Author's Blab: Normally I put these at the end, but since people are actually reading this I have just looked it over and corrected all the mistakes that I could find. I actually wrote this over the summer for a little contest one of the fanfiction author's I was alerted to held. Whoever won got a character named after them. I didn't type it up on time and when I did get around to it, I forgot to post it. So here it is, my lovely piece of forgotten work that took out three days of vacation...
It had been three months. Three months since she lost her will, no, ability to fly. Three months since the surgery, the ambulance lights, and her life being washed away. The pain however, it had never passed. If it didn't burn under the casts on her wrists, then it pulsed in the regret in her heart.
She had been teaching her advanced class on the uneven bars, normally her partner's job, but she had called in sick. Very rarely had she done the bars before, but they just needed a basic demonstration. Just a simple show on the high bar and they'd be done for the day…just one simple…but as her body came up for a flip, she could feel her hands slip off the bar's cool surface just a second too soon.
The next few seconds were what changed her life indefinitely. She was airborne, flying much too far passed the bar, the ground coming closer much too quickly, and she did the only thing she could think of. She put out her hands to break her fall. Her eyes were closed, she had survived, but she was horrifyingly aware that she couldn't feel her fingers or move her palms. She lifted her eyelids slowly, cautiously, and looked at what she'd done. A scream echoed off the gymnasium walls, but Kimberly wasn't even aware that it was hers as darkness took over her troubled mind.
Shattered wrists. Possible future mobility-limited. Gymnastics-out of the question. In that moment, Kimberly Hart's life had changed again. This time it wasn't to save the world or support her country. This time she lost her career and love. This time she had lost everything. Her mother flew in from Paris and took care of the hospital bills, staying until Kim was settled back into her apartment. It was a small, drably place, but it had been decorated nicely since Kim moved in. Though coming back from the hospital, the pink drapes and cushions didn't seem as peppy as when she had bought them the day before her…accident. The word irked her to no end, but it was what happened. An accident...that just happened to be her fault.
After arriving in her apartment, she promptly plumped herself down on the couch and didn't leave it except to go to the bathroom, or when her mother forced her to eat and shower. It only took a few days for her mom to nag her into taking care of herself, however difficult it may have been with a limited grip. Kimberly hated having to touch everything gently. Instead of just grabbing something, she had to lift it gently, careful not to push herself too much or risk further injury. She scoffed at the thought. Hurting herself even more because she didn't pick an apple up more carefully. Is this what she had come to? Being a worthless, fragile, ex-gymnast with no job and having her mother take care of her? Of course, her mother left after a week in the apartment, but still, her pride was broken. The best open job she could find was as a hostess at an upscale restaurant. It paid the bills at least, but it was nothing compared to what she had.
Young girls had looked up to her as a Panglobal competitor, a silver medallist, and a wonderful teacher. If they saw her leading people to their table and gathering menus, what would they think then? The anger she felt at herself and the world, the blame for the fate that had become hers, gradually subsided. The only problem was that it was replaced with depression and regret. Dreaded 'what ifs' played through her head like lullabies and put her to sleep at night, only to leave her in fitful dreams. It seemed as though when she fell that day, she had finally come down from the sky. She had of course, hit a few obstacles before-she lost her mother to Paris, and gave up her school love for an image of what she had-but she had flown through both, however difficultly. She broke her last strand that day and suddenly, without something to hang on to, she found herself falling deeper-losing interest in life itself. In a heightened moment of despair she called one person she knew would be there. Jason.
"Hello?" came a groggy voice from the other line.
"Hey Jason," Kim started, "sorry I forgot about the time thing. It's pretty late here too though…" She faded off, realizing how blandly her voice came out.
Not missing a beat, her brother figure asked, "Kim? What's wrong?"
She told him everything, relieving herself of the worries and guilt built up inside of her. It wasn't as if she didn't have other friends in Florida to relieve and talk to, but none of them understood her like Jason. She and him had a history and were like siblings. In this case especially, if she were to go to someone, it had to be him.
When she was done he sighed sadly, "Kim, I don't know what to tell you but it wasn't your fault."
"I know, I know!" she cried, resting her forehead gently in her free hand. "Everyone tells me that! I just…I can't take this anymore. I need a break or something."
There was a moment's pause before Jason answered, "Then come stay here for a while."
Kimberly's head snapped up at the proposition. "What?"
"Well you know," Jason prodded carefully, "just for the weekend. It'll be good for you to get away."
"I am not wasting that much money on plane tickets just to spend a weekend there," she bantered, with her irritation rising at his insistence.
Jason seemed unaffected by her attitude, keeping his voice calm. "C'mon Kim, for me? I haven't seen you since Divatox and that wasn't the best note to leave on."
"Jason!" Kim whined, throwing her head back against the couch cushion. He just never gives up! She thought in annoyance and, though she hated to admit it, in amusement. "We're talking about me remember? And I have no money!"
She heard him let out a sigh…a thinking sigh. Jason and thinking were never good for Kim. "Well if that's all then I'll compromise. I can pay your way here if you can pay your way home…or the other way around. It doesn't matter."
Kim squeezed her eyes shut, trying to find a way out of it. She still had money saved up from when she worked in gymnastics, so she technically could afford to pay her way home. "I hate you."
Jason gave an appreciative laugh. "I know. So it's settled. I'll see you next weekend, no matter how grumpy you may be." She gave a reluctant chuckle, stopping herself at the picture of Jason's smug face, knowing he made her laugh. "All right, I'll call you at a decent hour about the tickets. Night Kim."
She grinned into the phone, "Night Jase." She pressed the 'talk' button and laid down, thinking of her trip to come. She hadn't been to Angel Grove in so long, but in a weekend, what could happen?
The sound of curtains ripping open shot across the room, but didn't reach her ears in time for her to shield her face from the early morning light. Kim groaned and rolled over onto her stomach. She and Jason had gone out the night before and she had gotten wasted, obviously forgetting about the consequences. Somehow she had ended up on Jason's living room floor, but she would have to ask him later how she got there. The madman in question walked up to her head and put a cup of coffee a few inches from her on the floor. She looked up and him and glared as she carefully grabbed the coffee.
Jason just smiled and in his highest, most pedophile sounding voice, greeted her, "Good morning starshine, the earth says 'Hello!'"
Despite herself, she snorted into her coffee, causing little droplets of it to spill on the tan carpet. She groaned again as her head gave a painful pulse. This was not her morning.
"You're cleaning that up!" called Jason as he walked toward the kitchen. A few moments later he came back with a roll of paper towels, carpet cleaner, and (to Kim's utter relief) a bottle of Asprin. He set the first two down in front of her but kept the bottle in his hand. "You clean it, you get pain reliever. Now I have to get ready for work."
She shot daggers at his retreating back, "It's your fault you know!" She gave a frustrated breath before heaving herself into a sitting position. Though her head was pounding, she had learned something very valuable the night before-never go drinking with Jason alone.
She sprayed the cleaner on the carpet then stopped, thinking back to when he visited in Florida. 'Oh yeah, I learned it then too…' She shrugged and rubbed the stained spots with a piece of paper towel. Once it was relatively gone, she gave up, picked up her coffee again (but this time very cautious not to spill), and crossed her legs.
When Jason walked back in he was fixing his tie, but stopped to glance at his carpet. "Ah, so you did clean. Can I bribe you for one more thing?" He flashed her a cheesy 'pretty please' smile.
Luckily for him, she gave in. "What now?"
"Well, I'm not having any luck with my tie today…" He smirked as she stood up, set her cup on the coffee table, and obediently came to his aid.
She yanked as harshly as she could on the red cloth, making his head bob with every pull. She scowled at him in impatience, and succeeded in making him nervous. "You better have that Asprin," she warned as she finished with the tie. He quickly dug in his pocket and handed it to her, not wasting a moment to loosen his tie as she made off to the kitchen for water.
"You could have been more gentle!" He shouted to her as he made his way to the kitchen as well. He found her downing a glass of water near the sink as if her life depended on it. "What are you going to do today?"
She set the empty glass down on the counter and turned to him with a weary look. "Avoid sunlight and loud noises."
He rolled his eyes at her and sighed. "Well I think you should go sightseeing at some point. I mean, you're home for the first time in ages, go look around some." He leaned against the counter near her, awaiting her response.
She grimaced at the thought of going outside, but she did have to admit she wanted to look around. "Maybe after lunch time. I just want this headache to go away." She pouted and leaned against his shoulder.
"All right, but you might want to Google yourself a map. I don't want you getting lost on me." He shrugged her off playfully, earning a light slap, and headed toward the door. "Well, a man's gotta work." He heard her snort as he opened the door. "What?"
She smirked teasingly, "You called yourself a man." He stuck his tongue out at her and left the apartment. Kim shook her head and smiled. 'Besides, I will not get lost.'
Two hours after she left the apartment, Kim was lost. 'Where the hell am I?' she thought desperately, looking around for a hint of where she was. It only took a few minutes before she passed a sign stating 'Reefside, Next Right.'
'Good enough, I just need some directions after all.' She switched into the right lane and entered Reefside, cruising around before settling on a place called Haley's Cyberspace Café. 'I'll at least get something to drink while I'm here.'
She entered the café and with a slight shock, noticed that it was filled with mostly teenagers. She awkwardly made her way to the bar and sat down, feeling a sense of relief when she noticed the bartender wasn't so many years younger then her. "Not here often?" the woman asked her, smiling at Kimberly in understanding. "What'll it be?"
Kim gave a small smile in return, "I'm just not used to feeling older I guess, and a glass of orange juice please." 'I still can't drink carbonation, it isn't good for me…' Her heart fell at her thoughts and she looked down at her wrists woefully. 'Still broken. Still useless.'
"You all right?" Kim looked up to see the woman looking at her with concern, sliding the orange juice her way.
Kim took it gratefully and paid her. "Yeah, I'm just a little lost. Do you know how to get back to Angel Grove?" Sure enough, the woman gave her directions written handily on a napkin. When she was done, Kim was already half way through her orange juice and in no hurry to leave. That quickly changed.
"Haley!" came a man's voice from her left. Kimberly's heart stopped. 'No, not him, not here, not now…' She stared determinedly at her cup as their conversation stroke up, suddenly not thirsty.
"Tommy! What are you doing here? And on a Sunday?" Haley asked curiously. Kim worked on controlling her breathing. She had to get out of there fast.
Tommy laughed, embarrassed. "Well I can't work all the time. Besides, I brought you a belated birthday present."
Kim listened to her unwrap something, and then laugh. "A dinosaur bone? You do know how to charm a girl."
"Hey! I have a limited budget," he pleaded in defense, "You give me the money and I'll bring you something better." Haley laughed and Kim glanced up to see her kiss Tommy's cheek in thanks.
Feeling that her voice would work, and not wanting to be rude, Kim made her leave. "Um, I have to go. Thank you for the directions." She felt his eyes on her then. She had to leave quickly.
"Are you sure?" asked Haley, glancing at her drink, "You haven't finished…"
"I'm fine. Thanks again." Kim was up and out before the woman could get in another word.
He hadn't noticed her when he came in, thinking she was just another customer, but when he heard her voice, he knew immediately who she was. He froze, staring at her in disbelief as she turned and walked out of the café.
"Such a sad looking girl. I wonder what's wrong with her," stated Haley. "Tommy, where are you going?"
He didn't feel a need to answer as he walked out as well. She was fumbling with her car keys, a nervous look on her face, which only got worse when she saw him coming. They just stood there for a moment, looking at each other. To Tommy, she didn't look like the same girl form high school, and not just because she was older. She had a fear in her eyes and sadness that had never been there before. She almost seemed like a glass doll now. Pretty, yes, but so fragile. Where had she gone-the ruthless, bright, and smiling girl from so long ago? Tommy was not going to wait to find out. "Kim?"
Actually looking at him, it was a near miracle she recognized him in the café. He had cut his hair short and styled it, contrary to the long plain hair he had in high school, and now he seemed more strained. His eyes had an emptiness in them that Kim had never seen before, not even after what Rita did to him. The Tommy she knew had always been as filled with emotion as she used to be. 'Used to be,' she thought dully, 'What's happened to us?'
She blinked and looked away, embarrassed for staring. "Yes?"
He softened his gaze and dared a step closer. "What're you doing here?"
His inquiry struck something in her, so instead of her original plan of brushing him off and driving away as fast as her car would allow, she stayed put and spoke softly, "I'm staying at Jason's for the weekend. I needed a break."
"You came to California for a weekend?" he asked, disbelieving.
She knew what he was thinking, "I know, that's what I said, but you know how Jason is." She still wouldn't look at him, instead keeping her attention fixed on the ground.
"Kim, you want to take a walk with me?" At this point, he didn't know what he was doing. He just couldn't stand to let her go yet. "Just around the café. Maybe we could talk and catch up?" He waited in anticipation for her answer.
The present Kim wanted to bolt to the farthest corner of the Earth, but the past Kim wanted to stay where she was. She wanted to talk to him, to see what had become of the boy she had loved. Past Kim's desires took over. "All right, let's talk."
She followed him to the side of the building and they began to walk around. The air between them was obviously tense. Kim was still studying the ground and Tommy had his hands shoved in his pockets, awkwardly figuring out what to say. "So I guess I'll go first." He glanced her way, but when she didn't respond he continued, "I'm a teacher now at Reefside High School," he paused and glanced at her again. No reaction. "C'mon Kim, do you not want to be near me that much?"
Sighing, she decided she was being unfair and looked up at him (however reluctantly). "Okay, what kind of teacher?"
He grinned. This was his favorite part. "I'm a science teacher. I have a doctorate in paleontology." Her eyes grew wide and his grin broadened.
"A doctor?" She asked, hardly believing it. Though it almost made sense thinking back to the first Power Ranger zords. "How did that come about?"
Tommy stopped walking, catching Kim by surprise. His grin had disappeared, and in its place a solemn expression was carved across his worn face. He answered her gruffly, "There's a long story behind that." From that point, he continued to tell her about the island, coming to Reefside, and even the Dino Rangers, all the while circling the building two slow times.
Kim listened intently through all of it, nodding in the right places, and pulling down on her long sleeve shirt when he wasn't looking. She was hoping he hadn't noticed her wrists, though soon enough she would have to explain them.
"And that's why I was here today," he finished, just having explained how he knew Haley.
"I still can't believe you had your own rangers," Kim said, trying desperately to keep the subject away form her a bit longer. "Do you miss them?"
He shrugged pathetically, "They were great kids and I still see them from time to time, but I will not miss them being in my house." Kim gave a small laugh and Tommy smiled, a small pause following. 'Oh no,' thought Kim, her inner self going into panic mode, 'say something! Or else it'll be…' "So what ever happened to that guy?" '…my turn.' Tommy had been itching to ask, not that he really cared, but his high school self wanted to know what happened since the guy obviously wasn't with her now.
She bit her lip, knowing it was only going to get worse from there…for her. "Well he wasn't as great as I thought he was." Tommy gave her a sideways glance, telling her to explain. "We dated for about six months, until I caught him and another girl…well, you know…" She looked at him for help, not wanting to say it.
"Kissing?" Tommy offered. Kim glared at him. "Oh! I see…" He pretended to look sad for her, but on the inside he really didn't feel all that bad. He never would have done that to her in a million years. Then again, he never thought she would send that letter.
"I'm sorry," she blurted out, surprising Tommy. "For the letter, I never should have sent it to you the way I did. I guess…there was just no good way of saying it since you were so far away…" Words escaped her from there, but luckily Tommy took over.
"It's okay Kim, that was a long time ago." In truth, he hadn't expected her to apologize, but it was nice to hear say it. "Let's talk about something else. What about the Pan Globals? How'd you do?"
She smiled a bit, thinking back to the moment she won. "I brought home silver. I was close to gold, but didn't quite make it." She made a sideways pout, and for a minute she looked like the old Kimberly. It disappeared, however, just as fast.
"Have you done gymnastics since then, or something else?" He frowned as she looked away sharply, playing with her sleeves even more. "Kim?"
"Yeah," she choked out. For some reason, her throat had closed up, making it hard to speak. "I taught beginner and advanced classes until a few months ago." It was her turn to stop walking. She dropped her gaze down to her hands in shame.
This time, Tommy spotted them. He stepped in front of her and gently grabbed her hands, pulling the black casts out of the sleeves. "What happened?"
She wanted to cry out at this point, whether from the fact that Tommy was actually holding her hands or what she was about to reveal she didn't know, but she stubbornly held back the tears as she explained. "I fell," she started weakly, locking her eyes with his, "from the high bar. I can't do gymnastics anymore."
He didn't understand, "But I thought you worked on the beam…"
"I do…I did," she corrected herself, hating the past tense, "but my teaching partner called in sick and I knew how to do it…but you know me, I can never land on my feet." She laughed nervously, thinking back to when she fell off the balance beam in high school and landed in the hospital. 'I still have that bear somewh-' her thoughts where interrupted as a pair of strong arms enveloped her.
Tommy held her close and spoke gently, "I'm sorry Kim." She bit her lip as tears fell down either cheek and returned his embrace. She had heard it form so many people before, but for some reason she hadn't believed them. To her they had all seemed fake and full of meaningless pity. But when Tommy said it, she had no doubt he was really sorry. He had seen her compete, he had seen her train, and he knew how much she loved it….and how much she lost. "That's why you're here isn't it, to forget about it for a while."
He pulled away carefully, Kim clearing her throat and wiping her cheeks before speaking. "That and to get away from my new job. I just started hosting at a restaurant and it's horrible." They both laughed airily, relieved for a hint of a light note.
They started walking again, coming closer to the front for what they knew was the last time. "One more question," prodded Tommy, pushing his luck.
Kim warily looked up at him, deciding it couldn't get much worse. "Okay, shoot."
He didn't hesitate for a second, "Why black?" He was referring to her wrists of course. "The Kim I know would have specifically asked for bright pink."
She groaned in embarrassment, blushing slightly. She hadn't been expecting that one. "They were pink. I had to paint them black for work." She pouted when Tommy chuckled, hitting him very gently on the arm so as not to hurt herself. "It's not funny!" He turned to her, eyebrow raised and she glared at him. The both broke into smiles, hardly aware that they had stopped next to her car.
Tommy's face dropped, realizing that she had to leave. "So I guess I'll see you around then." It was a total lie, he knew, but he could hope…couldn't he? What she did next stunned him.
Kim lifted herself up on her tip-toes and kissed his cheek. "Thank you Tommy," she said, coming back down to the ground. He was shocked, to say the least, and couldn't find a word in his mind as she got in her car and started the engine. He backed up and waved as she left. Words finally came to him as he watched her car go down the street. 'Why did she say thank you?'
It was a little after four when Kim finally re-entered the apartment. She was too lazy to cook so she had picked up Chinese on the way back, careful not to stray far from familiar roads. Jason wasn't home yet so she set the food on the coffee table and took a seat on the couch. 'What are the chances?' she thought incredibly, outing her feet up on the edge of the cushion. Seeing him just made her feel guilty, remembering how sweet he was to then how she treated him with that letter. It also made her feel sad, to see him looking so empty and lost…so unlike the Tommy she knew. 'Was it my fault?' she wondered, gently wrapping her arms around her knees. Maybe it was her fault that people were deprived of the old Tommy. 'No, how selfish of me.' She thought of the island incident he told her of. That would more likely be the case.
She heard the front door open and snapped her head up. "Honey, I'm HOME!" called Jason, closing the door behind him, "Oh, food!" He ran to the couch and plopped down next to Kim. He started reaching for the bags but when he saw her face, he stopped. "What's wrong?"
Kim grinned at her all-knowing friend. "You would not believe the day I had."
It was nearing eight p.m. and Tommy had found a billion reasons why she thanked him out of thin air, but he couldn't find one on why he couldn't stop thinking about her. 'That was it right?' he asked himself, pacing around the couch as he had since he arrived home. 'We saw each other, explained things, and that was it.' He stopped and looked around his house. It was obvious that he was a bachelor. He kept it clean enough, but there was no femininity or real sense of home to be found. He was alone. It wasn't as if there weren't girls going for him, but he never felt a connection with any girl like he had with Kim. Not even with Kat had he felt the excitement and caring he had felt when he was with Kim. Just seeing her again…it triggered something in him, as if part of him had been lost and for that time they had together, he got it back. 'I can't let her go again.' The realization hit him like a concrete brick; he had to go after her…but how?
She had hoped at the airport that he would come for her or at least wish her farewell, but she realized as Jason hugged her goodbye that she hadn't told him when she was leaving. 'It was a stupid thought anyway.' She boarded the plane and found her seat quietly. He hadn't come for her, she was leaving, and now it was over.
Almost a week later, Friday night, Kim was working late, and by this point a little more then irritated at Jason. When she spoke to him earlier that day she could tell he was hiding something.
"Just tell me!" Kim whined pathetically, plopping down on the edge of her bed.
"No way," taunted Jason, "Just promise me you won't go anywhere with strangers."
"Go anywhere-JASON!" The phone clicked and the line went dead.
'He is going to get an earful when I get home.' She walked up to her younger co-worker, "Carie, I'm leaving. You need help closing up?"
The young blonde smiled shyly, "Thanks but Chad said he would help me today. I think we'll be fine."
Kim's eyebrows shot up in suspicion. "Okay, if you say so…" She grinned as she left the restaurant, pulling her black knitted cardigan over her nice outfit. The Florida air was only a bit chilly at night, but she wasn't going to take chances with the cold.
She stepped down from the curb and made to cross the parking lot when she heard someone call out from behind her. "Kim?"
She froze and turned sharply. "Tommy?" And there he was at last. He had come for her. Kim was rendered speechless.
He grinned and walked toward her, making her heart jolt nervously with every step. When he walked a step past her however, she was confused. He looked back at her and smiled, "Walk with me?"
Kim smiled and walked up next to him and linked her arm with his. Even if he was just escorting her two blocks to her house, Kim knew that him being there meant something. That it wasn't over. Because a walk could be the end, or it could be the beginning of something never lost.