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 know, I know, it's been an insanely long time since I last updated. All I can say is that the epilogue of this fic has been giving me fits for six months. I've rewritten it about four or five different times and I finally got this half of it to the point where I'm happy with it.
Thank y'all so much for having patience with me, and thank you for taking the time to review. They've been really encouraging.
Now, without further ado, on to the chapter! Enjoy!
Special thanks to Princess Kimberly for beta-reading.
Epilogue: Part 1
There was something to be said for the giddy feeling that always permeated the first day of summer vacation. It was a euphoric wave of bliss mingling freedom with all the anticipation wrought by memories of ice cream, the beach, and days of glorious sunshine. Time seemed to slow and stretch, letting the day drift leisurely by with promise of a welcome break from the frantic hustle and bustle of the rest of the year. The summer would soon slip past, leaving everyone to wonder where it had gone, but that first day would be treasured.
Tommy leaned against his kitchen counter, slowly sipping his coffee, enjoying the least stressful morning he'd had in a long time. Cheery June sunlight streamed through the kitchen windows, casting a golden glow about the entire room, and he smiled, unable to hold back the swell of excitement that surged through him.
No more early, early mornings, no more rowdy students, no more pop quizzes to prepare or papers to grade.
Yes, he was definitely going to enjoy this summer off.
Not only that, but Mesogog was gone for good, Anton Mercer and Elsa Randall were both back to normal, and he was retired from rangerdom.
Hopefully this time for keeps.
It wasn't that he didn't love being a ranger, because he did. It was just that this last time around brought home the full weight of the undertaking and the responsibilities that went with the job. It was something Conner, Ethan, Kira, and Trent hadn't quite fully grasped—just as he had failed to grasp the magnitude of being a ranger years before. None of them had realized at first how dangerous their lives really were and how many lives hung in the balance.
Tommy's thoughts of late had begun to turn towards starting a family, but it was a dream he would never even consider while he still wore a morpher. Sure, he was almost twenty-six and still single, but what was that compared to the risk of something happening to his family because he was the Black Dino Ranger? After all, Mesogog had known all along just where to hit him. Bringing someone into his life could have—probably would have, given his luck with relationships—been an unmitigated disaster.
Besides, given the alarming frequency with which he found himself sucked back into rangerdom, any potential candidates for the future Mrs. Thomas Oliver had to be able to handle a few…surprises.
Tommy let out a chuckle at the thought and poured himself another cup of coffee. As he stirred in a generous amount of creamer, he reflected that Anton and Elsa certainly wouldn't have that particular problem. They had been seeing a great deal of each other the past year and it came as no surprise to Tommy when he learned Anton had finally proposed. Tommy's smile broadened as he took a cautious sip. Perfect. Ok, so Hayley had to clue him in before he realized what was going on between his two former enemies, but even he could see that villains or not, the two of them were suited to each other.
It was, he thought absently, the kind of story Kim would have been delighted to hear.
Tommy's heart gave a lurch and his smile faded away. Glancing down at his coffee cup, he swirled the contents absently. He had struggled to put her out of his mind, but it hadn't worked very well. He'd spent a lot of time thinking about her over the past year, wondering if he had made the right choice. It had by no means been an easy choice, but he was sufficiently past it to realize that arbitrarily cutting her out of his life because he thought it would best for both of them might have been a bit presumptuous.
Of course, it had also come down to him protecting himself. He knew, deep down, that they could become friends again. It would be awkward, maybe even a little painful at times, but they could do it.
He could get sucked in all over again.
Has it really been a year? Time had flown by so quickly. They had exchanged Christmas cards, email addresses and a few short, rather impersonal messages, but they hadn't actually talked since her call on his birthday. Tommy drained the last of his coffee and set the cup gently in the sink.
Kimberly had called him several times over the past year, but between school, Ranger duties, and then being encased in amber for a few weeks, he had never had—or made, he admitted guiltily—the chance to return her calls. Hayley had dealt with a few of them before Kim ceased trying to reach him.
Tommy straightened and frowned as his refrigerator door. Maybe Hayley was the reason Kim had stopped calling. The former pink ranger was persistent; it was one of her most endearing—and occasionally irritating—qualities. He knew she wouldn't have given up unless there was sufficient reason in her mind to render throwing in the towel an acceptable action.
Even as the thought crossed his mind, Tommy rejected it as irrational. Nah. Get a grip, Oliver. Kim knew he and Hayley weren't anything more than good friends. He'd told her that much himself, hadn't he? He ran a hand through his hair, absently standing the dark strands on end.
The most ironic thing about the entire situation was that with everything that had happened over the past year—particularly Trent's situation and the bout of unpleasant memories it brought back—he'd found himself wanting to talk to her so badly. She'd been there for him through some of the roughest patches of his life and the entire thing with the Dino Rangers and Mesogog was something he knew she'd understand. Out of all his friends, Jason included, Kim's name was the one that kept popping up at the top of his list. She would never know how many times he had picked up the phone to call her, only to stop short of actually dialing the number.
He knew she would understand, even after everything that had happened between them. Oddly enough, that fact made his choice a little easier. As much as he had wanted to talk to her, he hadn't wanted to risk dragging her into the middle of the war between the Rangers and Mesogog. The dinosaur overlord would have found out about her one way or another.
He let out a short, rueful laugh. The truth of it was that even now he wouldn't have been able to live with himself if something happened to her again. One Muriantharis incident had been quite enough, thank you.
Briefly, Tommy wondered if Kim was still single. Her sporadic mails hadn't mentioned anyone, but why should they? It wasn't exactly like they were under obligation to say whether or not they were dating—it would have made the whole thing that much more awkward. He could, at least, rest assured she hadn't gotten married. The Ranger grapevine being what it was, he seriously doubted he could have missed something like that.
He let out a sigh. The weeks he'd spent trapped inside that horrid amber shell had given him time to do a great deal of thinking. Kim might have thought she was making it easy for him by saying he should forget her—it was difficult to say—but he'd tried that route before. She didn't realize that the odds of him actually putting her out of his mind were about the same as Zedd willingly surrendering back in the day. I'd probably have to be dead before I forget her.
Tommy's dark eyes strayed to the cell phone lying on the kitchen table next to his car keys. He could call her and say hello. He wouldn't be risking her life by associating with her anymore—not, he thought with a sudden smile, that a little thing like that would have ever stopped Kim anyway. Still, it was time to decide what he really and truly wanted now that he didn't have to worry about being a ranger anymore.
He glanced at the clock on the opposite wall, drumming his fingers against the smooth surface of the counter. Quarter to nine. She'd probably be en route to work by now and he didn't have her work or cell number. It was only her home phone number he'd managed to memorize.
Tommy chuckled wryly. First day of summer vacation and I have nothing to do because all my friends are at work.
He shot another look at his cell phone, eying it speculatively…until a silver glint caught his gaze. His gaze swiveled to focus on his keys and an idea came to him. It was crazy and spur-of-the-moment, but he considered it just the same, turning it over and over in his mind.
I will call Kim, he decided abruptly. Just not yet.
A moment later, the kitchen was empty. Both phone and keys were gone from the table. The sun, deprived of its playthings, crept across the room in search of another shiny trinket.
It was times like these that truly made Kim appreciate how wonderful it was to have her own office. Sure, it was cramped, but it had a floor-to-ceiling window and, more importantly, her colleagues couldn't hear her muttering to herself. Her latest assignment was to sort through a massive batch of designs submitted by recommended young hopefuls praying they'd be picked up to do further work. Needless to say, she'd found some doozies over the course of the morning.
"Whoever came up with this dress idea must have been absolutely smashed." Kim shook her head, not caring her brown hair was coming loose from its clasp and discarded the drawing with a practiced flick of her wrist. Colored entirely in shades of fluorescent orange and violent hot pink, the dress looked like a cross between a 20's flapper number and a bunch of randomly attached flotation devices. "I can't believe somebody actually thought this would sell."
Glancing at the stack awaiting her perusal, she was relieved to see it diminished by more than half. She stacked the piles of sketches that showed potential into a carefully labeled box and set them off to one side. As she gathered together the rest of the papers scattered across the surface of her desk, she found a birthday card lodged beneath several hideous sketches and her breath hitched in her throat.
Tommy had sent it to her back in February and she'd kept it propped up by her sketchpad ever since. She hadn't actually looked at it in a long time however—it was one of those things she saw every day without really noticing. She handled it gently, reading the brief note within before snapping it closed. With a sigh, she set it back onto her desk. No sense going there.
Operation Tommy, sad to say, had not gone nearly as well as she and Aisha had hoped. Sure they'd exchanged a few emails, but she was painfully aware they were carefully couched missives that could have just as easily belonged to two strangers. The reconciliation she and Aisha dreamed up just hadn't happened.
Kim rested her arms on the desk and buried her face in them. Calling him hadn't worked out so well either. She'd never tried to reach him during school hours, knowing full well it wouldn't be a good idea to bother him while he was working. Unfortunately, the only thing she'd ever reached on his cell phone was his voicemail. After leaving a few messages, she gave up and focused on his house phone.
That idea, she reflected wryly, closing her eyes and resolving to take a couple minutes' of a break before she subjected herself to more couture catastrophes, had fared no better. Tommy never seemed to be at home in the afternoons or even the evenings and several times his house phone had been answered by a woman identifying herself as Hayley.
After the third time Hayley answered, Kim gave up. Whatever Tommy had said the year before—Has it really been a year? she thought in shock—things between himself and Hayley were apparently different now if the woman was answering his phone.
Kim refused to let this dampen her spirits, though she could often feel a wave of surrender hovering at the edges of her mind. Even if he and Hayley were seeing each other, they could still be friends, right? It didn't mean she had to be completely cut out of his life, did it?
She was so absorbed in thought that it took her a few seconds to realize her phone was ringing. She sat up and answered it, reaching for another pile of designs with her free hand. "Kim Hart speaking."
She froze, her brown eyes going wide. "Tommy?" she asked carefully, not quite trusting her ears. Sure, it sounded like Tommy, but her mind could be playing tricks on her.
"The one and only. How are you?"
Kim blinked. This was such a…normal conversation. Not quite what she'd been expecting in the back of her mind. "I'm good. How are you doing?"
Hope suddenly blossomed inside her. He had called her—he had actually called her! At work, no less…which meant he'd had to find her number. Surely this was a good sign. It had taken him a year to decide if he ever wanted to speak to her again, but it was better than never.
"I'm doing really well. Happy school's out."
Tommy hesitated. There's no point in beating around the bush, he told himself, You've never been good at it. Aloud, he said, "Look. I know our last meeting didn't go so well, but I'm glad we had a chance to get everything out in the open."
Kim was silent, digesting his words and not daring to read anything into them.
"I've had a lot of time to think lately," Tommy continued, More than you'll ever know, "and I realized that I've miss you a lot. I miss being able to talk to you like we used to."
Kim found herself unable to breath for a few seconds. Am I really hearing what I'm hearing? she wondered dazedly.
"I'd like us to be good friends again, Kim." The words were said quietly.
Kim's mouth opened and closed a few times, but no sound came out.
Tommy interpreted her silence the wrong way and felt a band close around his heart. He'd waited too long again. "I understand if you don't feel the same way." He laughed once, a lost sound in it that cut straight to Kim's heart. "This shouldn't be so hard," he muttered.
Kim finally found her voice. "Tommy—"
He cut her off. "Look, it's ok, Kim. I told you I understand."
"No, you don't!" Her voice rose several octaves and she flushed, hoping no one outside her office could hear her. "You just surprised me, that's all." She ducked her head shyly, glad he couldn't see her. "I've…uh…actually been hoping you would call sometime."
On the other end of the phone, Tommy's heart skipped a beat. "You have?"
Kim laughed. "Yeah. You aren't the only one who's had time to think. I've missed you too." She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear nervously.
"Look," Tommy said suddenly, "I know it's short notice, but can you get the rest of the afternoon off?" He smiled wryly, even though he knew she couldn't see him. "I'd like to try the whole dinner thing again."
Kim's heart began to pound and she clutched the phone in a suddenly sweaty hand. "You're driving to Los Angeles?" She was mortified to hear her voice rise again.
Tommy chuckled. "Look out your window, Kim."
She glanced over her shoulder at the window automatically, where the first rays of afternoon sunlight were starting to peek through. Then, moving on legs that felt like wobbly jelly, she crossed the office, phone in hand, and peered outside.
"There?" Tommy asked, a hint of a smile in his voice. "Look down."
"Yes—Tommy!" Kim's hand flew to her mouth as she took in a tiny figure in a white shirt waving up at her. She staggered across the office again, fumbling for her chair, and sank heavily into it. "You came to Los Angeles?"
"Sure did." A bit of satisfied smugness bled into his voice. "I wasn't exactly planning to take 'no' for an answer."
Kim felt tears well up in her eyes and blinked them back. "Oh, Tommy."
"So, can you get the afternoon off?"
She grinned, a wave of exuberance sweeping over her. "I'll be down in a couple minutes."
"I'll hold you to it," he tossed back. "See ya, Kim."
Kim hung up the phone and dashed out of her office. Two seconds later, she burst back in and scooped up her purse before teetering off again. Her supervisor didn't fully realize what had hit her until a good half-hour after Hurricane Kim danced out of her office, but she hadn't seen Kim so enthused about something in…well…forever, so one afternoon off probably wouldn't hurt. The brunette had unused vacation time anyway, and it wasn't like her assignment of separating the wheat form the chaff was going to hold them up.
Kimberly flew down the steps of the building, passing into the bright afternoon sunlight. She caught sight of Tommy's trim figure immediately and had to remind herself that she couldn't very well go throwing her arms around his neck like she would have done a few years before.
She skidded to a halt in front of him and they stared at each other for a few seconds before Tommy smiled and held out his arms. "Surprised to see me?" he asked, teasingly.
Kim gave him a tentative hug. "You have no idea."
He grinned. "Well, I do believe we have some catching up to do, Kimberly Hart. You're not going to believe some of the things I have to tell you."
She laughed, brown eyes dancing suddenly. "Knowing you? Definitely."
Tommy laughed too. "Guess some things don't change, do they?"
Kim glanced down at the concrete sidewalk before meeting his eyes a little more shyly than before. "Guess not."
They were oblivious to the steady trickle of humanity flowing around them; some ignoring them, others hiding indulgent smiles, and the rest giving them an interested look before going on their way. Everything around them had faded away and the world narrowed until there was just room enough for the two of them.
Tommy was the first to break the spell. "So…an early dinner?" he asked with a charming smile.
An answering smile suffused Kim's face, casing her brown eyes to sparkle. "Sounds like a plan to me." She tucked her arm through his instinctively and they strolled along the sidewalk. "Have any place in mind?"
"I'm thinking something Italian."
"Ooh…garlic bread…yum. I like it."
As they neared the spot where Tommy had parked his Jeep, he asked suddenly, "What about your car, Kim?"
She stopped short. "Oh, boy. Forgot about that." She flashed him a dazzling smile. "Well, how about I drive over to my apartment and you follow me? We can head to dinner from there."
He nodded. "Ok. I'll be right behind you." Don't think for a second I'm going to let you get away again, Kimberly Hart.
Something of his thoughts showed in the suddenly determined look on his face and Kim felt her heart skip a few beats. Her breathing picked up and she fought to keep a blush off her cheeks as she headed in the direction of her own car, conscious of his eyes on her. "Shouldn't take long," she called back over her shoulder.
Tommy watched her until she was out of sight before smiling and hopping into the Jeep. He had a good feeling about this evening.
...and they're off! I was originally going to end the story here, but it didn't seem right so I've extended things. I'm working on rewriting the end of the next chapter, and then this story will finally be complete. :smiles:
Thanks so much for reading, and please let me know what you thought.