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I Especially Am Slow

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“Do you think you'll tell them?”

Trini looks up from her plate to see Kim watching her, leaning forward across the table with that weird, eager light in her eyes.

“About being-” A quick glance around the deli to make sure no one is listening (who would be? They are just two teenage girls, as far as most people know). Trini lowers her voice, anyway. “About being a Ranger?”

“Yeah. Why not?”

“Hah!” Trini bisects her remaining piece of cake with maybe a little more force than is strictly necessary. The screech of fork-on-ceramic does draw a few heads their way- Trini can feel their eyes prick pins-and-needles at her neck. She runs her tongue over her teeth, scowls. “Like I said- my folks like normal. They'd lock me up before believing I was a- a superhero.”

“Even if you morphed in front of them?” Kim says, full volume.

Trini winces. “They'd probably just test the tapwater or something.”

Kim snickers. “Seriously?”

“Naw, but- I dunno. Don't wanna give them a reason to move us again, I guess.” She shrugs, pushes a crumb of red-velvet across her plate. “Love to see the looks on their faces, though.”

“Well,” Kim smiles, lowers her voice only now to say, “I wouldn't want you to move, either.”

The silence lingers just long enough to be uncomfortable, for the fingers of a blush to start a crawl up Trini's neck, then Kim grins and reaches across the table to steal the last of Trini's cake off her plate.

Her smile, afterwards, is syrup-red, and she licks the frosting off her lips just a beat to slow to be anything but deliberate.


 

“You do know I've never cut someone else's hair before.”

“You did an alright job on yours,” Trini says, trying to keep her voice level, trying for the cool don't-give-a-fuck drawl that had the others calling her 'crazy girl' well into their friendship (she is terrified that one day they will realize how fragile she is, how scared, that it is mostly an act, that they will decide four Rangers is enough, after all, if it is her they are losing).

But.

But she is not thinking about that right now, because she is mostly shirtless in Kim's untidy bedroom, just a plain, laundry-day bra and goosebumps between her and the open air, and Kim's hand is brand-hot where it is resting on her shoulder, casually, like she doesn't even realize she is doing it.

“Yeah, well.” Kim opens and closes her scissors, experimentally, a metal snip shiver-close to Trini's ear. “I didn't really care what happened to me then, hair or otherwise.”

Trini has heard the story by now, of course- they all have, she's pretty sure, how Kim showed that poor girl's nudes to people she shouldn't have, how she paid and paid for it.

Maybe more than she should have. Maybe not.

Teenage girls can be mean, is all Trini knows, wishes it wasn't usually directed at other girls.

She doesn't say that. Not with Kim's hand on her shoulder, not sitting in her messy room, staring at the sticker-residue in the mirror of her whitewashed vanity.

She says, “Well, fuck it. Maybe I don't care either.” shrugs, and Kim's hand rises and falls with the movement, creeps a little closer to her collarbones.

(of course, she cares more about herself now than she has in a long time, but-)

“Well, you should,” Kim says, that weird easy intensity she has, 0-100 in the space of a sentence.

Trini shrugs, again. “Well, I'm here anyway. All else fails I shave it all off. Always wanted to try a buzz cut anyway.”

“You'd look good with one,” Kim says, her hand hot on Trini's shoulder a beat longer, then she is lifting it to Trini's jaw, tilting her head gently to one side and taking her sewing scissors to the 'new-girl-in-town' haircut that's growing out shaggy from Trini's scalp.

They're silent, for a while, just the metal snick of scissors to fill the small room.

“I don't think they should have done that to you,” Trini says. “Those girls, I mean. Your old friends.”

Kim stops snipping, a moment.

“You did a really shitty thing,” Trini says, already regretting this conversation. “Like- seriously. But they didn't have to go like- full Godfather on you. Metaphoric acts of violence and shit.”

“I dunno,” Kim says, “wouldn't you have?”

“I'd have kicked your ass for sure,” Trini says. “Just- been done with it. Knocked your tooth out, maybe.”

Kim laughs, at that- startled, maybe. “I'd have deserved it.”

“Yeah,” Trini shifts, keeps her eyes fixed down, at the expired eye-shadow palettes and dirty makeup brushes scattered across Kim's tabletop. “You would've.” Kim's thumb scrapes, maybe by accident, across the slope of Trini's skull, tracing a line from her ear backwards, intimate and strange.

There's a beat where maybe Kim's gonna say something- Trini kind of wants to, but she's not sure what. Can just feel it tense and growing and a little warm behind her ribs.

Then the scissors pick up their even rhythm again, Kim's hands tipping Trini's head this way, then that, gently- always gently.


 

“You know,” Kim says, after a while, “Jason never said that to me. Just gave me some line about- forgiving myself and moving on.”

“Hmm,” Trini says, this involuntary noise from the back of her throat.

“What?”

“Just didn't think you'd badmouth our- uh, brave and glorious leader like that.” (and Trini loves Jason, she does, their boyscout screwup of a team captain, but he can be a bit blue-eyes James-Kirk Capital-H-Hero for her, sometimes).

“What, just cause he's in charge-”

“Naw, I just thought you two were- an item, you know?”

Kim snorts. “Jason?”

Trini shrugs, again. Kim's hand is back on her shoulder, thumb warm at the join of her neck.

“No, he's- cute. Great abs. But I don't really- see him like that.”

Trini looks up, meets Kim's eyes in the mirror. “No?”

Kim smiles, a little intense- knowing, maybe, or maybe Trini's reading into things.

Trini's the first to look away. She's sure Kim can feel her pulse, loud and traitorous where it beats through her throat.


“Looks good,” Kim says, putting the clippers down with a deceive thunk on the vanity.

“Yeah,” Trini says, can't stop her hands from coming up to run through her hair- pixie-short and buzzed at the sides, the stubble prickles sharp against her palms.

It makes her look- older, maybe, or- younger, her eyes bigger, her jaw sharper- different, certainly.

“Do you like it?” Kim says, and her voice wavers, a little, like she's worried, like there is this to be scared of, after all they have done.

Trini meets her eyes in the mirror, anxious wide, her lip caught red between her teeth.

“It's- different,” Trini settles on. Rubs a hand back over the stubble.

“Good-different?”

Trini drops her hands, finally, twists to look Kim in the face for real, no mirror between them. “Yeah,” she says, “I think so.”


WHAT have you done with your hair?” Her mother demands of her, reaching to touch, to grab without permission, and Trini jerks away, all her newly-honed fight instincts kicking in at once.

And her mother says something like I can't even touch my own daughter any more? And it is at least something they have not argued about before, novel for that if nothing else.


Trini wanders down to the spaceship, sometimes, when their house gets too crowded, not too many people but all of them too- loud, to grabby, too- the way her family is.

The ship is old and creaky and smells like rust and oil, and there's a door that squeaks in a way that startles her every damn time she opens it, but it's not her house, so it's an improvement.

“I like having my head shaved too,” Billy tells her, one of these days. He's propped up on a counter in their common area, tinkering with something Trini can't quite parse, a tangle of wires and steel in his careful hands.

“Why's that?” Trini says, offhand, digging in a pocket for her phone to pull up a game of snake (and she still feels rude, for doing it, but Billy gets squirmy if you look him in the eyes too long, in conversation, so it's not, not really).

“It feels nice,” Billy says, running a hand over his scalp like Trini's done so many times in the last week.

“Yeah,” she says. The loading screen opens with a fanfare of royalty-free music, and Trini startles, scrambles to flick on the silent.

“Is that why you like it?” Billy says into his tinkering.

“I dunno. It's- new, I guess.”

“Is that good?"

Trini laughs- the question's such a strange mirror of the one Kim'd asked her in the bedroom (though Kim had been... touchier).

Billy's heel starts to drum an even rhythm against the counter, a muted thump thump thump of rubber-on-steel; background noise to Trini, by now.

“Uh- yeah, I guess,” she says. “New is good.” She thinks, briefly, of the endless new-but-identical small towns she'd lived in. “Sometimes.” Her snake runs into its own tail and dies in a flicker of black-and-white.

“I don't like new stuff," Billy says.

They sit there a moment, in the belly of a buried spaceship, the halls literally alien and by now familiar.

“Well, usually I mean,” he amends, and Trini laughs.

“Yeah," she says. "I know what you mean. This is-” she thinks of Kim, her too-sweet-coffee-and-powder-deodorant smell, her crowded room, the white slash of her smile. “Good different.”

Billy sends a smile her way, holds his hand out for a high five, and it's so rare he seeks out any sort of touch it pulls a smile out of Trini, too.

They slap palms.

Perfect 10.


Trini pads downstairs to get a glass of water, one night, and her mother eyes her over the kitchen island, goes, “Trini, sweetie, you should take it easier at the gym”

Trini stops, mid-pour, and thinks (because she's no new hand at lying to her parents, but she's been doing it so much, now, she sometimes forgets what lies she's told). Gym, gym- was there even a gym in Angel Grove?

Her mother saves her the trouble of puzzling it out, comes around the counter and grabs Trini's arm- it'd be too hard if normal people could hurt Trini, any more. “It's good to be healthy, but girls shouldn't bee too muscular.” she says, squeezes, like Trini's an avocado she's testing for ripeness.

Trini flexes, deliberatly, and her mother pulls away, frowning.

“I only want you to fit in, Trini- boys don't like girls who are too...” she fishes, for a moment. “bulky. And with that haircut... well, people might be getting the wrong idea.” She drops her hand down Trini's arm, gentle now, a soothing gesture. “I'm just worried.”

“I don't-” want a boyfriend, Trini thinks, but her mouth's gone stale-bread-dry. Care if people get that impression, she thinks, and-

and she fights monsters, in her free time, but she is still a coward, in some important ways. She looks down at the counter, green linoleum, specks of white like dandruff.

“You need some friends and least,” her mother presses, and Trinny sets her jaw. Says, to the countertop,

“I have friends.”

She can picture her mom's expression without looking up, see her lips whiten where they'll be sucked back against her teeth, like she's eaten something sour.

Trini knows exactly how her mother feels about her friends.


“It was very nice to meet you, ma'am.” Zack says, as he's leaving Trini's place for the first time.

His spine is straighter than Trini has ever seen it, his hand politely outstretched, at strange odds with his peeling, faded leather jacket, his rip-kneed-jeans, the smell of his too-strong bodywash.

Trini's mother shakes Zack's hand with a carefully polite look on her face, like one might give a preschooler's macaroni art.

(Later, she will say, “Well Jason seems nice, and it's... sweet, of you, to spend time with that... Billy, was his name? But the others, I just- don't think they'll be good for you).

Zack, who Trini's mother thinks is some undefinable type of bad for her, waits around after Jason gives the others a ride home.

His hands are jammed in his pockets, one foot scuffing at the ground.

“You weren't kidding about your family,” he says, after a moment.

“No fucking shit.” Trini snaps. Drops onto the front step and tugs some early-summer grass out of the lawn, shreds it deliberately into green confetti.

Zack just laughs, extracts one hand from his pocket to clap her on the shoulder.

“Come on,” he says. “I got a bottle of Costco rum under my bed, we can spend the night at the quarry. Light some shit on fire.”

Trini barks out a laugh- something sharp and a little mirthless, but Zack gets that, she thinks. Is standing there slouching in his leather jacket, one arm politely outstretched.

Trini wipes off the grass shreds sticking to her summer-sweaty palm, lets Zack tug her upright, away from her house and forward into the creeping warmth of the June evening.


They drink too much and end up sprawled against one another, watching their bonfire shoulder-to-overwarm-shoulder.

“I just,” Zack is saying, slurring really, the fifth time he has tried to start this sentence, “I just- it's just I don't think a family should act like that, you know?”

“Yeah,” Trini says, tosses a pinecone into the fire. It is gilded along every edge, for just a moment, before it comes undone.

“Just like- if I was your mom, I wouldn't care if you- cut your hair, or wanted to make out with Kristen Stewart, or whatever.”

Trini snorts, too drunk to be very maudlin about it. “Thanks then, mom.

Zack shoves her, a drunk-clumsy bump of hand and shoulder that wouldn't do much damage even if Trini wasn't superpowered.

“You know-” he says, “You know what I mean, though?”

Trini tosses another pine cone into the fire, watches it hiss and spit as it dies. “Yeah, man.”

My mom wouldn't- would not do that.”

It's a fact. Zack's mom is very cool.

She had laughed, watching them smuggle the rum out of the trailer: “you be a gentleman to Trini, now,” she's said, and somehow it hadn't been judgmental, hadn't been implying anything.

“Yeah, your mom's the coolest.”

“Damn right.” Zack nods, all leather jacket and cool-boy swagger.

They lean into each other and watch the fire.

No, Trini figures, thoughts gone sort of muddled and slippery with heat and $15 rum, no family shouldn't act like that, but maybe-

maybe like this.

Like Zack passing her the plastic bottle, his shoulder warm against hers, maybe like the golden light of the fire, the smell of woodsmoke and the gentle snap of flames.

Maybe, she thinks, tosses another twig to the fire.

Maybe just like this.


“Come on,” Kim says, “Again.” There is blood on her teeth from where Trini'd landed a lucky hit and a strange, manic look in her eyes.

Trini bounces from one foot to the next, waits a beat longer then throws a punch, hard, for Kim's jaw.

She ducks, neatly, and grabs Trini's wrist, uses the momentum to slam her up against the wall of the pit.

“Nicely done,” Trini manages, the breath knocked halfway out of her, and chalks the stammer in her pulse up to the exercise.

Her mother had said, “I just don't think they'll be good for you,” and Trini's pretty sure she's right about Kim.

Kim who's letting up her hold, falling back to her starting position, pushing sweaty hair out of her eyes.

She is bad for Trini's heart, certainly, in a ratty tanktop and sweatpants, strong arms and a bloody nose.

“Come on, try me again,” she says. They've been sparring all morning.

Trini works her arm, experimentally- sore, by now, but it'll heal. “What is up your ass, anyway?” 

Kim shrugs, hands coming up to the ready position. “Beat me and I'll tell you.”

Trini grins, feels the weird adrenaline-buzz of a fight pull through her tired limbs. “Bring it on, Hart.”

Kim pins her one, two more times after that, always the same way, grabs her by the wrist and twists until Trini is shoved up against the wall, concrete-grit against her cheek, blood in her mouth.

Whoever's defending in a fight always wins, with them- those in-tune instincts that let them morph, make them a deadly team, also mean that Kim knows when Trini's going to attack, how hard to push back without hurting her.

Something about that burns a little in Trini's gut, like she's eaten something rotten, like Zack's Costco booze, about being known by other people right down to her fast-twitch muscles.

“You okay?” Kim says, backing the pressure off her arm.

Trini shakes herself, works her arm in it's abused socket. “Yeah. Another go?”

Kim grins.

(she is beautiful like this, Trini thinks, without quite meaning to, drying blood and a feral light in her eyes, a messy ponytail and workout clothes, and damn this crush, it is only a matter of time before Kim finds her out and then where will she be?)

“You ready?”

Triny tests her balance- backwards on her heels, forwards, then she throws the exact same punch she has in the last three matches.

Kim falls for it, easily, even says “you're going to have to try harder than-” before she realizes it's a feint.

Still off-balance, it's easy enough to flip her onto her back, and Trini's got her forearm against Kim's throat before the next heartbeat.

“Not bad,” Kim says, sounding a little winded herself, and Trini realizes how close they are, her practically draped over Kim's body, the thrum of pulse against her forearm.

She rocks back upright, looks away. “Water break?”

“Yeah,” Kim says, “I think I'm done for the day.”


They had carted a mini fridge into the ship in the week after defeating Rita Repulsa because cold Gatorade is, according to Jason, just as vital to their fitness as first aid and regular exercise.

The contents of the mini fridge, currently, are one bottle of $8 wine, half a pizza, and a truly embarrassing amount of sports drink.

Kim tosses a blue over her shoulder to Trini before fishing out a bottle of her own.

“Thanks,” Trini cracks the cap and takes a long swig, sliding to a seat against a wall. (Her favourite flavor used to be the yellow, but she refuses to be quite so colour-coded, honestly, and fuck what the alien-destiny-coin said).

Kim grins an acknowledgment, presses a cold bottle to her pulse point- a temporary relief against the fingers of summer heat that reach muggily all through Angel Grove, driving out the last hints of spring. She slouches over across from Kim, head tipped back against a row of lockers.

(Kim, on the other hand, had used an Amazon gift card she'd stolen from her ex to special-order the pink lemonade Gatorade by the crate-full, 'cause it wasn't carried locally.

Different strokes, Trini figures).

“So,” she says, stretching the sparring session out of her back with a satisfying pop. “I won. Wanna tell me why you were so hell-bent on handing me my ass today?”

“Hah.” Kim cracks the cap on her drink, takes a swig rather than answer right away. When she finally speaks, her teeth are stained just the slightest bit Gatorade-pink. “The fight last week,” she says. “It's been screwing with me.”

“Oh,” Trinny says, and can't think of the next thing, after that, sweaty and lead-limbed and she was never that good at talking, in the first place. That was shit the superhero movies did not tell you, that coming up with inspiring speeches or witty quips was damn harder than fighting the monsters.

Across from her, Kim slides her bent knees out straight, bare feet and stubbly legs, one of her toenails painted and chipping.

“You remember,” she says, “That sea monster?”

“Of course,” Trini says, because they are superheroes, sure, but she is not yet at the point in her life where she can just forget a serpent clawing itself out of the ocean like Old Testament, yellow lamprey-eyes and bits of old ship in its teeth.

“We beat it, though.” Trini says. “It's dead.”

Kim shrugs. Trini slides her legs straight, so her ankles knock up against Kim's knees across the hallway.

“What, then?” She says, that deep-chest pressure burning in her lungs, like someone's struck a slow-match against her ribs.

There is something she needs to say, Trini thinks, or maybe something Kim is trying to say, and it is building up between them, thick as the muggy summer.

“I just-” Kim shifts, so one of her knees is hooked over Trini's leg. “When it knocked you over, I thought-” she shrugs, again,

Oh, Trini thinks. “Next time you're worried about me,” she says, “Just- you can buy me a drink, instead of kicking my ass.”

And Kim is tilting her head to the side, a little, considering, and Trini's brain catches up with her mouth, realizes what she's said- what it sounds like she's said-

“I mean-” She blurts, throat closing over, but Kim is standing, smiling, offering her hand.

“Come on,” she says. “I'm sick of this place. Walk you home?”

And so maybe it's fine, after all.


She is so relaxed when she gets home, summer heat and exercise endorphins, she nearly forgets what is waiting for her.

Does forget to put on a jacket before she walks in the door, forgets the hand-print bruises blooming like fingerpaint all over her arms, forgets what she must look like.

Her father looks up as she walks in the door and his eyes track from Trini's face to her bruises and back to his newspaper in the time it takes Trini to lever off one shoe.

He says, “Remember to take the garbage out.”

“Yeah,” Trini says, suddenly less relaxed than just tired.

In the kitchen, Trini's mother's eyes track the same pattern- face, bruises, away again.

“Remember to take the garbage out,” she says, she only says,

“I'm doing it.” Trini runs her tongue over the tender, copper places along the inside of her cheek, souvenirs from sparring practice.


That night, her off-hand keeps finding the bruise at her shoulder and prodding, like it's a missing tooth, like she keeps forgetting it'll hurt.

When she eventually falls asleep, she dreams of Andromeda, chained to the rocks, a monster looming at her out of the water.

The bruise goes a very impressive shade of green, before it disappears.


Billy uses Burt's Bees moisturizer. He always smells like engine grease and waxcomb, and he fixes the creaky door in the ship like it is so easy,to take things apart, and to fix them.


Trini finds Jason practicing his Inspirational Leader Voice in the mirror one morning, his arm in a cast after a big fight, saying “we've got this” over and over until the words run into each other like wet ink.


Kim is-

Well.

She's something, Trini is certain, she gave herself a lopsided star tattoo on one wrist and she likes a shitty, gas station beer called “Keystone Blue”. she can shotgun a can of the stuff in about thirty seconds, even though the rest of the team is pretty convinced it's just just old piss run through a filter.

And,

and-

she is the kind of beautiful that people turn to watch. That Trini turns to watch. She has a scar on one knuckle from punching out a boy's tooth (they put it back), and she bites her lip just a little when she is concentrating, and she never remembers to tie her shoes, and she is beautiful.

Whenever she is in the room, Trini's eyes catch on her, over and over, like a bad hangnail.


Zack has three different chess apps downloaded on his shitty old phone, and he runs out of free daily plays on every one of them, every day.

He understands, Trini thinks, the loud stupid fear that drums inside her head, sometimes, that makes her do stupid things just to prove it is not winning.

Is right alongside her, often, jumping cliffs and getting drunk and screaming full-voiced into the face of terror.


Trini loves all of them, fiercely, more than she has loved anyone, she thinks, their tics and habits and shortcomings, and she is fairly sure she will never tell them.

They know, already, probably, except-


She loves Kim like the rest, of course, that action-movie comrades-in-arms thing she's disgusted to find out Fast and Furious did not lie about.

Except, sometimes,

when there is that slow-match feeling in her chest, some unspoken pressure building, when Kim and her hang out alone and there is this thing between them, heavy in the air like the fog that rolls in off the harbour.

Less elegantly,

Mostly Trini is glad just to have them all but sometimes she wants Kim, specifically, to pin her to a wall and take her apart like some broken old appliance, with her hands and tongue and teeth.

She hopes Kim does not know this.


“So,” Kim says, after a fight, stepping out of her Zord and flipping up her visor, a gruesome cut above her eyebrow like she's some conquering Valkyrie, some war hero, “you wanna get drunk?”

An alarm sounds deep in Trini's gut, but she's flush with battle-high, had barely dodged the club of the giant that had staggered furious into their town- had torn its throat open with her mech's claws, like cutting butter.

Monster blood is still steaming in the air, Trini's blood is still sheeting from a rent in her suit, and she says “yes” like it is the easiest thing in the world.

 

Chapter Text

“So you and Kim...” Zack says, and Trini's eyes slide away from his.

“Nevermind,” he says. “That move you pulled on the giant was sick, though.”

And Trini laughs and says “You're damn right” and is grateful for him in ways she will and can not articulate.


 

So.

So, this is a terrible idea, and Trini has been here before, and it has never once turned out well, but-

but, she meets Kim by the gates to the quarry, a bottle of stolen Bacardi Breezer stuffed into her backpack, the kind that tastes dangerously like creamsicle and dangerously not like alcohol.

The summer night settling thick and hot over the mountains like a wet wool blanket, the sort of heat that slows down time.

Trini gets there a little early, waits with her head tipped back against the fence to bare her throat to the sluggish breeze, one foot tapping idly back, the chainlink giving a little with every kick.

“Hey,” Kim says.

Trini drops her head to see Kim standing there, cutoff shorts and a 6pack from the one gas station that never, ever cards.

“Hey.” Trini levers herself upright, feels her shirt peel away from her sweaty skim. “Ready to go get drunk about not getting killed by a monster?”

Kim snorts, tosses her a can “Mazel tov.”

And Trini will remember Kim like this for a long time, in the golden light from the edge of town, too-short hair wisping out of its ponytail, the crisscross tanlines from her halter bra fading across her chest, eyes sparkling in the dark of the night.

She is now, as always, beautiful.


They hike up to the peak of the strange, flattop hills and lay out their blankets, inevitably lumpy no matter how many rocks they clear away.

Trini settles for sitting back against a tree trunk, Kim kitty-corner to her, close enough Trini can smell the sweat-and-sunscreen of her skin.

“Cheers?” She offers, fishing the breezer out of her bag.

It tastes like the powdered Orange Drink mix they gave the preschool kids at Trini's school, four schools ago. Warm, it's not very appealing, and the taste clings fuzzily to the back of Trini's teeth.

“Trade you,” Kim offers, at her grimace, a half-warm beer in her hand.

Trini passes her the bottle. She's tipsy already, overwarm and a little boneless, and she barely blinks when Kim's fingers brush up against hers.

At some point, Kim had shifted Trini's feet into her lap, has been running her thumb absently over the knob of Trini's ankle for the last while.

It is comfortable and unsettling all at once, nice but hair-on-end alien.

Trini takes a sour swig of Keystone Blue and watches Kim out of the corner of her eye, wonders why this all seems so easy for her.


“-and wrap the needle with thread, so only the tip is showing,”

The sun has long past set. Trini'd watched the shadows drip away molasses down the mountain, hours ago. Now it's well and truly night, purple and dark, and Kim is leaned close up to Trini's side, explaining with tipsy stops and starts how to give yourself a tattoo.

They are close enough that Trini can see the mascara that's flaked off under her eyes, smell the orange and rum on her breath.

“Yeah,” Trini says, “But- why?”

Kim rolls her head bonelessly back to look up at the night sky, clearer here somehow than any place Trini's ever lived.

Her wrist, with its crooked, four-pointed star, is draped in Trini's lap like it is nothing, like it is the simplest thing in the world.

Trini traces the star, carefully, with a finger, the delicate ridges of the tattoo under the soft skin at the crook of her wrist.

She's pretty sure she doesn't imagine Kim shiver, a little, against her side.

“Because,” Kim says, in the slurred, inarticulate profoundness of drunk teenagers everywhere, “Aliens are real.” 

And Trini laughs and says, “Dork,” and then-

And then Kim's head is tipping towards her, and Trini can see what's coming from a mile away, like it is happening in slow motion, the summer heat dragging each second out like taffy: Kim is going to kiss her. This is the sort of moment that ends up in a kiss.

Trini's foggy thoughts go, oh, and then Kim is tangling a gentle hand in her hair, fingernails scraping across the slope of her skull and tugging her forward.

Kim's lips taste like cheap orange liquor, sharp and sweet, and Trini thinks, oh,

Mouths at Kim's bottom lip, her hand coming up to cup Kim's jaw, she thinks, you have been here before, with a pretty girl who didn't really want you,

Kim's tongue licks just inside Trini's mouth, finds the sensitive place on her lower gum that makes her legs go just that little bit rubbery.

This is a bad idea, she thinks, and now the anxiety is breaking through the haze of heat and cheap booze and the scrape of Kim's thumb in the hollow of her skull, frissons of what are you doing lighting sparks up her spine.

“I-” Trini says, pushing Kim away with a palm to the chest, “we shouldn't-”

Kim's eyes are wide, pupils blown, her breath harsh in the low space between them.

Some wordless, inarticulate panic is buzzing through the bones of Trini's skull and she shoves herself upright.

“We shouldn't,” she says, again, every girl who ever kissed her and laughed and said god you don't actually like me, do you?  echoing through her head.

And Kim is blinking up at her, a crease between her brows, lip gloss smudged.

Trini leaves her there, with the pine needles and the empty cans and the dying light of their bonfire, a chorus of you've ruined everything, how did you let it get this far, she didn't mean it, how did you fall for this again burning panic up her spine.


“Hey,” Jason says, and her parents had let him into the house no-questions-asked because, of course they did- he is so blue-eyes cornfed he hurts to look at, sometimes.

It's weird to see him here, in her messy room, standing stiffly amoung the crumpled laundry, the air stuffy with the summer heat. The window's cracked, but it only really lets in noise.

Jason frowns, and nudges an empty can out of the way with his foot.

Trini is pretty sure he irons his jeans.

“Hi.” Trini says. She is practically an expert with 'I don't want to talk to you' monosyllables. Some real 10 000 hours of practice shit.

But Jason is a Ranger, and the Rangers seem to have decided, collectively, to stick to her like obnoxiously likable barnacles. So he sits, stiffly, in her desk chair- backwards, like he's the cool kid in a 90s sitcom.

“You've been missing school.” he says.

“Yep.”

There's a pause. The slow, small-town traffic ticks by outside. Trini's overworked fan groans into the still air.

“Kim feels really bad about- whatever happened.”

“Yeah, I'll bet.” Trini says, sneers, but discomfort's knotted its fists in her gut.

“You should talk to her.” Jason says. “You should give her a chance to explain.”

“Oh, talk to her.” The bed frame creaks where Trini's locked her hands around it, and she forces herself to relax, fingers uncurling with a crunch and the bright sting of splinters. “Talk to her,” Trini says again. “Why didn't I think of that? I'll talk to her and she'll explain how very sorry she is and we'll be best friends forever.” Trini knows she's being nasty. Watches herself doing it and can't quite stop.“Talk to her? What excellent advice, I don't know what I would do without-”

“Trini.” Jason says, less disapproving and more pleading.

She stops. Looks away. Picks a splinter out her her palm.

“I need everyone on the same page.” He says.

“I know.”

“If something else attacks the town-”

I know,” Trini snaps. “Jesus Christ Jason, I'll talk to her.”

He gives Trini this- knowing look, like somehow happening to pick up the red coin's given him some sort of otherworldly wisdom. “I'm glad to her that.” He says.

“Get out of my room, Jason.” Trini says, and he goes.


And she hates this- hates being this petulant, angry thing, hates how unreasonable she's being, knows she is doing it, hates-

hates how deep under her skin Kim got, how fast she got there.

A few fucking months into their- what, friendship?- and Trini's tearing herself apart over one drunken kiss.

Time was she could brush off a whole town worth of disdain and now she's-

now one girl is making her lose her mind like this?

She may have super powers now, but she swears to God she used to be stronger than this.


The thing is, though, right, is that she can's stop thinking about it.

Later that day, Trini's paced her way over to the 7-11, Jason's... what, scolding? Burning a frustrated pit in her stomach till she has to move or go crazy.

The 7-11's a bit of a way down the highway, and the night is closing in like the first 10 minutes of a horror movie, blue-dark and foggy, but there is not much Trini is scared of, any more.

At least, not the kind of scared a teenage girl is, usually, out at night alone.

The thing with 7-11s is, there are the same everywhere; the washed-out florescent lights and rows of Spitz in more flavours than you'd figure would go with sunflower seeds.

And Trini has moved, a lot, more than most people, but standing there in the greenish light, slurpee machines grumbling away in the background, there is for a moment the illusion of perfect stillness. Like She's always been here, in this small town, in this grimy rest stop.

This, she knows how to manage. No Rangers or monsters or straight girls with rum-breath kissing her in the dark.

Trini buys a blue slurpee, pays with a 5 that's been sitting crumpled in her pockets with old receipts and movie tickets for weeks. The bleary-eyed cashier makes change without once looking away from middle-distance.

Trini drinks the slurpee sitting out front the store, in the pool of yellow light that spills from the parking lot's one working streetlamp. The asphault is still hot and tarry from the day's sun, burns a little against her bare calves.

She drinks too fast, like she always does, drains the syrup and ends up with a cupful of bland ice after the first few sips.

Rangers apparently can't get brain freeze, though, so. Small mercies.

She can't-

Stop thinking about it, though. The capital-I-It that's taking up all of her time, lately. Takes noisy sips of ice and watches the cars blur past on the highway and her thoughts circle.


See, Trini's known she was into girls since middle-school, since Maggie Thomas pushed over another kid in the playground for pulling Trini's hair, and Trini'd said “I can watch out for myself,” and Maggie has said, “Well maybe I was pushin' him over 'cause I didn't like him.”

Maggie was angry and she always wore the same pair of washed-out jeans, and she'd skipped a grade, so her adult teeth were still growing in, and Trini had fallen for her with all of her barely-pubescent heart.

They went everywhere together, the way kids that age do, and Trini's parents were so glad she'd made a friend they didn't mind that she and Maggie were always getting into trouble, racing hand-in-hand from one mess to the next.

Maggie showed Trini how to stencil little Ls and Rs onto her shoes, so she'd never mix them up, and Trini'd half destroyed Maggie's kitchen one afternoon trying to make cookies, and they talked about anything, everything, always, favourite movies and and songs and books, except when Maggie would talk about her crushes, boys from class or boys from boy-bands, and Trini wouldn't know what to add, just didn't see the appeal.

When they moved out of town, Trini had kissed Maggie on the cheek and Maggie had said, Trini, you can't do that. And Trini got used to not telling people, after that.

She couldn't tell her parents, obviously, but they moved around so much it seemed- easier not to tell anyone else, either.

And then it was easier just not to make friends at all, because teenage boys were kind of leery, in a lot of small towns, and Trini could never shake the feeling the other girls always knew about her, that there was some sign on her back marking her out, that everyone else could see.

She figures it's better for everyone, anyway, her keeping to herself. Some act of ass-backwards altruism, she's probably honestly doing everyone else a favour, not making them deal with her.

Except, now there are people who won't take leave me alone for an answer, people who Trini doesn't want to leave her alone, mostly.

And it's been some six years after Maggie Thomas had pushed a boy over for Trini in the schoolyard, but here Trini is still falling for the wrong people, still picking fights and feeling sorry for herself- fuck, some mornings she still puts her shoes on the wrong damn feet.

and it's only-

Just now, now with the Rangers always around, that she's starting to realize what a fucking mess she is, because everyone else has spent the last half-decade being normal fucking humans, making friends and going out and here Trini is falling head-over-heels for the first pretty face who gives her the time of day, who Trini can't so much as look at without feeling like she's taking some sorta- predatory advantage of,

and this is all stupid, it's monumentally stupid, because Kim is a cheerleader and this is a small town, and those two things combine in a lot of ways, but none of them have ever been kind to people like her.

So Trini sits on the hot pavement, a cup of former-slurpee in her hand, half wishing the guys on the other side of the parking lot will start something, just so Trini can knock them over. Not an abuse of power if its self-defense, right?

But they stay by their truck, just on the edge of the circle of light, so all Trini can see of them is eyes and cigarette smoke, their words far enough away to be incomprehensible, just distant noise and laugher.

So she leaves, after a while, because her ass is sore from the hard ground, and there's only so much moping a person can reasonably do.


“Who cuts your hair?”

Billy gives Trini a sideways look as she plops herself on the counter of his ship-belly workshop, air thick with the smell of oil and ozone.

“My mom,” he says. “She tells me, 'Billy you look like what the cat dragged in'.”

Trini snorts. “Sounds like your mom, yeah.”

Billy also has a good mom.

Trini is surrounded all-sides by people with good moms, it seems. An honest-to-god good-mom ambush, escape is not an option.

Her buzz cut is growing out, is why she's asking, shaggy and overwarm in the relentless summer.

“Don't suppose she'd cut my hair too?”

Billy shakes his head, shifts so Trini gets a glimpse of his project, wires and machine guts winking over at her in the strange subterranean light.

“She doesn't even like doing mine, because the hair goes all over the bathroom, but I don't like the barber touching me,” Billy says, “and the music in his shop is too loud.”

“Yeah,” Trini says, not an 'I get it' yeah, really, more of an 'I got you' yeah.

They sit, for a while, and Trini watches Billy strip wires and tighten bolts easier than she's ever done anything, probably.

“I wish you and Kimberly weren't fighting,” he says, eventually, one hand bouncing a restless path through the air.

“Yeah.” Trini says, again, and just then she means it.


So.

Getting scolded by Jason is one thing, because that's more or less background noise by now,

but two members of her team have asked her to talk to Kim, now, and Zack won't, it's not who he is (thank god), but he keeps giving her sideways looks, like you might at someone on the phone in a movie theatre, hairy-eyeball what-the-hell-are-you-doing looks.

So.

Shit.


“Hey,” Trini says, feeling- ridiculous, like a kid on the first day of preschool, arms-crossed aw-shucks sheepish. The halls of Angel Grove high loom all around her, in all of their grimy, florescent-lighted glory, old gum and mismatched linoleum.

 

“Hey,” she says, and Kim- digging through the books in her locker- turns with a little hint of that fighter's startle-instinct in all of them, a jump of shoulders, hands tensing at her sides.

“Hey,” Kim says, uncertainly. The little bit of fight-tense does not leave her.

Trini suddenly does not know what to say- has the feeling it should be something cool, or monumental, or angry, but she goes, “How- are you?” Instead.

Kim pulls a face. Shoves at the hair that's wisping out into her eyes, a little savagely. “Listen-” she drops the hand, sighing. “I- God, I need a haircut.”

“Listen to- that?” Trini's suddenly not sure where she's been looking. At Kim's hand? Her hair? God, hopefully not her mouth, or something, she does't want to come off as-

“Hah,” Kim's hand comes up again, tugging at that same strange of hair. “No, I'm. Sorry, about-”

“Yeah.” Trini's looking at the lockers over Kim's shoulder, now- it seems safer. Chipped blue paint and old gum tape and nothing either beautiful or intimidating, in the slightest. “Well, listen, Jason's been on my ass so we should- talk, or something.”

There is a knot burning hot in the hollow of her throat. Trini swallows.

“Sure,” Kim says. “Yeah, alright. I'm free all weekend- maybe Saturday?”

“Uh-” Trini blinks, refocuses on Kim. “Yeah, I'll- meet you at the docks.”

Kim nods, hesitates- Trini feels it again, that slow-match tension in her gut, something about to be said, but then the bell clangs for first period, and all she ends up saying is “See you then.”


She'd been embarrassed, at first,

Even mad at herself, for letting it go as far as it had, encouraging Kim to have her fucking drunk “I kissed a girl” moment that day in the woods-

but the more time goes by, the more she's just angry.

Leaving the highschool that day, there is a hot rock of this- furious energy burning a hole through her gut.

Because, where did Kim get off, anyway? Acting like a haircut suddenly changed her whole personality, like she wasn't still the cheerleader-popular-girl at least in part, pulling the drunk kiss card like so many girls like her all over the world.

(I didn't mean it, we were just drunk, we were just fucking around, oh my god you don't like me do you?)

And fuck Katy Perry, while Trini's here. Fuck I kissed a girl just to try it

And never mind that Kim hadn't given her any of the regular excuses so far- she didn't need to. Trini could sense it, by now.

The difference was, of course, between this and all the other times girls had kissed Trini for sport, for show, drunk and looking for 'adventure'- the difference was that, irritatingly, Trini did like Kim, did want to spend time with her, most of the time.

('spend time with her' being a polite euphemism, here, for anything between fond irritation and the more occasional bouts of lung-emptying affection that blindside Trini, now and then, like a train bearing unexpectedly down on her. And she knows what that feels like).

So Trini spends the week angry, comes up with clever, furious things to say in every moment of downtime, running through arguments on the bus or in the shower.

She is, in fact, doing this presently, perched awkwardly on one foot with a dull razor in her hand, thinking about all the things she'll say to Kim and missing that one spot behind her knee, like she does every time she shaves.

Then-

A strange, electric chill runs up her spine, like the water's run cold all of a sudden, and Trini's Power Coin starts to rattle where she's left it on the sink, vibrating sideways and clattering into the basin.

The team needs her.

Trini doesn't bother to rinse off, just tugs her clothes back on and takes off running, barely feels the chafing itch of wet skinny-jeans.


It is a dragon, attacking Angel Grove, because of course it is. Because their lives gave taken a strange, sharp turn for the absurd.

Zack's already on the scene when Trini gets there, trying to clear out pedestrians.

He turns, for a moment, and Trini senses his grin even if she can't see it through the mask. “If you told me I'd be doing this a year ago-”

Trini snorts. He's right- the fourth move in five years has nothing on this, a monster from Arthurian legend with its scaly leg crashed halfway through a Starbuck's like some unparsable political cartoon.

Then the thing raises its ugly head and breathes blue-hot fire down the middle of the street, melting asphalt all along its path, and there is less time for banter.


When the rest of the Rangers arrive, Trini isn't mad to see Kim. She's not even embarrassed.

She feels invincible. In her Zord, with these four at her back, she could do anything.

When the dragon turns towards her and bellows a challenge, Trini yells back, hears the static of laughter over her bluetooth, crackly and fight-hysterical.

(something in her feels like this is what she was always meant for, the metal tang of adrenaline and her Zord's claws spilling monster blood into the streets, it feels like everything has been leading up to this. In the moment, she doesn't even remember to resent it).


Billy's Triceratops deals a raking blow to the dragon's side that sends it staggering, black blood steaming in the summer air.

(of course, Billy will tell her later, Triceratops were some of the only dinosaurs who could stand up to T-Rexes in fights, it makes sense he did that kind of damage. He says it so seriously, with such conviction, that Trini will momentarily forget that there is no paleontological precedent for monsters from tabletop RPGS).

The dragon staggers back one, two, steps then, with a crack like all the sails of a frigate unfurling at once, it opens its massive wings and launches itself into the air.

Then something goes wrong, as it inevitable does, where Trini is involved.

Trini watches it happen in slow motion, feels the world spin to a stop below her feet as, with impossible odds, the dragon's launch sets it on a collison course with Kim.

It smashes straight upwards, a thousand tonnes of scale and bones and claws, crashing full force into Kim's Zord and sending her spinning into the ocean. Even from shore, trini can see the rents in the Zord's metal skin, feel Kim's panic lacing second-hand through her chest.

Trini's hearing whites out like bad cable, vision narrowing, and she's sprinting for the ocean even as, distantly, Jason calls for some new formation, rallying the troops, and the other Rangers fall in behind her.


Kim is sodden and blue when Trini hauls her out of the water, hair in damp tangled sheets around her face, clothing plastered wet to her body.

Trini pulls her up clammy and bleeding and barely has time to think that there are no do-overs, anymore, no magic resurection, because thank God, thank God, Kim is spluttering and coughing as soon as her head is clear. Trini can feel the angry rattle of her lungs where she's got an arm wrapped under Kim's shoulders.

She's probably holding on too tight, pruney fingers fisted in Kim's sopping shirt, but it doesn't matter, because Kim is coughing and opening her eyes, fuzzily, where she's halfway draped across Trini's lap.

“The Dragon-” she says, slurs- there is water clinging to her eyelashes, her makeup smearing down her cheeks. Her ribs rattle again against Trini's arm, like the rumble of a distant train.

“The boys took care of it.”

“Mhm-” She moves to sit up partway, and Trini has to stop herself from holding on tighter, from reaching out to push the harbour-grimy hair out of Kim's eyes, from doing anything too much, too strange, too obvious.

“You alright?” She settles for, instead.

“I-think so.” Kim smiles, reaches to push at her soggy bangs. She's shivering, a little, where she's still pressed most of the way against Trini's chest.

Don't pull that shit again, Trini wants to say, Thank god, Trini wants to say.

She says nothing, instead, but Kim laughs- half of a cough, and sort of ragged, like the hiss of oil in a hot pan. She tangles her wrinkled fingers through Trini's. “Didn't think you cared.” She says, hoarsely.

“Don't be stupid.” Trini doesn't know what to do with her other hand.

I don't know what I would do without you, she doesn't say. Settles on leaning back, a little, gravel biting into her palm. Any of you, but especially you.

“Hah,” Kim says, twists to lean her head forward against Trini's chest, forehead-to-sternum, her hair tickling the hollow of Trini's throat. “Shit.”

I don't know what I would do without you, Trini thinks, but can't say, not now, not with her pulse hammering like some garage-concert baseline in her veins, not with the the salt water thick in her nose. So she brings her hand up to wrap around Kim's shoulders, instead, feels her cold and fragile but alive, thank God.


The others do not say anything, when they find Kim curled shivering into Trini's body, but Trini feels their fear and relief rattle through her chest, feels their collective out-breath through the strange connection they've shared since the first morph.

“She's okay.” Trini says, and thinks, I don't know what I would do without you as Zack comes to help her pull Kim upright, Jason and Billy with their visors clicked back and their hands out ready to help, whatever Kim needs, all of them scraped up but breathing, but okay, the great corpse of the dragon steaming behind them.

“Hate to be the guy who cleans that up.” Zack says, jerking a thumb at the hundred-tonne corpse.

They all laugh, after a moment, a collective sputter of residual tension. And even if the joke wasn't that funny, and even if Kim's laugh is maybe more of a cough, really, Trini is so damn glad to hear it that she ends up laughing along.

 

Chapter Text

 

Kim has known she was into girls since way before meeting Trini.

If there was one thing Kim has always, always been good at, it's knowing who she is, and what (or who) she wants.

Her mom calls it a 'strong sense of self'.

Zack calls it, fondly, 'Pig-headedness'.

Some people just call her a bitch.

Those people are assholes.

-

She's known since she went to this shitty show when she was like, 14- a birthday present from Amanda- and she can't remember the name of the band, and the concert hall had been hot and the floor had been sticky with beer and coke and god-knew-what and she doesn't really even like punk music, but,

but,

but the lights in the hall had flipped off, and there had been- a moment.

A beat of perfect, anticipatory silence, the sort of moment Kim lived- lives- for, like when one of the cheer team had flown through the air in a toss and the whole crowd would tense up, a thousand people holding their breath to see if she'd stick the landing-

Then, out of the hot, close darkness, a wall of sound had erupted, a howling voice, an animal guitar, and the lights had flipped on-

and this is the moment Kim can remember with perfect clarity, the lead singer with sweat standing out on her skin, her teeth bared, her ripped jeans and her terrible singing voice and the dust shaking itself from the floorboards with every pound of the drums behind her.

Someone beside Kim had laughed, clapped her on the shoulder. “FIRST SHOW?” she had shouted, over the roar of the crowd.

Kim had turned with what, in retrospect, she's sure were owl-wide eyes, and the punk beside her- choppy hair and a denim vest and a linework rainbow inked in the crook her her hand- smiled, shouted, “Me too, kid,”

and that was that.

A beautiful, atonal singer at a punk show, a hand on Kim's shoulder, a stranger saying a gentle me too to Kim's dry mouth, wide eyes, to the bass-line thrumming in the bottom of her chest.

'me too'.

-

So.

She knew.

And it was never a big deal, really- Kim is a modern woman, not some repressed indie-movie steryotype, it didn't, and doesn't, bother her.

And she's still, like, mostly into dudes, 70% into dudes, so in a town like Angel Grove it just-

didn't come up.

-

Well.

Actually, it had come up up twice.

-

Amanda had been sprawled on the floor, leaning back against her bed, the Netflix home screen spinning up on her laptop.

Kim was slouched next to her, their shoulders touching easy, thoughtless, a bowl of popcorn nestled on the floor between them.

(Amanda always mixed malteasers in with her popcorn- had done it since she and Kim were kids, sneaking into PG13 movies, way back.)

(“I invented sweet-and-salty, Kim,” she would say, “those food bloggers can keep their 'umami' or whatever, this is an Amanda original.”)

(Kim still can't go to the movies without missing her)

Anyway.

Amanda had reached across Kim to flick off her lights, plunging the room into the soft pink TV glow, Netflix white-and-red.

“God,” she'd said. “What did we even do before Netflix?”

Kim grabbed a handful of sweet-and-salty popcorn, stuck out her tongue to eat one kernel, like a lizard.

“Blockbusters?”

And Amanda had groaned, let her head thunk back against her bed frame. “God, we're old.”

Kim looked over, laughed- was suddenly struck blind with affection, with trust, with the urge to tell Amanda, her best friend since and till forever, she had been certain, sitting there laughing, face gentle in the soft light of the screen.

“So,” Amanda had said, “What do you wanna watch?”

“Amanda-” Kim said, and Amanda must have heard- something, in her voice, because she wrinkled her noise, said,

“Ugh, sorry if it smells like cat litter in here-”

Amanda's house always smelled a little like her cats. She was always way more worried about it than anyone else.

“No,” Kim said, “It doesn't, I-”

Amanda turned to face her, sobering- “Are you okay?”

“I- think I'm into girls?”

There had been a blip of total silence- that nerve-wracking kind Kim thrived on, perfect hang time-

“What about Ty?”

Kim shrugged, heart beating a hasty retreat up her throat. “I'm- bi, I guess.”

And Amanda had smiled, pulled Kim into a sideways hug. “Okay,” she'd said, “Thanks for telling me.”

Kim just hugged her back, grabbed another handful of popcorn for something to do with her hand.

“But if this is your sneaky way of trying to get me to watch Orange is the New Black-”

“Oh my God.”

“Call me unsuportive if you want-” she said, laughter bubbling up in her voice, and Kim thunked her head back against the wall, groaning a complaint as Amanda laughed, her arm warm around Kim's shoulders, the room around them cozy and dim and familiar as the back of Kim's hand.

-

She'd told Ty, on the walk home from some party or other, the fall air cool around them, rich with the smell of rotting leaves, both of them fever-warm with drinking, laughing and stumbling into each other down the side walk.

“You know,” Kim had said, young and drunk and mostways in love, “I'm Bi.”

And Ty had said, “Oh. Hot.”

-

(Some people from her old life, Kim misses. Others...)

-

Anyway, other than that, it doesn't come up very often- a celebrity crush here, a hot classmate there,

until-

-

In the seconds after Billy detonates the cliff in the quarry, Kim is bent double, ears ringing, rock dust thick in her throat and chest seizing with coughs. A breeze is whistling low through the valley, the cool spring air bringing out a clammy sweat across her back.

“Hey,” a voice says, behind her- a hand taps Kim's shoulder, lightly, then pulls back as if reconsidering.

Kim straightens partway, still coughing, to find a water bottle thrust under her nose. It's warm and plasticy, when she drinks, and more refreshing than anything in her recent memory.

Kim does a quick rinse-and-spit, turns to return the bottle with a “Thanks.”

Her mysterious benfactor- a girl, maybe her age- shrugs, waves off the gratitude. “It was whatever.”

And Kim feels her breath stutter, the bottom of her stomach dropping out like she's just gone over the hump of a roller coaster, thrill and vertigo rolled into one.

Looking at this girl- Trini, Kim will learn- her mussed hair, her worn-soft shirt slouched off one shoulder, the little cut on her cheek, her eyes bottomless in the dark of the night-

she's captivating.

Beautiful.

Trini runs a hand back through her dusty hair, tugs her bottom lip briefly between her teeth. “Anyway,” she says,

fuck, Kim thinks, and, holy shit, and, later, some less polite things.

“Right,” Kim says. “Explosion. Cops.”

“Yeah.” Trini glances off, towards the distant sirens, something unreadable in her eyes.

It isn't love at first sight, or anything, but when Kim thinks about when she first started to fall for Trini, she thinks about this-

Trini lit in profile by distant police lights, blues and shadows like some noir movie femme fatale, her pupils huge in the dark, clothes torn and hair messy, she is strange and wild and so beautiful Kim's throat aches, and when she takes off running-

Kim follows.

-

“Kimberly,” her mother says, the next morning, “Where were you last night?”

Kim, palm still prickling from the splintered mess of her phone, says nothing. Reaches around her mom to open the fridge.

It takes three tries to grab the handle hard enough to open it- better to err on the side of too gentle than-

“Kim,” Her mom says, pleading, “There were sirens at the quarry last night, I just-”

The fridge handle, under Kim's hand creaks like a ship in a storm, her fingers locking too tight after all, and Kim forces herself to relax, to say nothing, to keep staring into the open fridge, letting out the stale smell of leftovers, like she could be hungry, after what had happened.

“Kim,” her mom says, again, puts a gentle hand on Kim's shoulder.

“Mom, I'm okay.” Kim straightens, closed the fridge, smiles (and, hey, if she can fake a smile in sleeting rain, on a football field, with another cheerleader's sneakers digging into her shoulders, she can fake one in front of her mom). “It's just- finals season, you know? Grades really matter this year, I was just out studying.”

“Okay,” her mom says, like she wants to say something else.

And she's a nice woman, really, and Kim loves her, but ever since Kim had brought her own life unceremoniously down around her ears, things had been-

tense?

Smothering, maybe, is a better word, like the thick fish-smell near the docks, where the pastel-perfect skin of Angel grove peels away to show the rot underneath.

-

(later, Kim will try not to stare as Trini, eyes huge and shiny in the light of a bonfire, explains how her family doesn't know what's 'really going on with her', can't know, don't want to know, how they're crushing her, a little at a time, and Kim will think, with all the startling intimacy a drunken confession can summon, me too, and you're beautiful, and god, me too, I thought I was the only one.)

-

But.

But in the meantime Kim can't even slam the door on the way out of her house, because even the normal ways to be an angry teenager have been stolen from her, somehow,

and she spends the walk to school thinking less about her superpowers and more about how she wouldn't have minded, really, if the train had flattened them, after all.

She does not look both ways before crossing the street.

-

So they end up back at the mines, because, if you find nearly-fatal trouble once, why not go looking again?

The air is flat and strange, fog pooling in the low places of the trails, dragging eerie white fingers through Kim's old stomping grounds.

Billy, intermittently, pipes up with some fact about what's going on- did you know obsidian forms when lava made from rocks like granite cools rapidly, and but granite's not native to Angel Grove, and so how do you think the coins got trapped in obsidian, can they create lava, we should test how hot they can get,

and he seems like a nice enough kid- smart, certainly, and he apparently bears no ill will towards her or Jason, for all that it's their type who probably give him the most shit.

But- Kim doesn't really feel like talking about 'felsic lava' or whatever, so she mostly tunes Billy out, focuses on the fog and the trail and the coin animal-warm in her pocket.

Jason apparently feels the same; he turns to Kim, as they break out of the fog, smiles. “So- we didn't finish talking yesterday.” He stuffs his hands into his pockets, breath showing a little in the altitude. “What was the Kimberly Hart doing at the quarry, alone, at night?”

And Kim looks at him, handsome Jason Scott, the thin spring sun playing off his fine features, catching golden in his eyelashes.

Appreciates more than his looks the flat, sarcastic tone to his voice, the gentle mocking of her (former?) high school royalty status.

Doesn't appreciate it enough to tell the truth, though.

“Swimming.” she says, flatly.

“Right. Trying out for the relay team? Guess cheerleading didn't work out.”

Kim shakes her head, tries not to show the scabs that's picking at. “Glass houses, Scott.”

And Jason grimaces, puts up a placating hand (trying to be better, even then, than the person he had been).

“Sorry, low blow.” A moment later, “But, what were you-”

Then Billy calls, “Did you guys hear that?” and the echo of metal-on-rock cuts short whatever conversation they were going to have.

-

In retrospect, Kim remembers this meeting with fondness- Zack and Trini bickering across the mines, the gentle teasing that would become like second nature, by the time they beat Rita.

But in the moment- she is cold, and irritated, doesn't care about Zack or Billy or Trini, even, aside from a prickle of intrigue.

But-

but when it is just her and Trini at the top of that ravine, well above the fog, Kim feels-

Well. Again, it isn't love at first sight, but Kim looks at Trini, the wind playing in her hair, her arms barred tight across her chest,

and is overtaken by this- overwhelming urge to get to know this person, whoever she is, as more than just a face in the back of class, a stranger at the mines.

So.

Kim may be a disgraced cheerleader, but she still knows how to be charming when she wants to be.

“Hey,” she says, takes a step into Trini's space, registers the flicker of- something in her eyes, the coffee-and-grass smell of her, the distant, tinny music still drifting out of her headphones- “Could I get a drink of your water? I'm dying.”

Trini blinks. Even smiles, a little, one corner of her mouth ticking up, clearly remembering the last time they'd met. “Alright,” she says, after a moment, turns a little, to fish the bottle out of her bag, voice even tipping into a distant friendliness when she says “Just- don't finish it all.”

“Thanks,” Kim says, takes another step into Trini's space, leans close to say, softly, “And- sorry.”

Kim knows she didn't imagine the catch in Trini's breath, the quick dart of her eyes across Kim's face, the stutter in her low voice when she starts to say- “For w-”

Still got it, Kim thinks, distantly, as she tugs Trini over the edge of the cliff, the rush of vertigo in her chest underscored by the quieter thrill of being able, still, to get under the skin of a beautiful person, when she wants to.

Hey, who doesn't want to be checked out by a pretty girl, time to time? Kim's only human.

(Well. She's probably still human, anyway.)

-

So when Trini ends up in Kim's room, after all of it, asking after a haircut, Kim knows Trini likes her- didn't need a campfire-confession to figure out it was a possibility, either.

“It's- very pink,” Trini says, shrugging her jacket off, taking in Kim's room.

“It's my favourite colour,” Kim says, defensive, and maybe she should have known that her old friends hadn't been good for her, because now she expects to be insulted, but-

Trini shrugs, hands jammed in her pockets, turns to give Kim a rare, lopsided smile. “Alright.” She says. “Dope.”

-

Trini, Kim learns, pulls her shirt off like-

well, like a boy, is all she can think, grabs by the neck and pulls up, back arching as she goes.

“It's so the shirt doesn't go inside-out,” She says, a defensive blush already creeping up her face as she lowers herself into Kim's old vanity chair. Her arm makes an abortive twitch, like she was going to cross it over her stomach then thought better of it.

Kim puts a hand on Trini's shoulder, thumb brushing her neck, feels her breath catch, her pulse jump, and it's-

a little surreal, to have Trini here- Trini in her carefully distressed jeans and her actually-distressed bra- the fabric pilling and faded, the tag sticking out the back.

It's surreal, watching Trini very deliberately not make eye contact in the mirror, her eyes fixed on the sticker-and-bluetack residue where Kim had torn down every photo of her friends from grades K to 12.

Kim reaches, unthinking, to tuck the tag of Trini's bra back into place, and Trini's warm back jumps under her hands, and this is strange, too,

That Kim knows she could lean down, right now, could tilt Trini's head up, that she could kiss Trini, here, amoung her posters and her bedsheets, and that Trini would probably kiss her back.

Knows by the gentle blush showing at the tops of Trini's ears, bu the way her eyes flick away from Kim's every time Kim flirts,

But Kim's trying to be less- mean, and kissing someone out of the blue isn't precisely a nice thing to do, so even though Kim wants to kiss her,

has probably wanted to since they first met and does now, especially, Trini warm and nervous in Kim's room, her eyes lit seafoam-blue in the gentle sun, the yellow bandanna she won't acknowledge tied around wrist-

and even though Kim knows Trini likes her too-

she takes her hand off Trini's shoulder, puts it safely on her scissors.

Does give Trini a little wink, in the mirror, because-

well. She's not completely reformed.

But- still. She feels like she might need- help, with this one.

-

“So.” Jason says, his fingers digging white-tipped into his knee, like it's still bad, like he can still massage it better.

“So.” Kim says.

Below them, the football team warms up, gets a feel for the astroturf field, the heat of the day.

“Go Tigers.” Jason says.

Kim laughs, reflexively.

On the edge of the field, some of the old cheer team sits in shorts and jerseys, waiting for their boyfriends to finish practice, and it's cliché, and Kim loves her life now, and-

“I miss it too, sometimes.” Jason says. Lays his hand deliberately flat on the bench beside him.

“Am I that obvious?”

Jason just laughs, looks down at his old friends carry on just fine without him.

And this, really, is why Kim brought him here, to the nosebleeds in the offseason, metal bleachers scalding-hot against Kim's legs, where her shorts ride up.

Because- sure, Jason is their leader, and a good guy, but mostly,

mostly he gets Kim, in a way the other Rangers don't.

Like- Zack is a good guy- is funny and clever and he knows just when to push someone, and he can't really cook but for some reason makes an excellent from-scratch pizza, but- really, he gets along best with Trini.

And Billy is sweet and brilliant, but he loves mechanics, and cartography, and the X-men, (god he loves the X-men, he could talk about the X-men for hours and never get bored, and Kim loves that about him, loves to see him light up about the things he likes-)

But Kim doesn't love machines, or maps, or mutants, and she loves Billy but they really have very little in common and-

Trini,

well.

Trini is a complicated subject, right now.

Jason, though,

Jason, Kim gets.

“I don't know if you're obvious,” he says, “Just-” he looks over at her, for the first time, away from the field. Redirects. “Kim, what are we doing here?”

Kim shrugs. Tugs her shorts down, a little, tries not to be self-conscious about the way her thighs spread out when she sits down. “Celebrating our school spirit?”

Jason gives her a Look, his team-leader 'come on now' look, eyes solemn and mouth set, and Kim wonders if The Look is an innate Red Ranger power, or if Zordon's been training him, because Jason's got some I'm-not-mad-I'm-just-dissappointed superpower, she swears to god.

Kim sighs, looks away from Jason's you-can-tell-me-anything eyes. Says, after a moment,“You wanna go for a walk?”

-

They end up winding their way aimlessly through town, a gentle breeze helping to dispel the paint-and-sawdust smell that still hangs over Angel Grove, a constant nagging reminder of the damage Rita had done.

“So,” Jason says, “In your text- you said you wanted to ask me something?”

Kim nods. Turns the words over in her mouth for a moment, but just a moment. “Not that I really need your permission,” she starts with, grimaces at the acid in her voice. “I mean-” she sighs. “If I was- hypothetically- going to ask someone on the team out, do you think that'd be a bad idea?”

Jason looks at her, eyebrows pulled together. His hand goes, for a moment, to rub at his once-bum knee. “Uh, Kim,” he says, after a moment, voice uncharacteristically uncertain, “I don't really- see you like that-”

Kim blinks. Processes. Looks at Jason, the tips of his ears sunburn-red, his eyes averted

“Oh,” she says, when it clicks. “Oh- Jason, no- no offense, but I was not talking about you.”

Jason laughs, rubs a hand over the back of his neck. “Okay. Good.” He shakes his head, meets her eyes, and the naked relief in his face makes Kim crack up, too.

(Kim does love Jason, of course, but dating him would be like dating her brother, at this point- Jason is kind and handsome and careful, he refuses to pirate TV and he always double knots his shoelaces, and Kim would die for him, just,

you know.

As a friend.)

“But wait,” Jason says, “Then who-”

Kim can see the wheels turning behind his eyes- he has the worst poker face she has ever, ever seen, and he goes, slowly,

“Not- Billy, right?”

“Not Billy.”

(and is that a hint of relief in Jason's eyes, had that been a hint of jealousy in his voice?)

“And- not Zack-”

Kim just smiles at him, shrugs a little, like, what are you gonna do? And she sees it click.

“Oh!” He clears his throat, and the other times Kim had come out she had been nervous- a thrilled kind of nervous, a joyful nervous, but nervous just the same.

This time, she just- isn't. Can rely on Jason- on any of the Rangers- to have her back for just about anything. Knows what his reaction will be.

Sure enough, Jason smiles, puts a hand on Kim's shoulder- “If you think she likes you too, Kim, you should go for it.”

“Yeah?”

Jason's voice goes a little leader-y- she doesn't think he knows he imitates Zordon, when he gets 'inspirational', but he totally does- and he says, “Thanks for telling me, Kim. I appreciate the honesty.”

And if she rolls her eyes, a little, at his predictable, stiff formality, she doesn't really mean it, because the next minute Jason's putting his arm around her shoulders and saying, “if you need to talk to anyone about it,” and “you're very brave” and Kim hugs him back,

feels the solid weight of his arm, the smell of his body wash masking the construction-smell of the streets around them, knows without a doubt that he- that any of the Rangers- aren't going anywhere.

-

The thing is, they're all good in a fight- Billy with his powerhouse kicks, hands close and protected to his chest (he needs them, he explains, his legs he can risk but not hands--)

Zack with his wildman laugh, loud and crackly over the Bluetooth where it maxes out the mic, even in the most dire fights, like if he's gonna die he wants to do it laughing-

Careful, careful Jason, who's always the first one to jump in front of an attack for someone else.

The other thing is,

as talented as they all are,

there's no one Kim likes to watch as much as Trini.

In person she's still a little reserved, like she's always holding something back, but in a fight-

in a fight, Kim remembers that Trini used to do yoga on the edge of a cliff, had scaled a sheer rockface bare-handed before any of them had known the extent of their powers-

that there is something, at the heart of her, a little reckless.

A little wild.

Anyway.

A giant had come lumbering out of the mountains because, this is Kim's life now, and apparently Angel Grove has sprouted some sort of Sunnydale-style Hellmouth.

And the giant had wandered its way downtown, leaving car-sized footprints in the warm asphalt (the potholes that'll leave, Kim thinks, with some dread, as she arrives on the scene, then remembers to be worried about the monster, instead).

She's looping overhead, getting a feel for the fight, when it happens. The giant swings for Billy, misses, flattens a lemonade stand in the process (Kim hears Billy yell “sorry!” over the Bluetooth, smiles).

Then-

Then Kim watches, with the perfect, helpless clarity of distance, as the giant uses all the momentum of its miss to swing its redwood-club for Trini's zord, a few centuries of old growth barreling for her at a hundred miles an hour,

so Kim yells, TRINI, DUCK, half into the bluetooth and half into the morph grid, the bottom of her whole world dropping away, all fear and no thrill whatsoever-

and Trini's Zord drops like a puppet with cut strings, makes this tooth-rattling thump Kim can hear from where she is,

then Trini- reckless, beautiful Trini- launches herself at the giant's back, all the crouched tension in her Zord's legs uncurling in the space of a second, and the giant's skin tears like wet tissue paper, throat opening under her assault, black blood washing into the gutters.

When Trini steps out of her Zord, after, her cheeks are flushed and there's this wide smile on her face, this fucking blinding smile, like a thousand searchlights all flipped on at once, even though she's limping, and blood is renting steaming from her suit,

and Kim, dazzled and a little nervous, says, “Do you want to get a drink?”

Can't not say it.

-

So.

There.

She's mostly been an adult about it, right, “communicated” instead of just grabbing Trini by the shoulders and kissing he like she'd wanted to (like she's been wanting to for ages).

Now she's asked Trini out and Trini's said yes, so-

there.

-

They end up by the old campfire site, high in the mountains, the thick humid air rising all around them, mosquitoes buzzing in the quiet of the night.

Kim's lightheaded with heat and altitude and Trini and-

okay, she's maybe a little drunk, too, but it's like-

it's fine, she can handle herself,

and she'd think the pretty flush in Trini's cheeks is- well, pretty, even if she were sober.

Kim's talking about something, but she's not really sure what she's saying- slippery, drunk words, unfocused, because Trini is tracing gentle circles on the inside of her wrist- Trini who has never been very touchy, leaning up against Kim's side in the too-hot countryside night, the smell of cheap beer on her breath, her sweat and sharp deodorant,

and Kim wants to kiss her, Trini with tangled hair and pink cheeks and a finger tracing gentle, careful circles on Kim's wrist-

(but- but also, Kim feels like- she could just watch Trini forever, sit here warm and drunk and close as the sun rose and set and rose again, just looking, watching Trini with her beautiful eyes, her bright smile, her.)

When Kim trails off, Trini looks up at her, and Kim knows she's not imagining the tic of Trini's eyes to her mouth, knows she wants this too,

leans in, a little, gives Trini time to pull away-

Trini's breath is bad, but her lips are soft, when when she kisses Kim, her hand warm when it comes up to Kim's shoulder-

Kim slips a tongue into Trini's mouth (but just a little, she's not an animal-) and Trini makes this sound that Kim has never, ever heard before, low and wanting, so Kim reaches to tangle a hand in her hair-

but-

but Trini puts a hand in the center of her chest, pushes gently, and Trini-

Trini who's pupils have nearly enveloped the blue of her eyes, who's breathing hard, who's gentle blush has become terminal-

says”I-”, says “we shouldn't-”

Kim wants to say, huh? Or, why not? Or at least I'm sorry, but her brain's still a little scrambled, and then Trini's shaking her head, standing up, walking away again, like Kim used to watch her do all the time, like part of her still doesn't want any part of this, of the Rangers, of Kim,

so-

Shit.

-

Trini avoids practice.

She skips school.

She doesn't say anything in the group chat (whatsapp, 'cause Billy won't join the ranks of the sophisticated and get a fucking iphone-)

and the problem-

the problem is, that Kim doesn't know what she did wrong.

She says as much, one day, after practice, Jason slouched on a locker-room bench with a dayglo-red Gatorade.

“I just-” Kim picks at the label on her own drink, paces. “I know she was into me too, Jason, I'm- I'm good at this, but she just-”

“Bolted.” Jason says. His mouth is gatorade-red around the edges. Kim looks away.
“Maybe you just startled her. Did she-” he clears his throat. “Did she know you were going to-”

“Yes! I asked her out, we talked, I leaned in- I gave her time to pull away, Jason, she kissed me back, I just-”

Jason sighs, puts his drink down. Runs a hand through his hair. Kim can see lines etched into his offhand where it had been pressed against the benchtop.

“I don't know what to tell you Kim, I'm sorry.”

“It must-” Kim clears her throat, stops pacing, a moment. “It must be me. Maybe she thinks I'm hot but that's it, but she knows what a bitch I-”

“Kim!” Jason's head snaps up, real concern in his eyes, and Kim remembers this probably isn't how guys talk about themselves to their friends. That this probably, honestly, isn't how most girls let their friends talk about themselves, either. “I'm sure she doesn't think that.”

Kim shrugs. “Why not? Plenty of people do.”

“Come on-” Jason gestures to the bench next to him, and Kim's suddenly aware of her shaky, post-workout legs, the sweat trapped under her bra-band. “Have a seat, Kim, we can talk this out-”

“No I'm- I'm going home, I think.” She says, instead.

“Do you want me to talk to her?”

And Kim thinks, god, yeah, but like, she's in the last month of her last year of high school, she's an adult, she doesn't need other people to have her conversations for her.

She shrugs, though, cause she doesn't really wanna say no, either.

“Okay,” Jason says. Looks her over for a moment“Have a good night, Kim.”

“You too,” She says.

-

“Kimberly Hart!” Billy startles as Kim shoves her way out of the locker room, nearly collides with him in the hall.

“Oh- hey.” She walks past him, but he falls in step after her.

“Kimberly, I didn't mean to eavesdrop, only-”

“Only you did?” Kim sighs, feels something mean push its way up through her chest, doesn't quite catch it in time. “Billy, I'm actually not in the mood to deal with-” you right now, she almost says, cuts herself off with a sigh, rakes a hand back through her hair.“Shit.” She takes a breath. “Shit, I'm- sorry, Billy- you know what I meant.”

“No,” Billy says, after a moment. “I don't.” He looks up, briefly, to catch her eye, then away again. “And as I said, I- I didn't mean to eavesdrop, only it sounds like- maybe Trini doesn't know, either?”

Kim scrubs a hand over her temple, where a heat-headache is slowly growing. Her fingers catch on some dried blood and it makes her want to throw something, the way a little frustration can after a long day. “doesn't know what?” she says.

“What you mean, Kimberly.” Billy stacks the fingers of his left hand neatly against his leg, stares down at that, for a moment. “It isn't so easy to tell for everyone, like it is for you.”

Kim looks at him, for a moment, Billy who came back from the dead, Billy who always asks for blue food like that kid in The Lightning Theif, Billy who loves her enough to give her advice, even just now,

and she hates herself with an intensity that she hasn't hated herself with for a while.

Kim shakes her head, goes to clap Billy on the shoulder but remembers in time, course-corrects to just push at her hair again.

“I'll- see you tomorrow,” she says, and Billy doesn't try to follow her, this time.

-

So.

So Kim does something stupid.

She has a tendency to, when she's mad.

Jealous of your friend? Leak her nudes! Feeling lonely? Cut your hair off in a school bathroom! Want to die? Agree to flee town in a stranger's van!

(it's why she likes Trini. Some of why, anyway. Mountain Yoga 'fuck you' Trini, because she has some of the same reckless urge, and its nice to know that if she snaps her ankle trail running, or starts a bar fight or something, there's someone who'll come get her- who'll get it, no questions asked)

(Kim thinks about this and something low in her chest aches, like the one time she'd smoked a cigarette at 15, trying to be something she wasn't, sick and abrasive, it hurts from her throat to her lungs).

Anyway. Kim grabs her earbuds and her phone (newly-replaced, and she misses the old one, sometimes, the new buttons are too stiff but it's nice to have more storage space, she guesses).

She cycles through workout mixes and songs the other Rangers introduced her to and then stuffs her earbuds back in her pocket, takes off jogging down the street.

Angel Grove falls away behind her with the day, pastel houses and parched lawns, the sun sailors-take-warning red over the bay.

There's a a blister eating its way into Kim's heel where her sock's bunched up and she's already shakey-sore from training but this she can do-

Once Angel Grove is just lights and harbour-smell behind her, Kim pours on the speed.

There is a dive bar, you see, far outside the city limits, where the cheer team used to go, where the bar tender would never look at their fakes with too much scrutiny if he asked at all, where they would all order diet-vodka-sodas and pretend they didn't see their designated driver get one, too.

Its seedy glow spills out onto the highway, dim yellowed light and the gnash of music too loud for its speakers, the bass grinding out jagged where the stereo can't keep up with Springsteen- or something like him- mutter-singing about cars and the American Dream and the slow, rotting way their country is eating itself alive.

There's a gang of guys standing out front, cracked leather vests and compensating-for-something motorbikes, the red ends of their cigarettes glowing like cartoon monster-eyes in the night.

A thrill of fear goes up Kim's spine as she staggers to a halt at the edge of the lot, even though she could take these guys, take ten of these guys, 20.

One of her knees shakes, a little, worn-tired, and Kim reaches to still it, looks up at the bar.

The grotty place seemed more gritty, before, dangerous but exciting, and Kim is tired and her mouth takes a little like blood and she can hear maybe-Springsteen sing about wanting to fuck his camaro from here and-

she thinks better of it. Fishes her phone out of her pocket- new and stiff but wearing comfortable, slowly, and she makes a call.

-

“Hey,” Zack says, as hey pulls up, voice muffled behind his motorcycle helmet, but Kim can still pick up the hint of wariness, curiosity.

His- well, it's more of a scooter, really, but he insists on calling it his 'bike'- sputters to a stop, a probably-unhealthy amount of gray-black smoke pouring out the back.

“Everything OK?” he says, flipping up his visor, eyeing up the grimy bar behind her, the rough men with their loud, drunk voices, their motorcycles that bear no resemblance to scooters whatsoever.

Kim shoves a shaky hand into her pocket. “I uh- just needed a ride home.”

Zack frowns. “Jacob not home? I mean-” he pulls a face. “I'll take you, obviously-”

Kim winces. “He's- busy.” She says, and Zack looks at the bar again, duct-taped windows and birdshit.

“Okay,” he says. Tosses Kim his spare helmet.

The truth is-

Well, Kim loves Zack, obviously, but they don't really talk much, outside of practice, aren't close the way he and Trini are.

But Billy doesn't drive and Kim's not gonna ask Trini for a ride, right now, and she doesn't wanna explain to Jason Scott how she ended up out here with a blister bleeding through the back of her sock, so.

Kim clambers onto the 'bike' behind Zack- under her knee, some of the cheap black paint chips off to show the original plastic.

“Don't worry,” Zack says, as the engine splutters to life, and Kim can hear his wink- “I won't tattle to teacher.”

Kim laughs. “Owe you one.”

“No,” Zack says, “You don't.” He flips his visor down, says, muffled, “Okay, hold on.”

And Kim does, and the seedy bar-lights fade behind them, music drowned out by the tear of the wind.

-

So.

So Jason talks to Trini and Trini talks to Kim and later that day, as Kim is pouring herself a glass of orange juice, her power coin grows fever-hot where it's jammed in her too-small pocket.

So maybe she's a little distracted, when she arrives at the water front, maybe she's not paying as much attention as she should to the fight, to the dragon melting its way down the newly-repaved Willow Street, it's been a weird week, can you blame her-

can you blame her that she doesn't notice its wings unfurl with a sound like the start pistol at a track event, doesn't notice it barreling upward towards her, talons outstretched, can you blame-

-

Kim wakes up sputtering sea water, tasting blood and salt, shaky, like she's just finished the world's longest workout, ears ringing-

someone's hand is brand-hot on her back, their legs propping up her scraped-raw chest-

“The dragon?” is all Kim can think to say, blinking up to see- Trini leaning over her, Trini saying “the boys took care of it”, Trini who's maybe almost crying, helping Kim sit up with gentle, soothing hands, Trini making an abortive move to brush Kim's sea-wet hair from her eyes.

“You alright?” Trini says, so softly, like she's scared to ask, like they the two of them have not crossed greater lines.

Kim shifts, coughs, feels the gravel bite into her bare calves, the warm anchor of Trini's arm under her shoulders, the burn of salt in her lungs.

“Didn't think you cared,” she says, reaches for Trini's free hand to say, also, don't go.

“Don't be stupid,” Trini says, so softly, and Kim laughs, then coughs again, turns blindly to tuck herself against Trini's chest. She goes deer-in-headlights stiff for a moment before relaxing, the damp-and-gentle of her, warming Kim through when her hand comes up, eventually, to wrap over the back of her neck, Trini's calloused fingers so soft Kim feels like she might break with it.

-

“Hey, wait-” Kim says, as Jason runs to get his truck to take her home, “Hey, Trini- Wait.”

Trini turns- her hair frizzing out from the heat and salt, a bruise high on her cheek, nerves in the tight way she's holding her hands, her searching eyes.

“Everything OK?” She says, gives Kim a once-over like somehow she's gotten hurt again, since being dragged from the bay.

“Yeah- Yeah. I-” Kim shakes her head, reaches to put a gentling hand on Trini's forearm where it's barred tense across her chest.

“Don't.” Trini pulls her arm away, not ungently. “Kim, just-”

Kim drops her hand, clears her throat. “Come over tonight?” she says, Jason's truck noisy on the street behind them. “I get it, if you can't, but-”

Trini frowns.

Kim tries not to give her a kicked-dog look, but the skin's all been grated from her cheek and her hands ache in the cold breeze and her throat is burning rawer than the time she got drunk off Zack's moonshine, and she maybe feels a little kicked.

“Okay,” Trini says, finally, as Jason's truck pulls into the lot, and Kim tries not to catch the wary look in her eyes.

“See you then.”

-

Jason's truck draws stares as they drive, and not the good kind.

The front bumper is held on with zip-ties and the engine makes a sound like landslides fighting and one window is always stuck halfway down.

Jason is silent at the wheel, which Kim mostly doesn't mind, really, she's so tired-

Mostly she dozes, as they dive, the sun slanting thick through the trees, tangible, Kim tastes summer between her teeth where it hits her skin, sweet and warm.

When the truck gets hot it smells like oil, and leather, and metal, and Kim closes her eyes against the bright day and traces her fingertip loosely over the lightning-bolt Zack had carved in the door, crooked where a pothole had jerked his switchblade, and she tries not to fall asleep completely.

Jerks further awake when Jason pulls to a stop a block away from her place, the truck rolling a foot before its brakes bite.

Jason doesn't say anything, at first, just sighs, hands tightening around the wheel. He's looking at her out of the corner of his eye, like for once even he's not sure what to say, like-

(like these are the early days, before the fight against Rtita, like Kim's back to not dodging, because she doesn't really care if she gets hit)

So Kim looks at him, across the gulf of the glovebox, says, “Jason. It was just a lucky hit.”

He doesn't look at her back. Says, “I'm just-” and he drops his hands, sighs- “Worried, about you. You know, if it's getting- bad, again, I don't want to-”

watch anyone die, Kim imagines he will say, again.

“Jason-” she reaches across to him, puts a hand on his shoulder, and he leans a little into her touch- she feels his breath catch when he inhales, and Kim realizes abruptly how afraid is is, for her. “I promise. I'm okay.”

And she's not lying.

However bad things are, now, however strange, with Trini, however tired she is, however awful a night or a day might be-

she is better, now, than she was, in a way that almost makes it hard to remember how terrible things were, why she was so ready to leave it all behind.

Jason puts a hand over hers, on his shoulder, nods, meets her eyes in the rearview mirror.

He gets it, Kim thinks, and that's one of the reasons it's better, now.

“I'm okay,” she says, again, and means it.

 

Chapter Text

A few days before Kim crashes her jet unceremoniously into the ocean, Zack sends Trini a 'wanna get high?' text in deliberate lower-case at 4:28 PM.

'Bit late, aren't you?' Trini sends back.

She can practically see Zack's shrug through the phone. 'fashionably so'

a moment later,

'you in tho?'

Trini thinks. Hollers down the stairs, “CAN I SLEEP OVER AT A FRIEND'S TONIGHT?”

When no one answers, she shrugs. Thumbs her phone back on.

'Be by later tonight'

Zack texts her a snake emoji. A second later, “that was supposed to b the rock on hand but whatever, snakes are cool too” and then three more snakes.

Trini can't help the smile that pulls at her mouth as she flicks her phone off.


Trini meets Zack by the gate to the trailer park, heat ripples rising off the steel-and-dirt of the lots, black flies thick in the air like the other Rangers tell her they always are, this time of year.

There are a lot of things Trini likes more about Angel Grove, than the other places she's lived, but the blackflies aren't one of them.

She slaps one away from the back of her neck and straightens when she spots Zack, slouching his way towards her through the heat.

“Turns out I don't have any weed,” he says, as they walk.

An old dude with a tiny dog gives them a Look as they pass.

“Alright,” Trini says. She was more invested in hanging out with Zack than getting high, anyway.

“It's been a while but I think I maybe sold it to that dude Daniel so I could buy The Last of Us.”

“That dude is the worst.” Trini says.

“Yeah.”

Zack slaps at a fly.

“How was the game though?”

Zack grins. “Sick. I cried like three times.” He loops an arm around Trini's shoulder. “We should pass the controller sometime, I'll play it with you.”

“Cool,” Trini says. Shoves Zack's arm away, without malice, leers up at him. “Bet I'll cry less than you.”

“Oh yeah, tough girl, I saw you crying at a Buzzfeed video last week-”

Trini groans, and they heckle each other the rest of the way, Trini's stomach sore with laughter.

She won't remember this walk, this conversation, this buggy-hot day, in particular, but this feeling- how easy Zack is, to do nothing with- she thinks, in the way that teenagers do, that she'll have this forever.


The inside of Zack's place is loud with medical machines- hums and clicks and the dreadful rattle of a respirator, and even with all the windows open it's an oven, not even a breeze to push the air around.

“So,” Zack says, a little nervous- he always is, when she comes over, like she'll get freaked out and leave, suddenly decide it's too much for her.“We could get drunk and watch a movie, or-”

“Sure.” Trini grins. “ 'nother one of your bargain-bin classics, Taylor?”

“Okay, Deathproof is a seminal-” he cuts himself off at the jerk-off motion Trini's making, shakes his head, the tension draining out of his shoulders. “Fuck off, yeah, another old action movie.”

(Zack, Trini has learned, has an only-kind-of ironic love for old camp movies, action and horror, the transparent special effects and over-the-top drama, he laughs at the visible puppet strings in Evil Dead but sometimes hushes Trini to hear the dialogue)

Zack roots through a pile of DVDs as Trini teases him, a little, in a hushed voice, and this, also, is what is good about their friendship- That Trini knows she can rib him, about this, but she won't do it too loud 'cause she doesn't wanna wake up his mom.

Like Zack will tease her for days about her taste in music, but he won't touch whatever's going on with her and Kim.

Like, they give each other shit, but there are lines.


So they end up sitting back against the outside of the trailer, blanket folded under them, the only real light for miles the blue of the laptop screen.

It makes everything look like an old cell-phone photo, low-res sort of, the fog and the soft blue light. It makes Trini kinda wish they had gotten high, after all, but this is good too, the doritos and the bottle of pilfered white wine that's making Trini's mouth feel like she hasn't brushed her teeth in a week- and above all the company, Zack's rapt attention on the opening credits of a shitty movie, a years-out-of-date pop-hit filtering out at them and up into the starless night.


Trini's got her head tipped back, eyes closed, the tinny laptop speakers filtering gunshot sounds to her ears as if from miles away.

Zack elbows her, not particularly gently. “You're missing a good scene!”
And Trini elbows him back- “Dork-” opens her eyes to see 2000s-era Angelina Joli do an implausible backflip, her Lara-Croft braid staying perfectly in its hairsprayed place.

“You think we could do flips like that?” Zack says, and Trini laughs, flicks a bit of Dorito at his head.

Zack snatches it out of the air, preternaturally fast- probably a misuse of Ranger reflexes- and flicks it back.


“Man,” Trini says, after a long nervous while considering it. “Angelina Joli's hot though, right?”

The camera pans lovingly across Joli's ludicrous thigh-gun-holsters (those must chafe, Trini thinks, and is faintly embarrassed for having chosen now to speak up, with the voyeuristic camera, she feels a little lecherous-”)

Zack makes an affirmative sound in the back of his throat. “Yeah, no kidding.”

There's a beat of silence- Trini thinks at first Zack's maybe feeling a bit awkward, or he's been sucked back into the movie, but when she looks over, what little of his face she can see in the low light is screwed up with thought.

“I mean,” he says, forced-casual, “Daniel Craig isn't bad, either.”

That same actor steps obligingly out of the shower, water glistening absurdly across his flat stomach, a table helpfully at groin-height.

“If that's what you're into,” Trini says, doubtfully, and when Zack just shrugs, looks away, Trini realizes what he was trying to say.

Can't figure out how to say, back, thank you for telling me, and of course I love you no matter what, or nothing could stop you being my best friend without sounding forced or corny, so she just leans over into his side, gentle.

When he glances at her, sideways, Trini smiles, gives him a little nod.

“Dude,” she says, “I got your back.”

“Cool,” Zack says, clears his throat. Looks back to the screen. His eyes are suddenly very shiny, in the low light.


“Thanks, Trini.” Zack says, later, voice barely raised over the rumble of the movie, and Trini doesn't look up from the screen- just nods, bumps her head against his shoulder.

Zack tears up some grass, and drops it onto her knee.

On screen, Angelina Jolie ties a bandage around her artfully grimy bicep, her mouth set in a firm, heroic pout.

Trini's learned that's not what heroes really look like, though-

they look like this boy, beside her in the dirt, blades of grass stuck to his sweaty palms, his shoulder warm against hers in the wide, dark night.

(he's got nothing on Lara Croft for looks, though, far as Trini is concerned).


Then Kim crashes her jet, and asks Trini, please, to come by her place and Trini is angry at her, a little, but she'd said please, throat ocean-scratchy, and the look on her face had been-

well.

Trini's sort of helpless to say no to Kim in the best of circumstances, and these are not those.


Kim's house really is in the middle of nowhere.

Down on the other side of the mountain, White trim and peeling, barn-red siding, it's clearly been lived and loved in for a long, long time; it's the sort of place Trini would want to settle, one day, if anyone their age had a chance of owning real estate.

It's nestled in this wild, overgrown garden, thorny vines clawing up the sides of the porch, crooked tomatoes overbalancing their wooden stakes- it's not the sort of place she'd expect Kim to live, really, but she loves coming here, sitting on the wonky front steps and breathing the wild, green air.

She doesn't see the tomatoes today, though, or the peeling paint, or the neighbour's friendly, squash-faced cat.

Just the front door, looming too large in front of her, and on the other side- Kim, and a conversation Trini really, really doesn't want to have.

Doesn't know how to have.

She takes a moment to curl a plant-stalk around her finger, takes a couple breaths, but there's only so long you can hesitate till you're actively stalling, so.


"Hey." Kim answers the door in soft, washed-out clothes, just a step above pajamas. Her hair's curling still-damp around her ears and Trini smells shampoo and laundry-soap and tries not to stare.

"Hey," she says, stuffs her hands into her pockets. "So-"

"Right." Kim laughs, like she's maybe a little uncomfortable too. Runs a hand back through her hair. "Uh, come in. You know where the kitchen is."
Trini does.

She slides to a seat at Kim's island, rests the underside of her wrists against the cold countertop, a welcome relief in the relentless heat.

She looks down at her hands, torn nail beds and sun-freckles, and does not look at Kim, pacing around to the other side of the island, clattering around the kitchen, saying, uncharacteristically, nothing.

"You want anything to drink?" She asks, eventually, and Trini looks up to see Kim gesturing to a bottle of wine on the counter.

But,

"Uh- water is fine."

But as much as she wants to, this is a conversation they should have sober.

"That's probably smart."

Kim putters around the kitchen a while longer, hunting for glasses, fiddling with the ice-dispenser, but.

There's only so long you can hesitate till you're actively stalling, right?

"Hey." Kim says, again, sits down across from Trini, keeps her ankles tucked carefully behind the legs of her stool, where she'd normally let them knock against Trini's.

"Hey." Trini says. There is an embroidered, gas-station-kitsch plaque over the sink that says 'Heaven is in Angel Grove'.

Kim's shoulder covers up most of it, so it just says N Is Ove. Trini stares at it, just left of eye contact. "You- uh, okay?" She says, after a bit, when it seems like Kim's not ready to say anything else, yet.

There's still the pink impression of a scrape along Kim's cheek, healing fast. Her voice, when she speaks, has a hint of seawater-rasp to it.

"Yeah. Yeah I'm fine." Kim clears her throat. “I'm- sorry,” she says, too fast, like she's trying to spit the words out before she loses her nerve. Her fingers tangle and untangle around the throat of her water glass.

“You said that already,” Trini says, a little meanly. “At the school.”

“Well,” Kim says, blinking, like she's maybe a little taken aback. “It's true.”

A low flicker of anger registers in Trini's chest, a whisper of the old match-strike pressure. “Why the hell did you do it, then?”

Kim shifts in her seat. En Is Rove, the plaque says from over her shoulder.

“Kiss you?” She asks, and Trini doesn't say anything, because, what else could she possibly mean.

Kim takes a moment more, to speak, but less time than Trini would have taken, because Trini would never have started at all, probably.

"I'm really sorry," Kim says, even though she just did, like this is the opening sentence of a speech she's already written, like she has to start here to go anywhere else.

“I'm sorry, because- I hurt you, obviously, and- I shouldn't have, assumed anything, I should have asked first, to make sure, and, uh, If I can make it up to you, somehow-”

Her words are strangely stiff, like she's been practicing, and Trini looks down at her water, turns the apology over in her mind, wipes a smudge of condensation away from the lip of her glass.

"Okay." She says, something sick roiling in the bottom of her stomach, even though Kim hasn't answered her question, because she just- she just wants this conversation to be over, if she's honest with herself, because she's still a coward, way deep down.

Kim is not a coward. Not the way Trini is.

"Okay?" She demands, leans a little across into Trini's space, like she always does, then seems to remember herself, leans back again, takes another breath. "I mean- you were pretty upset- obviously I don't- want you to be mad at me, but-" she shrugs. Says, under her breath, "God I sound like Jason-" another deep breath- "But you can tell me how you actually feel, why you're upset, or-"

Trini swallows, looks up again and is alarmed to see Kim's eyes shiny with tears, her hands knotted in front of her.

"Like- I get it, right? If you're not into me, that's- I get it. It's okay." She breaks into a watery sort of laugh. "My ego can survive the blow, I promise."

Trini laughs. She can't help it. One breathy snort, and Kim's looking at her with this impossible, perfect crease between her eyebrows, and Trini finally, finally spits out the things she's been meaning to say since Kim first kissed her, since the first girl that didn't mean it kissed her, years ago.

"I am, Kim." She says. " Who- fucking wouldn't be, Obviously I'm- 'into you'." She looks over Kim's shoulder, again. S Ve, the plaque tells her. "And I think you know that."

"Then what's-"

"The problem," Trini says, "is that I'm not- I'm not just someone you can-" she takes a breath, tries to mirror Kim, but she's never been good with this, not ever, with keeping a cool head and saying what she means in a way that makes sense to other people, and she's furious and shes tired, and she's-Maybe going to cry?

Trini scrubs a hand back across her eyes, blows out the breath she'd been holding.

"I won't- I won't just be the girl that straight girls kiss for fun, or to impress boys, or to be 'adventurous', or whatever, I'm not-" Trini looks down, clears her throat, tries not to cry, for all that it never helps. "I won't be that person anymore. So."

Kim blinks. Takes a moment, and Trini's an idiot, she shouldn't have said anything, she's fucked it up, again like she always-

"I'm not." Kim says, voice very quiet.

"Not what?" Trini looks up, scowls, that Kim's picking now of all times to be cryptic-

"Not -straight." Kim says, blindsiding the glare right off Trini's face. "I'm- really sorry you thought that's what I was doing, I would never tr- what?"

Trini's staring now. She knows she is, but she can't seem to help it, anymore. "So..." she says, and then can't think of what to say next.

"So." Kim's smiling now, a little, her head tilted slightly to one side, and if Trini was a braver person she'd reach a hand across the table but she's not, she's not, so she says,

"So when-"

And Kim says "when I kissed you? I meant it, Trini, I-" she shakes her head. "-God this sounds so middle school- I... like you. I've always.... liked you. That's why I did it.”
And there it is.

And here Kim is, again, pulling Trini out over another abyss without a second thought, the ground yanked out from under her, Trini's stomach gives a sick, vertigo swoop, there is a moment of perfect, terrifying hang time and-

She can't help it.

She starts crying.

"Hey!" Kim comes around the table, looking terrified, like Trini's the one who'd almost died today, like she could ever, ever lose Trini. "Hey- it's okay?"

Trini's too overwhelmed with it all to say anything, overwhelmed with- with someone, bizarrely, improbably liking her back, with every petrifying, beautiful possibility suddenly open to her-

Kim reaches, slowly, to brush the hair out of Trini's eyes, gives her every opportunity to pull away.

"You okay?" She says, and Trini laughs, wetly, lets Kim brush the tears gently off her cheek, her hands warm and soft, pink nail polish chipped away at the tips.
Trini nods. Doesn't trust herself to say anything without tipping back into tears again. Wants to apologize, for being an idiot, but she can't clear the knot out of her throat.

"Hey." Kim says, this look in her eyes Trini can't quite parse, maybe nerves or maybe fondness, her hand has moved to cup the side of Trini's face, fingertips rubbing soothing circles into her skin. "Can I kiss you?"

"I'm all gross-" Trini chokes out, gesturing to the general snot and tears, but Kim just shrugs.

"I can handle gross."

Trini laughs again- a snotty sort of laugh but, hey, that's how it is sometimes- and sniffles and says, "Yeah, then, I'd like that-"

So Kim kisses her, softly, just a brush of lips, and Trini's stomach flips all the same.

"Was that okay?" Kim says, when she pulls back, because Trini is just- sitting there, staring, the edge of the chair digging into her back-

Staring because Kim is beautiful, here, mismatched socks and a soft, ratty T-shirt (now she's close, Trini sees the pattern in the shirt isn't abstract, it's a thousand tiny daisies, repeating and repeating-).

"Yeah," Trini says, scrubs the last of the tears out of her eyes. "Yeah, no- better than okay."

And Kim grins, presses Trini back into the chair with no hint of hesitation, this time, tangles her fingers in Trini's hair and kisses her.


Trini won't say it- she's said enough sappy shit today to last her a lifetime- but the sunset is fucking beautiful out Kim's living room window.

It filters between the trees in long, golden sheets, like the establishing shot of a nature documentary, all this thick orange light and soft shadow, Trini half expects Morgan freeman to start voice-overing.

"And here we can see the young lesbian, not believing her luck..."

Kim is curled up into Trini's side, knees tucked to chest, the carcass of a pizza box on the table in front of them. She's very warm, in the air-conditioner-cool of the house, her soft hair tickling at Trini's ear; half an hour ago Trini had worked up the courage to wrap an arm around Kim's shoulders and Kim had beamed up at her, like she's been waiting for Trini to do that for months, even though Trini's pretty sure she's a little sweaty-smelling.

Something forgettable is playing on Netflix, one of the dumb action movies Zack has infected Trini with, but mostly Trini's looking out the window, or down at Kim.

She's allowed to look, now.


"I should probably-" Trini says, as the credits roll to an obnoxious EDM remix of some old rock song.

"Stay-" Kim blurts out. "Stay the night."

She reaches to turn off the TV, sound flicking out with a blip of static, turns to look at Trini in the low light, eyes huge and liquid. Trini wants to reach out and brush the stray hair out of Kim's eyes, so she does.

Kim smiles.

"Can we order another pizza?" Trini says, and means, yes.

Kim groans, flops backwards onto the couch.

"Seriously!" She says. " I don't know where you put it all!"

Trini laughs, and something in her chest unwinds, that they can still do this, too, that she hasn't ruined this, that the other shoe hasn't dropped yet. It is a releif, the gentle ribbing, after the long and fragile silence they've been sitting in, this weird tender thing spinning itself raw in the air between them.

"Hawaiian again?" Kim says, "you animal?"

Trini just laughs, and Kim reaches a hand up to tangle with her fingers, and the night is beautiful outside, cicadas and summer skies and an overgrown garden, and the night is beautiful in here, Kim's hand warm in Trini's, the honey-smell of her shampoo in the air.
Trini presses her cheek into the daisies at Kim's shoulder and can't believe her luck.


Trini gets up in the middle of the night, because her throat is drier than it has ever been, probably.

She pads carefully to the bathroom, the house dark and alien all around her but not uncomfortable, not frightening. She cups her hands under the faucet to get a drink, mostly manages just to get the sleeves of her sweatshirt wet, where they're pushed back around her elbows, tap water running cold down the back of her arms.

The hall lights click on; Trini watches it happen in the mirror, then Kim's standing in the doorway, bleary-eyed, her hair messy, seam-lines from her pillow marking faint impressions on her cheek.

"Everything okay?" She says, words a little unfocused, tired.

"Yeah," Trini says, turns to face Kim, tries to control her voice.

Kim steps just inside the doorway, puts a hand on Trini's arm. "You sure?"

And Trini looks at her- her mussed hair and sleepy eyes, the sharp line of her jaw, the strip of skin where her panama top's riding up-

She leans forward, presses a kiss to Kim's mouth- can't not, even though she's got morning breath and this is all so new and strange and-

"Um," Trini says, as she pulls back, the water still running behind her, "sorry if that was. Weird."

And Kim just smiles, steps into Trini's space till Trini's back is up against the sink, reaches to tilt her head up, gently, into another kiss.

"Maybe a little weird," Kim says, afterwards, into the space between them, and Trini lets her head fall against Kim's sternum, laughs.

Because if a year ago someone had told her she'd be here, kissing a girl in a musty bathroom, tap water soaking through her sleeves-

If someone had told her, a year ago, she'd be here-

She would have called them crazy way before they got to the part about the superhero team and the alien spaceship.


"So." Trini says.

"So," Zack says- his voice is staticy, compressed through the phone, but Trini can hear the raised eyebrow in it, the cocky, querulous grin.

Trini paces, the asphalt hot through her cheap shoes, phone pressed up against her ear.

They call each other sometimes, even though they live so close, because sometimes you need to be alone but also, to talk to your best friend.

(Trini doesn't stutter on 'best friend' anymore, not even when she says it out loud).

So, we kissed," Trini says, and Zack laughs, his voice fuzzing out at the top of the speaker's range. After a moment, he adds,

"That's good."

"Yeah," Trini says, tries not to sound like she's smiling as wide as she is. "She's bi, so."

"Dope." Zack says, and Trini laughs, laughs that she's rubbed off on him enough he uses that word, that she's maybe dating a girl she likes, that she has a best friend who will say "dope unironically to her through the phone at 2am.

It's starting to spit down rain, where she's pacing up and down the street, marble-fat droplets spattering down onto Trini's head, but it's okay, because she's always liked this sort of rain, hot and rainforest-green, the way the clouds bunch up in woolly racks on the horizon, lit all sorts of strange, apocalyptic colours.

"How are you though, dude?" Trini says, transparently changing the subject, and over the next few days, weeks, she will slowly tell Zack all the little ways she feels about Kim, and he will call her 'sappy' and grin at her blinding-bright, and everything's-

Not amazing, because she has to have this conversation in the rain outside, so her parents don't hear, and what she has with Kim is new and frightening in ways that will always be too big for her words, but-

But it's okay, maybe, because Zack is chattering to her about a movie he watched with his mom, and the wind smells like plants and wet dust and heat, and Trini has so many people who love her, now.

She pauses, under the awning of a convinence store, watches the rain make quarter-sized circles where they hit the hot pavement.

"You're not gonna make me watch this movie, are you?" She says, and listens to Zack laugh through the fuzzy phone connection and is struck with such a strong feeling that things will be okay that she briefly cannot breathe for it.


"You think you'll tell them?"

High School has finally pried the last of it's claws out of the summer, and the long, slow days of July stretch out endless on the horizon.

Trini makes a "hmm?" sound, rolls her head sideways to look at Kim.

They're lying side by side, looking up at the sky.Kim had invited Trini out to 'watch the stars' and Trini had suspected she kind of meant 'make out' but as it turns out, she really meant 'watch the stars'.

Which is fine with Trini.

Either would have been fine.

Anyway. She goes "hmm?" And tips her head sideways to look at Kim, lit in golden profile by the far-off harbour lights, nose dented by her sunglasses, lip gloss smudged over the corner of her mouth.

(Okay they had made out. A little.)

(Zack, later, will jeer- fondly- 'nice hickey," and Trini will beam at him with too many teeth and roll her eyes and Zack will give her that 'I'm happy for you' smile that makes Trini breathless with how much things have changed in the space of a couple of months)

But in the present, Kim goes, "your parents. Do you think you'll tell them?"

"About us?" Trini lets her head roll back up to look at the sky, big tracts of the Milky Way painted across the night sky like the brush strokes on one of those abstract paintings Trini can't explain why she likes. "They wouldn't like it." She says, shrugs, feels the grass pull at her bare shoulders.

"Mhm." Kim says, reaches for Trini's hand in the dark.

"Maybe after-" Trini trails off- all of them are sort of trying not to talk about it, September looming on the horizon, because they have the whole summer and that's like, months, that's longer than they've known each other almost, so there's no sense planning yet, but Trini can't stand the idea of staying here with her parents longer than she has too, and Billy maybe doesn't really want to leave and-

"Hey," Kim says, squeezes Trini's hand, gentle.

Trini takes a breath of the summer night, warm and cotton-thick. "Anyway," she says, "I dunno. I dunno if I'll tell them." And that sucks because she'd met Kim's parents last week and they were so nice and Kim has a beautiful family and Kim is very beautiful and could be with anyone she wanted, probably, and Trini is just-

"Okay," says Kim, easily, and Trini looks over at her in the dark.

Her bare feet in the green grass, the pink lines in her skin from her sandal-straps, her head tipped back, eyes closed content against the night,
and Trini is abruptly so in love that her hands ache.

"Kim, I-" she says, and Kim looks over, says,

"Hmm?"

And Trini can't say it, like she always can't say it, but maybe doesn't need to, because Kim smiles, kisses her (misses, in the dark, and gets the bridge of Trini's nose, and it's still all awkward and strange but it's okay, it is).

"Me too," Kim says, and Trini's throat closes over and she just smiles, and maybe that's enough, more than enough, for now.


Anyway. She does tell her family, about Kim and her, that weekend.

The Rangers are all lounging in the pit after training, Saturday afternoon- it's probably the only place left in Angel Grove that isn't sweltering-hot, miles of rock and water between them and the unrelenting sun.

Billy's has a split lip and a black eye, and his head leaning on Jason's shoulder, and Jason is looking like a startled deer, just- seconds away from roadkill, holding very still and trying not to make it seem like a big deal (his poker face is disgraceful).

Zack is sprawled with his legs propped up over his head, backwards against a wall, a nasty torn toenail bleeding through his mismatched socks.

The pit smells just- horrendous, five teenagers have been sweating in it all day and it's frankly rank, and everyone is mostly too tired to talk, for a while- they just sit, and hold ice to their various bruises and are close.

Trini honestly wonders, some days, what she did without them all, even as she gingerly feels out the knot swelling under her ear, the blood matting in her hair (she should get it cut, again, it's starting to go shaggy, but she hasn't really found the time).

Beside her, Kim's thumbing through Vice's Snapchat Discover, her knuckles all torn to hell, her off-hand linked with Trini's, and just as Zack says,

“Well, I should probably-”

Trini says, “Hey,” too loud in the low space. Her voice echoes, but her courage, when she has it, is a loud and impulsive thing, the kind of courage that gets people killed, split-second, hot and brief as a road flare.

They all look at her.

Trini feels suddenly like her hand in Kim's is the most obvious thing in the world, this huge bright target, but she's telling them anyway-

“You should know,” She says, still feels too loud even with her voice lowered, but it's not-

but it's just Zack, and Jason, and Billy, and she could say anything to them, absolutely anything, so it's weird and it's scary, but she says, “Kim and I, we're-”

And Kim squeezes her hand, so Trini looks over at her, sweat and blood matted at her hairline, this wondering look in her eyes that catches Trini off guard every time, someone else being so caught up in her.

“We're- together,” Trini says, and Jason says, with real warmth,

“That's great news-”

at the same time as Zack says “Dude, we know, you two are the worst-”

and then Billy's saying. “I didn't know- Jason, did you know?” and Jason is talking to him, instead of them, and Zack's coming over to give Trini a noogie, the twat, and it's so fucking normal.

Trini shoves at Zack's arm Kim helps her trip him so she can mess up his hair, whatever product he uses crunchy under her hands.

“No fair!” he howls, between laughs, and Kim tugs Trini into a smug kiss, right there, right in front of all of them.


“Seriously,” Jason says, catching Trini on her way out the door. He's wearing an Angel Grove Graduating Class shirt that he cut the arms out of himself, and Trini knows there's protein power in his water, and she truly, really can't believe she doesn't hate his guts.“I'm really happy for you two.”

Trini just jams her hands in her pockets and tries not to look either dopey or embarrassed. “Thanks,” she says, and Jason pulls her into a brief hug, all the stiff awkwardness in his posture, his Axe cologne, and Trini not only doesn't hate him,

She loves the shit out of him.

“Thanks,” she says, again, into his douchey T Shirt, and Jason says, as he lets her go,

“Of course, the team should still be your top priority-”

Trini groans and calls him a grannie, but she can't seem to stop herself from smiling.


A month later, they meet up at the campfire site near the mines. The tail end of August, autumn is starting to bite at summer's heels, and it's only six-thirty but getting dark already, the sun setting with fire and fanfare over the bay.

There's been a low panic burning in Trini's chest all month, 'cause for the first time in her life she really doesn't know where she'll be in a few weeks's time and it scares the shit out of her, when she thinks about it too hard.

But it's still summer, for now, for a few more precious, hazy days, and Kim and her are meeting up in the hills for dinner.

When Trini gets to the top of the trail she stops, and watches Kim, for a little bit, where she's waiting slouched against a tree trunk.

Kim's looking off in the direction of the sunset like she has things to say, about the sunset, that have never been said before.
It's in the even way she's breathing, the little smile on her mouth, like she has a secret not yet captured by poets or painters or authors, all through the span of history.

Or maybe Trini is projecting,
because when she looks at Kim, sometimes, she feels like she has things to say about her that have never been said about a girl, before.

And she knows- she knows there have been millions of girls like her, looking at millions of girls like Kim, that there are maybe no original words left to talk about beauty and young love and how Kim's hair goes golden in the late-summer sunset,

But she looks at Kim and feels so desperately, vitally young, and so in love, that she feels no one must have ever felt like this before, felt this much, seen the beauty she sees in Kim.

She doesn't say this- couldn't, probably, if she tried, but she sits down beside Kim and Kim gives her a smile that makes Trini feel like the first girl ever to have fallen in love, and maybe she doesn't have to say anything, just yet.

She's young.

If there's anything she has, it's time.