Chapter 22: Epilogue

5:03 PM

Cranston Residence

Kim sighs with exasperation as Billy fusses over her, triple-checking her temperature and running a small scanner over her body for the fourth time.  "I'm fine. Can I just get out of bed please? Before I grow roots?"  Aisha chuckles from her spot at the door.

"Not yet. Stay till tomorrow. If your condition doesn't worsen then I will allow you to foray from your resting spot," he responds absently, checking the scanner readout over.  Kim flashes him a sad pout, which he doesn't notice to his good fortune.  "Okay guys let's let Kimberly rest a bit," he orders and flashes Tommy a look, "you too."  The White Ranger gets up with a grumble and follows the rest of the team out the door.

As the door closes with a click, Kim looks up at the ceiling with a long-suffering look.  "Fine, leave me here all alone and bored."  The door opens again with a quiet creek and a pretty, pale face peeks in.  Kim grins widely.  "Please come in Kat."  Katherine smiles back and walks in quietly, closing the door again, then settles on the edge of the bed, one hand fiddling with the hem of the large green t-shirt she just had to change into when they got back from the airport.  The brunette arches an eyebrow delicately.  "What's going on?"

Kat looks at Kim with a slight smile.  "I guess I just wanted to make sure we're okay."

"Why wouldn't we be?" she asks, furrowing her forehead.

"Just wanted to… well I don't know exactly," the blonde replies and grins sheepishly.

"We're friends Kat," Kimberly says and looks at her seriously.  "I'm going back to Florida you know. But you and I…" she pauses and then the rest comes out in a rush, "you saved me, I saved you, and we've never fought together before and it may be a long time before we do again, but we're now warrior sisters, you know? And You're going to watch out for the guys for me and I will call and bug you incessantly. And we'll visit a lot. And we'll be friends for life just like we are with the rest of the team."  As Kim rambles on, tears well up in Kat's eyes and as the brunette is done she gets pulled into a tight hug to which she responds automatically and with a smile.  "All better now?"

"Yes," she says with a bit of a sniffle and lets Kimberly go with a brilliant smile.  "All better."

~*~

Wednesday

August 2, 1995

3:45 AM California Time // 12:45 PM Geneva

Zack Taylor & Jason Scott's Room

Zack creeps into the room, his duffel bag slung over his shoulder, hoping that no one is there.  He glances at Jason's bed absently and is greeted by the sight of his two best friends curled together on the rather narrow mattress.  He smiles slightly and sets down the bag with the barest bit of a rustle, which is actually more than enough to send Trini's eyes popping open as she's always been the lightest of sleepers.  She nudges Jason, who almost falls off the bed as he jerks awake, and climbs off the bed, stalking towards Zack with the grace of a hungry predator.  He shifts back nervously as she reaches around him for his desk and brings up an envelope, which she shoves into his hands.  He blinks and rips it open, glancing quizzically at Jason who just shrugs.

"Dear Mr. Taylor, due to your unexplained and irresponsible absence from the premises you are now under suspension and on probation. Please report to the program's administration's office as soon as you receive this. Thank you. Jenna Callis, Head of Disciplinary Affairs," he reads out-loud in a monotone then looks up.  "I'm in deep trouble, huh?"

Trini gives him a subtle glare, then sighs and wraps her arms around him in a hug.  "Welcome back you fool."  Zack returns the hug then feels another set of arms around them both and reaches to include Jason.

~*~

12:07 PM

Cranston Residence

Kim feels a light touch on her cheek and begins to stir awake.  She peeks open one eye to find Tommy's face a bare few inches away from her and smiles.

"Morning," she utters and yawns lightly.

"Afternoon actually," he teases and smiles.  "Billy said that if you want, you can get out of bed."  She brightens visibly and almost bounces from the bed, throwing the covers aside casually.  He watches her go with an enigmatic look in his eyes.

~*~

12:28 PM

Location Unknown

Energy sizzles around a small chamber as the great form hunched over the book attempts to pour a stream of dark magic into it.

"You will be mine to wield yet…"

~*~

12:28 PM

Juice Bar

Kimberly snatches her bowl of rocky road sundae back from Tommy's hands and digs in with a grin.  Kat makes a funny face at her and huddles over her bowl of vanilla ice cream.  Aisha giggles and spoons some of her mint chocolate chip into her mouth.

"Girls and ice cream," Rocky says exasperatedly with a grin.  Adam arches an eyebrow and silently points at the Red Ranger's own four scoop dessert.  "Hey! I'm a growing boy!"

Aisha rolls her eyes and leans her cheek on Kim's shoulder.  "Are you sure you have to leave?" she asks with a bit of a whine, already knowing the answer.

The gymnast looks at her friend with amusement.  "I'm going to start counting the amount of times you asked me that. The answer is still yes by the way."  She sighs, swallows a large spoonful of her ice cream and continues, "Not that I want to leave, but I have to and you know it."

Adam checks his watch and gestures to the communicator.  "If you want to make that afternoon plane and still say goodbye to certain persons, we'd best leave now."  Kim sighs and reluctantly abandons her dessert, standing up and smoothing her dusky pink skirt.  The rest of the group follows, the girls and Rocky eyeing their ice creams longingly.

They find a darkened corner and, with a sigh that seems to come from all of them simultaneously, depart in a stream of color.  Ernie smiles to himself.

~*~

12:42 PM

Command Center

"I will be returning within the day," Alie comments into the communication screen, facing an overjoyed looking elderly woman.  She spots the Rangers' teleportation streams and switches off the conversation with a smile as their bodies solidify.

"HELLO RANGERS," says Zordon, his visage unruffled.

Kimberly steps forward.  "I'm going back Zordon."

He nods.  "GOOD LUCK KIMBERLY AND DO YOUR BEST. I AM SURE YOU WILL SUCCEED. BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR POWER AND USE IT WISELY."

"Thank you Zordon, I will," she responds, her voice a little shaky.

Alie smiles and speaks up, "May the wisdom of your heart guide you in all you do, Pink Ranger Kimberly Hart."  She starts to bow ceremoniously but is interrupted by a pair of arms wrapping around her fiercely.  She hugs the petite girl back, an odd emotion flickering in her eyes.

At that moment, a little glimmer can be seen in the air and Duclea's form projects in front of them.  "I wished to say good-bye as well."  She lifts her hands to her own forehead, touching it briefly, then to her heart and then holds them out, palms up.  "Go with my care and my blessing, little Crane."  Kim takes a step forward and unconsciously mirrors Dulcea's action, her eyes misting as her hands pass through the woman's incorporeal palms.

"We better get going," Billy interrupts quietly.

Kim blinks back her tears and nods, smiling shakily.  "Okay. Let's go."  With that, the Rangers disappear in a bonded stream of colors.

~*~

1:37 PM

Angel Grove Airport

The ride to the airport was silent and cramped.  Tommy held Kim's hand the whole way as the two cast hesitant glances at each other.  Aisha continuously rolled her eyes as she watched them.  And now they all stand in front of the gate, the Pink Ranger nervously turning her communicator around and around her wrist.  Aisha can take no more.

"Okay people, I don't know about you, but I want a hug before this girl gets her booty on the plane," she bursts out and takes the step forward to fold her friend into a fierce hug.  That seems to break the tension and one after one the Rangers form a huge group hug around the tiny gymnast, though Adam and Tommy carefully avoid touching each other.

The moment is interrupted though as the P.A. system announces, "Boarding call for the Delta Airlines Flight 508 to Daytona Beach, Florida."

The group separates and Kimberly sniffles slightly as a tear makes its way down her cheek.  She wipes it off impatiently at the same time as Tommy reaches a hand up to do the same.  Their eyes meet and they freeze, not noticing Aisha and Kat moving the others away.

"I…," Kim starts, "I can't make any promises. Just…"

"Shhh," he whispers, feeling himself get pulled in by her soft, brown eyed gaze, and leans down, his lips meeting hers softly.  She gasps against his mouth then closes her eyes, her arms twining around his neck to pull him closer, and deepens the kiss with abandon.

Kat and Aisha exchange the sappy looks that seem to be required whenever romantic moments occur, the blonde mouthing, "Aren't they cute?"

As their need for oxygen asserts itself, they pull apart, gasping for air greedily.

Tommy leans his forehead against hers and whispers, "No promises, I know. Just live the present. But we can try."  She nods mutely, her arms slipping down to hug him as tightly as she can manage and then she breaks away completely.

"Time to go," she utters and accepts her carry-on bag from Billy.  Her face twists in a smile that is half frown.  "Catch ya on the flipside."  She spins on a heel and marches through the gate, their gazes locked on her tiny form.

"Rangers forever, friends forever," comes a whisper and no one is really sure who said it but it rings true.  Forever true.

…To be continued in Interlude 1…