It didn't start out this way. No one could have ever thought it would. Jason and I didn't just 'happen' either, despite what everyone might believe. Or how people who get together seem to fall together naturally. Nothing about it was 'natural', for if it had been, we would have gotten together ages ago. All the signs pointed towards it. We had always sought each other out, intentionally or not, even during our ranger days, maybe even before that.
What happened between us was like a force of lightning. Well, for me at least. For it was me that started having feelings for him way before I think he felt anything like it in return for me.
And now we were on Muiranthias. And I suppose it was time for everyone else to know.
"Jason?" I called out softly, walking away from the cheers of the Rangers in the Turbo Megazord cockpit, and towards the small alcove at its side. "Jase?"
He looked up from where he had been sitting quietly with Lerigot and his family, elbows on his knees, and flashed me a small smile.
"Hey," he said. Gesturing to the happily united family, he shook his head slightly. "I'm just glad we managed to get them all out safely."
My features softened. It was just so typical of him. Always eschewing the glory of a victory, far preferring the quiet satisfaction of having done a good, or saving a life.
I walked over to stand between his open knees and he straightened, allowing me the space to do so. I reached out to brush back his hair from his forehead, my hand wavering as it came back bloody. "You're bleeding," I said.
He caught my bloodstained fingers gently, wiping it off on his shirt. He brought my hand up to his lips and shrugged off the wound. "It's nothing, I've definitely had worse."
I frowned as I pulled my hand back, and he sat patiently as I leaned in for a better look. It wasn't 'nothing', and it was only because of the color and thickness of his hair that I hadn't noticed the gash earlier.
"Jesus, Jase. It's about two inches long."
He smiled in an attempt to reassure me. "I'm fine, Kim."
I bit my lip, about to rush back out for the first aid kit when he caught me about the waist. "Hey, it's okay. Look, it's barely bleeding anymore."
I was unconvinced. It must have shown for he reached to hold my chin in his fingers, feathering a thumb over the edge of my jaw. "Kimberly," he said softly, holding me with his eyes, "I'm okay."
I took a deep breath, and nodded.
He broke eye contact as he stood up and placed his hand at the small of my back, guiding me away from the wizard and his family.
"C'mon, let's give them some space, we should go say something to the Rangers."
I nodded again and led the way out where the others were still high-fiving and congratulating each other. It was hard not to get swept up in the buoyant mood and the smiles and laughter were infectious. I turned towards Jason, and as his arms opened I stepped into his embrace, relishing the familiar feel of them around me and the solid strength of his body. It's been too long, and I'm just so glad that he's safe.
I pressed a soft kiss to the outside of his ear before he released me way too soon. He smiled down at me, and I notice a regret in his eyes, but before I could press him on that I turn my head and noticed the tense form of the Red Ranger observing us.
I stepped back from Jason in surprise, and his hands dropped to my waist before he turned to face Tommy.
"Hey, bro," Jason greeted him quietly.
I followed that with a tentative smile in greeting. "Jase told me that you had changed colors," I told Tommy, gesturing to his suit, unused to seeing him in red. There was only one man who had ever worn those colors right in my mind.
Tommy might have made some reply but his helmet hid any expression that I might have been able to read.
My hand automatically found Jason's behind my back. The moment my fingers connected with his, a steady warmth filled me. I took a step forward.
"Tommy," I began, searching for his eyes in the shadows of the gold rimmed star that was the visor on his helmet. Frowning, I gestured to his head. "Take that off will you?"
He obliged, bending his head and shaking that impossibly long hair back. My smile this time was for real, and tinged with nostalgia. I used to love that hair, adoring the slight rakishness it added to his pretty boy looks.
"It's good to see you," I told him, releasing Jason's hand and reaching up to give Tommy a hug. He held me close, closer than I had anticipated, and I was unprepared for him lowering his face to the side of my neck.
"Yeah," he murmured gruffly and I pulled back a little. I noticed Kat standing a few feet away behind him and I shifted to the left, looking at her over Tommy's shoulder. Stepping free from Tommy's arms, I winced as I threw her an apologetic look; no one deserved to be kicked in the stomach as violently as I kicked her earlier.
As good-natured as she was, she shrugged it off easily and came up to us with a sweet smile. "Hi, Kim," she said, "we're so glad that you're no longer evil." She shuddered as she looked over at Jason. "You, in particular were downright scary. I really thought you were gonna kill my boyfriend."
"Me too, Kat," Jason replied, rubbing the back of his neck slightly. I could tell that it bothered him a great deal that he had succumbed to Maligore's spell. "Sorry, Tommy," he said with a grimace.
Tommy shrugged it off like I knew he would. "Nothing to it. I tried to kill you once too, remember?"
A reluctant smile lurked at the corners of Jason's mouth. "I suppose so," he acknowledged.
But as the original red ranger and our very first team leader, I knew that he held himself to greater, nearly impossible standards. And the fact that he had not only very nearly killed his best friend, but had relished the prospect of doing so, was probably eating at him.
My heart wrenched as I turned towards him and glimpsed the conflict in his dark eyes. "Oh Jase," I said softly, unconsciously placing a hand on the hard ridges of his stomach. My other hand went up to his jaw, guiding his eyes down to meet mine. "Don't. Please. I practically begged you to throw him into the fire."
He rubbed his jaw into my palm and I read the love he had for me in those beloved eyes. I don't think I would ever get tired of seeing that look. I started to lean upwards for a soft kiss, but dropped my forehead to his chest instead when I remembered that this was probably not the best way to tell Tommy that Jason and I were together together. And had been for some time.
If Tommy and the others hadn't guessed before, they would've by now. Suddenly nervous, I stalled for time, glancing up at Jason before having to face the inevitable. Jason's expression had hardened, and his arm tightened protectively around my waist.
With a sinking feeling I figured that Tommy probably wasn't taking the news very well. Reluctantly, I turned around to face him.
The look on his face was devastating to say the least.
"How long?" Tommy ground out, jaw tight with both fists clenched.
Jason stood his ground. "More than a year," he replied.
Tommy's nostrils flared. "Since you lost the Gold?"
Jason nodded. "Might've been."
Tommy's gaze swivelled to me. "And you?"
My heart sank. I didn't want to lie to him. But the truth would hurt. "Longer for me. I've been in love with Jason for a long time, Tommy."
He looked crushed, but when he spoke again it was in a sneer. "Was he the 'other guy'? In the letter you wrote me?"
My mouth went dry. No one knew, and I would never tell. "We- we weren't-," my voice cracked and I swallowed, hard. "Not... Not at that time. But I... After you, us... It's always just been Jase."
I glanced at Kat, sure that this was probably difficult for her too. But she just looked sympathetic, and full of empathy for Tommy, whom it was clear she loved deeply. Despite the situation, I couldn't help but think that I couldn't have had a better successor.
It was as if Tommy couldn't bear to look at us both, his eyes were wild and fixed on everything else but Jason and I. When they finally refocused on me, his words cut deep. "You knew that he was with Emily right?"
I did know. I'd been there, and that was a dark period of my life that I would rather forget.
"Emily's in the past, Tommy," Jason said evenly, giving my hand a squeeze.
Tommy let out a guttural sound. His lips flattened and disgust was written all over his face. He took a step towards Jason, arms half-raised in hostility. "I can't believe this. You were my best friend."
"I am your best friend."
Tommy shook his head. He movements came out rushed and jerky. "You could've told me!"
Jason nodded. "We could've. We should have. And we regret that we didn't earlier." He let go of me and walked up to Tommy. "But we didn't want to, unless we were absolutely sure that this thing we had was the real thing."
He paused and added in a low voice, "Tommy, we came back to Angel Grove to tell you, you and the rest, but shit happened before we could. But I love Kimberly, and she loves me, and I'm sorry that you had to find out the way that you did, and it was never our intention to hurt you."
I kept silent, for there was nothing more that I could've said to make the situation any easier.
And then Kat spoke up. "Tommy," she said in that soft accent of hers. "Come on. You guys go way back. I don't think that Jason or Kim intentionally set out to hurt you." She placed a hand on his rigid arm, and continued placatingly. "I don't quite think that you told Kim either when you and I started dating." She threw me an apologetic look at that. "She probably found out from the others."
I had indeed - Jason told me. But the thing was Kat was as good as she was beautiful, and had been in love with Tommy from the very beginning.
My gaze lingered on Jason, knowing that doing this to Tommy was hard for him. Much harder than it was for me.
Tommy squeezed his eyes shut, and we could all see that he was struggling to compose himself. The look he gave us when he finally looked up was hard to describe. I don't know If he would ever get used to the idea of Jason and I, but I hope, for Jason's sake, that he would eventually get there.
He looked at me, and I saw all that we shared together when we were young and together flash through his eyes. "So. You love him."
His words were wooden and mechanical, but my heart gave that familiar leap whenever I thought of Jason.
Finally mine to call my own. "More than life itself," I answered quietly. As much as I hated hurting Tommy, there was no way I would let Jason have even the slightest doubt about the depth of my feelings for him.
Tommy jerked his head once, and I know it must be difficult for him to accept that the love that we had once shared was a love of youth and innocence. Fleeting, and made to be a memory. What I shared with Jason, and perhaps he with Kat, was of the deeper, indelible variety.
His eyes snapped away from me and with effort, refocused on Jason. Their eyes met in a steely battle for several moments, but I think Tommy was coming to realize something.
"I suppose," he said slowly, as if he was just figuring something out. "I suppose," he repeated, his face spasming, "in a way, she had always belonged to you."
There was a distant look in his eyes and I had no idea what he was revisiting in his mind. "I should've seen it. The signs..." He snapped back to the present and then he smiled, hard and brittle. "It's finally come a full circle."
He looked between the both of us. Jason's hand on my shoulder, and how my body gravitated towards his, nestled into his side. "I should've seen it," he said again, sounding unnaturally high.
His hands rounded in fists and he spun around and left us without a backward glance.
I looked up to see Jason's rigid profile, and a quick glance around saw the other Rangers in the cockpit purposefully minding their own business.
It was Katherine who swooped in to ease the tension.
"You guys..." she ventured, and turned to look at the doorway that Tommy had departed through. "He just... He needs time." She sounded torn, and it was written all over her face.
I wasn't so sure, but Jason nodded for her benefit. "Thanks, Kat," he told her. They shared a look, and I'm reminded that they used to be teammates and he had always spoken highly of her. "I'm sorry," he added quietly, ever considerate, always compassionate.
"No worries," she replied, trying to smile, "it'll be okay. She glanced through the doorway again. "You can't choose who you fall in love with," she said wistfully.
I touched her arm. "Thanks, Kat," I said sincerely. She put her hand over mine and gave it a squeeze, understanding that I meant more than what I could put in words.
"Don't worry," she repeated fiercely, then turned to Jason, a warm look coming into her eyes. "I'm glad it was you." Her gaze swept between the both of us and a slow smile spread across her face. "It's just... I don't think you guys could've ended any other way."
I looked up at Jason and he smiled down at me. It was an action as old as time, a gesture so often repeated that it had become nature. I guess I could see what Tommy meant. I was drawn to Jason, and he to me, as it always had been.
Even back, back when we were Five, and then Six, it had always just been us two.
For Jason and I, it could never have ended any other way.