Yellow Roses

Writing this short story has been a bittersweet experience; I both mourn and relish that it is nearly done. Thank you to those of you who are reading; another thanks to those who take the time to review. Your comments are appreciated.

As much as I enjoy the other rangers that followed the original six-- Rocky, Adam, Aisha, Tanya, Justin, Kat—this story is not their story. In this chapter, Tanya may have a short appearance due to her connection to Adam and as a fellow Yellow ranger, but Justin is likely not to appear more than a brief mention. Rocky, Adam, and Aisha knew Trini, thus they have been involved from the start, particularly Aisha as Trini's successor. Kat is close to Tommy, so she's been involved as well. But like I said, this story is not their story, or a story for any Ranger other generation. This story is about the pain and reunion of the original six, particularly, Tommy and Kimberly. Thank you all for understanding.

That said, now closes the story of Yellow Roses. Thuy Trang, rest in peace. And a pox on Saban and their writers for their creation of the Dear John letter plot twist that jilted many children and their views on love. I prefer to think optimistically, thank you.

Part 3

Jason's dreams were dreary, regretful, and tinged with yellow. When he rolled over at six am by force of habit and inability to sleep, his second thought was of Kimberly. His heart broke for her last night, and the former Red Ranger's heart was already wounded by Trini's loss. He didn't think he could bear much more than the death of a friend that was closer than a sister, but watching Kim endure it and watching Tommy struggle to support himself in addition to Kimberly was nearly as traumatizing. There wasn't a dry eye in the room when Kimberly's composure crumbled beside Trini's coffin, and she started to softly weep. Tommy had roughly turned her away from the coffin and crushed her into his chest and slowly led her from the room, openly crying himself.

Their tears, though, weren't only for Trini, he imagined; they also wept for themselves.

These dismal thoughts drove Jason to quickly yank a shirt over his head and make his way to Kimberly's room. Even though he knew she was a morning person, he was loathe to wake her at this hour; however, the compulsion just to see her was too strong to ignore. He eased the door open silently and looked in. The sight that met him was briefly disturbing.

Kim's bed was empty, neatly made. However, Tommy Oliver was sound asleep in the chair in the corner of the room.

Swallowing his unreasonable panic, Jason visually swept the room for a note or a clue. He found nothing. Resigned, he reached over and carefully woke the former white ranger.

"Tommy."

Tommy jerked awake and nearly swung at Jason in a pure defensive reflex. Expecting it, Jason easily dodged, hands raised.

"Jase?"

Jason's eyes darted to the bed. "Kim is gone."

Concern, worry, urgency—these emotions Jason expected. But the pure panic that immediately drained the color from his friend's face surprised even him. Tommy jumped from his chair and moved to sprint from the room, but Jason seized his arms with an unwavering grip that even Tommy couldn't easily escape.

"Take it easy, bro. For all we know, she's downstairs getting cereal."

Tommy forced himself to breathe, but his eyes didn't calm. "I'll find her," he said, and fled the room.

Jason watched his friend strode quickly down the stairs. He himself checked the restrooms on the second floor first, just in case, but like he expected, there was no sign of Kim. He took the stairs two at a time in pursuit of Tommy.

In the living room, Zack was groggily stirring in the recliner, hearing the commotion. Billy looked wide awake, pacing slowly as he held a cell phone to his ear. Billy jerked his head towards the kitchen, and Jason took the hint.

In the kitchen, Tommy sat, staring intently at a scrap of paper. When he heard Jason's entrance, he reluctantly passed him the note.

Guys,

I woke up at 4:45 and couldn't sleep anymore. I went for a run, and when I got back you were all still sleeping. I showered, and made breakfast for you all. I hope French toast is fine microwaved. I need some time to be alone and remember Trini. Jase, I hope you don't mind, I kind of borrowed your car. I'll be back before 8. I'm fine, there's no need to send out the search party. Thank you, guys, for being with me last night. We'll get through this as a family.

Kim

Jason frowned. No mention of where she was going or her intentions. But her optimism at the end was a poignant reminder of the smiling girl she'd been in high school. Jason's heart warmed with the hope that she wasn't completely gone. He was content to let her be alone for a while and wait for her return.

Tommy, however, felt otherwise. He snatched his keys off the kitchen counter and began walking through the living room towards the front door. Jason followed.

"Tommy!"

He didn't stop or turn, but slowed his pace slightly. Zack watched intently and Billy had dropped his phone on the couch. In answer to Jason's silent question, Billy shook his head no, then turned his eyes to Tommy.

"I'm going after her. She shouldn't be alone right now. None of us should!"

"She wants to be alone," Jason reminded him, wondering whose side he should take even as the words left his mouth.

Tommy was at the door. He jerked it open and turned to face the other three men. "She's been alone for too long, Jase. I can't let her do it."

"She said not to come after her. She said she was fine."

Tommy's eyes hardened with determination.

"She said that in her last letter to me, Jase, and I listened. And we both paid for it for ten years. Hell, our whole team paid for it. I can't make that mistake again. I can't take it."

X

It was 6:30 in the morning, but Kim had lived in Angel Grove for most of her life. She knew which stores opened early. So when she pulled Jason's truck into the parking lot of Ann's Flower Shop, she knew her old friend would be there opening. Still, she didn't officially open until 7, so Kimberly felt obligated to knock on the door, painted a bright green.

Ann opened the door slowly, peeking out, then yanked the door open when she saw who it was. "Kimberly Hart! Come on in, girl, what are you doing in town? Putting in a wedding order, I hope!"

Kim's smile faltered a bit, but she held on. Obviously, the woman didn't notice the flowing black dress clinging to Kim's pale frame. "I'm surprised you remember me. It's been so long," she hedged, following Ann in to the shop.

"Are you kidding? When you were in high school, you were my best customer, always coming in to get plants for your garden and flowers for your mom and gifts for that beau of yours. And when you started that botany club, I got a host of new customers!" The portly woman was grinning ear to ear; the wrinkles around her eyes pinched with her laugh. "I watched for you in the Olympics but never saw you there, but I heard you were coaching. That's just like you Kim, always thinking of others."

Kim swallowed. She couldn't bear to break any of the sad news on Ann-- she was a sweet old woman and so happy. So, she avoided all the questions, tried her best for a smile, and said, "I knew you were the right for this job, Ann," she managed. "I need 2 dozen of your finest yellow roses."

XXX

Tommy had no clue where Kim would go. In the movies or the books, the girl went missing and the guy knew in his gut where she would run. He was envious of that non-reality, felt a bit inferior because of it. But Tommy was at a loss; in high school, he might have been able to predict where she go. But then, in high school, she wouldn't have retreated into herself like this. She was all about people. 10 years had passed, and she'd changed. He'd changed.

He tried to reason it out. She would want to feel close to Trini. Where was somewhere they spent time together? The Juice Bar wouldn't be open yet. Angel Grove High... but probably not. Maybe the park.

Tommy winced, instinctively hitting the breaks.

He had spent more time with Kimberly at the park than Trini. That was his own wishful thinking. Nonetheless, he took the right at the next intersection with the intention of checking the park anyway. After all, though the park was the site of many battles, it was also where the six of them would retreat to relax and try to be normal teenagers enjoying life. Many good memories were there.

XXX

Kim turned onto a back road, towards the mountainous terrain of the desert. The roses were in a vase, balanced carefully on the front seat of Jason's truck. Kim kept one hand on the vase to keep it steady as she drove. When the road ended, she parked. Under the passenger seat, she'd hidden the tennis shoes she bought at Target with Tommy. She knotted her dress above her knees, getting it out of the way, then tied on the tennis shoes. Finally, she reached over and plucked two of the roses from the vase before she climbed from the truck, slipped Jason's keys into her purse, and locked up the car.

She looked up the rock face, sighed heavily, and began the trek. She only had an hour before she was due back at Jason's. The boys would worry.

XXX

Tommy saw that the corner of the park by the lake was empty, but he couldn't help but slip his Jeep into park and linger for a moment. The memories that overwhelmed him were generally happy, but left a bittersweet taste in his mouth. He remembered coming here on dates with Kimberly. He remembered that she'd sought him out here when he'd lost his green powers. He remembered battles, laughs, long walks. He remembered coming here after he'd received her letter.

Trini was here, too. This place was filled with her; he closed her eyes and he could see her practicing a Kata, chatting with Billy, playing basketball with Jason and Zack, whispering and laughing with Kim, letting loose on putties next to him. He realized that his connection to Trini, unlike the others, was through being a Ranger. The others grew up with her, were lifelong friends. And it was a bond that could never break. Friendships grow lukewarm; passion fades; other connections dissolve. But once a Ranger, always a Ranger.

Instantly, Tommy knew where Kim would go. He re-cranked his jeep and floored the gas pedal; Kim wouldn't be prepared for the sight that would greet her.

XXX

Kimberly let her mind wander as she hiked. She'd only had to make this trip a handful of times and she hadn't done it in over ten years, but she remembered the path like it was yesterday. Each step was sure, and had to be-- a fall on the rock face was incredibly dangerous on her fragile back. But her grief was distraction enough; instead of thinking of her injury, Kim thought of Trini. The tears had already started before she reached her destination, but when she arrived, the vision of horror stole even the sobs from her throat.

XXX

Tommy's jeep screeched to a halt beside Jason's red pick-up. A quick glance inside the truck told him that his suspicions were correct. Kim's black dress shoes were sitting on the driver's seat next to her cell phone. That she'd left her phone terrified Tommy and fear for the longest serving ranger of all time translated into anger. In the passenger seat, he noticed a vase full of yellow roses.

Tommy took a deep breath and ran towards the mountainside, trekking up as fast as he safely could. When he reached the ruins of the Command Center, he saw her, standing with her back to him, stunned by the the remains of her second home.

Any other time, she might have looked ridiculous. She was wearing a long, flowing black dress that was tied up above her knees and tennis shoes. Her hair was sloppily pulled up into a ponytail, revealing pink earrings. She had a limp hold on two yellow roses; both hands were uselessly at her sides. But Tommy thought she was a vision of tragic beauty; his throat closed.

Her shoulders trembled. She was crying.

Tommy felt his heart breaking. Here, the new agony was tripled by the overwhelming reminder of an old one. Zordon's sacrificial death, so poorly hidden in the back of his mind, now returned with staggering force.

Tommy took a step towards Kimberly; gravel crunched under his feet.

Startled, Kim dropped her flowers, and whirled into a fighting stance at blinding speed, terror in bloodshot eyes. She didn't comprehend his identity at first.

"It's me, Kim," he whispered, hands raised.

Her posture relaxed, and she sagged to the ground, sitting on a stray pile of debris and letting face fall into her hands. His arms were around her immediately. She seemed too stunned to weep, and the image of her in a defensive stance sent dormant memories reeling.

"Oh, Kim. Why did you come alone? Why do this to yourself?"

She was trembling in his arms. "I always felt invincible here. Even after I lost my Power Coin and started losing my powers, I felt strong here, unstoppable. Like I could do anything. How else could I muster the courage to try and rescue Kat even when I could barely stand? This place helped me forget my mortality; I figured it could help me deal with Trini's. She was never defeated here." She pulled her face away from Tommy's chest, letting her eyes slowly take in the destruction.

"Jason told me... but I didn't expect..." She swallowed. "We were a family here; this place held us together. Now it's gone. Zordon's gone. Trini's gone."

She didn't turn to face him, but even without her haunted gaze on him, Tommy's mouth went dry. This was the most vulnerable she'd been since that last walk on the beach. He prayed for words.

"They're not gone, Kim. Sure, this place, this building, fell. Trini and Zordon, physically, are gone. But Zordon's legacy is eternal. And Trini can never fade away as long as her words, actions, her sacrifices--" he touched her forehead, "--and here." He touched her chest. "As long as we remember and love her, and Zordon, they can never die."

Birds sang in the distance; a cool breeze rustled gravel down the rock face. The sun was rising behind the mountainside, casting a pink glow over the ruins of the Command Center. Kim pulled her gaze away from the scene, and met Tommy's eyes. Slowly, a smile spread across her lips, cheeks, even to her eyes. She leaned in closer, rested her head on his shoulder. He draped an arm over her and pulled her close.

X

At Jason's house, the time inched closer and closer to 8 am. Jason's last glance at the clock had told him it was 7:38. The funeral was at 9 am; Tommy had left in street clothes, and God knew if Kimberly was dressed for the funeral yet. She'd planned to return by 8; it wasn't happening. Adam had called-- he, Tanya, Rocky, Aisha, and Kat were together at Adam's house and wanted to meet up and be together as a collective team. Even though Tanya and Kat had never met Trini in person, they felt the blow nearly as deeply as if they had, he imagined. The death of a Ranger would bring anyone to their knees. They'd suggested breakfast, but Jason turned it down, knowing it wouldn't be enough time. And the original five—they had to say goodbye together. But Kim and Tommy had been gone for over an hour with no sign of returning soon.

Yes, he was pacing.

Zack looked sharp in his suit; the ironic, almost comical pattern that had developed was less noticeable on him, as traditional mourning clothes were black. Billy had chosen a black shirt and slacks, but his bow tie was deep blue. Jason also, couldn't overcome the urge to wear red, but his crimson shirt was down played by the dull gray of his jacket and pants.

Zack lounged in the old recliner, staring blankly ahead; his unfocused eyes told Jason his thoughts were years in the past. Billy stood, like a sentry, at the window by the front door. He'd been silent all morning, but now, he turned around to face Jason and Zack. The resolve in his eyes seemed to hide the deep sorrow there.

"Let's go after them," he said. "We need to be together."

"I'm with you, Billy," Zack said, standing, "but we have no idea where Kimberly would have gone or if Tommy found her."

"He found her." Billy sounded confident.

"Do you know where they went?" Jason asked, stepping forward.

"I know where I'd go, and I think Kim would do the same. Grab Tommy's suit, and we'll pursue them."

XXX

"Why yellow, Kim?" Tommy finally murmured, after the comfort in their silence had faded. "Just because it was her color?"

She let a finger trace the line of one of the stems in her hand, up to the bloom where she gently played with the petals. "That was part of it," she said, adjusting her position in his arms. "Yellow is a fitting color for Trini: warm, friendly, calm. Yellow roses have been a symbol for friendship and platonic love for years. But they are also flowers of sympathy, encouragement, even mourning. Yellow ribbons and flowers are also commonly given to families of soldiers. I thought... I thought these flowers were the best to give to Trini and Zordon."

He pulled her close, taking in her every word and planning his next move towards her even as he murmured, "They fit."

"Tommy..." Her voice was suddenly choked with tears; startled, he turned so he could face her, cupping her cheek with his hand. His eyes asked a question.

"Would we have ever seen each other again, if Trini was still alive?"

Her question cut to the quick of his heart; it was something he'd been wondering, too.

"I don't know, Kim. We were both lonely, but so cowardly, so convinced that the other was better off. We would have seen each other at Adam and Tanya's wedding..."

"But on speaking terms? Honest and comfortable with each other again?"

His heart was breaking. It was a twisted, twisted truth. Were they so selfishly involved with their own lives, so scared of making the first move, so bitter in their loneliness, that it took the death of a cherished friend to bring them together?

Or was it grace, a miracle, that something fragile and terrifying and so beautiful as the hope of renewed friendship, even future love, could rise from the ashes of tragedy?

"I don't know, Kim," he whispered haggardly. "But we're here now, together. That's what matters."

She curled into his embrace. A long pause stretched before her next words, words that Tommy Oliver would never forget.

"I need you, Tommy."

Tommy stared into her eyes, trying to comprehend her words. Not I want you or I've missed you or I love you... I need you. She held his gaze until he took her face in his hands. He tipped her chin so she would look him in the eyes.

"You'll always have me, Kim."

She shut her eyes, smiled softly. He pulled her closer.

A moment later, gravel crunched behind them. Tommy and Kim both whirled into defensive stances; Tommy had stepped halfway in front of Kimberly instinctively.

"Easy, you two," Zack called. "It's just us."

Kim and Tommy relaxed. The three men hurried over to the former pink and white rangers. Billy opened his arms and Kim let him pull her to his chest, relishing the arms of her childhood friend. Jason reached for Tommy's hand and pulled him into a one-arm hug. Zack watched with sad amusement, then blurted, "Does anyone realize what time it is? Trini will bust our butts if we're late."

Kim laughed softly, and elbowed Tommy. "That means you, fearless leader. You're the only one not ready."

"Hey! Is that my fault?"

"Yes," she teased, trying to keep a straight face and failing.

"Don't worry, bro. We got you covered. Your suit's in the car."

"Aw, thanks, man. Let's say goodbye to Zordon, then, and go say goodbye to Trini."

The five gathered in a semi-circle, with Kim in the middle.

"We miss you, Zordon," Jason began hesitantly, voice thick.

"Hope we made you proud." Zack, too, was struggling.

"We'll never forget you, or Trini." Tears pooled in Billy's eyes, unchecked.

"Take care of her for us," Kim whispered. Tommy's arm went around her.

"Wherever you are, Zordon... Trini... may the Power protect you both."

Kim dropped the two yellow roses into the rubble that used to the be Command Center, took a few shuddering breaths, then turned away. Tommy followed, then Zack. Jason touched Billy's arm, then turned to follow his comrades.

Billy Cranston stared at the flowers, beauty among the ashes. Bright yellow sunlight glinted among the metallic debris; wind whistled through the rocks. The loneliness was eating away at him, and he felt his fists clench; his struggle to maintain composure put a painful lump in his throat.

Trini was gone; Billy knew it to be fact, cold and unavoidable, like the gnawing pain in his heart. But he remembered Kim and Tommy, how they'd been sitting in the ruin of the Command Center, wrapped in each other's arms, clinging to each other like they were all they had in the world. Billy managed a wet smile as the image of the couple filled his mind's eye. And he remembered his wife.

"I loved you, Trini," he whispered, before turning from the rubble and following his friends down the mountain. When they came to the bottom, Kim was waiting with open arms.

X

At the Angel Grove Community funeral home, very few took notice of the first group of young adults that came in. The only ones touched were two old friends: Farkas Bulkmeier and Eugene Skullovitch, who had never left Angel Grove. As Tommy could tell you, they opened a resort, aptly named "Bulkmeiers," on the outskirts of the beach. The two men, older and perhaps, wiser, noticed the intense mourning in the eyes of the "geeks" they'd followed around and taunted in high school.

Though friends and family still called the pair by their high school nicknames, at work they went by Gene and Frank. Despite rocky relationships with this particular group of friends in high school, Frank and Gene read about Trini's death in the paper, and felt the loss as if they had been close, since they spent more time with Trini and her group of friends than anyone else in high school. Plus, though they would never voice their suspicions, even out loud to one another, the wisdom that came with years led them to make certain assumptions about the tight-knit, diverse group that stuck together until graduation.

Frank and Gene both unconsciously sat up straighter when they saw a familiar group of people walking into the funeral hall. Aisha Campbell appeared first, with Rocky DeSantos at her side. Aisha was fierce in her efforts to contain her emotion—she looked more angry than sad. Rocky had a tight grip on her hand and a rare solemnity on his face. Just behind them were Adam Park and Tanya Sloan—recently engaged according to the grapevine. The ring on her finger proved the rumor. These two were also holding hands, each looking gravely serious. Bringing up the rear of the group was Justin Stewart, now in his early twenties and just as tall and muscular as Rocky. Justin did not appear particularly sad but his expression was somber. Next to him, coming in last, was Katherine Hillard. Katherine's expression was one of deep loss and tears openly pooled in her eyes.

The group slid into the back of the room sitting together on one pew. A few minutes after they entered, Trini's family processed in. Not even Trini's parents took notice of these young adults; only Bulk and Skull sensed their importance. But even they couldn't be certain that they were looking at the second and third generations of Angel Grove's Power Rangers.

The group didn't wear clothing with particular colors; only dull, dark colors adorned them. They didn't speak or approach anyone, but soaked in the grief as a unit.

The funeral service was just about to begin. The officiator was stepping up to the podium, shuffling some papers around, checking the microphone.

The doors at the back of the hall creaked open again. This time, Trini's parents turned around in their seats and watched, and because they did, many others in the room felt compelled to look.

The first man to come in unconsciously gave himself a double-door entrance by pushing the doors open with both hands. Painfully grave and stoic, Jason Scott walked down the middle aisle with the confidence of a born leader, looking straight ahead and taking long strides. But the bloodshot streaks and dark, grieved circles under his eyes were visible even from far away.

Just behind him was Zachary Taylor. Even though Bulk and Skull hadn't seen Zack since high school, they were stunned by the utter lack of expression on his face. Dark eyes that usually danced with mirth were dull and hands that constantly moved with energetic expression were shoved deep into his pockets.

Following him was Billy Cranston; the effect of the tragedy on him was exactly the opposite of the effect on Zack. Usually, the quiet intellectual showed little to no emotion and was rational even under the worst circumstances. But now, his generally impassive face was contorted with grief. The struggle he was going through just to keep the barest hold on his composure showed in the tightly clenched fists at his side. The double doors closed with a whisper behind him.

There was a slight pause as these three men took their seat in the reserved row directly behind Trini's parents. Trini's parents didn't turn back to face the front, which led the audience to expect something more. Bulk and Skull, the other six in the back row, and the three men sitting behind Trini's parents seemed to hold their breath as the doors opened a final time.

Those that knew them were almost surprised to see them come in together, holding hands; those that didn't couldn't imagine anything more natural. Everyone in the room felt some kind of painful unfairness that these two were coming down an aisle together in such tragic circumstances.

His stride was longer, so he came through the door slightly ahead of her. Tall and serious, Tommy Oliver was a picture of emotional sacrifice. His agony was evident in his dark eyes, but, in effort to support the woman at his side, he was biting his lip to keep his emotions in check. Something about him made everyone in the room feel safer. His eyes were not on the floor, nor facing front; rather, his head was turned to the side so he could watch her.

She seemed so small, frail even. Her flowing black dress brushed the floor. The only bit of color on her appeared in matching pink earrings and a silver chain with a small pink gem around her neck.

Gene Skullovitch felt his breath catch when her face came into view; her hair was tied into a hasty bun, and she wore no makeup. The exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and signs of grief were painfully clear on her face. Her eyes were bloodshot and puffy; her lips were pressed in a tight line. In one hand at her side, she clutched a bouquet of yellow roses. Tommy held her other hand. Her face was calm but tears sat undisturbed on her cheeks.

Very few people in the room were aware that the couple that had just entered were the longest-serving male and longest-serving female warriors chosen by Zordon of Eltar to defend the planet. Even fewer were fully aware of the sacrifices made by this couple, the extreme degree of physical and emotional suffering the two had been put through even after passing their Powers. No other two rangers had been singled out by enemies for persecution like Kim and Tommy had been targeted by Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd. No other two rangers lost more to the Power than Tommy Oliver and Kimberly Hart. They'd even lost each other to the Power, ten long years ago.

Jason Scott had watched Tommy slowly lose his Green Ranger powers. Then, Jason had gone through the process himself with the Gold Zeo powers. But he was positive that no Ranger had gone through a more traumatic Power loss than Kimberly Hart-- he blamed her devastating gymnastic injury, severe depression and the infamous letter than followed on the sudden and nearly fatal loss of her link to the Crane.

Kim and Tommy's walk down the aisle seemed to be slowed by the weight of their unknown importance. But unlike the men that came before her, Kim sought out her six friends in the back row—and smiled. Tears spilled over her eyes and her lips were trembling, but her smile stole the breath of every person present.

When Kim was settled in the pew, between Billy and Tommy and behind Trini's parents, the chaplain recovered, the service began, and the significance of the moment faded from the minds of all but eight observers. The five now appeared as a close group of bereaved friends. Nothing more.

X

Zack lost track of the words spoken during the service. Certain phrases would make through the haze of his grief.

"tragedy...advocate for peace... Geneva, Switzerland...devoted to martial arts...invested in community, especially children...intellectually exceptional...young engineer working to protect the environment...loving daughter, fiance, friend...sorely missed..."

All these things were true of Trini. But the man didn't know her. His voice was falsely soothing, his praise monotone. The real testimony to the lives Trini had touched were not on this man's written eulogy, but in the various groups of teenagers and young adults scattered around the hall.

Zack's gaze was instantly drawn to Adam and the others with him. Unlike Kim, he hadn't been able to manage a smile. Tommy had pointed others out before they'd come in. The second generation of Turbo Rangers.Tthe Space Rangers, the Galaxy Rangers, the Lightspeed Rangers, the Time Force Rangers. Some of these teams had come long distances to mourn the death of a legend. On another side of the room, the Wild Force team, the Ninja Storm team, Tommy's former team, the DinoThunder Rangers. In a far corner, the Wild Force Rangers, and even Space Patrol Delta. These groups were hard to pick out if you weren't looking for them. Zack's throat was thick; news that one of Zordon's original warriors had been killed had traveled fast. And far.

The latest team of Rangers (the Operation Overdrive team, as he'd heard from Adam) were much easier to spot; they wore their colors with the innocent pride of an active team. The only two teams wearing their colors were the first and latest. The O:OD rangers were painfully obvious in their color alliance, but the original rangers wore one article of clothing or accessory with their color, in honor of Trini.

Trini's legacy had spread beyond Angel Grove, beyond California, beyond Earth, beyond this galaxy, and even years into the future, and Zack was both heartbroken and furious that none but those burdened with the Power would ever know.

X

When the service concluded, the Kwan family processed out, and to the surprise of many, the five original Rangers followed them, leading the way to Trini's graveside. As they walked, Kim took a few roses from her bouquet and handed them to Tommy. She took some for herself, then let the rest pass to Billy, Zack, and Jason.

At Trini's graveside, the coffin was waiting. Flowers were arranged around a picture of Trini, with a bright smile on her face. A tent was up to give shade to the mourners, because the day was painfully bright. The chaplain said a few more words, then the family led a line to circle by the coffin. As they passed, Kim, Tommy, Billy, Zack, and Jason lay yellow roses on her coffin and whispered their final farewell.

"May the Power protect you."

The procession continued until every family member, friend, and every team of Power Rangers had said their final farewell to Trini, the first Yellow Ranger.

X

The original five did not stay long. Tommy and Kim stuck close together; Zack and Jason, though upset enough themselves, were doing their best to support Billy. None dared approach them in their grief, not even the Aisha and the Zeo rangers.

As a song was sung, Kimberly ventured from Tommy's side to tap Mrs. Kwan on the shoulder. When the older woman turned, and Kimberly saw her tears and drew her close. After a moment, she whispered something in Mrs. Kwan's ear, then pulled herself gently from the embrace. Mrs. Kwan tear face turned up in a genuine smile, and she gave Kimberly one last hug. Once released, Kim cast a final, lingering glance on the flower-draped coffin, then turned back to the four men waiting on her. They enveloped her, and together, the five soldiers retreated from the battle.

X

About an hour after the funeral had concluded, Aisha's cell phone rang. She hung up with a sad smile, and led the exodus of Zordon's second and third generations to Jason's house for a reunion years late in coming.

X

The remaining original five sat in Jason's living room, relishing their last moments alone together.

Kimberly felt like crying—not out of grief this time, but out of bittersweet joy. Relationships that had among the five that had faded were already being reforged.

Billy seemed to pick up right where he left off with everyone. Best friends with Kim, advisor to Tommy and Jason, buddy to Zack. No one had really realized what a gaping whole he had left until he returned and filled it.

One relationship that had faded over time was the bond between Jason and Zack. Zack was sitting on the arm of Jason's recliner, arms crossed as if he didn't know what else to do with them at the moment. Jason and Zack had been inseparable friends. Jason depended on Zack as his second in command, and Zack learned leadership from Jason. After Tommy's arrival and subsequent—almost instant—brotherly bond with Jason, Zack's friendship with the original Red ranger was accidentally moved to a secondary status. When they went to Switzerland together, some of their bond returned, but when they parted ways after the Peace Conference, they lost touch. But now, in the wake of tragedy and too many years, the two men came together again.

Kim was only too aware of the reforged relationship between herself and the men that unconsciously surrounded her. Only she and Jason, the man that appointed himself her older brother and protector, had remained close throughout the past decade. She was grateful for his constant presence in her life.

First, was Zack. Even though Zack was the same age as her, he always felt like a younger, goofy brother. Fun, witty, the life of the party, but always ready to jump to her or anyone's defense without question. Being near him again hardened her determination to hold onto their friendship.

God, she'd missed Billy. They had been the closest of friends since their childhood, defying every unspoken rule of public schooling that pretty, popular cheerleaders don't spend time with the late-blooming class intellectual. Even before Tommy had come and swept her off her feet, Billy had been with her, always her best friend along with Trini. When Trini, Zack, and Jason had set off for Geneva, Kim had cleaved to Billy just as tightly as Tommy. She tried not to think about his return to Aquitar—the idea felt like losing her other best friend.

The most obvious relationship reforming between any of them was the one she'd ended long ago with the man sitting on her left. He was holding her hand. She didn't know what would happen, wasn't sure what he was feeling, but she breathed easier at his side.

Some relationships had never faded. Tommy and Jason had remained as close as brothers, she and Trini has remained as close as sisters, and of course, Jason had always been there when Kim needed him.

Moving back to California was no longer something she would try to arrange in her spare time. She was going to aggressively attack the issue when she returned to Florida. She needed to be close to Jason.

And dare she say it? Tommy?

"I've missed you guys." Her sudden whisper, though soft, seemed to echo around the room. "Billy..."

The first Blue ranger turned to face her and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Kim, I know. I'll be back to visit more often, I promise. I've missed Earth. Angel Grove. I need my father, and all of you in my life. I will depend upon Tommy to help me arrange teleportations from Aquitar to Earth."

"You bet, Billy," Tommy murmured.

Zack also looked a little despondent. "New York is closer than Aquitar, I guess, but it still feels worlds away. Maybe I could dance in LA..."

"We'll make it happen, man. You aren't going to lose us a second time," Jason reassured.

"I was already working on moving back to California," Kimberly added. "I'm hoping to find a job in Angel Grove or Stone Canyon or somewhere close to home."

Tommy opened his mouth to suggest Reefside but Jason unknowingly cut him off. "Listen, guys, Trini wouldn't want us to abandon our dreams or neglect the people we love." He favored Billy and Zack with his trademark leader gaze. But for Kimberly, he knew, nothing remained in Florida but pain and a daily reminder of her injury. "But she would want us to stay close. Let's commit right now never to lose touch with each other again."

They all agreed.

"Aisha and the others are on their way," Kim noted a moment later to break the silence. As if on cue, the sound of cars pulling up met their ears. "Anything else that needs to be said while we're alone?" she wondered.

"Trini will never be forgotten," Jason declared, on his way to open the front door. Billy and Tommy nodded in solemn agreement.

"That definitely," Zack agreed. A small grin started to twitch on his lips. As Jason opened the door, Zack blurted out words that left all four of his friends stunned as their former teammates started to flood through the door.

"That, plus Tommy and Kim better get together soon unless they want a very annoyed Trini to open the Gates for them!"

At that moment, Aisha burst through the door and practically tackled a speechless Kim, nearly sideswiping an equally flustered Tommy. Billy jumped aside, actually smiling, nearly colliding with Rocky who had been pulled in behind Aisha. Adam and Tanya came in together, and Adam gravitated toward grinning Zack, his predecessor, and Tanya followed. Justin came in next and nearly pounced on Tommy, firing off questions at his long-time hero. Katherine came in last, smiling sadly at Jason as she crossed the threshold.

She and Jason watched the scene for a moment. Despite everything, there were smiles and chatter already filling the room. From all but two. Kim and Tommy were both blushing fiercely and barely managing yes and no answers.

Katherine's eyes lost a bit of sadness and brightened. "I take it they've talked."

Jason laughed, shutting the door behind her. "Oh, they've talked. That's almost all they've done for the past 48 hours."

"That's good." The pair was grinning now, talking to those around them. Aisha and Kim were chatting at a mile a minute, and Tommy was finally answering some of Justin's questions. "They look happier."

"About as happy as two people could be in this particular situation," Jason agreed, serious now. "Kat, those two are the two most important people in my life, pretty much. I know them. And they need each other."

Kat nodded. "And we needed them to realize it. So much was complicated when they parted. And for something as beautiful as..." she dared not verbalize it for fear of jinxing them, and merely jerked her head in their direction, "to come from Trini's death... it might help the pain in the end."

Jason was quiet for so long that she feared her remark had attempted to lesson the agony of Trini's death, but finally, he responded.

"She would want it."

Adam and Tanya were the only official Ranger couple in the room. Billy was married to Cestria (though the original four were aware of the feelings that had run deep between Billy and Trini). Rocky and Aisha had remained inseparable since her return from Africa but denied all the rumors; Jason was dating Emily, Kat was engaged, Justin was living the life of a proud college bachelor, and Zack was toying with the idea of looking up Angela before he left Angel Grove, but none of these compared to Tommy and Kim. Tommy and Kim whose names were naturally said together. Tommy and Kim whose love had been the most steady, anchoring force of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers outside of Zordon and the Power itself. Tommy and Kim, whose love had also been the weakness most easily exploited by enemies. Tommy Oliver and Kimberly Hart, the longest-serving male and female warriors burdened by the Power, the two that suffered the most at the hands of enemies and at the hands of the world. If any two souls anywhere deserved peace...

The reunion lasted well into the night. There were tears and laughs, funny stories and sad ones, and many, many embraces. As people began to fall asleep all over Jason's house, Tommy finally gathered up all his nerve.

"Let me get back to you on that, Rocko," he said, and stood. He approached Kim, who was deep in conversation with Kat and Billy.

"Uh... Kim? Would you like to take a walk?"

As Kim stood, conversations hit a speed bump around the room. Billy and Kat were staring, and Zack, Jason, Adam, and Tanya glanced over. Rocky elbowed Aisha; she smacked him and hissed something in a whisper. A sleepy Justin blinked twice. Jason bit his lip.

"Sure, Tommy."

As soon as the door shut behind them, the room erupted into hope.

X

Tommy led Kim through the sparse woods behind Jason's house, a loose grip on his hand. He shortened his stride to match hers and the two took their time, letting their silence fade into the gentle breeze.

After a moment, Tommy could bear quiet no longer. "So, when will you go back to Florida?"

Her fingers tightened around his hands. "Technically, I'm still on vacation from work-- I wasn't due to come back from Paris for another week. So, if Jase doesn't mind, I was going to stick around here for that week and try to drop some resumes off. I want to have a job waiting for me when I return."

"So you are coming back?" Tommy repeated, too quickly.

She smiled slightly. "My time is Florida is over. Being around gymnasts and Coach is sometimes just too painful. Besides, Angel Grove will always be my home. I'm a California girl, after all." Her soft smile lingered before the long silence stretching after her words chased it away.

They meandered slowly through the trees, still holding hands. She knew Tommy must have had something to say since he asked her to come out here, but she could not keep silent for long.

"Tommy..."

The anxiety in her voice stopped him mid-step and he turned to face her. She was crying.

"Tommy... I'm... I'm so sorry for what happened to us. I was so weak; so cowardly, and because of my weakness... I ruined us. I was too ashamed to admit how scared and depressed I was in Florida to anyone, even you, and my depression got me injured, and I lost my dreams, my career because of it. Then, I was too ashamed of my injury and even more depressed to let anyone in, and ending up writing you that awful letter and cutting myself from everyone I loved except for Trini and Jason that fought their way back into my life. And then... after I recovered, I was just too cowardly to confront you, too afraid that you might be better off without me, too afraid to ruin your happiness to confront you after Divatox, or even any other time before now. Not a night goes by that I don't wish I had been stronger."

Moved, Tommy pulled her into his arms. "Kim, stop this. First of all, I don't blame you for what happened to us. First of all, because it takes two to tango. I didn't fight for you. I was too proud and hurt and angry at first to call you. And at Muranthias, I was too confused about you and Jason and too afraid to talk to you then. I am just as responsible as you for our break-up."

He pulled back slightly so he could see her eyes.

"But that aside... I blame Rita Repulsa for our break-up more than any one else. I even blame your injury and depression on her too. Because she stole your power coin, and because you were so closely bonded to the Craine power, she caused you to go into a nearly fatal and much more traumatic power withdrawal than any of the rest of us ever had to endure. Even me. You can't be held for your actions when under that kind of trauma."

She smiled slightly. "Thank you, Tommy."

She was quiet for so long that Tommy wondered if she was going to speak again at all. But when she took a deep breath, he realized she'd been working up the nerve.

"Tommy... I'll always regret all the wasted years, all the pain I caused for so many... I just hope... I just... It's just that... my feelings for you never changed." Tommy. I...I still love you."

She bit her lip, waiting for his response. When he turned from her and started to slowly walk forward again, he could almost feel her anxiety. She didn't follow, only waited.

After a second, he stopped, and turned back around to face her with a million-watt grin.

"I didn't want to make it too easy for you," he teased with a laugh.

Surprise and relief slowly overwhelmed Kim's lovely features, and her wide smile made tears spill over her eyes. Both remembered the time when she had said those very same words to him, so long ago.

And just like before, he took her small waist in his hands and swung her in a circle. She let out a delighted squeal.

He didn't put her down, but held her above the ground ,gazing into her eyes. "Kimberly, I've always loved you. I always will. What do you say we give this another go?"

She laughed, tears streaming down her face. "I say yes."

And so, with their friends secretly watching them through Jason's windows, Tommy kissed her until both were short of breath.

Above them, a bright yellow star winked her approval.

The End