It was over.
Not just the battles, but everything about their lives. Zordon was dead, the villains were gone, and Andros and Zhane had gone back to KO-35. Ashley and the other Earth Rangers were back in Angel Grove, trying to figure out how to live a normal life with everyone on the planet knowing that they were Power Rangers.
She should be excited. She should be happy. She should feel complete. Instead, all Ashley felt was lost. She knew that she wasn't the only Ranger to have trouble getting used to a normal life, but unlike the previous team, she has the added issue of a public identity. She had no idea how to handle it.
In some ways, it should be everything she ever wanted. Cassie had gotten her singing career — she was even supposed to be recording with Tanya at some point. TJ was trying to decide on which baseball team to play with, and Carlos was playing soccer.
To be fair, Ashley had gotten a few offers of investors to start her own line, or to work with an established label, and an offer of a full scholarship to Parsons. All of those were things that she would have done anything for.
But now — she just felt trapped. She didn't know why — Cassie, TJ and Carlos didn't seem to be having any trouble taking advantage of their new-found fame. They were all off living their dreams, while she was hiding in her house, avoiding the world.
She missed space. She missed the power. She missed Andros. She missed Zhane. She missed the chance to explore new worlds, to seek out — something. Anything that made it seem like she was doing something real with her life.
But more than anything else, she missed the way it was before when she had Andros and Zhane's arms wrapped around her.
They were gone now, off doing whatever it was that space-based Rangers did. She should have gone with them, she should have insisted on going with them. But she hadn't.
She'd wanted to go home and talk to her parents and the rest of her family. She'd needed to make them understand what being a Ranger had meant to her, and to let them know why she couldn't have told them about it. She'd wanted to protect them from the media circus, and she'd needed to know that their identities being public hadn't done anything to damage her family. Or the lives of the Rangers who had come before her.
She spent almost a month trying to figure out what she was supposed to do. It wasn't that she only sat around hiding, she did plenty of other things. She attended a class or two at Parsons, she worked things out with her family, and spent what seemed like forever trying to explain to her cousin that no, she would not hook her up with the original Green Ranger. And whenever she could, she looked up at the sky and wished that she was back there.
"You aren't very happy, are you?" Adelle asked her one day when Ashley popped in for some fries.
"Am I that obvious?" Ashley asked sheepishly.
"The whole lot of you are. Some of you just hide it better than others. And none of you are talking to each other about it — like you don't want to make the others unhappy by talking about how unhappy you are."
"Adelle, I — "
"Just eat your french fries and listen for a minute, Ashley. Advice from one ranger to another." Adelle grinned at her, and Ashley smiled back.
"You all did so much for this city — no, this universe, and all people have done since is bother you for things. You keep trying and giving, because you're a Power Ranger, and that's what you do, right? But it isn't making you happy. You went from having a whole universe, and now you're on Earth." Adelle took one of Ashley's hands. "And you're missing the friends you made. Or something more than just friends."
"Definitely something more,” Ashley murmured, and she stood up and squeezed Adelle's hand. "Thanks for the advice," she said. "I've got to go."
"Good luck!" Adelle called to her retreating back.
"I need to borrow a ship," Ashley informed Commander Norquist.
"For a Power Rangers emergency?" he asked.
"Something like that," Ashley agreed. "But I need to get to KO-35 right away. I promise that we'll bring the shuttle back as soon as we can."
The Commander sighed. "After everything you've done for us, I can't really turn you down. But this is a very expensive piece of equipment."
"I know," Ashley said. "I'll be very careful with it."
She did feel a little bad for the man as he went to go arrange for the launch, but after everything — well, it wasn't like she was going to keep it anyway.
"You came," Andros whispered as he engulfed her in his arms only moments after she disembarked from the shuttle.
"Of course I did," Ashley said, taking a moment to kiss him gently. "It wasn't like you guys were going to get rid of me that easily."
"Both guys?" Zhane grinned, and Ashley answered by kissing him as well.
"Of course," she told him. "We're the three of us. Nothing is ever going to change that. Not any evil spells, or monsters, or even thousands of lightyears will keep us apart."
"Good," Andros said, not letting go of her left hand, while Zhane just as quickly claimed her right.
"So, are you boys going to show me to our rooms?" she asked. "We've got a lot of catching up to do."
As they walked to their rooms, Zhane and Andros filling her in on all that had happened since they had parted, Ashley felt better than she had in a long time. She loved Earth, and always would, but here with Andros and Zhane — well, that really was just like coming home.