"Come on Camille," Lily said as she tugged the chameleon behind her towards the kitchen. "Trust me; you can't anyways, so you might as well join us."
"She's right," Theo said as he pushed Jarrod ahead of him. "It's tradition, after all."
"I'm walking," Jarrod said, "you don't have to push."
Lily grinned as they entered the loft to see Casey and RJ moving around the kitchen. "You'll like this," she told Camille as they started up the stairs.
"Hey guys," Casey said, "I'm just about finished. Dom went to fetch more chairs for everybody."
"He's back from walking Fran home?" Lily asked as she headed for the marshmallows.
"Not exactly," RJ replied.
There were a couple of thuds before Dom appeared carrying a pair of chairs, followed by Fran with another one. "RJ invited me to stay the night," Fran said nervously, "if that's okay, I mean. That is okay, right?"
"It's perfect," Lily said, "I would have offered before."
Fran smiled at her, "But I like to get home before eleven."
They put the chairs around the table while Camille and Jarrod watched. "Pull up a chair," Lily said as she scooted closer to Theo's chair, "there's plenty of room."
"Here we go," Casey said, sliding a tray on the table filled with steaming mugs of hot chocolate. "Jarrod, this one's for you." It had a shot of the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz saying 'Put them up, put them up.' "Camille," Casey said when Jarrod had taken his. Camille's looked green when Casey picked it up, but it turned a rich purple color from the base up. "It changes in the heat," Casey said. "Now for Fran," he slid the last mug over to her. It was a delicate pink with a worm on it spelling out the phrase 'bookworm'.
"Thank you," Fran said.
"Well, you're one of us," Casey said.
"But I'm not a Ranger," Fran protested.
"You don't have to be," RJ said. "That's not what this is about."
Lily sipped her hot chocolate and smiled. They were right; it wasn't about Rangers, or teammates. It was more than that. It was people who had fought Dai Shi, each in their own way.
"So what are you all going to do now?" Fran asked, "Now that Dai Shi is gone, I mean."
"I've been asked to teach at the academy," Casey said. "There's a lot I still don't know about Pai Zhuq, but I'm not exactly a student any more. I'll teach basic combat, and study with the other teachers on my own time."
"I'm not sure yet," Theo said. "All I've ever wanted to be was a Pai Zhuq master and now I am."
"You're welcome to stay here while you figure it out," RJ said. "I'm not going anywhere."
"I think I might go to college," Lily said. "I would have to look into it. I know my mom would appreciate it if I did. I mean, life at the academy wasn't that bad, but I like it here too."
"As I said, you're welcome to stay," RJ said.
"Well, I'm going to be on the road soon," Dom said. "My laptop's fixed, my finances are back up, and I've got a new list of places I want to see. Thanks to Fran, I've decided to backpack across Europe again, see some new places."
"Really, like where?" Casey asked.
"Just some spots on the Mediterranean," Dom replied. "I've got someone trying to get me to read Mein Kampf, but I don't think I will. I've had enough of egomaniacal conquerors to last me a while."
"Agreed," Casey, Lily, and Theo said in unison.
"What you and Camille?" Lily asked.
Jarrod shrugged, "I'm not sure yet. I didn't exactly leave things at the academy in the best of light."
"But you deserve a second chance," Casey said, "it's not like you asked Dai Shi to possess you."
"I might as well have," Jarrod muttered.
"No," Casey said, and the tiger growled in his word. "You didn't ask Dai Shi to use you to take over the world. You didn't ask to be stripped of every control you had. You didn't ask for any of it. You deserve a second chance. You have a right to live a good life."
"I should be in prison," Jarrod said.
"No more than the first Green Ranger should be," Casey replied. "I've met him. You and the good doctor of a lot more in common than you might think. He took his second chance with both hands and ran with it. He's made a good life, because he knows what the worst is. You've seen it. Now you have the chance to respond. What you do is up to you, but Jarrod, if I were the one standing there trying to decide between who I could be and who I should be, I'd pick the option that would do myself the most good."
"What if I want to go back to the academy, and prove to everyone that I can be a good person?" Jarrod asked softly.
"Then I'll stand beside you and I'll fight for you to get that chance," Casey replied.
"So will I," RJ said.
"So will I," Lily and Theo said in unison.
"I go where Jarrod goes," Camille said.
"And we'll fight for both of you," Case said.
"It can't be that simple," Jarrod said.
"When you're on the right side, it's always that simple," Casey replied.
After so long, The Power of Friends is done. I don't know what happened with Dance, really, but I wrote what needed to be written. There were a lot of fun things in this story, like the mugs. It was really fun to figure out appropriate designs for them. Earth and Honor are my favorite two because I love Dustin and Chip, but Dance was fun, Speed was empowering, and Song was a trip. I really figured out a lot of things about my characters because of these stories, and anyone who has the guts to read this from beginning to end in one go, I salute you! That's a really daunting task. My Yellows may be finished, but my Universe is still expanding. Keep your eyes peeled for more stories forth coming. After all, I have Megaforce and the War, the SPD, and so much more to cover!