Always a Ranger - Part 19

Three of a Kind

By Jeannine Trevizo

 

 

 

It had been a hard week. With everything that the team had gone through with Mesogog, the white ranger still on the wrong team and the fact that he’d had to put Kim back on a plane to Boston, it would have been enough to break a lesser man. Of course, the additional weight of Anton convincing Principal Randall to let him take the students to ‘his’ museum where Kira had been hypnotized by ‘his’ creation made him wonder just what his former colleague was up to, or if it was just a coincidence.

 

Yeah, like there was such a thing as coincidence when you were a ranger.

 

Last but not least of the list was the fact that he was having to get ready to start giving his students their finals. The work that he’d had to cram into the last two days to get the exams ready to be reviewed by the school board had been exhausting. Still, none of it had been enough to discourage him from deciding he was up to going out again when he got home and found the message on his answering machine…

 

“Hey there leader man, it’s the Zack man. Me and Adam are on our way up to San Fran. So, we have to drive past Reefside, and Jase said we *had* to stop in and see you and the ‘kids’. How about boys’ night out? Black rangers and all? Call my cell.”

 

It hadn’t taken him more than a few minutes to look up Zack’s number and then call his cell phone. Once he got a hold of them, he found out they were about half an hour from Reefside. After offering up his bed and couch for the night, the former rangers agreed that they’d stop off at Tommy’s and clean up before they’d have some beers and something to eat. Tommy hung up in a good mood, but felt guilty about that.

 

If he went out with the guys, he’d have to call Kim now, or not call at all. And after the last disaster of his not calling, he didn’t want to worry her. Still, he hated the idea of a shorter call, but he didn’t have much choice. He knew what Zack, Adam and he could get like, and him getting home at an hour that would allow him to call her later wasn’t gonna happen.

 

With a pang of regret, Tommy dialed Kim’s number, listening to the phone ring once, and then a second time before she picked up the line.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hey Beautiful,” he said across the phone line with a mixture of affection and concern.

 

“You’re early,” Kim said with a questioning tone, noting the time and the fact that Tommy usually called later in the evening. “What’s up?”

 

“You’ll never guess who’s coming through town.”

 

“Okay, I’ll never guess. Who?”

 

“Adam and Zack.”

 

“Together?” she asked, surprised.

 

“They both have business in San Francisco, so they’re driving from L.A,” Tommy explained simply.

 

“So, what, are the guys stopping by so you can all catch up?”

 

“Hey, three black rangers in the same place? Gotta party.”

 

Kim laughed at her love. Give the boys some time together and they were 17 again. She wondered if she should warn Kira and the boys that their mentor was about to relive his youth and that they should avoid the testosterone cloud that most likely would appear over Reefside until Adam and Zack left town.

 

“Alright then,” she commented with a light sigh. “Send them my love and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

 

“What about me?”

 

“What about you what?” she asked, stifling a laugh.

 

“Are you sending *me* any of that love you’re sending them?” he teased.

 

“You’re being silly,” she chided. “I love you Tommy. Go have fun.”

 

“Love you too Beautiful.”

 

With that he hung up the phone and hurried to get ready for ‘company’.

 

-

 

About 45 minutes later there was a knock at the door, and Tommy rushed to open it, finding two of his closest friends standing at his doorway. Adam looked good, his Asian features now even more clearly defined by a close cut haircut, and his physique obviously improved in the eight years since he’d retired from ranger life. Zack seemed an older version of the hip-hop teen Tommy had met all those years ago. Gone was the buzz cut, replaced with a short set of dreadlocks. The African-American man seemed to have kept himself athletically fit, but standing next to Adam made him look less buff. Hell, Tommy was feeling a little inadequate next to his former black and green ranger, but he was still the only one of the three in uniform these days.

 

“Zack, Adam!” Tommy cried out enthusiastically, smiling a broad smile at two of his dearest friends.

 

Zack stepped over the threshold and wrapped his arms around his old friend in a bear hug.

 

“God, it is so *great* to see you guys,” Tommy said as he pulled back from the nearly bone-crunching hug Zack had given him.

 

“Hey! You trimmed down the spikes. Much better,” Zack commented, noting Tommy’s newer hairstyle, reaching up to mess with the short hair.

 

“It’s been this length since just after the last time you saw me. Is it my fault you don’t see your friends? Besides, it’s not like you have much to talk about, ‘Mr.-going-back-to-your-roots’,” Tommy remarked, pointing to his friends hairstyle.

 

“It’s edgy. Sue me.”

 

“Hey Tommy,” said Adam, moving into the doorway to give his former ‘boss’ a similar hug as Zack moved past them into the main area of the living room.

 

“Good to see you man,” remarked Tommy as he thumped Adam’s back.

 

“Nice place. Woody. Small. Wouldn’t have thought you’d be into someplace like this,” Adam commented, looking around the small house.

 

“It’s not the outside,” Tommy said, waving at the guys to follow him, “so much as the inside that’s important.”

 

Confused, the two men followed their former leader towards the back part of the house. When they got to the kitchen, Tommy leaned down and popped the hidden lock on the trap door and opened it slowly. He turned to note the mouths hanging slightly open and bulging eyes as they stared at the passageway.

 

“Do I want to know what’s down there?” Zack asked, smirking.

 

“Come on, stop being a wuss,” Tommy shot back, making Zack and Adam grin.

 

With that, the three rangers climbed down the stairs, and Tommy turned on the lights, showing the cavernous area of his ‘basement’. The main computer console stood at the back and center, with all the other pieces of equipment and artifacts all along the room.

 

“Welcome to the DinoRanger’s command center.”

 

“Shit!” Zack exclaimed, staring as he wandered about. Adam just whistled low and long. “Jason said you were back in the saddle, but I had no idea.”

 

“Well, I wasn’t originally. I was just looking for the dino gems, but then I ended up creating a ranger team…”

 

“You?!” Adam nearly squeaked out as his voice pitched higher than he would have liked.

 

For the original teams, they’d always had a mentor – an otherworldly presence that gave them the power. The thought that Tommy had accomplished something that Zordon or Dimetria had only done in the past was mind-blowing.

 

“I had help. A brilliant woman I met in college. She’s been a good friend and has really helped us build what we needed to keep the planet safe.”

 

“Wow… you guys made morphers and everything?” Adam asked, and Tommy lifted his arm, the long sleeve of his black t-shirt sliding down to show the silver cuff with the embedded black gem.

 

“You man have more ranger lives than a cat,” Zack commented sarcastically as he reached over to look over the metal cuff. “Nice. Still, I liked Billy’s communicators best.”

 

“Me too,” Tommy admitted.

 

Before he could continue the three turned their heads as the sound of grating rock and machinery began from deep back in the cave.

 

“Company?” Adam asked in a familiar tone that Tommy recognized as being one he used when they were expecting putties or cogs to drop on them at any moment.

 

“It’s probably the team.”

 

Both Adam and Zack relaxed visibly, and the three of them stood there as Kira, Conner and Ethan strode into the command center, stopping dead in their tracks when they saw that Dr. O wasn’t alone.

 

“Uh, Dr. O… are these ‘old’ friends?” Ethan questioned, his eyebrows rising as he posed the question.

 

Tommy knew what he was referring to. After Kim and Jason’s visits, the new rangers had actually gotten used to expecting anyone he was visiting with had been a ranger at one time. And of course, that really was the case 99 percent of the time.

 

“Very old. This is Adam and Zack,” Tommy introduced, waving toward each man in turn. “They’re actually my predecessors in a way. They were the first and second black rangers.”

 

Conner looked over the two men and nodded his obvious approval. Kira glanced from them to Dr. O and then back again. Ethan was smiling and moved forward to reach out and offered him his hand. Both looked at him surprised, but shook his hand.

 

“I’m Ethan, the new blue ranger. And I have to tell you, I’m so glad to see that the whole of the ranger community was a bit more ethnically diverse than the recent old rangers we’ve had come through town.”

 

Conner and Kira looked at Ethan like he’d grown a second head, shocked and appalled. Zack and Adam smothered laughter and Tommy simply sighed. He should have known that his cyber-geek wouldn’t tiptoe around a subject he wanted to address. And he was right… right now he was the only minority on the team. Of course, if they were able to finally bring Trent to their side…

 

“The kid’s got guts. Guess it comes with the suit,” Zack commented humorously. “So I can guess colors, but names would be nice.”

 

“Sorry,” Conner spoke up, moving forward and offering his hand to the two former black rangers, Kira following him. “I’m Conner, and this is Kira.”

 

“Nice to meet you,” Kira said, nudging Conner out of her way as she made sure she asserted her ‘I may be a girl, but I can kick your ass’ attitude

 

Zack threw a look to Tommy as the new rangers backed up slightly.

 

“Nothing like chips of the old blocks, huh?” Zack asked Adam, and he nodded in agreement.

 

“That’s what Kim says, at least,” Kira remarked suddenly, and all three of the older rangers turned their heads to stare at her.

 

“How’s that?” Adam asked quietly.

 

“We were discussing the previous yellow rangers. She mentioned again that I reminded her of the original yellow ranger.”

 

Tommy and Zack looked at each other, and then turned to Adam. Tommy and Zack had served with Trini, while Adam had only known her briefly before he, Aisha and Rocky took over for Zack, Jason and her, and then afterwards during the time when the rangers had kept the friendships in place. Still, it was a surprise for all of them that Kimberly had brought up Trini with Kira.

 

“Yeah, she briefly mentioned Trini’s passing away,” Conner explained briefly.

 

“We hadn’t mentioned it before so we wanted to say that we’re sorry about Trini dying,” Ethan remarked and the three older rangers observed his sincerity.

 

“Thanks guys. I think that if you said that to Kim that she really appreciated it,” Tommy replied, a half smile on his face.

 

The three teens gave him a look that said they knew what he meant, and again he wondered just how much Kim was helping him mentor these new rangers.

 

“So, dino rangers again?” Adam said, breaking the tension.

 

“Yeah, back to the beginning,” Tommy remarked.

 

“We even have an evil ranger we’re trying to save,” Conner blurted out, and Kira and Ethan both glared at him, the yellow ranger smacking him on the arm.

 

“Evil ranger?” Zack questioned, looking to Tommy with a mixture of concern and memory.

 

Dropping his head, Tommy ran a hand through his hair. Damn, he wished that they could find *some* way to break through the evil imprint on the white gem. He didn’t know what kind of damage this was going to do to Trent in the long run. It had taken the team weeks to break him free of Rita’s power back in the day, and it still haunted him. How much more could it affect Trent when he’d been fighting against the evil influence for over a month now?

 

“Tommy?” Adam questioned, moving to place a hand on his friend’s shoulder.

 

“Sorry guys,” Tommy said as he raised his head to glance at Adam and Zack. “One of the gems got found by the bad guy, and its turned one of the students at the high school, one of my students into an evil ranger. We’re still trying to find a way to break the power of the gem over him.”

 

“Wow… I don’t know what to say bro,” Zack commented, reaching out to Tommy, and the new black ranger caught his arm in a crushing handshake.

 

“History repeats itself… I just had hoped it wouldn’t ever happen again, you know?”

 

Zack and Adam nodded, and then turned to look at the new rangers who were now facing something that the original team had seen, and that Adam had watched his friend and former ranger leader deal with the repercussions for years. The two men could only hope that they survived better than their predecessors.

 

“You guys okay so far?” Zack asked the kids.

 

“Yeah. You know, at first we didn’t know how far back this ran and how deep the scars were for Dr. O and Kim and the original team. But as time’s gone on, Kim’s really helped us all get through it,” Kira explained, recalling her own special situation, and how only Kim could understand how she was feeling.

 

“Sounds like our Kimmie is still saving your butt ‘oh fearless leader’,” Zack smarted off, receiving a punch in the arm from Tommy and a glare from Adam.

 

“Uh, anyway, it looks like we came at a bad time,” Ethan spoke up, realizing that they’d been talking all this time, and Zack and Adam had to be visiting Dr. O for some other reason than trading battle stories with the new kids on the ranger block.

 

“It’s okay Ethan. What were you guys here for anyway?” Tommy asked, going instantly into teacher/mentor mode.

 

“We thought we’d check on the raptor cycles. Hayley said they were fixed, but…” Conner squeaked out, feeling the focus of their teacher now falling on them.

 

“Well, how about you guys come by tomorrow and we’ll look over everything. I’ll plan a training session this weekend and we can make sure they’re working alright.”

 

“Sounds good Dr. O,” Conner answered, and then turned to the former rangers. “And it was great meeting you guys.”

 

“Same here Conner. You guys keep up the good work, okay?” Zack replied, nodding to the younger man.

 

Another round of handshakes and smiles went around the room, and the new rangers finally exited the way they came in. As they left, Adam and Zack turned to their former leader, regarding him carefully. Tommy waited for one of them to break the silence and tell him what they thought. He didn’t have to wait long.

 

“Raptor cycles? Man, you have all the neat toys,” Zack joked, and Tommy couldn’t help but laugh.

 

Zack and Adam joined him.

 

“Okay, so you met the new team and saw the basement. Now, how about some dinner?”

 

-

 

Over dinner, the three talked about the more ‘safe’ topics that anyone could overhear - Adam and Zack’s career moves, and Tommy’s teaching. The ranger stuff would come later, when there wasn’t anyone else around.

 

“So what’s the job opportunity in San Francisco?”

 

“Adam’s got an interview with a prestigious Martial Arts academy looking for an instructor,” Zack blurted out, and got smacked by Adam.

 

“It is not.”

 

“Yes it is, and if you’d been the one to tell Tommy, you’d have downplayed the whole thing.”

 

“Guys…”

 

“Sorry. Anyway, I’m heading up for an audition with the national company of ‘Rent’. They had one of their leads leave, and rather than promote one of the really green understudies, they’ called a few agents looking for talent, and so I got the call to go and show ‘em my stuff.”

 

“That’s really cool,” Tommy said, truly impressed by his friends career moves.

 

“Well, I don’t know if I’ll get it, but at least they asked me to come interview,” Adam commented, munching on a bite of his chicken.

 

“Please, you’ve only gotten better since graduating high school,” Tommy complained. His friend was good at what he did, and he was just too self-conscious to acknowledge it.

 

“I guess…”

 

Zack sighed as he took a drink of the iced tea he’d ordered. Between Jason, Tommy and Adam, he didn’t know which one was the worst at playing down their accomplishments. Then, he had to amend that as he reminded himself that the man who was now the new black ranger had a PhD and had created a ranger team.

 

He figured Tommy won.

 

“Anyhow, so you’re teaching high school… how the hell did that happen?”

 

“I decided I needed to give something back for all of the damage I did during my PhD studies. Something good had to come out of it, or it would have been a total disaster.”

 

“That sounds logical,” Adam remarked.

 

“Still, it’s tough imaging you as the teacher.”

 

“If I put on my glasses and my sport jacket, would that help?” Tommy joked around a mouthful of steak.

 

The other two occupants at the table just laughed.

 

-

 

Once dinner was done, there was a debate about going somewhere and having a few drinks. But it was shot down quickly when the issue of talking about ‘business’ was brought back up again. So they ended up stopping off at the local 7-11 and picking up several six packs of beer and some snacks before heading back to Tommy’s place.

 

The three jumped out of Tommy’s jeep and headed inside his house. Zack dropped the beers and snacks on Tommy’s coffee table while Adam snagged a bag of the Doritos from the place Zack had set them and plopped down at one end of the sofa. Tommy went over and checked his message machine, and then snagged a bottle of beer from the bag. Grabbing his computer desk chair, he turned it around and sat, popping the top off and gulping down a swallow. Zack came back from the bathroom and got a beer for himself and then handed one to Adam, who gratefully took his. Zack settled into the other end of the sofa and took a sip and then focused on the subject of the conversation.

 

“So, you and this Hayley chick built morphers and all this other technology?” Zack asked.

 

“Yeah. I got really luck that she’s been on board. Actually, Adam, you meat Hayley in L.A., remember?”

 

“Wait… the read-head right?” Adam remarked, his mind finally remembering the visit he and Jason had made to see Tommy years back.

 

“Yeah, that’s her. Anyway, she’s Billy smart. And after she figured out who we were…”

 

“Wait! She knows we were rangers?” Adam yelped, nearly spitting out a mouthful of beer.

 

“You didn’t tell her, did you?” Zack asked, shocked.

 

“She figured it out. I’m not sure how. But she came to me with too much information for me to be able to refute, so…” Tommy explained somewhat sheepishly, and took another gulp of his beer.

 

“Wow.”

 

“Anyway, its’ done, and if she hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here now.”

 

Mentor and black ranger,” Adam stated, and Tommy nodded.

 

“And obviously you have some other help in the mentor department, if I get what the kids were talking about,” Zack noted.

 

“What do you mean?” Tommy questioned.

 

“Kim.”

 

Tommy found his face burn with sudden embarrassment. While he knew that he was grateful that Kim was not only with him, but helping with the team, the fact that Zack was asking about this seemed to signal that his love life was now up for discussion, and when Adam turned to stare at him, he knew what was coming.

 

“So, does that mean that you and Kim are back together again?” asked Adam as he took another swig of his beer.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Jase said as much. I have to say though bro, it’s ’bout time,” argued Zack, finishing the last gulp of his bottle and reached across the coffee table for another.

 

“What does that mean?” Tommy asked indignant.

 

“I mean that you should have fixed things with the woman years ago. While I wasn’t there when the whole mess happened, what were you thinking not at least calling her?”

 

Tommy looked to Adam and saw his friend shrug.

 

“I always wondered about that too. And then you went skiing with Billy and Kat…”

 

Sighing, Tommy took another drink from his beer and looked to his friends.

 

“You guys are about eight years too late to be giving me pointers on fixing my relationship with Kim.”

 

“Obviously you finally got your act together because you’re together, and she’s been helping out and all, but damn man, it took you two long enough.”

 

“We talked after Trini’s funeral,” Tommy stated, and the two friends nodded, remembering seeing the two former lovers leave together, and then hearing the news that Tommy and Kim had talked things out finally. “After that, we sort of got to be friends…”

 

“Tommy, you two were never just friends,” Zack said with a smirk.

 

“I know. Still, we did that for a year, while I was working on the PhD… then we just stopped pretending.”

 

“Good,” Adam stated firmly, and Tommy stared at his mild mannered friend.

 

“By the way, Jase wanted me to let you know that he’s getting that speech ready,” Zack said with a wink and a smirk.

 

“What speech?” asked Adam, confused as Tommy groaned and rolled his eyes.

 

“The whole best man one. Seems that Jase figures sooner than later he’ll be getting ‘the’ phone call.”

 

“She hasn’t even moved in yet.”

 

“She’s moving in?” Adam questioned.

 

That surprised Tommy. He was sure that Kim had to have told Aisha. The two were still best friends. And Aisha, Rock and Adam had always been the tightest of the teams. That he was asking…

 

“Didn’t you talk to Aisha?” Tommy asked.

 

“I’ve been busy. Rocky mentioned that ‘Sha had news, but he hadn’t gotten the specifics. Guess we’re out of the loop.”

 

“But Jase is sure that once Kim’s out here, all shacked up with our fearless leader that Tommy won’t wait long before finally making an honest woman of our little Kim,” Zack explained, nodding and winking at his friend.

 

“I haven’t decided when to ask her yet,” Tommy said with an embarrassed look.

 

“But you will ask her, right? Come on, you want to marry her, don’t you?” Zack asked, and Adam pricked up his ears, wanting to hear the answer to this too.

 

Of course, Tommy knew the answer to that. Hell, he’d know the answer when he’d seen her that first weekend in Reefside when he’d promised himself he’d never let her leave again. Even if he had to marry her to do it. Then they’d talked about Kim’s Freudian slip, bring to light the fact that both of them had been mulling over the idea of getting married in their heads.

 

“Yeah. I think I have since I was seventeen. But I think we both were concerned about trying to live together… you know, making it work 24/7 before we talked any more about it…”

 

“Please,” Zack stated confidently. “If anyone was meant to be together, it’s you guys. Hell, if Kim hadn’t gone to Florida, you’d probably be celebrating your fifth wedding anniversary already.”

 

“I know,” Tommy mumbled, and then looked at his friends, deciding that if he might as well confide in someone. “On her last visit, I realized that I wanted to marry her. That's of course as soon as I can get the guts up to ask her.”

 

Zack sighed. For the man whom so many former rangers considered the ‘greatest’, he was continually intimidated by a slip of a woman. Not to say that Kim couldn’t kick Tommy’s ass if provoked, but just on general principle, it was pretty funny.

 

“You my friend have got to get over this issue. She’s gonna say yes, you just have to ask her,” Zack said, and the two looked at each other as the echo of times past settled over them.

 

“I will.”

 

Zack glanced at Adam and the Asian man winked at him as the trio continued to talk and drink before crashing for the night.

 

Yeah, Zack thought, Jase better get cracking on that speech.

 

-End-

 

GO TO CHAPTER 20

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