Epilogue: Time Marches On

On a hot Saturday afternoon in July five months later, Kimberly Hart, Trini Kwan, Kira Ford, Elise Randall, and Aisha Campbell sat around the living room coffee table at 1992 Valencia Rd. tying little pink and blue ribbons around sachets of chocolate candies. The following day was Kim's baby shower, and the women were very busy with last minute preparations. While traditionally female affairs, this party would include many of the ex-Rangers of both sexes from just about all of the teams all the way back to the very first. This was Tommy's answer to the party he was going to have anyway when Kim got settled in, but now they had even more reason to celebrate since their baby was due in a only three more months.

After the drama of the kidnapping and amber imprisonment, the baby's prognosis was touch and go. All of tests Haley ran came back normal, but Kimberly continued to get terribly ill from morning sickness, even to the point of being hospitalized for a few days due to dehydration. It took several weeks, but eventually her miserable condition subsided and she was able to start enjoying her pregnancy. Good thing, too because with each passing day that she remained sick, Tommy lost another year off his life.

The preliminary data Billy and Haley generated suggested that it was more than likely the baby itself that protected Kimberly while she was encased in the amber. While only a hypothesis, they had deduced that since the child was half Tommy's, and the Ranger energy was woven into his genetic structure, some of it was passed on to the embryo. It also explained Kim's brief disappearance after she broke free. Invisibility was the Black Ranger's Dino power, so it wasn't too surprising that there was a small manifestation thereof.

From there, the their two genius friends were pleased to discover that while Tommy's Dino gem was depleted of all of its power during the transfer, the other four Rangers' gems had retained a fair portion of their energy. This was fine by Tommy, as he was perfectly content to remain on the sidelines once again as a mentor and coach. He still orchestrated most of the tactical strategies from the command center and helped Haley maintain the equipment. He just didn't wear the spandex anymore. About six weeks and several smaller confrontations later, the Rangers defeated Mesogog in an epic battle that nearly cost them their lives. As it was, it did drain the last of their power, but they came out victorious and thus took their place among the other veteran Ranger teams that could retire knowing they rid the world of a sinister evil.

Most of their friends had been expecting Tommy and Kim to announce their engagement in recent months, but the couple was so far keeping their long-term plans under wraps. They had decided between themselves that the renewal of their relationship had been such a whirlwind that it would be jumping the gun to get married in a hurry just because of the baby. There would be plenty of time to plan the future once the little one arrived and they could have a real wedding. Like most women, Kim had always dreamed of a fancy dress and lots of flowers on her big day. Tommy wanted to make sure that dream would come true for her. He could have cared less if they flew to Vegas the next day and got married by an Elvis impersonator, but then again, he was a typical guy who didn't care about all the fuss.

Almost all of their friends have arrived from wherever they lived all across the country. The rest would be in this evening or the next morning. Tommy reserved a whole block of hotel rooms at the Marriott downtown so that everyone would be comfortable instead of cramming them into his house. Kim had some time to go yet in her pregnancy, but she was such a small woman that she was already feeling huge. She wasn't sleeping particularly well, either, and consequently, neither was daddy. The baby was sitting directly on her sciatic nerve with its little feet digging into her ribs, and it seemed he or she was already exhibiting an aptitude for soccer. Any house guests they had would likely not get much rest with a miserable expectant mother roaming the halls all night.

Kimberly had wanted to know whether they were having a baby boy or a girl, but Tommy didn't. When the day of the ultrasound came, she took the technician aside as explained the dilemma. She gave a lot of thought about how difficult it would be to keep the secret if she found out herself, but ultimately decided she could stay quiet because she wanted to find out so badly. So far, she was the only one who knew, although she had considered telling some of the girls. In the end, she really didn't want to take any chances of ruining the surprise for him by having someone accidentally slip up. She didn't even tell anyone, including Tommy, that she knew what they were expecting.

While wedding plans weren't in the immediate future for Tommy and Kim, Billy and Trini's relationship had quickly progressed since their last visit to Reefside, and in May, Billy had presented her with a three carat diamond engagement ring. Trini accepted immediately, and set about planning a Christmas wedding in Aspen, Colorado. Theirs would be the first marriage in their circle of friends, and it was long past due since everyone was approaching their thirtieth birthdays.

The engagement of the first Blue and Yellow Rangers wasn't the only good news to come out of the recent reunion. Rocky and Elise had been spending more and more time together after getting to know one another while trapped in the back room of the warehouse for so long during the Kim's rescue. Elise felt extremely lucky to have gotten "Elsa's" old job as principal of Reefside High, and to close the distance between them, last month they each moved about an hour in the other's direction, placing them only around forty-five minutes apart. It was still a drive, but compared to the commute they were making before, it was nothing. Jason, Tommy, and Billy all had a bet going that the next big announcement would be theirs.

As the girls finished the last of the favors for the shower, Tommy and Zack came in from Sam's Club with cases of beer and soda. The original Black Ranger had gotten in last night and it was clear right away that he was still always in the mood for a party. Besides arriving bearing loads of gifts for the baby, he had insisted on taking Tommy, Billy, and Jason with him to check out some of Reefside's hot spots. By the time the boys rolled in after last call, Tommy and Jason were both thoroughly inebriated, but Zack looked like he had just begun. By this afternoon, however, the only evidence of the previous wild night was some faint dark circles under Jason's eyes and the headache Tommy had been nursing with Tylenol all day. It was a fitting reunion for the guys, as well as an early, but by no means only, bachelor party for Billy. They were all a little scared to think about what their crazy friend had planned for the real thing.

Trini stood up to greet her man, helping Kim's oversized-self off the couch to do the same to Tommy. The others cleaned up the rest of their craft supplies and put the sachets in a cardboard box. Mid-way through the project, they had to stop while Elise and Aisha ran to Wal-Mart to pick up more chocolates. Needless to say, the girls consumed at least as many as they wrapped, and the foil evidence was spread all over the living room floor. The guys headed out back to stack the drinks on the porch and met up with Zack, Billy, and Rocky who were setting up the rented tents and tables in the yard. There were over fifty people invited, and no one had RSVP'd that they weren't coming. Being the professional chef, Rocky would be doing all the cooking. It wasn't that he could have trusted anyone else anyway. He had planned a special menu of grilled salmon, shrimp, chicken, steak, and ribs along with all the fixings. There would be something for everyone's tastes, even the few vegetarians they were expecting. After everything was set up, the gang spent the evening watching a movie in Tommy and Kim's living room before everyone went back to the hotel for an early night. Zack waged a mild protest at having the get-together cut short, but in the end, he secretly appreciated the opportunity for some extra sleep.

In the morning, Tommy woke up to the sound of the vacuum cleaner in the hallway. It was almost seven A.M., and Kim obviously didn't get a lot of sleep. He pulled himself from the soft bed and slipped on a pair of boxers. For several minutes, he stood in the bedroom doorway watching her clean every last trace of dirt and dust from the baseboards. In some ways, even after five months, he still had a hard time believing that she was there with him and that they were expecting their first baby. He had never been happier.

Soon, Kim realized that she had an audience. Tommy looked so sexy in the morning with his spiky hair all messed up and the dark stubble on his handsome face. One thing she had not expected was the massive surge in her sex drive as her pregnancy progressed. With her larger breasts and divine curves, she never felt more feminine. Sometimes she would just glance in his direction and want to eat him alive. He always indulged her desires, pleasuring her just like she needed while still being conscientious of her expanding figure. By now, he was very familiar with that look in her eyes, and with a come-hither gesture, he enticed her into the room for a proper good morning.

By noon, everyone from the hotel had shown up and they were all busy with last minute preparations. Rocky did much of the work the night before so he could enjoy the party, so all that was left was firing up the grill to cook the meat and fish. Not surprisingly, Jason had appointed himself chief bartender. They all laughed when he showed up that morning with a toddler-sized plastic swimming pool and fifteen bags of ice to chill the beer and soda. Trini and Elise blew up pink and blue balloons with the helium tank from the rental store. They tied them to the ends of the tables and on the tent supports, transforming the yard into a virtual Babies 'R' Us.

Between one-thirty and two, the other guests started arriving. This was intended to be a 'Rangers-only' affair. Closer to the birth, Kim and Tommy's mothers had another shower planned for their families, and some of Kim's co-workers at the hospital also wanted to give her a shower. But for today, this event was a celebration for the people who carried with them the pride and the burden of having a Ranger past. Despite the different uniforms that have rotated in and out throughout the years, they all shared this common bond. It was an unprecedented occasion to have them all together. Of course, significant others who were not Rangers were included, but all of them knew the truth about their partner, and for once, everyone would be able to sit around and talk about old times without having to worry about eavesdroppers.

When Kim emerged from one of her frequent bathroom visits, she found Tommy standing at the kitchen sink looking out into the crowd in the yard. He looked so content. She gently took his hand and led him out to the deck to continue the observation together. They couldn't believe how many ex-Rangers showed up, some even coming from off-world. At a table in the corner, the young Dino Thunder team was laughing and talking with the Ninja Storm Rangers. Rocky and Adam were playfully sparring in the grass, showing off some moves to Carter Grayson and Leo Corbitt. There was an unofficial ex-yellow Ranger convention forming around the kiddie pool of beer as Trini, Aisha, Tanya, Taylor, and Kelsey toasted their proud heritage. Zack circulated around as the unofficial host, periodically breaking into song and dance when a tune he liked came on from the CD player on the deck. Andros and Ashley, now living back on KO-35, were deep in conversation with Wes Collins and Cassie Chan. Various other veteran Rangers and their husbands and wives were scattered around, all obviously having a great time, no one noticing the spectators.

Pride filled the expectant parents' hearts as they looked out into the swarm of their friends. These were the people who had risked their lives to provide a secure world for them and their child. Tommy and Kim knew they still had a great many decisions to make regarding their future, but the one thing they knew for sure was that with so many honorary 'aunts' and 'uncles', this baby would all the love and adoration that a little one needed. Suddenly, over the background noise, the laughter, and the music, the couple thought they heard a familiar voice. They looked around in confusion for the source before turning their eyes to the blue sky. Just beyond the horizon, a transcendental vision of Zordon floated in the air as if still in its energy tube at the old command center. Tommy didn't know if the others could see him or not, but he and Kim fixed their gaze in his direction and listened closely for the words of wisdom they had come to expect from their omnipotent mentor.

"Look to the past for guidance and the future for hope, but continue to live in the present. Every ending is also a new beginning. The new generation will inherit your legacy of courage, dedication, and spirit. May the Power protect you."

Tommy and Kim took a moment to let the words sink in. This was a new beginning, and so together, they stepped off the deck into the warm embrace of their friends. Let the party begin…

Author's Notes: And so it is finished. I want to thank everyone who stuck by me throughout this adventure. I can't believe I started this story last Christmas. I never believed it would last this long. Of everything I've gained by writing "Conflicts of Interest", I have to say that the best part has been the incredible friends I've made.

To Vanessa, Jeanine, and C: We're quite a group, aren't we? Different ages, different locations, different backgrounds...one thing in common. We're all crazy over JDF...or maybe we're all just crazy. You're my girls, and I love you all.

To Shawn: You're the payoff for all of it, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I still have to pinch myself. I love you.

To everyone else: Feel free to e-mail me about anything. I'm always willing to beta and mentor new writers, or just to chat! Look for several one-shots in the works. I have lots of good ideas.

The NC-17 versions are coming at PRIU2, just give me a few weeks. I'll miss this universe I've created, but there will be no sequel. It's time to start over. I can't wait...