Title: "Back To You"
Written by: Shawn

Summary: "I would walk the world. I'd cross the sea. I'd journey beyond the moon. I'd try anything, go anywhere to find my way back to you."

Category: Romance/Angst/ Deep Friendship Rated: PG-13 for swearing at best.
Ship: Tommy/Kim with mentions of others.

Timeline/Spoilers: Post "Dino Thunder." Takes place in New York and everything that has ever happened in MMPR, PRZ, PRT, and PRDT is canon here. All else is explained in the story.

My personal archive: http/groups. Disney now owns it all. Suing me would be a colossal waste of time, lol.
Email: Notes 1: This story is written in Kim's P.O.V. Her thoughts, feelings, experiences, regrets, and everything else are open to the reader.

Authors Notes 2: Pink-Green-White-4ever sent me the link to two songs ("Miss Me Baby" by Chris Cagel and "Back To You" by Faith Hill) that she felt were both worthy of a story. I loved them both, but chose "Back To You" by Faith Hill. That song influenced this whole story. I advise anyone who enjoys this story to download it somewhere. You won't be disappointed.

Authors Notes 3: Tommy and Kim are the only former Rangers living in NY. They accidentally ran into each other about seven months ago and renewed their close friendship. They aren't dating and haven't slept together. They are just good friends...

Dedicated to: Kim Hart aka Pink-Green-White-4ever. Thanks for the song lyrics and inspiration.

Back To You

Faith Hill

I lie in bed and watch the shadows Dancing across the wall Nothing to do but think of you And count the tears that fall Oh how I wish it was real I wish I could feel you holding me close The only thing I know for sure Is I should've never let you go

I would walk the world I'd cross the sea I'd journey beyond the moon I'd try anything, go anywhere To find my way back to you

The hallway outside Tommy's apartment

Midtown West near Central Park Wednesday, March 22, 2006 7:30 PM New York City, New York

Tonight's the night.

From the moment I walked out of the shower less than an hour ago I've been floating on a high of confidence and feminine Mojo. My perfume matched what I had in mind tonight. Seduction and nothing less. Dressed to impress in all black, I stormed out of my apartment and blazed all the way over here as focused as I've ever been on the task at hand.

That task being I want Tommy. And I'm going to get him. Tonight. It's really that simple. I've mustered up all my courage and I'm ready to put my heart on the line.

Consequences be dammed.

The drive over to his apartment yielded nothing but green lights. That's gotta be a good sign. I parked in front of my prey's building and stepped out in tight black jeans, a matching long-sleeved top, shades, boots, and I'm having one hell of a good hair day. Two handsome guys across the street gave me the once over and smiled my way.

That made me feel oh so sexy as I walked up the front porch and inside the building. I boarded the elevator while promising myself I wasn't going to accept anything less than a long French kiss tonight with the man who has stolen my heart for a second time.

At best I plan on having him make me breakfast in the morning. Provided he has the strength of course. Yeah, I'm that confident.

Or at least I was until the 'ding' noise signaled the elevators arrival on Tommy's floor. That's when my swagger began to fade as every step I took toward his apartment de-aged me until when I reached his door I felt like I was 12 years old. I wanted to pull his hair and run to show him that I liked him.


Now where in the heck was that badass 26-year-old woman who had the nerve to drop four condoms in her purse before she walked out of her bedroom? The one who's wearing her sexiest Victoria's Secret underwear and matching body spray? Maybe she was still on that elevator. She's certainly not here now as I raised my hand to knock on his door and then pulled my arm back down.

My hearts racing like the cars Tommy used to drive.

Seven months of being around him again have led me to this moment. I didn't even want this until some time around eight weeks ago. And now it's all I can think about. He's all I can think about. I never thought I'd feel this way again.

Life's just that crazy and unpredictable sometimes.

Imagine if you will seven months ago, complete with the wavy, psychedelic lines and funky 1970's flashback music. I'm walking out of Citifinancial Bank having made the weekly deposit for the gymnastics academy I co-own with my good friend Beth Chandler. I pocket my receipt, push through the doors and walk right into Tommy Oliver. Well, to be perfectly honest, we both fell down after I crashed into him.

We stared at each other in mute shock.

It was the first time I had laid eyes on him in a couple of years. The last time was at Trini's funeral.

On that sad day we finally talked and hashed out a lot of the past between us and left everything behind. It was a cleansing experience. One we had avoided for the longest time. Trini's death made us realize we couldn't put things off forever because nothing was promised to anyone.

We made a pact to keep in touch and had kept up with each other through a couple of phone calls and emails. No more than that. The effort was sincere though.

So imagine my surprise when he's standing right in front of me in the city I've lived in the past two years. We hugged and walked across the street to a Starbucks after he finished his business in the bank. Over cappuccino's he told me about the position he had recently taken with the New York Paleontoligical Society. It was a job offer to good to pass up and since his time as the DinoThunder Rangers mentor had passed and they were all in college he didn't feel he had anything tying him to Reefside.

I listened, nodded, and tried to pretend for the one-millionth time I wasn't shocked he had entered into a field I would have never expected of him. The former danger-junkie slash racecar driver now spent his days digging through dirt for dinosaur fossils while teaching where they came from and why they died. Just below the surface he was still the Tommy I always knew. Handsome. Moody. Sexy. Always a gentleman.

His office was located at the American Museum of Natural History. He invited me over to see it when I wasn't busy and of course I said I would make time. I told him about my school and that I'm singing again. Mostly local gigs, but I've rediscovered my passion for song writing and playing the guitar. I even play part-time in a band. He was equally surprised and over the next two hours we caught up on everything from family and friends to recent loves and all else in between.

Over the course of the next five months we developed a truer friendship than we've ever shared before. One that wasn't tempered by romantic emotions for once. We truly became best friends, oddly as that sounds in my own head. We got a chance to know the people we are today, and as the past was left behind the present took center stage.

Falling in love with Tommy again kind of snuck up on me out of nowhere. Well, actually, it hit me over the head with a bat when I wasn't looking. I mean, I knew I was still attracted to him way back in that Starbucks. But I honestly didn't entertain thoughts of wanting to be with him again. I have a full life here and wasn't pining away for him or anyone else. After almost a decade of being apart we were practically strangers to each other.

That quickly changed.

Over the next five months we hung out together often. He was new in town so I showed him around, introduced him to some of my new friends, and in that time I learned that 'this' Tommy Oliver was pretty damn amazing.

It wasn't that I thought he was ever unintelligent. But I never expected education to play as big role as it has in his life. I didn't think he could give up the dangerous thrills he's sought since he was a teenager for something as down to earth as Paleontology. I didn't know he could cook as well as he can, or that he's not had a girlfriend in over three years. His music tastes have broadened. He can actually dance a little these days. He even got a tattoo. There was so much to learn about him and I found myself as curious about a man as I had ever been.

Then things slowly began to change, at least for me.

In the last two months I've given up denying to myself that I care for him deeply. He's just so respectful, thoughtful, and sexy. Every time he smiles at me I'm charmed all over again. Every time he opens a door for me, or shows up at one of my concerts unannounced and claps so loud when I take my bow I fall for him just a little more. If I need an ear at 2:00 AM in the morning I can and have called him. He's listened and never complained once.

He laughs at my dates while detailing how badly his own suck. We even tried to hook each other up a couple of times. We gossip about our friend's lives, go to the movies and workout together. He's always there if I need someone to talk to or rant at about life for no reason at all.

He shares his life and experiences with me as well. I value that more than words can say. He's confessed things to me that he's told me he's never told another living soul. I'm his truest confidant and he is mine. I have his complete trust and he values my opinion.

I even go shopping with him to help pick out clothes that look nice. One thing that hasn't changed is his fashion sense. He has none. I don't mind at all.

Why? Oh that's an easy answer. I'm in love with him again. Believe me, I know how insane that sounds but I want him mind, body, and soul. I just haven't made a move yet. Why? It all goes back to that dumb, stupid, idiotic 'Dear John' letter I wrote to him years ago. And not for the reasons you might suspect.

See, in that letter I wrote to him that he was my best friend and in some ways like a brother. Well low and behold as of right now in 2006 that's exactly how he treats me. And not because of the letter, which we hashed out a long time ago.

Blah, blah I was seventeen and lonely blah blah first time being away from home blah blah stressed out over trying to make the Pan Global team blah blah I drank a big ole glass of stupid blah blah.

None of that matters. It's just that by now I was hoping he felt the same sparks between us that I feel when we're alone together. I've felt his eyes on me, watching me, and I can see desire. I know when a man wants me. He's never made a move on me. Not even one. He'll ask me about guys and not get jealous if I say someone is sexy or that I might go out with so and so. He talks about other women and doesn't try to get a rise out of me.

I think... and this sounds awful... I'm actually his sister now.

Karma bites Kimberly Hart in the ass all over again. I wrote it in a letter and ten years later I'm living it. Tommy is my best friend and acting like he's my brother.


So here I am, standing in front of his door as nervous as I've ever been. My palms are sweaty and I can barely stand still. For the evening we planned I picked up a bottle of wine while he's providing dinner. We're just hooking up tonight as good friends. Only thing is I plan on... if I can get my knees to stop shaking and be able to string a coherent sentence or two together, telling him that I want us to erase that friendship barrier and be together.

Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself again. Right now I just want to lift my hand and knock on the door. Come on Kim. You can do it. You can't be that afraid of rejection, can you?

My ovaries back flip to remind me that I'm a woman.


"Get a grip Kim," I tell myself. Finally, I knock.


I wait a few seconds.


I knock again. I know his car is in the parking lot. I saw it.


Before I can knock a third time I hear running footsteps from the other side. A click of the lock and the door opens. I sincerely try not to drool but I just can't help from staring at Tommy like he's a big, juicy steak and I'm a starving woman who hasn't eaten in days.

Second '1' has my eyes registering the fact that he is dripping wet, no doubt fresh from the shower with droplets of moisture clinging to the hardened planes of muscle covering his delicious upper body. Second '2' has me wanting to chase those droplets with my tongue wherever they might go. Second '3' has my eyes fixated on the snug, unbuttoned blue jeans he's wearing, no doubt thrown on just a short time ago. There's so much gorgeous torso flesh exposed as my hungry eyes eat him up. Second '4' has me realizing he isn't wearing any underwear. Second '5' has me wanting to run my fingers through his dampened short dark hair.

Second '6' has me having not said or word or even blinked. I'm just standing here dumbfounded. I have de-evolved into a Neanderthal woman who just wants to be thrown over his shoulder, taken to his bed and thoroughly fu...

"Hey Kim," he greeted me with a knowing grin. "Come on in. I just hopped out of the shower. I'll be dressed in an minute."

I nod because I can't talk. Mentally kicking my own butt after staring drunkenly at his partially naked body, at least I manage to walk into the apartment and boot-kick the door shut behind me. No man should look that good wet. I can't be held responsible for my actions tonight.

Deep breaths Kim. You can do this. He's just a guy. Okay, he's 'the guy', but still a guy. Deep breaths.

I hear the living room phone ring twice before he picks up in his bedroom. Walking through his apartment is funny seeing as how I know it like the back of my hand. I've spent so much time here that it feels like home.

Being with Tommy feels like home.

Making my way into the kitchen I notice the Giovanni's extra large pizza box on his table. Good. Dinners here. Food and wine will help me not make a fool of myself and probably take the edge off.

I pour myself a glass and take my time walking back into the living room. My eyes close as I try to imagine what it will feel like to have Tommy's arms around me again. Falling in love with him wasn't part of the plan, not that I had one to begin with, but low and behold here I am. My first love is still my best. And if I have anything to say about it he'll be my last.

"... I guess I can go if my schedule permits. I'll know by tomorrow... No, that's not a way for me to put off saying no. If I intended to say no I would."

My attention can't help but to fall back on Tommy when he re-enters the room. He's dressed, having added a pair of white socks and a dark button down shirt that he hasn't buttoned just yet. Is it possible he wants me to stare at what he has to offer? I hope he can see that if he wants me half as badly as I want him he doesn't have to play games.

His laughter forces a smile from me until I hear a familiar name.

"Maria, come on. Give a guy a break. I promise you if my schedule opens up we can..."

I turn away, not wanting to be nosy. He doesn't stray far. Maria works with him and has made it bluntly clear that she's interested in a whole lot more than his views on dinosaur bones. He's told me he is mildly interested in her as well, but not sure he wants to do anything with someone he works with. She's beautiful, smart, and classy. The two times we've met were nice, I have to admit. I can't help but to like her for who she is and hate her for who she wants.

Insane Kim-logic 101.

I hear him say goodbye and then stroll back into the living room towards me. He still hasn't buttoned that shirt up yet. Good.

Now comes my hug.

"Sorry about keeping you waiting in the hall," he says before wrapping me in his arms and tugging me to his chest. We hug often so this isn't new or anything, but every hug has meant so much more to me since I've fallen in love with him again. I've tried to replace this man for years now and no ones made me feel as special as he did. Sad considering how young and inexperienced we were back then.

"It's okay. At least you remembered I was coming bye." He pulls back, but doesn't let me go just yet. His arms hung loose around my waist.

"I could never forget you."

"Marry me?"

I don't say that but I think it. Thank God I didn't say that. It appears I have not completely lost what's left of my mind.

"That's good to know," I reply softly, breaking our hold before his natural male scent wrecks any more havoc on my senses. He goes off to prepare dinner while I take my customary spot on the couch. I always know where to dig to find his remote control under the pillows. I switch on the TV just as "Lost" is coming on.

Then I feel it.


He's watching me. Staring. He does that from time to time when he thinks I don't know he's doing it. He's pulling apart and placing slices of pizza in two plates while gazing at me. I feel liquid under his tender appraisal. I know he's still attracted to me. I can feel it. He's utterly failed in hiding that, if he's tried to hide it at all. But attraction is so easy and ultimately shallow. Does he ache to sleep next to me the way I do with him? Does he hate saying 'goodnight Kim' when all he wants to say is 'good morning honey'? If I made a move would we only share a night of passion and a lifetime of no more than that?

That fear tears at me worse than any other. What if all he feels is physical desire? Aside from that I might just be a very close female friend of his. Maybe in some strange way I deserve that for being the first to break his precious heart. Old wounds can still hurt even if you've made peace with them.

Our gazes meet... lock for a precious moment and then break away. He just has to feel that. He just has too.

When I look up again he's setting two plates on the inn table in front of the couch. After a trip back to the kitchen for the glass he forgot, he takes his place next to me and I notice his shirts buttoned up. That just might aid my sanity. At least until I unbutton it again later on. "Thanks for the invite."

"There's no one I'd rather spend time with," he acknowledges in my direction. His smile is so sincere. "And you don't buy cheap wine."

"I guess that's one in my positive category."

"Now you have two."

"Okay, what's the other one?"

"You still know how to shop. You picked out this shirt, remember?"

I play it off with an affectionate punch to his shoulder. He acts as if I knocked him across the room. I want to lean over and capture his lips with mine. I want to know how his kiss tastes. Phantom memories of the boy have me dying to take the man out for a test drive. "So are you going to go out with Maria?" His eyes widened with mischief.

"Were you eavesdropping?"

I toss my hair back. "I was curious."

"Haven't you ever heard the phrase curiosity kills the cat?"

"Kat's in Australia and very much alive."

"Funny, Kim. Real funny."

"I thought so." We began eating as the show came on. I pour him a glass of wine. "You still didn't answer." He knows I won't let this go.

"She wants me to take in a fashion show with her on Friday. I might have to work late."


He shrugged. "You know what they say about swimming in the office pool."

"Says the former Green, White, Red, and Black Ranger to the former Pink Ranger he dated for three years."

"That was different?"

"How so?"

"Well, for one, Zordon wasn't paying us."

"You were still swimming in the office pool."

"You were special," he added softly... fondly. "You are special."

It's what he amended at the end that has the butterflies in my stomach all tied up. My poker face is fantastic these days but on the inside I'm just mush for him. This man charms me so effortlessly. "Do you want to date her?"

"I'm not sure if I want to date anyone right now." He sits back a moment, collecting his thoughts before speaking. There's a quiet patience he's developed over the years when he talks. I adore it. "I may not like being single but I don't mind it either."

"She seems like a good catch."

He fixes me with a most curious expression. "Do you want me to date her?"

"No," I state boldly while holding his stare. Let him ponder that all he wants. "But she'd be an upgrade over Scary Carrie," I teased to lighten the mood. Clearly embarrassed, Tommy covered his face with his hands while laughing into them. "She was a kleptomaniac and you didn't even know it."

"How was I supposed to know that? She only took a couple of CDs, movies, and..."

"Your car went missing for three days," I throw in his face.

"She brought it back."

His ability to forgive and see the bright side of things was endearing. That doesn't mean he's off the hook though. "I've seen Maria. You could do worse than her and have. Remember Nicole and her uni-brow?"

Tommy winced from the memory alone. "It wasn't until I saw her in the light of day that I noticed it."

He met Nicole at the Voodoo Lounge where I play on Saturday nights. "Eye brows should not connect."

He clanked glasses with me. "You'll hear no argument from me," he replied. "So why all the interest in my social life?" This time he's on the hunt for answers. I don't want to push things to far to fast.

I put on my best, nonchalant expression and shrug. "One of us has to have one."

"What does that mean?"

I shifted my body to face him, even sitting a little bit closer. "It means I'm not dating anyone." Clearly spoken and not with a hint of regret. "And I'm not looking for anyone... new." Oh yeah, he's gotta catch that hint. Come on, Tommy. Throw a girl a bone.

There's a mystery behind those warm chocolate eyes I'd love to spend a lifetime trying to decipher. I'm not privy to his inner thoughts and I know he's having them. "What about Will? The stock broker you met three weeks ago, right?"

He could at least pretend to sound a little jealous, couldn't he? "I found out he lives in his grandparents basement and works in a flower shop. He lied about pretty much everything." Tommy's silent 'ouch' conveyed it all.


My luck with men in the last year rivals that of the passengers on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. "It turns out he has five children by five different women. I'm not about to become number six."

Tommy just shook his head. So did I when I found out. "Jeff?"

God no! "He had the personality of a brick. The intelligence of one as well." Tommy is openly laughing at me now. That's cool. He'll be kissing me soon enough. Jesus, I have it so bad I'm sitting here adoring his laugh. "I was blinded by his good looks. I admit it."

"I guess we both suck at dating."

"I guess so."

He goes quiet for a while as dinner progresses. We finish off half the bottle of wine before we know it, now settled back on the couch so close our shoulders are touching. I calmly, innocently reach over and shut the lamp off. He tossed me a look as the room darkened intimately.

"You like watching TV in the dark these days?"

His tone wasn't serious in the least. It was teasing and just this side of sexy. "Doesn't it enhance the experience?" His smirk, which wasn't aimed at me at the moment, turned downright sinful.

"Do you remember that one time years ago when we had a movie night at your house the day after Halloween and your mom had to go pick her sister up after she got a flat tire in Stone Canyon?"

Is it getting hot in here? I somehow managed to keep my eyes focused on Sawyer and Kate and not the memory of the closest Tommy and I ever got to having sex. As soon as my mom walked out the front door we were all over each other for the next two hours. We didn't reach home plate but both of us hit some doubles. "I have a vague recollection of such an event taking place." I tease him further. "Its nice to know you remember it so fondly."

He leaned over to my ear and whispered, "I don't forget everything you know."

My legs crossed unconsciously. I felt him take a deep breath next to me. I know I'm not the only one that feels this spark between us. I refuse to believe that. "Why are you single?" I posed to him out of the blue.

"I could ask the same of you."

"I asked first."

I can tell my question caught him a bit off guard. "I'm not really looking for anyone right now. My career eats up most of my time."

"You're a great catch."

He almost blushed as he appreciated the complement. There's a shy quality to the way he leaned closer. "Yeah, well why have I been thrown back in the ocean a couple of times?"

If it were only me and my stupidity when we were teenagers that he spoke of I'd wave it off in a heartbeat. Sadly, he's been about as lucky in love as I have. We've taken our lumps, that's for sure. "Join the club." He graced me with a slow nod.

"Your turn."

Showtime. "I'm done looking."

That surprised him. "So you're tired of looking?"

"No. I'm done. I did my looking and I'm done." There. Figure it out Tommy. Look at my come-hither smile and take me right here on this couch. Then buy my engagement ring tomorrow. Okay, getting a little ahead of myself here. And a bit tipsy as the night lingered on.

Whatever he thought of what I just said he held his peace. I don't know if that's a good sign or not.

"You are so talented, smart, sexy, and incredibly beautiful," he said to me not only as what I might need to hear, but how he feels about me as well. "I... I don't want you to give up on spending your life with someone."

"I haven't." Again our eyes meet as a war takes place neither of us can talk about. "I won't give up this time."

The column of Tommy's throat constricted hard, swallowing deeply. He reached for the remote, changed the channel, and we end up watching Eurotrip. Not the funniest movie ever, but after a bottle of wine it does the trick. We enjoyed the movie and each other's company as time passed. Work talk ensued. Who's talked to whom lately, as all our friends are busy doing something. The empty bottle of wine on the table was testament to that.

Somewhere along the way my head ends up lying on his shoulder. He doesn't move away and even lifts his arm around me. For the last thirty minutes I'm conscious we sit in comfortable silence and it's better than any sex I've had in the last three years. Sad but true. I'm snuggled up close to the man I love and I feel as warm and safe and yes... loved as I have in a very long time.

It felt so good in fact that I ended up falling asleep.

As soon as I opened my eyes I saw the time on Tommy's DVD player. You have got to be kidding me. Did I execute puppies in another life? It's freaking 3:45 AM and I freaking fell asleep on Tommy's freaking couch instead of being sex-drunk and alseep in his freaking bed!

I freaking suck so bad!

Sitting up, I stifled a yawn as my vision adjusted to the living room's darkness. The thick blanket he laid over me fell when I sat up. I bury my face in my hands while shaking my head. Tonight was my shot and I blew it. What's worse, I actually fell asleep.

I'm sure that made him feel oh so wanted.

But something happened tonight. I know it did. If he suspected I had feelings for him he has to know that I'm at least interested. I saw the recognition of that in his eyes. I felt it in the way he held me before I fell asleep. I don't know if he's afraid of trying again or of hurting me because he doesn't feel the same way. I have to face the latter even while hoping for the former.

All in all I spent the entire evening with him and I will get to enjoy breakfast with him as well. Maybe not how I planned, but still. I might even call him honey just to see if it gets a rise out of him.

I know what I want. It's his heart. It always has been Tommy and now I think it always will be. Tonight was the first attempt. There will be more. I'm not giving up.

And I am most certainly not his sister.

I'm the love of his life. And soon enough he'll realize that.

I still don't understand the reason I think I was just afraid (what can I say)
All I can do is face the truth And deal with the mess that I made Now all I want is a chance to take it back Can't go on like this Cause ever since we said goodbye I have been lost in loneliness

I would walk the world I'd cross the sea I'd journey beyond the moon I'd try anything, go anywhere To find my way back to you Baby I was wrong Now that you're gone The only thing left to do Is spend everyday,
Try every way To find my way back to you

3 Months Later

A black 2006 Nissan Maxima rental car Heading north on Rexford Road Friday, June 16, 2006 6:45 PM Charlotte, North Carolina

The angels are weeping again.

Another rumble of thunder signaled the storms strong resurgence. Shades of gray shadowed the world around me as silvery drops of rain fell faster, rapidly pelting the car in a sorrowful lullaby to the saddest day in my entire life.

Seated in the passenger seat while Tommy drove, I dabbed my eyes with a piece of tissue from the glove compartment, only to find it dry. With my thumb I sought even a hint of moisture. Nothing. I found nothing. I'm all cried out. There are no tears left for me to shed. I'm partly thankful for that seeing as how everyone I love... everyone that's alive, cried today in front of me for hours on end.

I feel sick, empty, hollow, and without.

It's getting worse.

Peering through the windshield I can't honestly remember having ever seen it rain this hard before. The storm's intensity is almost scary as it drowned the city. It looked like Mother Nature herself was conspiring against mankind. Gloomy clouds darkened the heavens.

The weather seemed perfect.

We're driving... somewhere. I don't know if I'm coming or going. I just can't seem to focus on anything but this damn storm. Not the soft music Tommy has playing on the radio to soothe me. Not my grieving family back at my brother's house. Not my five-year-old nephew begging and pleading for answers from his father about life's greatest mystery.

And certainly not that cemetery. The one that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Forever and a day after that.

I spare a glance at Tommy, still handsome in his dark suit, sans the tie he hates to wear. He noticed and offered me a compassionate smile in return. He says nothing because he knows nothing will make me feel better right now. He knows that his presence helps. At least I hope he does. And if he doesn't then I will make sure to tell him that having him here for the last three days has meant the world to me. Without him by my side I would be lost.

Even with him here I feel lost.

My father died ten days ago.

My family buried him today.

Booming thunder rumbled skyward, rattling the car itself as Tommy drove carefully due to the rain slicked streets. We're on our way back to our hotel. We're flying out first thing in the morning. I know my family wants me to stay longer, but I just can't be around them. Not right now.

My father is dead. Wrapping my mind around that horrible phrase has erased my smile and any joy I had left.

When my brother relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina five years ago with his family my father was overjoyed to have one of his two kids nearby again. They've been bugging me like crazy for years to come for an extended visit. So six weeks ago I planned a vacation and cleared it with my partner. With my school in good hands I planned for my trip and told Tommy all about it. After an extremely busy couple of months on a recently finished project he had a few days off coming.

I jokingly offered to take him with me.

When he jokingly accepted I saw opportunity knocking and planned to shove my foot through the door. I jokingly said yes and we jokingly made plans. Despite reserving separate rooms I was sure that wouldn't last past the first night. I hadn't made my move on him yet do to a number of reasons, though mostly work related and bad timing. But ten whole days away from our hectic New York lives in beautiful North Carolina was too good a prospect to pass up. I just knew that if I couldn't make my feelings known to him on this trip then I never would.

I love him too much to not risk it all.

And then I got a call in my office two weeks ago from my sister-in-law. A call that changed my life forever. I remember sinking so far back in my chair as the air rushed from my body that I thought I might die. I heard Claire struggle to gain her composure while explaining to me that my brother found our father dead in his home. He died of a sudden, massive heart attack.

I've time-traveled, been turned into a guy, and have had my personality mystically altered. I've been cloned, served as a Power Ranger, shot by lasers, piloted gigantic Zords, and been blown up inside of those same Zords. I've fought aliens, ghosts, monsters, and even an evil version of the man I love once upon a time. A talking face made of smoke in a giant glass hub gave my first job to me and I owned enough pink clothing in high school to warrant a psychiatric evaluation. I've gone on quests on other worlds, been kidnapped so many times I can't count, visited a island in an alternate dimension, and did I mention I've been turned into a guy before?

So imagine the sick irony I felt at having witnessed death on a massive scale across no less than seven different planets, and yet be told my father succumbed to something as simple as a heart attack.

At least my father didn't suffer. The doctors told us he simply fell asleep and didn't wake up. There's some comfort, however small, in that.

I sat there in my office that day stunned beyond words and hoped it was a bad dream. I wished it all away, as if it were a nightmare I could wake up from in my bed and then call my dad to make sure he was all right.

Years ago we finally patched up our father-daughter relationship when he came to the Pan Global games and watched me compete. Ever since we've shared something so wonderful. He was even on good terms with my mom, something I never thought I'd see again. Now that he was a grandfather he was happier than I'd ever seen him. He looked as healthy as ever in all the recent photos he sent me.

And then he just died. Quietly, he went into the night and now I'm set adrift. My father is gone. The worlds never felt colder than it does today.

Lightening curled inside the dark, rolling clouds above. Nonstop rainfall since we left my brothers home accompanied us every step of the way. It poured just the same when they lowered my father into the ground at Brookhill Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

Tommy held my hand as my fathers coffin descended into the Earth. A more crushing feeling I have never felt before. Never in all my life.

My clothes are still damp and uncomfortable. I'm hungry, but I don't have any appetite. I'm tired. I doubt I could sleep if I tried. More than anything else I felt numb. My mask is slipping. The weight of so many "Are you alright?" questions that came my way today has taken their toll. I just want to go somewhere dark and stay there forever.

Perspective will come in time. The loving words of my mother who lost her father several years ago. I don't see the wisdom of her advice today. I won't see it tomorrow either. But someday...

My thoughts fall back to that fateful day in my office when I got the news. Unconsciously I called Tommy at work. He left immediately and twenty minutes later I was in his arms crying my eyes out. I haven't spent a day since without him. I didn't have to ask if he would come with me to the funeral. He made all the arrangements.

I can't even remember getting on the plane.

I do remember the protective, caring way he's taken care of me. The mature, professional, independent woman I work hard at being needed him and he was there for me. I love him more than I ever thought it was possible to love another person. I don't think I'll ever comprehend something similar until the day I become a parent.

"Do you ever think of your real mother?"

My personal invasion doesn't startle him despite it coming out of the blue. "Yes," he replied with a slow nod while navigating traffic. His sigh meant I may have reopened old wounds. That was never my intent. "All the time, actually."

"How do you make the pain go away?"

"The circumstances are different, Kim. You have a lifetime of memories with your father. I only found out years ago my real mother died in childbirth and that I have a brother. My birth father is still a mystery."

"I'm sorry," I hear myself offer, hoping I haven't offended him.

"It's okay," he accepted graciously. "As for your question, all pain fades in time. I don't think it ever completely goes away. If it did then you might forget what made that person so special to you."

I feel the warmth of his gaze on me briefly. I don't meet it. I can't. His compassion is appreciated more than he'll ever know.

"How could he leave us behind," I whisper sadly, my eyes shut to this cruel world and everything in it. Tommy held his peace, not uttering a single word and I'm grateful for his silence. For the space he knows I need. Everything feels so meaningless right now and I just want to run away.

Before I even know it we're pulling in the hotel-parking garage and Tommy is exiting the car. He walked up on my side and opened the door for me. With an umbrella in one hand he offered his other. I took it.

I love him.

I need him.

The walk through the courtyard and past the front desk and even the elevator ride up to our floor is one complete blur. I didn't look at anyone. I let him lead me. I don't trust myself right now, but I do trust him. I just need to rest.

We're inside the warmth of my room five minutes later. I don't remember handing him my key. I don't care how he got the door open. I leave him his little mysteries.

After helping me with my coat, Tommy led me through the living room to the sectional couch. He fell to one knee and slipped my shoes off and then sat down next to me and took both of my hands in his. I feel safe for the first time today as he squeezed my hand, holding them between us.

"Can I get you anything?"


His free hand brushed over the damp hem of my dress. "You need to get out of these clothes."

"Is that your best come on, Oliver?" I flirt with his last name, though my teasing edge never quite follows through. His expression remained endearing.

"I don't want you to catch a cold."

"In a minute, okay?" I ask with a hand squeeze of my own. His nod settled the matter. We hold on while I shake my head at the cruelty of the day I've just lived through. "Jonathon told me God needed another angel, so he called my dad up to heaven."

"Your nephew is a wise little boy."

"I'm mad at God."

"That's understandable, Kim. That's life. Its out of our hands."

I can feel an emotional tide building as a fresh wave of tears I didn't think I had left began to fall. My hands trembled in his. "Why did I have to lose my father like this?" I cry out at last, loud enough for the storm outside to hear me. I'm on my feet that second, circling the room as I try to make sense of this madness. "I hate this!"

He's behind me, but keeps his distance. I know he wants to take my pain away. But does he know there's just too much of it right now? I love that he would still try. I love him.

"Kim, let me order some room service. You haven't eaten all day?"

"Do you think I give a damn about food right now!" My voice is razor sharp, edged with despair and anger at an uncaring God I just don't understand. I wrap my arms around myself because I'm shaking all over.

Tommy's calm, even tone tried to settle me down. "I know you're grieving. I understand that. But you have to take care of yourself, Kim. Or at least let me take care of you."

"Go away." My words hurt him. It's all in his eyes. He doesn't obey. He stood there ready for whatever I might throw at him. Defiant in the wake of my rage. "You can't help me, Tommy. You can't fix this. No one can. I lost my father today. He's dead. I'm never going... going to ever see him again." I've surprise myself with the uncontrollable tears falling down my cheeks. I'm heaving for every breath I take.

I cross the room in a heartbeat, now standing in front of him. I want to kill something. Anything. I want to make someone else hurt. "Don't try to make me feel better. Don't try to fix this. Don't do anything but go away. I don't want you here. Just go... please just go."



He doesn't budge a muscle.

"I DON'T WANT YOU HERE, DON'T YOU GET THAT? I WANT TO BE ALONE!" I yell as the red flames of grief engulf my very being. Before I can stop myself my fists are beating against his chest and I'm crying harder than I can ever remember crying before and shouting at Tommy. I'm cursing and dying on the inside.

And then I'm in his arms, sobbing painfully in his strong embrace. He gently pulled me down to the floor, now cradling me in his arms, holding me to his chest while softly whispering that everything's going to be all right. That I'm not alone and I never will be because he will never leave me.

And that he loves me more than his own life.

I barely register the true meaning of his words as I'm exhausted, both mentally and physically. I cry and cry until I can't cry anymore, heaving into his shoulder until I regain myself and begin to breathe normal again.

"Your father loved you with all his heart, Kim. He adored you. He was so proud of you at every phase of your life. He thought the world of you and the woman you are today. He loved you from the moment you were born to the day he died. He still loves you. He's still with you. He'll never truly leave you as long as you remember him and everything he meant to you."

Only Tommy could possibly know everything I needed to hear, said in the perfect way that was all his own. I lifted my hand to softly caress his cheek. I manage to sit up, regaining a bit of my old self. I'm not alright today. I won't be all right tomorrow. But someday I know I will be all right again. And it's because of him. "I'm sorry I beat you up."

The smile I manage for him alone earns me one in return. "There are worst things in the world than getting beat up by a girl."

He holds me tight in his arms and I never want to leave. I had such high hopes for this trip and tomorrow it'll be all over. Just another thing for me to mourn. "Thank you."

"You never have to say that to me."

I relax against him, content to listen to the faint, soft beat of his heart. "You know, I planned this vacation to be a lot different than this." Something just this side of humorous shadowed his voice.

"I figured as much."

His eyes darken before mine, mysteriously. I haven't tried to hide that I'm in love with him, nor have I just come right out and said it. My romantic side wants the perfect moment. My practical side says save that for the romance novels and just tell him. My scared side fears he loves me dearly as his close, best friend.

But his eyes... they convey so much more.

Suddenly I feel jealous of any woman he might have ever held like this, or would hold after me. I don't want to share the sweet, caring expression he is giving me. I hate that I love him so deeply friendship simply isn't enough any more. The heart that I gave away so many years ago I would give anything to own again.

"I think I am hungry after all." Stretching, I slip from his embrace and stand to my feet. This time I offer my hand. He accepts, now standing tall over me. "Just order something light, okay?"

"Sure thing. Go take a nap. I'll wake you up when dinner arrives."

I lean forward, kissing his cheek, allowing my hand to gently graze the side of his face. The bristle of stubble along my fingertips tingle my insides. Yes, I'm still alive. So is my father in my heart. And as battered and bruised as that heart is, its still beating.

"You are so wonderful," I complement upon backing away.

"Don't forget it," he teased when I'm almost inside my bedroom.

"I never could," was my heartfelt reply. "That's why I love you so much." My words are truthful and free at last. I can't take them back. I don't want to. As I turn to walk inside I hear him call my name.



"The feelings mutual."

Suddenly the rain stopped and a little sunshine filled my soul.

I know that I was a fool To push you away And if you let me Back in your life Baby I swear on my heart In your arms I will stay

I would walk the world I'd cross the sea I'd journey beyond the moon I'd try anything, go anywhere To find my way back to you Baby I was wrong Now that you're gone The only thing left to do Is spend everyday,
Try every way To find my way back to you

Three Months Later

Maroubra Beach The reception for Jason and Katherine's wedding Saturday, September 16, 2006 1:30 PM Sydney, Australia

This is paradise. Absolute paradise.

The sand between my toes tickles just a little. I barely register the feeling. Everyone's barefoot so I'm not alone, nor complaining in the least. I'm caught in the joyous rapture of the moment. Of the sugar-white sands, emerald-green waters, warm sunny skies, and the man I love dancing with his arms wrapped snug around me.

Like I said, this is paradise. The purest I've ever known.

'Because You Loved Me' by Celine Dion has control of the dance floor, setting the perfect romantic mood. Laughter and good times are the chorus of the day and I have never been more appreciative to be a part of all this.

Six months ago when Katherine broke the news to the gang over a conference call that Jason asked her to marry him and she said yes, no one was surprised. They had been seeing each other for two years now and with both living their lives overseas it didn't look like coming back to the States were in the cards for either of them.

To say the old gang was happy for them would have been the understatement of the year. We were over the moon. They had such a natural chemistry with each other that the ultimate commitment seemed inevitable.

And while nothing is promised to us in life, some dreams do come true. Kat's dream wedding of being married on her favorite beach as a child became a reality today. She made the most beautiful bride and her dress was stunning. Aisha, her mother, and I helped her pick it out and boy did she rock it. Jason was nearly brought to tears when she walked down the aisle. I haven't seen him cry since Trini's funeral and before that not since grade school.

He was that touched by seeing the woman he loved about to take his last name and share forever with him.

This was Jason and Katherine's perfect day. Only tears of joy fell as family and friends looked on.

I openly wept during the ceremony. I don't usually cry at weddings because I try to avoid them if at all possible. Divorced kids syndrome I guess. But this one, with two of my best friends walking down the aisle, I couldn't help myself.

Throughout the service Tommy and I gazed at one another. Maybe it was all the romance in the air or something more, but I can feel this yearlong dance of ours slowly winding down. The music's beginning to fade, the lights are dimming, and the sun's about to set. I think we need a new tune.

It's a good thing I'm a musician. And I write nothing but love songs.

Children are running all over the beach and playing in the sand while soaking in the sunny blue skies. Family and friends of the newly married couple are dancing with each other, changing partners on a whim, and having a great time. Although I haven't changed partners just yet, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy watching the people around me celebrate this wonderful occasion.

The cute sight of Rocky dancing with his adorable three-year old daughter has me grinning out of control. Maria is the most amazing child and her father wrapped around her little finger. Her burgundy dress is simply divine. Jennifer's videotaping her husband and daughter tearing up the dance floor as much as a grown man on his knees and a three year old can. I want a copy of that tape as soon as it's available.

It's such a priceless moment.

To my left I catch a wink from Aisha, and then she's spun around by her doctor fiancée. That is a hunk of chocolate man if I ever saw one and he treats her so good. She's never been more in love, confessed to me from her own lips. Like Aisha, Cam works for the UN and that's where he met my girl a year and a half ago. They have been inseparable ever since. It still amazes me how many of my friends have relocated overseas. But as long as they're happy I won't complain.

Okay, I'm kinda worried and feeling a bit old-maidish now that every Ranger girl is either married or engaged. I'm going to have to fix that and quick.

As Tommy and I make our way around the dance floor I catch sight of Zack working his 'Wedding Crashers' routine on a couple of beauties in the corner of the room. He's as entertaining and full of life as ever. We had a chance to talk for three hours yesterday and it was great to catch up with him. The former dancer turned writer and life-long ladies man whom I love like a brother hasn't settled down yet either. Good. At least I'm not the only one.

Unfortunately, not all of our loved ones could be here today. Our beloved Trini is with us in spirit, but God do I miss the physical. Billy's on Aquitar dealing with a crisis. He sent his regrets and promised to make the big get-together this New Years at Rocky's house in LA. Tanya was too pregnant to travel. She's due to deliver a baby boy in two weeks and hated that she couldn't be here. Jason and Kat are going to visit her and Adam after they return from their honeymoon in Paris.

No matter where any of us go in life, from one end of the world to the other end of the universe itself and whatever's beyond that, we're always together. Bonded by something stronger than anything in the galaxy.


I sincerely hope Trini, Zordon, and my father are looking down on all of us with smiles on their faces. Maybe even laughing. That would be so nice.

It's also nice to be dancing this close to a man that smells as good as Tommy does today. He's a treasure to me, dressed in all white. With his long arms wrapped around me the way they were this morning when we woke up, I couldn't be anymore pleased. Yes, I did say that I spent the night in his arms. Now the circumstances behind that might not be what you think. And they might even be a little underhanded, but so what.

This man is all mine. Call me Kim-X because I'm going to get him back by any means necessary. Even if some scheming is involved.

Tommy's two-month assignment overseas in Cairo, Egypt stalled my efforts. We communicated by telephone when we could and a couple of long emails just to catch up. After eight weeks apart I was slowly losing my mind and worried that some gorgeous, dinosaur-bone loving Egyptian girl might catch his eye and capture his heart before I was able to take what was rightfully mine again.

Okay, I never claimed to be the poster girl for sanity. I just worry, all right.

Anyway, the first night he came home I made dinner for us at my place and we had such a nice time together. It was intimate by candlelight and I should have told him how I felt about him then, but I chickened out. There's a scary, slightly insecure part of me that hoped he would make the first move. Of course he never did in high school either, so why was I surprised?

The night ended with a long hug and a kiss on the cheek. I hadn't lost him, but I hadn't claimed him either. I was living my life in a holding pattern and that's not living at all. Something had to change and soon. So I took the bull by the horns and used my greatest weapon.

Sneaky feminine wiles.

The very next day Tommy asked me to make the arrangements for our trip to Sydney, Australia. I... ahem, booked us 'two' separate rooms at the InterContinental Hotel. We were shocked, flabbergasted, and appalled upon arriving to check in at the front desk, only to discover that one room was reserved and no more were available. I was sure I booked us two separate rooms.

I know I did...

Damn, I messed up.


Anyway, Tommy joked about us being adults so we took the last room available. Never mind he could have gone to another hotel. There was one across the street even. My hopeful side thinks he wanted to be with me as badly as I wanted to be with him. Our two months apart affected me and I hoped they gave him something to think about.



And I think he knows what's coming. I just don't know how he'll respond to it.

Last night when we went to bed it was agreed upon that we would share it. Really, what was the big deal? We're best friends. We've seen each other in our sleeping attire before. He jokingly promised me he would remain a gentleman and keep his hands to himself.

I wanted him to be a sinner and just take me already.

So we climbed in, said our goodnights on opposite sides of the bed, and fell asleep.

By the time the suns warm rays shined through the bedrooms open window I was being held from behind and the soft heat of his breath ghosted the back of my neck. He was pressed fully to me from head to toe, his arms tight around my waist. The bliss of waking in his arms notwithstanding, I could 'feel' how awake he was and that alone was exhilarating.

Just like slow dancing in his arms felt right now.

"What are you thinking about? was whispered softly in my ear.

"You," I answered against his shoulder, swaying to the music in his arms.

"Good thoughts I hope?"


Another slow song comes on and we don't break stride at all. There are nearly eighty people dancing around us, and yet it feels like we're all alone. The music was written for us. This just has to be our time.

I have to tell him today. Now. I can't wait any longer. He has to be mine or I need to get on with my life before I go nuts thinking about him all the time. And I just can't stop thinking about him.

He gazed down at me with such an admiring expression that I felt weak in the knees under his tender appraisal. "You look so beautiful today."

I blush. I can't help it. I'm working so hard to maintain my maturity while wanting to yell out loud how much I love him. Somehow I gain my composure. "That's the tenth time you've said that."

He smiled that award-winning smile of his my way. "Are you counting?"

"A girl can't ever hear that enough." We're dancing to close for this to just be friendship. He's holding me like I'm dear to him and I have never hoped I wasn't reading this wrong as much as I am right now. I know I'm not seeing things. He wants me, but he just won't admit it yet. "You look very handsome today as well."

"Thank you."

Tommy hasn't spared so much as a glance at another woman all day long. I've been the sole focus of all his attention since the first time our eyes opened this morning. Deep down I'm afraid of what that means. What if he does want what I want and it doesn't work out?

Or scarier, what if it does?

"So, are you bummed about not being Jason's best man?"

He snickered and then shook his head. "Not really. I kind of figured it would be Zack or Billy. They've known Jason longer than I have. Maybe it was a flip of the coin." He continued, "Jase and I are cool. We talked about it already." My laughter caught his attention. "What?"

"That wasn't it," I explained. "Jason loves all you guys the same. He wanted to have a group of best men. But Zack won a series of bets with Jason, Trini, Billy, and me when we were kids. He still expects us to uphold those bets. He still reminds me of those bets."

"Tell me about them."

We twirled around once, eliciting a few claps that embarrassed us. Aisha's taking camera phone pictures and is probably sending them directly to Tanya and Adam along with all the gossip they can stand. "In the seventh grade Zack betted Jason he could beat him if they ran around the block four times in a row. Zack won and said he wanted an I.O.U from Jason for the rest of his life, redeemable at any time."

"And he called it in for being best man?"


"What about the rest of you?"

"Billy owes Zack 1.25 million dollars over a fishing bet."

"Billy might actually have that money stashed away somewhere. He sold technology to Nasa."

"A point Zack never fails to remind him."

"What about you?"

"I have to name my second born son Zack. He gave me a pass on the first one."

"How nice of him."

"He cheated."

"How did that happen?"

"He betted me that Boy George was a boy. I just knew he was a girl."

Tommy's smirk pretty much said my IQ was a 9 at best. "Poor misguided Kim."

"How was I to know?"

"You ever seen a girl with shoulders like his?"

"Two words for you. Janet Reno. And I was only nine years old."

"What about his name being Boy George?"

"Prince isn't really a Prince you know. Sometimes he's just that symbol."

"You're priceless," he said, and then pressed a kiss to my hairline. The winds of change were blowing so I gently took his hand in mine and twined our fingers. I only need four men in this world. My brother, Tommy, Ben and Jerry. My brother is in North Carolina and Ben and Jerry are in my freezer. It's high past time I found a place for Tommy.

My bed suddenly comes to mind.

"Let's go for a walk," I manage to say with a hint of a tremble in my voice. It's time to conquer my fear. I love Tommy and he needs to know that.

He doesn't answer as much as squeeze my hand and lead us away. We're strangers to most of these people, but Katherine and Aisha are giving me the thumbs up behind Tommy's back. I cross my fingers with my free hand behind my back. I know my girls are pulling for me.

Trini, you better be sending me good vibes too.

Katherine told me once that on a perfect Sydney day the ambience and atmosphere of the beach is so relaxed you'd forget every worry and problem in the world. The serenity that surrounds this beautiful stretch of land has silenced us as we walked along the shore.

We take our sweet, sweet time on this long walk, simply enjoying each other's company. Our only destination is to be alone.

I'm guided over to a cluster of majestic Palm tree. After choosing one, Tommy wasted no time in sitting beneath the shade on the sand, and then pulled me down between his legs, my back to his chest, his arms around my middle. Leaning my body into him, I'm nearly overcome with emotion.

I can't breathe. He initiated this affectionate pose we've fallen into. He's holding me so close to him, kissing my bare shoulder, and I'm just... gone. Just gone for him.

This is just to perfect for words. He has no idea how special he makes me feel.

And then he says something so lovingly profound I know my life is about to change forever. One simple sentence that reveals everything I've wondered about his knowledge of how I feel about him. Four little words that signal the end and the beginning.

"Take your time Kim."

He knows.


I have two courses of action here. I can sit and pretend to have no clue what he's talking about, then playfully banter with him before returning to the reception or I can grab life by the balls and go for it.

I choose the latter.

Scooting from my position between his legs, I shift forward enough to turn around, now facing him. My dear Tommy appears as calm and collected as I've ever seen him. Like he knows how this is all going to play out and he's just along for the ride.

As for me, I'm about to hyperventilate and could use a drink. A strong drink.

"You came back into my life thirteen months ago."

"You crashed into me is more like it," he fired back, grinning at me. It takes a moment but he can see how nervous I am and looks apologetic for the tease. "Sorry."

My fingers comb absently through the sand. "It's okay."

"You were saying?"

It's now or never. "Thirteen months ago you came back into my life after nearly ten years of us barely having any real contact with each other. When I ran into you at that bank we didn't know each other anymore. We knew our names and some of our past, but after a decade we were strangers." I hope this deep breath took helps. "Over the next five months we became friends all over again and really for the very first time."

With a nod he acknowledged what I have known as fact. We were never friends back in high school. We were just in love and then apart.

"It was wonderful getting to know this new you, Tommy. You aren't how I pictured you would turn out by this age. You're even more amazing than that." His silence is comforting. "I admire what you've done with your life. I respect how you live your life. And I am incredibly attracted to you."

A shadow of something pleasing came over his handsome face. He made no attempts to hide it. "Thank you."

It's time to give up the ghost.

"I'm in love with you."

He's biting his bottom lip in such a sexy way. His hands rest in his lap and I can't breathe until he says something. Anything. Air... airs becoming an issue.

"Breathe Kim."

I exhaled embarrassingly and then inhaled a deep, cleansing gulp of air. "I know I just lost cool points."

"You're breathtaking."

I might cry. I just might.

"How long have you been in love with me?"

Since the day I was born comes to mind. "Eight months."

My confession doesn't shock him. Doesn't stir him in the least. "Why did it take you so long to tell me?"

Laughter bubbled out of me just a little because that question had so many answers. "I was scared that maybe you were only attracted to me, but didn't have any real feelings for me. I know you're attracted to me. You can't deny that."

"I won't."

Water crashes on the shore nearby. "I wasn't sure if all we had was a deep and abiding friendship. I thought that maybe you didn't feel anything more than that. I mean, we're so comfortable talking about dating other people around each other that I felt you might want things to stay the way they were."

His piercing gaze has me wishing I could read what thoughts were behind those warm brown eyes. "I can understand that," he offered after a reflective pause.

"And then there was our past." His lips curled into a smile that was all to teasing in nature. "Well, you have to admit it might play a small factor. I know I wrote you that letter years ago and broke your heart, but that doesn't mean you forget how it made you feel."

"Kim, do you think I still stress over that letter?" he chuckled under his breath. "Do you think I walk around with it in my wallet? Maybe keep it in my sock?"

We're both laughing now at the silliness of it all. "You're mocking me?"

"Do you know that I had that letter translated into twenty different languages so that I would be able to show it to anyone I might meet and gain sympathy from you dumping me?"

Oh he's loving this entirely too much, the jerk. God I love him. "And I thought Rocky was the official former Ranger comedian."

"I even sent your letter to a website called 'The Worst Dear John Letter of 1996," he told me with a straight face as I'm doubling over laughing. "I won first prize. They sent me a broken heart in a glass with an inscription that read 'May no other girls ever think of you as their brother.'"

"Okay, you've had your fun."

"I called the post office and told them to never send me any mail from anyone with the first initial K. Katherine had to send me letter using her middle name Isabelle."

He's having the time of his life making fun of me. I really don't mind. "Okay, I get the picture." He's moving toward me, invading my personal space, and then he took my right hand in his.

"You were seventeen years old, living another state, training for the Pan-Global games and finishing high school. You did break my heart, but I've been over it for a very long time. The past isn't something that should ever factor in you telling me how you feel about me, okay?"

"Yes," I exhaled softly.

"Like you, I've lived a life, you know?"

He means other women who were his lovers. Who he touched, and kissed, and... I suddenly need a loaded gun, all of their addresses, and a ski mask. "I know what you're saying." He squeezes my hand and the sensation floods my body with warmth.

"You are the most amazingly talented, exciting, sensual women I have ever known. I could not possibly think higher of you than I do. You're my rock and my best friend."

Oh God, if that's all I am to him then...

"And I am head over heels in love with you."

Somebody just won the lottery. Guess what?

I'm holding the winning ticket.

I'm crying all of a sudden because I've lived alone with the secret of my feelings for so many months and this is the release I need. He lets me cry while gently wiping away my tears with the pad of his thumb. I'm overcome with emotion because he is the one. He's who I'm meant to be with. He's the other half of my heart.

"You jerk." I just threw a handful of sand at him. He's spitting it out. Good. "How long have you been in love with me?" Oh yeah, I'm sentimental, but that doesn't mean he's off the hook.

He's still trying to wipe sand off his face. "A year."

"A YEAR?" I shout so loud I hope the people back at the reception don't hear me. "How in the world could you be in love with me for a year, longer than I've been in love with you, and not say anything?"

"Because the one thing most women don't understand is that us guys have issues and insecurities as well. I value your friendship and since moving to a new city and not knowing many people, I didn't want to lose that by trying to rehash something from the past. And for the longest time I didn't think you returned my feelings."

"So when did you think I was in love with you?"

"Just after your father's funeral."

"Why did it take you that long to figure things out?"

I can tell that whatever he's about to say he's dreading doing so. "You dumped me when I was seventeen years old. You were my first girlfriend. That's understandable in a way. We were so young and you had your reasons. But Katherine ended things with me when I was twenty-one. That was only my second girlfriend at the time and we dated for a couple of years. I had dates and 'things' in college, but not a relationship the whole time. Then just after Mesagog was defeated Haley and I dated for about four months. She dumped me to go pursue her masters," he had to laugh at himself a little. "She felt the only reason we hooked up because there was no one else around."

"So you've been dumped three times?"

"In a row, mind you. And I'm such a nice guy I actually attended the wedding of one of the girls," he joked at his own expense. "When you keep getting hurt you start to doubt your judgment. You wonder if you're seeing what you want to see and not what's really there. I have felt that way for the longest time."

"And now?"

"I love you more than words can say."

I damn near tackle him onto his back and kiss him for all the times I've wanted to and chickened out. Our arms slip around each other as we fell into the deepest, most passionate kiss I have ever experienced before. It's demanding, hungry, and so powerful we can both feel it all over our bodies.

I swear if I don't stop kissing him soon we're going to get arrested for lewd conduct. I haven't had sex in well over a year that wasn't battery assisted or solo. Oh God, did I just think that? I have got to stop going over my life in my head so much. I need a pet.

Minutes later I'm still nestled in his arms as we sit face to face, smiling at one another and this brave new journey we're about to embark on. "I want you back."

"Is that all?"

"Uhm, you can add in marriage, kids, great sex, never having to take out the trash, having someone tall in the house to reach things in high places, more great sex, a faster internet connection, you on every Valentines Day, and to be able to enjoy being in love. That's about it."

Our next kiss makes me forget every other kiss I have ever had. I am so lost in this man, his spirit, and his love. I just might be swooning and I never quite figured out what that was.

I am so glad that Tommy looks as flushed and happy as I do. "So now what?"

I stand to my feet, pulling him with me. "I'm hungry. Let's get something to eat and spend the rest time with our friends. It's Jason and Katherine's day." I add with just a hint of a naughty tone, "It'll be our time tonight."

He snarled.

It might be our time in the next ten minutes if we don't get back to that reception.

Together, we walk back hand-in-hand. I swear this feels like the best day of my entire life. I'm beaming and I don't ever want this feeling to end. I don't know if we'll have happily ever after or not, but we sure as hell are going to try.

And I'm getting laid tonight for certain.

"What's got you smiling so bright, Beautiful?"

As if he doesn't know. "It's because I found my way back to you."

The End No Sequel:)