The ex-Rangers were silent as they walked through the graveyard. They'd made this trip several times now, but it never grew any easier.
It testified to Jason Scott's maturity that he felt no shame in letting the "leader mask" drop on this occasion. Even after his time as a Ranger ended, he had always been the rock, the one the other ex-Rangers leaned on in times of stress. They could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times he'd cracked: When Goldar and Tommy nearly killed him in the Dark Dimension. When he thought his team had been destroyed on the Island of Illusion. When he failed to retrieve the Green Candle. And most of all, at Trini's funeral. For some of his teammates, Trini's death had not seemed quite real -- until they saw their leader broken and sobbing. Then it sank in.
Zack Taylor's trademark enthusiasm and happiness was noticeably lacking, as it always was when matters involved this tragedy. After all this time, he still couldn't believe this was real. While Trini may not have been the most outgoing person -- in fact, she seemed to prefer staying in the background -- she had still been vibrantly alive. Seeing her in that coffin had shaken Zack to his core. Since then, while he continued to enjoy life, he also took care to take it a bit more seriously, realizing how precious it was. It was her final gift to Zack.
Billy Cranston had made his yearly return from Aquatar for this occasion, although he always stayed long enough to catch up with his friends as well. Of all the friends in their tight-knit group, Trini's death might have hit Billy the hardest. He had confessed after her death (though his friends had wondered since before their Ranger days) that he'd had feelings for Trini that went beyond friendship. His pain had been compounded by Kim's tearful admission that, though she'd never come out and said it to the brunette, Trini might have reciprocated. Unfortunately, Billy had been too shy, and Trini too reserved, for anything to come of it. Though he'd eventually moved on and found happiness with Cestria, the Asian girl's death had brought back remembered feelings and old pain. His friends had helped him through it, as they always did, but a part of Billy still mourned for what might have been.
Kimberly Hart had taken Trini's death perhaps as hard as Billy. While the Blue Ranger had lost a dear friend and possible love, Kim had lost a sister. Trini had been Kimberly's closest friend out of all the Rangers she'd served with (though Aisha was a close second), and seeing her lying lifeless like that, realizing that she would never open her eyes again, never translate Billy-speak again, never do anything again, had left the pink-loving woman a broken mess. She might never have recovered if it hadn't been for Tommy. Her ex-boyfriend had taken her in his arms and held her all night long, letting her cry and talking her through it. They talked about many other things that night, and while they quickly realized that the love they once shared was gone for good, they had rebuilt their friendship. Even in death, Trini was helping her friends.
Tommy Oliver, unlike the others, had known Trini for only a little over a year before she left, but that did not make their friendship any less deep. Trini had, along with Jason, played an instrumental role in helping the team accept Tommy. Her open acceptance of the Green Ranger had helped Kim overcome her hurt feelings, and led to true love. Tommy also rememberd her support during the Venus Island crisis. Even as Trini was worried out of her mind for her young friend, she had helped Tommy prepare to surrender himself to Zedd, promising, with absolute faith, that the team would get him back. As with Kim, Trini's death had lead Tommy to put his painful past in perspective, especially when it came to Kimberly. He'd cried that night too, and while he would have given up his own life in a heartbeat to bring Trini back, he would be forever grateful that he and Kim had put aside their past differences. Tommy was certain Trini had been watching over them from her place in heaven that night, and that her eternal rest would be easier now that they were truly a team again.
Lost in such deep thoughts, the team didn't notice the two figures standing next to their destination at first. Kimberly's soft "Oh!" brought them out of it, and they stared in surprise. A handsome middle-aged man and a beautiful, somewhat younger women stared solemnly at the simple headstone. The man laid a yellow rose on the grave. The woman followed with a stuffed, yellow saber-toothed tiger toy.
The Rangers looked at each other in shock. It was painfully obvious that the two unknown people were aware of Trini's "extra-curricular activities". But how?
"Who are they?" Zack asked quietly.
Billy's brilliant mind quickly found the answer. "The only two people they can be," he answered simply. He stepped forward and cleared his throat.
The two older adults jumped in surprise. They stared at the Rangers with something that was not quite fear, but definetely extreme nervousness.
The staring contest continued for a few seconds until Billy smiled. "You're looking a lot better than the last time I saw you, Rita."
Four mouths dropped in shock.
Rita relaxed visibly and returned the smile. "And I don't have headaches anymore, either," she teased.
"Rita?", Kim gasped.
"Zedd?" Jason managed.
The man nodded. "Yes, Rangers, it's us." He paused for a moment, then continued. "I'm sorry we couldn't have come sooner, but we were so busy adjusting to our new lives, repairing the damage the UAE did, and, well, Trini's death wasn't exactly galactic news. By the time we mustered the courage to look you up..." he looked sadly at the headstone, "it was too late."
"Too late to say how sorry we were," Rita finished sadly. Then she visibly steeled herself. "How sorry we are for what we did to all of you. Especially you, Tommy. We spent almost three years trying to make your life a living hell. Turning you evil, stealing your powers, kidnapping Kimberly...I know no words like "I'm sorry" can make up for that, but it's all I have to give."
The Rangers stood stock-still for a moment, then Tommy stepped forward and extended his hand. "Despite all that's happened between us, I 'd be the biggest hyprocrite in the galaxy if I didn't forgive you."
Zedd took his hand. "Thank you," he said sincerely. The other Rangers followed suit, shaking Zedd's hand, and (much to the ex-villianess' surprise) giving Rita quick hugs. This had always been a day of letting go of past hurt, and it was high time this grudge was settled.
After Zedd composed himself, he said "You know, despite all our focus on Tommy, I think we, in a way, hated Trini even more." THe Rangers looked shocked.
Rita nodded her head in agreement. "Using Trini's code of honor to cheat wasn't the only reason I sent down the Kung-Fu Mantis. I wanted to show her that my way was better, that evil was stronger than the peaceful, honorable way of life she represented."
"Trini stood for everything we hated," Zedd continued. "She believed in friendship, helping others, courage, and, yes, honor. She was a deadly fighter, but she only fought when she had to. All of you Rangers made us see red by doing that, but Trini most of all."
"She was something special," Kim agreed softly.
The were was a moment of silence, than Rita said "I don't think it ever sank in for us how young you all were. You'd think that would have been obvious, given that we were both tens of millenia old, but somehow it flew right by us. And after three straight years of defeat, we thought you were invincible. Now we realize...you're mortal, just like we are now."
For several minutes the Rangers and their enemies stood in comfortable silence. Finally Jason, always the leader, spoke up. "We always pray, each in our own way, on this day. I don't know what your religous beliefs are, but I would be honored to have you join us."
Zedd blinked rapidly. "The honor is ours," he said hoarsely. Ex-Rangers and ex-villains joined hands and raised their heads to the sky in honor of an extraordinary woman.
And somewhere beyond the highest clouds, Trini smiled as she saw them heal a little more.