Title: "A Day in the Life of Mr. Oliver and Ms. Hart"
One-Shot (1/1)
Written by: Shawn

Summary: A weekend work-day leads two former lovers turned business partners to reexamine where they've been, where they are, and where they might be going.

Category: Friendship/Romance Rating: PG-13 Ship: That guy with the bad memory who used to wear his long hair in a pony tail and the short gymnast who wore pink all the time.

Timeline: Everything up to the end of Power Rangers in Space is canon. After that its all me. Dino Thunder did not happen in this universe.

Disclaimer: Disney owns it all now... I think. shrugs
Email: Notes: Tommy and Kim are around 26 - 28 years old here.

Authors Notes 1: Jason and Kim went into business together and opened "Full Moon Gymnastics and Martial Arts Training Academy" two and a half years ago when Kim returned to California a year after college. When an overseas job offer was too good to pass up Jason sold his half of the school to Tommy six months ago, with Kim's blessing.

Authors Notes 2: Don't look for the infamous "Dear John" letter to be an issue here. It was written just about ten years ago and my Tommy and Kim are mature adults who talked it out and are past it. They're close friends again and now business partners. Now if only they could get rid of that damn attraction they still seem to have for each other. evil grin

Dedicated to: C and Pink-Green-White-4ever for being two amazing, inspiring, wonderful women

"I don't fear insects or spiders. At great heights, I jump off, smiling. In the face of death I wink. But, when I look into your eyes, I'm in fear of how much I love you"
Unknown Author

"Whatever it is I am looking for, I still don't know. But I do know that where ever it is, I want you to be there with me"
Unknown Author

"Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, falling in love with you was beyond my control"
Unknown Author

Full Moon Gymnastic and Martial Arts Training Academy 1414 West End

Saturday, June 22, 2006 8:20 AM Stone Canyon, California

"Why am I not surprised he's late," Kim muttered under her breath before using the heel of her shoe to kick the office door shut behind her. Stealing her gaze away from the wall clock, puzzled brown eyes graced over the messy oak-finished desk facing her own as she rounded it. How Tommy ever found anything he needed was a mystery she wanted no part of. He simply possessed no paperwork organizational skills whatsoever. She long ago accepted that he was a hands on type of guy and probably wasn't going to change anytime soon.

Alas, her beloved ice coffee gave her the caffeine rush necessary to get up this early on a Saturday morning when she was usually still asleep in bed.

Kim sat the large Starbucks cup on her well organized desk, along with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. The same donuts she asked Tommy to bring with him this morning. The same donuts she was sure he would forget as she was sure the sun would rise each morning. Never mind that. His memory was better than she expected it to be when they began working together, minus an old-school relapse every now and then. Since he had far more patience than she did with rude, overbearing parents they were a pretty good compliment to one another.

So far, so good.

Seated comfortably behind her desk, feet now resting on top of it, Kim shut her eyes while enjoying the rare silence her school wasn't known for. With six full class loads, plus a schedule of evening classes a quiet atmosphere was foreign around here. With the school finally in the black after a rough first year and a half, it's turning in a nice profit thanks to their great staff, their new advertising campaign in a few of the local newspapers, and the notoriety that the school is owned and operated by a sixth-degree black belt and a Pan Global gold medalist.

Name recognition went a long way in swaying parents opinions in your direction.

One of the black and white fliers given to all the students last Thursday when the water main in the basement ruptured caught Kim's attention. The school was going to be closed until Wednesday for repairs. Those repairs will be finalized in the next hour as they are meeting with the plumbing company they were referred to by Adam's father.

Behind another delicious sip of her ice coffee, Kim knew the problem could have been allot worse. Unexpected things come up once in a while when you run a business. At least they're only losing three days instead of a week or more. Unfortunately this morning's meeting wasn't the end of their work day, but the beginning. After dealing with the basement issue Tommy's driving them to Santa Monica so they can renew their business license.

"What a fun-filled two and a half hour drive that'll be." Kim's sarcasm aside, at least she had donuts to munch on. Tommy's company wouldn't be so bad either. They get along great and she had to admit to herself that if she had to be stuck in a car with anyone for a couple of hours she'd probably want it to be him. Now if she said that to Aisha or Trini they wouldn't be angry as much as giving her "The Look." The one that meant "You want Tommy" without them even saying it.

Honestly, she didn't want Tommy. She was past Tommy now. But she does like him and enjoy his company. He's fun to be around and their senses of humor click pretty well together. Sha and Trini refuse to accept that, much to Kim's annoyance from time to time.

"It's not like he wants me either," she noted to herself with no sadness before finishing off her ice coffee. She switched on her computer, ever thankful for investing in her new dual-core PC as it loaded up lightening quick. She logged into her SBC Global email account and saw new emails from Aisha and Trini at the top, along with spam on how she can win at any slot machine in Vegas, play the Colombian lottery to win millions, and increase her penis size by three inches in three months. The latter she forwarded to Rocky with the message "Now you can have five inches of manhood," just to mess with him.

Doing that often made her day.

Kim opened Aisha's email next, which contained some naughty jokes, a weekly reminder that her birthday was a mere two months away, and the amazingly snoopy question of "Have you boned Tommy yet?" She shook her head at her friend's endless pestering and replied "I boned him once and that is the end of my Tommy-boning days. And can't we mature, intelligent, college educated women come up with a better word for love making than boning?"

Jeez, one drunken girls night she accidentally shouted that she really loved the guy, which she didn't mean seeing as how drunk she was when she followed that statement by discussing how big a whore Smurfette must have been as she was the only girl in a village of one hundred Smurfs. Discussing old 1980's cartoons wasn't exactly indicative of a sound mind that night. Her gal pals just wouldn't let it go.

Opening Trini's email next, the former yellow Ranger commented on how dating Billy was pretty damn wonderful despite his quirks. She pondered how unfair it was that a brainless twit like Jessica Simpson was a multi-millionaire while she had to go to work each day, and asked how the Tommy-boning was going.

Kim just rolled her eyes, and then started typing. She wrote how genuinely happy she was that after all this time Trini's relationship with Billy was going well, then detailed how the size of Jessica Simpson's cup size was in line with the average males IQ, and reiterated that boning Tommy wasn't on her "Rest of My Life" schedule. She pressed send and then noticed Aisha, ever the early bird, had already replied.

"So have you freaked Tommy yet?" was the message inside the email titled "A response from a mature, intelligent, college educated woman." Kim laughed out loud and then logged out of her email account. That was enough of that.

Suddenly a phone rang, but it was the private line on Tommy's desk. She heard his answering machine message play and then the beep. A woman's voice left a message.

"Hey sexy."

Kim exhaled bitch under her breath. She instantly recognized that voice.
"Look, I really enjoyed going out for drinks the other night and the long talk we had afterwards."

'Long talk?' Kim hadn't heard anything about that. The single mother of a twelve year old girl in her afternoon gymnastics class often stared at Tommy like she would chew broken glass and run a mile over red hot coals to hook up with him.

"So I was wondering if you have any plans tonight? No big if you do, and please don't think bad of me that I'm leaving this message at your home number, cell phone, and the office."

Jesus, were women that desperate these days? Kim hated girls like that. Sure, Tommy's handsome, successful, and a great catch. But to leave three messages this early in the morning was quite insane and a little scary.

"Call me when you can any time today. Or this afternoon. Or this evening. Or not... Its cool either way. Bye."

Another beep signaled that she hung up. Kim's eyes focused on the blinking red dot on Tommy's answering machine.

Sara Simmons put the skank in skanky. She hit on every male teacher at the school at one point or another before finally somehow snaring Tommy into going out for drinks one night. Kim knew she probably tried to seduce him and wondered if that 'long talk' was a code for some naked sin they committed. It wasn't like she cared who Tommy slept with or anything, but being his good friend, she felt it was her duty to at least look out for him and make sure he didn't end up with crap.

Sara Simmons was crap. 100 USDA crap.

While stretching her arms out above her head in a relaxing pose, Kim rose to her feet and walked around to Tommy's desk. She was going to have a long talk with him about Sara to voice her concerns, but for now she wanted to make sure he received the message so that she could bring Sara up. She tapped her fingers over his desk top and then pressed the 'Save' button on his answering machine.

An electronic voice said "Message deleted."

"Oops." Kim was back in her chair five seconds later. How did she ever forget that answering machines save automatically? She must have pressed the wrong button. Maybe it was time to get her vision checked out. While reaching for another donut she allowed those thoughts to flee her mind. She was only looking out for Tommy's best interests the same way she hoped he did for her. After all, he wouldn't want her to date, sleep with, and one day marry just anyone.

He would want the best for her.

Kim's eyes darted towards the door when Tommy walked in, and then looked to the wall clock. "You're..."

"Late, I know." Wearing an apologetic expression, he saw the box of donuts on her desk and sighed. "I..."

"Forgot, I know." Smiling at him despite his forgetfulness, Kim shoved the box across her desk to his. "Eat up. We got another thirty minute before the plumbers arrive."

The first donut was practically inhaled before Tommy sat down at his desk. "Thanks."

"We're a team. I just do my part."

"Kim?"

"Yep?"

"Marry me?"

"I don't marry men who forget donuts," she replied teasingly enough as they shared a tender moment that wasn't angsty at all. They weren't above some friendly flirting and had each offered marriage proposals in the last couple of weeks whenever one did something nice for the other. All were turned down of course, but were just part of the way they related to each other. Their new friendship had a rhythm all its own.

While booting up his computer, Tommy noticed the strangest thing. On his answering machine there was a small smudge of glaze over the 'delete' button. Having dodged Sara's two earlier attempts to call him this morning, the strange anomaly before him was curious enough. He caught Kim watching him, and then her eyes darted away. He didn't want to look too closely at what that meant, but he certainly didn't mind what it may have implied.

Tommy grabbed another donut and then checked his email account. "Kim, why does Aisha keep sending me emails asking me if I've boned anyone recently?"

"Sha's crazy like that. She's in-between boyfriends and borderline psychotic due to the utter lack of sex in her life."

"Join the club," Tommy snorted while sorting emails.

"You and me both."

Brown eyes met the same across the table. "We could fix that, you know?"

The sexy smirk he wore had no effect on her at all. It certainly wasn't why her feet were now tapping the floor under her desk. "However would we do that?"

"We could set Aisha up with someone," he offered innocently enough, and then enjoyed the light blush that fell over her cheeks. "Whatever did you think I meant?"

"Don't make me throw my stapler at you." Kim hated she fell for that, even though she found it amusing. They enjoyed a close, intimate friendship that allowed for a racy playfulness between them. "You look nice today. Is that a new shirt?"

"Well, you helped me pick it out."

"No wonder it looks so nice."

Tommy grumbled, "You never let me pick any of your clothes."

"You only want to pick out lacy underwear and swimsuits."

"I'm not seeing a problem with that."

Sometimes men had to be ignored. Even when they were really cute. A fact that wasn't lost on Kim despite her not having any romantic interest in him anymore. "Be sure to thank your parents for the invite to their thirty year anniversary party."

"I'm surprised you trust I'll remember."

"I'm sure you remembered to buy them a gift, right?" His slow to bug out eyes said it all. "Don't worry. I already found a nice gift shop in Santa Monica we can stop by when we're done at City Hall."

Tommy truly wondered what he would do without her sometimes. "Should I write you a thank you letter?"

"You know we outlawed all letters between us five years ago." Kim heard him typing and then a minute later her email icon came up. She logged back onto her account and saw an email from Tommy. It said 'Thanks for putting up with my daily amnesia. PS: You look hot in that skirt. PSS: Donna Martin's dad asked about you yesterday. He wanted to know if you were single.'

It was Tommy's turn to hear the typing as he awaited her reply. Thankfully, his email server was being kind this mooring as the message came right through. It read 'You're welcome. You deal with the nutcase parents while I remember stuff. PS: You smell really good. PSS: Donna Martin's dad has a severe case of nose hair. You had better not give him any hope that he would ever get a date with me.'

As silly as this was considering they were sitting facing each other, Kim received another email from him. He wrote 'We're a good team. PS: Wanna bone? PSS: I told him you used to be a man.'

Tommy heard her typing so fast that he started chuckling before she even finished. Another email came in and said 'We're like siblings smirk. PS: No, I'm not that desperate wink. PSS: Technically, I was a man for a day. Billy and I shall never forget it. Let's not ever discuss this ever again.'

He sat back and enjoyed the gorgeous smile on her face as their gazes locked softly. Suddenly, something outside their office window caught his eye. A truck pulled into the parking lot. "The plumbers are here."

"Time to go to work." Kim rose from her chair and grabbed her purse. She joined Tommy by the door as they exited the office together. "Tommy?"

"Yeah?"

"Sara called just before you got here."

"I know."

"Good. I'm glad that's settled."

Tommy chose not to pursue why she did what she did. Instead, he simply enjoyed being with her. Some things were better left unsaid... for now.

Tommy's Red 2006 Ford Mustang GT California State Route 2 Highway

Saturday, June 22, 2006 10:50 AM Approaching Santa Monica, California

For Tommy Oliver, speed equaled freedom.

Traffic laws aside for the moment, he's whizzing past cars on the highway at nearly a hundred miles an hour just for the adrenalin rush. His racing days might be over, but the daring hunger that went with competing in a sport like that required sustenance from time to time. He had made peace with the fact that he's a danger addict forever craving his next fix. Rangering for as long as he did, and then jumping straight into the world of Nascar for three years was testament to that.

Now on the open road he's able to cut loose and grab life by the throat again.

Another warm, sunny California morning set the stage as he took Kim on the ride of her life. Her silence thus far accompanied the cheeky smile she wore as she no doubt recognized that he was showing off for her. He didn't care that she knew, as it only underscored how he couldn't hide anything from her. He never wanted to anyway.

Having her by his side only tempted him to drive faster. He wanted her on the edge of her seat. Once upon a time he lived for her attention and found that in the here and now he still enjoyed when it was focused solely on him. She hadn't complained once about how fast he was going or that she was scared. She'd never show fear in front of him anyway. He knew that for certain. So until she was ready to break the quiet between them he intended to enjoy every second of her sweet amusement.

Sparing a quick glance out the corner of her eye, Kim caught sight of the gentle upturn of his lips into a confident smirk when he successfully passed five cars in a maneuver she was sure she would have killed herself if she attempted. He's such a showoff, and yet he's been that way for years, albeit in a humble manner. The irony of being able to pull off both was just another example of how special he truly was.

For the record, her right hand was gripping the armrest tighter then she normally did when she was the passenger. It wasn't that she felt she was in any real danger seeing as she never felt she was in harms way when he was nearby. But he was driving very fast and being a bit unnerved was expected. Still, she felt so alive as the gorgeous weather complemented the wind caressing her hair like a lovers touch.

Ignoring the warnings of her heart, Kim knew she was drawn to Tommy's dangerous spirit. She secretly hated that he could excite her so easily, though she had no interest in seeing where that could lead them. She hated boring men and he couldn't be that if he tried. He was more than a little entertaining, and for that she was grateful. In addition, she surmised that it was okay to think your close male friend was kinda hot. Or in his case really hot.

Pushing that risky thought aside, Kim turned to him at last. "You having fun yet?"

"Are you?"

While partially thankful for the heavier traffic up ahead that forced him to slow down, she had no intention of revealing that. "I thought you could drive faster."

"Riiiiight." She'd always bust his chops. Maybe that was why he liked be around her so much. She was definitely a match for him. "You okay?"

"Of course."

"I saw you gripping that armrest pretty hard." Her mute frown said it all. She was busted. "I'm sorry if I scared you."

Kim sent an 'as if' glare his way. "You never scared me."

"If you say so."

"I say so." Kim playfully bit her bottom lip and then laughed. "I'm not used to driving that fast, okay."

Tommy smiled at her mild dismay. "I'll go slower next time."

"I'm not sure the race car driver side of your personality can pull that off."

"Then how about you drive next time?" Tommy added, "Of course that will double the travel time." His felt rather than saw the scowl directed at him.

"You're not scoring any points, hot shot."

"I didn't know I needed too." She didn't deny it, though she didn't confirm it either. Somehow she charmed him even when she wasn't trying.

With only a few more miles to go before they reached their turnoff, Kim settled into a relaxed state that allowed her to enjoy the long ride. With a payment arrangement and repair schedule in place for the school, she had no complaints. "Do you ever miss racing?"

Tommy briefly pondered her question. "Sometimes, but that lifestyle is very demanding and the travel schedule is beyond hectic. There's a lot of politics that go on behind the scenes between the teams and the sponsors and all that. I was only moderately good at it anyway. I never developed that life-long passion for racing that I have for the martial arts. I did make some pretty good money for the time I put into it, so that was a plus."

"I remember watching a couple of your races when I was living in Florida. I was terrified you might get hurt someday."

Tommy shook his head, having heard that many times before. "You, my parents, Kat, and just about everyone I knew felt that way," he revealed. "Racing is a risk every time you take to the track. The fear can either push you to succeed or damn you to fail. Fear never affected me much. After being a Ranger, racing Nascar was easy."

Though she would never tell him this to his face she was so glad his racing days were over. Even when they were apart for a number of years she cared about him and wanted him to be safe. At least now she could keep an eye on him herself. "What was your favorite race?"

Tommy started to answer, and then recalled a certain magical summer night from their past. "Racing my Falcon Zord against your Crane Zord from Angel Grove to Las Vegas and back when we were 17." The wicked grin painted on his face matched her own. Of course she remembered that night. She was as feisty and competitive as he had ever seen her. She had his heart in her back pocket and he hadn't wanted it any other way. "That's my favorite race ever."

Ah, their infamous midnight run to Sin City. Kim hadn't thought about that in years, and yet now as she rode beside him all the cherished memories of that exciting night flooded back to her in a swell of emotion. Ever the 'good kids,' it was the summer before their senior year and they wanted to do something wild for once. Something that was out of character and crazy just to say they did it. So they 'borrowed' their Zords after Zordon powered down for the evening and raced them clear across the state at midnight to the Paradise Inn Hotel in Las Vegas and back. They pushed their Zord's engines to their very limits and used every trick in the book to beat each other.

The bet they made was one that ensured a good time would be had by all.

The winner had to make out with the loser.

Looking back on those days of carefree teenage love, Kim had never enjoyed losing so much. That night in the dark Zord hanger bay just after they returned... how hot they were for each other... seated on his lap with her tongue in his mouth... that was the closest they had come to sleeping together up to that point. Even thinking about it now left her breathless and a bit flushed.

"Earth to Kim. Come in Kim."

"Uh, sorry." Damn, he caught her daydreaming. "It was fun," she added in a squeaky voice that she immediately hated.

Tommy raised a brow. "Only fun?"

He was baiting her as clear as day. She exhaled a deep breath she didn't even realize she was holding and then admitted, "It was a great night."

"Yes it was." Tommy sighed as the images of yesteryear played like a movie reel in his mind. In those days being a Ranger, practicing martial arts, and being with Kim were the greatest joys in his life. "We were crazy back then."

"Yeah, crazy for each other," accidentally slipped out of Kim's mouth before she could catch herself. There was a moment's worth of embarrassment and then acknowledgment that the old days were pretty damn wonderful and there was no reason to act like they weren't. They might not be the present, but they were fond memories.

Tommy and Kim didn't say much for the next couple of minutes as the radio station provided background noise for their trip into the city. Both were lost in the realm their inner thoughts.

For the second time in a row after stopping at a red light, Tommy found himself unable to resist the temptation to steal a glance at Kim's smooth legs, decadently displayed by the short skirt she wore today. He secretly loved her shapely legs, toned by years of professional gymnastics. She might be just a close, personal friend but she was still... beautiful.

"Should I have worn a shorter skirt?"

Her teasing tone of voice only made him feel worse that he was caught checking her out. "Only if you wanted to turn me on."

"So I haven't already?"

"Your skirt's not 'that' short."

Though they shared a dear friendship, the attraction between them was something only recently she's become comfortable with again. They flirted in the context of being playful. They're adults after all, and had a history that they never denied.

Tommy switched lanes and then made a left turn off the highway. "How's your brother doing?"

"He's doing great. I spoke to him early last week. He sent me pictures of my nephews in their Pop Warner football league uniforms. He's over the moon about his boys playing football and already knows who he wants them to play for in the pros. He's a nut but I love him anyway."

"I played high school football for all of three weeks before I realized it just wasn't for me. I really sucked at it. Hopefully your nephews will get more out of it than I did."

"From what my brother says they already love it," she told him. "How's David? I haven't heard you mention him in a while."

"We don't get to talk as much as I'd like. He's taking a full class load this summer and he's been dating a pre-med student. It seems pretty serious between them. He sounds pretty happy every time we talk though." Ominously enough, Tommy continued, "At least someone is."

Kim's ability to read him like a book picked up on his change of mood immediately. She saw it all in his eyes. "What's wrong? And before you say nothing, remember who you're talking too. Eventually I'd drag it out of you anyway, so why waste our time? Spill?" As a somber ambience fell over him she began to worry. "Please?"

"Katherine called me last night. Her and Stefan are engaged."

As happy as the news was that Kat and her boyfriend of the last 15 months were engaged, Kim hated the slight clench of her own heart at the way it seemed to affect Tommy. Alas, she couldn't say she didn't expect his reaction to be this way. "Are you feeling like you missed your chance?"

"I save that emotion for you," was all he said without looking at her one time. He swore she wasn't breathing she was so quiet. "I'm honestly happy for Kat. Stefan's a good guy. I've met him five times and he's amazing with her. I guess it's just that I'm kind of lonely myself, and seeing my ex engaged just made me feel..."

"Lonelier," Kim finished for him.

"Exactly."

"Are you sure you're not jealous?"

"I can't say there isn't a small part of me that's jealous of her having a committed relationship, but no, not really on a level of me wanting her. She's with someone who's able to give her more than I ever could. Emotionally, that is. I think the world of her and always will, but we were never meant to be together and we both realize that."

Whatever Kim was feeling she decided she'd deal with it privately later on. For now she intended to be here for him. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm good. Don't worry. I'm not throwing myself a pity party or anything."

"Good, cause I wouldn't come."

"Are you saying I couldn't make you come?"

His not-so-subtle double entendre was amusing indeed. How in the blink of an eye did he turn their conversation completely around? She liked his ability to do that far too much. "Just keep your eyes on the road, okay."

Kim's laughter was music to his ears. He could rely on her and trust her with his innermost feelings. Even his insecurities. Reaching between them, he took her left hand in his. "I'm not unhappy in life," he explained. "I have my family and friends, my martial arts, my school..." His eyes suddenly locked with hers. "And you."

"Always," she declared with a gentle squeeze of his hand.

Tommy certainly hoped so, but as things were becoming emotionally tense he calmly released her hand and smiled. "So how have you been doing lately?"

"Oh, I don't know. I've been writing guys alot of 'Dear John' letters lately. I like to break up with guys even when I'm not dating them." Yeah, she got him to lighten up just that fast. He's laughing and that was a good sign. "I send them to restaurants, Starbucks, Burger Kings and B.Dalton Book Stores. I'm just breaking up with men left and right these days."

"Cute, Kim. Real cute."

She glanced at him and then back at the road. "Like you, I'm kind of lonely. I need a vacation and a new car and a small dog. I may be looking for unconditional love," she chuckled. "Dogs are good for that, right?"

"You're looking for something you already have."

"So you're going to take me on a vacation, buy me a new car, and bring me a small dog?"

"I need a vacation as bad as you do, I can barely afford my new car, and small dogs are overrated."

"What about the unconditional love?"

"Like I said, you already have it."

Throwing caution to the wind, Kim decided to tempt fate. "I could use some great sex too."

"Sorry, Kim. I just don't see you that way anymore." He struggled to keep a straight face and then nearly lost it when she leaned over into his ear and whispered...

"I can bend my body in ways that would make you want to cry."

At the next Stop Sign he turned to face her, their lips a fraction of an inch apart. "Been there. Done that. I even got the "I rocked Kim's World' t-shirt."

"Jerk," she beamed a teasing smile in his face and then settled back in her seat. Suddenly she remembered something and quickly pulled out her cell phone. "We forgot to renew our ad in the Daily Herald." She checked her watch and muttered 'Damn' under her breath. "If we don't do it in hour we won't make the Monday addition."

"Do you have Gale's number saved in your cell phone?"

"I accidentally erased a ton of names the other day." Kim heard felt Tommy shifting beside her, and then he offered her his wallet.

"Look through my business cards. I'm pretty sure I have one of hers in there."

Kim took the wallet from his hand and began thumbing through it until a particular picture caught her eye. It was one of her when she was 17. She remembered Tommy took it at park when they were playing softball. He always said it was his favorite because she had such a lovely smile and looked all hot and sweaty carrying a bat. Even after all these years and everything that's happened he still carried her picture with him.

That touched something warm and intimate inside her.

When she turned the picture around she found the words "My Beautiful" on the back in his handwriting. She was truly his back in those days, so in love she couldn't see straight. She adored him to no end back when they were so young and had no idea of what the future held. The rainy day guilty-pain of being the one who broke his precious heart still hurt her whenever she thought about it. Though they lived lives and loved others through the years as they grew into adulthood she would never forget her high school sweetheart. The sun set in Tommy's eyes once upon a time.

The man beside her was not perfect, nor would he ever be. But no man had touched her heart quite the way he did.

"Tommy, I love you."

Spoken sincerely and accepted as such, he nodded. "I know. I love you too."

"Wanna bone?"

He just burst out laughing. "Kim, shut up."

Brookston Brothers An upscale gift shop in Santa Monica Place Mall Located on Broadway at the south end of Third Street Promenade

Saturday, June 22, 2006 3:30PM Santa Monica, California

In the wise opinion of Tommy Oliver, Kimberly Anne Hart was as astoundingly infuriating as she was amazingly beautiful.

Trailing behind her in the fifth store thus far since they entered the mall an hour ago, especially after the grueling four-hours they spent at City Hall renewing their business license due to the computers being down, left him mentally and physically exhausted. He was hungry, tired, and becoming more impatient by the second. He was suddenly wondering if the best anniversary gift for his parents would be a simple congratulatory card from Wal-Mart and him mowing their grass on the weekend for the nest two months.

If it wasn't for the tantalizing view of Kim's curvy little gymnastics-toned backside in that short skirt he probably would have gone crazy a long time ago.

If she drug him to even one more store he still might.

Tommy considered that the three-story, 570,000 square foot Santa Monica Place mall must be heaven on earth for the former Pink Ranger. That woman simply loved to shop and could lose herself for long periods of time wandering from store to store in search of the perfect version of whatever it was she was looking for. Of all the changes she's gone through from her teen years to now her love of shopping wasn't one of them.

Brookston Brothers was one of those upscale boutique's that catered to the distinguished customer with a nod towards class over flash. As Tommy followed Kim through the modest-sized store he caught sight of some of the fancier items prices and instantly knew this was going to cost him. Alas, it wasn't every family where the parents had been married for thirty years. He had to get them something special for that occasion and being that he was their only child he had his work cut out for him.

"Look at these," Kim pointed towards a collection of sixteenth-century Schonbek crystal chandeliers. "They have a timeless quality about them." She watched as Tommy gave them the once over. "To me they inspire class, romance, and beauty. What do you think?"

Tommy shrugged. "Not bad."

"Not bad? Just not bad?" Kim was almost offended. "One of those would make a great gift."

"It's just a chandelier."

"Its what it represents that counts."

"What, a huge dent in my wallet?"

"Your parents have been married for thirty years, Tommy. My parents made just over half of that. Unless you're about to have to hunt for your dinner in the forest with a bow and arrow you need to spend whatever is necessary to make them feel special."

Echoing a sigh of mild frustration, he had to agree. "We'll come back to these. They're in the maybe pile."

Kim nodded. A small victory was a victory nonetheless. "Come on. We have several more aisles to peruse. Your credit card is about to get a major league workout."

That didn't sound like music to Tommy's ears at all. "Remind me to never take you shopping with me again."

"The funny thing is I'd actually have too."

Careful not to miss anything special, Kim led him down the next aisle over until they came upon a row of gorgeous hand-painted vases and hand-carved wooden statues. Tommy shook his head and just kept right on moving. It was her turn to enjoy the view as she appreciated how he walked with the confident grace of a warrior and had the body to match.

Tommy listened for her footsteps behind him. "What are you doing?"

Kim grinned as they approached the front of the store again. "Just checking out your ass."

"If you're enjoying the view the least you could do is shove a twenty down my jeans."

"And here I thought I rated a freebie." She stuck her tongue out at him for fun. He returned the playful gesture.

When they reached the counter they were greeted once more by Cassie, the overly friendly blonde in her early twenties with the kind of long legs that could give Katherine a run for her money. She was polite enough in Kim's opinion when they arrived, though she was annoyed at the way the younger girl couldn't take her eyes off of Tommy from the moment she saw him. As usual he was oblivious to how his good looks effected women.

Kim wasn't.

While sparing a quick glance at the short brunette, Cassie turned her full attention to the handsome male companion. He was probably taken and she knew she shouldn't get her hopes up, but she still gave him her sexiest smile. "Whatever can I do for you?"

Tommy caught Kim rolling her eyes and had no clue what that was about. "Uhm, my parents are celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary in two weeks."

"Thirty years?" Cassie was more than a little impressed. Such a feat in this day and age almost was unheard of. "Wow, that's quite an accomplishment."

"Thanks," Tommy replied. "Anyway, I need to buy them a gift. So far I haven't found anything that really felt right yet. Any suggestions?"

Cassie thought about his predicament for a moment while gazing dreamily at him. "We have some wonderful Roman, Victorian, and Ancient Egyptian wall paintings in the back on your left. We also have some beautiful Native American inspired oil paintings on the right. They make wonderful gifts for anniversaries."

Tommy thought it over and had to admit he liked her suggestions. "What do you think, Kim?"

"As cheap as you've been acting today I thought you'd just draw them a picture."

"Or maybe write them a letter? I'm sure you could help me with that." Her snarky sarcasm was met with the same. "Although you've never been very good at sending letters to places people actually live."

As highly as Kim thought of Tommy, sometimes she really wanted to choke him. Not enough to kill him, but just make him go unconscious for a couple of minutes. She affectionately shoved at his chest. "Go check out the paintings."

"Are you coming?"

'You wish you could make me come' was dancing on the tip of her wicked tongue. She declined the chance to rip him in front of the cashier in lieu of another approach. "I'm going to check out those antique lamps over there. When I'm done I'll find you."

Wearing a devilishly mischievous smile, Kim addled up close to his side, nestled against him, and then whispered, "If you shop with an open mind and be a good boy I'll give you a kiss when we're done here."

As maniacal a tease as Kim was, Tommy didn't dare risk that she wasn't this time. He was curious enough to play along just to see how far she'd go. If she wanted to play games he was more than up to the challenge. "I might adore you forever but don't keep me waiting that long."

"So you only adore me now?"

"You're reaching, Beautiful. Now get moving."

"You think you can whip out that old nickname and get your way?"

"Its never failed me before," he smiled dearly at her. She had no come back for that except to blush.

Cassie watched Tommy walk off and sighed at how good he looked. "Your husband is so sweet."

Kim's ears perked up big-time when she heard that assumption from Cassie. Just two years shy of thirty, it wasn't unheard of for her to be out with a man near her age and have him mistaken for her husband. And this isn't the first time its happened when she was out with Tommy. Maybe they gave off some kind of vibe she wasn't really aware of. She honestly intended to correct this cashier with a crush and probably make her day. Then the blonde could go in the back to help Tommy look for a gift and strike up a conversation. Who knows, they just might hit it off.

After all, Kim wanted the best for Tommy. Cassie was pretty and seemed interested in him. It was up to him to get to know her and see if they could work out or not.

Maybe today would be the start of something new and wonderful.

"He has his moments."

Dammit, where in the hell did that come from! With her poker face firmly in place, Kim slowly began backing away. Cassie nodded respectfully enough as she accepted Tommy was a lost cause.

Happy for a moment alone, Kim strolled down the aisle where the antique lamps were. She considered that perhaps Cassie was a serial killer posing as a daytime cashier and doing what she just did may have saved Tommy's life. Yeah, that could be it. If she hadn't allowed that assumption to last then he might of been found chopped to pieces in the trunk of Cassie's car when she inevitably went nuts. Yep, that made perfectly good sense. No doubt Rocky would agree with her.

Kim decided to not think about it any further.

When nothing particularly interesting caught her notice, Kim left that section of the store behind and found Tommy wandering aimlessly in the paintings area. Something tender stirred inside her as he resembled a lost little boy and she suddenly wanted to ruffle his short dark hair. Her very good friend needed her guidance and so she snuck up on him and quickly looped her arm around his. "Something had to have impressed you by now, right?"

"I've seen a few that I thought were nice. There was this one falcon portrait in the Native American section I might buy for my apartment."

Kim needed him to focus on the task at hand. "What about a gift for your parents? Anything new to dump in the maybe pile?"

"I haven't seen anything that screamed 'Thirty Years, Wow!' to me yet."

"Your problem is looking for something that screams that," she laughed at choice of words. He was so much better at kicking things than picking them out. "Honey, you have no skills at shopping whatsoever."

Her choice of endearment didn't fly over his head as he tried to hide how nice it was to hear her call him that. "Oh, so I'm your honey now?"

The mirth in his voice teased her to no end. Kim played it off though. "Don't get too happy. I call most of my guy friends honey."

"So if I call Jason or Adam or Zack right now they will all be able to tell me that you've called them honey before?"

Defiant to the bitter end, Kim halted in front of him at the end of the aisle, her arms across her chest in a challenging pose. "You really want to be my only honey that bad, don't ya?"

"I thought I already was?" His masculine gaze defied her to deny his claim.

"On days you remember to bring the donuts... maybe."

Exasperated by her as usual, Tommy just shook his head. "Lead the way, 'honey'."

With a slightly triumphant smirk in place, Kim advanced on the next row of contemporary paintings. He joined her as they toured past each one, hunting down that one special piece. "Some of these are really nice. I may have to come back here and pick up a few for my apartment."

"I bet my parents wouldn't mind a nice gift certificate."

Kim knew he couldn't possibly hate shopping that much, could he? "Thirty years, Tommy. A gift certificate doesn't honor or glorify thirty years of marriage."

Yet another long aisle of art work stretched out before him. "Kim, I drove two and a half hours to Santa Monica only to sit in what I didn't expect to be a packed Secretary of State office for four hours and now we've lost another two hours searching for the holy grail of gifts. I haven't had breakfast or lunch. I'm tired and sick of shopping."

"Oh cry for me Argentina," Kim remarked in a sing-song tone of voice. "I was with you the whole time, remember?"

"Sorry?" he offered as an apology and then reached for and squeezed her hand. She's dear to him and he sometimes wished he could convey it better. "Thank you for helping me look around. I do appreciate it."

"I know you do." Resting her back against the flat wall in the back of the store, Kim asked, "So did you have any other ides of something special you could do for your parents?"

"Well, I did have this one idea."

"And it was?"

"Brady, my travel agent buddy offered me some discount vacation packages. There was this three-day trip to Manhattan that included sailing at night with champagne. That sounded pretty good to me and I could pay for it in installments."

Kim stared at him with a dumbfounded expression on her face. "Tommy, that's a perfect gift to give them. Why didn't you mention it bef..." The answer was obvious. "You forgot?"

"It slipped my mind." Tommy observed Kim as she seemed far more genuinely amused than frustrated with him. She knew his faults and accepted them as part of who he was, though she never denied herself the fun of messing with him over his bad memory. "So we're cool?"

"Yeah, we're cool." Suddenly her heart leapt inside her chest when he closed the distance between them, now towering over her intimately. She was forced back into the wall, trapped right where he wanted her. As if the intoxicating scent of his skin wasn't already wrecking havoc on her senses, the hunger she found in his eyes scared as much as excited her. "Are you gonna frisk me to make sure I'm not shoplifting?"

Those lovely lips of hers curled into a evil smile he couldn't wait to kiss even if it were only one more time in his life. "I was a good boy," he began softly until she caught on, and then shyly ducked her head. The tip of his finger gently pushed up her chin. "I want what you offered me."

Thought caught a bit off guard at first, Kim quickly recovered. She didn't let the simmering heat between them make her lose her cool no matter how fast her heart was beating. His intentions were unmistakable as he desired the kiss he was told to expect. Part of her feared what might happen if he simply took it. Or if she gave it to him in the manner he obviously wanted. "Refresh my memory?"

"I was promised a kiss, Ms. Hart," he vocalized in such a way that she seemed to soften before his very eyes. "Don't tell me you're going to chicken out?"

"We're just friends, right?"

"Which answer will get me my kiss?"

"Just how long have you been thinking about kissing me?" He had the nerve to check his watch.

"Fifteen whole minutes."

Her teeth nibbled her bottom lip to keep from laughing. Why was she letting him get so close? How close to the line did he want to go? And what about her? The hauntingly sweet memory of his lips pressed to hers had crossed her mind from time to time. "One kiss," she whispered seductively, now tracing a lone finger slowly over his lips. "Just one."

He couldn't resist a little bite at her finger and then gazed long into her eyes. "Go for it."

Tommy didn't notice Kim slipping her hand inside her purse to produce a small object. "Here you go," she said, now dangling the chocolate droplet covered in silver foil known as the Hershey's Kiss by its little string before him. The anger began to rise on his face and she couldn't get over how sexy he looked when he was pissed at her. "Enjoy your kiss. Its my last one."

After dropping it in his hand, Kim quickly ducked out under his arm and walked up the aisle toward the front of the store. Tommy didn't move at first, and only turned around when he was certain he wasn't going to slam his fist into the wall. She was playing with fire and didn't seem to care. She was going to pay for that.

By the time Tommy reached the front of the store Kim was standing by the counter chatting with Cassie, who was unwrapping something that resembled a painting. He overheard them chatting about the new shipment that arrived.

Cassie looked up when she saw him. "I was just telling your wife..."

Tommy was sure he heard Cassie wrong. "Wife?" Kim loudly cleared her throat next to him while looking away. My, my, my, the former Pink Ranger's been a bad and very possessive girl, he thought to himself and secretly loved it. "I'm sorry, Cassie. Go on."

Cassie caught the weird exchange that just took place but paid it no mind. "Well, we just got a couple of new pieces and I found this one that I think you might love. Its a shot in the dark I know, but here goes." She lifted a painting from behind the counter and tore away the rest of its brown wrapping paper. "What do you think?"

Some moments in life were so surreal you were left speechless in their wake. They usually marked a turning point of sorts. To be awed by the sight of something often reminded you of just how unpredictable and amazing life could be when you least expected it.

For Tommy and Kim, their one precious night together came crashing back to them in thundering waves of conflicting emotion. The painting was of a beautiful, clear day on the ocean with a meticulously detailed white sailboat in the distance. They remembered it clearly as they remembered the events that took place when they first saw it.

Instantly they were taken back to the third month Kim had been training in Florida for the Pan Globals. Tommy used most of his savings to visit her for a weekend, and in his hotel room the night before he was to leave they made love for their first and only time. They shared the dearest, most cherished night of their lives with that very painting hanging above the bed.

What strange destiny or fate allowed this painting to travel across states and somehow arrive while they were in the very store they were shopping in at the exact time they were doing it?

Cassie wasn't sure if the mute expressions of shock on their faces were of disgust over her choice or that they were stoned. "It was just a suggestion."

"I want to buy it!" Tommy and Kim both shouted at the same time.

"Uhm, okay. Just let me put the registration numbers in the computer. I'll be with you in a moment."

As Cassie took the painting in a back room, Kim turned to Tommy. She was unsure what she might see on his face as he would see on hers. "Remember two weeks ago? You stole three of my Lean Pockets out of our office mini-fridge and ate them. I should have the painting because of that."

"You just toyed with my emotions for..." Tommy looked at his watch again. "Twenty minutes and then handed me a freaking piece of chocolate."

"I gave you a kiss as I promised. Its not my fault you misinterpreted what I offered."

"You wanted that kiss too," Tommy fired in her face. "I saw it in your eyes."

Ignoring the truth of what he said, Kim quickly changed the subject. "A gentleman would let me buy the painting."

"A lady would step aside if someone close to her really wanted it."

"You forgot the donuts this morning!"

"You erased Sara's message so I wouldn't get it!"

"I was protecting you from that skanky woman!"

"How do you know she's skanky?"

"Oh please, that girl reeks of skank!"

"You told Cassie we were married!"

"I misinterpreted something she said and may have walked off before correcting her assumption because something caught my eye that might of been a good gift for your parents!" Kim added, "I... I might be going deaf."

Tommy just stared at her like she was crazy.

"I am not crazy!"

"Stop reading my mind!"

Kim was about to charge back at him until it hit her that neither one of them was going to in any way, shape or form address why they wanted that painting. It was too... it was just to much to face and... she sighed. "Sorry."

"I'm sorry too." Tommy looked at the painting as the memory attached too it swelled within his chest. "You buy the painting."

"I just... I..."

"You don't have to explain. I'm not sure I could either."

"Our one night," she tried to convey and then she simply couldn't. It meant to much to her. "You know, I did have a dick for a whole day back in high school."

She could always say something out of nowhere to make him smile and forget any problems between them. "Yes, you've told me that a thousand times. Billy won't discuss it but you seem to love my discomfort at ever imagining you having a penis."

Feeling better already as Cassie returned with the painting, Kim lopped her arm around Tommy's again. "Thanks honey."

Ninety Minutes Later

"I forgot all about my dentist appointment Monday evening, Sara. It completely slipped my mind."

The escalator's slow descent to the ground-floor food court felt like a long trip to hell for Tommy. Kim snickered behind him while listening in on his conversation with Sara. It seemed that his aggressive suitor used the tried and true desperate move of dialing 'Star 67' before her number to hide her identity from his cell phone's Caller ID. The maneuver caught him off guard, much to her chagrin. The former Pink Ranger almost felt bad for her business partner if this wasn't cracking her up so much.

"Drinks on Tuesday?" Tommy had to think fast. "I'm having dinner with my parents... Uhm, I really don't introduce girls to them until things get a bit more serious... After dinner? I'm going to be tired after teaching classes all day." It was insane to him how this girl couldn't see he was uninterested in her. Then again, maybe she was insane.

Kim leaned down and whispered in Tommy's ear, "Tell her you're gay." His annoyed glare tickled her fancy. Dealing with women like Sara was so out of his element as the consummate 'nice-guy' in him struggled with her inability to see the forest for the trees.

"Sara, next week for me is going to be pretty hectic. I'll have to give you a rain check and... Well, that's very sweet of you... Both your legs behind your back... Yeah, that's impressive... I'm not really a morning person. I usually skip breakfast every day... Lunch time is kind of a wash too."

"Jesus!" Kim muttered under her breath while eavesdropping. "Tommy, tell her you had a sex-change operation. I bet that'll work."

At this breaking point of frustration Tommy was open to any suggestion. Try as he might he's never been able to be rude to a woman even when the situation called for it. "Sara... Sara, you're breaking up. I'm losing the..." He made some fake garbled noises which only made Kim laugh harder and then ended the call with an exasperated sigh.

"Mission accomplished." Tommy's tour of duty as Kim's glorified shopping bags carrier notwithstanding, he felt relieved when they stepped off the escalator having finally arrived at the mall's huge circular food court. "I thought I'd never get rid of her."

"It might be time for you to change your name and move across the country," Kim joked with her new painting under her arm. "Your stalker seems determined and willing to go to any means to get in your pants. Don't be surprised if you find her sleeping on your doorstep when you get home."

"In case she's there you wouldn't by any chance be offering the other side of your bed, would you?" Tommy shamelessly flirted with her. "I know there's been an vacancy for a long while now."

"I'll try to ignore your little dig and give you money for a hotel room. How's that?"

"You could of at least offered your couch," he playfully complained wearing a smile that matched her own. Feeling as hungry as he's felt in years, he guided her through the throngs of people toward a table in the far right corner that was as close to being intimate as he could find considering their surroundings. "You would actually send me off alone to the other side of the country?"

"No, I'd go with you and rent the apartment below yours. You obviously need my skank-protection and intervention skills." She laid the heavily-covered painting by her chair and then sat down. Having lost nearly three hours at the mall had her feet hurting. "Would you care to give an ex-high school sweetheart a foot massage?"

"Kat's overseas and engaged. I doubt her fiancée would approve."

Kim wanted to throw something at him. Something big. "And to think I found another Hershey's kiss in my purse. Guess who isn't going to get it? Go ahead, guess?"

Tommy gave her the finger and then arched his neck, glad be off his feet and near food. "I can't believe you drug me to five more stores after we left Brookston Brothers. Did you really need another three pair of shoes?"

"Yes. In fact, it's well known that all women need at least twenty pair. You would know that if you kept up with Cosmo and Woman's Day magazine."

"Sorry, I let my subscriptions run out." Sarcasm dripped from his voice.

"Good. Now I know what to get you for Christmas." Despite feeling just a tad old considering the large teenage and pre-teen crowds around them, Kim relaxed in the busy mall atmosphere as it felt like home. A part of her smiled at the thought. That same smile gently evolved into something tender when she caught sight of Tommy staring at the painting. She experienced that same sweet ache in her heart over what once was. What they shared now wasn't lacking in any way and yet nothing could compare to the memory of what the painting represented.

"It was a perfect night," Kim declared as she met his warm gaze and held it close to her heart.

"Best night of my life."

"Mine too."

Talking about it was simply impossible. They haven't since reestablishing their friendship nor had they even tried. Partly because there was nothing really to talk over seeing as how things turned out. Then there were the emotions bringing it up might stir between them. There was enough of that going on today already.

Some Pandora's Box's needed to remain closed forever. This was one they silently agreed upon.

As expected on a Saturday afternoon the Santa Monica Place Mall food court was packed as nearly every table was taken. Fast-food restaurants of every variety imaginable offered whatever you desired. No less than twenty-two stands encompassed the circular court.

While deciding what she wanted for lunch, Kim's cell phone started ringing. She reached in her purse and looked at the Caller-ID. Grinning, she couldn't get over how weird men could be sometimes. "Tommy, we're sitting right across from each other. You're wasting my daytime minutes. You know how cheesy my cell phone plan is."

"Chili dogs." Tommy pointed to the Vienna hot dog stand about ten feet behind her. "I want three and some fries. You're buying since I let you have the painting."

Kim leaned over the table to emphasize, "Listen mister, you don't order me around."

Tommy bent toward her, moving in dangerously close. "Beautiful, please. I'm starving."

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no," Kim wagged her finger in his face. He had some nerve sitting there looking all handsome and smirking at her. "I don't want to hear any of that 'Beautiful' crap. I'm not seventeen anymore. I don't giggle like some love-sick teenager every time you call me that."

"I thought you loved me?"

"I've always lo..." she caught herself just barely and then carefully amended what she was going to say. "Loving you and wanting to strangle you go hand in hand."

"What about loving me and boning me?"

"Once was quite enough, thank you very much." God, the way he was staring at her turned her on and she hated it. The line between friendship and something crazy continued to blur, but what was worse was that she enjoyed it far to much. "Don't make me write you another letter," she warned in a teasing manner. "You go buy lunch."

"After writing me that 'Dear John' letter you added insult to injury by sending it to the Juice Center. That alone should allow me to win any argument with you until the day I die or until you start to lose your hair. Whichever comes first."

Sighing, Kim had to admit she sucked pretty bad for doing that. "Hey, I cried my eyes out for a week after sending that letter."

"At least you had someone at the time."

The mood shifted ever so subtle as Kim realized that while he'd made peace with the past and forgiven her a long time ago that didn't mean the memory wasn't still a painful one. He told her once that she was the first person he'd ever lost his heart too. The irony of her being the first to break it was never lost on her either. "I'll buy lunch, okay?"

Tommy saw a flicker of guilt from an old wound she inflicted flash behind her lovely brown eyes. Drudging up a decade old breakup wasn't his intention. He smiled to convey that. "Chili dogs, Kim. Three for me with fries and a root beer." He watched her rise from the chair and stretch her arms above her head in a pose that pulled her shirt tight over her chest. He had to look away before she caught him admiring her.

Though she was sure it wasn't necessary, Kim felt she needed to confess, "I hate what I did to us back then."

"Well, it's a good thing 'back then' is in the past. What are you going to do in the present?"

His mysteriously cryptic challenge didn't fly over her head. Instead of ignoring what he said, Kim faced it head on with her heart. "What you gave to me is still mine. It'll always be mine. Trust that I'm mature enough to take good care of it now."

Tommy paused before adding, "I'm going to hold you to that."

"Promise you won't let go?"

"I promise." After a moment of gazing into each others eyes she walked off without another word and thankfully didn't see him exhale a deep breath of air. What he unconsciously hoped would catch her off guard didn't phase her at all. Kim was fearless, a trait that only amplified her irresistible appeal.

Their strong friendship was so precious to Tommy that he didn't want to risk anything that would mess it up. Especially not this simmering chemistry they seem to have that he could no longer deny. Attraction was simplistic in nature to begin with as he wished a physical pull was all he felt or could see in her eyes when she looked at him.

That just wasn't the case.

Having known her for so many years, Tommy felt that if Kim's character, intelligence, class, and beauty matched her height she'd be ten feet tall. He figured in a whimsical sense he'd probably still love the ground she walked on even if she had to look down at him. In reality her diminutive size only increased his inner male instinct to protect her. As strong and capable as she was he still longed for her to need him.

Deep down he knew that she did as he needed her.

Watching Kim as she stood in a long line at the hot dog counter allowed Tommy the private time to think about her and the day they've spent together. As beautiful as she was in high school the adult Kim just took his breath away. He doubted the day would ever come when he wasn't attracted to her, so he's comfortable with wanting her. They're close friends for the very first time and he didn't want that to change, but what he wanted and what was happening were two separate things.

They've flirted all day long without any sort of a safety net if they crossed the line. Nothings been off the table, from their blatant sexual banter to the veiled comments they've said to each other that meant so much more then they had the courage to admit.

Facing the truth that being with her outside the work place was wonderful carried with it a line of questioning he had hoped to avoid. If only the urge to have her again would go away he could get back to... and then he realized that his relationship with Kim had always been and would always be personal. He couldn't treat her like he did Trini or Aisha or Tanya. Not even Katherine as close as they were.

Kim was special.

And now she was being hit on.

Tommy noticed the table closest to the hot dog stand where a guy with sandy blonde hair couldn't take his eyes off of Kim the moment he saw her. Her newest admirer made his move a moment ago when he walked up to her and apparently introduced himself. From his preppy look and style of dress to his metro haircut he didn't seem like her type, but the longer he held her attention, as well as when he made her laugh signaled she wasn't sending him on his way just yet.

The guy even had the nerve to look Tommy's way a couple of times before engaging Kim in conversation again. Each time he made her laugh built a seething emotion in the former White Ranger. He wasn't jealous. He knew for certain that wasn't it.

He was sure of it.

He was positive.

And then some powerful sense of urgency swelled inside Tommy's chest. Before he could talk himself out of it he left the table and closed the short distance until he came up behind Kim. The other guy's eyes widened when he approached.

Hearing footsteps, Kim saw Tommy walking toward her looking very serious. "Hey, I was just..."

The soft sound of a breathless squeak was all the rebuttal Kim could offer when Tommy suddenly captured her in a tight embrace and swept her into a passionate kiss. His hands tangled in her hair while her shaky fingers grabbed at the bottom of his shirt. Shocking as this all was the heady taste of his lips removed any hesitancy in the way she gave in.

She drowned in the deeply soulful way her devoured her whimpering mouth. Vulnerability be damned, he had taken what he wanted and she loved him... God, she loved him for it. She didn't care that they were in a crowded food court or the fifty-yard line during half time at the Super Bowl. Her tongue sought his as she held on tight and drank desire from his every wet kiss.

Holding her so close, kissing her with such hunger removed Tommy's power to reason as he lost himself in the lush feel of her delicious lips curling and shifting over his own. Heaven on earth was right here with her in his arms. Seconds passed until a voice could be heard.

"Either order or get out of line lady!"

Tommy and Kim gently broke apart, both breathing heavily as the euphoria of their kiss shook them to the very core of their beings. They separated, though still kept their eyes trained on each other. Electricity tinged the very air around them. Something shifted and pretending that it didn't would only cheapen its meaning. Silently, they agreed.

"Why?" Kim asked so softly she worried he didn't hear her.

"I needed too," was all that came to mind as Tommy began backing away. A multitude of conflicting emotions suddenly became one inescapable truth. She meant the world to him and even more than that. "I'll see you back at the table."

Kim watched him turn and walk away. As the show they put on ended and people seemed to go about their business she ordered lunch and then dialed "1" on her cell phone while waiting for her order.

"Yes?" Tommy answered.

"He was gay and asking me about you. I didn't know if I should crack up laughing or be offended." His amused response on the other end calmed her down. "He said you were really cute."

"Of course you agreed, right?"

"Yeah. I mean, he was a better catch for you than Sara."

"Probably."

"I think that kiss you planted on me ended all doubts about your sexuality." He was quiet on the other end until he asked...

"How do you feel?"

"Beautiful," she replied joyfully. "I feel beautiful."

Kimberly's apartment 4110 Virginia Ave

Saturday, June 22, 2006 8:30PM Stone Canyon, California

Central air's welcoming chill greeted an exhausted Tommy and Kimberly as they entered her dark apartment. Slivers of illumination filtered through the living room blinds, joining the fish tank's emerald glow as their only source of light. The quiet was as comforting as it was a testament to the solitude of the woman who lived here.

While rubbing her sleepy eyes, Kim thought of that on her way to her bedroom. "I'll be right back." With her new painting tucked under her arm she heard a familiar thud behind her when something hit the floor and then quickly added, "I know you have some home training. Put your shoes in the corner. Don't just leave them in front of the couch."

Wearing a small grin, Tommy did as he was told. Her obvious psychic ability concerning his age-old male ways rivaled only one other woman. "Okay mom."

"Don't make me throw my Prada bag at you. I've hit nine men, three kids and a dog with it. Adding you to the list wouldn't be a problem," Kim's voice faded farther into the apartment.

As tired and frustrated as Tommy was, Kim could always change his mood for the better. He unceremoniously fell into the soft cushion of her beige sectional couch, rested his head back and shut his eyes. Blissful relaxation began to flood his entire body instantly. The offending sounds of his car engine suddenly locking up on the highway played through his mind as they were forced to wait an hour for a tow truck to arrive and then two more hours for the ride back to Stone Canyon.

An already extended day had been lengthened a few of hours more well into the evening.

Despite the couple of hundred dollars Tommy would soon be out of due to car repairs he was suddenly thrown for a loop by some strange emotion when Kim gave the tow truck driver her address where they could be dropped off. She didn't mention his or even ask him if he wanted to go home. The subtle way in which she made it known she didn't want whatever was happening between them today to end was as thrilling as it was terrifying.

With no plans for the evening an empty apartment wasn't something he was looking forward too anyway.

Being here with her... spending time with her outside of their business... Tommy struggled to put a name on what he was feeling. Her intoxicating allure trapped him in her web. She wasn't trying to seduce him and yet seduce him she had. The taste of her lips he had stolen left him ravenous for more. Holding her again reawakened the need within him to be her everything once again.

What he had hoped was in the past apparently laid dormant in the deepest recesses of his heart awaiting a trigger to reignite.

Tommy understood, accepted, and enjoyed being her business partner and close friend. His attraction to her was a secondary aspect that he had long ago made peace with. The fact that he found her extremely desirable only amplified as she grew older. But he could deal with that. It wasn't a problem between them. It never affected how they worked together or related to each other.

For whatever reason though today had been an overload of closeness as he's been forced to face the truth. What they shared was far deeper than friendship and begrudgingly he didn't want that to change. Even if a small part of him thought that might be the smart thing to do.

"Hey," Kim announced her return, now clad in silk lavender pajama's. She felt his eyes fall all over her and fought tooth and nail not to blush. His expression told her he liked what he saw. What a wonderful thing it was when a man had the power to make a grown woman feel like a teenager again. She felt empowered by it as much as she was afraid of it. "Catch."

Tommy caught her car keys in mid-air as she approached him. His raised a curious brow. "Are you trying to tell me something?"

She caught his drift and sought to reassure him. "For later..." she added a bit tongue in cheek, "When you leave you can use my car until you get yours back on Tuesday. My schedules pretty empty tomorrow and Monday. You can repay me with donuts." She rounded the couch and took a seat on the glass table in front of him.

Tommy hadn't heard much past the word 'later'. His head was yelling at him trouble was brewing and it was brewing fast. His heart felt like it was closer to home than it had been in years. "Thanks. I appreciate it."

"Cool." Despite suddenly being so nervous her toes were rapidly tapping at the floor Kim faced her unease head-on. Surrounded by nightfall's shade and the quiet they simply stared at each other and then both looked away. Neither had a single thing to say.

Kim knew that turning on the TV might give them something to talk about other than what was happening between them, but she didn't want their intimate spell to be broken. She liked being with him in the quiet. She liked being with him in the dark. She liked being with him period.

"You look tired."

"Hence the comfortable evening attire," Kim replied. Held captive by his intense focus, Kim swallowed deeply. The amorous gaze his eyes drank her in with... she secretly coveted being the focus of his attention. Perhaps that was why she left a couple of the buttons on her top undone. "I hope you don't think I put this on for your benefit?"

His smile widened. "Perish the thought."

The tension was thick enough to cut with a knife. Or better yet, a light saber.

"So," they both said at the exact same time and then laughed at the silliness of it. They were so bad at this it wasn't even funny. Dangerous territory laid before them as they were unsure how to proceed. So they just sat there in the dark and... well, they just sat there.

The more things changed the more they stayed the same. Pondering that wise old theory, Kim saw no other course of action but for her to be the one to take the bull by the horns, She did it in high school and she was going to have to do it here. Tommy excelled at fighting evil while she was most proficient at opening his heart.

With courage raging from her soul, Kim casually slid over to the couch next to him. She took his right hand in hers and then lifted his arm over her slender shoulders and cuddled in next to him, still holding his hand. Heaven must live on his shoulder for as soon as she laid her head down she felt so much love for him she couldn't believe it. And when his lips gently brushed over her forehead her eyes shut and the world became perfect for a time.

"Took you long enough," Tommy whispered teasingly in her ear.

"Oh shut up," she giggled softly.

Inhaling the engaging scent of her perfume, Tommy pressed another kiss to her temple. She sighed peacefully in his arms as he silently swore to himself that nothing would ever hurt her. Their warm and cozy embrace couldn't be mistaken for just friendship as they were more and this was them acknowledging it in an intimately affectionate manner.

Tommy felt her heart beating over where their joined hands rested on her chest. The harmony of her life's breath was a balm to his troubled soul. Its been so long since he had someone in his life he didn't realize how much he was missing out on. "Can I assume you didn't spray on your perfume for my benefit either?"

The gently teasing tone of his voice sounded was music to her ears. "Absolutely not. Cosmo had a new Elizabeth Taylor perfume ad. I tore the page out and rubbed it on my neck. How's that for ingenuity?"

Tommy kissed a soft butterfly over where the fragrance charmed his senses. "Way to save a buck."

"I do my best." Nestled against his solid frame, Kim nuzzled his neck and then gave a little bite. His only response was to hold her closer. When the last time was she allowed a man to get this close to her she couldn't even remember. "I could order us a pizza if you're hungry?"

"Nah, I'm more tired than anything else," he yawned. "I'm not really sleepy. I'm just..."

"I know," she seemed to understand where he was coming from. Lifting her eyes to his, she found such sweet adoration reflected back. Her cynical side shrugged as her heart had been broken more than a few times over the years. 'The only thing a man can do in this world is disappoint a woman' it had the nerve to say. And yet her indomitable spirit recanted what it had the very first time she saw him. Tommy was the one. He had always been the one. He would always be the one for her. "Do you want to take a nap?"

"I could use one but I doubt you want me knocked out on your couch for a couple of hours."

"I meant with me in bed."

The world stopped spinning and his heart stopped beating that very second. The mischievous grin she wore obviously enjoyed how he had no immediate comeback to what she offered. Seizing the moment he captured her lips in a full, deep kiss. She eagerly returned it, treasuring the way he slowly worshiped her. The way he held her so tight while plundering the depths of her mouth. For the longest time nothing existed outside of them giving into fates inevitable pull.

When they finally broke for air they breathed the other in, their foreheads resting together, hearts racing faster than the speed of light.

"Come on," Kim said when she was able to speak again. She gently extricated herself from his arms and then led him by the hand to her bedroom and had no intention of telling him she changed the sheets a little while ago.

Without a word said between them they climbed in under the thick comforter, found each other in the center of the bed and cuddled close once more. There was no pretending here. No assumptions made. Nothing misinterpreted at all. They more than wanted each other. They needed each other.

"I don't want us to be the cliché," Kim declared out of the blue as she tried to assemble her jumbled thoughts. "Do you know what I mean?"

"What do you mean?"

"Its like every one of our friends believed that sooner or later we would hook up again just because we're working together, single, and living in the same town. We're they're joke in allot of ways and its kind of unsettling."

"Maybe when they're around us they see something we don't. When we talk about each other to them we might not hear how we sound or what we're really saying."

"That's possible, I guess. I think my problem is people thinking because of our past we were predestined to get back together or something. You would not believe the grief I get from Aisha and Trini over you."

"Believe it or not, Zack, Jason, and Rocky do me the same way. Rocky especially. He thinks every time I say we're staying overtime at work we're..." his smirk said it all. "Half of our friends think we're already doing it and just haven't told anyone."

"Doing it. Boning. Boinking. Freaking," Kim laughed to herself. "Our friends are so immature."

"That's true."

"I just want whatever's happening between us to be based on the here and now. I don't want to think of it as picking up where we left off or that we just got together because no one else was around and we were lonely."

"Do you feel that way?"

"Of course not."

Tommy ran his hand softly over her cheek and then caressed the nape of her neck. "The woman I want more than my next breath isn't the 17 year old Kim who attended Angel Grove High and practiced gymnastics every afternoon. She isn't the Pink Ranger who commanded the Crane Zord. She isn't the girl who used to drag me to the mall on Saturdays for hours on end," he reassured her. "The woman I want is in this bed with me now. The most amazing, intelligent, courageous, quirky, fiery, sensual woman I have ever known."

"This is a Martha Stewart comforter we're under. You're not talking about her, are you?"

Kim was just a bit crazy while Tommy was absolutely crazy about her. "Yes Kim. I'm in love with Martha Stewart. My whole speech was about her."

'In love with' Kim found herself repeating for effect in her mind. "Damn, I'm jealous."

"Kim..." he warned her the second before she kissed him. All her fears and nervousness vanished with his every kiss. Her arms wrapped tight around his neck as her leg curled over his thigh in a pose that left them very hot and very bothered.

"You know," Kim managed to sneak in between kisses. "Its often been said one should never swim in the office pool."

"What about an office Jacuzzi?"

"Do we have room for one?"

"I'll make room. We'll just take out my desk."

She laughed against his lips and then kissed him again and again and again until they forgot how it felt to ever be lonely or sad. She kissed him until she let down her vaunted guard and accepted he lived in her heart and there could never be anyone else.

"Kim?"

"Yes."

"I'm not in love with Martha Stewart."

"I should hope not." Holding him in her arms while lying in her bed was beyond wonderful as she ran her fingers through his hair and then beneath his shirt over his rock hard abs. He was such a delicious looking man and he was all hers. "So who are you in love with?"

"Elizabeth Taylor," Tommy stated with as straight a face as he could muster. "I just love your perfume."

Kim kissed him that very second before she slapped him.

2 Hours Later

Reality often paled in comparison to the fairy-tale dreams of our fondest wishes and yet as Kimberly's wistful gaze fell upon Tommy's sleeping form next to her she knew for certain that dreams were highly overrated.

Sometimes real life could be pretty damn wonderful.

With time on her side for once, Kim watched over the love of her life as he slept peacefully beside her. Unlike the busy morning after the only time they made love years ago when he was rushing to get to the airport and her tears fell with every last kiss they shared, here she was able to mentally record and catalogue each and every second of their precious time together. They didn't have to be anywhere except with each other and so she carefully studied how softly he breathed when he was asleep. She wondered if he slept on his stomach every night or if he was a turner who'd drive her crazy with his restlessness.

She wondered how long it would be before she knew his every nuance. His every quirk, mood, and pattern. Did he snore? She wasn't sure. He hadn't the one night they spent together and though he'd been asleep an hour and a half so far he hadn't as of yet.

Did he dream often? What did he dream of when he did? Did nightmares plague him in the middle of the night? The history of his life would lend itself to them. Would he tell her all about them or never bring it up?

Kim wanted to know if he slept with a shirt on or not? Did he sleep nude? With her head lying on a pillow she licked her lips at the delicious notion. Was he prone to midnight snacks or perhaps a drink? If she woke him up to get her a glass of water in the middle of the night would he go? Would she even know how to react if he did seeing as no matter how simple and domestic the gesture was she wasn't used to a man being that attentive to her?

Did he enjoy to making love first thing in the morning? Would he wake her with a kiss? Would she walk around all day with a satisfied smile?

As much as she wanted to know everything about the man she loved, Kim realized how much loving him would reveal about herself. Her feisty personality hid a quiet loneliness few ever saw. She kept busy so that she didn't have time to be jealous of her friends who were in relationships. She was more highly skilled at keeping people at a distance than most gave her credit for. Her quick wit provided a great cover for the emotional emptiness in her life. Having one and having someone to share it with were two vastly different things. Having both was something she was going to have to get used to.

So be it. Finally she had something to look forward too and that felt so good to her.

Moonlight shadows whispered a mystery over her bed, bathing the occupants in blue twilight. They had kissed and even playfully tussled under the covers before falling prey to how exhausted they were. A few minutes of sweet cuddling led to the more realistic relaxed sleeping arrangement of lying side by side.

From what Kim could gather thus far Tommy was a deep sleeper as she's been running her hand slowly up and down his back for a few minutes now. The firm muscles hidden beneath his shirt had tempted her all day long and even now as she felt them she was mesmerized by the heated reaction his body created in hers. So she continued to rain affection on him at her leisure. He shifted a little when she caressed her hand over his head and then down past his neck. He yawned when she finger-walked up his spine to his shoulder blades. She adored how he seemed so at ease in her bed and realized that she had never felt more protective of a man than she did with him. He slept as soundly as if he were at home. She dearly hoped he felt home was wherever they were together.

Kim shut her eyes and inhaled the romantic intimacy of lying next to him as they looked toward a future together.

How they had found each other again wasn't a puzzle she intended to solve. Love was to be enjoyed and shared, not picked apart for the sake of reasoning why. No one could reason love. Who was she to even try? Especially when it had alluded her for so many years.

Spurred on by some tender inspiration Kim leaned over and brushed a kiss on Tommy's cheek. He didn't stir a muscle so she did it again and then laid back down on her pillow to watch over him. God, how long had it been since she's had someone in her life? She almost felt giddy with the need to touch him. Only now was she able to face all that she had been missing out on for well over a year and a half since her last relationship.

Probably even longer than that when it came to being so deeply in love with someone.

Being single had its good points, but as you got older it began to suck pretty badly. If you weren't one of those people who wanted the experience of dating tons of people until you found the right one then you were screwed until you found Mr. or Mrs. Right or until they found you. Having been raised with the class to not sleep around while coupled with no real desire to do so left Kim in the same boat many women her age were in.

You get hooked up with someone by a friend or relative and try to wash the pathetic out of your hair while hoping something good comes out of it. Then you wade through the guys who you run into on your own time and hope they aren't crazy or have fathered nine kids already or are wanted by the law. You date a few and then shrug them off after too long when you discover they had no intention of ever turning into a good person. Sprinkle in a boyfriend here and there just to mix things up until you got your heart broken again and rebuilt those good old emotional walls higher than they were before. Oh, and you watch allot of TV alone. With ice cream in your lap. Fall in love with a fictional couple and live vicariously week after week through them. Rinse and repeat.

Cynical of course, but truer for more than a couple of people.

With all of that hopefully behind her, Kim looked forward to the changes her life was about to undergo. Though she had no crystal ball or promise that everything was going to turn out perfect she had a good feeling about Tommy. She always had. Whatever the outcome of the journey they were about to undertake she knew she would never regret the ride no matter where it led.

Tommy's kiss erased all the loneliness in her life. That alone spoke volumes. She tried to remember the last time she saw a movie trailer, wanted to see the movie, and instantly knew who was going with her to see it? Not just one of her girlfriends, but someone special to her. She tried to recall when was the last time she snuggled with someone on her couch, or someone who went on a vacation with her, or even someone who belonged to her on Valentine's day?

If she tried to remember the last guy who bought her flowers she just might cry.

If she had to attend one more family wedding, reunion, or birthday party and was asked if she were seeing anyone or why she wasn't seeing anyone she was sure she'd lose her mind. As she neared age thirty her paranoid side was starting to wonder if her family thought she wanted to be that clichéd old lady that lived alone at the end of the street, had twenty cats, an addiction to soap operas and was mean to the neighborhood kids.

Loneliness played with your mind that way.

Without a shadow of a doubt Kim had every intention of dragging Tommy to all future family gatherings so the rumors that she couldn't get or keep a man would finally be put to rest. And what a handsome man she'd have on her arm.

"Do you always stare at men you invite into your bed?"

The object of her affection smiled sleepily at her. Her shy expression featured a faint blush tingling her cheeks. "Only those I love," she answered no louder than a whisper. "Of course there haven't been all that many, but you're special."

Rolling onto his side with a pillow resting underneath his head, Tommy loved waking up next to her. She was lovely in every way a woman could be. "Did I snore?"

"Nah." Kim casually ran her hand over his face and then down his chest. "You slept like a baby."

"Did you get any rest?"

"Maybe an hour or so."

When Tommy maneuvered onto his back he saw the time on her DVD player. "Its almost 11:30."

Her eyes darted toward the time and then back on him. "What, you got a hot date later on tonight?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"You."

Judging by the fiery stare he sent her way. Kim knew if she crawled on top of him right now she'd probably have the best sex of her entire life. She could have him tonight. Have him begging if she wanted too. For now though she was going to push that decision aside in favor of just spending time with him. "How many?"

Stealing his attention away from the tantalizing skin revealed courtesy of the two buttons being undone on her top, he wasn't quite sure what she meant. "How many what?"

"How many women have you slept with?"

"You want to have that conversation?"

"We gotta get around to it sometime."

Tommy considered it for a moment and then nodded. "Including you, eight."

"Including you, six," she declared. They held a mock stare down to see who'd have a reaction first. "I guess we're a real bunch of sluts," she joked half into her pillow.

"That's less than one a year since our first time a decade ago. I don't think we've whore'd it up too much." Lying in bed with her was soon to become his only addiction. Tommy was well sure of that. When the need to feel her body pressed to his became too great he slipped his arm around her waist and hauled her against him. She seemed to fit in his embrace as if she were made for him alone. "Can I assume Brady was one of your six?"

The 'letter guy' as he's been referred to for years was sure to come up in conversation from time to time. Kim never imagined snuggling in bed with Tommy while talking about him. Still, Brady wasn't a sore subject for her to discuss nor was he off topic. "About five months after we broke up, yes."

"After you dumped me," he politely corrected her. She playfully pinched his side. "Its okay. I was just wondering."

"Look, we're past so much of that. Its okay if you have questions or whatever. Talking about him isn't going to change anything between us." He seemed to consider her offer. "What do you know about Brady?"

"Well, from the little you've told me and bits from our friends I know that he was two years older than you and an amateur swimming champion."

"Yeah, he was 19 when we met."

"Was it love at first sight?"

"Hardly. He was shocked by how serious the training for the games were. It was more grueling than any of us expected. Like me, he wasn't from Florida, so the only friends he had were those he made on his team. His parents were divorced and when we met through a friend we talked about the games and our families and the isolation we felt from our former lives. That's all it was at first. Someone to talk to that was there and who could relate to what I was going through."

Biting his tongue, Tommy had to quell that age-old anger to counter her assumption that she couldn't talk to him. But he knew she didn't have those assumptions. She was seventeen and human. That was honestly more than enough reason to accept the mistakes she made. "So you never slept with him before writing the letter?"

"No, never."

"But you kissed him?"

"Yes..." Regretfully, Kim watched the play of emotions fall over his handsome face. The grown man who didn't care about the past still had to deal with the teenage boy holding his broken hearted grudge. "He had a great memory."

"You're really scoring points here." Kim laughed and then so did he. "Let me guess? He was the life of the party too?"

"Brady was very outgoing, yes. He was to much like me in the long run. He even loved to shop."

"He sounds wonderful," Tommy exaggerated in a way he could tell amused Kim.

"No," she interrupted before kissing him. "You're wonderful. He was a nice boy who acted immature when he didn't get his way. He was a below average kisser that I had to train to improve. You were an amazing kisser from day one."

"Could I have kicked his ass?"

"My mom could have kicked his ass," Kim laughed against his neck and then sighed happily when his arms hugged her tight. "Lets put it this way. What Brady looked like to me at the beginning of our relationship wasn't the same as when it ended. I came to realize a ton of things about him I was ignoring because since I gave you up to be with him we had to work. I needed to validate giving you up, so I let so much go in terms of how he was treating me and lies I had caught him telling. I didn't really have a clear picture of him until the very end."

"Was he good in bed?"

Kim knew that question was coming eventually because Tommy was a man after all. "He was adequate at best. No exploding fireworks or anything." Under the covers she took his hand in hers. "You were so amazingly gentle and patient with me when we made love. I remember waking up the next morning and I just knew last night had been the best of my life. Its still the best night of my life."

"Mine too," Tommy assured her.

Kim ducked her head and then added, "Eventually Brady cheated on me with a girl on the swim team. Karma came back around as if often does and bit me in the behind. That ended our relationship." Their talk was the final period on the fable of 'the letter guy' in her opinion. "He sucked ass."

"That's a scary picture."

"I didn't mean literally."

"Good." Being with her like this again, with the mood between them so light and carefree was absolutely priceless to Tommy. "Lets talk about us?"

"Cool. What kind of wedding do you want? Big or small." She tried to catch him off guard with that one, but he only kissed her again so softly she couldn't think straight. The butterflies in her stomach were performing aerial tricks that would make the Air Force jealous. "Of course I'm kidding."

"For now," he sought to remind her that someday it wouldn't be. "Lets talk about the here and now."

"Well, we're lying in my bed in each others arms and I definitely want to bone you." His mute shock at her bluntness was cute. "I can 'feel' how badly you want to bone my brains out and I certainly hope this bed sees plenty of boning in the coming months, no pun intended." Both of them couldn't help but to laugh. "Now as immature as the word boning is, that's the here and now. If you want to talk about beginning a new relationship then that's something else."

"I'm pretty okay with the boning part of this conversation."

"As you should be. I'm hot, after all."

"You'll hear no argument from me on that point." Tommy gave her another deep, soulful kiss and then released his arms from around her slender waist. He pulled himself up and sat his back against the bed's headboard while Kim pushed the covers back and swiveled her legs around, assuming an Indian sitting pose for the talk they were about to have.

"First off," Tommy began. "I didn't wake up this morning with the intention of starting something new with you. I didn't have a plan or anything like that. I haven't been struggling with my feelings for you."

Kim slowly nodded her head. "That goes for me too. I haven't been dying to reveal how I feel about you. I didn't... I mean I wasn't even sure what these feelings were until today."

"So you haven't been hot for me?"

"I've been hot for you for years. But I haven't been in love with you for years."

That he understood all to well. "And now?"

"I seem to have developed a certain fondness for you," she teased him with a seductive toss of her hair and a come hither smile. He appeared all to charmed by her. "So we agree that this kind of came out of nowhere?"

"I wouldn't say that exactly," Tommy offered. "I have always cared for you deeply. I've always been attracted to you. And when we became partners I was able to see how great a teacher you are. Your business savvy has helped expand our school and you make a good cup of coffee."

"I have been called the Caffeine Queen from time to time."

"I've noticed how incredible you are, is what I've been trying to say. I just thought that we had made peace with the past and outside of flirting weren't really interested in each other."

"Then what happened today?" Kim asked herself as much as him. "We didn't do anything special or go anywhere romantic. We had a work day for the most part and shopping isn't exactly an activity that leads to falling in love."

"If we're honest with ourselves then we have to admit we've been entwining our lives for months now." Tommy saw the recognition on her face as he continued. "We spend at least ten hours a day, five days a week at work together. We spend a good deal of time together outside of work. When you have concerts I'm usually there. You've gone to five martial arts tournaments with me. I even have a toothbrush in your medicine cabinet."

"I was wondering who that belonged too." His attempt to glare at her was kinda cute. "I know you keep that box of Honey Oat Nuts cereal at your place just for me."

"I hate that stuff. Its like someone took a knife and scraped bark off a tree, put it in a bowl with milk and called it cereal."

"Its good for you and its healthy. Unlike those three chili dogs you scarfed down earlier today. If you keep that up you won't have those gorgeous abs much longer."

"You mean these gorgeous abs?" Reaching for his back, Tommy tore his shirt off and then tossed it to the floor.

Kim drank in the intoxicating sight of him as she attempted to maintain her composure. He looked good enough to eat and seeing as how the most aggressive action her bed's seen in a year was when her twin nephews jumped up and down on it, she fought the urge to throw caution to the wind and claim what she felt was hers. "Is taking your shirt off supposed to impress me?"

"Shall I take off more?"

Screaming 'YES' would reveal just how desperate she was to see how much he's learned since their last time together. Exhaling a deep breath of air, she sought some perspective. "What do you want?"

Flirting aside, he recognized how serious her question was. "I want what everyone wants," he explained. "I want someone special to love. I want a strong relationship built on trust and passion. A person to share everything with. A person to come home too. A family someday."

Kim swore he was speaking to her very soul. "I want those things too."

When the need to touch her became to great Tommy lifted Kim's hands into his and squeezed them. "I feel like I know you," he stated in a deeply profound way as they lived in the moment. "I look at you and I just know we have something special. I can honestly say I've never felt about another woman the way I feel about you now."

With tears moistening her eyes, Kim shook her head as her emotions threatened to overwhelm her. "I feel so safe you," she confessed. "I trust you with my life. I feel like I know you better than anyone else in the world and that means so much to me. I don't feel guarded around you." Her hands trembled in his when she revealed, "I need you."

"I need you too."

"I mean for more than just bringing me donuts every morning." His smile was warmer than a summer's day. "I feel like you're a part of every aspect of my life already except romantically."

"You're always in my thoughts."

"You're never boring."

"You're so sexy." Wearing an impish grin Kim looked away, shy all of a sudden. Tommy loved having that effect on her. "I don't think we're trying to reclaim the past or that we're so lonely we'd rather be with each other than with no one at all. I know that right now at this very minute I just want to be with you."

Needing no further declarations, Kim urgently pressed her mouth to his before he could get another word in and as their passion flared she found herself on her back somehow. The fire was burning hotter by the second, threatening to torch everything in sight. Desire that had been muted for far to long erupted in a fury of hungry kissing that had them clawing at each other until Kim finally regained the presence of mind to yank her lips away from his.

"Wait... wait," she panted hot against his lips, her face flushed with desire. "I want you... God, I want you so bad."

"You have me," he kissed her again, his fingers tangling through her hair. "I'm yours."

"I love that," she moaned. "But I think we need to take this slow. And by slow I mean you leaving here in the next ten minutes before we can't control ourselves any longer."

As bad as Tommy wanted to counter argue her on that point, what he hoped to build with her had a far better chance of working out if they acted their age and didn't rush into things. The sex would be incredible, of that he had no doubt, but it would also be there for them to share soon enough. For now they both needed to absorb all that had happened and take a step back.

Tommy spoke from the heart. "I know I'm falling in love with you, Kim."

"The feeling's mutual," she replied with a glowing smile while watching him roll off of her. He found his shirt and slipped it back on, now standing at the foot of her bed. Sending him home tonight was something she knew she was going to regret as soon as he left, but she felt that they would more than make up for it. Right now she enjoyed knowing his heart was not only hers again, but that hers belonged to him as well. They wanted it that way. It was enough for now.

Tommy glanced at the painting on the floor leaning against her closet. "Have you decided where you're going to hang it yet?"

"Over my bed."

'What a reminder' he smiled to himself. Though he could never admit it, he often wondered if their one night together meant as much to her as it did to him. Now he had no doubt it did. "Since you just kicked me out are you going to at least have the decency to walk me to the door?

"Trust me, Tommy. There are no decent thoughts going through my mind right now." Kim moved off the bed and then joined him as they walked out of her bedroom and into her living room towards her front door.

Kim reached it first and before turning the knob turned around to face him again. A monumental shift had taken place as their friendship was evolving into so much more. She felt truly happy and that in itself was thrilling. He was thrilling. Handsome. Sexy. Hers. All of those things and a thousand more. This was undoubtedly the start of something magical.

"I hate to leave."

"I don't want you to go."

"But I should," he realized rather than asked. She nodded begrudgingly. "Being a mature adult sucks."

"Especially when it interferes with the epic boning we'd have tonight," she smiled at him. "I've got a concert at Roxy's this Friday. I'm the opening act and then after that there are six more bands that are going to perform. Roxy's has great drinks, good food, and a pretty casual atmosphere. So you wanna go out with me that night?"

"Are you asking me on a date?"

"Well I am your girlfriend."

They hadn't used the traditional couple words until now. Tommy had to admit it sounded really nice. "You got a date."

Kim walked into his waiting arms and hugged him tight. She pressed her face to his chest and deeply inhaled his scent, wishing that she could wake to it in the morning. She promised herself that someday she'd never say goodnight from a distance farther than the center of her bed. "I want to be your 'Beautiful' again."

Holding her tight to his chest, Tommy laid a kiss on top of her head and sighed. "That depends on if I can be your White Knight again?"

"I think we just cornered the market on corny romantic banter."

"Romantic banter only sounds corny to people who don't have it in their lives."

"So you're saying we're not corny?"

He laughed while kissing her one last time. "We're cool. We were cool even when we used to yell 'Its Morphing Time' every afternoon."

"Did you ever think it was strange how Zedd and Rita always attacked around 4:30 PM every week day?"

"Kim if I actually pondered the things that happened to us as teenagers in any realistic sort of way I might go crazy. Don't even get me started on the amount of buildings destroyed in downtown Angel Grove."

"Okay," she laughed again and then kissed him before stepping out of his embrace.

"Thanks again for your car."

"You're welcome."

"How about I pick you up for breakfast in the morning. Say around 8:00AM?"

"Sounds good."

Tommy nodded and then opened the front door and walked into the hall "I love you, Kim."

"I love you too, Tommy."

"Night Beautiful."

"Night," she offered softly and then shut the door. They both leaned their backs against it, lost in what they want versus what they knew was the smart thing to do. Alas, there was no need to rush the inevitable.

After all, they had a lifetime of days to look forward to from now on.

The End

PS: I may make a NC-17 version. We'll see, lol. Anyway I hope all of you enjoyed this. Thanks for reading.