommy and Kat were no longer dating, he'd wanted to leap up and down and shout with joy.
Kat couldn't believe her ears. With a thought, she powered down. Tears of joy filled her crystal blue eyes as she stepped towards him, barely able to stand for bliss. "I love you, Billy Cranston."
And they were together. Never to be apart.
Kim dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. "That's just beautiful!" she breathed, squeezing Kat's hand. "Congratulations to both of you!"
"And to you and Tommy." Kat replied. The attraction she'd felt for the handsome Red Ranger meant nothing compared to what she felt for Billy. They were true soulmates.
As the car headed down to Angel Grove and the rest of their lives, a shimmering presence smiled softly. And now. . .destiny resets itself. Dimitria nodded quietly, seeing the future as it would be now. Together, this group of heroes would bring peace to their world, a peace that would guide their planet to a grand place in the future. They were truly Power Rangers.