Disclaimer: 'Power Rangers' is property of BVE or someone along those lines. No infringement is intended.
By Etcetera Kit
Chapter Eight: Beginnings
Hayley's Cyberspace Café was already buzzing with life when Conner walked in. A smile floated over his lips as the familiar sights and sounds brought back memories—some good and some bad, but memories all the same. It was still rather early and the place was nowhere near as packed as it was going to be. Christmas decorations were strewn all over and brightly colored cookies were set out on plates around the bar. It seemed like such a long time ago since he had come to these parties as a willing participant. Not that he didn't want to be here now… it just felt awkward, because he was suddenly aware of how old he was.
But that didn't stop him from feeling like he was in high school again. As his light brown eyes flicked to the bandstand, he kept expecting to see Kira and her band warming up before the huge crowds came in. He took a sweeping glance of the tables, half-expecting to see Ethan sitting at his laptop, engaged in some game. Hayley was behind the bar as usual, chatting with some kids sitting there.
He turned to see Cam and Dustin sitting at one of the tables. Cam was hunched over a laptop, doing God only knows what. Dustin was reading a comic book, but stopping every so often to offer his brand of 'advice' for whatever it was Cam was doing. The undercover agent and former Green Ranger was doing a good job of ignoring him. Dustin waved him over.
"How's it going, dude?" Dustin asked as he came to stand by their table.
Conner shrugged. "Not bad."
Cam gave him a sharp look over the top of the computer. "Really?" His eyebrow lift really could rival that of any Vulcan.
"Well… I've been out of it for the past few days and have gotten nothing accomplished."
"Dude, its Christmas break! What do you have to do?" Dustin looked disgusted at the very idea of doing something that required work or brain power. Conner suppressed a smile, remembering how Eric had always told him Dustin was a great sensei and great ninja, but the world's biggest dingbat when it came to interpersonal relationships.
"It's not work, per se," Conner amended.
"Then what is it?" Dustin was starting to look confused.
Without taking his eyes off the screen, Cam reached over and smacked Dustin in the back of the head. Dustin made a stifled noise of protest and began to massage his skull. Cam met Conner's gaze. Conner didn't know whether or not to feel relieved since Cam did know what he didn't get accomplished.
"I know what it is," Cam said in a tone of voice meant to egg Dustin on.
"Well, that's because you're, like, super-smart," Dustin replied in a tone of voice that clearly said that information was obvious. "I'm kind of lost," the former Yellow Ranger admitted.
"Wouldn't be the first time that happened," Cam replied airily.
"You're just trying to impress Hayley," Dustin retorted.
"I have to agree with you—I have finally found my match IQ-wise."
"So why are you guys here?" Conner asked loudly, trying to distract Dustin from figuring out what Cam already knew. Fortunately, it worked.
"We were invited, duh!" Dustin said.
Conner had never been so glad that Hayley chose that exact moment to come over to their table and drag him over to the bar, now devoid of life. She sat him down on one of the stools before rounding the bar. This was bad. Hayley was in her 'I mean business' mode and there was not much that could deter her when that happened.
"How have you been?" Hayley asked him as she wiped down the area around the espresso machine.
"I'm fine, other than being shaken up a little."
She gave him a bored look. "You know what I mean."
He sighed, allowing his thoughts to go back to Tommy for the first time since being sent home from the hospital and being assured that he would be fine. "I don't know," he replied carefully. "I'm all for it, but Tommy seemed really hesitant."
"People who are hesitant do not say they love you before going unconscious."
Conner had to will himself not to blush and hoped that no one heard that. He had been mulling that fact over in his mind, trying to figure out what exactly it could mean. His mind had come to one conclusion and that conclusion involved finding Tommy and wringing some answers out of him. "He was in pain and probably delusional," he said softly. "He might have thought he was dying."
Hayley rolled her eyes. "He knows the difference between when he's hurt and when he's dying, trust me," she said. "Now stop giving me excuses and tell me why you're sitting in my café and not over at Tommy's."
"I was invited to the party," he said, trying to sound indignant.
"Listen to me, Conner," Hayley said in a gentle tone of voice. "Tommy cares about you, more than he's willing to admit. In fact, he loves you, but he doesn't know it. All he needs is a push in the right direction."
"And I'm supposed to be the one to do that?"
"Some mistletoe might help," Hayley said blandly.
Conner's mind froze for a moment. "Hayley," he replied. "This isn't some kind of romance movie or fairy tale. I can't just get the person I want by kissing them."
"Who're you going to kiss?"
He inwardly groaned when Dustin and Cam wandered over to the bar and settled themselves on bar stools on either side of him. Dustin was giving him a curious look while Cam had suddenly become interested in the sprinkles on a plate of cookies.
"None of your business," he snapped.
"Conner," Hayley's voice had a pleading tone. "Just go talk to him."
"You're going to kiss a guy! I wouldn't have pegged you to go for that sort of thing," Dustin commented.
"And nobody cares what you think," Cam muttered under his breath.
"My girlfriend does!" Dustin retorted.
"She's the only one."
"Are you two married?" Hayley interrupted. "Because the way you two argue, you sure sound like it."
Dustin and Cam both got equally horrified looks on their faces, as if the very idea of the pair of them being married was repulsive.
"So are you going to go talk to him?" Hayley asked.
Conner sighed. "I guess so." Three faces were looking at him expectantly. "What is this?" he muttered. "Peer pressure."
"Dude, tell us how is goes!" Dustin said enthusiastically.
"Yeah," Conner replied sarcastically. "I'll let you know if we have wild sex."
Dustin frowned. "I don't need to know that."
"Good luck," Hayley called as he stepped out of the café and into the night air that had turned bitterly cold in the past few days.
The lights were on in Tommy's house. Conner turned off the engine of his car and leaned back against the headrest. This was ridiculous. Tommy may have said he loved him, but that still didn't counter all of the objections he had to them being together. Maybe Hayley was right and he did need a push in the right direction. Then again, maybe Hayley was wrong and Tommy had completely moved on from that temporary insanity involving insane terrorists who were now all in jail and charged with first degree murder and a number of other fun things.
Taking a deep breath, he got out of the car and headed up the walk. The porch light was on. Sighing, he rang the doorbell.
There was some shuffling inside and then the door opened to reveal Tommy. He was wearing a pair of loose jeans and a wife beater, his right shoulder heavily bandaged. And he did not look surprised to see him.
"You don't look surprised to see me," he commented.
Tommy shrugged. "Hayley get to you too?"
"Ripped me up one side and down the other."
He smiled softly and stepped inside the house, allowing Conner to enter. "Come in," he said. "No use standing on the porch freezing to death."
He stepped inside Tommy's house. He had been here so many times in high school and had memorized the surroundings—nothing had changed. But now, it seemed to take on a new meaning. This was not where the Dino Thunder lab was or where his teacher lived. It was Tommy's house and with that revelation, the interior took on a new light. For the first time, it seemed, he noticed that the walls were painted a muted red color. He followed Tommy through the front hall and into the kitchen.
"Do you want some coffee?" Tommy asked.
He nodded and slipped out of his coat, setting it on one of the stools around the island in the kitchen. He studied Tommy as he prepared two cups of coffee. His arms were strong and well-muscled, not to mention the rest of his torso that the wife beater hid and revealed at the same time. Part of him wanted to screw reason and kiss him senseless, but the other part told him to wait, keep his hormones in check until they had talked.
Tommy set the mug of coffee before him, black, just the way he liked it. He sat down on one of the stools close to him. "Nice shirt," Tommy commented, nodding towards the black wife beater he had on under his red button-up shirt.
It took a moment for what Tommy was indicating to dawn on him. He was wearing both their colors—black and red. Rangers, for whatever reason, did not wear each other's color when in their presence. But he had and had done it without thinking. Maybe it was sign.
"I take it you didn't plan that," the former Black Ranger said, taking a sip of his coffee. "If the stunned look on your face is anything to go by."
"No," he agreed.
"I know why you're here, so that's a moot question."
Conner smiled and looked up from where he had been previously staring into the brown depths of his coffee mug. Tommy was gazing at him with a guarded expression, as if he didn't want to let his true feelings out. He took a deep breath. He needed to ask about what Tommy had said before he passed out.
"Back there, with the terrorists," he said slowly. "Did you… mean it when you said you loved me?"
Tommy expelled a long breath, raking a hand through his short, spiky hair. "Shit," he muttered, taking on the look of a cornered animal. "Yes," he admitted. "I did mean it."
"How do you know?"
"How do you know you love me?"
He sighed, averting his eyes. "I don't know. It's one of those things that I just feel. It's hard to explain." He paused. "I love my family and I know that. But what I feel for you is not that kind of love… it's more like… passion."
"You want to have sex with me?"
"Not just that. I want to spend my life with you, wake up next to you, listen to you talk about whatever the hell it is English teachers talk about." Tommy looked uncomfortable, like he didn't want to say this. But at the same time, Conner could see that smoldering passion back in his dark eyes.
Conner grinned. "Poetry," he said seriously.
Tommy gaped at him for a minute before returning the grin. "You are not going to start quoting poetry at me, are you?"
"Not yet, at any rate." He paused, a mischievous smile blossoming over his face. "If I have the right motivation, I might."
Tommy didn't reply. He appeared to be thinking over the implications of that, the gears turning in his head. "So…" he said slowly. "Are either of us willing to commit to this?"
"I am," Conner replied.
"Do you love me?"
The question caught him so off-guard that he had to keep himself from falling over or knocking over his coffee mug. Then it occurred to him. Tommy had already committed himself to the relationship when he said he loved him. Now he wanted the same knowledge, the same confirmation that Conner felt the same way he did.
"Yes," he said softly. "I love you."
Conner stood up and moved closer to Tommy, not giving him time to object as he lowered his lips to his. There was a moment of hesitation, of uncertainty before he felt Tommy respond. He dropped his arms to Tommy's waist as he felt Tommy rise to meet him and lay his hands on his shoulders. Little tingles of fire started running down his spine as Tommy tilted his head so they could kiss more comfortably. He nipped at his lower lip, forcing him to part his lips and give him entrance to his mouth. However, the moment tongues got involved, Tommy became the more dominant force, exploring his mouth with a passion Conner could not have imagined. He gave himself over to the fire in his body and the ache that was suddenly strong.
He had to admit, it was a little strange kissing another man, feeling stubble rub against his face, but it was definitely another thing he could get used to quickly. He moved his lips from Tommy's, kissing a trail down his mouth to his throat, to gently suck on a sensitive soft underneath his ear. A soft moan filled his ears.
"Don't you dare give me a hickey," was the unsteady response.
"Wouldn't dream of it," he muttered in reply, too caught up with the hard male body straining against his.
"It's not going to be easy when others find out," Tommy whispered, obviously not wanting to broach the subject.
"It's not," Conner murmured into his neck. "But they don't know yet."
He moved back up to capture Tommy's mouth. Sliding his hands up his chest, feeling the hard muscles, he settled his hands on his shoulder blades. Suddenly, Tommy gasped in pain and pulled away from him, his left hand coming up to his bandaged shoulder.
"Are you all right?" Conner asked, concerned. He shouldn't be in that much pain if he had been taking the drugs like he was supposed to.
"I'll be fine," Tommy replied shortly.
He took a step towards him, but Tommy backed away. "Have you been taking the drugs like you're supposed to?"
"No," Tommy growled. "And don't start to lecture me on it."
Conner smiled. "I wouldn't dare." He crossed the space between them, but didn't reach out for him. "I was just going to suggest doing something to take your mind off it."
The pain receded from Tommy's face and he hooked two fingers over the waistband of Conner's jeans. He allowed himself to be led into the bedroom. It occurred to him that he had never seen Tommy's bedroom before, but that he was now going to be spending a lot of time in here. The headboard of the bed was a simple wooden one and there were khaki colored sheets and blankets on the bed.
Tommy's hands were inside his shirt, touching skin. Before he knew it, Tommy was pushing him towards the bed and he lay back as soon as his legs touched the edge. It was strange being the one off-balance, but something he didn't mind as Tommy gave him another fiery kiss. Something he really didn't mind…
Conner groaned and stretched, reaching out for Tommy. A lazy smile floated over his face as he remembered what they had done, what each had given and taken. It had been amazing, something he had never thought he could feel before. As they had drifted off into a light sleep, Tommy's body wrapped around his, he remembered the kiss pressed to his shoulder blade and the whispered, sleepy, "I love you."
However, Tommy was not in bed. His place was still warm, indicating that he hadn't left that long ago. He sat up, realizing that he was not in the bedroom. Letting out a long breath, he searched around the side of the bed until he found his abandoned boxers. He pulled them on and padded out of the bedroom, into the living room.
Tommy was standing there, looking out of the screen door. He was wearing his jeans from earlier, but his chest was bare. Then Conner saw what he was staring at.
It was snowing outside. Large white flakes fell lazily from the sky and melted as soon as they hit the ground, but it was snow nonetheless. Against the night sky, it looked peaceful and almost magical. It was like it was straight out of a Christmas movie where someone had a revelation in the woods and something like this happened.
He came up behind Tommy and wrapped his arms around his waist, resting his chin on his shoulder. "Hey," Tommy said quietly, resting his arms over Conner's.
"You left me," he whispered in a playful tone of voice.
"I was coming back," was the slightly snappish retort. "But this was too amazing to miss by lying around in bed."
He let the conversation drop, tightening his hold on Tommy. Now that they had decided to be together, he didn't want to lose him. It had taken so long for Tommy to drop his resistance to the idea… he didn't want to waste any moment they had together. This was new for both of them, but they would learn what to do, how to live with it.
"Do you have any plans?"
Conner knew what he was asking. "I'm expected at my brother's house Christmas morning, but other than that, nothing." He shivered, partly from a draft through the sliding door and partly from thinking about going back to his lonely apartment. The latter thought was depressing.
"What's wrong?" Tommy asked.
"Just thinking about how I don't want to go back to my apartment."
"It's lonely there." He paused. "I may be a writer, but I still hate the feeling that I'm completely alone."
"You're not alone," Tommy whispered, shifting so that he could press a kiss to his jaw. "Besides, I've got plenty of room here."
His heart felt like it would burst from joy. "Are you asking what I think you're asking me?" he said softly, not daring to speak any louder.
"If you want to move in here? Yes." Tommy gave him a sidelong look and pushed a stray lock of hair away from his face. "And someone has to keep you in line."
"And someone has to make sure you don't drown in fossils," he teased.
He got a dark look in return. He laughed. This would work out better than either of them thought it would. Tommy already had one of the expressions mastered that Conner had the feeling he was going to be on the receiving end of quite often. For some reason, it amused him to think of all the annoyed and exasperated expressions he was going to be receiving.
There was no guarantee that this would last. Hardly anything in life was forever. But both of them were committed for now. And it would definitely be interesting because they'd do double takes at hot girls and guys.
"Do you want to spend Christmas Eve with me?" Tommy asked.
"I don't have a present for you," he whispered.
"It doesn't matter." Tommy turned completely in his embrace so that their chests were pressed up against each other, not even a nail file could have fit between them. He pressed a firm, but quick kiss to his lips. "Besides," he murmured into his ear. "I think I've already got the best present ever."
A warm, fuzzy feeling spread over his body. He didn't have to be told what Tommy was talking about. Tommy was pressing kisses along his jaw before meeting his lips and continuing with those fiery kisses that always seemed to suggest something more. At this moment in time, life was perfect and nothing could spoil it.Outside, the snow softly fell.
Author's Note: Wow-- this fic has been another wild ride from beginning to end. And to think that it all started with a flippant comment during an IM conversation! (Remember that Jepoliant?) First and foremost, I would like to thank Jepoliant for being my primary beta reader and for all her support and encouragement while I was writing this. (While I'm a fan fiction veteran, I'm a slash fiction newbie.) And yes, she even gets thanks for nitpicking my grammar and plot consistency. Secondly, I'd like to thank Kaidence Ledger for supporting the idea and reading through the first draft as a casual reader. You two made this fic happen!
I also like to give a HUGE shout-out to cmar for writing 'Red Fire' which was the basis and constant inspiration for this story. I also borrowed most of the plot structure and some of the plot devices from her-- so she gets full credit for thinking up those things. Thanks cmar-- in many ways, you also made this fic happen!
Next, I'd like to thank everyone who took a moment to review this story and lend their own personal support, comments, critiques and compliments: Azkaban Huntress, CamFan4Ever, cmar, Feline-Feral, fenestrae, Jepoliant, Reno Sands, SapphireRayne, siriuslydeceased, Tristan Cole Purple Ranger, Warstock-Leonhart and Yardat sama.
Ironically enough, I was going to write this story as a kind of 'tongue in cheek' exercise. So I hope that everyone enjoyed reading this and appreciate it for what it was supposed to be-- a logical and believable way for Conner and Tommy to become a couple. I'm not sure what future projects will bring-- I have a yellow ranger fic and a spin-off of SPD in mind-- so keep your eyes peeled. As usual, feel free to recommend good stories to me and I shall see all of you around the site! --EK