Disclaimer: Billy is Saban's. If he ever got into the hands of all his screaming, drooling fans. ...it would be bad.
The stars on Aquitar are so different from the ones I'm used to. They're larger, for one thing, and there are a couple of moons in slightly odd positions. But I'm getting used to it. As I'm getting used to everything here on Aquitar. It isn't as if I have a lot of choices, either. I have two worlds I can live on. One is a world where I'm continually uncomfortable, where I can't eat most of what they have, and where it's practically impossible for me to communicate with most of the population. The other one is the world that I grew up on, and that I came close to destroying several times. And I don't mean with my experiments, either.
I mean with the stupid things I did as a Power Ranger. I don't care what anyone says, I might have a genius level I.Q. when it comes to science, but where anything else in the universe is concerned, I'm more on the level of Bulk and Skull in their punk days. It all got started when Rita stole Tommy's powers with the Green Candle. If I'd been able to get the portal to work sooner, had went with Jason to get the Candle while he distracted Goldar, then Tommy wouldn't have ever lost his powers in the first place.
And if that weren't bad enough, then later when Rita kidnaped our parents with Dramole, I was stupid enough to be late and got put under her spell and take the Dragon Dagger to Goldar in the Dark Dimension. Yes, yes, I know that led to Tommy getting his Green powers back, but a fat lot of good that did when they kept failing on him, and nothing we could do could get them to stabilize. I've forgotten how many nights I lost sleep trying to figure that out.
I could go into a very long list of why I've got every right in the universe to feel extremely sorry for myself, but I won't. Mainly because I don't like to think about all of it.
Coming to Aquitar was meant just to save my life...I'm hoping it'll save my sanity too. I hate to admit it, but I did lie to the Rangers. I don't love Cestria. I couldn't; we're too different. Which isn't a bad thing, really. It just means there can't be a relationship with her.
Of course, there's also the tiny fact that we're both in love with other people. Cestria agreed to play along with my deception since she knew my reasons. She'd asked me to stay during my first visit, wanting to help me even then, but I couldn't. I felt as if the Rangers needed what I knew too much, and I wasn't going to deny them anything just because of my personal desires. I still felt as if I owed them too much, had too much to make up for.
It was different when I aged. That was when it was brought rather shockingly home to me that I was a liability...that any unpowered Ranger being their friend was a liability. That was why the others stayed away the way they had; they'd known it too. I still have no idea why Jason came back, I know it wasn't just to be the Gold Ranger.
"Billy?" it's Cestria behind me. She's the only one who would come out here to talk to me. The Aquitian Rangers respect my privacy. So does she, but she also tends to go out of her way to make sure I'm all right. Leftover nursing tendencies, I think.
"What is it, Cestria?" I don't turn my gaze from the stars; I feel as if I'm burning them into my mind, trying not to forget them. I know I won't be here forever, but I do want to learn what I can, remember what I can while I'm still here.
She comes to sit beside me. "How are you feeling? Any effects left over from the process?"
"No, I'm fine," I try not to breathe too deeply though. The air of Aquitar is constantly thick in comparison to what I'm used to, and I learned the hard way during my first visit that if I breathe in too much, I'm going to start coughing. "Did you want something?"
"Just to check on you," there's a cool professionalism in her voice that I admire. Completely unlike anything the Rangers heard, I know. She and I had set up the entire 'really relating to' bit before she ever came to the Power Chamber, when I contacted her. Zordon knew the truth, but kept my secret out of respect for me. One of a million things I have to thank him for.
I smile. "Thanks, Cestria. You really did save my life." She smiles back at me, a human gesture that Aquitians don't make that often. Some of them have picked it up from me, though.
"I was only doing what I should, Billy," she tells me. "If you are not in need of anything, then I have an engagement with Cestro that I must not be late for."
I nod. It didn't surprise me that she was going to be with him; they were mated, after all. That was why their names were so similiar; it was Aquitian custom to choose new names after mating that were male and female versions of one another. To be perfectly accurate, all the Aquitian Rangers had been in on my decision to tell the Rangers I was staying there. I could tell that Aurico and Tideous didn't approve, but they went along anyway, since Delphine had ordered it.
With a few words of farewell, Cestria leaves me once again to my thoughts. I know I can't stay out here all that long; I tend to get dizzy if I'm out of my special quarters for more than a few hours. Another reason not to stay here all that much. I'm not certain just why it is, I've been meaning to run some tests to find out.
I'd better go on back to my room. I've done enough stargazing for one night anyway. I get up, balancing against the wall for a moment. Everything seems to be all right for a moment, then the entire world decided to shut itself off, wrapping me in thick blackness.
The next thing I'm aware of is Delphine looking at me with concern in her eyes. "Billy?" she asked softly. "Are you awake?"
"I...I think so..." for some reason, it's hard to breathe, and I find myself struggling to take deeper breaths, that don't give me any of the oxygen I need so badly. "What's...wrong?"
Delphine lightly touched my chest. "It appears Aquitar's air is lacking vital elements that humans need to survive. You were able to survive it on your previous visit because it was short, but now you have been here too long and your lungs need more oxygen than we can provide."
"Oh..." for some reason I can't seem to get the energy to really care that much. All that's important is breathing, and the fact I can't do it enough. "I...can't stay anymore...can I?"
Delphine shakes her head. I'm not surprised. I knew this day would come sooner or later, but I hadn't expected to nearly go comatose before it. She speaks again. "We are making arrangements to teleport you to the Power Chamber. Zordon has been advised."
"The....Rangers?" Something tells me I don't really want them to know I'm back; at least not so soon. There's something pulling at my mind...something I can't explain, it demands that I think about it. An image forms in my mind....and I know what I have to do.
"No, not yet. He felt you might want to be alone first, to recover," Delphine is wise. I'm convinced she was the one who persuaded Zordon not to call the other Rangers in on my homecoming. I close my eyes. I need to rest...need to breathe...
I take in a long breath of the sweet air of Earth, and feel it filling up my lungs. Slightly dry and smelling of the few flowers that will grow in the desert. I've been home for three days now, and haven't seen any of the Rangers yet. Not that I really mind. They've been busy too. I've learned there were some changes while I was gone. Rocky was injured in a practice session, and gave his powers to Justin Stewart, a young man I feel I could have a nice long serious talk with. It's been ages since I had a conversation in 'technospeak' about science, and I can feel the urges running through me strongly.
I don't remember much about what happened between the time of my conversation with Delphine and waking up a few hours later in the Power Chamber. It didn't take me very long to feel better; I was up and around within an hour of waking up.
More changes are in the air; Zordon has been preparing to go home. He told me he was going to invite an old friend of his from another world, Dimitria, to come and be the Rangers' mentor. From what he told me of her, I think she will be just what the Rangers are going to be needing. It's long past time for them to be given their answers, by anyone. They need to learn to depend on themselves.
Which, of course, means that I can't be here either. I'm going to need to leave; if I'm still here and they know about it, they're going to ask me to do things that they could perfectly well do for themselves.
Strange. I don't feel...wounded any longer. I don't feel the gaping heartaches that I did from the moment I screwed up something. I feel...calm. At peace. As if with this return to my home, I'm getting a second chance somehow. A chance to start over, to do things right. I remember what I thought before I fell asleep on Aquitar that final time, and I know what I want to start with. I head down to the Power Chamber. I have to do some talking.
It's a gathering that has never occurred before. All the Rangers, including Trey and the Aquitians, Cestria, Tommy's brother David: everyone who knew our secret that we knew. I want to talk to all of them, to let them know the things I've kept pent up inside of me for too long. Things that are clamoring to be let out.
We are in one of the meeting rooms of the Power Chamber. It's the only place big enough for all of us, where we could all meet without having anyone wondering how some of us got there. Tommy speaks.
"What do you want to talk to us about, Billy? You're the one who got us all together. What's up?"
I take a long breath. "I've got some things to tell you all. I don't know if they're important or not...but I need to say something before I blow up."
Everyone looks interested, even Justin, who can't possibly be expected to know who I am beyond "Billy Cranston, first Blue Ranger." So I start talking. To summarize, I tell them everything from the moment I was born right up until I chose to call the gathering. Everything I thought, everything I felt, things I had no clear notions of until I began to speak. I let it all come out of me, a vast outpouring of emotions. For once, all the barriers I've ever erected to keep other people from hurting me are gone, and I'm not hurting. I feel better for it, I feel cleaner. Exhausted, but worth it.
I held only one thing back. Not because I didn't want to tell, but because I wanted to make it special for someone. As I finally fall silent, I look at the others. Each one has compassion on their face and in their eyes. For the first time in a long time, I realize how lucky I am. Jason, Zack, Trini, and Kim might have been my friends before I met any of the others, but it doesn't matter. These are just as much my friends and family as anyone who bears my bloodline is, if not more so. Any barriers are there only because I imagined them to be, and I imagine them there no longer.
One last thing. One last thing to do. I get up and go to where Kim is sitting and look directly into her eyes. I can feel the approval of them all, especially Tommy. I had learned that he and Kim had resolved their differences some weeks earlier, and that the guy she had broken up with Tommy over really meant nothing to her. They hadn't gotten back together, however. Kim had truly fallen out of love with Tommy, and he with her. I was free to do this, and I wanted to. I could only hope that she felt anything like I did for her.
"Kimberly Hart, I've waited a long time to talk to you. To tell you what I'm about to. When you fell in love with Tommy, it was like a knife driving in me, but at the same time, I was glad that you were happy." I take her hands, and she just looks at me. I'm not certain what she's thinking, but I don't mind. I'll find out the hard way. "I love you, Kim, and I have since we were children. I'd like to go back to Florida with you if you want me around."
Kim stared at me, and I saw a thousand emotions tearing across her eyes. What they centered on, however, floored me to the core. "I'd be glad to have you come back there with me, Billy. The Pan-Globals are next month, and I know I'm going to need someone with me. I want it to be you."
Then it happens. I had dreamed of that moment for longer than I can recall, and finally it happens. She leans over, placing hands gently on the sides of my face, and brought her face closer to mine.
Lightning and fire seemed to shoot through me as her lips touched mine briefly, and I somehow managed to avoid falling over. Ohh, yes, all was most definitely right with creation. Forever.
It's been a long time since that first kiss. First in a million ways. Now I sit out under the stars again, but there are differences. I'm in our backyard, not on Aquitar. Kim is with me, I am not alone. And in my arms I hold our three year old daughter Clarity. Named for the clarity of mind that finally united her mother and I. We call her Claire most of the time.
"You see that star there?" I point out one, and she nods. Even at her age, I can tell she has inherited my intelligent, and Kim's incredible looks. "That's the sun of Aquitar. One day, you're going to meet my friends there."
Clarity smiles, and I hug her, leaning against Kim as she puts her arms around me. My life is complete.