NOTES AND TIMELINE: Well, gee, the timeline is pretty obvious since I'm using dates this time. Historical note: This fic is being written during the fall/winter 1998, as of this time there have been 18 Rangers, Zhane being the newest. Obviously I don't know if there will be any more Rangers, but this story is assuming there will not be. I am cheerfully ignoring Zordon's death, in this timeline he is rescued and the forces of evil destroyed. As for rating, well, I reckon it is maybe a PG, mature themes (not necessarily sexual) from time to time. Enjoy.
Friday, June 1, 2001
"Adam! Would you hurry up! You aren't the only one who needs to get ready for class," Billy's voice was impatient as he pounded again on the bathroom door.
"Okay, Okay, It's yours already!" Adam emerged swathed in a towel and headed for his room.
"Thanks!" Billy called after him as he stepped into the bathroom.
It was another typical morning in the Park/Cranston residence. Both young men were graduating seniors at Angel Grove University, both were already accepted to graduate school, after which Adam was planning on a career in education, preferably at the university level, and Billy in nuclear physics.
They had been roommates for three and a half years, since the second semester of their freshman year, when Billy returned from Aquitar and decided to enroll in school in Angel Grove. Adam had been living on campus, and had already had four different roommates. Disgusted with the situation, he had decided to look for something off campus, when he heard Billy had come back and was also looking for living quarters. They pooled their resources and found they could afford to rent a small two-bedroom house in a slightly rundown neighborhood near the school. They furnished it with second (and sometimes third or fourth) hand furniture, their families' cast off linens, crockery, and other necessary items, and called it home.
They were perfectly matched as roommates-both had a somewhat hit-and-miss attitude about housework, and the less said about their cooking abilities the better. They kept the house clean enough to keep the health inspectors at bay, ate take-out frequently, and formally entertained never. That is not to say they never had company. On any given day, at just about any time, you could find as many as three or four friends at the house. They had a reputation of being willing to put up anyone who needed a place to crash for a couple of days. The couch in the living room made into a lumpy bed, that had at various different times been occupied by, among others, Tommy, Jason, Rocky, Katherine, and Aisha. Even Skull had spent a couple of days there when he had found himself with nowhere else to go. The only rule they had was that the two bedrooms were off limits, unless expressly invited.
To earn extra money, they designed computer games. They had fallen into this occupation accidentally. Adam got an idea for a game, then asked Billy if it could be done on a computer. Billy had been intrigued by the idea, and went to work programming it. They had actually only intended it for their own entertainment, but once a few of their friends had had a chance to play it, they encouraged the two to try to sell the game. To their delight and surprise, their game found a market, and they were paid very well for it. They ended up designing two more games, and the royalties they received paid their education expenses, housing and food, and allowed them to put some aside for the future.
They had both purchased cars with the first royalty check. Billy bought a sensible Chevrolet four door, which for whatever reason rarely worked. Adam bought what most of his friends claimed was "the ugliest car in Angel Grove". The small Toyota had a bright orange body, with a lime green roof. It was dented and scarred, with rust showing along the lower rim of the body. The ripped seats were covered with blue fake-fur seat covers, and rust colored shag carpet covered the floor. Ugly it may have been, but it never broke down.
Adam had finished getting dressed and was fishing around in the refrigerator looking for something that would do for breakfast when Billy wandered in.
"Are we out of food again?" he asked.
"Depends on your definition of 'food'," was Adam's reply. "We have maraschino cherries, liverwurst, salad dressing, salsa, and baking soda. And three biology projects."
"Guess we better go to the store today," Billy sighed.
"It's either that, or we will end up having a dissected cat for dinner. Complete with formaldehyde sauce and little flags to identify the organs."
"Ugh! Thanks so much, but if we have to do that I'd rather have the pig."
"Gross! We might want to remind our friends we still have these things. It's finals next week, they should be done with them," Adam suggested.
"Good idea. Whose projects are those?"
Adam looked at Billy blankly. "Damned if I know. Don't you?"
"Nope. Oh well, I guess we'll keep them until the end of next week then dump them. Like we usually do."
"Yeah. You have a date tonight?" Adam asked.
"Oh, yeah. And tomorrow. And Sunday."
"Me, too, I think," Billy replied. "Then, the party for Emily and Jason on Wednesday."
"Just a couple of wild men, aren't we?" Adam said with a grin. "Want a ride to school?"
"Good deal, ready when you are."
They headed out to school, thoughts of the upcoming weekend making both young men smile. They piled into Adam's ugly little car and headed to the University.
"Billy, why do we even have maraschino cherries?"
"Dunno. I think they came with the refrigerator."
All of the former Morphin, Ninjetti, and Zeo Power Rangers were currently living in Angel Grove. Katherine had returned home and started classes at the University at the same time Billy did. Aisha came back from Africa to begin classes at the same time Rocky and Adam started, as did Kimberly, Zack and Trini. Consequently, in addition to Billy and Adam, Katherine, Aisha, Zack, Trini, and Rocky were also graduating. Jason, Kimberly, and Tanya had taken the two year program, focusing on business and communications as those were the classes that suited their career goals.
Jason had bought the Youth Center from Jerome Stone two years before, about the same time he married Emily. They ran the business together, Jason managing the gym portion, Emily the restaurant portion. That was about to change though. Jason was going to have to manage the entire operation for a while, as Emily was eight months pregnant. Their baby was due at the end of June-the party being held on June 5 was going to be a baby shower.
Tommy had spent two years on the race circuit, learning everything he could about racecars and mechanics. But a high-speed crash ended his dreams of racing glory when he suffered a spinal injury. He was okay, but the risk of doing permanent damage deterred him from pursuing driving as a career. He instead turned to mechanics, specializing in racecar maintenance and repair. He opened his own shop and quickly developed a reputation for quality service. He also reconciled with Kimberly-they were engaged to be married in August.
Kimberly had taken business classes so she would be prepared to open her own specialty clothing shop in the mall. She was in the process of purchasing an existing shop, with the intention of converting it to a more specialized line of clothing, including some she had designed herself.
Zack came back from Switzerland determined to pursue a career in entertainment. He had no delusions as to the difficulty facing him-he knew he would have to prove himself over and over again. With this in mind, he decided that he should have a good education as the base for his future. He took every class he could that he figured would be useful to a director or producer. He was also extremely active in the theatre group on campus. He had finally succeeded in getting Angela to go out with him, and much to her surprise (not his) they quickly developed a strong relationship. They were planning on getting married in December.
Trini was determined to have a career in international diplomacy. Toward that end, she had decided she would need a law degree first. She had taken all the pre-law classes she could, and would be transferring to law school the next year. When Billy returned to Angel Grove, he and Trini started dating. After three months they mutually and gratefully decided to stop. While they remained the best of friends, they both realized there was no spark of passion between them, and no amount of trying on their parts would ignite one. Trini dated several others before accepting a date with Adam late the previous year. There was an instant chemistry between the two, and the casual dating quickly turned into a serious affair. They had been lovers since December, and neither of them doubted they would spend the rest of their lives together. Billy was very happy for both of them.
Tanya had taken all the communications classes offered at the university, while still working full time as a DJ at the radio station. She had quickly advanced, and currently had a very popular show of her own, there had even been talk about syndicating it. She had dated several young men, but nothing permanent had developed yet.
Rocky was taking pre-med courses, of all things. The formerly uninspired student was determined to become an orthopedic surgeon. He had worked incredibly hard, hiring tutors whenever he felt he needed extra help. The others had been amazed at the sudden difference in the young man's attitude, their admiration grew as he was slated to graduate near the top of the class. He had already been accepted into medical school.
Aisha was also determined to have a career in medicine-veterinary medicine. She wanted to get her degree and qualifications, then return to Africa to continue her work there. She was glad to be back in Angel Grove, but knew her real future was in Africa, working with the endangered animals there.
Katherine returned to Angel Grove, having decided the Royal Academy was not for her after all. She took general education classes, until she discovered what she wanted to do with her life. She had befriended a classmate who seemed to be on the surface a perfectly happy person, but she ended up attempting suicide by overdose during her sophomore year. Katherine was shocked and devastated by what happened. She spoke at length with the therapist assigned to help her friend, and came to realize she would like to be able to help others in the same way. She changed her major, and was well on her way to becoming a licensed therapist. She had been slow to start dating again after the breakup with Tommy, but she did eventually start back in the dating scene, with little success. Then in January, she accepted Billy's invitation to attend a school function with him. He had asked mostly in desperation, as he needed a date on short notice and figured Katherine go with him as a favor. They ended up having such a good time they decided to try another date. They had been seeing each other exclusively since then and had become lovers two months ago. They had already discussed the possibility of Katherine going with Billy when he left for graduate school. She could finish her qualifications for her license there.
It was doubtful there could be found eleven young people with brighter futures.
Sunday, June 3, 2001
Billy hurried to the kitchen in his bare feet, an old robe pulled around him. He rummaged in the cupboard, looking for the coffee that was supposed to be there. He finally found it in the refrigerator and quickly set up the coffee maker to brew a strong batch.
He was staring blearily out the window when he was startled by a feminine voice behind him.
"'Morning, Trini. If you want coffee it will be just a minute."
"YOUR coffee? At this time of the morning? No thank you, I don't have a death wish," she smiled.
"Hey, I like it strong. What's the point of drinking coffee if it isn't strong?"
"Does Kat like it that strong?"
"She said she does. You can ask her later, if you are so curious," he said with a grin.
She watched him pour two cups of perfectly vile looking coffee. "Ugh. Even love would not make her say she liked that brew unless she truly does. Guess you're a lucky man, Billy."
"So is Adam," he said, planting a chaste kiss on her cheek as he headed back to his room.
Trini strolled back to Adam's room and rejoined him in his comfortable bed. He was just starting to wake up and he turned to her with a sleepy smile.
She smiled at his appearance. "Good morning to you, too. Sleep well?"
"Okay. There is coffee if you want any."
"Yours or Billy's?"
"I'll pass. Last time I made the mistake of drinking his coffee I didn't sleep for two days."
Trini giggled softly. "It looked pretty nasty, but he claims Kat likes it. Are we all still going to the crafts fair today?"
"So far as I know. Kim is running a booth as a sort of preview to her new shop. We need to at the very least go by to see her. I think it opens at noon today," he smiled at her. "We have plenty of time."
"We do, do we? Time for what?" she asked with a suggestive smile of her own.
"We'll think of something," he murmured as he reached up to pull her down to him.
"I'm sure we will."
Kat and Billy were in the kitchen, having showered and dressed. Adam and Trini were in the process of getting cleaned up, then they would be heading out for breakfast together. Kat was sitting on the stove kissing Billy who was standing in front of her. Her legs were wrapped around his waist as the kiss intensified. They were so engrossed in what they were doing they didn't hear the front door open, consequently they were startled by the voice from the doorway.
"That gives a whole new meaning to 'home cooking'," Tommy said with a laugh.
"Sheesh! A guy can't even kiss his girlfriend in the kitchen without her ex coming in and giving him static. What a state of affairs this is!" Billy commented with a grin, refusing to move from his position.
"Well, if you're going to make out on major appliances in the kitchen you might at least lock the front door," Kim replied with a twinkle in her eyes.
"I'll remember that next time. What brings you two to this neighborhood?"
"Just wanted to remind you about the crafts fair today. And to ask if you had gotten a gift for Jason and Emily yet. And to say 'hi'," Kim said.
"Thanks, yes, and hi," Kat responded. "We are waiting for Trini and Adam to finish getting themselves together, then we are going to get some breakfast. Care to join us?"
"No thanks, we have to finish setting up my booth. You will be by later, right?"
"Absolutely. I can't wait to see it," Kat said.
"Then we will see you there," Tommy said. "Carry on."
"Oh, we will!"
Trini, Kat, Adam and Billy were wandering through the crafts fair, looking at everything, joking about some of the odder displays, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. They had stopped by Kimberly's booth first and had been glad to see her doing a booming business. Her original line of designer tops was selling quickly, and orders were being placed for more. Everyone was telling her how anxious they were to visit her new shop, which she was planning on opening at the end of the month. Tommy was helping her in the booth and looked proud enough to burst.
"Oh, look at this!" Kat exclaimed, dragging Billy over to a booth displaying an odd assortment of items.
The object of her attention was a ceramic gnome, about three inches tall. It was wearing a cocked green hat, and was about the ugliest thing Billy had ever seen.
"Isn't it cute?" Kat cried, picking it up to show to him.
"No, he isn't," Billy declared, looking at Kat trying to decide if she was kidding or not.
"I think he's adorable. You just have no taste," she scolded him.
"Sorry, I just don't see it."
"Humph! Men!" she grumped, with an exaggerated roll of her eyes.
Trini and Adam were giggling softly at their friends, when Billy turned to them with a pleading look. "Do you guys think it's cute?"
Adam held up both hands in surrender. "I have no opinion." While Trini simply turned away with a smile.
Kat put the gnome down with a disgusted look. "Geez, just wait until YOU think something is cute!"
"Well, I think YOU'RE cute. Gonna argue with me about that?" he replied.
"Aw, okay, you win this time. I won't argue," she decided, giving him a quick kiss and putting the gnome back down.
"But I still think he's cute."
Wednesday, June 6, 2001
Trini and Kat arrived at the Youth Center at four o'clock as planned. They were going to help Kimberly, Aisha, Angela, and Tanya decorate for the evening's festivities, which were scheduled to start at six. The six women spent the two hours giggling, visiting and gossiping, as well as decorating and cooking.
"I guess next we will be doing a wedding shower for you, huh, Kim?" Aisha commented with a happy look.
"Looks like it. I can't believe all the stuff I need to do to get ready for that. I get panicked every time I think about it," Kim declared.
"Oh, you know it will be perfect. And if not, who cares. You are marrying the man you love. The man you have loved for a very long time now," Trini noted.
"True, very true. Have you and Adam discussed the possibility of making it legal?" Kim asked.
"Not yet. He still gets a stressed look when the 'm' word comes up. We are content to take it slow," Trini replied.
"What about you and Billy?" Tanya turned her attention to Kat.
"We are taking it slow also," Kat demurred.
"Didn't look like it Sunday morning!" Kim said with a giggle.
Kat blushed, but didn't argue.
"What were you doing Sunday morning?" Angela wondered.
When Kat didn't reply, Kim spoke up. "She and Billy were making out on the stove. Not something you encounter in every household you visit."
"On the stove?" Aisha turned to Kat with an incredulous look.
Kat shrugged. "Seemed like a good idea at the time."
That generated a round of laughter. They were all glad to see Trini and Katherine so happy, to say nothing of Adam and Billy. For the four who had always seemed the most reserved of the former Rangers, they had turned out to be very passionate, and openly affectionate, couples.
"So it looks like after Kimberly, you are next, Angela," Aisha continued. The former Rangers had unquestioningly accepted Angela, as they had Emily. Both knew of the former lives the others had led as Power Rangers, and had agreed to keep that knowledge to themselves.
"Yes, though sometimes I wonder if we can wait until December."
"Getting anxious, are you?" Trini asked.
"Sort of. I just dread the thought of a formal wedding. But my parents insist that is what I must have. There are times I seriously think about eloping. But Zack doesn't want to make my folks angry," Angela sighed.
"Hey, at least you are in love. You have found someone. Believe me, I envy you all," Tanya said, just slightly joking.
Aisha put a comforting arm around her friend. "I know you will find someone soon. Just like I know I will when I return to Africa. I do not believe either of us is destined to be alone. We just have to be patient."
Tanya gave her a grateful look. "Thanks, I guess the longer the wait, the sweeter the joy, right?"
By 6:30 the party was in full swing. The guests of honor had arrived, Jason with his arm proudly around his very pregnant wife.
Emily sank gratefully into the recliner Tommy and Zack had brought in expressly for her use. "Thanks. I just can't sit in those little, hard chairs right now."
"Hey, moms-to-be get special treatment. And frankly, if I could have fit another chair into the back of my truck I would have brought one for me. I never did think those chairs were all that comfortable," Zack declared, smiling at Jason's mock frown.
"Looks like everyone is here except Adam and Billy. Wonder what is keeping them?"
"Billy's car probably broke down again. He really needs to get a new one," Kat commented.
"I'll give them a call just to be sure they didn't forget," Trini decided.
The others started piling the gifts near Emily's chair, while Kimberly and Aisha passed out the necessary supplies for a game. The guys all grumbled in a good-natured way about having to play a baby shower game.
"There was no answer, so they must be on their way. Let's go ahead and start without them. I'm sure they won't mind."
With that they started the game, which consisted of trying to make as many words as possible from the letters in "bassinet", "carriage", etc. The building rang with laughter at the inappropriate words the guys tended to make. They barely heard the knocking at the outer door, but when they did Jason went to answer it, Rocky and Tommy on his heels.
Standing outside was Bulk, now a full-fledged police officer. He barely lived up to his old nickname anymore as he had been required to lose almost 80 pounds in order to be accepted into the police academy three years ago.
"Bulk, it's good to see you, but we are closed right now for a private party," Jason told him.
"Uh, Jason, I'm here on official business, sort of. I'm off duty right now, but when I was driving home I passed the scene of an accident. I think it was Adam Park's car that was involved," Bulk's voice was very subdued.
Jason felt a chill. "Are you sure?"
"It's pretty hard to miss that orange and green car."
Jason shared an unhappy look with Tommy and Rocky. "We better go check it out. Thanks, Bulk. I appreciate you making the effort to let us know."
"I wish I didn't have to give you such news. But maybe it isn't too bad," his expression belied that last part. It was bad, all right. He turned and walked slump-shouldered back to his car.
Rocky spoke softly. "What are we going to tell the others?"
"The truth. We have to, Trini and Kat will need to know." Tommy said.
The three of them turned back toward where the party was continuing. Kimberly looked up with a smile to ask about the caller, when she caught sight of their expressions.
Tommy walked over to her and put a comforting arm around her. "That was Bulk at the door. He said there was an accident up the road a ways. He thinks Adam's car was one of the ones involved."
There was a collective gasp, and a barrage of questions. Tommy slipped naturally into his old role of leader. "Guys, we don't know anymore than we said. We need to go check it out. If you want, a couple of us can drive back there and report back on what happened," he offered.
"No way, I have to go," Trini declared, looking very pale but composed. Kat stood beside her and nodded gravely.
Tanya looked around the room, "I have a feeling we will all go," she said.
They ended up piling into three cars and driving back toward the area where Adam and Billy lived. The street was a busy four-lane road with a 50mph speed limit. They had only gone three miles when they saw the flashing lights of the police cars and ambulance. They pulled their vehicles off the road and approached by foot.
Tommy, Jason, Rocky and Zack ran up ahead, the rest close behind, each praying fervently that Bulk had been mistaken.
He hadn't been.
The four young men stopped as one and looked on in despair. Near the center of the road was a crumpled orange and green mass of metal that bore only the slightest resemblance to a car. Glass was scattered everywhere, the doors appeared to have been pried open, and gas and other fluids were pooled around the wreckage. But that was not thethat brought them all to a dead halt in the middle of the street, their faces frozen in expressions of shock and grief, a scream of pain sounding from the one of others who had arrived behind them.
It was the sight of the two white draped bodies lying just behind the wreck.
Monday, June 11, 2001
Tommy Oliver tugged impatiently on his tie. "Damn, I can't get this thing tied right!"
"Here, let me," Kimberly said quietly, pushing his hands aside. He looked down at her as she knotted the tie, noticing how pale she looked. Her usually luminous eyes were dulled with grief, even her hair lacked its usual vitality. Tommy couldn't blame her, he knew he looked the same way. They all did.
"There, don't pull on it and you'll be okay," Kim advised, turning back to finish fixing her hair. Without warning tears were again pouring down her cheeks. Tommy gently took her in his arms to offer what little comfort he could. He was not terribly surprised to find he was also crying.
"It will be okay, Kim, it will be okay," he murmured in a soft voice.
"Will it, Tommy? I'm not too sure of that. We lost two of our best friends in a stupid, senseless accident. How can it be okay?" she sobbed into his chest.
He just held her quietly. The past few days had taken on a nightmare quality, Tommy wasn't sure how they all got through them. He and Kimberly had spent the days since the accident trying to help Adam and Billy's families make the necessary arrangements and offering support to Trini and Katherine, as well as trying to cope with their own grief.
His thoughts drifted back to Saturday.......
He and Kimberly had gone over the see Wallace Cranston, Billy's father. In many ways Wallace was the most tragic situation of all-thirteen years before he had lost his beloved wife, Marie, in a head on collision with a drunk driver. Now he had lost his only child in the same manner. Wallace had greeted them at the door with a lost look, then turned and wandered back into the house, seeming to forget they were even there. Kim and Tommy followed him inside, and Kimberly went up to him, put her arms around him in a hug and asked how he was doing. That started a flood of tears and grief that seemed to come from deep within the man's soul. They stayed until the worst of his outbreak of grief had passed, wanting to be sure he would be okay. He told him his brother was going to be coming down to stay with him until after the funeral, for which they were grateful. He should not be alone at this time. Tommy and Kimberly were about to take their leave when Wallace suddenly seemed to think of something.
"Will either of you be seeing Katherine?"
"We were going to go over there later this afternoon," Kimberly told him. "Do you have a message for her, or something?"
Wallace's eyes filled with tears again, it was obvious he was struggling to keep it under control. "They, the police, they gave me Billy's stuff, you know, what he had on his person when he....when he...when the accident happened. There is something I think he intended for Katherine. I can't imagine he had it for himself. Would you please give it to her? He loved her so much, I wish I could give it to her myself, but I just can't," he was fumbling in a desk drawer as he spoke. He finally found what he was seeking and came toward Kimberly holding out a small white box, the sort jewelry would come in.
"What is it?" Kimberly asked cautiously. She was desperately afraid it was an engagement ring-that would be too cruel to give to Katherine under these circumstances.
"It's not jewelry, it's some sort of knickknack or something of that sort," Wallace assured her, well aware of her fears. That had been his first thought upon seeing the box.
"We'll be sure she gets it," Tommy assured Wallace as he and Kim took their leave of him and headed to the Hillard residence.
For the first couple of days after the accident Tommy had been particularly worried about Katherine. She had gone into a shock-like state that she didn't seem to want to come out of, not that Tommy could blame her. Her always fair complexion had taken on a waxy cast, her eyes were dull blue marbles, she looked unkempt and exhausted. She was incapable of carrying on a coherent conversation. But she didn't cry at all, she simply ceased to function.
She was staying with her parents, and they were deeply worried about her. It simply wasn't like their daughter to withdraw so deeply. The Hillards greeted Tommy and Kimberly warmly, and ushered them up to Katherine's room, hoping they could help her since they had been unable to.
Katherine greeted them listlessly, responding to their words only when prompted to do so.
Kimberly finally reached into her purse and pulled out the small box Wallace had given her. She and Tommy had not looked at the contents of the box, they had taken the man's word it did not contain jewelry. "Wallace Cranston gave us this to give to you," Kimberly said. "He believes it was intended as a gift to you."
Katherine took the box in trembling hands and opened it slowly. When she saw the contents the slight color left in her face drained away. She began to shake and clutched herself as if in pain, doubling over. Kimberly anxiously put her arms around her friend, as Tommy hovered over them both.
"What is it Kat? What's wrong?" she asked, knowing it sounded foolish under the circumstances, but unable to help herself.
Katherine started to say something, but instead of any words a cry of such pain came from her that Kimberly almost stepped back in fear. She recovered quickly and enfolded Katherine in her arms as her grief finally found an outlet. Once she started, Kat gave into her grief completely, sobbing and crying in a completely unrestrained manner. She and Kimberly sank to the floor where Kimberly continued to cradle her and offer what comfort she could. Tommy sat beside them, a comforting hand on each shoulder, wishing there was something else he could do.
It was a long time before Kat's tears tapered off to the point where she could speak. She still sat on the floor, between Kimberly and Tommy, feeling too weak and drained to even get up. In her hand was the item from the box-the gnome with a green hat.
"I saw this at the crafts fair last Sunday, I thought it was so cute, but Billy said it was ugly so I teased him about having no taste. He must have gone back and gotten it for me later," her voice became so soft it was hard to hear what she was saying. "He could be so sweet that way."
It seemed to hit her again that he was gone from her life forever, and her tears fell softly onto the gnome she held cupped in her hands.....
Tommy forced his thoughts back to the present, to his weeping fianc,, to the upcoming funeral, to the last duty he would perform for his two friends. "Come on, Beautiful, we have to get going," he said gently, reluctantly releasing Kimberly from his embrace so he could shrug into the rest of his suit.
'I just want this day to be over,' he thought to himself.
Outside the church where the funeral was to be held, the former Power Rangers found themselves forming their own separate group. Even the last group of Rangers, Andros, Zhane, Carlos, Ashley, Cassie, and T.J., joined them for a while, despite the fact they had known Adam only briefly, and Billy barely at all. It was the fact that they were all united by their past service to mankind as Power Rangers-service that had ended in ultimate success over a year before, when the last group freed Zordon and destroyed the final threat to Earth. Despite their alien heritage, Andros and Zhane had opted to meet their future on Earth. So it was that the sixteen surviving former Power Rangers reunited briefly to say goodbye to two who had fallen, not to an evil threat to humanity, but to human error and misjudgment.
And that was the hardest thing of all.
If they had died defending their home, their families, or friends, it would have been bad enough. But for them to have died in such a senseless, wasteful manner was infinitely worse. All they could have been, all they hoped to be, all they wanted to accomplish was lost due to one person's erroneous belief that they were sober enough to drive. Several of their friends and family members were struggling with anger and hatred, as well as grief. The driver of the other vehicle had escaped with minor injuries, the winner in the simple physics that decrees that in a head-on collision between a one ton pickup and a compact car, the car will lose.
Jason was one of the ones struggling with hatred for the other driver. Hatred was not an emotion that came naturally to Jason, he had little experience with it. But every time he thought of the man who took his friends' lives, when he saw their shattered families, and devastated friends, he wanted to hurt the man as much as he had hurt them. He didn't like feeling this way, he didn't want his child born to a person who had this much hatred inside, but he didn't know what to do about it.
He put his arm around Emily, drawing a sense of saneness from her. She, and the child she was carrying, were his future, his hope, and they helped dissipate the pain and anger. He saw Bulk and Skull approaching, and turned to greet them.
"I'm glad you two could make it," he said quietly to the two former bullies, who had turned their own lives around when they became involved in the police force.
"When Mr. Cranston called, well, we were honored he asked us to be pallbearers," Bulk said solemnly. "I was surprised Billy had mentioned us as being friends."
"In the last few years, you have been friends," Jason replied.
"Yeah, I guess so. I'm just sorry for all the misery we gave him years ago," Skull said.
"Billy never held it against you. He was just glad to see you both find something to give you direction in your lives," Jason said. He would have said more, but he noticed the tears in the other two men's eyes. He realized they were as affected as the rest of them.
"Guess we're going to head on inside, see you there," Bulk said as he and Skull wandered toward the building.
The group of former Rangers separated somewhat as the time for the funeral approached. Some headed on in to take seats, others to speak quietly to the families. Jason, Tommy, Zack, Rocky, and Justin would all be sitting in front as they had been asked to be pallbearers, along with Bulk, Skull and Jerome Stone, the former owner of the Juice Bar.
Tommy put his arm around Kimberly, and started slowly toward the entrance to the church. Jason and Emily, Zack and Angela, and Trini, Tanya, Rocky, Justin, Katherine, and Aisha all followed. Trini and Katherine found it easier to deal with the situation when they were around their friends, Rocky lent support to Trini, while Tanya looked after Katherine. They entered as a group, and stopped just inside, their grip on their emotions slipping some as they looked toward the front of the large building.
There on the raised stage were two caskets, covered with floral arrangements. Between the two caskets was an easel with a picture of Adam and Billy. It was the picture that tore at their hearts. The families were well aware of the strong friendship that existed between the two, so instead of two portraits, they decided on a picture of the two together. It had been taken in March, when they had competed in a state karate championship. They were dressed in their karate uniforms, matching white robes with black belts. They looked relaxed, healthy, and incredibly happy. Their friends remembered that weekend clearly. They had done far better than they had expected in the competition, finishing second overall. Their respective relationships with Trini and Katherine were going very well. Basically, everything in their lives was going better than they had ever imagined it could. The look of happiness on their faces was completely genuine.
"Oh, God," Kimberly muttered, leaning suddenly against Tommy. Tears were again running down her face. She heard Katherine draw in a pained breath, and choke back a soft sob. Trini made no sound, but tears streamed down her cheeks. Aisha and Rocky, who had been friends with Adam long before they became Power Rangers, and Tanya who had dated Adam for a while, all came close to losing it when they looked at that picture. Zack and Jason, who, along with Kimberly and Trini, both could date their friendship with Billy back twelve years, let the tears flow unashamedly. It simply hurt too much to try to keep it in.
They made their way to seats and settled in to wait for the service to begin. The large building was rapidly filling-by the time the service started all the seats were taken and people were standing along the walls. The families sat at the front, to the left of the stage. Adam's parents, Don and Valerie Park, his younger brother, Adrian, and several aunts and uncles sat stiffly, emotions firmly in check. Beside them sat Wallace Cranston, who was joined by his brother and sister-in-law. Wallace still had the shell-shocked appearance of a man who truly didn't understand quite what had happened.
Reverend Kevin Duffy officiated. He spoke of the two young men's past, their interests, and their accomplishments. Their families' love for them, their brilliant futures cut short. And of God's place in all of this. It was a comforting service, without rancor or bitterness, focusing on the good memories, encouraging the survivors to take comfort in those memories and the thought that they were now in a better place. When he was finished, he asked if anyone had anything to say.
Tommy rose to his feet. As a former leader of the Power Rangers, he was the one elected to speak. They all had things they had wanted to say but realized that it would be too difficult for each to have a chance to speak. They compromised by all contributing to a eulogy, which Tommy would read. He stepped up to the podium and looked out over the crowded room.
"There's a group of us here who were close friends of both Billy and Adam. We got together and wrote a eulogy, which we wanted to share with everyone. Please bear with me, I'm not that good at public speaking.
"Billy's intellectual powers have always been well known, what was less known was the natural sense of curiosity and wonder he possessed. You simply couldn't be around him without being affected by it. There was no cynicism in him, he truly found everything fascinating, and wanted to share it with whoever was around him. If you didn't understand something he told you, he would explain it until you understood, without ever making you feel inferior. He genuinely wanted others to understand and appreciate what he saw. Many teenagers and young adults affect an attitude of apathy, disinterest, being "too cool" to care. Not Billy. He would probably not appreciate me saying this, but he was the only person I ever met who maintained an almost childlike wonder at the world into adulthood. That sense of wonder and curiosity made Billy quick to accept others. He never prejudged anyone or anything. He accepted new ideas, new acquaintances, and new concepts without prejudice. That is something we will all miss, it is a rare commodity in the world today.
"At first glance Adam seemed like he would be easy to overlook. He hung back some, letting others take center stage. But his attempts to stay in the background were doomed to failure, because sooner or later others noticed the depth of character, the dignity, the grace of his soul. Adam absorbed everything he encountered, he interpreted it with a poet's heart, and found beauty in the least likely of places. 'Right' and 'wrong' weren't abstract ideas to Adam-they were absolutes. And he had the courage to stand up for what he believed was right. He acknowledged and respected other's opinions and beliefs, but stood firm by his own. In a day and age where more and more people are reluctant to say 'that is wrong'; he stood out as a beacon of how things should be.
"To Don and Valerie Park, and to Wallace Cranston, we extend our deepest heartfelt sympathy. And our thanks, for bringing two exceptional people into the world, and allowing us the privilege of knowing them. If we were given the choice of never knowing them, and not having to face the pain of losing them, or knowing them and losing them, we would still choose the pain. Some things are worth it. Billy and Adam were worth it."
Tommy's voice broke at the last, and he quickly made his way back to his seat. Soft sobs and sniffling were heard throughout the building.
Reverend Duffy took the podium to offer a final prayer, then the service was to be moved to the graveside. As the mourners filed out the eight pallbearers stepped up onto the stage to carry their friends to the hearse for the ride to the graveside. Jason, Zack, Bulk, and Skull took Billy's casket, while Tommy, Rocky, Justin, and Jerome Stone took Adam's.
The graveside service was mercifully brief, after which the mourners gradually drifted away, back to take up their everyday lives.
That evening five vehicles approached a distant spot in the California desert. Oddly shaped rubble was strewn about, there were no signs of life anywhere in the immediate vicinity. But once this had been the location of what many of the arriving people had considered to be their second home.
It was where the Command Center, later Power Chamber, once stood.
It had been decided when the group of former Rangers had gotten together before the funeral earlier that day, they would meet at this location to have a private ceremony. Earlier they had said goodbye to Billy Cranston and Adam Park: friends, college students, sons, brothers, lovers. Tonight they would say goodbye to Billy Cranston and Adam Park: former Blue and Black/Green Power Rangers. Maintaining, as always, the secrecy that was by now almost second nature to them.
The day after the accident Tommy had contacted Justin. The youngest Ranger had always reminded Tommy, and the other older Rangers, of Billy-the quick intelligence, the thirst for knowledge, and the ability to find a solution to almost any technical/scientific question posed. Justin had 'inherited' Billy's garage lab when Billy left home. Mr. Cranston had taken an instant liking to the youngster, he had made the boy welcome anytime. Billy had also taken an immediate liking to Justin, they had developed a fast friendship. So it was Justin Tommy contacted when he had the idea they needed to let the Aquatian Rangers know what had happened. Tommy felt he owed them that courtesy at least, they had been important in Billy's life, and had assisted the Power Rangers in their time of need.
After the Power Chamber was destroyed, and the remaining Power Rangers had taken to space, Justin had developed a powerful transmitter in case he ever needed to contact them. This is what he used to contact Aquitar after the accident. Delphine, the leader of the Aquatian Rangers took the news stoically, but they saw tears sparkling in her eyes. She promised she would contact Zordon, whose home planet was beyond the range of Justin's transmitter.
The sixteen young people who were gathered in this remote spot formed a rough circle around a fire pit they had dug. Lighted only by the flickering illumination provided by the flames, they sat for a time in companionable silence. They had no formal plan for this farewell, they were acting only on instinct.
Tommy finally broke the silence. "I haven't been out here in at least two years, I still find it hard to believe the Command Center is gone."
"But it is nice to know it is no longer needed," Rocky added thoughtfully.
"Amen," was heard from several voices at that.
"I still remember the first time I saw it, and Zordon. I couldn't believe any of it was happening, being chosen as a 'Power Ranger', morphing, saving the world. All I wanted to do was get the heck out of there. Remember?" Kimberly turned to Jason.
"Oh, yeah, it was pretty surreal. Billy sure dug Alpha though, didn't he? Right from the first he was completely captivated by the technology the Command Center offered," Jason said with a slight smile.
"Like a kid in a candy shop," Zack added with a smile of his own.
"It must have been so weird for you guys. I mean, at least the rest of us knew there were such things as the Power Rangers, the Zords, Rita, Zedd and/or Mondo. You guys had no knowledge such things existed. Right?" Ashley asked.
"Right. We thought Zordon was out of his mind. Until we were attacked by Putties. That changed our minds pretty quickly," Jason replied.
Zack started to laugh a little. "We sure didn't do any good in that first fight. But the best was when Billy made the Putties stop for a second so he could take off his glasses. Then they just grabbed him and tossed him away. He quit taking off his glasses in fights after that first one. I guess it was enough of a challenge being unable to fight without being unable to see as well." That caused a round of quiet chuckles.
So it started. The sharing of stories about their two friends. Stories from before they were Rangers, while they were Rangers, after they retired as Rangers. Sad stories, funny stories, scary stories. Kim told of the body-switching incident, causing the others to laugh so hard they could barely catch their breath. Rocky told of the time Adam became obsessed with the "mysterious pianist", only to find out it was Skull. They all contributed stories, weaving a tapestry of memories so that they all could feel they knew both Billy and Adam. Creating and reinforcing a bond between all sixteen of them. Those who had come after Billy and Adam's time on the team now felt a connection to those earlier teams. They were now one team.
There was a pause in the conversation as they all sat for a bit, lost in thought. Suddenly, a flash of light to the side caused them to all spring to their feet, in a ready stance, old instincts coming to the fore. The light dissipated to reveal Delphine and Cestro, two of the Aquitian Rangers.
"Greetings, Rangers of Earth," Delphine intoned. "We have come to offer our sympathies for your loss in person, as is proper. We of Aquitar knew and had affection for Billy. He left behind many friends on our planet. We regret we did not have the chance to get to know Adam, except through the stories Billy told of him. Those stories told of a young man worth knowing. Our hearts go out to you in this time of sorrow." Both she and Cestro made a gesture with their hands that conveyed their message.
"We also bring a message from another," Cestro added, setting down an odd device he had been holding. He touched a switch and stepped back.
The device emitted a burst of light that quickly coalesced into a hologram of Zordon in his tube. Zordon's voice issued forth with its usual strength.
"Greetings Rangers. I regret I am unable to convey this message in person, but it is impossible at this time. Delphine has informed me of what happened to Billy and Adam. Words cannot express my sorrow at hearing the news. When I recruited the first team of Rangers, I had some doubts about including Billy, as his fighting ability when unmorphed was meager at best. But he soon proved that fighting ability was not the only measure of a Power Ranger's worth. I hate to think what it would have been like without his incredible intelligence and dedication. Adam's calming influence was critical during all the times of change and flux on the team. Always accepting, always willing to meet change without a murmur, he was a quiet, steadying influence for everyone. Throughout countless millenium of assembling and assisting Power Ranger teams, I have always considered the members as children. Today I mourn the loss of two exceptional children. They will be remembered, and missed, forever. Though I know this is of little comfort to any of you at this time.
I can only encourage the rest of you to go on in your lives, to be as happy and successful as possible. As two of the most selfless Rangers I have ever had the privilege to work with, I know this is what Billy and Adam would have wanted for you."
The transmission ended with Zordon's sorrowful visage fading slowly away.
Delphine spoke quietly. "We must return to Aquitar now, but if you are ever in need, please know we will be there to assist in any way we can."
"Thank you, Delphine. The same goes for you." Tommy replied solemnly.
"May we meet again under better circumstances," Cestro said as he and Delphine activated their teleportation devices and streaked into the night sky, heading home.
Shortly thereafter, the former Rangers headed home. There was really nothing more to say or do.
Friday, June 15, 2001
During an emotional four-hour ceremony, 521 students graduated from Angel Grove University. Among that number were Rockwell DeSantos, Katherine Hillard, Trini Kwan, Zackary Taylor, Aisha Campbell, William Cranston (posthumously), and Adam Park (posthumously). Don Park accepted his son's diploma, while Jason Scott accepted Billy's, as Wallace Cranston had been unable to attend the ceremony.
Sunday, June 17, 2001
Three pickups pulled up in front of the small house last occupied by Billy and Adam. In response to a request by the surviving family members, a group of friends would clear out the house. It was something their families were unable to face.
Zack got out of his truck, watching Jason, Tommy, and Rocky emerge from the others. They stood in an unhappy group on the sidewalk outside the house, looking with dread at the small structure.
"Oh, man, I really am not looking forward to this," Tommy said with a deep sigh.
No one spoke for a moment, then Jason said suddenly, "Let's do it, no sense trying to put it off."
With that they entered the house, unconsciously surveying the crammed rooms, figuring out what to do with the contents. Billy and Adam had hardly been "starving students", but they had not been wealthy either. The furnishings were mostly secondhand, and very worn. The cookware, linens, and other small housewares were cheap, mismatched, or somewhat damaged. The families had told them to get rid of everything. To give it all to charity, take it to the dump, whatever they felt was most appropriate. Between themselves, the four volunteers had decided to put anything they deemed of sentimental value in boxes to be delivered to the families, for them to open when they felt they could deal with it. Otherwise, they planned to give the best of the stuff to the Hospice Thrift Store, and the rest to the dump. Even with a firm plan, it was still a daunting task.
They started with the living room, perhaps the most impersonal of the rooms. The furniture, knickknacks, television, VCR, stereo, etc., was separated into that which was good enough to be used again, and that which was beyond reuse. Then they moved on to the kitchen. Here the boxes they had brought were put to good use as they packed up all the sundry small items found in any kitchen. The food was bagged for transport to the dump. The refrigerator was the last thing they tackled.
"Ugh! What the hell were they doing with these THINGS!?" Zack exclaimed, pulling out the three biology experiments Billy and Adam had never gotten around to throwing out. "This is too gross!" He quickly sealed them in a doubled trash bag.
Jason took Zack's place pulling stuff out of the refrigerator. "Maraschino cherries? What in the world did they have these for?" he wondered as he quickly dumped the rest of the contents in a trash bag.
Soon they had all but two rooms stripped. After taking the three trucks to be emptied, two at the Thrift Shop, and one at the dump, they met back at the house. The part they dreaded the most was all that was left to be done.
By unspoken agreement, Jason and Zack headed toward Billy's room, while Tommy and Rocky entered Adam's.
Rocky looked around, fighting a sudden nausea. As if he needed another reminder, it hit him again with the force of a Tenga's kick. Adam was dead. Really and truly dead. He would never again need anything he had in this room. He would never go on to marry Trini, father children, become a tenured professor of literature. He would never again tease Rocky about his appetite, help him with a difficult math concept, or laugh at one of his stupid jokes. Rocky felt a sense of sorrow, loss, and loneliness wash over him. He turned with an inarticulate sound and sprinted to the bathroom, where he violently lost his lunch.
Tommy was having his own fight with his emotions. He had been teammates with Adam the longest, through five different powers, yet looking around this room he realized he really hadn't known Adam all that well. Now it was too late, and Tommy was feeling the regret of a missed opportunity. He swore he would never make the same mistake again. He would never forget that there were no guarantees about tomorrow.
He looked up as a pale Rocky reentered the room. "Can you do this?" he asked gently.
"Yeah, I have to, I think," Rocky replied. "For Adam."
"Yeah, for Adam."
Zack had the weirdest feeling looking around Billy's room. The bed was only partially made, clothes were thrown carelessly on top of it. The computer was still on, the "alarm activated" light was lit on the bedside alarm clock. It seemed like Billy should come bounding in, smiling and asking them just what the heck they were doing in his bedroom. For all intents and purposes it appeared that the occupant had just stepped out for a minute and would be back shortly. He noticed one area of the far wall was covered with photographs and stepped closer to look at them. They were pictures that covered the last fifteen years or so. Pictures of all the various Ranger teams (unmorphed, of course), family pictures, including, in a place of honor near the middle of the grouping, a picture of his mother. Zack's attention was caught by one picture in particular. It showed Jason, Zack, and Billy in the back yard at Zack's childhood home. They were standing together, holding a rocket and smiling without a care in the world. They were all ten years old. The picture was taken by Zack's father about a week after Jason rescued Billy from a beating in an alley and introduced him to Zack. The summer they all became friends almost twelve years ago. 'And twelve years was all we are going to get,' Zack thought with a sinking heart. 'It just isn't fair."
Jason's anger had resurfaced. He wanted to be anywhere but where he was at this moment. He found himself surprised at just how angry he got when he thought about what had happened, he had never really considered himself an angry person before. He looked around the room, setting down the boxes he had carried in, determined to get started so they could finish this as quickly as possible. He was desperate to get out of this room that reminded him so strongly of the friend he had lost. His gaze fell on a book sitting on the bedside table and he picked it up curiously. It was a book of Psalms, quite worn. He looked at the inside cover and recognized his own mother's handwriting.
"Billy-I know you are going through a very difficult time, when you question why this has happened, what did you do to deserve it, how will you ever get through it. I don't have all the answers, I don't believe any person does. That is God's job. When you are feeling low, and want answers no one can give you, try looking in this book. I have faith you will find something to help you. And, please always remember you will never be alone. Love, Marjorie Scott 11/12/1992"
November 12, 1992 - the winter Billy's father had been diagnosed with cancer. For six months no one was sure how it would turn out, and Billy had spent the time worried almost sick about him. Billy had lived with the Scotts during that bleak period in his life, visiting his father every other weekend. From the time they first met him, Jason's parents had semi-adopted Billy, treating him as a second son. That suited Jason fine, he had always wanted a brother, and Billy had fit the bill perfectly. He made a great 'little bro', as Jason sometimes called him, despite the fact Billy was a couple of months older.
He looked again at the note from his mother, and opened the book randomly. It was obvious Billy had consulted the small book frequently. The pages were a little dog-eared, there were a lot of smudges. Funny, but Jason felt a sense of peace just holding the book, as if the spirit of the previous owner still clung to it. The anger he had been feeling disappeared.
Wallace Cranston had said they could keep anything they wanted of his son's possessions. Jason decided he would keep this book, something told him it would be of value to him in times to come. Feeling a little more settled he started methodically going through the dresser drawers, putting the clothing in bags for the thrift shop.
The four friends worked quickly, and for the most part, silently. When at last the final box was loaded on a truck they turned one last time to look around the now vacant house. It no longer bore any reminders of the previous occupants-it would be rented to new people who had no idea who had lived there before. In effect, it would get on with its 'life'.
It was time for the others to do so as well. ***
Monday, June 18, 2001-The Other Side
Billy and Adam looked around curiously, unsure of where they were, or what had happened, outside the fact they suspected they were dead. That was as far as they had gotten in figuring out what was going on. The featureless surroundings offered no clue as to where they were, or where they were going.
"Oh, dear, I am sorry to have kept you two waiting so long. But the truth is your being here has caused some confusion." They both turned toward the voice's owner, a small, gray-haired man who had gentle, troll like features.
"Uh, that's okay. Um, where are we, anyway?" Adam asked.
"This is a place to rest until any decisions that need to be made are made," the man replied.
"God's waiting room?" Billy asked with a slight smile.
"You could call it that, I guess," he smiled in reply.
"Well, what decision was made? Or was one made?" Adam asked, trying not to sound impatient.
"The decision has been left to you two. You have a choice to make, separately or together, as to where you go and what happens next," the little man declared.
"I'm sorry, but we are new at this. What are our choices?" Billy inquired.
"This will take some explaining. See, God does have a plan for each life. Some are intentionally short, some extremely long. Some major events are pre-planned. But always there is the 'random element', which is beyond God's control. He is the one who set it up that way, if that makes any sense. For instance, Adam, you were supposed to die at age 87. Obviously, that is not going to happen. The drunk driver you encountered changed the plan, and robbed you of 65 years. He was a 'random element', as it were. Needless to say, God is not fond of such events as happened to you two. And in some cases an effort is made to offer a sort of 'consolation' to the person. You were both very fine young men. You had served mankind heroically as Power Rangers, risking your lives without reserve. You deserved the long, happy lives you were supposed to have. But, we cannot give you back those lives. You probably do not know this, but almost two weeks have passed since you died. You have been buried, even graduated from college. There is no going back," he paused, seeing Billy and Adam's stricken expressions. "I'm sorry, I know this comes as a shock. There is a time span between the actual death and the awareness of 'afterlife' that is a sort of, limbo, I guess you'd call it. It makes it so it is impossible for the deceased to be able to reenter their old lives. Anyway, the bottom-line, fellows, is you are dead. You aren't going to be able to go back to being alive. But, since the circumstances are what they are, we can offer you a chance to still have a little input in the futures of those who are close to you. Here is the deal: You will be given a chance to observe portions of the next 50 years of their lives. You will not be able to directly contact them in any way. You will be unable to counteract any event that is preplanned in their lives. But you may be able to nudge their decisions in the direction you want if you are creative. When you reach the 50 year anniversary of your deaths, you will go on to Heaven (unless, of course, you REALLY screw up during the time your are observing their futures-it has never happened, but I suppose it could.). Or you can go straight on to Heaven now, and skip the other part. The choice is yours."
Billy and Adam looked quite stupefied by the information they had just received. They looked at each other in some confusion, not having expected any of this.
"Can we have a little while to try to process all you have told us?" Billy finally asked.
"Of course. Take all the time you need. When you have reached a decision, just think about me and I will be here."
"Oh, okay. What is your name?" Adam asked.
"Riley." With that the little man disappeared.
Both young men stood silently for a few moments, letting the information they had just received sink in. It was one thing to suspect you are dead, another entirely to find out you really are.
"What do you think, Billy?" Adam finally broke the silence.
"I am trying to determine if I really want to see what will happen to those we left behind. I think it would be quite frustrating to see them without being able to touch or talk to them," Billy replied in a distracted way.
"But to not see them at all? I think that would be worse. And he did say we may be able to influence them in some small way. I kind of like the idea I could still help them if they need it," Adam said pensively.
"Yeah, I like that idea too. I guess I'm just being selfish. I don't know how it will feel seeing them go on without me. I remember how it was when my mom died. At first Dad and I could barely function. We missed her so much, barely a minute went by that we didn't think of her. But that changed over time. We thought of her less and less. Don''t get me wrong, we still loved her, but she was dead and we weren't. We had to get on with our lives. That is what we will see our families and friends do. In 50 years they will probably forget we even existed. We have to be ready for that as well. The only thing worse than them going on without us is if they don't. See what I mean?"
Adam nodded solemnly. "Yeah, I see what you are getting at." It was one think to read of the five stages of death, but another to experience it. Billy had that experience Adam had not. "I still want to do it. If I don't I know I will regret it for eternity. It's just a gut feeling, Billy, but it's strong. I HAVE to do this. But I will understand if you don't want to."
Billy sighed deeply. "I think I have been trying to talk myself out of it, but I have to concur my gut reaction is the same as yours. And if we go together, perhaps we can help each other help our loved ones. Okay?"
"Okay. Guess we better think of Riley."
Adam had no more than spoken and Riley was there. "You have decided?"
"Yes, we want the chance to see our loved ones again." Adam spoke for them both.
"Very well then. You will start with now, then once you have seen what you need to see, you will instantly find yourself at the next point of interest in your family or friends' lives. This you have no control over. You will simply go to the next big event. You have to trust God knows what He is doing." With that the small man disappeared and their surroundings seemed to pulsate. When things settled down, they both looked around with some curiosity.
They were standing outside the Park house in the middle of the street. Before they could react an oncoming car passed through them. They stood there in shock, looking after the car.
"I guess we don't have to wonder if anyone can see us. Looks like they can't. This is going to be so weird," Billy said numbly. The sensation of the car passing through them had not been pleasant.
"No kidding. Look, I want to check on my parents and brother. You want to come with me or look for your dad?" Adam said.
"I'll go look up Dad, and maybe Kat if I can find her," Billy decided.
"When and where do you want to meet again?"
"The park at sunset?"
Adam walked into his parent's home, still reeling from the events of the last little while. It was near midday, so both his parents were at work. His younger brother Adrian was home however. He was sitting on the couch watching a movie and eating popcorn without much enthusiasm. Adam sat down beside him for a few minutes, watching the movie (April Fools Day-a no brainer movie Adam had enjoyed since he was a teenager) much as they had in their youth. He would have loved to be able to eat some of the popcorn, to turn to his brother and laugh over the sillier parts of the movie, to devise ways to make it even more gross. He looked over at Adrian and saw tears in his brother's eyes. Suddenly he felt like a voyeur, like an intruder in his brother's grief. Adam couldn't just sit there, he reached out to Adrian without thinking. His hand passed through his brother without Adrian ever being aware anything had happened. Adam felt pain rip through him as he realized he could not do anything to help his brother. And he had wanted to do this?
He stood up and bolted out of the house.
After parting from Adam, Billy quickly walked over to his father's house. He needed desperately to see how his father was doing. He felt dread tighten his stomach as he entered the house and sought out his father.
Wallace was sitting in the overstuffed recliner in the living room. The drapes were pulled, leaving the room gloomy and dark. The television was turned to CNN, but the volume was so low it sounded like a hum in the background. Dirty glasses and dishes were piled on the coffee table and the room smelled musty and unpleasant.
Wallace himself looked unkempt and exhausted. He stared in the general direction of the television without seeming to see it. Billy approached him warily, wanting, but not wanting, to see him. He felt his spirit clench in pain at the sight of his father. Billy and Wallace had seldom spoke of their feelings for each other. They were not demonstrative toward each other, they never had been. Consequently, one of the reasons Billy had often suffered from low self-esteem was because he was sometimes unsure of his father's' love. Whatever doubts he may have had before were erased at the sight of his father's unalloyed grief. Billy felt tears in his own eyes as he looked at his father. Never in a million years would he have wanted to hurt him like this. Then he noticed what Wallace was holding loosely in his lap. It was a picture of Billy, Wallace, and Marie, taken just a couple of weeks before Marie died in a car accident.
"I don't know how I can go on now. You two are together again, leaving me alone. I want to be with you both, not here in this lonely life. I know I am supposed to go on until it is 'my time', but how long will that be? What will I do? Why did God take both of you? I could be strong as long as Billy needed me, but without him what will I live for?" Wallace's voice devolved into tears as his hand gently caressed the picture.
Billy couldn't choke back a sob. Not that it mattered, there was no one there who could hear it. He had thought about the potential pain for him seeing loved ones going on without him, but not the pain of witnessing their grief. He hurt for his father. His father had often seemed distant, uncaring even, but Billy realized, perhaps for the first time, how much he loved his father, and how much his father had loved him. And now he was terrified for his father. He was desperately afraid his father would choose to end his life rather than go on alone.
After Adam left his parent's house he headed toward Trini's apartment. Trini lived with three other young women in a large apartment in a good neighborhood. He sometimes couldn't understand why she always insisted they spend the bulk of their time in his small house. Unless it was because he only had one roommate, and he was a good friend of hers. Most of the times he had been in her apartment he hadn't seen the roommates anyway. They always seemed to be gone, which was fine with him. He hadn't liked them that much.
True to form, Trini was alone. She was sitting on her bed looking at her answering machine with an unfathomable expression. Suddenly, she reached out and pushed the button that would play back the messages.
"Miss Kwan, this is Dr. White's office. The results of your test came back positive. Congratulations! You are two and a half months pregnant."
Adam was completely shocked. Pregnant! He was going to leave a child behind as a legacy? Impossible! They were always careful. They had too many plans they wanted to complete before they would be ready to even consider parenthood. But they must have messed up somehow. Wow!
Then he noticed Trini's expression.
Tears sparkled in her eyes, but not tears of happiness judging from the expression Adam saw on her face. She looked miserable, and suddenly put her hands to her face and bent over as if in pain. He could hear her sobs and in that moment would have given anything to be able to touch her, to offer some sort of comfort.
"What am I going to do?" she suddenly cried out softly, startling Adam badly with the despair he heard in her voice. "What am I going to do?"
Adam was confused. She would have the child, wouldn't she? It wasn't like he was going to have another chance to father a child. Those first thoughts shot through his mind almost before he had a chance to recognize them. Then the voice of reason, always so strong in him, made itself heard. He realized it WAS a difficult decision she was facing. After all, she was the one who would have to raise the child alone. She was the one whose future would be impacted by the choice she made. He was still mulling it over when Trini's phone rang again.
"Hello." Adam watched the expressions play across her face as she listened to the caller. "Thanks for calling, I'll be there soon."
When she grabbed her keys and purse, Adam followed her out.
Billy left his father's house after Wallace finally fell asleep still sitting in his chair. Billy was deeply disturbed by his father's condition, and was desperately trying to think of a way to help him. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts he did not pay any attention to where he was going, so he was somewhat surprised to look up and find himself outside the Hillard residence. With some trepidation, he decided to see if Kat was at home.
He found the house deserted. Feeling disappointed and somewhat relieved at the same time, he looked around a last time to see if there was any indication of where they may be. He found a note on the kitchen counter from Kat to her parents.
"Mum and Dad, Jason called and Emily is in labor. I'm at the hospital. Be home soon as the baby is born, Love Katherine."
Billy headed out to the hospital.
Without even thinking of it, Adam followed Trini out to her car and scrambled in before her. He didn't stop to think about the fact that that should not have worked, considering they could pass through solid objects as if they did not exist. So why was he able to ride in the car? He couldn't figure it out, and simply set the question aside to ask Billy later. He already had an idea it was something beyond explanation and should be simply accepted on faith.
Adam was surprised to find they had arrived at Angel Grove Hospital. Curious, he followed Trini closely, growing concerned when he saw a large group of his friends, including most of the former Rangers, as well as Jason Scott's parents, and several others he didn't recognize at first. Katherine Hillard saw Trini approach and rose to meet her with a warm hug.
"Glad you could come. There isn't any news yet, but the doctor felt it should be pretty soon."
"I couldn't stay away. After all, it's 'our' first baby!" Trini said with a wistful smile.
Katherine noticed her expression and steered her away from the group. "How are you doing, Trini? Are you okay?"
"I don't really know, Kat. I seem to be going on a lot of ups and downs recently, and today is a definite 'down'."
"Anything in particular, or the usual?"
"Both, I think. Look, I really don't want to talk about it quite yet. Please, give me a day or two and ask again," Trini requested in her quiet way.
"I can do that," Katherine gave her friend a hug with the reply. Though the two had never served as Power Rangers together, but they had become close friends through their relationships with Billy and Adam.
Adam had overheard their conversation and hoped Trini would open up to Katherine. He knew she tended to keep her problems to herself, but he hoped she wouldn't in this situation. He was about to wander over closer to the others when he heard a soft voice behind him.
"Looks like the gang is all here," Billy said with a slight smile.
"Hey Billy, how has your day gone?"
"Don't ask. Not good. How about yours?"
"Same as you, I guess. How about this for a cruel twist-Trini's pregnant."
"Whoa, that had to be a shock. How is she taking it?"
"She is considering an abortion."
Billy looked upset at that idea. "Oh, God, I'm sorry Adam. That has to be hard for you."
"It's hard on her too. I know what I want her to do, based on my feelings. But she is the one who will have to live with it, not me. She will have to endure the pregnancy, birth, and raising of the child. Her hopes and dreams may have to be put aside for years. She has a right to want her future. But, dammit, Billy, it is my child too. The only chance at fathering a child I will ever have. This is so hard," Adam's voice had risen to a shout before almost fading away with the last comment.
Billy laid a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. "It will work out Adam, you know it will. She will make the right decision."
Adam looked at him with eyes that clearly wanted to believe. "I hope so Billy. This isn't exactly a decision she can change later."
Their conversation was interrupted by a disturbance among the group waiting together across the room. Adam and Billy looked over to see Jason had emerged and was calling for everyone's attention. The two hurried over to hear what he had to say.
"Guys, I'm a father! We have a baby girl, Heather Nicole Scott. 7lbs, 3 oz., and absolutely gorgeous. Emily is doing great. I'm doing great! Mom, Dad, you're grandparents! I gotta get back." With that Jason darted back toward the delivery room followed by the sound of the laughter and applause his announcement had generated.
Adam and Billy shared a smile, the first for either of them since their deaths. Despite the problems they had encountered already, they were extremely happy for Jason and Emily. They stood at the edge of the group of their friends and listened to their excited conversations. Adam especially watched Trini's reaction to the news. She looked thoughtful, but no more or less at peace than she had before.
Adam and Billy exchanged smiles, happy for their friend. It was nice to see Jason and Emily so happy, they both deserved all the joy they could get. Then Adam sighed deeply.
"What is it Adam?" Billy asked, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder again.
"Just jealous, I guess. I keep thinking of all the things I won't get to do, I won't get to experience. Like being there, REALLY there, when Trini has a child. OUR child. Feeling like Jason must feel now. Damn, this sucks," he wiped moisture from his eyes self-consciously.
"I agree whole heartedly. This is turning out much harder than I expected. And we have just started," Billy sighed.
Adam sniffed a little, then looked at Billy. "What's up with your people?"
Billy's expression immediately changed to one of deep sorrow. "I think my dad may be considering suicide," he said softly.
"Are you sure?" Adam was horrified at the idea.
"It's what it sounds like. I have to find some way to help him. Didn't Riley say we may be able to influence our friends and family? I need to find a way to do that, convince him there is a reason to go on," Billy said.
"You have any ideas?"
"Maybe. I read somewhere a long time ago that, outside of a coma, sleep was the closest we came to death. That during sleep was when the dead could communicate with the living through dreams. That dreams were actually messages from the dead. I didn't pay any attention to it at the time. I didn't believe in such things, and still have some doubts that dreams all come from the dead. I mean, if that is the case, then I have had some very strange people trying to communicate with me. But there is a kind of logic to it, I think I am going to try it at least. The worst that will happen is that it will fail. I just wish I knew what I was doing. Remember that movie, 'Beetlejuice'? Where they had that 'Handbook for the Recently Deceased'? Wouldn't that be handy?"
Adam cracked a quick smile. "Yeah, as long as we didn't also end up with Michael Keaton to 'help' us."
Billy returned the smile, and for just a moment they forgot the circumstances that brought them here, forgot what had happened.
For just a moment they felt normal again.
Billy entered his father's bedroom nervously. He wasn't sure if his idea would work or not, but he knew he had to try. His father needed to go on. Billy couldn't say how he knew this, but he knew deep inside his father still had things he needed to accomplish in life. And he didn't want to be the catalyst for Wallace giving up that future.
He approached his slumbering father, unconsciously moving stealthily, even though under the circumstances stealth was hardly required. He realized what he was doing and chuckled slightly to himself. "I guess old habits die hard," he muttered. The absurdity of that comment hit him and he broke into an actual laugh, even as he realized that nervousness was the actual source of his chuckles.
"Oh, great. Not only am I dead, but I'm going nuts. Eternity is going to be a blast at this rate," he mumbled.
He thought back to when he read that article on dreams and communication with the deceased. It said that dreams were the dead trying to communicate with the living. He recalled that dreams happened during REM sleep, so he settled down to watch his slumbering father, waiting for the tell tale signs of REM sleep.
After a seeming eternity, Billy noticed his father's eyes moving rapidly behind his closed eyelids. Billy leaned in close and began to speak in a gentle voice.
"Dad, it's me, Billy. I know you are upset, I understand your pain. I am so sorry to be the cause of this. But you have to go on. I know now, more than ever, that life is a gift, and I get the feeling you are contemplating throwing that gift away. You can't, you mustn't. You still have a future, there is hope for happiness in the coming years, I am sure of it. If you need someone, please, reach out to Jason, or his parents. You know they care about you. We were, ARE, like an extension of their family. Remember all the times they took care of me when you were out of town on business, all the times Jason stayed over at our house? They would do anything to help you, I know they would. And don't forget Anne. I know you two haven't been going out very long, but she sure seems to like you. I know if you reached out to her she would respond. Whatever you need to do to go on, you have to do. You can't give up. If you give up you are betraying both Mom and me. We love you, we want what is best for you. We will see you soon enough without you hurrying the issue. Please, Dad, I love you too much to want you to give up on life. I need for you to go on, please, for me?" Tears and suppressed sobs stilled his voice. He wanted nothing more in the world than to touch his father, to hug him close, both for his father's comfort and for his own. Instead, he had to get up and leave, unable to look at the peaceful face of his sleeping father any longer.
He had no idea if Wallace had heard, or sensed, anything he had tried to say.
Adam sat by Trini's bed, struggling with a moral dilemma. Should he only offer Trini his unconditional support, whatever decision she should make, or should he attempt to encourage her to have the child. He told himself it was Trini's decision, her life, and he had no rights anymore to attempt to influence her. He argued she would ultimately regret an abortion, so if he convinced her to have the child he would save her anguish in the future. He debated saying nothing and getting the hell out of there. Finally he took a deep breath and made his decision.
"Trini, I don't know if you can hear me, or if you can sense me, or whatever. But I need to tell you again that I love you. That no matter what you do, what you decide, I will always love you. I never realized how incomplete I was until I was with you. You gave meaning to my life, and added dimensions to it I had never imagined existed. I am sorry I left you alone to face this decision. I know it was not my fault, my death I mean, not the pregnancy. That I think I did have a lot to do with, right? Anyway, I really hope you choose to keep the child, but if you don't I will understand. Okay, I will do my best to understand, since I really would like to leave a child behind as a legacy. God, that is so selfish of me! I'm sorry, forget that! I didn't mean to say that. I love you, that is all that is important. I love you, and I miss you. Oh, how I miss you already," Adam broke down in tears and fled the room, miserable he had slipped and started to insist she have the child.
Damn, but it was hard being a ghost.
Tuesday, June 19, 2001 - Angel Grove, California
Jason Scott all but ran out of his front door. He was pumped, ready to face the day. His first full day as a parent. He knew he was being a bit ridiculous, but he frankly didn't care. He'd already been to the hospital once this morning to greet his wife and child. Now he was going to walk over to his parent's house, then they would go together to the hospital to pick up Emily and Heather and bring them home. Emily and Heather. His family. Darn, but that sounded good!
He was so caught up in his thoughts he didn't notice the little boy skating shakily down the sidewalk in his direction until they literally ran into each other. Jason recovered quickly, quite unhurt, and reached out to help the boy back onto his feet. The kid was maybe eleven years, slender with a shock of unruly light brown hair.
'Looks like Billy did at that age,' Jason thought as the boy quickly apologized and skated off down the street, presumably looking for something else to run into.
Thinking of Billy had the effect of dousing Jason's high spirits like a cold shower. He felt the now familiar pain when he thought of his old friend, wondering again when he would be able to remember Billy without that pang. It occurred to Jason that he had not seen Wallace since he delivered Billy's diploma. Wallace had not answered his phone yesterday, so Jason had only been able to leave a message about his daughter's birth. Wallace had not returned the call.
As Jason entered his parents' house, he made a quick decision. "Mom, Dad, you mind if we swing by Mr. Cranston's house? I want to ask him something, and I need to do it in person."
"Of course we don't mind, I have been thinking I need to go over and check on him anyway. You know, just to see how he is doing," Marjorie replied, her own expression sorrowful. If Jason felt like he had lost a brother, his parents felt as if they had lost a son. From the moment they set eyes on Billy when he was ten years old, they had 'adopted' him. Marjorie and Jack Scott had wanted a large family, but Jason was the only child they were able to have, so Billy had helped fill a void in their lives. And it had been pretty obvious that the Scotts, especially Marjorie, filled a void in Billy's life.
Jack just nodded and reached for the car keys as they all headed out the door.
Trini awoke with a headache, a heartache, and faint nausea. She had dreamed of Adam, that the accident had just been a cruel joke and he was alive. She had been so happy in the dream that reality was a bitter blow. She lounged back in her bed, contemplating simply staying there for the day, maybe the week, possibly the month. Getting up, getting dressed, then meeting Kimberly to go shopping suddenly sounded like much too much work. It would be better to stay in bed.
She was about to nod off again when there came a pounding on her door. Naturally her roommates were not around, so Trini finally had to get up and answer the knock. She was surprised to find Kimberly at the door.
"Geez Kim, you knock like a 6 foot, 300 pound Sumo wrestler," Trini complained.
"Nice to see you, too," Kim retorted as she entered the apartment. "And, not to criticize or anything, but most malls require you wear clothing, not your nightgown. You might want to consider getting dressed, maybe brushing your hair." Kim had been increasingly worried about her friend, and she was determined to spend the day with her no matter what.
"I think I'll skip it today, Kimberly, I'm not feeling too good," Trini started.
"Oh, no you don't! You are NOT blowing me off again. I let you off the hook two days ago, it is time to shop. You promised. Now, go get dressed, freshen up, and I'll treat us to breakfast," Kim ordered.
"Yes ma'am," Trini sighed.
Wallace Cranston answered his door with a frown, wondering who could be bothering him at this ungodly hour, not realizing it was almost eleven in the morning. His irritation changed to bemusement as Marjorie hastened in and immediately started cleaning the living room and kitchen areas, scolding and fussing over Wallace as she went. Wallace finally turned to the other two men in some confusion.
"You came over here to clean my house?"
"Uh, no, not really. But Mom tends to just plunge in when she sees something that she thinks should be cleaned. Sorry. Actually, I wanted to talk to you for a minute. I have a favor to ask," Jason replied.
"Sure, son. I guess we may be safe enough out on the patio," Wallace indicated the sliding glass door leading outside, as Jack went to check on Marjorie's progress.
"What is on you mind?" Wallace asked once they were outside. He was as fond of Jason as the Scotts had been of Billy.
"Did you get my message yesterday, about our daughter?"
"Sure did, and congratulations Jason. Being a father is one of the greatest things in life. I know you will do a wonderful job."
"Thanks, I sure hope so. I had a couple of very good examples to follow. Which is kind of why I'm here. I wanted to ask you to be Heather's godfather. Emily and I both like that tradition, and we agree no one would be better suited than you. We would be honored if you accepted."
"Me? Your child's godfather? I don't know Jason, I'm sure you could find someone better than me for the job."
"I don't think so. Look, maybe you didn't know this, but I always thought of Billy as the brother I never had. And I started to think of you as my second father. There is no one more suited, more appropriate, and most importantly, more wanted to serve as Heather's godfather. We want you. Please." Jason looked at the older man pleadingly.
Wallace was deeply touched. "Okay, Jason. I will do it. Thank you for the honor. And, for the record, I always thought of you as the second child we never got to have." He awkwardly reached out and embraced Jason, who returned the embrace willingly.
Unseen and unheard in a corner of the patio, Billy watched, laughing and crying at the same time.
Jason had ended up being the answer to his prayers. Again.
Kimberly stared worriedly at Trini as she picked at her breakfast. Her friend was pale and tired looking. She seemed to be completely withdrawn into some inner misery, which Kimberly was powerless to bring her back from. Kim was starting to think it was depression when Trini suddenly bolted from her seat and raced to the ladies room. Kimberly followed, more worried than ever when she heard Trini vomiting in one of the stalls.
"Oh, God, Trini, let me in, please?" Kimberly stood outside the stall, listening to her friend sob.
Trini made no move to let Kimberly in, so Kim took matters into her own hands and simply crawled under the partition. Trini had collapsed on the floor, holding on to the toilet and crying miserably.
Kimberly didn't waste time with words, but simply wrapped Trini in an embrace and held her, rocking her gently and making a soothing cooing sound. Eventually Trini began to calm back down, so Kimberly took the chance to help her get to her feet and out of the stall. Trini allowed herself to be led to the sinks and passively let Kimberly clean her face and hands with moist towels.
Finally Kimberly got Trini as cleaned up as possible under the circumstances and regarded her friend with considerable worry.
"Can you tell me what is going on, Trini? This looks like more than grief to me. You look ill, do you need to go see the doctor? If you are worried, I'll go with you. Whatever you need me to do to help, you know I will do it."
Trini tried to smile for Kimberly. The result was anything but comforting to her friend. "I'll be okay Kimberly," she said, even as tears formed in her eyes again.
"What is it! Trini, you have to tell me. You are scaring me something awful. If you don't talk to me I will call your parents and have them come and talk to you. I know something is very wrong and I am not going to let you put me off about this," Kimberly declared.
Trini considered her friend's determined expression. She sighed and lowered her head, speaking so softly Kimberly could barely hear her. "I'm pregnant. And I don't know what to do."
Kim sucked in a quick breath. No wonder Trini was upset! "Do you know what you WANT to do?"
"Not really, I keep getting caught in the middle between wanting the child, and wanting my career dreams. I don't know what I want right now."
"How far along are you?"
"Well, you have a little time, you don't have to decide this minute. Do you think you can allow yourself to 'step back away' from it for a few days, give yourself time to discover what you truly want to do?"
"I can try. That's a good idea, actually. I guess I was thinking I have to decide today, putting extra pressure on myself. Leave it to you to find the right solution." Trini's attempt at a smile was much more convincing this time.
"Glad to help. We better get back to the table, they probably think I ran out on the bill." Taking Trini's arm, Kimberly steered her back to their table, still determined to make Trini have some fun.
But she couldn't help but think, what if it had been Tommy who died, and she ended up pregnant? What would she do? Kimberly knew of Trini's dreams, her desire for a career. A child hardly fit into that picture. But Kimberly also knew how nurturing and loving Trini was, she would make an awesome mother.
Jason and his parents were greeted at the hospital by a group of their friends anxious to see the newest member of the Scott family. Jason promised them he would bring his daughter out to meet them all as soon as the doctor said it was okay. Then he hurried in to see Emily and Heather.
He emerged an hour later carefully holding a small bundle wrapped in pink. Immediately Jason and Heather were surrounded by a small mob, all vying for the chance to hold her. Heather immediately showed she had inherited her father's good nature as she was passed from person to person without a murmur of protest.
Kimberly and Trini arrived as Jason was about to return his daughter to Emily's waiting arms.
"Wait Jase, can I hold her, please," Kim asked breathlessly, reaching for the infant even as she asked.
Jason couldn't resist the pleading look on his friend's face as he handed over his daughter.
"Oh, she is so perfect! You guys are so lucky," she exclaimed as she cuddled the drowsy baby.
"Turns out, I agree with you completely. Trini, do you want to hold her before I take her back to Mama?" Jason asked, turning his smiling gaze to her.
"Okay, sure, I guess I won't drop her," Trini said quietly as Kimberly handed her the infant. Kim kept a close watch on Trini's expression, suddenly regretting dragging her along on this visit. Given how Trini was feeling about things, dealing with a new infant and an ecstatic father might not be the best thing for her. However, her worry faded as she noticed an expression of peace come over Trini's face. Kim suddenly knew Trini had made her decision.
Kimberly was not the only one who noticed the play of emotions over Trini's face. Standing just behind Kimberly and watching with his heart in his throat was another spectator. Who also could see Trini's mind had been decided as she held Jason's daughter in her arms.
Adam was going to be a father.
August 31. 2001 - The Other Side
"Whoa! How did I get here and where did you come from?" Adam asked as he looked around in confusion. The last he remembered he was in the hospital, standing alone, watching Trini hold Jason and Emily's daughter. Then suddenly, he was here, wherever "here" was, with Billy standing by his side looking as confused as Adam felt.
"I have no idea. It looks like we are in a church. And, don't ask me how I know, but I think the date is August 31, 2001," Billy replied.
"I know. It is August 31. This is too weird. Do you think we are being provided with the information we need when we get to a new time and location? Is this God's doing?"
"I guess. Riley did say we would be transferred to the next 'big' event, that God would make sure of that. Makes sense He wouldn't want us to waste a bunch of time trying to figure out when and where we are, but to get right to the most important thing. I'm not sure, but I think we may be about to witness Kimberly and Tommy's wedding. At least I hope this is what is going on today," Billy surmised. "By the way, what happened with Trini?"
"She decided to keep the baby, I think. Oh, Billy, I almost blew it. I tried talking to her while she slept, and I found myself starting to tell her to keep it because I wanted her to. I stopped before I got too far, but, man, it was so tempting to try to bend her to my will."
"Remember, Adam, you didn't. And we don't know for sure if that idea of mine even works," Billy said.
"What happened with your dad?"
"Jason happened." Billy chuckled at Adam's confused expression. "Jason came by my dad's house with his parents and asked Dad to be Heather's godfather. Dad agreed to it, so he has to keep going. He would never let Heather, or Jason, down."
"Wonderful! I'm happy for you, I know you have been worried."
"Well, I'm happy for you too, 'Dad'. Something tells me we will be stopping by for that event."
"I sure hope so!"
While the two of them had been talking, people had started arriving at the church. Floral arrangements were being given a last minute adjustment, the organ being put through its paces, the priest was setting out the candles and bible he would need. Billy and Adam moved to a location slightly behind where the priest would stand. It gave them the best view of the bride and groom as well as the entire audience.
"Look! There's Tanya, looks like she has a new boyfriend. Lucky guy. And Bulk is bringing a date. She's a looker too. Skull is still by himself, though. There's my mom and dad. And Adrian! They look great, guess they are starting to get over it," Adam's voice took on a sadder tone as he contemplated his parents. He felt Billy's reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"That is a good thing, you know, Adam. They need to get over it. It doesn't mean they love you any less, but they have to get on."
"I know, but it still hurts."
"I know. I'm kind of anxious about seeing my dad, too."
"Well, there he is. He brought a date, too. Is that Anne?" Adam indicated the petite, somewhat plain woman on Wallace's arm.
"She looks nice."
"She is. Very intelligent too. I never had anything against Anne. I actually like her, I accepted her relationship with Dad." Billy was sounding a little sad himself. Then he noticed something. "Adam, is that an engagement ring on her left hand?"
"Boy, it sure looks like one. Guess you're getting a step mom."
Billy was looking intently at his father. He finally sighed deeply. "He looks happy, right, Adam? Like I said, this is a good thing. But as you pointed out, it still hurts." It was Adam's turn to lend reassurance to his friend.
"I wonder if we will ever get used to this."
"We better, it's not like things are going to change for us in the near future," Billy noted.
"Yeah. Oh, it's starting!" Adam looked almost as excited as Tommy, who was now standing with Jason in front of the priest.
Aisha and Rocky led the procession, followed by Katherine and David, then Trini and Zack. Adam took in a deep breath at the sight of Trini. Though the dress had a loose fit to it, her pregnancy was just barely noticeable. Kimberly followed Trini and Zack, holding onto her father's arm.
The ceremony was beautiful. When the priest introduced Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Oliver, there was hardly a dry eye in the room, including Adam and Billy.
Then suddenly they found they had moved on.
December 10, 2001 - The Other Side
At least this time they had known what to expect. They found themselves in another church, another wedding. Within an hour, Mr. and Mrs. Zackary Taylor and been introduced.
And Billy and Adam moved on.
January 15, 2002 - Angel Grove, California
Trini shifted uncomfortably on her chair. She had been feeling unusually restless and uncomfortable all day, unable to settle down physically or mentally. She knew part of the problem, at least. She was pretty sure she was entering the first stages of labor. She hadn't had any pains as yet, but everything else indicated the long wait was almost over and she would soon meet her son.
"Well, Adam, you will be making your big arrival soon. Take it easy on Mom, okay?" she said as she gently stroked her abdomen. An ultrasound had revealed the child to be a boy two months before, so since then Trini had addressed him by the name she planned to christen him with. She had told the Parks of her condition as soon as she had decided to keep the baby. They readily accepted the child as their grandson, knowing as they did how Adam had felt about Trini, and happy to know a part of their child had survived.
Trini had settled down in her own small apartment. She had found work as a researcher in a law firm in Angel Grove. They were happy to have an employee with her skills, and asked no questions regarding her pregnancy. They granted her two months leave, however it was without pay, as she did not have enough time in to qualify for maternity leave. It didn't really matter, she had been able to set enough aside to be able to survive a couple of months without working, so she and the baby would do just fine.
While finances had not proven to be a problem, emotionally it had been a tough time. Fortunately, she had good, caring friends to help her through. Katherine was a constant source of support. Katherine seemed to devote all her free time to helping Trini prepare for the new arrival. Artistically talented, with inborn good taste, Katherine had completely decorated the nursery, setting it up so it could be "upgraded" as Adam grew, without having to "gut" the room and start from scratch as his tastes matured.
Katherine was interning as a counselor, she expected to have her license soon. She threw herself into her fledgling career with all the energy she had. She worked long hours, then spent hours helping Trini, she volunteered at a youth club downtown, and taught dance one evening a week free at the Juice Bar. To all outward appearances, she was an exceptionally focused, dedicated, vital young woman. Only her friends realized a part of her had not yet bounced back from the loss she had suffered in June. There were some that wondered if she ever would.
Kimberly also offered Trini as much support and encouragement as she could. However, Kim was a little harder for Trini to be around than Katherine was. Kimberly still had that newlywed glow, the enthusiasm and optimism that Trini found hard to handle. Trini didn't begrudge her friend her happiness, but at times it seemed to only highlight the elements missing in her own life. Trini would not have admitted to that even under threat of death.
Tanya, Emily, Angela and several of her coworkers also did their best to keep Trini's spirits up during her pregnancy. For the most part they succeeded admirably.
An unexpected source of comfort had been Rocky. Rocky had been devastated by Adam's death, and like Katherine he had coped by plunging into his work with unparalleled enthusiasm. In Rocky's case, his work was medical school. He still faced a long uphill road to his goal of being an orthopedic surgeon. But he was never too busy to take the time to visit Trini, assisting her in any way he could. He took care of small repairs Trini's landlord couldn't, or wouldn't, tackle, and did routine maintenance on her car. In her presence his happy personality reasserted itself, he found himself striving to bring a smile to her face. He told her off color jokes he heard from other med students, gifted her with nonsense books, and took her to see romantic comedies.
It was several months before Rocky realized he was falling in love with Trini. January 15, 2002 - The Other Side
This was getting to be routine now. Billy and Adam looked around, quickly summing up the situation. They were in a hospital waiting room, the usual gang of their friends was around, but no one looked particularly upset. Adam was the first to realize what was happening.
"Trini is in labor! Billy, my baby is being born. I've got to go see what is happening. Do you want to come along?"
"Not really, you check things out and let me know what you find. I'll wait here." Billy replied with a wry look.
Adam hurried off in the direction of the labor rooms. It still astounded Billy to watch his friend walk through doors and walls. Given some time to think about it, Billy began to consider if there was any way they that could physically touch the living. He remembered some since forgotten movie he had seen, featuring a ghost who learned to touch the living, he used this ability to save his lover's life. It had something to do with concentrating all his energy into his hands and fingers. Adam had already noticed he was able to ride in the cab with Trini before, he had just hopped in without thinking about it. He had simply done it on faith. Maybe that was part of it too. To pass the time while waiting for Adam to report back, Billy began to experiment with the idea.
Adam had made his way directly into the labor room, where Trini was already well advanced in her labor. Emily Scott held her hand, encouraging her to use the breathing exercises she had learned in her Lamaze classes. Adam waited in a corner of the room, watching, wishing he could be a more active part of the experience.
"Trini, you are fully dilated now, it should be over very soon. When I give the word I need you to give a big push. Okay, now!" the doctor ordered.
Trini pushed with all her might, letting out a small scream as she felt her son's head move toward the outside world. With Emily, the doctor, and the nurses all encouraging her she kept up the pressure as her son moved smoothly into her life. She dropped back weakly as she heard her child's first cry.
"You did it! You have a son. Oh, Trini, he's perfect!" Emily put her arm around Trini and gave her a careful hug.
Trini answered with a radiant smile as she reached for her son. When the nurse asked for his name she answered with no hesitation at all-Adam Russell Park.
Standing beside her bed, gazing in wonder at his son, Adam let the tears flow freely. He had never been as happy as he was at that moment, looking at his son nestled in the arms of the woman he had loved. Nor had he felt the pain of loss so sharply.
Billy looked up as Emily Scott arrived to make an announcement to the waiting crowd of friends. He smiled as he heard her announce that Trini had given birth to a healthy son, and mother and child were both doing great. He smiled, pleased for both Trini and Adam, then returned to his experiment. He was getting some interesting results.
He was concentrating on moving a magazine across the surface of a table when he was startled by Adam's voice behind him.
"What are you doing, Billy?"
"I am attempting to move this magazine with my hand. I think I almost have it. If I'm right we will be able to physically touch the living if we need to."
"Really? Do you think that is a good idea? I mean, do you think it is allowed?" Adam asked.
"I don't know. But I was compelled to try. Riley did not mention any limits to our influence except where it concerns pre-destined events. I'm not proposing we walk around touching our friends at random, but it might come in handy sometime. That, and I was bored waiting for you," Billy grinned. "By the way, congratulations, 'Dad'. You okay?" he added, noticing Adam's expression.
"Yeah, I guess so. It's not like I didn't know it would be hard. I did," Adam said slowly.
"But it still took you by surprise," Billy concluded.
"Yeah, it did."
"Understandable, really. I guess in a weird sort of way we are ending up mourning ourselves. Not exactly what I expected either."
Adam sighed deeply as he contemplated Billy's words. Then he let out a gasp of surprise. "It moved!"
Billy was equally surprised to see the magazine move across the table at his urging. "It worked. I don't believe it."
"Can you really feel the magazine?"
"Sort of. Just a hint of feeling, really. But a lot when compared to nothing," Billy reported.
"How did you do it?"
"I was concentrating all my will on my fingertips, and I thought it was starting to work. Then you came up and started talking to me. I sort of forgot about concentrating on my hand while I was talking, then it suddenly worked. I reached out to touch it without truly thinking about it, an unconscious reflex, actually. It was almost as if after concentrating I needed to simply switch to faith. We need to experiment a little on this, but I have no reason to think we cannot eventually control our ability to physically touch the world around us."
"Cool. I want to try, just tell me what to do." With Billy coaching, Adam finally was able to move the magazine himself.
"With practice we should get much better, not have to work so hard at it," Billy concluded. "You know, I wonder if something else is going on, we haven't been 'zapped' forward yet. What do you think?"
"Well, I guess we should check on the rest of our families. See if something is up. But first I want to check on my son again. Want to come along?"
"Sure, I'd love to. Lead on."
They headed back toward the nursery to see the newest member of the Park family.
After admiring Adam's son, Billy headed to his father's house to check up on him. He remembered seeing the engagement ring Anne had been wearing at Tommy and Kimberly's wedding, and wondered when his dad was planning to marry her.
When he arrived at the house he got a big surprise. The house was stripped, the sign on the front lawn indicated it had been sold. Billy walked in fighting a feeling of loss and, almost, anger. He felt as if his father had deserted him, even as he realized what a ridiculous idea that really was. The rational part of his mind knew full well his father had to move on, that it would probably be best for his new marriage if he did not spend it living in a house as full of memories, both good and painful, as this house was. But the irrational part was struggling with the thought that his father was just letting go of his past, his late wife and child, as if they had been of no consequence. He felt oddly betrayed, abandoned even.
He wandered into the house, drifting through empty rooms, until he finally went down into the garage. He found himself standing in the middle of the large, empty space crying silently. Of all the experiences he had gone through in the last few days, this was the one thing that finally drove the fact home that he was truly dead. The empty house, and the vacant space where once his lab had been. The lab where he had spent so many fulfilling hours. The lab that had grown as he, and his knowledge, had grown. The lab where his friends had frequently congregated, and where in the early days of being a Power Ranger he had created many of the devices that they had needed to defeat the various monsters. For Billy his lab had made this house his home, much more so than any other room. Now it was gone, just as he was gone from this life.
He was startled out of his misery by the sound of the front door closing. He hurried up the stairs to see who it was. It was his father and Jason.
"I can't thank you enough for your help, Jason," Wallace was saying.
"You're very welcome, Mr. Cranston. I am always happy to give you a hand when it is needed," Jason replied easily. "The godfather of my daughter can come to me for anything," he added expansively, grinning.
"Thank you. You know, Jason, I think you are an adult now, married, a dad, all that. You could call me 'Wallace' if you want."
Jason appeared to think it over. "Thanks. But for the last twelve, thirteen years you have been 'Mr. Cranston' to me. I don't think I can change it now. It would be as awkward as me calling my dad 'Jack'. It just doesn't feel right." Jason gave the older man a quick smile.
Wallace gave him an understanding look. "Let's take a quick look around and see if we missed anything."
Billy followed the two through the house, until they found themselves in the garage.
"Oh, man, this hurts," Jason said with tears in his voice as he looked around the empty space.
"Yeah, it is bad," Wallace agreed, sounding no better than Jason did.
"I gotta get out of here. Sorry." Jason headed for the stairs, Wallace on his heels. Billy trailed after them, feeling a bit better seeing their reaction to the changes.
Wallace and Jason stopped on the front lawn after their hasty retreat from the empty garage and the memories that had overwhelmed them both. They stood silently for a moment, composing themselves.
"I should get home now, I need to change for the rehearsal dinner tonight," Jason said finally.
Wallace's face lit up at that comment. "Absolutely, I expect to see you there." His face took on a thoughtful look. "I still can't believe I getting married tomorrow. It doesn't seem possible."
Jason laid a hand on the older man's shoulder and said quietly, "If anyone deserves some happiness, it is you. Anne is terrific, and I know Billy would approve of her completely. I am very happy for both of you."
Wallace gave him a grateful smile as they parted company. Billy stood there looking after his father with a thoughtful expression. Then he headed out to tell Adam they had another wedding to attend.
January 16, 2002 - The Other Side
Billy and Adam attended the wedding of Wallace Cranston and Anne Simmons. The bride was radiant in a simple white gown, and the groom was resplendent in a tuxedo, his blissful expression making him appear a decade younger.
Katherine attended the wedding with Kimberly and Tommy. Billy noticed she looked as beautiful as ever, but her eyes were missing some essential spark, leaving them lifeless.
He had no time to consider it further as without warning, he and Adam moved on.
June 6, 2002 - Angel Grove, California
Rocky sat on the cool grass under the cloudless blue sky, struggling with a problem he never expected to have. He had finally decided he had to go to his friend to seek the answer.
"Adam, I just don't know what to do. I never expected this to happen, but it did. Why do I feel like I am betraying you because I have fallen in love with Trini? I don't even know how she feels about me. I just know I am a much better man when I am with her-I'm happier, wiser, handsomer, just better. I know that sounds crazy, but she just brings out all the best in me. And Adam is so terrific. I know I said I would never have kids after being the oldest of six, but he has changed my mind. We could be happy together, if I thought you would be okay with the idea. Why wouldn't you be? I am not the scatter brain clown you used to know when we were kids. I think I've grown up some. I think it really started when you and Billy were killed. I can't really kid myself that life is all so wonderful anymore. Are you okay wherever you are buddy? God, I hope so. I miss you. I know that sounds sappy, but it's true. I miss you. Miss Billy, too. But you were my best friend for so long. I miss knowing I can go to you with my questions, problems. I miss seeing you smile that knowing smile when you see someone acting like a jerk. Me, usually. Never did let me get away with anything, did you?" Rocky's face split with a smile, even as tears stood in his eyes. "Sound a bit schizo, don't I? Well, what do you expect, I'm a starving medical student sitting in a graveyard talking to a dead friend. I'm allowed to sound as schizo as I want."
"Well, I don't know if schizo is the correct term, but you do sound like you could use a friend."
Rocky jumped to his feet, turning to face the soft voice that had come from behind him. Trini stood looking at him with a warm expression on her face. Little Adam was nestled in her arms, sucking contentedly on his own fist as he slept.
"How long were you standing there?"
"Long enough. Were you ever going to tell me how you felt?"
"Probably. But we would most likely have both been a lot older." Rocky offered her an apologetic smile. "Um, how do you feel about it?" he asked vaguely.
"I am interested, I can't lie about that. But we will have to take it very slow."
"Slow I can do. Thank God you didn't want fast."
Trini laughed and shook her head. Then she looked at the marker Rocky had been sitting by. A simple black slate engraved with Adam's name and dates of birth and death. Her expression sobered as she knelt down and laid the flowers on the stone.
"It's hard to believe it has been a year already. So much has changed in my life. So much is different than I expected it to be. Some of the changes are positive: graduating, finding a good job, having Adam. It has almost been enough to offset the negative -losing you. I miss you, every day I miss you. I wish you could see our son, he's so like you. So loving, accepting, cheerful. So adaptable. He brings me so much joy. Your parents have accepted him as their grandson, they have been so good to me. With their help Adam is going to know who his father was, what a good, honorable man he was. I can do no less for you." Her voice trailed away as tears shone in her eyes. After saying a silent prayer she looked around for Rocky, who had wandered away discreetly to give Trini some privacy.
He noticed her looking around for him and came back to her side. He put his arm comfortingly around her shoulders as they walked out of the cemetery together.
Katherine stood alone in the waning light of late afternoon staring at the headstone without truly seeing it. The ornate oval stone was engraved with Billy's full name and the years of his birth and death. Next to his headstone was an older one marking his mother's final resting place. Several floral arrangements had already been left by his headstone, indicating that she was not the only one who had remembered him and the significance of the date. She had purposely waited until late afternoon so she would have less chance of running into any of the others. She couldn't explain why, but she did not want to talk to anyone today. She had no desire to share memories, to be comforted or offer comfort. She simply wanted Billy, and her memories of him, all to herself.
"Hello Billy. I brought you some flowers, Luv." She sat down gracefully beside the grave and looked out toward the western horizon, admiring the sunset. She stayed that way for over an hour, not speaking, simply being near the man she had loved. She stayed until the maintenance worker shooed her out so he could close the cemetery. She walked back to her waiting car alone, not looking back.
December 14, 2002 - The Other Side
Another hospital waiting room. At 11:14 p.m., an exhausted Tommy Oliver came out and announced to the assembled family and friends that he and Kimberly were the proud parents of twin girls: Sarah Jeanne and Ariel Louise Oliver.
Billy and Adam barely had time to register the announcement when they felt the now familiar sensation that accompanied the shift to another time. It was time to move on.
March 20, 2003 - The Other Side
They found themselves in the street in front of the Park residence again.
"Well, at least it's a change from the churches and hospitals," Adam cracked with a grin. "Wonder what's up this time."
"Looks like it may be with your family since this is where we landed. Should we go in and investigate?"
"I guess so." Adam felt an odd unease. He didn't really want to go into the house, he had a feeling he wouldn't like what he found.
The house appeared deserted at first. The elder Parks would both be at work at this time on a weekday, and Adrian should have been in school, or at work himself if he was not attending the University. Nevertheless, Adam and Billy went from room to room, carefully searching the house. Both had a strong feeling something was not quite right.
They were about to concede defeat, when Adam noted the closed bathroom door. It was the "half bath" he and Adrian had shared for years. They passed through the door to find a horrendous sight. Adrian was propped up by the toilet, chin to his chest, legs splayed, syringe by his limp right hand.
"Oh my God! Billy, he's overdosed on something. I don't believe it! Dammit, Adrian, wake up!" Adam shouted in frustration, knowing his brother wouldn't be able to hear him even if he had been conscious, but unable to help his instinctive response.
Billy looked on in abject horror, his mind searching frantically for an idea of how to help. Suddenly he hit on a plan. "Adam, stay here with Adrian. I have an idea, it should work."
Leaving Adam beside his brother, Billy made his way to the phone in the den. Taking a few moments to gather himself, he concentrated his mental energies on his hands, then reached out confidently to remove the headset. He couldn't quite pick it up, but he could knock it off its perch. Then he punched in 911. When he heard the operator, he started hitting a number key in a series of three long, then three short punches, repeating it over and over, hoping the operator would recognize the s-o-s signal. The operator hung up after a couple of minutes. Billy started over again, determined to get someone to respond with help. It ended up taking four tries before he heard the voice telling him to hang on, they were tracing the number, help would be on the way.
Billy hurried to the front door to wait. After a relative eternity, the paramedics were breaking in the front door. Billy hurried toward the bathroom, pounding on the wall as he went to encourage the paramedics to follow. At the bathroom door he pounded as frantically as possible. Fortunately, the paramedics were quick to suspect a problem behind the locked door and broke it down. They immediately went to work on the semi-comatose Adrian.
Adam watched the proceedings wordlessly, tears in his eyes. When Adrian had been loaded on the stretcher, and they were taking him out to the ambulance, he turned to Billy in sudden anger.
"Why? Why in God's name would he do drugs? He KNOWS better. We were always taught about the dangers of drugs. Look what alcohol did to us! It's just another drug, and it killed us without our ever having taken a sip! How could he be so stupid? Doesn't he realize what a gift life is, how important it is to savor life? Damn stupid kid, how dare he risk himself that way? Does he want to die? This is just going to kill our parents. First what happened to me, now Adrian doing this. Why, Billy, why did he do that?" Adam's voice had risen to a frantic shout before dropping to a near whisper at the end. He slumped against the wall, all the fight gone out of him with his outburst.
Billy gently put his arms around his friend, offering what comfort he could. "Easy, Adam. He's young. He may be hurting inside for some reason, and thought he could numb the pain with chemicals. Whatever the reason, he didn't mean to hurt anyone. It looks like we got here in time, he has a chance to get help now. Maybe he will take that chance when it is offered."
Adam stepped out of Billy's embrace, put both hands over his face and sighed deeply. "Yeah, you're right. It may work out okay. And, thank you. For saving his life. How did you do that, anyway?"
"Called 911, of course," Billy replied with a slight grin.
March 21, 2003 - Angel Grove, California
Trini hurried around her apartment, quickly straightening everything up, making the small space neat and tidy again. It was her nightly ritual, ever since Adam got old enough to crawl. An active, inquisitive baby, he got into everything. And as yet he was much too young to clean up after himself. Trini didn't particularly mind, she was happy being a mother. Much happier than she had expected to be, in fact.
This evening, however, she was in a bit more of a hurry. Rocky was coming over to take her out to dinner. They had been dating fairly steadily since the previous June when Trini overheard Rocky's musings on his feelings for her. They had gone very slowly into the relationship, but, almost despite themselves, things were progressing. Trini still had not said anything to him, but she had come to realize she was in love with Rocky. That realization had surprised her tremendously.
Answering a knock she found Rocky at the door with his younger sister, Maria.
"Here you go lovely lady," he declared, handing her a single rose. "A flower, a babysitter, and a handsome date. Anything else you might need?"
"Hmm, perhaps a coach and six?" she asked with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Sorry my dear, you will have to settle for a six year old Ford. Close enough?"
"It'll do for now I guess. But eventually, I do expect my coach and six."
Maria looked positively perplexed by the exchange. "Coach and six?"
"Like in a fairy tale-a golden coach drawn by six white horses. Coach and six," Trini explained.
"Oh, that makes more sense, I guess. I thought it had something to do with soccer."
Both Trini and Rocky burst into laughter at that. Seeing Maria's hurt expression, Rocky put his arm around her shoulders and gave a slight squeeze. "Sorry, sis. You know us old folks, we don't make much sense." He turned his attention to Trini. "So, pretty lady, ready to go?"
They went to their favorite restaurant. Conversation flowed easily between them as they caught up with each other. Among the topics of discussion was the overdose of Adrian Park. Rocky had spent quite a bit of time with the Parks the previous evening. Just being there for them as they tried to cope with what had happened with their son. He has known Adrian almost his whole life, and was still shaken by how close a call it had been.
"And no one knows who called 911?" Trini was asking.
"Nope. The police are speculating that there was someone with Adrian when he OD'd. And that the person panicked, called for help, then fled. But why didn't this alleged person speak. The caller kept punching numbers in a s-o-s code until the operator said they would send help. And how did the door get locked? It is the kind of lock that has to be done from the inside. Curiousier and curiouser."
"That is pretty weird. How is Adrian now? What are the authorities going to do?" Working in a law office, Trini knew there were a few different options possible in this case.
"He is feeling better today. Plenty scared. I think they are going to recommend an involuntary admission to a treatment center for a minimum of six months. Then they will reevaluate his case at that time."
"How are his parents?"
"Bad. I really feel terrible for them. They are not only scared for Adrian, but this appears to have reawakened their grief over Adam. One of the doctors at the hospital finally gave Mrs. Park a tranquilizer because she couldn't stop crying. It was awful." Rocky's perpetually cheerful demeanor crumbled at the memory. "Let's talk of something else. How is the McBride case coming?"
"It's coming along very nicely. I am getting to do some terrific research on this one. I enjoy that," she replied easily, taking the conversation to more pleasant topics.
They were sipping coffee and sharing a slice of blueberry cheesecake when Rocky looked at Trini with an uncharacteristically serious expression.
Seeing her questioning look he cleared his throat twice before he was able to speak. "Trini, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?" he asked, extending a small box toward her with an almost pleading look on his face. She opened it slowly to reveal a delicate diamond ring.
She looked from the ring to Rocky's anxious, expectant face and knew the answer without having to give it any conscious thought.
"Yes. Absolutely. Definitely. Okay."
As they melded into a sweet, passionate embrace Adam watched from behind them, silently cheering on his old friend. It felt undeniably good to see them both happy at last.
May 9, 2003 - The Other Side
Another hospital waiting room. Not quite as crowded as usual, perhaps, but Adam and Billy recognized everyone. They had arrived just in time, as Wallace Cranston came out to announce he and Anne were the proud parents of a baby girl, Jaymie Sue Cranston.
Billy followed his father back in to see Anne and little Jaymie. Anne looked flushed, tired and incredibly happy. Billy watched Wallace gently cradle his new daughter and felt a lifting in his heart seeing his father's happiness.
He realized he felt pretty good himself, he had always wanted a sibling. Then suddenly, it was time to move on.
September 16, 2003 - Angel Grove, California
Trini smiled at Kimberly as the latter rushed into Trini's dressing room. Kimberly had her hands full of various ominous looking implements, presumably for styling hair, or torturing prisoners. Trini wasn't sure which.
"Kim, what exactly are you planning to do with those things?"
"I want to get a little curl and fluff in your hair. It needs that to look good with the veil you chose."
Trini obediently sat down at Kim's direction and let her friend work on her hair.
"Not too much Kim, or Rocky won't recognize me."
Kimberly giggled happily and ignored Trini's request, not stopping until she was satisfied with the results. She helped Trini attach her veil, then looked at the total effect with a critical eye.
"Well, do I pass muster?" Trini finally asked, growing worried under Kimberly's scrutiny.
"Hmmmm, absolutely!" Kimberly fairly exploded with enthusiasm, laughing at the expression on Trini's face. She knew Trini was a little nervous, and she considered it her job as Matron of Honor to alleviate that nervousness.
Trini gave Kim a warm look. "May I have a couple of minutes alone, please?"
Kimberly looked searchingly at Trini then asked, "Do I need to be sure all the windows are locked from the outside?"
Trini laughed quietly at that. "No, really, I promise I won't bail! I love Rocky, I would never do that to him. I just need a minute to compose myself. Please tell my father I will be ready in 5 minutes. And, Kimberly, thanks. For being here for me, and everything."
Kim gave her friend a gentle hug. "You are more than welcome."
After Kimberly left Trini sat down at the dressing table, looking at her reflection as if it were of a stranger. The highly styled hair she never had time for usually, the flushed, excited color in her cheeks, the sparkle in her eyes. She knew Rocky was responsible for a lot of those changes, and considered again with some wonder how this had ever come to be. For most of the time she had known him she would never have considered him husband material. Then he had changed so much, grown much more serious and thoughtful, while still managing to keep the joyful life outlook he had had in his youth. She considered him a most remarkable man, soon to be a remarkable doctor. She knew he would be the perfect father to Adam, and however many other children they had together.
Thinking of her son reminded her of another time in her life, when she had daydreamed of this day. Except a different man would have been waiting at the altar.
"Adam, I guess I am finally over what happened to you. If you can hear me, please understand. If you had lived, I would have wanted nothing more than to see you at the end of my walk up the aisle. But you aren't here, and Rocky is a wonderful man. I love him, Adam loves him, and we will make a good future together. Part of me will always love you, but I need to love someone who is here to love me back. I hope you understand."
She stood and headed for the door, unable to hear the soft voice, which said to her retreating form, "I do."
September 16, 2003-The Other Side
Billy watched the crowd gather, ushers showing everyone to their seats. He noticed most of his old friends were in attendance. Jason and Tommy were among the ushers, and he figured Kimberly and Emily must be part of the bridal party. He looked up to see Adam's parents enter, with Adrian. Adrian looked thin and pale, but composed. Billy saw Jack Scott walk over to talk to Don Park, so Billy ambled over to see if he could find out how things stood with Adam's younger brother.
As the men shook hands Jack glanced over to Adrian, standing quietly by his mother. "How is he doing, Don?"
"Clean and sober, and he talks of wanting to stay that way. He has been released from the treatment center, but must follow up with a minimum of 18 months of local outpatient treatment. No charges are being pressed against him, thank God. Adrian seems to be properly grateful, I think he realizes just how close a call it really was."
"Good, I'm glad for all of you," Jack said. "I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see you here. All things considered."
"Trini is the mother of our grandson. We have known Rocky since he was just a little boy. Yes, it hurts to think about the fact she should have married Adam, but since she can't, I am glad to see her happy with someone. She, and Little Adam, deserve it. So does Rocky, for that matter."
"True enough. Looks like they are getting ready to start, better get back to the family. It was good to see you."
As the two men parted ways, Billy wandered back up front. He considered with a halfway grin that one of the perks of being a ghost was he could get the best seats in the house at his friends' weddings. He was still grinning when Adam approached him.
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing, just an irreverent thought. Not important. What is important are those folks sitting on the left, five rows back. See?"
Adam looked, saw what Billy meant, and broke into a huge grin. "He's back. I wonder how he's doing?"
"He's doing very well. He's been released from the treatment center, wants to stay clean, and is required to put in 18 months of local outpatient treatment. No charges against him."
Adam looked askance at Billy. "And just how do you know all this?"
"A little bird told me. Actually, two big birds. I listened in when your dad was talking to Mr. Scott."
"My pleasure. You doing okay with this?"
"Yes. I am. I want them to be happy. They are good together."
Their conversation broke off as the wedding started. Rocky took his place at the alter. Kimberly and Louis DeSantos were the first in the procession, followed by Jason and Tanya, then Tommy and Katherine. Then came Trini, on the arm of her father.
The service was very formal, very beautiful. At just ten minutes past two o'clock, Rockwell and Trini DeSantos were introduced to their family and friends.
At a quarter past, Billy and Adam moved on.
April 4, 2004-The Other Side
The hospital waiting room was crowded again, Billy and Adam were still trying to figure out who was missing when Zack Taylor's dad, Clayton, came out and announced the birth of his grandson, William Zackary Taylor.
Adam gave Billy a huge smile as they moved on again.
July 19, 2004-The Other Side They had already guessed that Jason and Emily were the ones producing a new child when Marjorie Scott arrived to inform the waiting friends that their second granddaughter, Hayley Marie Scott had put in an appearance. Then it was time to move on again.
December 24, 2004-The Other Side
The crowd in the hospital was huge this time.
"Sheesh, guess these guys just like having kids," Adam complained. "Wonder who it is this time?"
"I think it may be Trini and Rocky. Aren't most of these people named DeSantos?" Billy replied with some humor.
"You may be right. Though they are a bit older than I remember them."
Their debate was decided when Rocky himself came flying out from the delivery room area and announced to all and sundry that he had a daughter, Theresa Lorraine DeSantos.
The assembled family was still cheering when Billy and Adam moved on.
January 7, 2005-The Other Side
Megan Danielle Oliver was born on a cold, stormy afternoon, which prevented most of her parent's friends from attending.
Billy and Adam, however, noted the event with happiness for their friends. Then moved on.
June 29, 2005-The Other Side
"Thank God, it's not another hospital."
"However, it is another church. Wonder who is marrying whom this time?"
"Maybe Katherine found someone. Would that bother you?" Adam asked.
"I don't think so. She has been looking, I don't know, kind of lifeless recently. Not sick, not suicidal, or anything like that. Just missing her spark. It's like she has given up on life."
"I noticed. It must be hard on her with all her friends marrying, having kids, and she isn't. I wonder why she hasn't hooked up with anyone."
"She has a hard time trusting. A hard time believing in people. I doubt she ever told you, but she had been involved with a guy in Australia before she moved here. Her first serious boyfriend. She loved him, and he died of leukemia. It about broke her heart. When she went after Tommy she was really on the rebound, just like he was from Kim. Talk about a doomed relationship. But when Tommy didn't work out, she was hurt again. It took a lot for her to give her heart to me. Then look what I did," by now Billy was speaking more to himself than to Adam.
"Hey, easy. Remember, what happened to us was not our fault."
"I know. But Katherine was hurt badly just the same. Looks like your guess that it is Katherine getting married was off base," Billy said as he pointed to his former girlfriend entering the church alone. "Damn."
"Then who is it?"
Just then a young man neither of them recognized took the groom's place by the altar. As the wedding march started a lone petite figure in white walked alone down the aisle. Tanya.
Ten minutes later Paul and Tanya Simpson were introduced to the assembly.
Billy and Adam were a bit surprised to find they were still there. The norm was for them to move on as soon as the couple was legally married, or the child's name was announced. But it appeared this time they were being allowed to enjoy the reception as well.
The reception was a picnic, being held in a far corner of Angel Grove Park. The location allowed for some privacy, but the downside was that they were fairly close to the highway. All the assorted parents were hard pressed to keep an eye on their wandering offspring.
Billy found himself involved in following Katherine, trying to determine if there was some way that he could help her. The more he watched her, the more he was convinced she had indeed given up on love. Not life, just love. But how good was life without love? He became dedicated to the idea of helping her find someone to love. It was the least he could do for her.
Adam wandered from group to group, sampling conversations as he went. Trini and Rocky were there, carrying their six month old daughter, while Adam's son played with the other children.
The gang had hired two teenagers specifically to watch the children old enough to wander around on their own. There were about 18 children between the ages of seven and two that the two teens were supervising, with an occasional assist from the parents.
Billy and Adam found themselves watching the children with a sense of wonder. They had so much promise. Adam in particular watched his son, now three and a half years old. He was so bright and curious. Adam was so wrapped up in watching his namesake he didn't notice there was trouble brewing until he heard one of the teenage girls scream.
"Jaymie, come back here this instant!"
Adam looked up to see Billy's young half sister sprinting toward the highway, gleefully running away from the teenager who was calling to her. He remembered Rocky telling him one time that most small children went through a stage where running away from their caretaker was the height of entertainment. Jaymie had chosen a poor time to play this game and Adam's heart leaped into his throat as he realized the girl was headed toward the busy highway with no one close enough to stop her.
Well, almost no one.
Billy had been watching his dad and Anne approach the group of children when he heard the girl's cry to his little sister. He quickly saw what was happening. He was off and running after Jaymie before anyone else could react. While Billy had never been a particularly gifted athlete, he could run very fast. And he had never run faster than he did that afternoon. He was approaching Jaymie from an angle, and less from 10 feet from the edge of the highway Billy threw himself toward his sister. His leap carried him across her path and he threw out his arm to stop her as he went by. The effect was as if she had suddenly run into an invisible wall. She promptly fell flat on her butt on the grass, wailing even before she hit. Billy landed awkwardly, somersaulting over his shoulder and rolling into the path of an approaching 18-wheeler. The big rig ran him over without the driver ever knowing he was there.
As the teenager and a very shaken Wallace Cranston surrounded Jaymie, Adam went past them to check on Billy.
"Are you okay?"
"Adam, I'm dead. I don't think getting hit by a truck is going to alter the situation. Is Jaymie okay."
"Yeah. Quite a set of lungs she's got on her, but despite the noise I don't think she's hurt. You saved her life, you know."
"Could you imagine what would happen to my dad is she was hit by a truck? That is what I kept thinking as I was running after her. Thank God I don't have to find out."
"You know, you run very well for a dead guy."
"Oh, gee, thanks."
Anne Cranston had reached her husband and daughter. At seven months pregnant, she simply couldn't move as fast as she wanted to. But once there she found Wallace holding Jaymie in his arms, soothing her. Anne wrapped her arms around them both and the three of them held each other close.
Billy watched all this with a thoughtful look. Then, without warning, he and Adam moved on.
August 23, 2005-The Other Side
"Guess the break is over, we're at a hospital again," Adam announced, looking around.
"And, I guess we know who is having the kid," Billy added, remembering his stepmother's condition at the reception following Tanya's wedding.
Sure enough, once the birth of Amy Christine Cranston was announced, Billy and Adam moved on.
March 1, 2006-The Other Side
At Angel Grove Memorial Hospital, Jackson Mitchell DeSantos put in an appearance at 10:24p.m.
Then Billy and Adam moved on again.
March 2, 2006 - June 19, 2024 - An Interlude
Little Jackson DeSantos was the last child born to Billy and Adam's close friends. For the next eighteen years the lives of their loved ones followed a relatively smooth path. The kids grew up, their parents grew older, their grandparents grew aged. Only Billy and Adam stayed the same.
In a whirlwind of rapid moves, Billy and Adam saw the assorted members of what they had termed 'the next generation' graduate from grade school, junior high, and high school. There were no major upheavals during those years, just a nearly unbroken expanse of good, peaceful life.
June 20, 2024-Angel Grove, California
Adam Russell Park hesitated before pressing the doorbell. He was here to pick up his date for the evening, the young woman he had fallen in love with-Jaymie Sue Cranston. Adam knew the idea of his being in love with Jaymie freaked his mother out a little bit. He had been told long ago about his father, how he and a friend, Billy Cranston, had been killed together in a car accident. How Billy Cranston was, or rather would have been, Jaymie's older half brother. None of that particularly bothered Adam. All those things had happened twenty-three years ago. In the here and now, Jaymie was a wonderful young woman, intelligent, dynamic, beautiful. He had known her his entire life, and loved her almost as long.
Jaymie's dad opened the door and smiled at the young man. Wallace Cranston was the oldest father any of his friends had. That was the only thing about his relationship with Jaymie that kind of bothered him a little. That his love's father was the same age as his grandparents. But, weird or not, it didn't bother him enough to make him consider changing his plans.
Jaymie hurried to greet him with a kiss. With a quick goodbye to her parents, they were on their way to the restaurant. Later that evening, sitting at the same table his parents shared so many years before, he followed in his stepfather's footsteps and proposed to Jaymie.
She responded much as his mother had.
February 22, 2025 - The Other Side
Adam and Billy looked around the decorated church with a feeling of deja vu. They'd seen this scene quite a few times. However it had been a while, at least in their friends' lives. And this wedding looked like it was going to be big. The church was decorated to the rafters and extra chairs had been set up behind and beside the built in pews. They looked around at the early arrivals, trying to guess who the couple might be. They finally conceded defeat and wandered to the entrance to see if they could see any of the invitations, which would list the bride and groom. Adam was the one who found out who it was first.
"Oh, boy, Billy. This is too weird. We are going to be related now. Semi-related at least."
"My son is marrying your sister."
"What? Adam and Jaymie?"
"Yep. Your half sister is going to be my daughter-in-law. My son is going to be your, um, half brother-in-law?"
"Okay, you're right. It is weird. And your son better be good to my sister!"
Adam laughed at that. "I'm sure he will be. Trini and Rocky would make sure of it. Man, this feels weird. They are all getting so much older. My son is now about the same age I am. I was. Whatever. I mean, look at Kim and Tommy there." He pointed out the Olivers, who arrived hand in hand, along with their younger daughter, Megan. While still beautiful, there was no mistaking that Kimberly was no longer a teenager. Her figure was fuller in the hips, slight lines now visible on her face. Tommy's hair, much shorter now, was streaked with gray, and his face was more deeply lined, giving him a rugged appearance, which suited him well. They were still a striking couple.
"I know. At the risk of sounding like a cliche, time is moving much too fast. Of course in our case that is especially true. Oh, Lord, look at that." Billy pointed to the entrance, where his father and Anne, and Adam's parents stood talking.
Wallace and the Parks were all well into their late sixty's, Anne her late fifties. While the Parks looked younger than their years, Wallace looked older. Given his slight physique, the years seemed to show up on him more than on the others. Or perhaps it was the struggles in his younger years, pain and grief having made their mark on him early. Whatever it was, he appeared to be a very healthy eighty-year-old. Billy felt sorrow wash over him as he looked at his father.
Adam felt unreality steal over his mind as he looked at his parents. They couldn't be that old. As far as Adam was concerned, they would always be thirty-five, or so. Surely they couldn't be approaching seventy. He looked to Billy for support, only to see his feelings reflected in his friend's eyes.
"I think this falls under the heading of 'I will think about it tomorrow'. I am looking forward to my son's wedding. And seeing Trini and Rocky again."
"I concur. And there they are now," Billy commented.
Trini and Rocky entered the church together, along with their younger son and daughter. Trini looked remarkably unchanged in the last twenty years, but Rocky had grown more mature looking, more dignified. He looked every inch the successful surgeon he was.
"They look great," Billy noted as Adam looked at Trini with a longing expression.
"Yeah, they do," Adam's voice sounded far off, his gaze still fixed on Trini.
Billy put a comforting hand on Adam's shoulder, knowing his friend still found it difficult to see Trini with someone else, even if it was one of his closest friends. Adam finally released a deep sigh and turned his attention back to his companion.
"Looks like they are gearing up to go," he observed.
He and Billy took their usual place behind the priest, and waited for the service to start. Billy's eyes misted as he watched his father walk Jaymie down the aisle, he looked proud enough to bust. It turned out to be a remarkably beautiful service, and it went off without a hitch. Adam and Jaymie Park were ready to start their lives together.
Billy noted as he and Adam prepared to move on to the next event that Katherine had not attended the wedding.
June 29, 2026-The Other Side
They found themselves on the Angel Grove University campus, directly underneath a sign welcoming the Class of 2001 to their twenty-fifth class reunion. Tables had been set up, covered with white paper tablecloths, plastic bowls of nuts and trail mix were already set out. There was seating at the tables for over two hundred, the number the reunion was expected to attract.
Billy and Adam wandered around, anxious to see which of their friends would be in attendance. They both realized this was a golden opportunity to check out the current events in their friends' lives, get a sort of status report as it were. Here they would be telling people they hadn't seen in years of the events that had transpired since graduation. Billy and Adam were looking forward to eavesdropping.
June 29, 2026-Angel Grove, California
Trini and Rocky found themselves surrounded by other former pre-med students. Rocky had been a popular student, and well remembered by the others. Trini was growing a bit tired of the 'shop talk', as they all compared notes where they had gotten in their careers, what they still wanted to do, how much money they had in their retirement funds, etc. Finally she simply excused herself and wandered off to try to find someone who was not engrossed in the medical world.
She eventually found Tanya, who was here with her husband, Paul, who had been part of their graduating class, though none of them had known him at the time. (Tanya had taken a two-year program.) Tanya greeted Trini warmly. Though the two women were not particularly close friends, they got along very well.
"Hey Trini. Where's Rocky?" Tanya greeted her.
"Surrounded by other doctors, discussing doctor-type things. I was so bored my teeth started to fall asleep, so I left in search of more congenial conversation."
"I guess I can understand that. When Paul gets around other engineers and they get into talking about work I have this almost unbearable urge to fall asleep," Tanya commiserated.
"Where is Paul?"
"He went with some of the others to look over the new lab facilities. He was active in the drive for the funds to upgrade the labs, so now he wants to assure himself it was not a wasted effort."
"I'm sure it wasn't. How are you two? I never seem to see you, though I hear you every morning. You show is terrific. And belated congratulations on your award. You certainly deserve it."
"Thanks. Paul and I are fine. No problems that I am aware of. We are both very busy with our careers, but when we get some time together we make sure to put our work aside and enjoy each other. It took some hard lessons to get that through to us. How are you and Rocky doing now that the kids are all grown and gone?"
"Okay. I'm toying with the idea of going back to school for my law degree. You know I gave that up when I had Adam. I got my paralegal license, but that is not enough for me. I still have the urge to be a full fledged lawyer."
"Well, all I can say to that is: 'you go girl!', as we used to say in our misspent youth," Tanya enthused with a bright smile. Trini was smiling back when suddenly her expression altered to one of concern.
"What's wrong, Trini?"
"Well, I'll be darned. She actually showed up. I was beginning to think she was going for a new career as a hermit." Tanya followed Trini's gaze to where Katherine was strolling across the lawn.
"Wow. I haven't seen her in a long time. I understand she blew off Adam and Jaymie's wedding."
"Yeah, she was a no show. I called her a couple of days later to check on her and she said she had been sick. But personally I wondered about that, and since then she has been harder and harder to contact," Trini replied. She raised one hand to catch Kat's attention, then waved the blonde woman over.
Though they kept their expressions carefully neutral, both Trini and Tanya were shocked at Katherine's appearance. She had grown so thin her clothes simply hung on her, her eyes were lusterless and even her hair was limp. Trini's first impression was that Kat was depressed. Deeply depressed.
Tanya put on a cheerful front. "Katherine, it is so good to see you. How are you? What have you been up to?"
Katherine's smile was sad. "Nice try Tanya, Trini. But I know what I look like. And to forestall your questions, yes I am seeing someone professionally. I've shut down my practice temporarily while I try to get myself together. Right now I am in no condition to help anyone. That's why I missed the kids' wedding. I do apologize for that, I did not mean it as a snub."
"Don't even think about it," Trini said with quiet emphasis. "You getting better is the most important thing. Can you talk about what it is exactly that is causing you problems? If you don't want to talk about it we will understand, but if you do want to talk, well, I'm here."
"Me, too," Tanya added.
"A lot of the problem started 25 years ago, not surprisingly. Everyone has been too kind, or too timid, to say anything, but I was always aware of the looks I'd get. Looks that seemed to say, 'I wonder if she's gotten over Billy yet?' And some of it goes further back than 25 years ago. But the catalyst was eighteen months ago when one of my patients died. A stupid, senseless death. Sound familiar? It reopened old wounds I thought had long since healed. Seems they hadn't and now I have to try to heal them for good," she noticed Trini's expression. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I forgot myself there for a minute. You had the same loss as I had, how could I be so thoughtless? I didn't mean to stir old feelings up for you," Kat apologized.
"I'm fine. It's you I'm concerned about. Why did you come here today?"
"To begin to face the past, as per my therapist's suggestion."
"Can we do anything to help?"
"You already have."
Zack Taylor strolled around the University campus greeting those alumni he recognized, and being recognized himself by many he could not recall ever meeting. Now a successful producer, Zack was a recognized celebrity. He was the talent behind one of the most successful sitcoms on television that season. His picture showed up periodically in magazines such as "Entertainment Weekly" and "People".
But for once, Zack found no pleasure in being recognized. He had come to this reunion in order to touch base with his past. Recently he had found his life spinning almost out of control, he needed to feel grounded again, and he figured coming to Angel Grove would help. His marriage to Angela was struggling, his son William was trying to make a go of an acting career, and his dad had recently been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. In the harsh, dog-eat-dog world of entertainment he found no source of solace. That was what he was seeking in his old hometown.
He wandered until he noticed a small knot of women that made his heart lighten. He said nothing as he snuck up on three old friends.
"Boo!" he cried, followed by an outbreak of giggles when the three women jumped. They turned as one to face their attacker, then relented when they saw it was Zack.
Trini was the first to respond. "Really, Zack, aren't you a bit old for this?"
"Tormenting beautiful women? I don't think I'll ever be too old for that."
"Oh, keep that up and we may just forgive you in a couple of hours or so," Tanya said with a grin.
Zack grinned right back at her, but noticed that the three of them looked pretty solemn for such an occasion. And Katherine wasn't looking well at all. "So what were the three of you discussing that made you all look so serious?"
"Old friends that couldn't make the reunion," she said softly.
Zack's expression indicated he knew exactly who they were referring to.
They stood without speaking for a few minutes, each lost in his or her own thoughts. Tanya was the first to break the silence.
"I'm going to find Paul and tell him I have somewhere to go. Then I'm going to the cemetery to say hello to a couple of friends I haven't visited in a long time. Anyone want to come along?"
"Count me in. Angela didn't come with me so I'll just meet you by the banner, okay?" Zack replied.
"If you don't mind, I'll wait with you and you can regale me with stories of your fantasy life in Hollywood," Katherine said to Zack.
"It ain't no fantasy, but I'll come up with something to 'regale' you with," he replied equitably.
"I have to find Rocky and let him know where I'm off to. He may want to come along. In either case I'll see you in a couple of minutes," Trini added.
Five friends stood in a semi circle around the Adam's headstone. For a while no one said anything, each lost in thought, remembering the shy young man they had known a quarter century before.
Rocky put his arm across Trini's shoulder, as much for his comfort as for hers. They rarely came here together. Rocky had made it a habit to come each year on the anniversary of Adam's death, and he knew Trini did as well. But for some reason, they almost always came separately.
"Maybe it sounds strange, but you know, I still miss him. I'll see the promo for some movie, or see a book on display, something like that, and I'll think 'Adam would have loved that', but it's, it's almost an unconscious thing. An automatic thought. Almost like, even after all these years, I still think he's going to come back. That he didn't really die, just, you know, went away. That sounds weird, huh? Think the guys in the white suits with the straight jackets should come and get me now, Katherine?" Rocky tried the weak joke to lighten up the mood a bit. What he had seen in the others' expressions was recognition, not censure. They did understand, had even experienced the same thing.
"No, Rocky, I don't think they should come for you. I have the same thoughts about Billy. Sometimes I fancy he is still here, that I just can't see him. So you don't sound weird at all to me."
The others murmured their agreement. Rocky looked around at the others in evident relief. "I thought I was going nuts. Thanks, guys, I feel a little better now."
"You know, it just occurred to me. Billy has now been dead twice as many years as I had known him. That is a sad thought all by itself, it can be cut so short, you never know what will happen or when something will end," Zack muttered, more to himself than to the others. By now they had left Adam's marker and were moving over to Billy's.
Trini nodded in agreement. She had become friends with Billy the same summer Zack had. That accident had not only robbed her of the man she loved, but a cherished friend as well. "I still miss them both. Oh, what I would have given to have them see the wedding last year. Adam's son and Billy's sister. And you know we are going to be grandparents late this year."
Zack and Tanya hadn't known about the pending birth, and both offered their congratulations. But Zack still seemed a bit distant, lost in thought.
"Zack, are you okay? You seem a little distracted," Trini asked gently.
"I am a little distracted, I guess. My life has been pretty screwed up recently, but coming here and seeing you all again, remembering what happened with Billy and Adam, well, I guess it is giving me something to think about. I got very caught up in my career, wanting to get ahead, be a success, and have it all. Angela is fed up with me. William barely speaks to me since we clashed over his pursuing an acting career, and my dad, well, my dad isn't going to be around a whole lot longer. He has an inoperable brain tumor. I was feeling lost, I guess you could say I couldn't find my center. I guess I needed to be reminded of what is important. Thinking about Billy, and how suddenly I lost him, well, it reminded me that the people I love are the most important thing. I've been under a lot of pressure at work, trying to do it all myself. I think I need to relinquish some of my control there and take time for Angela before I lose her, repair the rift between William and me, and spend time with Dad while I still can. At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, I need to be close to the ones I love, while I still have them. Good grief, I'm getting maudlin in my old age," he concluded with a self-conscious look.
The others didn't reply, simply surrounded Zack in a group hug, lending emotional support the best way they knew how.
Standing a little ways away, Billy and Adam exchanged looks. At least they now had an idea how some of their friends were doing. Maybe someday, somehow, they would be able to find a way to help.
November 24, 2026-Angel Grove, California
"I do not believe I am going to be a grandmother. Who would have thought it? And what is taking so long, they have been in there for hours!" Trini was pacing nervously, thoroughly startling Kimberly, who had never seen her reserved friend so anxious.
"Easy Trini. You know full well that these things take time. Just settle down, you are making me nervous," Kim finally said in exasperation. "Why are you so upset about this?"
Trini sat down beside Kimberly, and glanced around the waiting room. The others did not seem to be paying any attention to her, but still she pitched her voice low as she spoke to Kim.
"I'm sorry, I've just been on edge lately. I have applied for law school. I decided I want to try for the degree I intended to get twenty five years ago. Rocky is not exactly being supportive about it. He is ready to start slowing down in his career, and it seems he wants me to be available to take off at a moment's notice, not tied down to a school schedule or something. We have been fighting about it a lot. I put everything on hold when I had Adam, then again when I had Theresa and Jackson. Sure, I kept my position as a paralegal, but only part time. My real career was as wife and mother. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret it, but now I want more and he doesn't understand." Trini suddenly looked at Kimberly in dismay. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have dumped all that on you, you don't need it."
"Trini, you needed to get it off your chest! That is what friends are for. I'm glad you finally said something, I was starting to worry about you. It has been kind of obvious recently that you have not been terribly happy."
Trini gave Kim a searching look. "Has it been that obvious?"
"Only to those of us who love you," she replied reassuringly.
"Great, I'm unhappy in my marriage when I'm about to become a grandmother. Doesn't seem real logical, does it?"
"Who said life was supposed to be logical?"
"Good point," Trini started, but was interrupted by the arrival of her son fresh from the delivery room. He walked straight up to her as Rocky came to her side. Adam took both of her hands in his.
"Congratulations, grandma, grandpa, you have a brand new grandson. Charles William Park. You have a grandson Mr. Cranston, Mrs. Cranston," he added for Wallace's benefit as he and Anne hurried over. "Jaymie's doing great."
Standing in their usual place off in a corner, Adam and Billy exchanged grins, laughing softly as they moved on.
July 30, 2028 - The Other Side
It was another hospital waiting room. Their first thought was that another child was being born to the 'next generation', but something told them this time it was different. There was a small knot of people waiting, but there was no feeling of anticipation, expectation. This group was solemn, unhappy.
Billy noticed Jack and Marjorie Scott, who were holding each other's hands as if they would never let go. Sitting beside them were two beautiful, dark-haired girls who were both in tears. Marjorie freed one of her hands to enable her to put her arm around one of the girls, who immediately leaned into the older woman. The other girl leaned into the one Marjorie was holding, so Marjorie managed to reach enough to embrace both.
Billy was the first to surmise what was going on. "I think something is wrong with either Jason or Emily. I'm pretty sure that is Heather and Haley Scott, their daughters, sitting with the Scotts. I gotta go find out." With that Billy hurried through the door in search of his oldest friend.
What he found filled his heart with dismay. Jason sat beside a bed that was surrounded by machines, tubes going every which way. He held the hand of the patient on the bed. It was Emily, barely recognizable. The last time Billy had seen Emily, at Jaymie and Adam's wedding, Emily had looked great. She had been blessed with the kind of looks that aged well, and she had taken good care of herself. The figure now lying on the bed was a skeleton, translucent skin stretched over the protruding bones. Jason was speaking softly to her, tears evident in his voice.
"It's okay now Emily. I'm here for you. I love you, I have always loved you. Thank you for our life together, and our two beautiful daughters. I will stay here with you until you are ready to go. Don't be afraid, darling. Everything will be okay, you rest now. You have fought so hard, so long, you deserve a rest...."
Billy quickly left the room, leaving Jason his privacy. He literally bumped into Adam as he was leaving.
"What's going on?" Adam asked, seeing how upset Billy was.
"Emily is dying. Looks like she has been sick for a long time. Jason is saying goodbye, I just couldn't stand there and listen to him," Billy replied, struggling with tears himself.
"Oh," Adam said as he turned to follow Billy out. They stopped in the waiting area and stood beside each other, both shaken.
"God, now we're going to have to see them die? I really don't know if I'm up for this Adam. Jason is hurting so bad. Emily is only, what, fifty or so? Too young to die, that's for sure. And our parents, they will all die soon. I don't know if I can do this," Billy's voice was ragged sounding. Through his friendship with Jason he had become close to Emily, and he hurt for her, for Jason, and for their daughters.
Adam tried to comfort Billy, while dealing with his own feelings. They had been moving so quickly, they rarely had time to consider what all they could end up dealing with. Adam realized there was a school of thought that considered death a good thing, the doorway to heaven. Riley had basically told them there was indeed 'Heaven'. So, Emily's death could be considered a good thing. But the one thing he and Billy had discovered, was that life was good. Something to be cherished and held on to. It was very confusing, to say the least. Even knowing the afterlife was going to be good, he still grieved for Emily's loss of life, and her family's loss of her. He could only figure Billy felt the same way.
Billy had regained his composure and he and Adam had been discussing their thoughts on the matter, when Jason walked slowly in from the ward. Jason was immediately surrounded by his sobbing daughters and distraught parents.
Billy and Adam watched with tears in their eyes, wondering how they might help in this matter, when suddenly they moved on.
February 13, 2029 - Angel Grove, California
Trini DeSantos hurried to answer the knock at her front door, muttering at the interruption of her baking. She opened the door to find Rocky standing there.
"I have the final paperwork. If you want to sign it now, I'll take it back for final filing, or I can leave it with you to do. Whatever works best for you," he said diffidently.
Trini sighed, "I'll sign now. Come on in while I get a pen."
Rocky followed her into the house that until the middle of last year they had shared. It was up for sale, and he and Trini would split the proceeds. Trini had already packed a lot of her stuff to move into a smaller place, probably an apartment. Their daughter, Theresa, was living in Colorado, working for the State Forestry Department. Their son, Jackson, was graduating from college in New York in June, then would start work with a large stockbrokerage firm there in August. Adam and his wife and son lived in Angel Grove.
Rocky looked around again, remembering the good times. There had been a lot of them. Their marriage didn't exactly turn sour, it simply seemed to die a natural death. He still cared for Trini, he just didn't love her any more. And she had indicated she felt the same way about him. As a doctor, he supposed he could have made a diagnosis of 'terminal apathy'.
"Here, signed and ready for delivery. Thanks for bringing them by Rocky, that was thoughtful of you."
"You're welcome. I guess I'd better go now, get these in today before I forget. Um, will you be okay now?" he asked tentatively.
She smiled at the question. "Yes, I'll be okay. If I need anything, I will call you. And you know the same goes for you. If you need something, even if it's only someone to talk to, you can call me."
"Thanks. Good luck with law school, I hope it lives up to your dreams. Take care, Trini."
"You too, Rocky."
She closed the door behind him, and leaned against it heavily, letting out a shaky sigh. "Well, guess I'm on my own now." A tear slipped down her cheek, and she wiped it impatiently away. This is what she wanted. She was enrolled in law school, still working part time. Come what may, she was going to be a lawyer.
Watching from across the room, Adam admired her strength. Trini would get her dream at last.
Katherine opened her front door and ushered Jason in. They were still chuckling over the movie they had just seen, trading jokes about the lead character. Jason sat down on the couch as Katherine went into the kitchen to make them coffee.
Jason looked around the room curiously. Katherine had lived here for years, yet he had never been in here before. This had been their fourth date, and the first time he had been invited in. It occurred to Jason that most of them knew very little about Katherine's private life, she tended to keep to herself a lot. He finally stood up and took a quick walking tour of the room. She had a large assortment of dainty knickknacks, mostly china, overstuffed comfortable furniture, and framed traditional art on the walls. Except for the north wall, which was covered in framed photographs. He walked closer and looked at the pictures. He recognized a few of the people in the pictures, including a picture taken at her graduation from Angel Grove University. There were pictures of the Zeo Ranger team, the Turbo Ranger team, and the Ninjetti Ranger team. Billy was in the pictures of the Ninjetti and Zeo teams. Jason himself was in the Zeo picture, standing beside Billy.
"See anyone familiar?" Katherine asked from behind him.
"A couple of familiar faces, yeah," Jason smiled. "My God, that was so long ago. How young we all were, and we were saving the world. I don't know if I would trust it to any teenagers I have encountered recently."
"Oooh, spoken like a true old 'fuddy duddy'," Katherine giggled. "You know the kids haven't changed all that much, you just got older."
"Thanks for reminding me. That's a nice picture," Jason pointed out, looking at a picture of Katherine and Billy, probably taken less than a month before his death.
"Yes, we were very happy then," Katherine said in a tone and manner that made it clear she did not want to discuss the matter further. Jason took the hint and sat down again on the couch, while Katherine took the armchair.
They talked of work matters, family, current events, just about anything that had nothing to do with the two of them being together. Jason was getting a little impatient. He cared a great deal for Katherine, he thought they could be good together. He had been lonely since Emily died. He had loved Emily with all his heart; he was not trying to replace her. But he was the kind of man who needed to be with someone. And he suspected Katherine needed someone too. They were already friends, he wanted to see if love could grow from that friendship. But he felt Katherine resisting him, and he wasn't sure why. If it was due to him, or something to do with her and her past.
A silence fell between them, and Jason finally ventured to break it. "Katherine, are you at all interested in having a relationship with me?" He knew it sounded blunt, but the direct way was his way.
Katherine considered his question. "I am, but I'm not. I don't know, Jason. I am attracted to you, definitely. But I don't know about anything long-term. I'm not ready for that."
"So, we could try short term. Katherine, we are not kids anymore. But we are both alone, we get along great, and, I, for one, do not like being alone. If you don't want a relationship with me, then we will remain friends. I care too much about you to abandon you. But, I will pursue other relationships. I want someone to be with, someone to love and be loved by. You were my first choice."
Katherine looked a little unsettled by his words. Tears came to her eyes as she considered what he had said, what he was offering, and the feelings he had ignited. Jason knelt at the foot of her chair and took her hands in his.
"Think about it, Katherine. I know you have been hurt, a lot. I don't want to hurt you. I want to love you, to be with you."
"Will you give me some time to think about it?"
"Of course, as long as you need," Jason was quick to agree. He was almost shaky, after laying it all on the line. He knew he really didn't need time to discover if he was in love with Katherine, he knew he was. He just hoped she would reciprocate.
"Are we still spending tomorrow at the lake?"
"Absolutely. And considering that, I should be going," Jason stood up to leave.
"Thank you for a wonderful evening. And I promise I will consider everything we talked about," Katherine said as Jason took his leave.
She went into her bedroom and readied herself for bed. She couldn't see the lone figure standing by her desk, just as she had not seen him listening in on her conversation with Jason.
Billy was considering his options.
February 13, 2029 - The Other Side
Billy stood in Katherine's bedroom, thinking about the conversation that he had overheard, trying to sort out his own feelings. For the first time he realized he had been honored by Katherine's not finding someone new. It some twisted way he liked her loyalty. Now he realized how selfish he was being, how wrong it was.
How could he help set her free?
He glanced around, his eyes settling on her personal computer on the desk. Suddenly inspired, he concentrated on his hands, and was able to start the computer. Opening a word processing program, he reset the font so his message would fill the screen.
Then he began to type.
Katherine got out of bed with the ringing of her alarm, and quickly headed in to take a shower and dress for the day. She was ready for Jason's arrival when she went into the bedroom to find a scarf and noticed the message on her screen.
She sat down on the bed, her hands going to her breast as if to steady her racing heart. Once she got past the shock, she began to seriously consider the message, and what it meant to her. She was still thinking when Jason arrived.
She greeted him at the door, and led him into the bedroom without a word. She pointed to the computer screen, and said softly, "This was on the screen when I looked at it this morning. I didn't type it, I don't know who did."
Jason looked at the message, considering. The message was in large, bold font:
"A WISE PERSON ONCE SAID:
'YOU HAVE TO DANCE LIKE NO ONE IS WATCHING, AND LOVE LIKE IT'S NEVER GOING TO HURT'"
"Any idea who said that?"
"No, I don't remember ever encountering that saying before. But, Jason, it is so true! I just forgot. When I was younger, and I taught dance, I told my students that they had to dance for themselves, not the audience. That they had to be brave and let themselves go. I taught students that, but forgot it myself. You are going to think I'm nuts, but I have a wild urge to dance. And an even wilder urge to find love. Think you can help?"
Jason took her in his arms and answered without words.
Billy was satisfied with the success of his plan, and scarcely noticed when he moved on.
January 1, 2030 - The Other Side
Adam looked over at Billy as they found themselves in a church again. "Where were you?"
"Kat's place. Seems she was having some problems letting go of the past, allowing herself to start a new relationship. I did what I could to help. What about you?"
"Trini and Rocky are divorced. I was watching her reaction to the finalizing of the divorce and the pursuit of her dreams. She's going to law school."
"Good for her! Sorry her marriage didn't work out, but after what we heard at the reunion, then at Charles's birth, I can't say I'm surprised."
"Me neither. Wonder who is getting hitched this time?"
"I have my hopes. Let's wait and see."
They passed the time checking out old friends. Tommy and Kimberly, Tanya and Paul, Zack and Angela, and Trini were all in attendance. As was Rocky, with a dark-haired woman on his arm. Several of their friends' now adult children were also in attendance. For all that, it was a fairly small group, an obviously less formal wedding.
When Jason took his place in front of the minister, Billy gave Adam a triumphant look.
"They did it, Adam. They fell in love. Geez, it's about time."
They looked up with a smile as Katherine made her way down the aisle on her father's arm. The simple ceremony was completed quickly, but there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Everyone was thrilled that these two had found each other, and had found love again. They both deserved any happiness they could get.
Shortly after the completion of the vows, Adam and Billy moved on.
January 2, 2030 - October 13, 2050 - An Interlude
Billy and Adam entered another phase of quick stops as members of the 'next generation' got married, and had children. Adam's son would eventually have three children of his own, Billy's younger sister married and produced four children.
Rocky remarried three years after his divorce from Trini. His wife, Denise, was a nurse he had worked with. They were very happy together.
Also during this time, they found themselves at a depressing number of funerals. Among those who died during that twenty year span were: both of Adam's parents, who died in 2038, of cancer; Jack Scott who succumbed to a heart attack; Marjorie Scott who didn't survive a bout of pneumonia; and Anne Cranston, who lost her life to a brain embolism. Ironically enough, Wallace Cranston was still alive.
October 14, 2050 - The Moon
At the deserted, semi destroyed palace once occupied by Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd, a new evil was taking up residence. Known as Emperor Malfeasance, he had terrorized and tyrannized twelve other planets before setting his sights on Earth. He planned to overthrow the planet and use the inhabitants for slave labor. He considered there was no one there to interfere with his plans.
Assisted by his royal servants, and his royal warriors, known as Hoolithugs, he believed Earth was no match for him.
October 14, 2050 - The Desert Outside Angel Grove
In a deserted corner of the desert, a structure suddenly began to erect itself using materials found around the site. Pieces of a previous structure, indigenous rocks, and other materials came together to form a domed shape, with what appeared to be a smoke stack protruding from the middle. Deep inside could be found a complex system of computers, monitors, and consoles. Looming above all was a clear cylinder, containing what appeared to be a giant head. Working at the various consoles was a robot, approximately five feet tall.
Zordon and Alpha Five were back.
"Alpha, it is time to assemble a new team. Make the selection and teleport them here."
In short order five very confused teenagers stood before Zordon. He quickly explained about Emperor Malfeasance, and the threat he posed to mankind. He offered the youngsters the chance to save humanity as Power Rangers. Whereas the first group he had chosen over 50 years before had no idea what a Power Ranger was, these five had grown up hearing stories of the heroic deeds of the Power Rangers, and were more than willing to serve. Zordon asked each to step forward and accept their Power Scepter, and control of their Animal Zord.
"Luke James, you shall be the red Scepter Ranger, and command the powerful Lion Zord. You are team leader." The tall, red-haired teenager accepted the powers with a solemn look, already feeling the responsibility.
"Joseph Briggs, you shall be the black Scepter Ranger, and command the mighty Horse Zord." Joseph grinned as he accepted the powers, his dark features reflecting his joy and pride.
"Michael Jeffrey, you shall be the blue Scepter Ranger, and command the stalwart Ox Zord." Michael accepted his powers with a sense of wonder, running his hand through his dark hair.
"Marcia Bradley, you shall be the pink Scepter Ranger, and command the graceful Swan Zord." The statuesque brunette was smiling as she felt the powers surround her.
"And Panda Lee, you shall be the yellow Scepter Ranger and command the swift Giraffe Zord." Her intelligent eyes sparkled with questions as she accepted her powers.
"Please observe the viewing globe. Your five zords can be merged together to form one Ultrazord, which has enough firepower to defeat just about anything the Emperor throws at you."
"Just about anything?" Marcia asked with a worried look.
"There may be times when you will have to find other solutions, rather than just firepower. I have chosen you because I believe you have the capabilities to look beyond simply overpowering an opponent, and find whatever solution is needed in each situation. There are three rules you must observe, or risk loosing the protection of the powers. One: You must keep your identity as a Power Ranger secret. Two: You cannot escalate a fight unless the Emperor forces you. Three: You cannot use your powers for personal gain. If you don't have any questions, Alpha will start acquainting you with the Power Chamber, and the various devices you will need to know how to operate."
With that, Alpha began the intensive training the new team would need in order to stand a chance against Emperor Malfeasance.
June 6, 2051 - Angel Grove, California
Kimberly Oliver, Katherine Scott, Trini DeSantos, and Tanya Simpson were enjoying a quiet afternoon together. They tried at least once a month to get together to visit, shop, or whatever else they might want to do. Today they were sitting on the Oliver's patio sipping coffee or tea and visiting. Or gossiping, as Tommy would call it.
"Did you hear of the latest exploits of the Power Rangers. They were able to defeat that monster that looked like a doorknob without doing any damage to the town. I was pretty darn impressed," Kimberly said. "It always drove me nuts that we would end up knocking down buildings in our fights."
"Yeah, this new group seems pretty efficient. I guess now I know how Bulk and Skull felt, I would really love to know who these kids are," Trini noted.
The others all agreed. But they knew better than anyone that they had to maintain their secrecy.
"I keep looking for teens with a wrist device like Billy made for us, you know. But they probably have something completely different," Kim commented.
Tommy, who came out onto the patio with a look of suppressed excitement on his face, interrupted their conversation.
"I've got a little surprise for you ladies," he announced, then stepped aside to reveal a petite African American woman standing behind him.
"AISHA!" Kimberly squealed, sounding for all the world like the teenager she had once been, not the seventy two year old grandmother she was.
Aisha was promptly enveloped in a group hug, as the five women all began speaking excitedly. Tommy went back inside, laughing to himself at their antics.
"Aisha, what in the world are you doing here?" Katherine asked at last.
"I have decided to come home. My husband died last year, my children have all come to America to pursue their dream here. There was nothing to hold me in Africa. So, I decided it was time for another adventure." The others all chuckled to hear her, she had not changed at all. "So, get me up to date with you all, please. I haven't heard anything new from you guys in a couple of years, so 'fess up."
So they passed the afternoon getting Aisha up to speed on everyone's activities, and especially on the emergence of a new team of Power Rangers.
Little did they know they were the subjects of conversation among the Power Rangers, even as they spoke.
June 6, 2051 - The Power Chamber
"Zordon, I am getting readings that indicate Emperor Malfeasance has activated a teleportation beam into Angel Grove. I am trying to discover its intended target right now. There. He has actually teleported someone to his base! I have the location, let me see if I can get a name. Stewart, Justin Stewart. I'm getting a visual on the viewing globe now," said Panda Lee, the Rangers' technical expert.
Zordon and the Rangers turned their attention to the viewing globe, which was replaying the kidnapping of Justin Stewart. It showed the man, clearly in his mid-sixties, sitting comfortably in his living room, watching TV with his wife, when suddenly he was surrounded by a reddish glow, and disappeared. His wife was heard screaming in the background.
"Why would Emperor Malfeasance kidnap an old man?" Michael wondered.
"He was not just any 'old man'," Zordon announced, "Justin Stewart was a former Power Ranger."
The current Rangers turned to each other in shock. "He's targeting former Rangers? How many are still around, Zordon?" Luke asked with some concern.
"There are sixteen surviving former Rangers, all of whom are currently in this state. We must try to contact and teleport the rest of them to the Power Chamber before it is too late. Alpha, initiate a search utilizing the biorhythm information we have on file for each of them," Zordon commanded.
"Emperor Malfeasance got another one, a woman named Cassie Douglas. Was she a former Ranger?" Panda asked.
"Yes, she was. Please hurry Alpha, if you find any, teleport them immediately to the Power Chamber, we don't have time to waste."
During an extremely tense few minutes it seemed the Power Rangers and Emperor Malfeasance were in a race to see who could collect the most former Power Rangers. In the end, Zordon came out ahead, getting ten of the sixteen. Zordon successfully teleported Kimberly, Tommy, Katherine, Jason, Rocky, Trini, Tanya, Aisha, Zack, and TJ.
Emperor Malfeasance captured Andros, Zhane, Cassie, Ashley, Carlos and Justin. Within an hour he contacted Zordon, offering to exchange the former Rangers for the current team.
"There will be no exchange, Emperor. If you do not release your hostages immediately, you will suffer the consequences."
"Zordon, you have absolutely no sense of humor. Tell you what, you don't want to exchange for them, then how about a little contest. I will put these six little old former Rangers in a forcefield, thusly. Now all you have to do is defeat my monster, the Battering Ram, and reach the forcefield controls in one hour. See, the forcefield will be contracting as time passes, in an hour's time it will start to crush the people inside. Deviously clever, isn't it. Well, good luck, and all that." With that the Emperor terminated contact with Zordon.
"Rangers, you must act swiftly. The Battering Ram is a very powerful adversary, capable of delivering a blow that can level a mountain. It shoots projectiles at tremendous velocity, they can punch a hole through a zord. Be careful to try to avoid getting within his reach. May the Power protect you."
With that the five teenagers called upon their Scepter Powers:
"Red Scepter Power!"
"Black Scepter Power!"
"Yellow Scepter Power!"
"Blue Scepter Power!"
"Pink Scepter Power!"
They teleported into battle in a veritable rainbow of colors.
Standing to the side of the Power Chamber, ten former Power Rangers were still trying to come to grips with what had just happened. They had been suddenly taken from their placid afternoon activities and rudely teleported to the Power Chamber. They were still reeling from this when they were listening to Zordon and Emperor Malfeasance discuss what needed to be done to rescue the former Rangers Zordon hadn't been able to protect.
"Well, you wanted to know who the current Rangers are, now I guess we know," Tommy muttered. "How good is this team, Zordon?" he asked.
"They are very skilled, and they work well together. The only lack some seasoning. Much as you all were at first. They have a good chance."
"I hope so, those are old friends out there."
"I know, Tommy, I am worried too. I wish there had been more time to analyze the threat from Battering Ram. I have not discovered a weakness yet."
"Here, why don't I take a look? I used to be pretty good at this as a youngster," Trini offered, unable to simply stand by and watch.
She went to work at one of the consoles, testing and analyzing, trying to find a weakness that would help the Rangers. The rest watched the battle with increasing dread. The fight was not going well at all.
"The main power source for the Battering Ram is in his horns. But they are protected by a forcefield of some kind. It's weird, it can fire through it, but it is impervious to our weapons. I don't know if it is a directional thing, letting energy out but not in, or if it is somehow tuned to only allow certain types of energy to pass. Damn!" Trini was getting frustrated. "It's been too long, I don't know what to do. Alpha, can you figure this out?"
"I'm trying, but there is too much to analyze, and we are running out of time. Ay-yi-yi, this is a disaster!"
June 6, 2051 - The Other Side
Billy was as frustrated as he could ever remember being. The lives of six former Rangers hung in the balance, and they couldn't do anything for them. Or could they? He continued to peer over Trini and Alpha's shoulders, watching the data as it scrolled by. Suddenly he noticed something they did not seem to see. A bit of information that showed how the forcefield worked. If he hadn't been looking for just such an item, he would have missed it, as Trini and Alpha had.
"Adam, it is a directional forcefield. If I can recalibrate it somehow, reverse the orientation of the field, I can make it so when the Battering Ram fires again, it will in effect shoot itself. I'm going to have to push Trini and Alpha out of my way to do it, pretty rude, and it may violate the rules some, but I have to try. Will you help?"
"Of course I will."
"Good, let's concentrate, and get this job done." They both focused on their hands and arms. Past experience had showed them they were actually pretty weak in comparison to living people, but they were hoping Trini and Alpha would get the hint and not fight back.
Billy pushed Trini aside, and Adam pushed Alpha. Both reacted with shocked surprise to find themselves being forced away form the console. Adam backed Billy, jabbing Trini or Alpha anytime they came close to the console. Meanwhile, Billy was punching in data as quickly as possible.
Finally he straightened with a sigh of relief. "I think that's done it." He and Adam turned their attention to the viewing globe, where the Battering Ram was obviously preparing to fire again at the Megazord. As soon as the weapons were activated the forcefield reflected the energy back onto the Battering Ram, effectively blowing its head off, destroying it.
June 6, 2051 - The Power Chamber
The assembled former Rangers gave a cheer as the Battering Ram was destroyed, and they saw the current Ranger team release the captive former Rangers. They all turned to Trini and Alpha, curious as to what had happened.
"I don't know how you guys did that, but it was great!" Rocky enthused.
"We didn't do anything, someone else is in here. Zordon, can you identify who it was that helped us?"
"I am attempting to do so. Alpha, I believe they are still here, please scan the Power Chamber for their biorhythms." While Alpha did the scan, the current Rangers arrived with the last of the former Rangers. The Power Chamber, large as it was, seemed crowded with twenty-one people there.
"I have a fix on them, they are over there," Alpha indicated a spot across from where the others were gathered. "I am sending the data to you now."
Zordon smiled gently. "Alpha, see if you can make them visible to us. Use the molecular echo device, it should work."
"Right away, Zordon." Alpha aimed a device that looked like nothing so much as a high tech flashlight to the area of the room he had indicated before. The device hummed, and suddenly two figures began to show up, shimmering slightly. There was a collective gasp from the former Rangers.
"Oh my God," Jason breathed, barely able to believe his eyes. He heard the soft exclamations from the others, could almost hear their eyes tearing up. Katherine's hand in his trembled suddenly.
They all stared at the two young men across the chamber. Two young men who reminded Zack of a couple of deer caught in a car's headlights, unable to decide whether to stay where they were or leap away.
"Who are they?" Marcia asked in the silence.
"There were eighteen Rangers used during the last part of the previous century. These two were killed shortly after the last Ranger team was disbanded. Their names are Adam Park and Billy Cranston."
"How is this possible? Why are you still here?" Trini asked, tears flowing down her face unheeded.
Adam and Billy exchanged a look, unsure what to do. Zordon's voice got their attention.
"If you speak, they will be able to hear you."
"Oh, okay. Um, we were just here to help," Billy said. Though his voice was mechanically simulated, it still sounded like Billy to his friends.
"Just here to help? For how long?" was Jason's question.
"Well, we have sort of been around for the last 50 years, but you are on your own now. See, we were given the opportunity to see 50 years in the lives of the people we loved, and we took that opportunity when it was offered. So, for the last 50 years we have sort of watched over you all. Most of the time we couldn't do anything to change how your lives went, and sometimes we could. It was better than nothing," Adam explained.
"What do you mean, we are 'on our own now'?" Kimberly asked.
"The fifty years is up now. We will go on to Heaven, I hope. Unless we get in trouble for this little stunt. We never did get a good briefing on the rules," Billy concluded.
"When do you leave?" Tanya inquired.
"Probably around 6:00, I think that is about the time we died."
"That's like 5 minutes from now," Zack commented, with a sob in his voice.
"Guys, I'm sorry, you were never supposed to see us. We didn't want to hurt you again, we just couldn't resist the chance to help," Adam sounded as distraught as the others.
"It's okay, you saved our lives, we were not going to be able to beat that monster the way things were going. Thank you for your help," Luke said, upset himself even though he didn't know these two young men.
There was an awkward pause, then Trini walked across the chamber, toward Adam. Billy wandered a ways away to give them some privacy.
"Adam, if you have been watching, then you know you have a son?"
"Yeah, he's a pretty terrific guy. He had great parents."
"Yes, he did. I just wanted you to know, I never forgot you. Never. I've had a good life, a lot of good years, but I still missed you. Thank you for showing me that eventually I will get to see you again."
"Absolutely. It wouldn't be Heaven for me if you won't be there. Just, don't hurry, there is plenty of time."
Trini reached out tentatively, stopping before she made contact with his face. "I wish I could touch you."
"I wish I could touch you, too. Someday I will be able to, and that is all that's important."
While Trini and Adam were talking, Jason and Katherine walked over to speak to Billy.
"Hey, little bro, guess you have had yourself the greatest adventure of all. Man, I've missed you so much."
"I've missed you guys, too. Just watching wasn't the same as being there. I'm glad you two got together, though. You waited far too long for happiness, Katherine."
"It only made it better when I found it. And Jason and I agreed long ago, when we first got together, that we would always cherish our first loves. My memories of you, and his memories of Emily, are parts of our relationship. I have never forgotten you, and I always figured it would be you I would spend eternity with. Thanks for proving me right."
"You're welcome. And I'm sorry I caused you such pain, I never wanted to do that."
"I know, it wasn't your fault. Was it?"
"I don't think so, if memory serves, I was the passenger," Billy actually smiled at her question. Then his expression changed to one of despair. "Adam, do you feel that?"
"Yeah, it's almost over, isn't it?"
"I think so," Billy replied.
"What is it?" Jason asked.
"Our time is up. We are going to move on. It's the same feeling we would get each time we would 'hop' forward in time. It was so good to see you all again, and we will see you sometime in the future, quite a ways in the future, please. Remember that I love you all. Always have," Billy's voice was fading, as his body seemed to fade away.
"I love you all, too, and as Kimberly was so fond of saying in the good old days, catch ya on the flip side!" Adam faded from view with those words.
For a long moment the only sound in the Power Chamber was the soft sniffling of suppressed tears. Then Zordon spoke.
"Alpha, I believe it is time to send our guests home. I hope that what you saw today will give each of you some comfort."
"Thanks, Zordon. It was good to see you again, too. And you as well, Alpha," Tommy said as Zordon and Alpha prepared to teleport the former Rangers back to their homes.
Katherine and Jason sat on their bed, each still contemplating what had happened that day. Katherine reached into her bedside table and took out the small ceramic gnome with a green hat that Billy had bought for her just before his death. She held it in the palm of her hand, remembering with greater clarity the young man who had gotten it for her half a century before.
Jason looked over at her. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I think so. It was quite a shock though. Though it was nice he seemed to accept our relationship without any problem."
"I think it is more than that, Katherine. Remember the message you found on your computer screen. Who do you think was responsible for that?"
Katherine gave it some thought. "Oh, I didn't even consider that. It would be like him to do something of that nature."
"Yes, it would. He loved us both, I don't think he would want either of us to be alone. I have to admit, it was good to see him again, and to be sure he wasn't upset. And it's nice to consider we will see him, and Emily, again, someday."
Trini was almost ready to go to bed. She had developed the habit of taking a cup of herbal tea out on her terrace and sipping it just before she went to bed. It was a relaxing ritual she treasured.
That evening as she looked at the stars she fancied she saw a new one. For despite what had been said, she knew in her heart that he was still watching over her. Just as he always had. Just as he always would. Until they could be together again.