A/N Thanks for all the amazing feedback! Here's the next chapter – hope you like!
Thanks – gotta agree with you there. Some people have strange taste.
Your mud hit right on target! I'm so sorry for leaving you out – I must have already written my replies when your review came through. Dial-up sucks.
Thanks – your wish is my command, once again!
So glad you like it. I need some help from you. I'm leaning towards doing Ninjetti to bring Kim back into the equation but I'm definitely giving Zeo some thought. Here in SA, they skipped the whole Zeos thing. Ninjetti just ended and we had this big gap with no Power Rangers then all of a sudden we had a totally new season with new characters – I think it might have been Lost Galaxy actually. So, I need some help with the whole Zeo thing. What happened and where did they find the Zeo crystal? And, at what point did Jason come into the equation to become the Gold Ranger? That's a great idea for a uniform you had: I'll definitely think about it if I go through to Zeo!
As you wish:
Duchess Sirena DeCourte:
Love your name! Thanks so much for the compliment – it really made a difference coz it came through on a bad day and pretty much made it seem a lot better. Thanks!
Thanks – love that saying! Every Kim fan should use it!
Thanks – I'm glad someone is happy with the way Kat is being handled :)
Animeotakufreak and Hansongirl14:
Here it is…enjoy!
To those whom I have left out:
As always, sling mud. I am sorry and I really appreciate your input.
Tommy stepped up to Kimberly's front door and knocked then turned to his friends. Rocky, Aisha, Adam and Billy stood behind him, all waiting for Kimberly to answer the door. Kat was auditioning for a ballet but had promised to come as soon as she could.
It was a week since she had moved into her apartment and in the month that had passed since Kimberly first returned to Angel Grove, she and Tommy had managed to rebuild some of their relationship as well as set up the Falcon-Crane centre in uptown Angel Grove. It had been a hectic few weeks but it was worthwhile and the Centre had had its official opening earlier that day. Kimberly was so delighted that she invited them all to her apartment for a celebratory dinner.
"Coming!" her voice came from the other side of the door. A few muffled bangs were heard then silence.
The door was jerked open to reveal Kimberly, wearing jeans and a purple tank top looking slightly exhausted. Her hair was pulled into two pigtails and she wore only socks, no shoes, but her eyes shone with life.
"Hey guys!" she said with a bright smile, "Come on in." She stood back to allow them room to enter.
Aisha's breath caught in her throat. They all knew that Kimberly had been lucky to get her large apartment for a good price and that she had decorated it beautifully but none of them had expected anything like this.
Kim had moved her dining room table to the side and covered the living room floor with blankets and large cushions. Seven places were set on the coffee table and a cushion had been placed around the table for each person. Clusters of various sized candles were positioned all over the apartment and cast a warm glow over the room. It was a clear, warm night and Kim had opened the balcony doors so the curtains blew softly in the breeze. What caught Aisha's attention the most were the small fairy lights Kimberly had put up around the room. They made the atmosphere seem magical, made the whole scene so very…Kimberly. It was like something out of a Southern Comfort ad.
"Wow Kim," Adam breathed, "You went to so much trouble."
"Yeah," Rocky agreed as he stepped into the room, "The place looks amazing."
"A truly commendable effort," Billy added.
"Glad you like it," Kim, beamed, "I want you guys to kick off your shoes, relax and feel at home here." She turned Tommy as he stepped into the apartment. "What do you think, Handsome?"
Tommy glanced around and pulled her into his arms, "It's beautiful, just like you." He winked and Kimberly felt her cheeks flush. She hugged him, amazed that he could still make her feel that way.
After a moment, he released her and she went to the others who were making themselves comfortable. Aisha, Adam and Billy had each chosen a cushion on the floor while Rocky stretched out on the white sofa.
"Great sofa Kim," Rocky said, putting his feet up. Kimberly smiled and Aisha rolled her eyes then looked over to her friend.
"Great pigtails Kim," she said with a wry grin.
Kimberly's hands immediately flew to her hair and her eyes went big. "Damn!" she said, "I forgot about those!"
"They look cute," Tommy said, finding a seat next to Billy.
"Emma was here earlier and she got busy while I was finishing off my teaching schedule," Kimberly explained. "The poor kid's mother works all the time. It's a wonder she ever sees her," she said as she pulled the elastics from her hair.
"What about her father?" Billy asked.
"Her parents are divorced." Kim explained, "Emma sees him less than she sees her mother."
"That's sad." Aisha said, "She really is a super kid."
"Yeah," Kim said sadly. She paused for a sombre moment then shrugged it off and smiled again. "So can I get you guys something to drink?"
Tommy got up, "Let me do that. I know where everything is and you deserve a rest."
"You sure?" she asked.
"Yeah," he led her to where Aisha was sitting. "Relax for a bit Kim."
She smiled thankfully at him then turned her attention to Aisha.
"So," she said, eyes sparkling, "What's this I hear about a career in veterinary science?"
Tommy pulled seven glasses from the kitchen cupboard and placed them on the counter. He headed to the fridge and stopped. Stuck on the fridge door with various magnets were several photographs. One was of the original team at Ernie's. There were some of a picnic at the park, one of Aisha's birthday party and a photograph of Kimberly hugging a girl dressed in a USA gymnastics leotard whom Tommy presumed to be a past teammate. Beside that was a photo of himself and Kimberly that was taken in front of the Centre when the sign was first put up. He smiled inwardly as his eyes scanned the picture. It affirmed everything that had felt so surreal over the past few weeks. Kimberly was really back. They had really set up the Centre and they were really together.
Suddenly something else caught his attention. A tantalizing, tangy smell was drifting from the oven and Tommy walked over and put on the light to have a look.
'Wow' he thought to himself. 'Kim really has changed.'
Tommy returned to the living room to find Kimberly and Aisha chatting happily where he'd left them. Rocky was still on the sofa, now wearing an expression of total shock and confusion at they speed at which they were talking. He didn't see Billy or Adam but heard voices out on the balcony.
"Here you go," he said, handing a cherry cola to his girlfriend before distributing the others' drinks.
"Thanks sweetie," Kim smiled.
"So you cook now?" he said as he settled down next to her.
"Of course!" Kim said, "How did you think I was going to feed you?"
Rocky suddenly seemed to register what was being said. "Wait! Kimberly's cooking dinner?" he asked nervously.
"Duh!" Kim said.
"Oh." Rocky said, "I thought we were gonna just get take-out or something, given your history with food."
Kimberly frowned, "What history?"
"Uh…the set-the-school-kitchen-on-fire-twice-in-sophomore-year history," Aisha said raising her eyebrows.
"Hey! Those were accidents," Kim cried, "And there wasn't any permanent damage."
"Kim, we were making fruit salad. There wasn't even supposed to be heat involved!"
"Well…" Kimberly pouted, knowing that they had her beat. "Well, I've changed a bit in three years!"
"A least it wasn't as bad as what Skull did," Aisha offered.
"Skull took Home Ec.?" Tommy said, raising his eyebrows.
"Yeah, but we all knew why," Billy added as he and Adam joined them.
"Why?" Tommy asked, confused.
"He wanted Kimberly," Billy explained, "and thought they should have some common ground so that he could make conversation." As the words left his mouth he noticed Tommy snake a protective arm around Kimberly's waist.
"Didn't work though," Kim said. "He tripped and spilt a whole bowl of beetroot on me. He ruined my favourite dress. I was furious and refused to even look at him for weeks after that. It was totally traumatic at the time."
"I'm sure," Adam said with a chuckle.
Suddenly the phone rang and Kimberly jumped up to get it.
She returned a few minutes later with the portable handset to her ear. "Oh I'm so sorry," she said.
There was a pause before she continued. "No, it's not a problem. That's just such a pity." Another pause. "Yes, of course I'll save some for you. Yes…Yes." Silence for a few more seconds. "Okay then. Good luck! Bye!"
Kim switched the phone off and turned to the others. "Kat can't make it. Her audition is running late and she can't leave because it looks like she has a shot at the main part."
"That's a pity," Adam said.
Tommy nodded in agreement but inside he was relieved. Despite Kimberly's best efforts to keep things warm between her and Kat, there always seemed to be something that kept them apart or caused uneasiness. Like Kat not coming to the opening that afternoon or her 'forgetting' the few coffees that Kimberly had organised for them to get together. Kimberly was determined keep their relationship with Kat cordial until they found out who was responsible for the letters but Kat was making it rather difficult. And that only made Tommy suspicious. If Kat had come tonight, he suspected that things would have been somewhat less relaxed.
Adam reached over the table and helped himself to another chocolate-covered strawberry. He dipped it into a bowl of whipped cream before popping it into his mouth.
"Wow Kim. That was some meal." He said.
"Indeed, a most appetizing repast," Billy added.
Kimberly smiled. "Thanks guys," she turned to Aisha and Rocky. "So can I consider myself acquitted from my 'history'?"
Rocky leaned back from the coffee table and patted his stomach. "Defntleee" he said through a mouthful of biscotti.
Aisha nodded in agreement. "For sure. Girl, where did you learn to cook like that?"
"My roommate at the compound. She was busy studying cuisine part-time when she was recruited. She taught me all I know."
"I'm sure Miss Applebee would disagree with that. She always liked to think our successes were due to her," Adam said.
They group chuckled, remembering their old high school. Kimberly was the first to get up. She picked up her own plate and began clearing the others'.
"Oh no you don't!" Aisha jumped up. She nodded towards Adam and Rocky. "These two and I will do the dishes. You've done enough tonight Kim."
Rocky and Adam scowled up at her.
"Aisha, don't be silly. I invited you guys. The clean-up's my job," Kimberly argued. Opposite her, Rocky began nodding furiously.
"Didn't you want us to feel at home," Aisha questioned.
"No buts Kim. If I were at home I'd be doing the dishes so hand them over!"
"You sure?" Kimberly asked looking reluctant.
"Yes! You just sit down with your man and relax!" Aisha took the plates and turned to Rocky and Adam. "Come on boys, let's get to it!"
The two grumbled something then got up to follow her to the kitchen. Kimberly sighed and wondered out onto the balcony instead of sitting down again. Tommy rose to follow her, as did Billy.
They found her leaning against the railing, looking out over the lights of Angel Grove.
"Hey you," Tommy said, putting his arm around her.
"What you thinking about?" Billy asked, leaning next to her.
"Just thinking how glad I am to be back. And how glad I am that I have you two. You're my oldest friends you know." She looked up at them and smiled then turned her gaze back to the city. "I wonder about the others. Where are they? Do they ever think about us and wonder if we're still rangers? Do they also feel like there's a part of them that they left behind when they left us?"
"You did always give your heart to those you loved, Kim. It's no wonder you think of them so much," Tommy said softly.
"I'm sure they think of you just as much as you think of them," Billy added.
Suddenly, shrieking was heard from the kitchen, along with laughter.
"Billy! Get in here and help me!" Aisha yelled in between shrieks.
Billy frowned and shrugged before rushing inside.
Kim smiled then turned her eyes back to the lights of the city.
"I wonder where they are right now," Kimberly continued softly. "How are Zordon and Alpha?"
She had refused to go near the Command Centre for fear of once again feeling like an intruder in a part of her friends' lives to which she no longer belonged.
"They still want you to come visit Kim," Tommy said. "You'll always be welcome in the Command Centre."
Kimberly cast her eyes downwards and shook her head. "That's a time that's gone. I'm not a ranger anymore. It's not right."
"Don't be silly. You know you'll always be a ranger," Tommy began. He was interrupted to a loud sniff and turned to see tears running down Kimberly's cheeks. He pulled her into a hug and she leaned her head on his shoulder.
"It's okay Kim. You gave your powers up for a dream," he reasoned.
"There's a hole where they were. A hole that nothing can fill," she said softly. "Sometimes I wish I had never left."
"Don't be Kim. You followed a dream and you got the glory you have always deserved. We'll find a way to fix this," Tommy said.
Kim sniffed and looked up at him. She swatted at her tears and smiled. "Thanks."
"Is that why you never wear pink anymore?" Tommy asked softly.
"What?" Kim frowned up at him and he pulled at her purple shirt.
"It was your colour even before we became rangers. I miss seeing you in it."
"Tommy." She said seriously, "Its Kat's colour and you know it. Besides, I don't really mind."
"Don't try that Kim. I've seen you wearing in when the others aren't around. You still love it."
"So? I just happen to have a lot of pink clothes from the old days. I can't just throw them away."
"You could just wear them, you know. It's just a colour, Kim."
"Tommy, you know it's more than that. The colour you wear represents your ranger self. I'm not a ranger."
"Kim, now you're just being silly. Millions of people out there aren't rangers and they wear pink."
Kimberly sighed, frustrated. "Why are we arguing about what colour I wear?"
Tommy shrugged. "I guess I want things back the way they were. I want my pink princess back in uniform and fighting at my side."
Kim said nothing but squeezed his hand. She wanted it too but knew that it was Kat's turn. She understood that and wouldn't try to change it.
After a moment, she looked up at Tommy and smiled, "I wonder what they've done to my kitchen."
"Better go check it out!" Tommy said, standing back from the door so she could enter first.
As Kimberly stepped through the door, she was hit in the face with a huge blob of soap foam.
"Hey!" she yelled, wiping it away. "Adam Park! I know you did not just do that!" she rushed over to join in the huge foam fight slowly spreading across the room.
Tommy leaned against the balcony door and laughed, the worry of the past few moments forgotten. He was glad to see his friends so happy but in the very back of his mind, it still bothered him that Kat who was a ranger wasn't there and Kim, who desperately wanted to be one, was.
A/N Sniff. That went in a completely different direction to what I expected but sometimes you just gotta let the words flow I suppose. If any of you have seen The Merry Widow, I got the idea for Kimberly's party from the scene on Hanna Glawari's patio. So beautiful. Fairy lights rock!