Epilogue: Once a Ranger…

by juniperphoenix

Thousands of stars sparkled in the velvety black sky of a warm, clear African night. The sound of drums and a faint flicker of firelight came from the community hut, where the Peace Tour delegates were enjoying dinner on their last night in the village.

A short distance away, near the research clinic, a large campfire blazed invitingly. With Billy out of danger, the Rangers had finally been able to relax and enjoy what Zack had dubbed "the class reunion." Aisha and Tanya had prepared a traditional meal, which the Rangers and Rachel enjoyed as they sat talking around the campfire.

Billy remained rather quiet during supper, only occasionally joining in the conversation. Adam and Trini, seated on either side of him, took this as a cue to be worried. Though Billy insisted he felt fine, the pair had remained a bit overprotective of him since the Cog attack.

After a while, their conversation lapsed altogether, leaving the three to their own thoughts. Adam let his gaze wander around the campfire, taking in the other Rangers' activities.

On his right, Rocky and Zack were embroiled in an eating contest, much to the amusement — and amazement — of Jason and Rachel. The Green Ranger chuckled softly as the boys wolfed down what had to be their fourth or fifth helpings of stew.

Nearby sat Tommy and Kim, holding each other close as they gazed into the fire. As always, they looked perfect together. Kimberly's slim, tanned shoulders fit into the strong curve of Tommy's arm as though they'd been made for it, and her head rested against his shoulder in quiet contentment. Tommy's expression, too, was one of complete peace, and his hand played unconsciously with a lock of Kim's soft auburn hair. Adam felt a pang of sympathy for the couple — he knew that parting ways in the morning would be difficult for them.

Katherine, Aisha, and Tanya sat together on the left. Both Yellow Rangers were dressed in traditional African costume, and they were deep in conversation. They'd spent most of the afternoon sharing the details of their new lives and getting to know each other as teenagers.

Kat was only half paying attention to her friends. Her sapphirine eyes were directed across the fire, fixed intently on Tommy and Kim. Adam wondered about that for a moment, but the Pink Ranger's expression was typically unreadable.

Adam's reverie was interrupted as Billy stood and excused himself from the group.

"Are you okay?" asked Trini, immediately concerned.

"I just have something I need to take care of," he said vaguely. "I'll be back, it shouldn't take long."

Without further explanation, he walked off in the direction of the clinic. Adam watched as his friend left the circle of firelight and faded into the darkness beyond. "What was that all about?" he wondered after a moment.

Trini frowned. "I don't know." Billy had seemed preoccupied all evening, and it bothered her. After a few moments of indecision, she stood. "I'm going to go see what he's up to."

She vanished into the shadows, leaving Adam gazing thoughtfully after her.

Billy stood alone in the darkness, listening to the cries of animals and his friends' distant laughter. It was a warm, living night, so different from the cold, silent blackness he'd been recently trapped in, and for a few moments, he simply stood and enjoyed it. He'd been told the savanna was unsafe after nightfall, but he seriously doubted he had survived being nearly blown up in a starship, cryogenically frozen, and beaten up by Cogs just so he could be eaten by some rabid elephant.

He would have liked just to stand there all night, but he had come with a purpose… a question that had been nagging him all day. It was time to get some answers.

From the pocket of his jeans, he took out a small device he'd borrowed from the clinic: Aisha's communicator. Pressing the 'transmit' button, he was rewarded by a soft beep.

"Billy calling the Power Chamber," he spoke into the device.

"Aye-yi-yi! It's so good to hear from you, Billy!"

"Thanks, Alpha," Billy replied. "It's good to be back."

"How are you feeling?"

Billy smiled at the little robot's familiar, worried tone. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed it. "Not precisely nominal," he admitted, "but getting there. Can I talk to Zordon?"

"Yes, Billy, I read you." Zordon's deep voice sounded tinny through the small speaker. "May I say that it is a great relief to have you safely back with us."

"Thanks," Billy replied sincerely, before lapsing into an uneasy silence.

"Was there something you wished to discuss, Billy?" Zordon prodded gently.

"Actually, yes." He hesitated for a moment, then finally began, "I've been seeing something… or sensing it, I suppose… and I wondered if you could tell me anything about it." He paused again and continued, "I've been seeing a light. A small, blue light like the flame of a candle, inside me. It started back on the ship, and it's been with me ever since. I've seen others, too… all of the Rangers, even the ones who left, have their colors inside them. Even Rachel has a light with her, and she's not even a Ranger."

"Not in this Universe, anyway…" Zordon mumbled.


"Never mind."

"When I fought the Cogs," Billy continued, "I could feel the light getting brighter, and it kind of… it reminded me of the old Putty fights, when the Power helped us even though we didn't morph. And I know it should be impossible, but it really… felt like… the Blue Power."

There, it was said. Billy shuddered inwardly, imagining what Zordon must think of it… of him. He probably thought Billy's ordeal was causing some kind of hallucinations… or worse, that he wanted to be a Ranger again so badly that he was losing all touch with reality. The worst part was that he was probably right. Billy braced himself for the entity's reply.

"Your instincts are correct, Billy," Zordon said finally.

The teen exhaled in a rush, suddenly wishing he had somewhere to sit down. His momentary relief was quickly replaced by utter confusion, a feeling the young genius was totally unaccustomed to. "So… so it is the Blue Power?" he managed. "How is that possible? The Coins were destroyed…"

"The Power comes through the Coins, Billy, not from them. They were merely tools, as is the Zeo Crystal. They serve to tap and focus the Power which is inherent in all life."

"Inherent?" Billy repeated in shock. He'd tried to prepare himself for all possible explanations, but this one hadn't even occurred to him. Was it really possible? Had he and his friends really possessed the Power before Zordon chose them?

"Yes," Zordon replied. If he sensed Billy's turmoil, he wasn't showing it. "The Power is the basic essence of all living things. Morphing through the Triceratops Coin aligned your energies with Blue and made them a part of the Morphing Grid, but the Power itself had always been there. That spark can never be taken from you."

It was little comfort. So what if he had the Power? The Morphing Grid had been shattered; the Power Coins destroyed… there was nothing left to connect him to the others. The blue flame still burned, but it burned alone. On the ship, that tiny flame had reassured and protected him… but now it was an all-too-painful reminder of the mighty blaze it had once been.

"Why am I seeing this now?" he asked Zordon.

"I would assume it is due to your traumatic experience," Zordon answered slowly.

For a moment, Billy didn't realize he meant the cryo-freeze. "Your past use of the Power made it instinctual for you to draw upon it in such a life-threatening time. What puzzles me, however, is that this awareness has remained with you."

"It's not normal?" Billy asked.

"In humans, it is very unusual. If you wish, I can perform some tests when you return to Angel Grove…"

"No," Billy decided. He sighed and gazed pensively at the starry sky. "It doesn't matter."

There was silence for a moment.

"If there is anything you wish to discuss, Billy…" Zordon hesitated for a moment. "… I will listen."

"Thanks, Zordon." Billy was honestly surprised. "That… that means a lot." He cleared his throat suddenly. "Um, I'll… I'll see you tomorrow. Good night."

"Good night, Billy. Zordon out."

Billy closed the channel and stared up at the sky again, his mind a blur of conflicting emotions. A hyena chuckled in the distance.

"Hey," came a soft voice behind him. "Are you okay?"

Billy nearly jumped out of his skin in surprise. "Who's there?" Through the darkness, he discerned a graceful figure in a sleeveless white blouse and yellow jeans, with hair like a curtain of black silk falling over her shoulders.

"Trini." He breathed a sigh of relief. "Sorry… I guess I'm a little jumpy."

"It was my fault," she replied, smiling. "I shouldn't have sneaked up on you like that." Her expression became serious after a moment. "How are you doing?"

Billy shrugged, with careful nonchalance. "I'm pretty tired, but other than that…"

"That's not what I mean."

He sighed and looked down. "Yeah, I know." He shoved his hands in his pockets and turned away from her.

Trini walked up behind him, and draped her arms around his neck in a gentle embrace. His temperature was still a little below normal, and he was wearing a thick navy and grey sweater that made her feel like she was hugging a teddy bear. Billy was surprised by her actions, but remained silent, staring at the stars again. It was too far away to see Aquitar, but there was its galaxy, looking no bigger than a star itself through the vast distance.

"Adam told me about the Zeo Crystal," Trini said, pulling his thoughts back down to Earth. Her breath was tickling his neck. "How come you never said anything?"

"I don't know." The truth was, he'd hardly kept in touch with her at all, and he wasn't sure why. It was just easier that way. Safer, somehow.

"I know it had to be tough on you," said Trini quietly. "It was really hard for us, after the transfer… it took us a while to get used to things."

Billy didn't reply.

"We used to stay up all night and just talk," Trini continued. "That was what helped the most… just talking about it, coming to terms with it. You just have to let it out."

Billy sighed. She made it sound so simple. Just share your problem, and it'll go away. The trouble was that talking about it would be doing just that: sharing the problem. Not fixing anything, not making him feel better, just making everyone else miserable. He wouldn't do it.

"Billy?" His silence worried her. Trini stepped around in front of him so that she could see his face. "Billy, what's wrong? Why won't you just talk to us?"


"Are you worried about hurting our feelings?"

God, how did she figure these things out?

"You don't need to be, you know. We're all your friends… we'll understand."

"It… it wasn't their fault," Billy whispered finally. "I don't want anyone to feel guilty."

Trini chose her next words slowly and carefully. "I wasn't there, Billy. You can't make me feel guilty about it. So if you need to talk… I'll listen."

Billy allowed himself a slight smile. "That's what Zordon said."

"Zordon cares about you," Trini said seriously. "We all do. Don't forget that."

"I won't."

Their eyes met with an intensity neither was familiar with, a gaze that was like a magnet locking them together. Not for the first time, Billy was deeply aware of Trini's beautiful silken hair, her creamy skin, her luminous almond-shaped eyes that seemed to look straight into his soul. She looked exactly the same as on the day she left.

He, on the other hand, had changed incredibly… and not just in appearance. Yet as Trini looked deeply into his crystal-green eyes, she could see a faint glimmer of the Billy she had known… the carefree, gentle spirit who was still there after all this time. Struggling under the weight of responsibility and loss, but still there, and staring out at her from his ancient eyes like a drowning child reaching for a lifeline.

An eternity passed as they stared at each other, invisible strings connecting and coaxing them together. It was Billy who finally ended the moment, drawing Trini into his arms in a tight embrace.

"I missed you," he whispered into her hair. "I miss the way things used to be."

Trini pulled back just enough to meet his eyes again. "Nothing ever changed," she said softly.

As she pulled him into another hug, Billy was faintly aware of the blue flame glowing inside him. It wasn't protecting him from some deadly threat or taunting him with his weaknesses… it was simply there. And it felt right. He'd seen that light as a second chance, a way to pick up where he'd left off. Maybe it was where he'd left off.

"Once a Ranger, always a Ranger," Tommy had told him. A nice sentiment, he'd thought at the time, but that was all it was… just the standard consolation for a powerless teammate. But now… maybe it had meant something after all. Billy and his friends had been a team long before they became Power Rangers… there was no reason why the loss of those powers should break the team up. There was no reason for him to be alone. And as he stood there under the stars, holding Trini in his arms, he realized that he no longer wanted to be.

He'd returned to Earth… now it was time to really come home.

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