4/6/04

Spoiler: PRWF – Forever Red, PRZ – No Business like Snow Business pt 1.

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

Relationship: T/K, slight references to T/Kat, Kim/Other

Summary: Death makes you have to look closer at your life and find where your priorities lie.

Dedication#1: To the life and times of an utterly underused yet beloved actress... Trini lives with us always.

Dedication #2: To Jess – in memoriam of your grandfather. He'll always be with you. And it will get easier, I promise. J.

Hi all. While I'm not the first to have written a PR story using some details of Thuy Trang's actual passing, since I've referenced in the Always a Ranger series that Trini's funeral was the turning point in Kim and Tommy's renewed relationship, I'm offering this up to fill in those gaps about the letter, Kim, Kat, Tommy and Kim's guy in Florida. Since it isn't specifically part of the series, it is being submitted on its own, as another Interlude to the series, giving some back story of that event, and how it relates to the future of our heroes. And while we won't have true T/K happiness in this one, we will get them to a place where they can build on (obviously). And now to the story...

Requiem for a Ranger - An Always a Ranger Interlude

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Unlike Seattle, it doesn't rain over half the year in San Francisco, but the heavens decided to grieve along with the friends and family huddled under black umbrellas that surrounded the Colma cemetery plot where Trini Kwan's casket rested above ground, strewn with white and yellow roses.

The news of Trini's death had been a shock to everyone. No one could believe after everything that she'd survived as a ranger that a drunk driver had been what had killed Trini. It had seemed so... ordinary.

Her family had called Jason Scott, one of Trini's longest standing friends, who she had seen just a few weeks prior. He'd come to town to help consult with her about possibly opening a branch of the dojo chain that he was the assistant manager of West Coast operations for. They asked him to call her friends, and he promised he'd take care of it. After giving him the details of the funeral service, they hung up.

Only after Jason had taken to his personal work out space and proceeded to beat the living daylights out of his heavy bag, did he allow himself to collapse with the news. It wasn't long before the anger faded into muted sobs, only his willpower keeping him from breaking the 'man's rule' of not crying. When Jason had gotten himself under control, he headed back to the phone and pulled out his phone book and started making phone calls.

Tommy was in college, working on a master's degree in geology. What had possessed him to decide on that, Jason didn't have a clue. But Jason called him first, knowing he might have to ask for a leave of absence from the school to come to the funeral. As soon as Jason told him what had happened, there hadn't been a moment's hesitation. He promised that after he'd made arrangements for his classes, he'd head out to San Francisco for the service.

Kim was next. She had just e-mailed Jason, uncertain about the prospect of taking a job offer as the head coaching position at Florida State. She was nervous about the responsibility though, and was using the week she'd been given by the hiring manager to think it over. Now he hated to have to call her with *this* news – next to him, Kim had stayed closest to Trini, and the news was going to devastate her. Still, the call had to be made. When he finally was able to reach her, she was shocked, to say the least and the pain was obvious to anyone who knew her as she tightly stated that even though she couldn't be there for more than the day of the funeral, she'd be there.

Zack was in Las Vegas. He'd been offered a job with a dance group performing at the Mirage, and with the money he was earning, he was socking enough away for a down payment on a building lease and opening costs for a modern dance studio that he hoped one day to run. Jason found telling him was almost as tough as it had been telling Kim. Zack stated that he'd take some time off of the show and he'd fly into San Francisco the next day.

Reaching Rocky was trickier. It seemed the last number he had for the former red ranger had been disconnected. It was only after calling Adam that he found out the two had decided rent in L.A. was way too much for a pair of Martial Arts teachers, so they'd ended up finding a place and splitting the rent. Since they'd been friends for nearly ten years, living in the same residence hadn't been a difficult transition.

Jason explained the reason for the call, knowing that they really hadn't had the opportunity to get to know Trini where the first team had been friends for years (excluding Tommy). They were upset to hear the news, and offered to call Aisha at medical school in Loyola. They mentioned that Tanya had a job as a recording studio singer in L.A., so it would be easy for them to reach her. They thought both would come as well, no matter how many teams or powers had separated them. Aisha and Tanya had been yellow rangers. They would want to pay their respects to the first.

With Tanya and Aisha taken care of, that only left Kat and Billy. Jason knew Kat had been in a Broadway show before getting a prestigious spot with a National dance company. Not sure where she'd be, he checked his book and found a cell phone number for her. Calling it, he got her voice mail, and he left simple information – Trini had died and everyone was being invited to remember her at the funeral in San Francisco in two days time. If she could come, great, if not, everyone would understand.

All that was left was to find out if Billy was even on Earth. After several attempts via family and friends, Jason finally has to admit that he couldn't reach him. Not a surprise. Everyone knew that he'd been back and forth between Earth and Aquitar, but his comings and goings were erratic. No one was sure if he was even coming back this time. Hopefully, Jason though to himself as he finally closed his address book, Billy wouldn't be back, and he wouldn't have to learn the fate of the woman everyone knew he'd had a crush on back during the early days of the rangers.

With a sigh, Jason then went about getting his own preparations made, now that everyone who needed to be contacted had been called. He hadn't asked where everyone was staying, knowing that they would all meet at the funeral. It was the absolutely last reason for a reunion, but a requiem for a ranger was required, and they'd all be sure to give it.

On the day of the funeral, the clouds had appeared over the city, magically showing up after the last few days in San Francisco had been clear and fairly sedate. People arrived in a steady stream, carefully navigating the cement pathway to the place where the service was scheduled. Jason arrived there shortly after the family had arrived. They were sitting and standing in a group on the far side of a dark wood casket covered with white and yellow roses. He didn't know where the flowers had come from, but he thought that they were eerily appropriate.

Friends from Trini's life in San Francisco were making their way up the path along with other mourners. Jason stood alone as he waited for the other former rangers.

Kat and Tanya showed up next. Obviously they'd contacted each other and planned to arrive at the service together. While neither of them had met Trini, Jason had been sure they would come. It was the kind of thing that both women had in common – a sense of kindness that extended beyond them. He nodded to them and they made their way to where he was standing, alone and off to one side, across from the family.

The three amigos from Stone Valley arrived next– Aisha, Adam and Rocky. They'd remained tight, even through the years that Aisha had spent in Africa, and now that she was back in the states, they'd reformed that bond. Once they saw Kat, Tanya and Jason, they quickly moved to their friends and huddled together, trying to avoid the prominence of the casket they faced.

Zack showed up soon after, pulling a black trench coat tightly around him. As Tanya and Kat noticed him, they realized he hadn't packed an umbrella, and motioned for him to huddle under theirs with them.

Kim arrived next, appearing in a taxi. Jason knew that she had most likely come straight from the airport. She got out carefully, fighting to get her umbrella open, then finally slammed the taxi door shut and made her way to join the growing group of friends.

Tommy showed up last, as was expected by his friends, no matter how much time had passed. It looked like he'd rented a car and most likely gotten lost. They watched the former white ranger open a black umbrella and climb the path to greet the others.

There were hugs and handshakes all around for the former teammates. It had been several years since most of them had seen the other. But mostly it was an attempt at finding solace for some of the rangers who'd know Trini well, while for the others it was a way to provide the rest of the former team with the support that was intrinsic in their tight-knit group.

The stream of people making their way to the gravesite began to trickle to a few people, and then stopped altogether. Everyone moved to find a place to stand or sit, with the former rangers opting to stand in the area Jason had already chosen, each falling into a distinct pattern. Kat and Tanya stood together, with Zack between them, sharing their umbrella. Aisha, Rocky and Adam stood to Tanya's right, sharing the space and combining their umbrellas to fully cover them and the area they stood at. Jason stood at Kat's left, with Tommy at his left shoulder – brothers in all but blood, it made sense that they should stand side by side at this somber event.

And somehow Kim had ended up standing next to Tommy. Their umbrellas overlapped as his arm found its way across her shoulders. After a second of indecision, she leaned into his side, and the years and mistakes seemed to disappear for both of them. As the minister moved forward under his umbrella and began to thank everyone for attending, Kat took a second to glance at where Kim stood, umbrella in hand, and with Tommy's arm around her shoulder. It was in that moment that she realized with a jolt that even after the failure of her relationship with Tommy, she was no longer jealous of the former pink ranger.

While she and Tommy had tried to make a go of their relationship after high school, it just never seemed to click. Part of her had always blamed Kim as being that invisible obstacle that kept their relationship from progressing, but she knew that it wasn't really Kim that was the issue. It was Tommy. She and Tommy just weren't right together, but he and Kim always had been. If Tommy could get Kimberly back, and they both wanted that, she would wish them well.

Of course, the fact that she'd met a music producer in her recent New York City tour of the dance company she was with went a long way into showing her what true love was all about. She couldn't imagine being without Daniel. He was sweet, caring and interested in her for whom she was, and was determined to have them make long-term plans. So she had nothing but support for Kim and Tommy if they wanted to try again.

As the eulogy started, time seemed to slow among the dark clothes, umbrellas and rain. Then the minister offered the gathered mourners a chance to speak, in remembrance of Trini and the rangers all looked at each other, as if trying to decide who for their group should speak. It seemed to come down to Jason and Kim. They stood there, staring at each other, trying to make a decision. It was only when Jason looked closely and saw the steam of tears flowing down Kim's face that he nodded in understanding and moved forward on behalf of the team. He had been the ranger's first leader, and one of Trini's longest friends. It was only right for him to be the one to speak for them all.

The minister shook his free hand as Jason maneuvered with his umbrella to the head of the casket, and looked out at everyone assembled. With a forced swallow around his nearly closed-up throat, he began.

"Trini Kwan was one of the strongest people I ever knew. She had within her an unwavering sense of duty, loyalty and compassion. In troubled times, she was a rock, someone you knew would defend you to her last breath. Her courage and her passion always had me in awe of her. I know I speak for all of her friends from Angel Grove that she will be greatly missed."

With that simple statement, Jason looked down and stared at the coffin with his friend in it and fought to keep himself from crying at the sight. Then, after a moment, he nodded to the minister, and moved back to the group of former rangers. Kat was closest to his place and offered him her hand in support. He took it, and glanced along the line of friends to see everyone either holding hands or leaning into each other. The reality had finally struck home that they were never going to see her again.

Kim continued to lean into the man she'd loved so much before she'd left for Florida all those years ago, letting him support her as they both grieved over their friend. After seeing him now, after all this time, having him hold her as their friend was eulogized was nearly too much for her to bear. She resolved that before she left for Florida, they would talk about what had happened all those years ago.

Others came up and spoke, talking about Trini's path since moving to San Francisco. One of her uncles spoke for the family, her parents too shocked, too distraught to do more than watch the other mourners, the speakers and the coffin holding their daughter.

It was only as the service wound down that the rain trickled off into a mist, and then stopped altogether. Everyone moved slowly towards the casket to pay their respects. Each of the former rangers placed their hand on the casket, almost to assure to themselves that it was real as they made their final farewell to the original yellow ranger. Each walked away with a glance or nod to the others, everyone too emotional to speak.

Last of the group to move towards the coffin were Kim and Tommy. Finally Kim stepped forward and made her way to the casket, touching the dark wood of the coffin. She only partially noticed the shadow that followed her.

"Bye Trini. I'll miss you," she stated in a choked voice.

Turning, Kim found Tommy right behind her. He looked at her briefly and then reached out to follow suit, his fingers grazing the floral display. In silence they walked on past, allowing others to make the same pilgrimage before he turned back to her. When he did, Tommy found Kim staring at him in a heartfelt way that reminded him of their years together. It was unnerving, since they'd never spoken since that day over six years prior, when she'd broken his heart into a million pieces.

While standing at Trini's graveside, Kim had realized that nothing in life was definite; there wouldn't always be time to fix things between them. If she'd learned nothing else from her friend's senseless death, it was that you couldn't just leave things that needed to be said, needed to be done. You had to do them before it was too late.

And part of Kim wondered if it already was too late for her and Tommy to repair the damage she'd done.

As the other mourners made their way past them, Kim comprehended that this was not the place to address any issues they might still have. Still, she knew, like most of their relationship, he needed her to make the first move. She'd broken up with him, and it was up to her to ask for his forgiveness after she explained.

If he was willing to talk to her.

"Maybe we should talk?" Kim suggested, stepping back and looking the man she had loved more than anything in the world in the eye for what seemed the first time since that Christmas so long ago.

Nodding, Tommy didn't want to chance his voice on answering her. They walked down the path to the parking lot, finding most of their friends still standing around their vehicles. After another round of hugs and promises to call, everyone started on their way

"Kim, did you need a ride somewhere?" Jason asked, remembering her arrival at the service by taxi.

"I'll take care of it," stated Tommy, making Jason and the rest of the group start at his answer and stare at him.

Giving them all a look that said that he knew what he was doing, slowly everybody got in their vehicles to go there separate ways. Once everyone had left, Tommy turned to watch the woman who had held his heart, who had been his heart stand before him, nervous and emotionally exposed.

"So, did you want to talk here, or somewhere else?" he asked simply, moving to his rental car.

"I think this isn't the appropriate place for what we have to discuss," Kim commented quietly. She didn't want to open old wounds this close to Trini's grave.

"I have a motel room near the airport. If you're okay with that... or we can find a restaurant..." he stumbled, working on keeping his conflicting emotions in check.

"I don't think that an audience is the best idea," Kim remarked, turning slightly from Tommy's blazing gaze. "My flight leaves in a few hours, so I can just get a cab from your motel."

"Okay."

Tommy used the vehicle's remote control keychain to unlock the doors of his rental and they both climbed in. Once he had the engine going, he carefully pulled out, and they headed back the way he'd come. The ride to the airport Motel 6 was shorter than either of them would have liked. Kim spent the majority of the time wringing her hands and staring at the cars along the freeway as Tommy focused on driving.

When they finally arrived, Tommy parked near the front door, and they exited the car and headed inside the main lobby of the motel. Following Tommy, he led her down one of the corridors and stopped at the second to last door on the right wall. Sliding the keycard a few times in the lock, he got the door open, and held it wide, inviting her inside. Kim tentatively walked into the nondescript motel room and waited to hear Tommy join her in the room and close the door. After what seemed minutes, a very silent click of metal told her that he'd done that, and she circled to find him with his back to her, his forehead resting on the door.

"I'm sorry," she blurted out quietly, but abruptly.

"You said that before, in your letter," Tommy said, his voice muffled slightly by his proximity to the door. "I just need to know what happened Kim. I need to know *why*."

Sighing, Kimberly moved to the single armchair that sat next to the window. God, she hated to do this, but if she didn't explain herself, neither of them would ever get over it, even though she knew in her heart of hearts that she'd never get over *him*.

"What I said in the letter was true... to some degree."

With those words, Tommy spun to face her, looking at her with confusion.

"What do you mean by that?"

"I did meet someone else," she replied tightly. "But I didn't think it would hurt you as badly as it did."

"What? Kim, you *broke* up with me! Of course that hurt. You found another guy and kicked me to the curb without even *trying* to make it work," Tommy nearly yelled, his vaunted control gone.

"Yes, I did break up with you. And yes, I didn't try to make things work with us. But I felt that I had to send you that letter and end our relationship because I thought that you were ready to break things off with me."

Her words sent Tommy's head spinning. Why the hell would she think I was going to break up with her, he though as he wandered to the bed and collapsed to a sitting position on it.

"Why would I..."

"Because of Kat," Kim replied in a small voice, her face now pointed to the floor.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Tommy answered in stunned awe.

"After I left, the team made sure that they kept in touch. I got regular messages from Aisha and Billy. Adam sent me cards every once in a while too. And in all those messages, all I heard, all I saw was the fact that you were getting closer to Kat. How well she was fitting into the team, and how you were letting her take my place so easily."

"Kim..."

"And when you didn't write, didn't call for a month, and all my letters went unanswered... what was I to assume but that maybe you'd *really* found my replacement."

"Kim, you have to know, have to believe that I *never* would have cheated on you."

Kim sighed as she heard Tommy's declaration. All she'd thought about that long month before she'd sent the letter was whether or not she had lost him; if Kat had already stolen him away. She'd met Chris Masters at a joint Pan Global hopeful's event. He was in the same position as she – a talent with less training then all the other gymnasts in the hunt for the games. He was funny and didn't make her feel like she didn't belong. And she'd been so desperate for something, someone to hold onto that she'd let herself feel more for him than she probably should have.

"Maybe, maybe not. But in the end, it just helped reinforce my decision that we needed to separate so we could both make some decisions on our own. To not be forced to consider each other."

"I would have put you first..."

"Before what Tommy? The team, the mission? No matter how much we loved each other, we both had too many things pulling at us, and away from each other."

"Still, we could have talked about it," he replied almost desperately, the pain he'd felt back then reappearing as if the years since their break up had never been.

"When? How?" Kim stated, her eyes darting up briefly to look at him, the tears on her face visible to him even with such a fleeting a window to see them in. "You needed to be let go, and I needed to let you go..."

"So you could see if the other guy really was the one you were supposed to be with," Tommy complained bitterly, the words of her letter still ingrained in his memory.

"I thought that he was, at the time. But I don't think either of us were thinking very clearly back then, or none of this would have happened."

"So, what happened?"

"He made the men's team and I didn't make the women's. After the games, we tried to be a couple; date, do the dinner and movie thing. We ended up doing everything we could to make it work..." she trailed off, her face darkening with the shame of her desperate attempts to make the relationship she'd dumped Tommy for work, so she wouldn't feel as if she had given up *everything* she'd had for nothing.

Tommy nodded slightly, getting the picture from his own attempts to make his relationship with Kat work. They had even gone so far as sleeping together to try and connect. But even that hadn't helped. He had realized right before they'd ended the relationship that nothing had worked because Kat wasn't Kim and never could begin to fill that space in his heart and his soul that she'd left empty with her letter.

"But it just wasn't what I thought it was. We both decided that we weren't meant to be together that way, and we stopped seeing each other. I understand he went on to a bronze in the Olympics following the Pan Global games and then started seeing a model he met when he did some television ads."

There was a long stretch of silence that settled over them. The truth had been revealed, and it was more painful than either of them had thought it could have been. Mistakes... those were the real reasons for their losing the powerful relationship that they'd had. His mistakes in not nurturing their relationship as well as he should have and her mistakes in believing that Kat could take her place in his heart, allowing her to let herself think she'd fallen for someone else.

Tommy watched Kim as she glanced everywhere but at him. He hadn't expected to come to the conclusion that they'd come to. But he knew now that it was up to him - he could continue to hold the break up against her, or he could finally let go of the past and let them both move on. If they could do that, allow the past to be that then there was always hope that they could be friends. And that was a start...

"I understand," Tommy stated simply, and Kim's eyes rushed up to meet his, "and I forgive you if you'll forgive me."

"Of course I forgive you. You didn't do anything..." she started, then found Tommy's stern leader look on her and she stopped talking.

"We both did some things that we shouldn't have and didn't do things we should have. So we're both partially to blame for the break up. Just like you, I needed you to forgive me for what happened."

With that, Kimberly simply nodded her agreement, letting his words and his forgiveness slip over her. She watched him as he looked at her, her heart reminding her of its long buried feelings towards this man that still seemed to affect her more than anyone else ever had. Part of her simply wanted to blurt out to him that her feelings for him had never really died, but there was still too much time that had passed. She wasn't going to jeopardize the newly formed peace between them for her own emotional desires. Their friendship had been reformed. She had to be content with that...

The future though, that was still to be written, and this moment was the first step in that process.

"So, how are you doing?" she asked, trying to bridge the gap of the nearly six years of silence that had grown between them. "I ask Jason, but he always tells me I should talk to you myself."

"I'm working on my masters," Tommy admitted, somewhat happily, trying to feel his way though being 'friends' with Kim again.

"I'm surprised. I would have thought you'd have started a dojo, like Trini..."

Kim shook the tears away as she fought to get herself back under control. Her friend was gone, and she would miss her for as long as she lived, but she couldn't let herself cry every time she spoke Trini's name. She had to remember the good times so she could go on with living.

"No. I really want to do something I haven't done before. When I was taking my BA, I found that I really began to like my science courses, even some of the math. I ended up with a bachelor's degree in Biology and I'm working on my Masters in Geology. I'm thinking about applying to work for the government on survey work. Since I don't have anything to tie me down, going wherever they want me to go is fine by me."

"So, you're not going to be super-agent guy?"

"What makes you say that?" he looked at her puzzled.

"Jason did deign to mention your joint venture to stop the five remaining Generals of the Machine Empire from getting Serpentera."

"Oh..."

"I guess everyone thought you were working for the government already."

"Nope. Just being the leader, you know?" he explained with a sheepish look.

"I do," Kim answered with a slight smile.

"So, as long as I don't fail my finals, in a few more months, I'll have my master's degree. Who would have thought? Now, what about you? Jason does the same thing when I ask about what you're doing..."

"I've been offered the head coaching position at Miami State's gymnastic program."

"That's great," Tommy stated somewhat enthusiastically. "I'm sure you'll be happy coaching."

"I guess. I'm still getting adjusted to the whole 'not doing but teaching' thing," Kim said. "But I guess we all end up where we're supposed to be, don't we?"

"Maybe. It's funny though, how our lives are going in such different directions, when, if you'd asked me where we'd be right now, back then, I would have said together..."

Once the words were out of his mouth, Tommy's eyes flew up to meet Kim's. There was a long pause as their eyes truly locked for the first time since the two of them had stood under the mistletoe that Christmas before they'd fallen apart. As they gazed at one another, the atmosphere in the room shifted, as if they both had found something they both had lost.

"I never really wanted to break up with you Tommy. It was just something that ended up happening – I met Chris and you were getting close to Kat. In the end, we both ended up alone," Kim said simply, finally voicing this simple truth that had led them to this moment.

He nodded in agreement, unable to let himself give voice to his reply.

"Kat told you about her record producer guy?" Tommy asked simply, changing the subject slightly.

"Yeah. She seems genuinely happy, and I'm glad for her. She deserves to be happy."

"What about you?"

"I just have too much on my plate to think about that right now. I would think that you would understand, what with you doing the master's thing," Kim replied with a tired decisiveness that made Tommy's heart ache.

But he nodded, realizing that he did have so much going on that relationships were last on his agenda. At least for now... Still, as he stared at Kim, with this new breakthrough regarding their past, he felt a slight sliver of hope that maybe, someday they might have a chance to be what they should have been; a chance for him to get back the woman that loved with all he had and all he was. And he was willing to make sure that the chance to get her back was still there when the time was right.

"I miss having you to talk to Kim," he said, reaching out slightly to take her hand.

Kim couldn't help the shiver that ran through her. Even after all this time, he still affected her more than any other man she knew. And ever would.

"So do I."

The room was silent again, and Kim tentatively grasped Tommy's hand back.

"So, where do we go from here?" he asked quietly, afraid to break the peace that had descended on them.

"We're friends again, right?" she asked softly.

"Yes," Tommy replied, his face showing the slightest hint of a smile.

"So, we can do the writing thing, visit, keep in touch, like we do with the rest of the team," Kim suggested, her own face open and the tone to her voice almost beseeching.

"Yeah, we'll stay in touch. We can do the letter and e-mail thing, a phone call here and there..."

Behind Tommy's head, Kim noted the digital clock on the nightstand and realized her flight was leaving in just over an hour. Even though every fiber of her being was screaming at her to tell him that she still cared for him, wanted to try again, she didn't have the time. Plus she didn't think that they were ready for that yet. Maybe someday, after they talked some more, built back the trust again...

"I'm glad we talked," Kim said as she stood up, yet didn't release Tommy's hand.

"So am I."

"My flight leaves soon. I need to go."

"I can drive you..."

"No, I'll get a cab. It isn't far. Thanks though."

Even with Kim's polite refusal to let him drive her, Tommy didn't release her hand. Instead, he stood and walked her to the door, escorting her out. They stood in the doorway, looking at each other with undisguised apprehension. Would the time ever be right for them to try again, they both thought to themselves, or would this be how it always would be, just being friends?

"I'll give you a call when I get back, okay?" Kim announced with a slight smile.

"I'll be looking forward to it."

"Bye Tommy."

He gave her a half smile and nodded as she turned and walked down the hall, headed back to the lobby and to the waiting cabs. She forced herself to keep going, knowing that turning around one last time wasn't going to do either of them any good.

Only once she was out of sight and the door was closed did Tommy let his preferred reply slip past his lips.

"Talk to you soon... Beautiful."

-End-

For those of you who have read my other ranger stories, I do realize that I seem to set 'this' discussion in hotel/motel rooms. I'm not sure why, but all I can think of is that since they've never been at a location that allows for the emotional upheaval that the 'discussion' needs, I like to give them a private place to talk. Jeannine