Happy Early, Early Birthday, Lady Griddlebone!
Versus – A Week In Blue
"Perhaps if we short-circuit the chronic interphasers, we could break the electromagnetic deadlock and free Jason and Zack," Billy suggested over the bubble of chemicals in his lab.
Trini murmured her assent, eyes narrowed thinly to better focus on the wire she was stripping.
As Billy took a moment to stare at her – always a pleasant endeavor, even in a life-or-death situation – he took a moment to reflect on Kim's actions in the Command Center earlier.
"I let them down, Zordon," Tommy apologized to their mentor.
"Tommy, it's not your fault," Kim insisted, laying a soothing hand on his shoulder. "We had to escape when we did or all we would have done is become piñatas for Goldar. Now that we're free, we can save them."
Tommy just sighed, clutching his helmet anxiously.
Running through the possible schematics of the machine that had, until a few minutes ago, held him and his friends captive, Billy chanced upon a probable solution.
"Perhaps I can be of some assistance." Moving to the computers, he downloaded the imagery from the camera he'd recently installed as a test in his helmet.
"How'd you do that?" Kim wondered as the visuals came up on the viewing globe.
"I'll explain later. But you see that?" Billy pointed a gloved hand at the box being guarded by Goldar until the White Ranger had made his explosive entrance. "Goldar won't go near the back of the box and the air shimmers."
"Like the desert, or over really hot pavement," Trini caught on. "That must be the exhaust pipe; something that strong would require one or the grid would burn itself out."
"Exactly," Billy confirmed. "I could probably rig up a device using that output as an entryway into bypassing the circuitry. I bet I have what I need in my lab."
Tommy nodded, his eyes glazed a bit at the techno-babble. He'd followed along better than Kim – she was studying her nails, glowering at the way the paint had chipped off her pointer finger in the battle against the putties.
"I'll go with you," Trini suggested. "Two minds are better than one."
Kim looked up at that; in fact, she squealed and bounced up and down. It was Tommy's turn to glower – down at Kim, even! – rendering Billy somewhat speechless as he and Trini teleported to his house.
Billy shook his head clear, bending to study the way the pipe he'd grabbed had been welded previously. If he could access its weaker points, the effort would take less time.
'Why would Kim have been so excited?' he couldn't help but wonder as he began patching in the wires Trini was going through apparently effortlessly. 'It was after Trini volunteered-'
Ah. Yet another matchmaking attempt… seeing signs that weren't there.
Or were they?
"Ouch!" Billy dropped the soldering iron, having inadvertently grazed the tip of his thumb.
"You okay?" Trini stared at him through the piping that weaved its way across his table; anxiety danced in her eyes and butterflies danced in his stomach.
He forced a smile. "It's a minor scalding. I'm afraid I gave my mind free-rein to wander whilst I attempted to connect the wires…" He let his voice drift off as he realized he was babbling.
Trini's eyes had softened. "Don't worry, Billy. I'm worried about them too, but I know you'll get us through this."
She was relying on him…
Billy wasn't sure whether that made him proud… or scared him to death.
'Honestly, you'd think I was dragging him to the dentist!'
Tiny hand firmly wrapped around a larger wrist, most people would have thought it a comic sight: short, petite Kimberly was all but dragging taller, more muscular Billy through the doors of Angel Grove mall, marching like a woman on a mission… grinning much like a kid let loose at Disney World.
Billy, on the other hand, had basically dug in his heels just outside the doors – and gave every appearance of being willing to take any offered avenue of escape – with the terror only somebody who had managed to avoid (but still heard about) every single other shopping trip Kimberly had gone on would be capable of.
"I am quite certain that my choice of apparel has little to do with the assignment at hand and-or the way our contemporaries view my person!"
"Little words, Billy," Kim shot over her shoulder with a smile. "There's no Trini to translate for you now!"
"Or to save me," Billy mumbled under his breath, cringing and nearly falling on his face as Kimberly dropped his hand and whirled around.
"Oh, come on, Billy!" Kim tapped her foot. "This isn't going to hurt!"
"You don't know that," he grumbled mutinously. He wasn't sure how an afternoon at the mall could possibly help with their assignment… and to be quite honest, this was one question he did not want the answer to. Tommy, Jason and Zack had relished rubbing their destination in his face both at lunch and for the few moments they were together at the Youth Center, and it had been exceedingly disconcerting.
"Man, Kim on a mission at the mall is something I try to avoid at all costs," Tommy said with a grin. It was shocking, considering Tommy was willing to put up with nearly anything to hang out with his perky girlfriend. "You couldn't pay me enough to go there willingly."
"Kim doesn't have to pay you," Zack jibed. "She just has to look at you with that pout…"
Jason laughed, slapping hands with Zack as Tommy flushed.
"You're just lucky I came along! Don't think I haven't heard the stories of her taking you two shopping!"
Zack and Jason fell silent, leaving Billy incredibly curious. His blue eyes darted from one friend to the other. Neither had shared any particular stories – though they'd groaned about it often enough, he'd always figured it was more the principle of the thing – and considering the length of their friendship, it was saying something.
"Guys?" Billy prompted, a smile twitching at his lips as Zack and Jason refused to look at each other… or anybody else. "Is there something you wish to share?"
"No!" the two insisted at the same time, causing Tommy to burst out laughing.
"Oh yeah," he told Billy, "she managed to get both of them to go with her at the same time! Apparently, they were shopping for the Homecoming dance. Kim w-won a b-bet-"
Billy's eyes narrowed on his three friends as Tommy stumbled over those words and Zack and Jason's eyes widened.
"-and got to choose their outfits for the dance," Tommy finished hurriedly.
Billy was distracted from his friends' strange actions by the memory of his friends' wardrobes that night.
"You wore a bright yellow 'zoot suit,'" Billy recalled, looking at Zack. "That was Kimberly's idea?"
"She dragged us all over that mall!" Zack exclaimed. "Everywhere! We went in like, every store!"
"Some of them twice," Jason added with a groan.
"I didn't even think there was a place to buy that sort of outfit at the mall," Zack went on.
It seemed Zack's recollection had opened the floodgates. Jason, Tommy and Zack had spent the rest of lunch regaling each other with Kim's various shopping excursions, much to the displeasure of the petite girl in pink eating her salad and glaring at them all.
Trini leaned back in her seat the whole time, looking amused. She'd been shopping with Kim since they were old enough to be let loose there all alone; it was more like a marathon sport now, and Kim did have the best fashion taste, she chided them, so it wasn't like it wasn't worth it.
Tommy, Zack and Jason begged to differ. Tommy then went on to beg Kim's forgiveness as she mock-glared at him.
It was safe to say that the ongoing discussions regarding Kim's shopping… habit… had Billy begging for Rita to send down a monster. Preferably, the witch would grow the monster and it would smash the mall to bits.
But nobody argued with Kim when she was determined – well, nobody with an IQ above Bulk and Skull – so after a little bit more than a token resistance, Billy succumbed to the inevitable and followed Kim through the sliding doors.
"Okay," she said, turning around and sizing him up. "You'll need a couple different things. I know you love your overalls, Billy, but-"
"They're exactly what I need in the lab," Billy responded with a bit of a huff. "The garments possess the ability to contain numerous…" He trailed off as Kim smiled and shook her head. It took him a moment to understand what she was getting at – and flushed when he did.
Billy cleared his throat, thinking over his words before trying again. "I wear them because they're useful. I carry a lot of stuff in my lab and the many pockets allow for that without me overburdening myself."
Kim nodded her understanding. "That's fine, and believe me, Billy: I'm not trying to turn you into something you aren't. You're a brilliant, amazing friend and a good guy. I just… I want to modernize you a bit, you know? You've worn overalls since I met you years ago. There's nothing wrong with them, exactly, but they're not the least bit trendy and to be honest… you could do so much better."
Billy quirked an eyebrow.
"You've gained a lot of muscle since you've started-" Kim's eyes widened as she caught herself in time. "-since you started working out with all of us. Your shirts are getting a little tight across your chest. And overalls aren't the best clothes to work out in, right?"
Billy had to concede that she had a point. He'd nearly emulated Bulk one afternoon in the park; the seat of his pants had nearly torn in half as he spun to kick a putty away. Overalls did not, in fact, have the best range of motion.
"So how about this," Kim suggested. "The first bit, we'll wander the mall." Billy winced, and Kimberly pretended not to notice. "I'll point out some of the current fashions, and tell you a bit about the types of clothes that are always in style. Then, once you're educated a bit, we'll actually do some shopping and mixing and matching. 'Kay?"
She looked so pleased with herself – that she was turning this into an actual lesson, rather than just another shopping trip – that Billy couldn't find it in his heart to say no.
And seven grueling hours later (he'd have to tell Jason that he'd beat the record – they ended up going to one store no less than four times), he had to admit that following Kim had been educational. While not his normal area of expertise by any means, the evolution of fashion was intriguing, as well as what various types of clothes said about the person wearing them. After a couple hours, he'd begun to eye some of the people in the stores, seeing what he could glean about them from their own individual style.
That, in turn, allowed him to build his own.
Kim couldn't have been more proud. "Trini will be so excited to see your new clothes!" she squealed happily as they made their way back to her car. "You'll look so good tomorrow!"
"I suppose the addition of contacts over the summer will help, as well?" Billy suggested.
"If anything," Kim said with a grin, "maybe you'll be in less trouble for smashing your frames all the time."
"I'll meet you at the park, then?" Trini clarified as she walked down the hall with Billy toward their next classes.
Billy nodded. "After my Young Scientists of America meeting, yes, that should be doable." Was she looking at him just a little harder than usual? Billy couldn't tell, and for a moment cursed Kim for putting ideas into his head.
"Great! I'm so glad you're willing to help," Trini said with an uncharacteristic bounce in her step. "I'm so excited; if it does well, this charity volleyball tournament could raise so much money for underprivileged children at the Little Angels foster care center."
"It is a splendid cause," Billy complimented. "And I'm sure it'll do spectacularly-" He skidded to a stop – speechless, really – when Trini quickly pressed her lips up against his cheek.
"Thanks again, Billy," she said softly. "I'll see you later, okay?"
Billy's mouth moved but, embarrassingly, no words would form. Trini walked down one more door to her math class and, with a wave (and was that a blush?), entered. Jason followed right behind her.
From behind him, Billy could hear Kim squeal excitedly. He wondered why Tommy had groaned, though…
Billy floated high on that kiss for the rest of the day. For the first time since first receiving his Power Coin, it was difficult for him to focus on the Young Scientists' meeting; he was out the door in a flash to head to meet Trini.
He was disconcerted – and even a bit disappointed – to realize that she'd enlisted Jason's help, as well.
"Billyyyyyyy," Kim whined, staring down at the chart in front of her, lower lip sticking out in an impressive pout. "There's no time on here for Tommy!"
"Perhaps you should have completed more of your assignments ahead of time," Billy chided. "Leaving them until the last minute not only interferes with your relationship, but also leaves you less likely to retain the data from cramming for a test or large project."
Billy refused to crumble at Kim's puppy-eyes – no small feat, but doable.
With a sigh, Kim reached for her math book. "So in order to be a better student," she recited, "I will keep a more solid track of what I'm supposed to be doing. Having a planner or calendar and writing down assignments will…"
"Make it easier for you to prioritize," Billy finished when Kim fumbled. "As long as?"
"As long as I have my priorities in order," Kim said obediently. "School, though less fun, should come before being a social butterfly so that I have a brighter future." She sighed, staring down at the jumble of numbers in front of her. "But, I'm going into gymnastics. So what does it matter if I can't deconstruct Hamlet?"
"What if you're injured?" he asked.
"I try not to think of that," she responded truthfully. "Bad thoughts lead to bad happenings."
"Is that what happened that day with the Samurai Fan Man?" Billy teased.
"That was Rita. Pure evil," Kim responded with a sniff. "From beginning to end and you can't convince me otherwise."
The two fell silent before Billy prodded again, displeased with her original answer. "You can't tell me you haven't questioned it before. Injuries are common in gymnastics, and if I may say so without any offense meant, you're actually a bit older than most gymnasts in their prime, are you not?"
Kim sighed, putting down her pencil. "I won't pass this math test if you keep bugging me," she murmured. Meeting his eyes, though, she could tell he was honestly concerned and couldn't hold onto her anger.
"I've… yeah, thought about it. When I think about it, though, I try to put a positive spin on it. If I'm hurt, I can still coach. A lot of gymnastics coaches are actually old guys who couldn't probably walk across a balance beam without a cane, much less do a running triple-front-punch." Her eyes went starry for a moment. "And I'll always have Tommy to help me if I need him."
"Always," Kim responded almost defiantly. "What we have is special."
There was more silence as Kim refused to elaborate, and Billy chose not to follow that particular train of thought. Perhaps if he dropped it, Kim would-
"So where's Trini today?"
"With her parents." Short answers. 'Don't encourage her.' Perhaps if she knew he didn't want to talk about it, Kim would –
"So have you asked her yet?"
Or maybe she wouldn't.
"No." Billy didn't even bother to pretend he didn't know what Kim was talking about. "I doubt I will."
"Oh Billy, you have to! I know nobody has asked her yet; I found out last night," she said, cutting off what looked to be his first protest. "So you still have a chance!"
Billy looked mutinous. "Kimberly, I appreciate your concern and dedication to our project but-"
"But nothing!" Kim slammed her book shut, leaning over it toward Billy like a cat cornering a mouse. "Billy, this isn't even about the project. You like her. You've liked her for as long as I can remember. You might think I didn't notice but I did and it's high time you did something about it!"
"What if she doesn't like me like that?" Billy finally confessed, feeling incredibly childish but unable to help himself. "I'm not like Tommy or Zack or Jason, Kimberly. I don't have their… confidence. I'd rather our solid friendship stay one than suffer fallout due to an unrequited affection."
"Billy," Kimberly said, placing one hand over his. "Let me tell you something."
Her voice was so serious that Billy couldn't help but lean closer.
"Trini and I… we talk about everything. We've been best friends for years. And you know what? You're one of my closest friends, too." Billy looked shocked, but Kim pressed on. "I would never, ever do anything that I knew would hurt you. Your friendship is too important to me. If Trini had every given me any reason to think she'd shoot you down in a heartbeat, I wouldn't encourage you to try. You have to know that."
Billy tried to avoid meeting her eyes, but found he couldn't. She was taking this to heart. She meant what she said – it was clear.
"She really liked your new clothes, you know," Kim teased gently. "She said you looked awful handsome in those khaki pants and that blue vest you wore Wednesday."
"Just do it, Billy," Kim said one more time. "You'll never know unless you try. And if you succeed, then we'll all be really happy."
She crossed her fingers on her free hand under the table, knowing Jason and Tommy would probably be ticked off beyond recognition. Oh well, Zack would party with her… when he wasn't saving the world in pink spandex.
"And if you don't," she added, "then I'll be here for you. And you guys will stay friends, and you'll know. And you won't stay awake wondering."
"You can do it," Kim hissed at Billy while walking to the locker room. It was time for her practice; she'd finished her homework and had it thoroughly checked by her friend in blue before being excused to the beam.
Her glare told her bespectacled friend one very clear thing: 'I did my share; now it's your turn.'
Billy gulped and looked around.
Jason and Tommy were sparring on the mats. Tommy looked remarkably anxious; Jason appeared upset about something. Zack, watching them, was laughing up a storm. Kimberly (now in a leotard) swung by, saying something with a wicked smirk that sent Zack into further laughter…
And drew a glare from both Tommy and Jason.
What in the world would draw those harsh looks from her boyfriend and surrogate brother?
The teen was pulled from his musings by Trini, who pulled out the chair next to him and slipped into it gracefully.
"Salutations, Trini," he greeted with a weak smile. "How was your family visit?"
"My grandmother is doing well," Trini said with a relieved look on her face. "The surgery was a success and she should be with us for many years to come."
"I'm glad to hear it."
"Did I hear you were fine-tuning the electromagnetic array on the communicators?"
The two fell into a deep conversation, whispering when necessary. Trini shot Billy a smile that made his heart skip a beat when he purchased her a smoothie; when she leaned into him to have him clarify Alpha's role in one of the steps, Billy was certain his ears were neon red.
The two looked up. Jason, Tommy, Kim and Zack had wandered up to the table, leaning on it tiredly.
"Good workout?" Trini asked, attention diverted.
"Yeah, it was pretty solid."
While the two slipped into idle chit-chat, both Zack and Kim shot Billy a look that screamed that now was the time.
In front of everybody?!
When Kim nodded at his unasked question, Billy sighed and found a quick moment to insert himself into their conversation.
"I beg your pardon, Trini, Jason… I do have a question for Trini, though."
Trini turned all her attention to her friend in blue.
In the corner of his eye, Billy could see Kim's satisfied smile… and baffling enough, Tommy's panicked look. He threw an elbow into Jason's side. Billy spared a glance at Jason, who looked anxious to say something as well.
Both Billy and Jason opened their mouths…
"Will you go to the dance next week with me?"
Disclaimer: I don't own the Power Rangers. They belong to Saban and Disney and other such companies.