AN: I'm sorry it's taken so long, it's been a busy couple of weeks in school, and on top of that I went out of town for a week because of spring break. So here's a break from the norm - after all, people other than Kim have had stuff to think about this past decade.
Billy Cranston glanced around the table fought the desire to sigh. Katherine and Tanya were quietly planning an outing with a few girls they were mentoring in the elementary school, and Tommy, Adam and Rocky were pouring over a martial arts magazine. An upcoming professional tournament had just released the list of competitors, and they were debating whom they believed the winner would be.
He allowed himself a frown as he pulled his scientific journal up in front of his eyes. It wasn't that he disliked the new team - on the contrary, he considered them all wonderful people. It was simply...different. He was feeling overly nostalgic, he admitted it, but there was something lacking in his friendships these days. He'd been bound to them before by shared duty, but even that had passed when he did no take on a Zeo power. He could have been the sage elder Ranger, but in truth they looked to Tommy for the old team perspective.
He found himself missing the old days, even before the Power, more and more. He felt so distant from this group, especially at moments like this...once upon a time, Trini would have been reading over his shoulder and discussing the latest scientific developments, and asking how he intended to utilize them in his inventions. Kimberly and Zack would have been coming up with some sort of song or dance/gymnastics routine, and Jason would have been pretending to understand the conversation between Billy and Trini - which Billy now understood the motivation for. He smiled a bit at the memories - he'd once held a vague sort of interest in Trini, but that had faded when he saw the sparks between the 'translator' and the 'protector'. He'd rarely felt any romantic spark in himself since; indeed the closest he'd come was...
The journal lowered slightly and Billy shot a furtive glance at the Pink Ranger. That had been a tad bit harder to give up on than his previous interest - he acknowledged with only the tiniest bit of bitterness that he should have been a Red Ranger instead of Blue, they seemed far more likely to 'get the girl' as it were. Still, she'd made her choice and it would never occur to him to attempt to come between the couple. Tommy needed the reinforcement much more than Billy did, in his humble opinion. Despite his lack of confidence in most social respects, he'd never felt the need to have a girl at his side for encouragement.
He jumped a moment later as a waiter tapped him on the shoulder. The young man looked kindly down at the group. "You got a phone call Billy."
He nodded, puzzled, and followed the server to the counter. He picked up the receiver and greeted the caller cautiously.
"Billy Cranston?" A deep male voice asked hurriedly.
"Yes, this is he."
"This is Michael Clark. Kim's boyfriend,"
"I am aware of who you are, is she alright?"
"Well, not exactly. There's been an accident, and you're one of the numbers she gave me to call in case of emergency..."
A few moments later the Rangers were startled to see Billy drop the phone and take off running out of the Youth Center.
When Billy returned to the Youth Center a week later he was immediately swarmed by his friends.
"Where have you been?" Katherine's clear blue eyes were filled with worry and no small amount of hurt. "We haven't seen you in days - we were worried!"
He shifted awkwardly from one leg to the other. "I'm not really certain if I have clearance to inform you," he mumbled.
"Um, what?" Tanya tilted her head curiously. "Billy you can tell us anything." The group began to move toward their customary table as her sentiment was echoed by the rest of the Rangers.
"Well...there was an accident and I had to make haste," he said hesitantly. "I was further hesitant to share the information, given the circumstances." He took a deep breath and didn't make eye contact with anyone. He sat down and let out a sigh. "I'm sure you noticed I recieved a phone call here before I left. It came from Miami," several eyes widened and looked were exchanged. Tommy went rigid and Katherine masked the hurt in her eyes.
"Kim?" The younger Pink Ranger queried softly.
Billy nodded. "Kimberly was in a car accident," he said quietly. "She was out with a friend - the other girl died. Kimberly's injuries were serious, but she is recovering. I should have told you before I left, but I admit my only thoughts were to get to Miami as quickly as I could. I knew it would take longer for the plane to arrive from Geneva, and I did not want her to be alone when she woke."
"Geneva? The guys came back?" Rocky's shock was obvious.
Adam punched him in the shoulder then turned his gaze back to Billy. "She's okay?" The former Blue Ranger nodded, albeit hesitantly. "Well I guess she can't be okay if her friend...well. Who was it?"
"Celia Washburne." Adam winced and Rocky tensed. "Kimberly broke several bones and was concussed, but the worst, in her opinion, is the damage done to her right elbow. I'm not aware of the details, but the result has been a severe loss of cartilage."
Katherine gasped. "Will she still be able to go to the Pan Globals?"
"She was informed that while she will someday be able to perform basic gymnastic routines again, she will not be able to compete any longer."
"What's she gonna do?" Rocky glanced at Tommy cautiously. "Will she come home?"
"We asked her - but she plans to remain in Miami indefinitely. She has no family left here, and Aisha has also departed. I told her she would of course be welcome at my home, and the Scotts, Kwans and Taylors likewise extended invitations, but she said she would not be comfortable in such situations. Jason is staying with her temporarily, until she is better able to care for herself."
"Why didn't you call us?" Tommy asked after a small pause. "After you got there and knew what was going on, I mean."
"I knew you could not come, and so did not want to worry you unnecessarily," Billy replied cautiously. "You have obligations here, and we decided it was best that Kimberly have unconditional support that our...well, family, could offer her."
"You don't think we consider her family?"
Billy hesitated, hearing the pain under his friend's words, even if the man himself did not. "I don't think that's the point exactly Tommy. But Trini, Zack, Jason and I have a bond with her that no one else does. We've known each other since pre-school and...she needed that, and nothing else."
The leader of the Power Rangers stared at him for a long moment, and then turned and stalked out of the Youth Center.
"I think you did right," Katherine said quietly, her eyes shining just a bit too much. "He's just...upset. He'll apologize later."
He noticed that she didn't specify to whom.
Although his inability to accept the Gold Ranger powers hurt, he had to admit to himself that he was rather glad to see the responsibility passed on to Jason. And he was happier than he ever would have expected to have one of 'his' team back. It had been so lonely in the days since they left. Things weren't exactly the same of course...Jason had changed during his time away, and he spent a lot of his free time with a girl named 'Emily' - which left Billy feeling torn. It wasn't that he didn't want his old friend to be happy...but he was very tired of his friends dating and then ceasing to date. That he had yet another development he couldn't discuss with all his friends just made it more difficult. He didn't like keeping things from Trini, because it meant he had to keep them from Kimberly as well - and then he was hiding things from half his 'family'.
It was like keeping Kimberly's life secret from Tommy...it just got complicated, and he was more than frustrated about it.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Billy's gold-clad childhood friend was grinning at him across the table. "Billy man, you have this look on your face like Bulk just beat you in a science fair."
"Inconceivable," Billy replied quickly, then looked down when the others laughed. "I'm sorry, I took you seriously."
"I was thinking about Kimberly and Trini," he decided to answer honestly - and harshly. Tommy and Jason both went rather tight in the face. "I miss them, I hate pretending that they aren't among the best friends I've ever had, and the fact that you are both too stubborn and proud to be their friends as well as their ex-boyfriends is destroying what was once a very cohesive group social network. I cannot discuss Tommy's life with Kimberly, and must pretend to Trini that you haven't replaced her with a simpleton thug. That is what I was thinking of. Now I am going home, to call Zack - the one friend I do not have to lie to."
When he left they were both watching him with dropped jaws.
"Guess he told you," Tanya replied, pushing away from the table. "I'm gonna get Kat - she can talk to him better than you can."
"That's not a good idea," Tommy said quietly. "Kat's part of why he's upset. He doesn't want to talk to Kim about how Kat and I are doing, he can't talk to Trini - he feels cut off because of how we act. I'll talk to him."
"No bro," Jason stood up. "This is my fault, the stuff with Kim - that's another issue. I guess I need to explain a couple things to him...and probably call Tri."
Tanya looked between them curiously. "But you and Trini broke up amicably, didn't you?"
"If by amicably you mean she threw her hairdryer at my head," Jason replied wryly. "It's a really long story - but the short version is that we had different plans for our future, and the fact that I was giving up on the Peace Conference hurt her a lot. It got heated, words were exchanged - basically ugliness."
"Is that any of Billy's business though?"
"Not really...but the unity of the gang is. I guess it's easy to forget how intertwined we are, and how much the stuff we do hurts everyone else."
Tanya frowned and looked across the Juice Bar at Adam. "It seems like Ranger relationships are doomed," she sighed. "But..."
"Hey," Tommy forced a grin. "Just look at me and Kat. We're happy!"
Tanya went rather pale at this, and looked studiously down at her plate. Tommy frowned, but the awkward silence was broken by the sudden chiming that came from their wrist communicators - and they were free from further discussion as they rushed off to save the day.
Man, I just cannot write happy people. My characters are so grumpy... again, sorry it took so long, let me know what you think of this chapter!