Disclaimer: I don't own Power Rangers...if I did, we'd have season box sets already.
Relationship: T/K, mentions of B/K
Spoilers:Zeo, Turbo movie, DT
AN: I have no idea why this chapter disappeared and was replaced by another copy of Chapter 2. Very strange. Anyway, I've fixed the problem and I've also made a slight change to the end. Thanks to Just Jill for pointing out that the POV switch there was odd.
Special thanks also go to Princess Kimberly for beta reading.
Tommy Oliver let himself into his new home, sorting through the mail as he shut the door behind him. There was all the usual junk; he rarely got anything actually worth reading these days. He dumped the whole pile in the trash can on his way through the kitchen and then tossed his keys onto the counter as he walked back to his living room. He loved his house and it thrilled him to no end to think about the secret, state-of-the-art lab lying hidden beneath his feet. Despite the hassle, there were definitely perks to designing and building one's own home.
He contemplated pulling a beer out of the fridge, but rejected the idea. It was too early, and with the mood he was in, it wouldn't help. He let out a sigh. Really, the day had started out so well. It was his birthday and he'd found out that Reefside High had decided in their almighty wisdom to accept his application and hire him as their new science teacher. They'd been so impressed with his credentials that they hadn't waited several months to tell him. He'd start in August...which meant he had the whole summer to do whatever he wanted.
He stared into the refrigerator moodily. It had started off as a really good day. Yet somehow, visiting the school had caused all his thoughts to trail back to his own high school days and the myriad poignant, happy, and painful memories they brought back. Kim and Kat had figured prominently in his mind throughout the day and he'd been forced to confront feelings and emotions he hadn't dealt with in a long time.
Taking a long hard look at the past few years, he traced the path he'd taken since high school. He'd tried to move on with his life and put Kim behind him, he really had. It was a high school romance. Puppy love. He should have been able to get over her with nostalgic ease. Needless to say, it hadn't worked.
Now that he thought about it, he decided that was rather ironic as well. She'd obviously been able to forget about him, but he hadn't been able to leave her behind and his life had metaphorically fallen apart piece by piece as a result. How one woman could do that to him was beyond his comprehension.
He and Kat had parted ways a few months after passing on their Turbo powers. The blonde Australian finally accepted the fact that his heart still wasn't completely free and she ended their relationship before either of them was hurt any further. The breakup had been hard on both of them, but Kat eventually found someone who loved her with all his heart. Tommy was happy for her. He was happy for both of them, actually. Billy, free of the aging disease that had forced him to travel to Aquitar in search of a cure, clearly adored Kat and anyone watching the two could tell they were meant to be together.
Tommy shucked his dress coat, dropping it over the back of the recliner in his living room, and rolled up his shirt sleeves. The years had passed more quickly than he would have liked and Kimberly's path seldom crossed his. He knew he should have called her, should have at least tried to remain a friend, but he'd been afraid of intruding into her life and have her shut him out forever as a result. In the end, apathy was the smoothest course. It was easy to rationalize that he didn't have to feel badly about not keeping in touch because she didn't keep in touch with him either.
Tommy's brown eyes were drawn to his bookshelf, where a scrapbook containing clippings of her was carefully stored. 'Carefully' meant it was shoved in with a collection of rather dry books on paleontology to keep it from prying eyes. His friends meant well, but they read too much into things at times, and a scrapbook on Kim would have been ribbing fodder for the rest of his life. He'd been following her career for the past few years, collecting articles, interviews, and the rare photo. It didn't look like she had changed much. After the Pan Globals and the Olympics, she had taken a job promoting a fashion line and she had ended up making a career out of it.
He rubbed his chin. It was stupid of him to be encouraged—Hayley would say it was incredibly hopeless—but none of the information he'd seen anywhere ever mentioned anything about a boyfriend or a husband. Besides, the Ranger Grapevine was still very much alive and he was fairly certain he would have heard if Kimberly had gotten married, even if he wasn't invited.
He sat down on the couch and kicked his shoes off, thinking back to the last time he'd seen her. If he remembered correctly, it had been at Billy and Kat's wedding a few years before. She had seemed rather cheerful, what little he'd seen of her. He chuckled slightly. At the time, he and Hayley had been dating, which meant none of his meddling friends (who always meant well but were often extremely annoying) could attempt to play matchmaker.
The two of them had spent the evening at opposite ends of the room, but somehow they'd been drawn to each other just the same. Inevitably, he'd bumped into Kim near the punch bowl. Literally.
Tommy almost smiled. At least he hadn't spilled anything on her dress. In retrospect, he wished they'd had time to chat, but he'd been a man on a mission. Hayley was waiting for her drink. They'd said hello and then gone their separate ways.
Even now, Tommy still thought he'd seen something flit through Kimberly's brown eyes at that moment, something like regret and longing mixed together. Whatever it was, it had vanished instantly and she disappeared back into the crowd. He hadn't seen her the rest of the night. Shaking his head slightly, he took his glasses off and laid them on the end table beside him. He rubbed his eyes, a sardonic smile on his face. Since this day was the day to be brutally honest with himself, he had to admit that it was entirely likely the whole thing had just been his imagination.
He opened his eyes and the dark, empty screen of the television sitting on the other side of the room stared him in the face. Tommy heaved a sigh. It was downright pitiful that it was Friday night and he didn't have anywhere to be. His love life was practically nonexistent these days.
His cell phone rang just then and he fished it out of his pocket. The thing was so small he often forgot to take it out when he came home. He glanced at the caller I.D. before hitting the talk button, but it offered no clues. The name was listed as 'private' and he didn't recognize the number. Probably a telemarketer. His parents had already called and wished him a happy birthday, and he couldn't think of anyone else who'd be calling him. "Hello?" He reached down into the couch cushions for the remote—he distinctly remembered it slipping down there that morning before he'd left.
"Hi, Tommy," a slightly hesitant voice answered.
He froze. Speak of the devil. "Kimberly?" Disbelief colored his voice.
"Yeah," she said ruefully. "Happy Birthday."
"Thanks," he answered automatically, mind still reeling. Kim had called him after all this time. What in the world had happened? Was he dreaming? Was he sane? He pinched his arm. Not dreaming. Can't rule out the insanity issue though. He clutched the tiny phone with a tighter grip.
There was a slight pause on the other end and then Kim said in what she hoped was a calm voice. "Congratulations."
"Uh...thanks." Tommy wasn't sure exactly what she was congratulating him on or for…he didn't recall telling anyone other than his parents about his new job...but he was actually talking to her and hearing her voice again, so it really didn't matter. She could have been telling him the price of tea in China and he wouldn't have cared. After having to deal with losing her all over again throughout the day, talking to her was...just...just...he didn't even have words to describe it. He'd never expected it.
"I'm sure you and Hayley will be really happy together." Kim tried to put as much sincerity into the words as she could. He'd never know how much they cost her to say, or how long she had sat staring at the phone and chewing her nails, or hard it had been to resist the urge to hang the phone up when he answered.
A frown crossed Tommy's face, sweeping aside all of the thoughts bouncing around in his brain. "What are you talking about?"
Doubt crept into Kim's mind and on the other end of the phone line, her face began to flush. She had a sudden, horrible sneaking suspicion that she'd been had. Aisha's grinning face swam through her mind's eye. "Aren't you and Hayley—" she struggled to get the words out in her rising embarrassment, "Aren't you getting married?"
There was dead silence for two seconds before Tommy threw back his head and laughed. Kim twisted the cord of her phone around in her fingers nervously while he guffawed, feeling worse and worse by the second. This had been a really bad idea. Aisha is so dead.
"No," he gasped out after a moment, "We're not—it's not like that." A stray corner of his mind wondered childishly how she'd react if he'd said yes, but he ignored it. "We're good friends, nothing more. Where did you hear we were getting married?"
Kim's voice was so low he barely heard her. "Aisha."
"Aisha," she mumbled, slightly louder.
"She must have made a mistake." Tommy tried to hold back the amusement in his voice. He'd have to thank the feisty African American woman. He didn't know if she'd done it on purpose or not, but he'd definitely have to thank her.
"I'll say," Kim muttered beneath her breath.
"I said she must have." Kim's voice took on a distant tone as she struggled to control the whirlwind of emotions coursing through her. "Well, happy birthday anyway."
Still staring at the empty television screen, his search for the remote quite forgotten, Tommy knew the sudden pause in the conversation meant she was getting ready to go. "Don't hang up, Kim," he said impulsively.
"What?" Kim's heart jumped into her throat. After embarrassing herself so thoroughly, all she wanted to do was throw her stupid phone out the window, bang her head against the wall, and scream.
"Don't go yet," he pressed, feeling that he had to grab this chance at reconciliation before it fluttered away. "It's been a long time. How are you doing?"
She tried to get her pulse back to normal and resisted the urge to chuck her phone anyway. "I've been doing good, I guess."
"Still at that fashion company?"
Surprised washed over her. "How'd you know about that?"
Oops, he thought. "Read about it in the paper. Not to mention Jason won't shut up about you." His voice held a wry note. "Your surrogate brother is very proud of you."
"Oh." She digested that before saying, "How are you? How're...things...going?"
He caught the drift. "They're good. I'm still retired." A half-smirk crossed his face. Apparently he wasn't the only one Jason (or Aisha, or somebody) was keeping informed.
Kim snorted. "We'll see how long that lasts." She was kidding of course, after the events of the whole Serpentera thing, his Zeo powers had to be long gone. And it's not like another set of powers are just going to drop in his lap. Tommy laughed and she smiled, some of her edginess draining away.
"Very funny, Kim."
They chatted for a long time, catching up on the whereabouts of their friends and whatnot, and discussing jobs. A great deal had changed since the last time they saw each other. Despite his attempts to push them into the background, all of Tommy's questions began to clamor for attention. They were deliberately skirting the real issues. He shoved his errant thoughts out of his mind. A phone call wasn't the right time to bring everything back up.
Finally, Kim reluctantly told him she had to go. Before he could stop himself and think twice, Tommy blurted out, "Would you have dinner with me next week?"
Kim's mouth went dry and butterflies began flitting about in her stomach. "You're three hours away." It was an inane excuse and she knew it, but this conversation had been the last thing she'd expected. Panic threatened to hit her over the head. I don't think I can handle seeing him again...
Tommy shrugged, his gaze fixed on the wall in front of him. "I'll drive." Please say yes.
She felt guilty. "That's a long way, Tommy, and with gas prices the way they are... how about I meet you half-way?"
"Nope." He shook his head, forgetting that she couldn't see him. "I don't start work until the fall semester so I've got free time. Besides, I've been meaning to go somewhere for a while for a change of scenery."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive." Tommy's voice was confident. He could do this. They'd have dinner and maybe he could get some answers. "How does Friday sound?"
"I'm free." Kim fought to keep a waver out of her voice.
Good. "Have any favorite restaurants?" She listed a few places and Tommy nodded to himself.
"Do you need my cell phone number?" Kim asked hesitantly.
She told him and he jotted it down on his hand, for lack of any paper, thankful he had a pen in his shirt pocket. He made a mental note to keep something—anything—on hand to write on in the future.
Kim chewed on her lip, doubt filling her brown eyes. "Tommy," she said in a rush, her grip on the phone turning her knuckles white, "Really, you don't have to—"
"Yes, I do, Kim. I want to."
The quiet conviction in his voice silenced her. "Well," she said awkwardly, after a moment. "Let me know when you get in."
"Will do. Take care, Kim." He meant it.
"You too. Bye."
Tommy leaned back against his couch, still holding the phone and ignoring the dial tone now beeping in his ear.A goofy smile stretched across his face. They hadn't talked like that in years and it felt good. It had felt like they slipped back into a familiar routine for a little while; a different routine, to be sure, but still familiar. It made him realize again how much he'd missed her. They'd always had an ability to talk about anything and everything.
He set the cell phone on the end table beside him and locked his hands behind his head, still smiling. He was glad she'd called…asking her to dinner felt like the right thing to do. Tommy closed his eyes. Maybe this was a chance for them to get through everything and move on with their lives. His mind started to consider the possibilities and he cut them off abruptly, not wanting to delve into that pool of broken dreams again.
All he wanted was to get on with his life.
Kim hung up her phone and leaned her head back against the kitchen cabinet. She had a queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. This is it. He was going to drag up all that stuff and demand an answer...she could feel it. Kim gulped. At least he wasn't getting married. That'ssomething to be thankful for. She immediately smacked herself for the thought.
Then she glanced at the clock and her jaw dropped. "We were on the phone for two hours?" They hadn't done that in years. She chewed on her lower lip, trying to figure out if the fact that they could still lose track of time was a good thing or not.
She didn't know-and the fact that she didn't know scared her.
Enjoy and don't forget to let me know what you thought!