Disclaimer: These characters belong to Saban… no, I didn't get permission to use them… no, I'm not making any money either. This takes place after "The Green Candle" but before "Return of an Old Friend." October 1997
(Switching Places Again)
by Cheryl Roberts
"There . . . just one more . . . adjustment . . ."
Billy removed his goggles and set aside the welding torch in favor of a Phillips screwdriver. If his calculations were correct, his latest device should greatly enhance the Rangers' abilities to resist Rita's efforts at mind control . . . well, at least while morphed. It would still be possible to fall under Rita's control while in their civilian identities, but theoretically, the shield should cancel out the effects once the affected person transformed. If the prototype worked, he'd create miniature generators to install in the helmets.
However, a twinge of doubt tugged at him. The way his day had been going, it would be just his luck that the device wouldn't do a thing. Anything that could go wrong had. He had overslept and was late for class . . . he had forgotten his homework for physics and had to spend lunch hour hastily writing it out again . . . even in battle that afternoon, he had managed to be thoroughly trounced by a surprisingly zealous putty.
Just put it out of your mind. You've checked and rechecked the calculations. This should work.
Satisfied that the calibrations were correct, Billy reached for the activation toggle. For a moment, nothing happened. Then, the device blew up in an impressive pyrotechnic shower. The force of the explosion threw Billy across the room, slamming him into the wall, and the overloaded fuses cut out, throwing the garage lab into total darkness.
Kimberly stepped out the shower and checked her watch. She had gotten caught up daydreaming and had spent longer under the delicious spray than she had intended. Fortunately, Tommy was never on time; she still had plenty of time to get ready. Wrapping herself in a fluffy towel, she busied herself with brushing out her hair. She hoped and prayed that nothing would happen to spoil her and Tommy's date; it seemed that every time they tried to spend a little time together, Rita had to send a monster or something. She hated seeing the disappointment that flashed through Tommy's eyes whenever her communicator went off. It had been so hard for him, losing his powers. She couldn't even begin to imagine what it must be like for him; she wished he would talk to her about it. Although she didn't like to think about it too much, she wouldn't know what she'd do if she ever lost hers.
I'm going to think positively. We're going to go to the movies, we're going to have fun, and nothing bad is going to happen, she assured herself, finishing detangling her hair. She reached for the hair dryer and flicked it on.
An electrical surge shot through her body. With a yelp, she was thrown across the bathroom and sunk to the floor.
"Billy? Billy! Answer me!"
Slowly, consciousness returned. Moaning, Billy slowly sat up, and dropped his aching head into his hands. Then, he became aware of his father frantically banging on the door. It made his head pound all the more.
"Billy, are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine . . . I think," he mumbled, still dazed.
"Looks like you blew out the fusebox--again. I'll run down to the hardware store for the parts. One of these days, young man, you are going to have to put your lab on a separate box."
"Right, dad, I . . . dad?"
A sickening feeling of unease gripped Billy. Scrambling to his feet, he crashed around the dark workshop in search of a flashlight. Finally locating one, he flicked it on and flashed the beam on his hand . . . and moaned in disbelief and anger.
"William Cranston, when I get my hands on you, you're a dead man!"
Slowly, Kimberly sat up, rubbing her tingling arms and shaking her head to clear the ringing in her ears.
"Honey, are you okay?" her mom questioned, knocking on the door.
"I'm all right," Kim replied . . . then, she opened her eyes and stared down at her hands in disbelief. Oh no, not again!
"Are you going to take the call in your room?"
"What? Oh, yes, certainly. Who is it?"
Clutching the towel around her, and still feeling woozy from the jolt, Kimberly staggered back to her room, closing and locking the door behind her.
"H-hello?" she stammered.
"Billy, what the hell did you do to me!"
"Who else? What happened?"
"I was working on a device to help shield our mental faculties from . . ."
"How quickly can you put us back? Tommy is supposed to pick me up in about twenty minutes…."
"How badly is my equipment damaged?"
"I can't tell. All the lights are still out. Your dad's gone for more fuses."
"It'll be a good half an hour minimum before power is restored, and without seeing the extent of the damage, I have no way of estimating how long it would take to reverse the process...if I can determine what caused the transference in the first place. I am sorry, Kim, truly, but I am afraid you will have to cancel your outing with Tommy."
"I am not missing my date because of this, Billy."
"There is simply no way . . ."
"Oh yes there is."
"Yes, there is--what?"
"I'm not breaking my date with Tommy; you masqueraded as me the last time this happened. You can do it again."
Go on a date with Tommy? "Kimberly, there is no way I could possibly . . ."
"You got me into this mess; you're gonna get me out of it. Am I still dressed in a towel?"
"Y-yes . . ."
"You have exactly sixty seconds to get some underwear on before I teleport over there."
"Kim! You can't!"
"Do it, Billy! 'Cause, ready or not, here I come."
Damn damn damn damn! Billy hung up the phone and scanned the extremely feminine bedroom for the requisite garments and found them laid out on the bed. Blushing furiously, he dropped the towel and hastened to get dressed. He couldn't believe Kimberly was going to teleport over in his body while hers was still unclothed. Although, if he really thought about it, it was a moot point as he had already seen her disrobed--just not from an external perspective--and Kim was well aware of what she looked like sans clothing . . .
Billy had managed the panties but was still trying to figure what to do with the bra when Kim arrived. Sheepishly, Billy looked up into "his" glowering face.
"I'm really sorry, Kim . . ." he began.
"Give me that," Kim huffed, snatching the lingerie away from him. "It's a racer back--front close, not back." Before Billy could protest, she stuffed "her" arms through the straps.
"I never did figure out how to put those things on the last time," Billy admitted.
"I know, and I'm not letting you go on my date with Tommy without a bra on," she said as she fastened the clasp. Without even thinking, she adjusted the cups.
"Kimberly!" Billy protested in a tense whisper, shocked by watching himself touch Kim's breasts.
"Omigod, you're right! This is really weird. I'm letting "you" touch me . . . I've never even let Tommy . . ." Both friends flushed scarlet. Then, Kim gave herself a mental shake. "Look, there's no time for this. Tommy will be here soon, and I can't have him seeing "me" looking the way I did the last time you tried to dress me."
"I can't go on your date with Tommy!" Billy protested.
"Listen, Tommy and I have had nearly every date we've made since he lost his powers interrupted by some Ranger emergency or another. I am not breaking this one!" Kim insisted as she pulled the dress she had selected over "her" head.
"Masquerading as you for a day at school was one thing. This is totally different!"
"All we're doing is going to the movies. It's not like we're going out to dinner where you'd have to have an extended conversation with him or anything. Just watch the movie, eat some popcorn, then tell him you have to get home to study for a French test."
"Do you have a test to study for?"
"Yes, but my mom doesn't know. She'd have never let me go otherwise."
"Then simply tell him you can't go because you have to study . . . what are you doing?" Billy queried as Kim stooped down and ran a hand up "her" leg. Billy would never have dared. . .
"I'm trying to see if "I" can get away without wearing pantyhose; I doubt you can get them on. And you're going--that's that. Now sit. I have to do "my" hair and make-up."
Billy obediently took a seat at the vanity table. He wanted to close his eyes. It was too disconcerting to watch himself fix Kim's hair. As he sat back and let Kim do "her" hair, he found himself slowly relaxing. No . . . Kim's body was relaxing; apparently, she liked having her hair played with. The thought made him blush. He had learned more about women in general and Kim in particular during their first switch than he had ever imagined, and he was beginning to wonder how much more there was to learn.
"By the way, what movie will I be seeing?" Billy wondered.
"It's a romance," Kim answered, knowing the title would mean nothing to Billy.
"A romance?" he grimaced.
"And one I've been wanting to see for a while, so you'd better pay attention so you can tell me what it's about. Boy, are you going to owe me for this . . ."
"I'm going to owe you?"
"It was your stupid experiment that screwed up my date."
"I guess I can handle going to the movies, but . . . um . . . what other things might I expect to happen on this date?"
"Probably just the usual stuff folks do on dates. You know," Kim answered with a shrug. She finally decided just to pull her hair back in a headband. She didn't have time for anything fancy. Then, she reached for the make-up kit.
"No, I don't know," Billy said quietly.
His admission took Kim by surprise. "You've been on dates before, haven't you?"
"Two, to be exact, and the first one was interrupted by Madame Woe. The other was at the dance at the Youth Center."
Billy nodded and tried to hang his head, but Kim had a firm grip on "her" chin.
"I'm sorry. Well . . . um . . . Tommy and I hold hands a lot . . ."
"That shouldn't be too bad. I don't mean to pry, but have you two . . . shared oral displays of affection?"
Kim was surprised by the shade of crimson "her" cheeks turned. "Oral displays . . . oh, you mean have we kissed?"
It was Billy's turn to be surprised when he saw the dreamy look that crossed "his" features. "I take it that means yes," he said with a gulp.
"Tommy is an awesome kisser," Kim sighed longingly. Then she brought herself back down to earth. "Tommy's really quite romantic; if he takes you walking by the duck pond, expect to be kissed. That's where we . . . the first time . . ." "Her" expression softened at the memory.
"I've never kissed anyone before," Billy confessed softly. Marge had given him a peck on the cheek, but that had been about it.
Kim raised an eyebrow at that and bit "her" lower lip thoughtfully. "It's not hard. You just . . ."
To Billy's astonishment, Kim leaned over and kissed him full on the lips.
"Oh. Wow," he muttered when she pulled away.
"And don't you ever tell Tommy I did that," Kim warned, blushing. It was like kissing herself even though it was Billy's body that was doing the kissing. This is just too weird!
"He'd never believe this anyway," Billy sighed. He just couldn't believe it; he had just received his first kiss . . . from himself. A psychiatrist would have a field day with this one! "Is there anything else I should expect? You guys haven't . . . um . . ." Words failed Billy but his embarrassment was more obviously acute.
Kim frowned then it dawned on her what he was referring to.
"No, we haven't done anything else," she assured him, "and for a change, I'll pray he doesn't try tonight."
It was Billy's turn to cock an eyebrow at the tone of regret in her voice.
There was a knock at Kim's door.
"Kim, Tommy's here," her mom called out.
"Damn, of all times for him to be early," Kim hissed. When Billy didn't say anything to her mother, she elbowed him. "Answer her!"
"I'll . . . be right there," Billy gulped.
"All right, that'll have to do," Kim sighed as she surveyed the make-up job. It was probably the fastest she had ever gotten ready for a date. "We don't have time for anything else."
"Kim, I really don't think I can do this . . ."
"Please, Billy, just try! Tommy's had enough disappointments already. Please?"
"Do you really think Tommy will believe that I'm you?"
Kim's expression was sad. "He probably won't know the difference. He's a sweet heart, but sometimes I wonder how much he notices me at all."
He'd have to be blind not to. "I'll do my best," Billy acquiesced.
"So, what will you do while I'm at the movies?"
Kim grabbed her backpack from where she had tossed it upon coming home from school. "I guess I'll be studying for my French test at your place. Get going!" With that command, Kim touched the blue band on "her" wrist and disappeared in a flash of azure light.
Billy closed his eyes and took a deep breath, steeling himself for the ordeal to come.
Just look on this as a learning experience. This will at least give me some idea of what to do on a date--if I should ever be fortunate enough have another one.
* * *
"Hey, Beautiful, is something wrong?" Tommy queried, glancing away from the stop light to favor Kim with a smile.
Wrong? What could possibly be wrong? Your girlfriend's mind is in my body; I'm going on her date with you, and the one time I actually want Rita to send down a monster, she doesn't! Billy screamed in the deepest reaches of Kimberly's brain.
"Nothing's wrong, Tommy," Billy answered, desperately trying to keep "his" voice from quavering. He couldn't look at Tommy. He found that every time he did, Kim's pulse rate jumped. Autoerotic response is more powerful and more hormonally based than I imagined. For that reason, Billy continued to stare out the window of Tommy's 4 x 4.
"You've been awful quiet . . . kind of like you're distracted or something."
Or something! Tommy was more perceptive than Billy had ever credited him. "I'm sorry. I have this French exam tomorrow . . ."
"Why didn't you say something sooner? We could have rescheduled."
I wish you would have, too! "I just didn't want to disappoint you," Billy replied, falling back on Kim's excuse.
"You could never disappoint me, Kim."
Tommy patted "her" leg, and Billy felt a shiver race through Kim's body. These had better be Kimberly's natural reactions to tactile stimulation; I don't even want to contemplate the alternative! "It's just that we've had so many dates interrupted . . . for other reasons . . . I just couldn't do that to you." Billy noticed that Tommy's face had clouded over.
"It's not your fault, Kim. I understand that your responsibilities as a Ranger come before anything else. They used to be my responsibilities, too."
Billy was startled. Tommy always guarded his feeling about losing his powers when he was around the group, and he found himself surprisingly curious about them. How would it feel to lose one's power? Billy almost couldn't remember what it was like without the power coursing through his veins. At times, he thought he'd be happier without the responsibilities of being a Ranger; there was so much he didn't feel he could do because he could be called into duty at any time, and then there was the lying to his dad to cover his activities . . . however, relief to be rid of the burden wasn't what he heard in Tommy's voice. It was more like regret.
"You wish you could take them up again," Billy murmured softly; he really hadn't intended for Tommy to hear that, but his former teammate and present date had. The look of misery on Tommy's face would have shaken even happy-go-lucky Zack. All right, what would Kimberly do if I looked that down? Tentatively, Billy reached out and patted Tommy's leg . . . Kim had done that to him any number of times, followed by, "Would you like to talk about it?"
"No. We're supposed to be out having fun, aren't we?"
"You're not going to enjoy yourself if you're feeling miserable." That was definitely a Kimberly line if ever there was one. Billy followed it up with a question that was purely his own. "What's it like, losing your powers?" He glanced over at Tommy and was unnerved by the naked emotions playing across his face. He felt badly for causing his friend such agony. "Anyone of us could lose our powers at any time . . . and the thought terrifies me."
Tommy was quiet for such a long time, that Billy thought that he had pushed to hard. He was about to tell the former Green Ranger to forget it when Tommy spoke.
"It feels like someone ripped out a piece of your soul," he said softly, his voice raw with his pain. "The Power isn't just something stored in the coins, it's a part of you. It's like losing your sight or hearing . . . you feel incomplete . . . crippled . . . helpless . . ." Tommy's voice dropped to a whisper. "Do you know how much it hurts seeing you all go into battle knowing there's nothing I can do to help you?"
"But you're not helpless," Billy insisted, shaken by the single drop of moisture that slipped down the curve of Tommy's cheek. Helpless was never a term he would apply to the former Green Ranger. "Tommy, don't give up hope. We'll find a way to get you your powers back. There has to be a way!" And Billy meant it.
"Thanks, Beautiful, but why don't we just wait and see," Tommy sighed.
Tommy had spoken little after their brief conversation; he seemed content to simply hold Kim's hand. For the remainder of the drive, Billy racked his brain trying to come up with some way to re-energize Tommy's power coin, but no ideas were forthcoming. Before he knew it, they were pulling into the parking lot at the cinema.
A flicker of panic sprang to life as Billy scanned the marquee; he had absolutely know idea what movie they were supposed to see. None of the titles were familiar to him. As they walked up to the ticket window, Billy made as if to grab for his wallet and was horrified to realize that he didn't have it.
"What's wrong?" Tommy queried, eyeing "her" wonderingly.
"I . . . um . . . forgot my . . . purse," Billy stammered.
"You don't need your purse; it's my treat." Tommy's tone was tinged with amusement, but Billy was uncomfortably aware that the feeling never reached his eyes. Kim was often gushing about how expressive Tommy's eyes were, and at the moment they appeared dark and cold.
"I need my comb," Billy countered, trying to salvage the moment. Of course, Tommy would pay for the movie. If he had asked a girl to the movies, he would not expect his guest to cover her own expenditures.
"You look just fine," Tommy assured "her," and gave "her" a quick peck on the cheek. Billy swallowed dryly.
Please, let's just get to our seats before I really do screw this up!
"Popcorn?" Tommy asked as they crossed the lobby.
"Can we have it with butter this time?"
"Certainly. How else would you eat it?" Movie popcorn without butter...unheard of!
"You're the one counting calories . . . not that you need to."
"I think I can spare a few tonight."
"Regular soda okay then?"
As Billy waited for Tommy, he observed the comings and goings of the other movie goers in the vicinity of the restrooms. I have to remember not to go into the wrong one this time. Oh, that had been mortifying that day at school when he had automatically walked into the boy's restroom. At least Jason had been the only one in there; of course, he had teased the hell out of "her" for the rest of the day . . .
"All set. Let's go find some seats."
Billy and Tommy found their seats just as the lights dimmed and the commercials started. As he shifted about to get comfortable, Billy noticed that Tommy had casually draped his arm across the back of the seat.
"Do you mind?" Tommy whispered.
It was with some surprise that Billy realized that Tommy was sincere in his question. "Not at all," Billy answered, sensing that Kimberly would not have refused. Tommy's arm tightened about his shoulder, and Billy did his best to relax into the embrace, although it was damned hard. At least the show was starting, saving him . . .
* * *
"Did you enjoy the show, Beautiful?" Tommy queried as they emerged from the theater.
"Thank you, yes," Billy replied. Surprisingly, he had enjoyed it. The story and characterizations had been sound, the acting superb, and the cinematography quite well done.
"You seemed to be really into it, almost as if you were memorizing it," Tommy continued as they walked toward the parking lot.
That's because I was, otherwise Kimberly would kill me.
"I know you have to get home to study for a test, but would like to go for a walk first?"
Billy would have liked to decline, but he knew Kimberly would not have refused the invitation. "That would be nice."
Hand in hand, the two headed away from the cinema complex.
I can't believe I've pulled this off, Billy reflected, elated with his success thus far. Tommy hadn't once questioned his behavior. However, the thrill of victory was fleeting. Poor Kimberly, I guess she was right in her estimation of Tommy. He always seems so attentive to her--considerate, even affectionate . . . and he's been a perfect gentleman all evening. I wouldn't have thought him so shallow as to be unable to see beyond the surface of the woman he was dating. In fact, the thought made him more than a little angry, and he found himself hurting for Kimberly.
Billy's thoughts had so engaged him that he hadn't realized that they had made their way to the park. A lump formed in his throat when he noticed where they were heading: the duck pond.
"Do you mind?" Tommy asked, apparently picking up on Billy's nervousness as they stopped by the midnight pool. Tommy lightly ran his thumb across the back of Kimberly's hand, and the unexpected sensation made Billy shiver. Billy was mesmerized by the motion of Tommy's digit, so much so, that Tommy had to tilt his chin upwards, forcing Billy to look at him. It took every ounce of restraint Billy had not to break and run as Tommy's face dipped closer. He closed his eyes, unable to watch . . .
I can't do this any longer! I can't stand here and let Tommy kiss me!
He's not kissing you, he's kissing Kimberly!
Yeah, but I just so happen to be in Kimberly's body!
Billy was more than a little out of breath when Tommy broke the kiss. I definitely have to remember how he did that . . . for future reference. His eyes flickered open, and he was startled to see Tommy gazing at him with cold fury raging in his eyes.
"Where's Kimberly," Tommy demanded, taking "her" roughly by the shoulders. "You may look and sound like her, but you're not. Who are you, and what have you done with Kim?" Billy wasn't sure what surprised him more: the strength of Tommy's grip, the heat of his anger, or the fact that . . . "You could tell by just a kiss?"
"I'm not as dense as people think I am," Tommy replied darkly. "All evening I've known something wasn't quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on exactly what it was . . . little things . . . the way you walked, the way you talked, and even the way you held my hand . . . it was more like the way a guy would. The kiss, however definitely clinched it." His fingers dug deeper into "her" shoulders as he shook "her" and lifted her off the ground a few inches. "Where's Kimberly?"
In spite of the discomfort of his position, Billy's spirit felt lighter. Kimberly would be so happy... but Tommy's grip tightened as he shook "her," and Billy winced.
"Take it easy, Tommy; I really don't care to explain to Kimberly how her shoulders got bruised," he sighed. "As to where Kimberly is, she is no doubt in my lab waiting impatiently for my return."
"Billy?" Tommy squeaked out, dropping the Blue Ranger. Billy nodded as he picked himself up. "What the hell is going on!"
"I'll explain on the way back to the car."
" . . . and since there was insufficient time for me to discern why the transference took place and how to reverse it, Kimberly insisted I take her place," Billy concluded as Tommy turned his 4 x 4 into his street.
"Why didn't you guys just tell me?" Tommy asked. "Did she really think I wouldn't notice the difference?"
Tommy sounded so hurt, that Billy unconsciously patted his leg consolingly. They simultaneously realized what he was doing, and Billy quickly withdrew his hand. "Sorry. Reacting instinctively, not consciously."
"Your instincts or Kim's?" Tommy wondered.
"Kim's . . . I think. It's astonishing how many of our responses are purely biological as opposed to mental," Billy muttered. "You have to admit, Tommy, that teenage males are not the most observant creatures in the world; most cannot see past the most obvious physical traits of womanhood."
"Can't see past a girl's chest, huh?" Tommy translated.
"Precisely. While she voiced a concern along those lines, it pained her to do so. I think deep down she was hoping that you would notice. Kimberly did not insist on this charade to trick or test you . . . or to spite me for trading consciousnesses with her at an inconvenient time. Her sole concern was your happiness; she was only doing what she truly thought best for you. Hurting you was the last thing she wanted to do."
"Man, we have gone through some weird things as Rangers, but this has to be the weirdest," Tommy sighed as he pulled into Billy's driveway.
"Tell me about it," Billy grumbled. Not for the first time since he began his explanation did Billy see a question in Tommy's eyes; however, the query went unvoiced.
As the two reached the door, Billy reached out automatically to open it.
"What if your dad's home?" Tommy asked.
"Right," Billy agreed and rang the bell instead.
"Yes, may I . . . Tommy?" "Kim's" face was decidedly pale. "K-kimberly? What are you guys.…"
"He knows, Kim," Billy said quietly.
The change in "her" demeanor was as swift as it was volatile. Kim grabbed Billy and yanked him into the living room. Billy never realized he was that strong before.
"You weren't supposed to tell him!" she shrieked.
"Let him go before you hurt yourself, Kim," Tommy said gently. "And he didn't tell me; I figured it out for myself."
"Y-you did?" Kim appeared completely stupefied.
"As soon as I kissed "you" I knew . . ."
"You could tell by a kiss? Oh, Tommy, that's so sweet . . .!" Kim released Billy and flung her arms around Tommy, smothering him in an affectionate hug. For his part, Tommy was used to bracing for Kim's petite 5'2", 105 lb. energetic frame, not Billy's 5'10", 170 lbs. He nearly toppled over the recliner.
"Kim, please," Billy moaned. "I have already had to undergo the experience being kissed by Tommy; I would like to be spared the sight of seeing myself kiss him as well."
"Serves you right," Kim retorted, sticking "her" tongue out at him.
Tommy started laughing.
"This is too strange," he murmured, shaking his head. Kim climbed off him, and he tousled "her" hair playfully. "I'd know you anywhere, Beautiful."
"Ahem, yes, well," Billy stammered, unnerved by Tommy's display of affection to his person. "I see that power has been restored; how did you accomplish that?"
"It doesn't take a genius to reset the circuit breakers," Kim sighed. "You and your dad are so used to major catastrophes, I guess he didn't think to use a little common sense."
"Where is Mr. Cranston?" Tommy asked.
"At the drug store. He thinks you're not feeling well, Billy."
"Oh, why is that?"
"For starters, he really wigged when he got home from the hardware store and found "you" sitting on the couch eating an apple . . ."
"What's the big deal about that?" Tommy wondered.
"Fruit is not my first choice of snack food," Billy confessed.
". . . something involving marshmallows, peanut butter, and chocolate is," Kim finished, making a face. "Then, when it was dinner time, I told him I wasn't hungry."
Billy sniffed the air. "Hey, anchovy spaghetti! My favorite!"
"No wonder you weren't hungry," Tommy winced.
"No offense, Billy, but your dad cooks worse than Tommy."
"Hey!" Tommy bristled.
"Sorry, sweetie," she soothed, patting him on the arm.
"Since power has been restored, why don't we go to my lab and see if we can figure out how to get ourselves switched back," Billy suggested, more than slightly uncomfortable that Tommy was treating Kimberly the same way he would as if she were in her own body.
"That's the best thing I've heard all night!" Kim bubbled joyfully. Grabbing, Tommy's hand, she bounded towards the kitchen.
"Hey, take it easy!" Tommy protested as he was dragged along.
"So, Billy, what's the verdict?" Kim asked eagerly as she fidgeted on the stool while Billy examined his anti-mind control device.
"The damage is not as great as I feared," Billy mumbled without looking up from the machine's interior. "I'll have to replace a few melted wires . . . I wonder what caused the power surge in the first place . . ."
"Cut and dried, how much longer?"
"I realize you are anxious to be returned to your proper form, but dealing with the human brain is a delicate process . . . ."
"BILLY!" Kim pleaded. Both Tommy and Billy looked at her expectantly, and "she" blushed. "You, um, gotta go to the bathroom."
"Then go already. I have no desire to have my bladder cut loose during the reintegration process."
Kim felt Tommy's eyes on her and blushed an even deeper crimson.
"When you gotta, you gotta," he answered, trying to repress a smile.
"Don't you laugh, Tommy Oliver. Don't you dare laugh!" With as much dignity as she could muster, Kim exited the garage.
"I just can't believe any of this," Tommy chuckled. Then, he noticed Billy's gaze. "What's wrong?"
"I am having a difficult time understanding your reaction to this whole situation. You don't seem phased in the slightest. Kimberly's mind is trapped in my body, and yet you react to her as if she was still in her own."
"Billy, I didn't fall in love with Kim's body; I fell in love with her. All those things that make her the person she is . . . her intelligence, bravery, generosity, spirit, heart . . . those things can't be duplicated. That's why I'd know Kim anywhere and why I would love her no matter what body she was in."
"Tommy, do you realize what you just said?" Billy asked softly.
"You mean that I love her? Yes, I do."
"But you've only known each other for . . ."
"I knew it the first time she smiled at me, Billy. I know it as surely as I know I want my powers back. She's the only reason I've been able to survive without them."
"Wow," was all Billy could say.
"Of course, it would be nice if Kim could have her body back," Tommy continued in a more lighthearted vein. "After all, it'd be murder trying to explain why I started dating you all of a sudden."
Billy cracked a smile at that. However it faded quickly.
"What?" Tommy asked.
"I was just thinking . . . on the drive back, several times it appeared as if you wanted to ask me a question, but you seemed to dismiss it. And now in Kimberly's absence . . . you haven't said a thing about the fact that I've spent a good deal of time inhabiting Kimberly's person. You've never asked any questions . . . I would have thought you'd have been just a little bit curious . . . or angry . . . or . . . ."
"Why would I be angry? It's not like you intentionally switched places with Kim; it was an accident," Tommy pointed out.
"True, but . . . well . . . I've seen . . . Kim . . . and . . ." Billy blushed heatedly.
". . . and I haven't." Tommy sighed, but Billy couldn't place the emotion being expressed. "You couldn't help it, and it's not like you did anything . . . I mean out of the ordinary."
"Of course not," Billy assured him. Tommy did not need to know that he had indulged his curiosity somewhat . . . it was only natural to do some exploring . . .
"If I was mad at you for seeing Kim, then I'd have to be mad at Kim for seeing you," Tommy continued reasonably. "You don't mind, though, if I admit to being a little bit jealous, do you?"
"A perfectly natural response," Billy assured him, but he still couldn't understand why Tommy wouldn't indulge his curiosity.
"Besides, there'll be time enough for me to get to know Kim like that when we're both ready. I can wait."
"I commend your patience."
"It'll be worth it."
Tommy cocked an amused eyebrow at that. Flustered, Billy turned back to working on the shield generator
"Miss me, guys?" Kim called out brightly as she returned, her blush undiminished. Billy snuck a peek as Kim threw "her" arms around Tommy's neck and rubbed "her" nose against his. It was disconcerting to see himself awash in what could only be described as a loving glow.
"Terribly," Tommy answered.
Billy realized that Tommy had caught him staring; as he glanced away, he observed the impish gleam in Tommy's eye. Billy swallowed nervously, then, Tommy kissed Kim.
"Tommy . . .!" Billy protested.
"Tommy?" Kim squeaked, confused.
"You definitely have to get your body back," Tommy laughed teasingly. "Now I know why you hate razor stubble."
"Oh, you . . ." Kim giggled, and Billy rolled "his" eyes.
"Okay, let's see if that corrects the error," Billy announced as turned back to his tinkering.
"Great! What do we have to do?" Kim asked eagerly.
"Stand next to me," Billy directed, and Kim scampered over, taking his hand. "All right, Tommy, if you would activate the device . . . the field should envelop us and cancel out the effects of the transference."
"Here goes nothing," Tommy murmured as he flipped the switch. A soft violet beam shot forth, surrounding and penetrating the pair.
"Turn it off," Billy requested after several minutes of bathing in the energy.
"Anything?" Tommy asked hopefully.
"No," Kim answered crestfallenly. She looked down at Billy's hands and felt tears welling in "her" eyes.
"Don't worry, Kim; I still have my original mind control device. I never did figure out why it switched our minds in the first place. Perhaps it can still put them back," Billy said consolingly.
"Maybe the reason nothing happened was because your minds were already switched before the machine was turned on," Tommy ventured, recalling Billy's explanation. "You said the shield would deflect mind control spells; doesn't that mean the shield would have to be on when the control was taking place?"
"Good point," Billy concurred.
"You also said that if we were unmorphed when our minds were controlled, the shield would throw the control off once we morphed."
"Then why don't we try morphing," Kim interjected excitedly.
"Couldn't hurt," Tommy added. Exchanging glances, the two reached for their morphers.
The pink and blue flashes faded, leaving two costumed teens in their wake. Both Rangers glanced down a themselves then at each other.
"Well?" Tommy prompted eagerly, trying to ignore the twinge of envy he felt at seeing his friends' transformations.
Both popped the buckles on their helmets. Without a word, "Kimberly" approached Tommy and drew his lips to hers.
"What do you think?"
"Now that's the girl I love," Tommy sighed, his face aglow, and he pulled her in for another kiss.
Billy smiled indulgently; he could deal with the public display of affection much easier now that it in no way involved himself.
"Uh oh, Dad's home," Billy murmured. Kim broke the kiss, and the two powered down. "In my lab, Dad!"
"Your lab? I thought you weren't . . . oh, hello Kim, Tommy."
"Hi, Mr. Cranston."
"You were saying?" Billy prompted.
"How are you feeling."
"It was a passing indisposition. Actually, I am rather famished. Are there leftovers?"
"Enough for three, if you're friends would care to have a bite."
"Thank you, no," Kim demurred, trying to hide a grimace.
"I have to get Kim home; she has a test to study for," Tommy added.
"We'll catch you tomorrow, Billy."
"Don't forget your backpack," he reminded her.
Outside the Cranston residence, Kim slipped her hand into Tommy's as they walked to his car.
"Could you really tell it wasn't me just by kissing me?" she queried.
"That is so sweet, Tommy. Thank you!"
"Did you really think I wouldn't know?"
"Well . . ." Kim hung her head guiltily.
"Kim, I'd know you anywhere . . . in anyone."
"Oh, Tommy . . ." Kim gushed, flinging her arms around her boyfriend. "You're the best," she whispered against his lips.
"So, were you ever going to tell me about spending twenty-four hours in Billy's body?"
"I wanted to . . . it's just that some parts of it were pretty embarrassing . . ."
"You know you can tell me anything."
"You can tell me whenever you're ready," Tommy assured her, then a mischievous grin quirked at the corner of his mouth. "But you know, I'm going to be imagining all sorts of wild things until you do."
"Oh, you . . .!"
Billy closed the drapes as his friends shared yet another kiss. For a day where anything that could go wrong did, it turned out surprisingly well.