Relationships: T/Kim, J/Kat, T/Hayley
AN: This is another chapter that took me a while to decide if I liked it or not. Fortunately, in the process of doing that, I've also finished the next chapter and the epilogue, so they'll be up in a few days.
Special thanks go to Princess Kimberly for beta-reading this for me.
Fighting Spirit AU
After hitting the 'end' button, Kimberly stared at the phone in her hand. Tommy's in a coma? The thought made her sick to her stomach. She still didn't know why or how. Her mind started running through a dozen different scenarios, none of them good. He's a high school science teacher, for crying out loud. What can he possibly have gotten himself into now?
Shaking her head, she took a deep, steadying breath. I will not cry. It's not like he's dead. Then she called the airline to purchase the necessary tickets to take her to California. After that, she called her mother to let her know that she wouldn't be able to make it for dinner. Mrs. Hart wanted to know when her flight was, and upon learning it didn't leave until 8 p.m., insisted that Kim eat with them. So she packed, joined them for a quiet supper, and headed off to the airport.
She tried to sleep on the long flight over, but couldn't. Without pausing or stopping, her mind kept replaying every moment she'd ever shared with Tommy, from the moment she'd first seen him, to the last time she'd seen him, which had been at Trini's funeral. You're being silly, she scolded herself. But she couldn't shake her worry, and it hit her, not for the first time, that maybe she was still in love with him. Or perhaps, a small part of her mind reflected, perhaps it was more a matter of her being in love with her memories of him. That, she decided wearily, was definitely a scary thought.
When the plane finally touched down at the Angel Grove airport, Kimberly was almost exhausted. She wanted off the plane, and she wanted to curl up somewhere and sleep. But Tommy was foremost in her thoughts—she couldn't pass out until she'd found out what had happened and how he was.
After making it through the nightmare that was security, she made her way to the ladies' room. Inside, she stared at her pale face, looking at the rings under her eyes and way her brown hair frizzed up bizarrely, and frowned. I look terrible. I can't walk in there looking like this.
She fixed her makeup and did the best she could with her hair. She straightened her pale pink blouse and grey slacks—even all these years later pink was still her favorite color, though she didn't wear it as often—and headed out to pick up her luggage. Then she made a beeline for the exit, shouldering her way through the early morning throng as she looked for Jason.
"Kimberly!" Jason waved an arm in the air. He was dressed casually in blue jeans and a black button up shirt and she felt a small smile break out on her face. Good old Jase. He didn't look very different, aside from having filled out a little bit.
He enfolded her in a hug. "It's good to see you, Kim." Her brown eyes questioned him mutely, and he slowly shook his head. "There's been no change." The dark-haired man reached for her designer bag and she let him take it.
They walked out to his car in silence, and once they were in and he'd started the engine, Jason knew he was in for it. Kimberly turned to him, her voice steady, but he could hear the underlying tremor she was trying so hard to hide. "What happened?"
When Jason had finished the story, Kim sat in stunned silence. Glancing over at her occasionally throughout the next five minutes, the dark-haired man wondered how long it would take for her to start talking again. He didn't have to wait long.
Words tumbled out of her in an unceasing stream. "Do you mean to tell me that Tommy—of all people—actually managed to create a team of Power Rangers?" Her voice rose with each syllable. I don't believe it.
Jason winced. "Kim-"
She continued, "And he's a Ranger again on top of everything?" Her brown eyes were wide and almost glazed. "When was he going to clue the rest of us in?" She shook her head abruptly and stared straight ahead, missing the guilty look on her friend's face. "You know, I would have expected something like this from Billy—if anyone could make a new team it would've been him—but Tommy! How in the heck did he manage to pull that off? I never would have seen it coming"
"Hayley said it had something to do with dinosaur DNA, and you know he's got a doctorate in paleontology," Jason said evenly. He knew she'd been speaking more to herself than anything else, but despite the situation, he couldn't resist commenting, "Didn't know he had it in him, huh? This is what? Fourth color, fifth power?"
"Yeah," she grumbled. "Maybe we ought to get him a multicolored suit and call him the Technicolor Ranger. That'd cover everything."
Jason laughed loudly. "We should call him the Rainbow Ranger. I really think he'd go for that one."
Kim burst into giggles, imagining the look she knew would be on Tommy's face if he ever heard that. Laughing dispelled some of the fear and worry they were both carrying, and the two of them drove the rest of the way chatting and chuckling like the old friends they were.
As they drove into Reefside, the former pink ranger asked casually, "Who's Hayley?" Jason hid a grin, and told her, watching the expressions flitting across her face. "I see," she said coolly. Her brow furrowed. "She wasn't at Trini's funeral, was she?"
"No." Jason's eyes twinkled. That wasn't a faint touch of jealousy he heard, was it?
Kimberly had been feeling pretty comfortable, but as they pulled into the hospital's parking lot, nervous butterflies started doing loop-the-loops in her stomach and her hands felt clammy. When she climbed out, her knees wobbled like jelly and almost gave out on her.
It was early morning, but the sun was already beating down hot and steady. She took a deep breath and straightened her blouse self-consciously, feeling the sun's comforting rays sink into her back. Then she squared her shoulders. You can do this.
"Your stuff'll be safe here." Jason locked the car and came around to her, putting an arm around her shoulders in a brotherly fashion. "Don't worry."
"Ok." Her eyes were glued to the wide double doors leading into the hospital. Jason shepherded her inside to the austere white room where Tommy lay unconscious. A small group of people got up to welcome them.
"Kimberly," Kat greeted her warmly, giving her a hug. Her Australian accent was still alive and kicking, even after all these years of living in the US.
The brown-haired woman returned it and was then greeted by Tanya, Rocky, Adam, T.J. and Cassie, and Zack, who had flown in from New York. Aisha, who had been the yellow ranger after Trini, was currently in Africa and couldn't be reached.
Kim then turned to face the only other person in the room, an auburn-haired woman who was eying her coolly. She held a hand out. "You must be Hayley. I've heard a lot about you."
"Kimberly. I've heard a lot about you too." Hayley shook her hand firmly.
Mentally, Kimberly raised an eyebrow—that didn't sound good. But she didn't feel like thinking it out at the moment. Her eyes drifted past Hayley, inexorably drawn to Tommy's still figure. A lump formed in her throat as she took in his silent form stretched out on the narrow hospital bed. The only indications he was still alive were the faint rise and fall of his chest, coupled with the steady beating of the machine to which he was connected by various tubes and wires. A moment later, she realized they were all looking at her. "What?"
"Do you want to see him alone?" Kat's voice was gentle.
Kim froze for the space of three seconds. Part of her wanted to get back to France as fast as she could, while the other part needed desperately to…well, she didn't know exactly. She wanted to know if she could wake him up—she wanted to give him the explanations he should have gotten years ago. Trini's death, and now this had shaken her and made her realize that time slipped away much faster than she'd ever imagined. She nodded slowly, biting her lower lip anxiously before moving towards the bed at a snail's pace.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Hayley fidgeting uncomfortably. Judging from the worry the other woman was emitting, though she tried to mask it, Kim could tell Hayley cared for Tommy a great deal. It didn't really surprise her. Tommy was such a nice guy, such a decent, caring man; it was no wonder half the female population of Angel Grove High School fell for him at one point or another back in the day. The thing of it was, she still wondered at least once a day why she ever let him go. She hadn't met a man yet to match him, and heaven knew she'd tried.
Jason shepherded the others out and Kat closed the door quietly. Kim forced her trembling legs to propel her to his side. Her hands groped blindly for the chair beside the bed and she sank into it, her eyes still glued to the motionless man beside her. She reached for his hand and was faintly surprised to find it clenched, as if he were holding something. She settled for placing her hand atop his.
She closed her eyes, then opened them and focused on his tanned, sleeping face. She missed the long hair, but his face had stayed the same, merely picking up a few lines here and there. "Tommy," she started quietly, her voice hushed. "I am truly, deeply, sorry for the pain I caused you. I never meant to hurt you like that, really I didn't. And this—this…" she hesitated, then admitted with a burst of confidence, "this was hard for me. I haven't seen you in three years, had a decent conversation with you in ten, and now you're—" Kim trailed off. Suddenly, the thought of what the world would be like without Thomas Oliver rammed itself home in her mind. She sank to her knees beside the bed, ignoring the pain of the cold white floor tiles pressing uncomfortably against her kneecaps.
"Tommy," she pleaded, "you have to wake up. You're a Ranger again—your team needs you. The world needs you. Hayley needs you. Please wake up." She blinked away tears. I want to tell you that I need you too—that I never really fell out of love with you, but I don't deserve you. Not anymore.
After a few moments of nothing but his steady breathing and the beeping of the machines, Kim rose stiffly to her feet. She took a deep breath and leaned over him. There was only one other thing she could think of to possibly wake him up. Very gently, she placed a kiss on his lips. Then she pulled back and waited expectantly.
Kim winced. She'd been foolish to think their luck would hold out longer. Now she felt like a criminal for having kissed him when she knew he wouldn't want to have anything to do with her. She stood up and backed away a little.
"I just wish—," she whispered softly, "I wish that things had been different for us. You were the most wonderful guy a girl could ask for, and I'm sorry I ever let you go. But you've moved past me, and I'm thankful for that. You deserve more." She reached out and haltingly brushed her fingers over his cheek. "Maybe someday, I'll tell you what really happened—why I left you. I can't do it now. I want to, and I came here intending to, but I can't." With that, she unsteadily walked over to the door and quickly wiped her tears away. She didn't look back as she stepped out.
Jason glanced up as Kimberly came out of Tommy's hospital room into the hall where they were waiting. He studied her face quickly. There were tearstains, but she appeared to be all right. He watched a faint smile tug at the corner of her mouth as Hayley hurried past her to return to Tommy's side.
The former red ranger shrugged mentally. In some ways, he knew Kimberly better than any of the others-they'd been friends for longer—but sometimes he still couldn't figure her out. And now, more than ever, he wished he knew what was going through her mind at the moment.
He patted her shoulder comfortingly as they filed back into the room. "Ya glad ya came?"
"Yes." Kim brushed a lock of caramel hair out of her face and blew a breath out before plopping down in a chair next to Adam. "So, how's your life going?"
Aside from the fact that she was now caught up on all the particulars of her friends' lives, it had been a rather uninteresting day. She'd never realized how tiring and boring waiting for someone to wake up from a coma could be. The constant level of tension in the room kept her from going to sleep, even though she was beyond tired. Every time she closed her eyes, she was afraid she'd miss him waking up.
Kimberly was relieved by the sudden appearance of four teenagers, who, judging from both their expressions and choice of colors in clothing, must have been Tommy's new team. The only girl, dressed in yellow, which sharply reminded Kim of Trini, though they looked nothing alike, demanded anxiously, "How is he?"
The dark-skinned boy in blue chimed in, "Is Dr. O awake?"
Jason slipped back into leader-mode. "No, he's not awake yet. Must still be getting his beauty sleep. Conner, Kira, Ethan, Trent, I'd like you to meet—"
"I know who you are!" Ethan interrupted. "Kimberly Hart! Cool!" He walked over to her and stuck his hand out. "I'm Ethan."
She was quickly introduced to the rest of them, but her attention lingered on Trent for a little bit. She recognized the look on his face—it was the one Tommy had worn when he thought no one was looking back when he'd been the green ranger. She made a mental note to ask Jason abut it later. He hadn't said much about the other Rangers, merely that they were students at the local high school. She listened to their banter with a fond smile on her face; it reminded her so much of 'the good ole' days', as she jokingly referred to them in her mind.
The four current Rangers gathered around their teacher's bed. Dr. Walsh, the hospital's leading expert on comas, came in just then, a clipboard in his hand. Everyone looked at him hopefully, but he merely shook his head slowly. "Still no change."
The television, which had been going softly in the background, suddenly started making a lot of noise. The group looked at it and watched in alarm as a special report showed a huge monster attacking part of the city. Conner, Kira, Ethan, and Trent all dashed out—off to save the world, no doubt.
The former rangers settled down again, and reminisced in low voices. Seeing the new team brought back so many memories for all of them. Kimberly complained that there wasn't a pink ranger, and Kat seconded her. The others just laughed.
About two hours later, the teens were back, and they didn't look happy. As they cautiously explained to Hayley what had happened, the other adults winced sympathetically. They'd all experienced a power loss at some point or another, and it wasn't a pleasant memory.
The new team hung around for a while longer, but they had to leave when another special report stated that the monster was back. Kimberly didn't know what they were going to do, but she knew they'd think of something. After all, they were Power Rangers. She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. I could so sleep for a week, she thought tiredly.
A few minutes later, Hayley let out a delighted cry. Tommy's eyes had fluttered open. Kimberly's head snapped up in time to catch the warm, happy looks that were exchanged between Tommy and Hayley, before everyone was out of their chairs and crowding around. A chorus of cheers and 'Thank God's went up.
The black ranger stared at them in surprise. "Guys…" His voice was warm and just a little bit choked.
Kim hung back towards the edge of the happy group. Joyful tears filled her eyes—she was thrilled beyond words that he was alive, awake, and well—but she was suddenly very much unsure of herself. Her heart began to pound wildly. Don't be stupid, she scolded herself. You're not a teenager anymore, you're a grown woman.
As he glanced around at the group gathered around him, Tommy's eyes rested on her briefly before sliding away. But in that instant, Kim saw shock and then a flash of cold pain that cut her to the marrow. Stung, she pressed herself as far out of sight as she could, which was easy, considering how short she was. I don't belong here.
As her friends began to talk excitedly in quiet whispers, they didn't notice her slight form sneak out of the room.
Please review-it's encouraging and it'll motivate me to post the rest sooner. :smiles: