When Tommy Oliver called Trini up and told her he had a problem and needed her help, it took everything in her not to groan out loud. She knew Tommy, now "Doctor Oliver", of all things, well enough to know that absolutely nothing good could come of this. Unfortunately, he knew her well enough to know she would never turn down a friend in need.
"What do you need?" she asked, hoping the exasperation wasn't showing too much in her voice.
"It's… technical," Tommy admitted. "And we probably shouldn't talk about it over the phone. I've got someone working on it…"
"But?" Trini prompted.
"She's not happy about it."
"And you think I can make it better?"
"I think you can at least fix this so she doesn't come out of this hating my guts forever?" he suggested hopefully.
Trini laughed helplessly. "I can try," she emphasized. "I know you all like to think I'm some sort of miracle worker, but it's really going to depend on what your genius plan is this time and what you've done to upset your friend."
"I'm not going to like that, am I?"
Trini sighed. "I'll see you in a few days."
Hayley was nothing at all like Trini expected. She was as beautiful as she was brilliant, a recent graduate of MIT with flaming red hair, an arresting smile, and a charming demeanor. The problem Hayley was trying to deal with, however… that was entirely typical of Tommy Oliver.
Opting not to focus on her new partner just yet, now that the introductions had been made, Trini slowly circled the table. It was one of many in the underground lab – though "lair" seemed like it might be a better term for it – and it was covered with bits and pieces of complicated machinery. It reminded her with a pang of days long past, spent in Billy's lab working on this piece of new technology or that… or new gear for the Power Rangers to try out.
At the center of it all were three brilliantly colored gems, carefully encased in clear plastic: red, blue, yellow. Trini felt a funny sensation deep in her gut just from looking at them. It was strange, almost nostalgic. "Tommy… are those?" she asked, unsure even of what exactly she was asking.
"He thinks so," Hayley quipped.
"But there's no way to know for sure," Tommy rejoined. "Not without taking some serious risks."
Trini quirked an eyebrow. The Tommy she knew from high school would have dived headfirst into serious risks and not given it much thought until later. Glancing toward Hayley, she caught the other woman's knowing look and hid a smile.
"Come on, cut me some slack here," Tommy protested. Sobering, he added, "You feel it too, don't you, Trini?"
Somewhat reluctantly, she nodded. "I feel… something. Tommy, what are they?"
"We've been calling them Dino Gems," he told her. "But… we don't really know what they are. Or what they can do."
Trini looked the gems over again, trepidation rising. She could see why Tommy thought they were worth protecting. The sensation they emitted, apparently obvious only to her and Tommy, was surprisingly reminiscent to that of the Morphing Grid that had powered their Ranger abilities all those years ago. Could there really be natural sources, like these stones, that could tap into that same power? If Tommy was right, the implications were staggering. No wonder he hadn't wanted to discuss any of this where there was even a remote chance of being overheard.
"And you want me to do… what, exactly?"
Tommy glanced to Hayley. "He thinks you'll know how to tap into their power," Hayley explained. "Protecting them, keeping them hidden… I've got that. But getting them to actually do anything… I haven't had any luck at all."
"Why would we need them to do anything?" Trini asked, pinning Tommy with her fiercest glare.
He looked a little nervous facing down that stare. "Trini… come on. You know why."
As much as she would have preferred to deny it, to just walk away and wash her hands of whatever this was, she couldn't bring herself to do it. He was right, after all. "Are you planning to use them for something?" she asked instead.
"No," Tommy told her, the force of his conviction obvious in his voice. "But I think we need to be ready, just in case."
"Can't argue with that," she murmured. "Fine, I'll do it. What were you thinking?" She paused, realizing she had no idea just how much Hayley knew about Tommy's past. "Some kind of… power morpher?"
"If it's possible."
"You're going to owe me big time for this, Tommy."
He chuckled. "The whole world might owe you big time for this someday, Trini."
It was harder than she remembered, tangling with forces beyond her understanding. Billy had made it all seem so easy the first time around. Or maybe it had just seemed easy because they had been able to consult with Zordon and Alpha 5 whenever they ran into trouble with the advanced alien tech they were playing with. Unfortunately, this time around Trini was on her own. And sometimes she just wanted to scream in frustration.
Fortunately, she had Hayley.
For the first time since Billy left Earth for good, she had found someone that truly understood her. She'd always had plenty of friends, even close friends, but after Billy she had never found another person that understood her on an intellectual level the way he had. Until Hayley.
Hayley had been making good progress on the weapons and vehicles that Tommy believed would be necessary to protect the Dino Gems, but she was also intensely curious about the work Trini was doing with the Gems. Trini often found herself consulting with the other woman when a particularly tricky problem reared its ugly head – which was far more often than she would have liked. And yet, as frustrating as it was, and as much as she dreaded the idea of being faced with another threat to the planet that might require power such as that trapped in these Gems, Trini found herself feeling happy to be back in the lab and working on a major project.
"Do you think Tommy has any idea how lucky he is?" Hayley asked one day, while Trini fiddled with some wiring inside what would hopefully soon become a power morpher for the red Dino Gem.
"You mean that I had the time to come work on this project for him?" Trini asked in return. She'd only half been listening, focusing all her attention on the would-be morpher. If she could get this one figured out, it would make the others that much easier, and then…
Hayley chuckled. "No, I meant that he has a friend like you to help him out."
Trini ducked her head, not sure how she felt at hearing Hayley say something like that. Was she jealous? She didn't sound jealous. But Trini wanted Hayley to like her. More than she had ever really wanted someone to like her before. "He's got you, too," she pointed out.
"That's true," Hayley agreed. "But I didn't have a clue what to do with those. And, despite what you keep saying, it looks like you do."
"I'd be more inclined to agree with you if this thing would just cooperate with me," Trini admitted, voice souring.
That comment earned her a full-on laugh from Hayley. "It seems like that's always the way with tech like this, doesn't it?" she asked.
"It'd be easier if I could even touch the gems," Trini muttered. "As it is, I feel like I'm just guessing my way through everything."
Hayley set aside the odd looking machinery she had been working on to peer over Trini's shoulder. She took a few minutes to investigate the rather intricate wiring. "Huh," she commented. "It looks like it should work."
"But it doesn't do anything. And I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. It just won't connect."
Hayley stepped back, frowning thoughtfully. "Connect? What would it connect to? Some sort of wireless network?"
"Did Tommy ever explain to you how the morphing powers work?" Trini asked. "Or… worked."
Hayley shook her head. "I'm not sure he ever understood how it worked…" She smiled sympathetically. "How about we take a coffee break and you explain it to me? Maybe it'll spark some ideas."
"That's the best idea I've heard all day."
It wasn't long before afternoon coffee and girl talk became a regular thing. Trini had to admit it was nice to have a break scheduled into each day… and it was equally nice to have such a wonderful and intriguing new friend to spend that break with. As the weeks passed, she decided that she was glad she'd agreed to help Tommy out, if only because it had led to her meeting Hayley.
For his part, Tommy gave them a curious look when he found out what they were up to, but shrugged it off and didn't ask questions. He was spending so much time in the field, hunting for potential Dino Gems using the prototype detector Hayley had finally finished building, that he didn't have time to worry about them. As Hayley told him more than once, in a not very comforting tone as she patted him sympathetically on the shoulder, if they wanted to mutiny and kill him in his sleep, they would have done so already.
They had a good laugh over that one the first time, and later when they caught Tommy watching them suspiciously.
"That was kind of mean," Trini pointed out.
Hayley shrugged. "He's not even paying us, except in room and board. We're doing this out of the kindness of our hearts. The least he could do is fear us a little."
Trini dissolved into giggles again, amazed yet again at how easily Hayley could get her to laugh. It reminded her with a pang of Kimberly, and she wondered where her old friend was now, and if she'd answer a call tonight… She shook off the idea for now, promising to think about it tonight after dinner instead of in the middle of the day, and went back to her morpher. Or what was supposed to be her morpher.
They were weeks into the project now and while Hayley was making good progress, Trini's work was moving at a snail's pace. Maybe slower.
No matter what she tried, the Gems seemed inert. When she closed her eyes, she could imagine that she felt their energy, so similar to the energy from the old Morphing Grid. But none of the configurations she tried had any effect. It was infuriating. If not for Hayley, she probably would already have told Tommy that this was beyond her.
Somehow, not letting Hayley down had become more important than not letting Tommy down. She tried not to think too hard about that.
"You okay over there?" Hayley's voice cut through her frustration like a knife.
Trini startled. Her hand slipped, two wires connected.
And sparks shot out of the device, power jolting. Trini shrieked, felt herself thrown backward, the impression of a furious red Tyrannosaurus dancing in her head. Was it just nostalgia that had put that image, of all things, into her head? Or had she…
"Trini, say something," Hayley was saying.
Trini groaned, one hand going to her aching head, and realized that she had ended up on the floor. Hayley was kneeling beside her, cushioning Trini's head in her lap.
"I'm okay," she insisted. Even she had to admit she didn't sound fine.
"What in the world was that? Are you sure you're okay?"
"Eureka?" Trini muttered weakly. "I think I finally got it, Hayley."
"I think you two've done enough work for today," Tommy said from the doorway. Even through her daze the look on his face was enough to tell Trini he'd seen everything. And that he had just now realized how dangerous the task he'd given her really was, and that he just might regret it.
With Hayley's help, Trini sat up. "I think I just made a breakthrough," she protested. "I saw –"
Tommy strode over to her workstation, picked up the morpher and gingerly tipped the red Dino Gem back into its protective plastic case. "And you can work on that breakthrough tomorrow," he told her. She hadn't seen him look this scared in years. "Today, I think you need to rest."
She felt Hayley's grip tighten on her shoulders. "Fine," she said. "But I think you should know: when I made that connection, I saw a red Tyrannosaurus."
Tommy tried valiantly to keep his expression neutral, but his face went white. "Thank you for telling me," he said. "Good work today. Both of you," he went on. "But I really think you should take the rest of the day off."
"We will," Hayley promised.
Trini said nothing, just watched Tommy go and wondered sourly how long it would take for him to be on the phone with a certain old friend…
"You look… well, very upset. Are you sure you're okay?" Hayley asked, moving to the side so she could sit across from Trini instead of kneeling behind her.
"Jason was the red Tyrannosaurus Ranger," she said, hearing herself nearly choke on the words. All of a sudden she couldn't help the heart-rending fear. What creature would she see when she connected the morpher to the blue Gem… or the yellow one?
If Tommy kept searching, would he find a black Gem? A pink one?
She staggered to her feet, ignoring Hayley's alarmed voice calling after her, and fled.
Trini was shocked to find that it was already dusk. Where had the day gone?
She supposed it didn't matter, and found a quiet, solitary place on the porch that wrapped its way around Tommy's house, the house that looked so ordinary from the outside. Alone and silent, she focused on watching the trees move in the wind, the birds coming down to roost for the night, the insects that flitted past, the deepening colors of the evening sky. The gentle cycles of nature brought peace, though her troubles simmered just under the surface.
What did I agree to? she wondered, and had no answer. She couldn't even be upset with Tommy for this. There was no way he really could have known that this would work, much less what she might be tapping into.
Still, the thought horrified her.
Hayley found her there what seemed like hours later. She didn't say anything. She didn't have to. Her presence was soothing all on its own.
"I gave this life up once before," Trini said at last.
"What do you mean?"
"My powers. They weren't taken from me, like Tommy's were taken from him all those times. I gave mine up," she explained. "Tommy… always stuck with it to the bitter end. But I… I gave my powers to Aisha, went to save the world a different way."
Hayley stepped closer, until Trini could feel the gentle warmth that emanated from her. "I understand."
She couldn't possibly understand, but Trini appreciated the sentiment anyway. Enough to admit something she never would have said if Tommy could hear: "I don't want to get pulled into something like this again. I see what he's doing here, I know what he's working toward… and I'm afraid."
She hated that there were tears in her eyes. The fear went that deep. The fear, and the pain, and the memories.
And then Hayley's arms were around her, fiercely protective. "I won't let that happen."
Trini pulled away. "What?"
"If you don't want to be involved in whatever this turns out to be," Hayley told her, "then I'll do everything in my power to keep you out of it." The grim expression on her face told Trini that Hayley was beginning to realize exactly what this might entail… and that she was willing to make that promise anyway.
Trini, unused to being the one in need of protection, managed a weak smile. "I hope it never comes to that."
"Me too," Hayley agreed. But there was a determined gleam in her eyes that said it wouldn't matter. She would keep her word no matter what.
That look sent a thrill down Trini's spine. Hayley would have made a fantastic Power Ranger, she thought, trying to distract herself from other vague and terrible ideas that had entered her head.
"You okay now?" Hayley asked.
Trini nodded. "Yeah. I guess I just needed to get that off my chest." She took a deep breath, let it go. "I've been afraid of this, I think, since the day Tommy called and asked for my help," she admitted. "But I kept telling myself he was wrong. I was wrong. It wouldn't come to this."
"It won't," Hayley said forcefully.
Trini did not resist as Hayley tugged her into another embrace, and fairly melted into the other woman's arms. She wished they could stay like that forever, safe and secure and together, and never have to face whatever it was that had Tommy so convinced that they needed to prepare another set of power morphers, create their own set of Power Rangers.
"Oh, Hayley, what am I going to do?" she murmured, not really expecting an answer.
She should have known better. Ruthlessly practical as always, Hayley informed her in no uncertain terms, "You're going to finish those morphers, help me figure out how to protect them, and then you're going to go home."
She knew Hayley was right; she would have known even without Hayley telling her. But she still didn't like it. And the idea of walking away, of going home, of maybe never seeing Hayley again, made her gut churn.
"How could I just leave you to deal with this by yourself?"
Hayley grinned. "Trini, you are exactly the brilliant addition this team needed when we were really trying to get started. But if we do this right, once those morphers are set up and the proper precautions are in place… then we don't have to need you."
Trini must have looked aghast. Whatever her expression, it drew a genuine smile and a laugh from Hayley. "Don't go all doe-eyed on me when you just told me you don't want to be involved in this," she admonished good-naturedly. Sobering ever-so-slightly, she added, "If it's me you're worried about, there's this great new invention. It's called a telephone, and it lets you talk to people who are far away."
At last Trini managed a smile.
"That's better," Hayley told her, smiling herself.
And for the space of that smile, it was.
Hayley was, at heart, a problem-solver. So was Trini. And together, Trini was fairly certain there was nothing they couldn't accomplish.
And after that conversation on the porch, they set about proving it once and for all.
Trini set aside her fear and completed not just the work on the initial three morphers, but a pair of extras, just in case. She still couldn't shake the feeling that there were at least two more Dino Gems out there, and although Tommy hadn't had any luck yet in locating any beyond the initial trio, he shared her convictions.
Hayley designed a whole series of booby-traps and other protective systems designed to mask the energy signature that the Gems gave off and make sure no one untoward could find them. She even, rather gleefully, started work on a set of ridiculous looking weapons that any future Power Rangers could use to fight theoretical bad guys.
And as the days passed, Trini began to dread the day that the project would be ready to move on without her. As Hayley frequently reminded her, out was what she wanted. But she'd come to trust and rely on Hayley in a way that she hadn't relied on anybody in years. Thinking of leaving felt like tearing her own heart out, even though she knew it wouldn't be forever and that Hayley would only ever be a phone call away from now on.
They never talked about Trini leaving. At least, not for a good while.
Their daily coffee dates began to make her first wistful, then melancholy. She steadfastly refused to admit that she was infatuated with Tommy's friend.
But, realistically, she could only deny it so far.
And she didn't want to leave without telling Hayley the truth about how she felt. Somehow that was scarier than any of the rest of it had been. But she knew she would regret silence even more than rejection.
Come on, Trini. You're a real live grown up. You can do this, she told herself firmly. She snuck a glance at Hayley across the tiny café table, watched her happily sip at her coffee. And if she isn't interested in you that way, you'll be the best damn friend she could ever want.
"How much longer do you think it'll be before we're ready to call this project done?" she asked, trying to sound calm and not particularly horrified.
Hayley shrugged. "Couple weeks, maybe?" she mused. "Less if I really tried, at least to get my part of it done. Why?"
"I, well, I wanted to talk about what's going to happen when I go back home." She wanted to cringe at how grudgingly she'd said the last part, but it was too late now. No going back. Better just to keep plowing straight ahead even though she could practically see the brick wall looming in her path. "Hayley… I… I don't want you not to be in my life."
Hayley set her cup down, all her attention suddenly focused on Trini. "Trini, you're one of the most amazing women I've ever met. Do you really think I'm just going to let you walk away and forget all about you?"
Trini couldn't help a self-deprecating chuckle. "Well, I was kind of afraid."
"I thought we talked about what to do when you're afraid," Hayley teased.
"We did," Trini agreed. "And…" For a moment she felt the sick realization that she couldn't just come out and say it. She'd never said something like this to anyone before. It had always been the other person spilling out their guts, their admissions, to her. Never the other way around.
"Trini?" Hayley interrupted her thoughts. "Trini, breathe."
"I'm sorry. I have no idea how to do this." She could feel her cheeks getting hot, wondered how brightly she was blushing. And kind of hated that Hayley's half-amused smile and avid gaze were only making it worse. As if Hayley already knew where this conversation was going. Then again…
"Now you're just being mean," she took a stab in the dark.
Hayley chuckled. "I'm sorry. It's just… Okay, I admit it. I was just enjoying watching you be so tongue-tied. You're usually so eloquent. It was kind of cute."
Trini was fairly certain it had been anything but cute. Indignation spurred her onward. "When I say I don't want you to not be in my life, what I mean is…" It had been so much easier to think these things in the privacy of her own mind, when they were working side by side in the lab.
"You don't have to say it," Hayley told her.
"I do. Hayley, I may not want to be a part of Tommy's nonsense, but I want you in my life. Everyday. For the rest of my life." She was pleased to see a blush tinge Hayley's cheeks ever so slightly. So the unflappable woman wasn't entirely unaffected, after all. That was somehow a relief, even though she had known from day one that Hayley wasn't some emotionless automaton. She just hid her true feelings exceedingly well.
"You know I have to see this through," Hayley cautioned. "And no matter what I might think or feel… nothing could really come of us until Tommy's nonsense is finished."
"I do," Trini agreed. "But I wanted you to know."
Hayley's hand moved, rested gently on top of Trini's where it lay on the table. Her fingers were warm. "Consider me informed," she said. Not exactly the reaction Trini had been hoping for.
Suddenly, she laughed. "There's that look again," she teased. "Like I've somehow gravely wounded you! Look, I can't even tell you how flattered – and relieved – I am that you like me that way, or how much I'd like to be in a relationship with you. But that's not a conversation I'm having here and now, with nobody else in this café and the baristas staring at us like that."
Trini wasn't sure whether she wanted to laugh or cry, or lean over the table to fling her arms around the amazing woman who had almost-but-not-quite-yet agreed to be her girlfriend. She settled for burying her face in her hands and giggling helplessly.
When she finally had a hold of herself again, she asked, "So how is this going to work?"
She had no doubt they would figure it out. They always did.
"I figure you'll go home in a few weeks, when we're pretty sure everything's settled," Hayley started. "We'll talk on the phone, try the distance thing. Maybe I'll visit you. As long as things are quiet here, you can visit me here in Reefside." She paused, thinking, then shrugged. "And we'll deal with Tommy's apocalypse if and when it happens."
"And if it does happen?" Trini prompted.
"No one but me and Tommy will ever know you were involved in any way," Hayley promised. "And when whatever Tommy thinks is going to happen is all over…"
"Then we figure out what we're going to do. Together."
Trini felt the ache in her heart subside, just a little. "Promise?"
"Would I lie to you?"
"You, the woman who knows everything and tells it like she sees it?" Trini asked, feigning uncertainty. She grinned. "I know you'd never lie to me."
"Good." Hayley returned to her coffee. "So. Got any big plans for when you get back home?"
"My job will be waiting for me," Trini began, thinking. "But other than that, I think I'll be glad to give my brain a rest for a while. This has been a lot of work."
Hayley nodded. "It has. Kind of exhilarating, though."
"What about you?" Trini asked. She had always wondered what Hayley had planned to do before Tommy dragged her into this mess, and what she wanted to do after all was said and done. But through unspoken agreement, this topic had always been off limits. Until today.
"I was thinking I might open a coffee place," Hayley said absently. "When this one closes next month, there won't be anywhere on this side of town to get a decent cup of coffee."
Trini grinned and leaned a little closer, conspiratorial. "If you're serious, I might have a few suggestions for you…"