A/N: SORRY FOR THE LATE UPDATE! Winter break was too short, college apps got in the way, and school's just been a... Anyway, I got this one in, which will hopefully tie you guys over for another month, maybe... SORRY!
nightlancer6000: Ahem, I can so do that. I'm tired of my favorites stories with their chapters ending with cliffhangers. So I decided to use my power and torture you guys. Muahaha! Um, sorry for the momentary laspe of sense... In any case, here's the next chapter.
Ashley Hammond Astro Yellow: Again, I can totally leave you guys hanging, especially you and Rosa since you two end so many of your chapters on cliffhangers and we're always this close to finding you and begging for the next chapter. Besides, here it is. And I was thinking about doing that but it's funnier with Taylor and Eric. But don't worry, there'll be plenty of A/A later on.
star fata, littlewhitelie91, and dthstlkr69: Thanks for reading! Enjoy this one.
Phantom Rogue: I needed a flashback for those two. And the red rangers being dense allows too many opportunities for us to laugh. Just because they were leaders doesn't mean they were the brightest of the bunch. :D
Latina1: Glad you like the story. Wow, someone actually watches my story vids on Youtube? I think I got a little preoccupied with those instead of my story. I'm pretty sure about Ashley and Taylor but everyone's screaming at me through emails about who Kimberly's going to end up with. I put Tommy in the vids because it's so nice to see them in music videos together, but as for this story, I'm trying to go by what the readers want... most of the time. Enjoy this chapter!
Again, major apologies, and I hope you guys like this chapter. The next update will come a lot sooner than this one, I promise. And Happy New Year!
By now, everyone recovered from the explosion and ran over to where Kimberly, Taylor and Ashley were standing, wondering who they were looking at. When the smoke cleared, they saw a vaguely familiar male figure facing them from afar. When his identity registered in their heads, they all found reason to be on the defensive.
"Not as big a crowd as last time," he said, "but it's not like I'm after them. They're powerless, anyway."
"What are you doing here, Phrazare," Kimberly demanded, hating that she and her sisters hadn't found a way to vanquish him yet.
The demon's face flashed a momentary look of hurt, finding no reason to rush things. "What? Can't a mere demon as I come and visit the trio who keeps obliterating half of the Underworld? You know, you three have put many of us out of commission and we have almost no alternatives left."
"That's the point," Taylor said.
"Well, too bad for you the Underworld is trying to unite against you," Phrazare retorted. "Such a shame, really. I had been hoping to eradicate you myself."
"And what's stopping you from trying now," Ashley asked, masking no anger from her voice.
He let out a quick scoff. "Even I have a higher person to answer to, and I have specific orders not to attack you. But that doesn't mean I can't pay an enjoyable visit every now and then."
"Enjoyable for whom?"
"Many demons would be fighting for the freedom I have to drop in on you three. Actually, some of them might be doing so right now. Some of us demons are becoming restless."
Kimberly was tempted to ask 'over what' but she merely asked again what Phrazare was doing there. "You've got about a minute before we send you into another dimension."
"Oh, like that plan would work again," Phrazare laughed. "It didn't even work the last time. Now, I just popped in to check on your friends. I can see they're doing well, after all the assaults made on them a few days ago. I still wonder why some of the demons stopped and let you people live. But perhaps it is better to let you suffer. You three only have yourselves to blame for the attacks on your friends. We're very unhappy with you."
"Like you have a real reason to be," Taylor snapped, throwing a fireball in Phrazare's direction.
He dodged it easily at the last second, shaking his head and saying, "Tsk tsk," when he did. "Someone needs to get her temper under control," he said in a sing-song manner that irritated everyone.
"Why did they all attack our friends," Ashley inquired, her patience wearing thin for the demon they encountered too many times.
"I suppose it had something to do with your little get-together a few weeks ago," he answered flippantly. "Someone heard from the Cleaners that you exposed the magical world to way too many people and the Underworld was trying to figure out if it was really true, that the Charmed Ones actually had social lives to return to after slaughtering us one by one." The girls would let that insult go. "When we heard the Cleaners couldn't do their jobs, some demons figured we could this mishap to our advantage. Some of us tried to capture your friends, since we know at least one of you would try to get them back. Others wanted to see if killing them would take down your defenses. And some of us just wanted to provoke you even more."
"I knew it," Taylor commented under her breath.
Ashley barely heard her sister and turned her attention to the nuisance of the day. "So, is there a real reason for those attacks? Because what you said doesn't seem to be a good enough motive."
Phrazare sighed as if in ennui, turning his attention to the leaves of the tree he was leaning on but still speaking to his greatest adversaries. "Maybe not to good witches, but those are more than enough reasons for demons to go after your friends. Now, I didn't come to talk shop. Well, maybe but we're talking about the wrong part of the business here."
"Business?" Kimberly was disgusted to hear anyone call killing innocents 'business'. "So, what did you want to talk about, you pathetic waste of matter?" Kimberly could hear Taylor and Ashley quietly laugh at her words, causing a smile to come to her face despite their company.
Shifting his attention back to the Charmed Ones, he dropped what he could of his mordant fascia and turned somber. "A deal, between you three and me."
Taylor had to scoff at that. "What in hell would make you think we'd make a deal with you?"
"The fact I know about a revolution brewing in the Underworld, the cohorts of which are uniting to take you down. There may be competition as to who will kill you first but they'll come together just for that cause alone if it means they have a greater chance to rule the worlds with evil. You may be able to stop some of those demons but you can't stop all of them, at least not without my help." Phrazare sounded so self-assured they wondered if he was going to spend the rest of the time listing his credits. Thankfully, he didn't. "Here's how it'll go: I'll help you three get rid of any demons that come after you, or most of them anyway, and you grant me immunity from you in the future."
"No way. We can take down anything you throw at us without your help," Ashley declared. "Besides, we're not stupid enough to make any sort of pact with a demon like you, Phrazare."
"Do rethink that answer, dear."
"How about you shut up and leave us alone," Taylor suggested.
"Fine," Phrazare relented, "but you really should think about it. Don't wait until it's too late and your friends are all tossed into some bonfire the demons throw to celebrate your downfall. I'll be out of reach by then."
"Thanks," Kimberly said, "but no thanks. Now, leave."
"As you wish, but before I do, here's a little parting gift." With a snap, he made three female figures draped in similar black form-fitting clothes. A second later, he was gone.
The girls sighed when they realized they'd have to put in some fighting today. "You guys should stay back and get to safety," Ashley told everyone around them. "We'll take care of them." Their friends stepped back but they weren't going anywhere else; even if they didn't have abilities like the girls, they'd stay and fight for them if they had to.
The three went in three different directions when one of the demons charged a lightning bolt at them, trying to keep whatever those demons were away from their friends. Taylor recovered first, preparing a fireball if the demon attacked again. "Any idea what they are," she asked her sisters.
"Chicks dressed in black who throw lightning streaks," Kimberly noted. "Gee, that applies to, what, fifty different kinds of demons?"
"Demonatrixes again," Katherine asked barely loud enough for Kimberly to hear from a few yards away. She shuddered briefly, remembering her last encounter with a demonatrix. She did not want to repeat it.
"I don't know," Kimberly answered loudly before dodging another energy ball. "It could be."
Ashley tried to blow up the demon that focused its sights on her. She stopped in her tracks when the force did nothing to the fiend. "Um, guys," she said to her sisters. "We've got a major problem."
Taylor had just thrown a fireball and an energy ball at her own demon. She jumped to avoid another energy ball directed at her shortly after. "Definitely major," she agreed. "Who the hell are they?"
"Why can't our powers do anything to them," Ashley added, panic growing inside her.
Kimberly telekinetically threw a picnic bench at the demon running after her, finding no other alternative when she couldn't throw the demon with her telekinesis. "I have no idea," she shouted. There was only one thing she could do now, as much as she hated it. "Wyatt! Chris!" she yelled aloud, hoping Wyatt's sensing would kick in quickly. Just when she was a second away from hiding behind a tree to avoid another lightning streak, the two brothers orbed into the park, quickly taking in the scene before them.
"What took you so long," all three girls screamed, getting no definite answer from the two. All Wyatt said was, "You three have to focus!"
"We are!" they yelled back.
Wyatt and Chris could see that the girls couldn't do much than what they were doing now. They turned to each other and nodded, knowing their only choice and hoping it would work. They lifted their arms closest to each other and focused their energy, relieved when the blue lightning shot out of their hands seconds later. The demon pursuing Ashley was pushed back by the lightning, bouncing back before glaring at them and shimmering off into the Underworld. Her other two companions followed her example soon after.
They rushed over to Kimberly who was on her knees, taking in deep breaths to compensate for constantly running from the demon. Her old teammates ran over to her, checking her stability as she raised her head to see Ashley and Taylor's teams doing the same for them. "You two okay," she asked across the field, ignoring the questions her friends were throwing at her about her condition.
"Fine," they both yelled to her, accepting their friends' offers to help them up. Kimberly decided to do the same. "Who were those demons? How come we couldn't use our powers against them," she asked Wyatt and Chris once she was back on her feet.
"We really have no idea," Chris answered. "I've never seen them before."
"Why did your powers work and ours couldn't," Ashley asked when she reached the small group.
"No idea," Wyatt shrugged. "Like Chris said, we haven't met them before. Maybe there's something in the Book of Shadows."
"We can only hope," Taylor commented, pulling her sleeve up to look at the wound she acquired from an energy ball she couldn't evade. She had to stand still and wait while Wyatt healed the abrasion, glad she wouldn't have to look at the nasty gash. "Maybe we should get back."
"Sorry we have to cut the picnic short, you guys," Ashley apologized to everyone. They were all looking forward to a few hours of pure fun and relaxation in the park.
"Yeah, we promise to make it up to you guys," Kimberly swore.
Everybody shook their heads, assuring that it was perfectly fine. "We're just glad you guys are okay," Trini said.
"And we know more than anyone that evil waits for no one," Cassie added.
"But now we have more work to do in addition to trying to find out why the demons are attacking you," Ashley put in, grimacing at the idea.
"I thought that Phrazoo guy just told us," Carlos said.
"It's Phrazare," Kimberly corrected, "and I wouldn't believe anything he said. I mean, the Underworld is constantly trying to unite against good witches. I don't see any reason for them to come together now more than before. I mean, it's not like any of you guys have powers that would do anything to hurt them."
"Unless one of you guys happen to be witches and don't know it," Ashley let out.
"I highly doubt it, though" Taylor responded. "I definitely saw no reason for us to join Phrazare in his little deal."
Wyatt turned to her when he heard that. "Wait, what deal?"
"He said he'd help us against any demons if we never attacked him again," Kimberly answered. "He said we would need his help with the way the demons are uniting against us."
"You three didn't trust his word, did you," Chris asked with anxiety.
"I wouldn't trust Phrazare to put his shoes on correctly," Taylor commented, earning some quiet laughs from her friends.
Wyatt thought more about what the girls said, tuning out whatever anyone was saying around him. "Maybe there's a lot more than what Phrazare let off," he said to no one in particular, grabbing everyone's attention.
"What do you mean," Kimberly asked.
"If Phrazare came to ask you to make a deal with him for the reasons he said he did," Wyatt started, "then either he's planning something big against you guys for later on or there's some huge activity in the Underworld."
"If he was asking for immunity out of nowhere," Chris began, "he would need a good reason for it. Maybe he was planning on attacking you guys later on with an entire army of demons or something."
Ashley sighed tiredly, wanting to get back home for a safe environment to eat her lunch; she hadn't eaten in hours and her stomach was not letting her forget it. "Whatever it is, we'd never make a deal with him unless the world depended on it. And even then… Anyway, can we please get back home? I'm starving but I don't want to try at eat here. Lord knows if those demons come back, whoever they were."
"Yeah," Taylor agreed. "I'll go look them up in the Book of Shadows. We know they're coming back; we need to be ready for them when they do."
"We could probably orb some of you guys back to the manor with us, but I can't orb all of you back with me," Kimberly brought up. "The same goes for Taylor and her shimmering. Besides, someone needs to get the cars back home."
"I say the guys drive the cars back and the girls get to the house first," Ashley suggested, knowing her sisters would agree.
Most of the guys disagreed to that proposal. "Why do we have to drive them back," Carlos asked.
"Because you guys drove them to the park," Cassie answered.
"On the way here," Katherine turned to Kimberly, Taylor and Ashley, "their male egos took over and they wouldn't let any of us girls drive."
"Well, then it's settled. Wyatt and Chris can go back to whatever you two were doing, I'll shimmer half the girls, Kim will take the other half, and you guys get the cars back safely or you're paying for them."
"All six of them," Ashley added emphatically.
"God help them if they crash the van," Kimberly said, cutting off anything the guys had to say by dividing the females into two groups that would go with either her or Taylor.
Chris and Wyatt were about to leave when Chris turned around and asked the girls if they had found anything that morning in their search. Ashley, Kimberly and Taylor looked at each other, wondering if now was a good time to say anything about the papers they found.
"We'll tell you everything when you guys get home," Taylor decided out loud.
"All right, see you then."
"Later," Kimberly waved. "Now, how about we get home? We'll take the blankets and baskets with us. See you guys back at the house." Within minutes, everyone disbanded into small groups, making the same way back to the Halliwell manor.
Kimberly passed another plate for Katherine to dry with the dishtowel when they heard some of the guys shout about something in their impromptu poker game. "Is it going to be like this every night," she asked Katherine, half joking.
"They won't play poker every night," Katherine assured. "Eventually, they ask for a pool table or something in the house. If they're bored enough maybe we'll end playing Monopoly or some other board game."
"God, I hope not. Monopoly, with those guys? I don't think I have the strength or the attention span."
Katherine laughed along with her friend. "Well, the worst they can do is ask us to join them in strip poker. I'm pretty sure hell will break out when they do."
"Kat, us joining in will be the only way they'll play strip poker," Kimberly put in, rinsing another dish. "They have too much pride to do that with just themselves."
"I wouldn't want to be in the house when they do, and you know they'll reach that point sooner or later."
"You sure about that," Kimberly asked teasingly, making Katherine hit her with the dishtowel several times.
"I'm sure," Katherine said, keeping back her laughter at the look Kimberly threw her. "All right, I'll admit, I would probably stay for some of it," she relented.
"Eh, I would too," Kimberly admitted, laughing with her successor. "But only to see which guy loses his boxers first. After that, there's no freaking way I'm staying."
"Same for the rest of us," Aisha said, coming in with a huge empty bowl. "Sorry, I didn't eavesdrop, I promise. I just came back to refill the bowl with more chips. These guys are like sharks."
The two former pink rangers assured Aisha that it was all fine. "At least you'd have something to see," Katherine joked.
"Sure," Aisha said, "but seeing Rocky lose his boxers because of a poker game? Whoever made up the game, I'm pretty sure they weren't thinking about all the consequence. Later, babes."
"Later, Aisha," the two replied, returning to the sink that wasn't going to be clear anytime soon. Kimberly swore they would order pizza or go out for the next dinner.
"At least having a boyfriend lose at strip poker is better than having all your guy friends lose," Katherine mused aloud.
"You're right about that," Kimberly agreed. "Lucky her." She hadn't meant to, but somehow the trail of thought in both their minds led to a subject they were unsure they could speak about with each other. They both wanted to talk about it, but at this point in their friendship, when they barely saw each other for the first time since a few weeks ago after all these years? Eventually, Kimberly's curiosity got the best of her and she pushed herself to talk first, sure that she would regret it. "Do you mind if I asked you about you and Tommy?"
Katherine spent a minute thinking over whether or not she could really talk to Kimberly about this, drying dish after dish. She decided she might as well. Kimberly was becoming just as close a friend to her as Aisha and Tanya, and if there was anyone who deserved to know about her relationship with Tommy, it was Kimberly. "To tell you the truth, no. Actually, I've been waiting for you to ask all this time. I wasn't sure how I would feel, but at least we'll get it over with, right?"
"Right," Kimberly returned, almost absentmindedly. She was thinking of what to say next, not wanting to ask anything that was too invasive.
"What did you want to ask," Katherine queried softly when Kimberly didn't speak for over a minute.
"I guess," she started slowly, "what happened to you two? I mean, I know relationships don't last forever and it was a high school romance, but the last time I saw you two together, you were so happy. And you worked great as a team. When I thought about it, I thought you two would work out no matter how much distance was between you. I genuinely wanted you two to be happy. I guess some part of me was just the slightest bit disappointed when I came to the reunion and I heard you two weren't dating anymore and I just wanted to know what happened."
Katherine didn't know where to begin. "It was great. In the beginning, there was nothing wrong except that we barely found time together. But after we quit being rangers, we had all the time in the world before we went off to college and stuff. I don't think there was really any problem with our relationship. We just drifted apart, like everyone else in relationships. It was normal, you know, no big blow up or anything."
"You just drifted apart?" Part of Kimberly wasn't sure if she could believe that about Katherine and Tommy. They were too close to drift apart. Or were they just like everybody else?
"That's really the only explanation I can think of," Katherine admitted, trying to gauge Kimberly's true thoughts on the subject.
"Hmm." Kimberly could understand that; practically all her relationships ended because she and the guy grew apart and wanted to see other people. She chuckled when she realized that she was hoping Katherine and Tommy had broken up for a greater reason other than something simple like they grew apart and wanted different things. The situation felt oddly familiar.
"What is it," Katherine asked, noticing Kimberly laughing softly for the briefest moment.
"Nothing," she answered. "I guess I just realized how I was thinking that you guys broke up like you needed to in order to save the world or something. Maybe I always had this huge vision of you and Tommy together forever or something and it was just a shocker when I found out that you weren't."
"One of Ashley's premonitions," Kimberly divulged. "Every now and then, Ash gets a premonition totally unrelated to magic or demons or anything like that. It usually has something to do with our friends or us when we were normal." Kimberly joined Katherine when she laughed at the word 'normal'. She had to confess, they were never completely normal. "One of the premonitions was from the future, but it was way, way into the future."
"What was it," Katherine asked curiously.
"It was of you and Tommy as grandparents during one Christmas," Kimberly described. "It really was cute. Your grandson was there and everything. Ashley didn't see much more but it was enough. It kind of fueled my hope that you two were meant to be. Then again, there's still plenty of time for you two to get together again."
"I don't know about that," Katherine said half-hushed.
Kimberly looked up inquisitively when she said those words. "Why not?"
"I don't know," Katherine started. "I mean, from what I heard, Ashley's visions of the future are pretty accurate but I can't help feeling that I could never be in another relationship with Tommy like that again. It's not that I don't think I can ever like him in that way again. It just feels like… like we were just so good together as a team that there was a line we couldn't go past. It's… It's hard to explain."
"I think I understand what you're saying, Kat," Kimberly said, hoping to make things easier for Katherine. "I mean, I can't know exactly what you're saying, but I think I know where you're coming from."
"I think our relationship could never go past truly platonic friends. Plus, I think he knows enough about me to be my brother," Katherine finished with a chuckle.
"Now I definitely know where you're coming from," Kimberly said a big smile. "That was my answer to everyone who asked why Jason and I weren't together. We know each other so well, it would be too disturbing for the both of us."
Katherine nodded, looking off into space for a moment. "Jason. Right."
Kimberly noticed something different in Katherine's voice. When she caught her friend glimpsing off at nothing in particular but obviously in thought, she knew something was up. "Kat? What's going on?"
"What," Katherine returned, slightly surprised. "Nothing's wrong. I was… just thinking."
"Nothing." Now, surely, I could've come up with something better than that, Katherine berated herself.
"Kat," Kimberly repeated firmly.
"What," Katherine replied innocently.
Kimberly stopped rinsing the dish in her hand for a moment to take a hard look at Katherine and reviewing everything they said. When she hit a conclusion she couldn't help her jaw dropping, her lips forming a huge smile soon after. Could it be… "Oh my god," she said slowly.
"What," Katherine said again. That word's getting annoying.
"You have thing for Jason," Kimberly said carefully, wide grin still on her face.
Katherine's eyes widened, unsure of how to react. Heck, she didn't even know if what Kimberly guessed was true. Maybe… "You've gone mad, Kimberly," she insisted, vehemently drying the next dish Kimberly handed to her.
"No, I'm not. I am so right, aren't I? You like Jason!"
"No, I don't!" Katherine persisted with panic. "Now, quiet down or someone will hear you."
"Oh, come on, this is huge."
"I don't like Jason," Katherine declared. "Now, can we drop it?"
Kimberly let it go for a second, but only to see Katherine's face. She was blushing furiously. "Katherine, I've been around enough girls to know when she likes someone, even if she won't admit to herself in a million years. Besides, you're blushing like you've just seen him naked."
"Kimberly!" Katherine dealt her friend a slap on the shoulder that unquestionably made Kimberly think twice about her words, but Kimberly was still smiling. "I don't like him, all right?"
"All right, I'll let it go," Kimberly ceded, returning to her chore. She knew when enough was enough. "I won't talk about it again," she said, knowing she could never make those words a promise. She thought everything would return to normal and she and Katherine would speak of much nicer things… until Katherine didn't take the plate Kimberly offered to dry and stood there looking at the wall behind the sink, practically rooted to the ground. "Kat, what's wrong? You okay?" When Katherine didn't answer, Kimberly started panicking. "Kat, what is it," she asked shaking Katherine's shoulder, keeping in mind to keep her voice low in case it was nothing.
Katherine should her head momentarily, her mind clear just for a second. "I don't know," she said after a while, hesitant about what was going on in her head. "I really don't."
"If you're right or not." After staying silent for another minute, she spoke again. "I've never really thought about it that much."
"What do you mean?"
"I'll admit, I did have a small crush on Jason back when we were rangers, but that was so long ago. I mean, I liked Tommy at the same time. For all I knew, I just had a thing for my male teammates."
"Except you didn't feel that way about Adam or Rocky," Kimberly supplied.
Katherine nodded. "It went away quickly, I never thought about it again. But until you said all that, I never realized how I never gave it much thought, even back then. Now, I'm just confused."
"Great," Kimberly said, "me and my big mouth."
"It wasn't that, Kimberly. I just… it just hit me a little harder than it did before."
"You really never thought about it?" Kimberly found that hard to believe.
"Really," Katherine answered honestly. "I thought it was as simple as that. But then why would I be so worried about it now?"
Kimberly shrugged. "Even at the reunion, you didn't think about it?"
Katherine shook her head. "I felt happy to see him again, but it was the same with everyone else. But it did feel nice remembering how I had a clean slate with him."
"A clean slate. You know, when I met him for the first time when Tommy brought him back to be our gold ranger," she clarified. "The others knew of my past, even Tanya, but they never held it against me. If they had, we would've been screwed as a team. But with Jason, he knew nothing about how I first knew you guys. It was a fresh start and I was only aware of how grateful I was for that when we spent that week in Angel Grove for the reunion."
Katherine didn't know what to say after that and neither did Kimberly. They continued with the dishes in silence, both wondering if it was easier just to let this go. But Kimberly thought she had to make one point clear.
"Be happy," she said. Katherine gave her a weird look. "You're a really good friend of mine. I want you to be happy."
"I am," Katherine assured.
"Without being confused about… stuff like this," she added. "I don't know what it is and I'm sorry for bringing it up but… Figure it out if you want, don't if you don't want to, just… be happy."
Katherine had to smile. Only Kimberly would say that to her. "I will," Katherine promised. "I just don't know if I can."
"Because of what happened with Tommy," she confessed.
"I thought you guys just drifted apart."
"We did. But after another boyfriend or two, I got to thinking and I couldn't help wondering that if it didn't work out with Tommy, was it going to work with anyone else? I mean, we were so close and we were so happy. There was no one else who knew that much about me like him, ranger past and everything included. If I grew apart from Tommy, am I meant to drift from every guy I date?"
Kimberly blinked a few times, knowing Katherine was waiting for an answer, any answer. "No," she answered strongly. "Of course not. Just because it didn't work with Tommy doesn't mean it won't work with anyone. Give yourself a break, Kat. Give a little time for the right guy to come along and sweep you off your feet. Don't think like that, okay? Blame it on those stupid lines."
"What lines," Katherine asked, suddenly confused again.
"Those lines. You know, there's a certain line at different levels with a guy." Kimberly had a bad feeling she was about to cause a lot of confusion for her and Katherine. "There's the one where the guy's a friend, not an acquaintance. Then there's one where you're friends, but not so close that you can't like him. There's the one where you know a lot about him but not too much and it feels like it's the perfect time to ask him out. There's one where you know a lot about each other and everyone sees a spark between you two and there's still a little room for you to go out with each other without it being weird. Then there's maybe another line or two before the one where you know each other too well that you can't go out with each other because you guys are, like, brother and sister close. Then there's the one after that where you're so close, but not in the family way, that you can't be yourself around anybody but him. That's when it gets too complicated, because you find yourself wanting to be with him romantically but a part of you knows he'll freak out, which freaks you out, too. A little further, you get to the line where you both want to be with each other, you feel like you can only be with each other and no one else, and maybe, just maybe, you two go for it. And then there's the one where you really can't go back once you've crossed it, because you're way too close beyond any other friendship you've had but you're so close that any thought of being together seems very wrong and disturbing and you… you just can't, you know? Yeah, those lines."
The confusion on Katherine's face had no limits. She was so lost. "Huh?"
Kimberly tried to backtrack her words but found herself just as confused. "I have no idea," she said finally breaking out into a shared laugh with Katherine when she did. "I think I've gone loony."
"Mm, I'll join you," Katherine said.
"Mind if I ask you one more thing, Kat?"
"Go ahead, as long as it has nothing to do with… that."
Kimberly bit her bottom lip, taking a moment to go over her words carefully. "I know it'll sound conceited but I've been dying to know for a long time. Yours and Tommy's breakup didn't have anything to do with me, did it?"
Katherine nearly dropped the plate in her hand when Kimberly finished. She thought she escaped that question but it was going to come up sooner or later. She didn't have anything to worry about; all she had to do was tell the truth. "Not really," she admitted. "I guess I had some insecurities when we first went out. I mean, after everyone thought you and Tommy were perfect for each other and what I did to you, I wasn't sure they'd accept me. For a while, I felt like I was going to live in your shadow forever, like I'd never measure up. But Tommy made sure I knew he would never compare me to you in our relationship. You were special to him and I wasn't going to deny him that, so I let it go. Rest assured, none of our problems involved you. Our breakup had nothing to do with you, so don't feel guilty." Katherine made sure to quickly add, "And it doesn't sound conceited. You have no idea how many people have asked me that."
Kimberly disagreed. "I have an idea. I got a few weird looks from Tommy's last team with his old students, from Tanya, and even some red rangers. I guess they thought I deserved some blame for what happened to you two."
"Well, don't mind them," Katherine advised. "They might not know it, but Tommy and I were very mature when we broke up. It was the right thing for us and we weren't chasing after childhood sweethearts at the time."
"I'm glad to hear that. Thanks, Kat. Sorry for prying."
Katherine promised her that she wasn't. "Some things, you just have to know. Hey, do you mind if I take a break, Kim?"
"No, of course not. Go, have some fun. Make fun of the idiots who lost out there."
"That's not nice, Kim," Katherine admonished, though her smile didn't say the same.
"I am being nice," Kimberly insisted. "Just go."
"Okay. I'll send Aisha in. Take a break in a few minutes and join us, will you?"
"Maybe," Kimberly said, knowing she wasn't going anywhere until she finished. Taylor's definitely rubbed off on me, she decided. She was surprised to hear Tommy walk in two minutes later.
"Mind if I help?" he asked.
"Go ahead, but I thought Kat was sending in Aisha."
"She did, but Aisha was in the middle of making sure Rocky didn't bet away their entire checking account and I volunteered," Tommy responded. "I didn't want to leave you all alone with our mess and some of the guys and I felt like you girls would be mean to us again if we made you clean the dishes anymore. In fact, I think Jason or Adam's going to come in to relieve you in a minute or two."
"I'm not leaving my station," Kimberly declared.
"What's with you and the kitchen?"
"Nothing. I'm just not going to leave until I finish these dishes."
"Whatever you say," Tommy said. "What were you and Kat talking about, anyway," he asked innocuously. He didn't know what to think when Kimberly actually took some time to think about what to say. "It was about me, wasn't it?"
"You're not the center of everyone's universe, Dr. Geller." Kimberly suddenly remembered Tommy saying almost the same exact thing once when they were in high school and he started out as the green ranger. Weird.
"Geller?" Tommy asked with a raised brow.
"You know, like in Friends, Ross Geller, the paleontologist."
"Yeah, I know. It's just no one's called me that except Jason and Rocky and that was when I was halfway through my Master's degree. And don't think you're getting away from my question," he reassured.
"Fine," Kimberly said. "So what if it was about you?"
"Nothing. I just wanted to know what you were talking about. You two were in here for a long time. If it bothers you, I won't talk about it."
Kimberly let her ex-boyfriend's words hang in the air for a while. She bit her lip distractedly again before saying anything again. "I just asked her what happened to you two. She told me you two just grew apart, and that was it."
"You sure you didn't talk about anything else," Tommy asked suspiciously. "I heard her practically shouting your name, like she was angry or something. We got worried out there for a minute."
"Just some girl stuff that guys will never, ever be able to talk about," Kimberly answered with a smug smirk.
"Then no way am I getting into that." Tommy continued to take up Katherine's job, eventually timing his drying to be in sync with Kimberly's rinsing. "What'd you think about it," he asked suddenly, not knowing where it came from.
"Our break up."
"Yours and Kat's?"
Kimberly took another moment to shrug. "I don't know. It felt weird, I guess, but then again so did everyone else, I think. We thought you guys were one of those 'together forever' types, and now you aren't so…"
"Well, they thought the same about us," Tommy pointed out.
"Yeah, they did."
"Guess all us ranger couples are doomed then."
"Not all of us," Kimberly countered. "I'm still rooting for Ashley and Andros. I know they'll sort everything out. There's always Rocky and Aisha; I don't think they'll break up, they need each other. Zhane and Karone are just moments away from getting together and Cole and Alyssa just happen to have a little bit of shy teenagers left in them."
"Like we were."
"Yup," she agreed with a smile.
"That still leaves everybody else."
"Well, don't tell Taylor this, but I'm hoping something happens between her and Eric before all this is over. I've just got to see how that turns out."
"Conspiring against your own sisters. Nice," Tommy teased.
"I'm not conspiring," Kimberly objected. "I just like dreaming little matchmaker dreams in my head."
"Which makes trouble for the rest of us."
"Hey," she said, splashing him with some soap from her side of the sink. "Be nice."
"Okay, okay, I will," Tommy surrendered, not wanting to repeat anything remotely related to that afternoon's football game. But he did take the liberty to retaliate by splashing her with some water from his side of the sink.
Kimberly didn't take the comeback well. more splashes from both sides and they were soon trying to evade the other's attacks, most of their shirts and faces wet from the water and soap when they finally decided to stop. They hadn't noticed that their laughing had grown so loud that Jason and Trini came in to see if they were all right. When they saw their friends' condition, they declared they would take over the rest of the dishes, pushing Tommy and Kimberly out of the kitchen and asking everyone to make sure they stayed out of the room.
"I knew I shouldn't have let you go in there," Aisha said to Tommy.
"She started it," he returned, just as Kimberly said, "He started it." They both started laughing again after that until Aisha got up from her seat and practically pushed the two apart, telling Adam to make sure Tommy stayed on the other side of the room.
"Don't worry," Adam guaranteed. "Besides, he still has a few bets to settle over here."
Aisha thanked her old teammate before silently promising not to let Kimberly and Tommy wash the dishes together again. She could only imagine the mess that would come out of it.
Whee, chapter 16 done. I'll try to hurry with the next one, but in the meantime, review if you'd like and amuse yourselves with other fics by, well, my other reviewers while I'm spending forever with the rest of this story. :P