"If the six of you got into a fight, who would win?"
"Me!" Kimberly exclaimed, pumping her fist in the air. The others all chuckled.
"Come on, now," Jason said. "We'd never get into a fight."
"We only get into fights when we're under evil spells," Zack added.
"White Ranger," said the person at the other microphone, "my friends and I thought it always seemed like you had a thing going with the Pink Ranger. Any truth to that?"
Tommy coughed. "Uh…"
"We were together during White's entire tenure on the team," Kimberly said nonchalantly, to deafening applause.
"You said earlier that you guys were teenagers when you became Power Rangers. What did your parents think about you fighting monsters all the time?"
"Um… they didn't know," Trini said. "Outside the team, very few people knew. Friends, relatives—every so often someone would find out, but mostly it was just us."
"Didn't you tell them after you stopped being Rangers?"
"No. We kept the number of people who knew as small as possible," Jason said.
The person at the opposite microphone tried to ask his question, but the first person kept talking. "Did the bad guys know?"
"Yes," several of the Rangers chorused.
"Why didn't they tell anyone? I mean, wouldn't that have been a way to hurt you?"
"Not necessarily," Jason said. "The bad guys of our day had leverage over us that the public-identity Rangers never had to worry about. See, Rita and Zedd and Mondo, they all knew that we would do whatever we could to preserve our identities. So if they attacked us while we were with other people, they had a better shot of winning, because we'd try our hardest not to morph. There were times when we would be late—almost too late—to battles because we'd get held up by people who didn't know where we were going."
The next person asked, "Why has the Black Ranger been appearing all over town this week, but not any of the rest of you? Red and Yellow only showed up that one day at the mayor's office."
"Well," Zack said, "I'm the only one who still lives in town. The others are all scattered over the country." The others nodded, carefully committing this "fact" to memory; they'd had to tell a lot of random lies over the course of the day.
"Red Ranger," asked the next person, "are you still delusional?"
"No," Jason said with a sigh.
The questioner gave him a suspicious look. "If I ask the other Rangers the same question, would they say the same thing?"
"As we said earlier," Trini said, "Black, Red and I gave our powers to new Rangers and left the team so that we could try to heal the damage to the Red Ranger's psyche. That's exactly what we did. We'd discovered it was actually a mystical illness, not a psychiatric one, and we had to go on a quest to help him. He's completely cured now."
"What's it like piloting a zord?" came the next question.
"Nothing like it."
"Some of the best times of my life."
"Sometimes we'd actually take them out joyriding. Ooh, this one time there were these campers in Alaska who—well, never mind."
"Was it worth it?" the next person asked.
The Rangers stared at him. "Was what worth it?" Tommy asked.
"Being a Ranger. All those battles, all those secrets, all those evil spells and heartaches and headaches. Was it worth it?"
"More than worth it," Jason replied. The others were quick to agree.
"Why did White become the leader?" someone else asked. "Red was doing fine."
"Red was already sick by then," White replied.
"Yeah, but you were the new guy, weren't you?"
"That's true," Jason said, "but he had all the necessary leadership qualities."
"No way would I want that responsibility," Kimberly said.
"Me either," Zack agreed.
"We were more than happy to follow him," Billy added.
"Definitely," Trini said.
The next question was, "Do you think the vandalism to the Ranger Fountain in Angel Grove Mall was done in protest of Power Rangers Day?"
"…I heard it was just an accident," Tommy said.
"Yeah, something about how gerbils got loose from the pet store and chewed the wiring to the fountain's controls," Tommy said.
"Have you ever used 'I'm a Power Ranger' as a pick up line?" the next person asked.
Tommy, Jason, Trini, Billy and Kimberly pointed at Zack. "Believe it or not," Zack said, "for some reason she thought I was lying!"
The crowd laughed, and then somebody screamed. The Rangers leaped to their feet as more screams sounded. "Look!" Billy shouted, pointing to the roof of the building that housed the public restrooms. A monster was galumphing around the top of the building, roaring in a strangely halfhearted way.
"It's Goldar!" Trini exclaimed.
"No, it's a Tenga!" Tommy yelled.
"I don't care what it is," Jason said. "It's toast!"
Zack slid his arm under Tommy's shoulders and leaped, carrying the currently powerless Tommy through the air with him. Jason grabbed Kimberly and Trini grabbed Billy in the same manner. The crowd screamed its approval as the six Rangers landed on the roof in formation around the monster. The monster froze, then seemed to sigh, its body language implying exasperation.
"MAGIC FIREBALL ATTACK!"
The six Mighty Morphin Rangers looked down to see a trio of Chinese teenagers standing together on the ground, armed with strange-looking swords—one of which had just sent a mystical burst of fire straight at the restroom roof. Carter rushed towards the kids, waving at them to stop, but the fireball was already heading for the roof.
"Duck!" Jason ordered, the Rangers all scattering, leaving the fireball to strike the monster.
Tenga feathers were apparently quite flammable. Luckily for the monster, the blast had knocked him off his feet, allowing him to skip the "stop" and "drop" steps and go straight to "roll." Soon the flames were out, leaving him with a charred mass of feathers and a head that looked oddly like a half-melted rubber mask. As the monster recovered, the six Rangers hurried to surround him again.
A shout from above made all six Rangers look up, to see the Space Rangers swooping in on their Galaxy Gliders. "We got this!" Jason shouted. "Scout the area for more!"
"But—" Carlos called back.
"But—" Carlos insisted.
"Let's rocket!" Andros shouted, breaking formation and flying out over the crowd. The others exchanged helpless glances before doing the same.
The Lightspeed Rangers rushed at the building and began to cordon off a perimeter. Meanwhile, the six Mighty Morphin Rangers faced the monster. "You're going down!" Jason roared, and lunged.
The monster leaped aside, but Kimberly was waiting; she drove her fist into the monster's chest. Zack swept the monster's legs out from under it and the monster went down, hard.
"Wait!" the monster cried in a strangely familiar voice.
"Not a chance," Tommy said, and aimed a kick at the monster's side.
The monster was rolled over twice by the blow before it managed to stop itself and flip back to its feet, its shoulder armor wobbling. Billy sent a kick at it, and it jumped aside, allowing Jason to punch it in the gut. Trini kicked it in the back, and the monster let out a growl and lunged at Tommy, knocking him down. Then it rushed Kimberly, who kicked but missed; the monster shoved her out of its path and began running flat-out for the edge of the building.
"Don't worry, guys!" T.J. called from above.
T.J., Carlos and Cassie swooped back in, flying so low that Jason, Billy and Trini were forced to duck. Zack, however, was right on the monster's heels, and before T.J., Carlos and Cassie could reach the monster, Zack tackled it and both of them went sailing off the roof. Below, Dana, Chad and Ryan jumped aside to avoid being crushed.
The monster landed hard on its back, Zack using the monster to cushion his fall. Wasting no time, Zack drew back his fist and slammed it into the monster's chin.
The monster's head flew off.
Zack blinked down at the spot where Goldar's half-melted face had been a moment before, which was now occupied by Zeo Ranger Four's helmet.
The original Black Ranger and his successor stared at each other from behind their faceplates as T.J., Carlos and Cassie landed nearby, removing their helmets as they surrounded Zack and Adam. Pushing through the crowd came most of the other secret identity Rangers, trying and failing to act casual amidst the civilians gawking at the spectacle. Jason, Trini, Billy, Kimberly and Tommy jumped down from the restroom roof and came over to stare down at Adam.
"Oh, no!" T.J. wailed theatrically. "The Green Zeo Ranger's gone evil!"
"This is terrible!" Cassie cried. "I sure hope the other Zeo Rangers aren't evil, too!"
Zack frowned down at Adam. Adam had been wearing a costume. Adam hadn't been trying too hard during the fight. Adam hadn't been hurting any civilians. If Adam was evil, he wasn't any good at it.
The other Space Rangers landed around them. Ashley stepped forward and looked reassuringly out into the crowd. "Not to worry," she announced. "We know how to deprogram him."
"Yes!" T.J. exclaimed. "Ashley's going to do the… um… secret… magic… uh… dance of… of… Ashley! Do the secret magic dance!"
Zack rolled his eyes and shot T.J. a look that managed to be baleful even from behind his helmet. He didn't know what was going on, but it didn't take a genius to see that something was amiss.
Ashley came over to Adam and Zack and wiggled from side to side for a bit. "There! He's cured!"
"Thanks," Adam said dryly.
"No he isn't!" Zack shouted, leaping to his feet indignantly. "That wasn't the secret magic dance!"
There was a pause. "Yes it was," Ashley said defensively.
"No, it wasn't. This is a secret magic dance!"
Then Zack did what Zack did best, creating the flashiest secret magic dance he could think of without stepping on Adam. It was thoroughly impressive.
Then a little boy watching from the crowd shouted, "Mommy, the Black Ranger dances just like Tinkle!" and, hearing this, Zack ceased his dancing, struck a pose and looked challengingly at Ashley. "Now that is a secret magic dance," he told her.
"Thanks," Adam repeated, his tone even drier.
The mayor suddenly burst through the onlookers and came hurrying over. "Thank you, Rangers! Thank you, Rangers! How about a big show of appreciation for the Power Rangers, who have saved Angel Grove once again!"
The crowd let out a deafening roar. Adam climbed to his feet and put a hand on the mayor's shoulder, holding up the other to quiet the crowd. "Thank you, mayor, but I'm afraid the other Zeo Rangers need my help. I should be going."
"We should all be going," Jason said. "We appreciate you fine citizens coming to show your support, but now we have to do what Power Rangers do best—save the world!"
The crowd screamed again. Adam, Tommy, Jason, Trini, Billy, Kimberly and Zack climbed on the Space Rangers' Galaxy Gliders. "The Silver Guardian Task Force will secure the park," T.J. yelled. "We ask all Rangers to meet us at the secret lair. Don't worry, Angel Grove—we'll always be here for you!"
Once everyone had congregated on a strip of beach behind a network of industrial buildings where hardly anyone else ever went, it didn't take long for the party to take off. Soon everyone was having a blast—except for Hunter.
"Come on, Hunter, cheer up," said Tori.
"You don't understand," he complained. "She was like magic."
"Hey, I lost a girl in the crowd, too," Cam said. "Her name was Sabrina. She was kind of weird, but—"
"Sabrina?" Tori interrupted. "As in long black hair, wearing green and black?"
"Cam, she's a reformed villain. She came to Power Rangers Day to profess her love for Adam and when he told her about Tanya she ran off crying."
"Is that why Adam was impersonating me while Xander helped you… something?" Blake asked, being rather vague on the whole story.
"A reformed villain?" Cam repeated in surprise.
Tori nodded. "She actually used to hang out with Marah and Kapri. She told me about being proud of them back before they joined the academy. I was there when she confronted Adam. It didn't go well."
Cam looked sick. "I was… was… she's Marah and Kapri's friend?"
Tori gave him a sympathetic clap on the shoulder. "Come on, let's hit the water. Coming, Hunter?"
"You guys go," Hunter said, plopping dejectedly down on the sand next to the line of color-coded coolers.
Cam and Tori left. Hunter sat alone until Tommy came to rummage through the red cooler and called out a hello. Catching sight of Hunter's face, Tommy added, "You okay? You looked kind of down."
Hunter shrugged. "I met this girl today. She was amazing, you know? Girl of my dreams."
"I know the feeling," Tommy said with a grin.
Hunter sighed. "I lost track of her in the crowd. I kept trying to find her, even stayed til after the others left and had to ninja streak to the Youth Center to meet up. I didn't see her again. Tori says she's from Briarwood, but there's no way I could find her there. I guess it doesn't matter. I should just let her go."
Tommy froze. Hunter looked up at him and was promptly startled at the expression on Tommy's face—anger, determination, and several other emotions Hunter couldn't quite name. Tommy took a deep breath and glared down at Hunter, who blanched, wondering if he was imagining the way Tommy's eyes had flashed with green fire.
"A Ranger," Tommy announced flatly, "never. Gives. Up."
Hunter stared, a bit confused about this turn of events. He wasn't sure what Tommy meant, and was even less sure why Tommy was so angry about it.
"If you want this girl," Tommy continued, "you've got to go after her. You owe it to yourself, and to her."
"But…" Hunter shook himself, wishing Tommy would stop looking at him like that. "She didn't really seem to like me. In fact, she kind of—"
"I don't care," Tommy said in tones of deadly authority. "You want her, you don't stop. You don't stop until she's yours. You march yourself to Briarwood and sweep her off her feet. Prove that you're the kind of guy she deserves, and never give up. Because if you do, if you sit here dejectedly on the sand whining about what might have been, it'll be your fault, and you'll always wonder. You'll never let it go. You shouldn't let it go, because you owe it to yourself to do whatever it takes to make yourself happy. If she's what you want, then never give up."
Tommy turned and walked away. Hunter gazed unseeingly at the spot where Tommy had been until someone stepped into his line of vision, shaking him from his reverie.
"Hey, Hunter," said Shane, and he looked up to see her, Dustin, Max and Danny clustered around him. "We need some more people for volleyball. You in?"
"Tomorrow morning," Hunter replied slowly, "I am going up to Briarwood and I'm staying there until I find my soul mate and get her to fall in love with me."
"…Okay," Shane said. "Is that a no on the volleyball?"
Tommy found Kimberly far from the crowd of Rangers, standing alone and watching the water. As he approached she turned to face him and started to speak. Then she stopped and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, using it as an excuse to look down and away. "Hey," she muttered sheepishly.
"Hey," Tommy said.
Kimberly took a deep breath and started rambling. "So… about us. Whatever we are. You and me. And… and I don't know what to say. So much has happened in the past few days. I used to imagine this day. Only it was back in 1997 when I'd just gotten off the plane from Florida and Jason looked at me and said 'So,' and I said 'So,' and he said 'Ready to go see Tommy?' and I should have said 'Yes, let's go, let's get it over with,' and just walked into the Juice Bar and had a good long talk with you and cleared the air and maybe everything would have been okay, and we wouldn't have had to avoid each other for seven years, but I was too nervous and I said 'I'm tired, maybe in the morning' and he dropped me off at the hotel and he came back for me in the morning but I got all freaked out waiting for him and I grabbed a brochure in the lobby and told him we should go scuba diving and he gave me that look of paternal disapproval that he patented back in the first grade when he caught Zack teaching me and Billy the best flavors of Play-Doh but then I got all teary-eyed and he sighed and took me scuba diving and then we got captured and we almost drowned and we escaped and we got captured again and then I tried to kill you which is so not the best ice breaker for this conversation that we're having—"
"Pretty sure we're not having a conversation so much as you're having a monologue," Tommy pointed out, but Kimberly kept going.
"And I thought about it for years afterwards, how if I'd never found that brochure, how if I'd just come to see you straight from the airport, then maybe everything would have been okay and we'd be together, or at least friends, or at least something, but finally I knew I had to stop torturing myself and I made myself stop remembering you and wishing things were different and that hurt and it was hard and I couldn't look at the others without remembering you, and wanting to be with you and around you. The worst was Aisha, because the timeline was all screwed up and she had all these fake memories about how she'd never been a Power Ranger and every time I saw her or spoke to her I had to reminisce with her because I knew she needed that, needed to remember the good old days, and I did too, and I missed you. I missed you, Tommy."
Tommy waited to see if she was done. The moment he opened his mouth to speak, Kimberly continued.
"It was easy to be friends with Tanya. She didn't know much of anything about me and you. Adam did, and I knew he'd told her about us, but she had only the vaguest idea of what was going on. I felt so bad, about so many things, like how I couldn't talk to Kat because I felt so weird about the whole thing and I was letting Jason down by not smoothing things over with you and I tried to kill the Turbo Rangers, I'd never even met Tanya and Justin and I tried to kill them, I tried to kill Adam and Kat, I tried to kill you, I remember wanting you dead, I was so horrified, I know going evil happens but it shouldn't happen like that, and then I got angry, because I thought it was your fault, and you should have to fix it, because you broke up with me, and it wasn't my responsibility to fix things and you'd made it clear you didn't want me anymore and I went back to Florida and built myself a new life and I always had to lie about my past anyway, pretend I was a normal girl and a normal gymnast and that made it easy to pretend, to pretend there was no you."
She let out a low, shaky laugh. "I guess it doesn't matter. It's the past, right? We ended. But… but our bond didn't. We're still Rangers. We're still part of the same team. We were friends, before we started dating. And… even if that relationship's gone, we still care. We still want to be a part of each other's lives. But we've moved on. I have a life in L.A. and you have a life in Reefside and I'm a gymnastics coach and you're a science teacher and we're practically strangers, just like we were that first time we spoke to each other in the hallway. So… so I guess we should start over. Go back to the beginning. Wipe the slate clean, you know?"
Kimberly looked up at Tommy and forced herself to smile. "So, what do you say? Want to start over?"
"No," Tommy said flatly.
"You were the love of my life," Tommy said. "Still are, no matter how hard it is to face that fact. You are the love of my life. I don't want to erase that. I don't want to start over. Yeah, I have regrets. I shouldn't have just let you go. I should have chased you, fought for you, done something. I should have tried. I am always going to be sorry about that. But if I'm not going back to before that, Kim. I don't belong there. We don't belong there. I'm not going to hit the reset button on the past. I don't want to redo the chance I've already blown. I want a new shot. Don't you see? We're not back where we started. We're back where we ended."
Kimberly nodded slowly, but said, "No, we're not. Too much has happened. I agree, though. We're not back where we started. We couldn't go back there, even if we tried. We're… we're somewhere else, and we'll just have to figure it out from there."
"I know we've had a crazy past," Tommy said, "but I promise you this—we're gonna have a perfect future."
Kimberly beamed at him. "Our first date is next Friday."
"Yep. I'm going to drive out to Reefside, and you are gonna rent some movies and make some popcorn, and it's going to be great. Nothing fancy, of course. Just you and me and some good times getting reacquainted with no chaos."
Tommy nodded eagerly, already trying to think of ways he could turn movie night with Kimberly into other, less casual things with Kimberly. Like making out. Or sex. Or moving in together. Or marriage. Or their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
"And keep your schedule clear for Saturday, just in case," she went on. "If Friday night goes well, you can drive out to Los Angeles on Saturday and buy me dinner."
"Friday's going to go awesome," Tommy told her. "Go ahead and make reservations at your favorite restaurant for Saturday. I'll pick you up at six."
Kimberly laughed. "Call me when you get back to Reefside tomorrow," Kimberly said. "We can swap directions to each other's houses, I can give you my work schedule, that sort of thing."
"I can't wait," Tommy said.
Kimberly smiled and walked away, heading back towards the Rangers scattered all over the beach. Tommy watched her go, the moment feeling oddly anticlimactic. Somehow it just wouldn't sink in. They had a date. They had a date. He really, actually, totally had managed to not only get Kimberly to agree to try restarting their accidentally paused relationship but he'd also somehow gotten her to set a date with him. Two, even. He had a date with Kimberly.
Tommy stood there for a long time, trying to process this turn of events, which up until recently he'd assumed was impossible. Eventually the Dino Rangers approached him, muttering in low voices as they did, a sure sign that he was going to be exasperated once they confessed whatever sin they'd committed. Glad for the distraction, Tommy scanned the four of them for signs of guilt, injury and general insanity and tried to school his features into his best Teacher Look, but was unable to pull it off. He had a date with Kimberly.
Trent looked worried, and Kira looked determined. The two of them were marching a hopelessly terrified Conner towards Tommy, each gripping one of Conner's biceps. Ethan trailed along behind them, watching Conner closely; Tommy had seen the four of them do this enough to know that Ethan was the designated rear guard, in case Conner broke loose and tried to run.
When they got within twenty feet of Tommy, Conner tried to dig in his heels into the sand and stop their advancement, but Kira and Trent kept tight hold on Conner's arms and half-dragged him along until they came to a stop just out of Tommy's lunge-and-strangle reach. "Tell him," Trent told Conner sternly.
"Tell me what, guys?" Tommy asked in a pleasantly patient tone. Kira, Ethan and Trent gave him confused looks, but Conner was too busy being scared to register Tommy's unusual reaction.
"Conner," Kira warned.
Conner took a deep breath, squeezed his eyes shut, and hung his head. "It's like this, Dr. O. I… I… I… ow! Kira! I'm getting there, jeez, you don't have to pinch—ow! Trent! Okay, okay! Listen. Dr. O, I, um… I sort of um… I kissed Kat."
Conner partially opened one eye to take a quick peek at Tommy's face and, seeing no homicidal threats in Tommy's expression as of yet, he continued.
"I kissed Kat and I… I like her. I think she likes me too. No, I know she does; she told me so. We're gonna keep in touch after she goes back to Australia and we go home to Reefside. We kissed a lot. Like a whole lot. Most of the day. Please don't kill me."
Tommy attempted to digest this news, but failed. As he struggled to think his way through the situation, one thought bobbed to the surface and refused to be ignored long enough for Tommy to deal with the fact that Conner had kissed Kat.
He had a date with Kimberly.
"Okay," Tommy said at last, and smiled benignly at Conner. "Good luck. I'm gonna go see if someone brought S'mores."
Tommy started forward. Conner flinched and Trent and Kira's grips tightened on his biceps in an attempt to hold him still, but Tommy simply walked around them and kept going.
From behind him came Kira's voice, full of accusation. "Conner! You broke Dr. O!"
"I did not!" Conner retorted indignantly.
"Oh, you so did. He didn't even glare at you," Ethan said in awe.
"Had to happen sooner or later," Trent muttered.
The Dino Rangers dissolved into bickering, but Tommy simply didn't care. He was going back to Reefside tomorrow secure in the knowledge that no one would ever successfully trick him into taking the Dino Rangers on vacation again. He had a hard road ahead of him, of course. Provided he survived the trip to Reefside, he would have to make sure his house was Kimberly worthy, and hash things out with Hayley, and get lots of advice from Trini and Jason and everyone he'd ever met. He'd have to come up with a strategy for making sure he and Kimberly never broke up again. He would have to call around and find out the best movies to rent for his upcoming date and see if he could figure out what Conner had done to the popcorn maker. Tommy was looking at six more days of high stress to ensure he and Kimberly had a perfect first date. Well, new first date. Second first date? First date version 2.0? He'd worry about the semantics later. It wasn't important. Nothing was.
He had a date with Kimberly.
Tommy felt lighter than he had in years as he headed down the beach towards the bonfire. He and Kimberly were far from back to the way things were, but less than a week ago he hadn't even dared to believe there would ever come a day when he'd be planning a date with her. So Tommy thought there might just be a pretty good chance that everything would work out okay.
Maybe someday, Tommy reflected hopefully, I'll actually find that peace and quiet. Settle down, live the quiet life. Maybe someday life really will turn out to be full of love and bunnies…
Conner suddenly blew past him, running flat-out down the beach. Kira was close behind, shouting, "You'll wish Dr. O had a box of Cheez-Its and a pellet gun when I get through with you!" Ethan and Trent chased after her. Tommy sighed, but he was smiling.
…Nah, probably not.
Author's Notes: Originally I had more planned between Power Rangers Day and the ending, but over four years of writer's block made me decide it was time to just wrap things up. Part of me still wants to delve into sequels, but this story took me over a decade to finish. It was easier to terminate my friendship with Freyja than terminate this fic. I think it might be time to let this door close.
A huge thanks to everyone who read, liked, reviewed or otherwise supported this story. It was fun while it lasted, and still fun looking back.