3/13/04

From: J. "Writing Machine" Trevizo - jtrevizo_1013@yahoo.com

Subject: New story - Second Best - An Always a Ranger Interlude

Rating: PG-13

Spoiler: PRDT - Back In Black.

Disclaimer: Power Rangers belongs to Disney, which considering their non-violence stance seems hypocritical, but who am I to judge?

Relationship: T/K

Summary: How do you deal with being relegated to being the friend?

Hi all. This is a slight deviation from the series, but it can fit in if you're so inclined. I thought I'd counter all the talk about Hayley and the idea of her being paired up with Tommy in the series. With my luck, I'll have to call this AU, but I sincerely hope not. And now T/K fans, to the story . . .

Second Best - An Always a Ranger Interlude



Kimberly Ann Hart.

Damn it. I thought the ghost of that bitch was gone for good.

I heard the kids tell Tommy about Kimberly's call and couldn't help my desire to scream. Luckily, I didn't. It would've brought the rangers right back in here, and I'd have to explain myself.

After everything I've done for him; helping him with his doctorial studies, covering for the thesis board when Mercer's island blew up, building the morphers and alerting him to the dino crystals being here in Reefside... all of it, and he still goes back to her.

Okay, so I knew it was an uphill battle. When we met in Grad school, he'd been very upfront about his prior relationships. He'd broken things off with some girl named Katherine during their time apart in college. He'd explained that they'd never been able to really make it work, and it was better for both of them.

But it wasn't until I'd decided to buy him a coffee at the campus Starbucks that I found out I had a snowball's chance in hell of getting anywhere with the handsome science major.

He was still carrying a torch for his high school sweetheart.

So it was there, over a mocha latte that I found out about Kimberly Hart. And I'm not talking about just 'oh, we dated for three years, and we really cared for each other but she dumped me'. No, I found out what a kind and loving person she was. Generous and cheerful to a fault, always welcoming others into her community and volunteering for charitable causes.

I heard about her being offered this once in a lifetime opportunity, and how he'd pushed, along with their friends, to convince her to take it. And that the result of that had caused him to lose her. So I thought to myself, great, she broke his heart, he's fair game. Most likely he just needs to get over it, have a woman show him he's worthy of being loved. I was all ready to sign up for that.

Then we got to the serious part. Where Tommy looked at me and announced that he'd only been in love with one woman his entire life, and that was Kim.

Of course, I made the required speech about high school sweethearts and finding love again if he looked, hoping to make sure that he wasn't missing my hair toss and my stunning smile as I suggested he start dating again. What happened next dashed all my plans of long nights of dancing, great sex and naked studying.

'I'll always love Kim'. Yes, that's what he said, exactly like that. As if there wasn't any way that this could change. It was a constant, like the square root of 4. An invariable in a world of variables.

Which meant that I wasn't even on his radar.

In hopes of trying to figure this out, being the worldly woman that I was, I asked him how he could be so sure of that, if he had only dated a few women, and obviously this Kim he loved so much had just tossed him to the curb in her pursuit of glory.

The downright evil glare he gave me shut my mouth and made me sit back a bit. Even if she'd done everything but scooped his heart out with a rusty spoon, he wasn't about to hear me or anyone I guess speak ill of her.

'You don't know Kim,' was what he said, 'I know there was a good reason for what happened, and I don't blame her for it'.

So there I was, wanting this yummy man who was obviously still hung up on his ex, and wasn't willing to hear anything negative about her to change his worldview. I knew that I might still have a chance if I just waited him out. All I had to do was stay close, be his friend and make him notice me as a woman too. Then, when the time was right, he'd turn to me, realize what he'd missed and then I'd have him.

That was my life for two years. During which, I helped him out with assignments and generally made sure he didn't fail his classes. In return, he called me his friend and suggested he could set me up with a couple of his male acquaintances who were single and that were like brothers to him.

I have to admit, after meeting Jason and Adam one afternoon when they were both in town on business or something, I was almost tempted to sway from my pursuit.

During their visit was when I overheard something that changed my view of Tommy forever. I was just on my way back from the ladies room to the secluded dining room area of the restaurant we'd ended up in, when I overheard them taking about powers and zords. Stopping in my tracks, I stayed by the doorframe and listened as they reminisced about their pasts... as power rangers.

Now, I'm not one for being shocked easily, but this totally came from left field. I wouldn't have ever guessed that Tommy had been a ranger, or his friends. Not that they didn't have the build for it, but just because, I mean, I now knew a power ranger! How wild was that.

I didn't want them to know I'd eavesdropped on them, so I made a conscious effort to come back into the room with enough noise that they covered the conversation up quickly. They were good, I had to give them that. Being rangers, they had to have learned this kind of subterfuge early on in the game.

So I let them continue to jabber on until the evening ended. Finally, after they left, I made a trip up to Tommy's room at the dorm. Not thinking anything of one of my visits, he let me in and continued to hunt for his chemistry book. As he scrounged under a pile of discarded clothes, I hit him with my discovery.

To say he was frozen in place would be a gross understatement. Then he started stammering. It was all very cute. But I wasn't taking any of it. So I pushed the point, outlining everything I had figured out using the information I'd heard. How he had to have been a ranger before going to college, that he'd lived in Angel Grove right during the time that the original ranger teams appeared, and that some of his behaviors seemed to indicate past leadership duties.

In the end, there wasn't anything left for him to do except confirm what I knew and suspected and tell me who he'd been. That was how I found out, however reluctantly, that he'd been the greatest ranger ever. Not his words, mind you, but the general consensus among cyber conspiracy groups and ranger supporters everywhere. The word was that the White Ranger had been the best leader, and there was a theory that he had been with the team in other uniforms for several years. His build and fighting skills seemed to indicate that.

That in mind, I offered to keep what I had learned to myself, and stay his friend. With that settled, I thought I had achieved a milestone in my conquest. I knew his secret. Who could get close to a former ranger except someone who knew his secrets?

Except, I wasn't the only one.

As I dug a little deeper into the original rangers, using Jason and Adam as guides, I found a group of friends in Angel Grove at the same time as the rangers were there. Using the color scheme of their clothes along with their obvious closeness, I made some hypotheses. If Tommy had been the White Ranger, Jason the Red Ranger and Adam the Black, the girls that were pictured in Tommy's old yearbook had to have been among the team.

And sure enough, sitting right beside Tommy Oliver in her *pink* sundress sat Kimberly Hart.

I nearly collapsed with despair. Not only had his 'one true love' been so close to him, but she'd known his secret because she had been a ranger too. For a week, I moped around, trying to figure out what to do. I was there, she wasn't. I knew his secret now, so he could talk to me. I had every intention of using these things to my advantage.

That was my goal at least, until everything came crashing down. About three quarters of the way into our final semester towards our master degrees when he got the phone call about one of his friends, Trini. There had been an accident, and she'd died. I found out that it had been Jason that had called, asking Tommy to come to the funeral.

There hadn't been a moment's hesitation. After covering his absence in his classes, he'd up and headed off to San Francisco for the service.

When he got back, he was different. I thought it was just because it was hard for him to deal with the death of his friend. Then, after a couple of beers one evening a few days later, I found out the truth - he'd seen Kim at the service. Supposedly they'd talked. But it seemed like he was now more preoccupied with his former girlfriend than before. When I asked bout her reasoning for dumping him, and the other guy, he dismissively told me that it was in the past and that he didn't feel the need to agonize about it anymore.

Subsequently, things went back to the way they'd been before. I continued to help him through his classes, and we ended up getting our degrees. I figured that now that we'd finished this chapter of our lives, maybe we could try something else a bit more... intimate.

But before I could suggest us maybe trying to be more than friends, he stopped me cold and informed me that he'd been offered a chance to work with Dr. Anton Mercer in a paleontology research program, that he could use towards a PhD. I was surprised, to say the least. He hadn't mentioned it to me.

He promised to keep in touch, and then set off to Mercer's island.

In the time he was there, I didn't heard much from him. I guess mail service from a private island wasn't very good. Then maybe six months ago, I think it was about then, he calls me up to say that he needs my help. Seems that things with Mercer didn't go as well as he planned, and that there were some complications.

I was thrilled that he'd called me for help, thinking that maybe he really did feel like he needed me. All that shattered when I found out that he wasn't in town yet - he was in Florida with Kimberly.

I did my best to shove it down, all the frustration of his coming to me for help with his PhD studies while he'd gone to her first for comfort. He explained that he had made some discoveries with Mercer that had gotten stolen or destroyed, he wasn't sure which; the island had exploded; yet he still wanted to finish his degree. His new passion - to teach.

So I agreed. I helped him with his thesis, and got him through the whole process. I thought, maybe working together again, he'd change his mind; see me as this amazing woman who had the hots for him.

Instead, I found out that he and Kim had reconciled. While they weren't together, they were in love with each other. I knew it was over.

After he told me that, I just about walked away. It was only then that he shared the final discovery he'd made. Mercer had been picking his brain for info on dinosaur/robotics technology. With Tommy's background as a ranger, he'd been exposed to so much that it was natural to make a comment here or a suggestion there that had helped Mercer's work. Unfortunately Mesogog seemed to have somehow gotten his hands on all the work Tommy had assumed was gone, and he had decided he had to fix the issue. He felt responsible and needed to keep anything like this from happening again.

He'd done some research and using some of Mercer's left over equipment found some prehistoric crystals that he thought he could use to counter Mercer's work. He needed my help to find them, as well as any other powers that could help him keep Mesogog at bay.

I picked up and opened the cybercafe in Reefside while I used my knowledge to help him in his pursuits.

So here I am, small business owner, resident genius, creator of the new Dino Thunder ranger morphers, weapons and rides and friend to the newly returned to action and very in love Tommy Oliver.

And somewhere on the other side of the country is the woman who will always make me second best.

-End-