Friends, it's been three years since I last updated. *facepalm* If you're still out there reading, I appreciate it. I hope you enjoy this happy ending.
The afternoon of the "farewell" party couldn't have been better. The weather was stunning and created a perfect setting for one and all to gather outside. Although Tommy's house had plenty of room inside to spread out, the focus of the picnic was the back deck, patio and backyard. Though smaller groups formed within the confines of the large group, no one made an effort to isolate themselves; it was as though because they knew this was likely the last time in a long time they'd all be together, they wanted to make it last as long as possible. Everyone's mood and energy was high, but the heart types – Kimberly, Aisha, Dustin, Blake and Kira – seemed to be particularly bright spots in the yard. Friends, new and old, moved easily between groups and the party was an almost effortless success.
Those Rangers who were still recovering from the effects of the previous week's events, particularly Adam and Conner, were fairly stationary; instead of moving around to spend time with others, everyone circulated around the yard to make sure they spent time with them. Not that Adam actually agreed to the arrangement, but Rocky and Aisha were formidable opponents and Adam realized getting up to change his seat wasn't worth the fight. For his part, Conner seemed very happy with Kira's constant presence tucked into the swing next to him and a continuous rotation of Red Rangers on the other side; he wasn't inclined to change his position.
As he had for much of the last week, Kanoi enjoyed watching the Rangers interact with one another. It was with great pride that Kanoi contemplated his own team of Wind Ninjas. Never before had one ninja achieved so much, let alone three. Tori, Dustin and Shane had individually tapped into potential Kanoi could scarcely dream of; together with their strength of body, determination of mind and purity of heart they were a force that could move the world. Though he had a special fondness for his own team of Rangers, he was constantly surprised by the depth of feeling he had for the others as well, considering he'd known them for less than a week. They had all been through so much together, and though they were all stronger for it, they were changed.
Haley, Billy, Cam and Dana had begun the task of gathering data and sharing information. Though Ethan was more of a game player, Kanoi could see that his interest in technology had taken on a new depth with exposure to his older counterparts. Equipment that he took for granted was suddenly something to be investigated; adolescent spouting of useless trivia and game scores were giving way to practical knowledge, encouraged by those who could teach him best.
Jason, Carter and Rocky also formed a special bond throughout the week with Hunter and Shane. It went well beyond the easy explanation of "body" types, though that was part of it. All of the time, effort and energy they expended to help Conner couldn't help but overflow between them. Carter's desire to explore beyond the body into the metaphysical drew them all in; Kanoi was honored when they included him in their training and discussions. It was a balance of a different kind with each Ranger adding something unique into the mix.
It seemed to Kanoi that Tommy and Kim had regained a much needed and sorely missed stability. This gave Billy some equilibrium as well and perhaps added to his confidence in his pursuit of a relationship with Haley. The older Rangers were not the only ones to spark and intensify their relationships. Tori and Blake spent many hours together renewing their commitment and making plans for the future. Hunter and Cam, still in the infancy of their relationship, took a page from the books of those around them and spent as much time together as possible. It was fascinating to Kanoi that no matter how intense the pair relationship was within the team triangle, the third member of the equation was never left adrift.
Rangers, active and retired, young and old, even Ranger parents, sat around the fire pit on an eclectic collection of patio furniture gathered from homes all around Reefside for the occasion. After the first few waves of food had been consumed, those gathered took the time to sit and talk and enjoy one another's company. Afternoon faded into evening, parents excused themselves to return to their respective homes, a fire was lit and conversation continued in and around the yard. Most of those assembled seemed surprised when Rocky stood and moved to the center of the patio, but Kanoi was not. He sensed something weighing heavily on the former Red Ranger and had been expecting Rocky to take action before the day was done.
Rocky intrigued Kanoi for a number of reasons – although he was a respected Red Ranger, he was not the leader of the group like most Red Rangers; he wasn't even Tommy's second as a Ninjetti, Adam was. So though Rocky had plenty of confidence, he was not a natural public speaker. And, for all of his clear "body type" affiliations, Kanoi had never met someone who was so willing to wear his heart on his sleeve.
"I have something I'd like to say, before we all go our separate ways." Rocky looked around, scanning the circle of faces. "What happened this week…with all of us….has been some of the scariest and most awesome things I've ever been through." Kanoi could sense Rocky deliberately not looking over his shoulder to his right where Adam was sitting; instead he directed a gaze of admiration at Tori. She blushed, still not used to the unswerving adoration of the former Red Ranger. Shane and Dustin grinned beside her.
"And I've learned," Rocky shifted on his feet, "that it's so important to work together and accept help when it's offered." Now Rocky grinned at Kanoi, Hunter winked at Eric, and Tommy and Dustin shared a glance of their own. "But I think the thing I've learned the most, is that you've got to let the people in your life know what you're thinking, because you never know if you won't get to say it again."
Rocky stood uncomfortably as silence fell around him. He took up a position facing the chairs where Tommy, Kim, Jason, and Billy were seated; Haley had just arrived with a tray full of drinks for the group. Rocky rubbed his right hand nervously on the back of his neck, then took a deep breath, gathered his courage and met Haley's eyes. "Haley. I want to apologize…de la parte inferior de mi corazón."
Even before Rocky could finish one phrase, Haley put the tray down and moved toward him, shaking her head in the negative. "Rocky…you already told me you were sorry…"
Rocky caught Haley's hands in his own as she reached out to reassure him. He continued. "No. It's not right, Haley. I know the circumstances were awful, but that's no excuse for the way I treated you. I was awful to you, in front of everybody. So it's fair that I apologize in front of everybody too." He took a deep breath. "Haley…I underestimated you because you weren't a Ranger, I took out my frustration and anger on you because you were an easy target. At the same time I expected you to do more than anybody else…" Rocky shifted on his feet and his stance relaxed a little as his tone changed and he looked at Haley the way he had looked at Tori.
"You did it, Haley. You did the most amazing thing…" Again Haley shook her head in the negative, this time to avoid acknowledging the praise that was being heaped up on her. But Rocky held her hands tight, and would not let her go. His voice became rough with emotion, but it was wonderful to hear; for a body type Rocky was unusually in expressive with his heart. "You never gave up, Haley. In the middle of all that…awful…when Adam was…" Rocky swallowed hard before he could continue. "You never gave up. You brought him back to us."
Haley had stopped trying to pull away from Rocky; she was holding on just as tightly as he was. "Haley, you are an amazing and wonderful woman. You are so vital to the team here in Reefside. You may not wear a color, but you're just as much of a Ranger as anybody here. ¡Soy tan orgulloso de ti!" Rocky swept Haley into a tight embrace and she tucked her face into his shoulder, not comfortable shedding her tears in public.
Tommy started the cheers of "Here, here!" from his table, but he was not the first Ranger to get to Haley and add his praise to the mix – that was Billy's honor. Haley was swept up in a knot of hugging and tearful Rangers adding their accolades to Rocky's. Aisha walked over to Rocky's side and slid herself under his left arm as she put her arm around his waist. "That was so sweet, babe. I knew you were up to something."
Rocky chuckled and leaned down to kiss her forehead. "You did?"
"Mmmm…." Aisha nestled closer. "It's been bothering you for days. I could feel it building up this afternoon." The petite Yellow Ranger looked up at her longtime beau. "Feeling better?"
Rocky grinned. "Yep, but there's just one more thing…"
Kira called out from her seat on the swing next to Conner. "He's doing it again!"
Kira's comment wasn't really necessary. With the Rangers on such an emotional high from Rocky's apology to Haley, they were primed to tune in to any new situation that came to hand.
Rocky had pulled slightly away from Aisha, but as he had with Haley, caught both of her hands in his. Though they were in the center of the party, Rocky spoke to Aisha as though they were alone in the universe. "'Sha…" He paused for a moment as he gazed and drank her in. Kanoi could see the other heart types in the crowd seeking buffers from the overwhelming emotions emanating from the intense Ranger duo – Kira slid closer to Conner on the swing; Dustin leaned forward, hanging on Rocky's every word, but had a hand on Shane's leg for support; Hunter had moved forward to put a hand on Blake's neck; and Kim's solution was the most expedient by dropping herself into Tommy's lap. Though the heart types could feel the most, everyone in Tommy's yard had an expression of expectation on their faces – no one more than Aisha.
"Aisha…" Rocky tried again. "If there's one thing I've learned this week it's that we just don't have time to waste. I know you and I had all the talks about timing and school and work and everything else. Well all of that doesn't mean a damn thing. I can't do this without you. You give me hope when I think all is lost; you hold the pieces together when I'm broken; you love me when I don't deserve it." Rocky beamed through the tears standing in his eyes. "I love you, Aisha. I would like to spend my life as your partner, if you'll have me." Gracefully Rocky dropped to one knee; he kept Aisha's left hand in his, as he reached into his pocket with his right hand to pull out a diamond ring. "Te amo, mi corazón. ¿Usted me casará?" Rocky shook his head, realizing that he'd lost his English yet again, but there was no one in the yard who needed a translation.
For a moment the tableau was frozen. The firelight cast a glow around the pair as the sky deepened into a pool of indigo and purple. Rocky's uplifted face was an open book of hope, and Aisha's was suffused with joy. It only lasted half a second, but Kanoi captured the image and kept it in his heart. In the next moment Aisha snapped out of her immobility and threw herself without restraint into Rocky's arms. Her movement released the spell that had been holding all the others.
"Is that a 'yes'?" Rocky asked with a slightly hysterical edge.
"Yes! Si! I'll marry you!" Aisha laughed through her tears and proceeded to kiss Rocky senseless.
All of a sudden the yard was in a happy uproar. Everyone was on their feet and converging on the couple. Once Aisha released him, Rocky was unsteady on his feet with his reaction; he was both deliriously relieved at her response and beyond ecstatic that he'd been able to keep the proposal a secret from his very intuitive lady. Amid the hugs and back slapping there were demands from the girls to see the ring and teasing from the boys about "getting hitched". Rocky chose to listen to Carter who had only good things to say about marrying a Ranger.
The ecstatic atmosphere in the yard was electric and everyone was talking at once. The party suddenly became an opportunity to plan for the future instead of saying goodbye. Aisha insisted on having all of the female Rangers in the bridal party and immediately people were running for calendars. In an instant it became clear that this evening of camaraderie would not be a one-time event. This gathering of Rangers that was unprecedented in the past would become commonplace in the future. Now that the connections were made they would not be forgotten or cast aside.
They would be crossing paths for many years to come.
de la parte inferior de mi corazón - from the bottom of my heart
¡Soy tan orgulloso de ti! - I am so proud of you!
"Te amo, mi corazón. ¿Usted me casará?" - I love you, my heart. Will you marry me?