Author's Note: The last installment of Clipped. The poem is mine; please don't use it without permission.
Clipped Wings - Part 4
The phone lay on the floor, the dial tone beeping incessantly in the background as Kimberly tilted her head back against the wall, the sound pulsing in tandem with the tears that slid down her cheeks. The ache in her throat had expanded into her chest, a dull, throbbing pain that permeated her being as she struggled to find some semblance of composure.
Tommy had hung up on her.
Unaware that as she sat there listening to the buzzing noise, her friends were rallying to her defense in Angel Grove and giving Tommy what fore, she hugged her knees to her chest. It felt as if her heart was lurching against her rib cage in a sudden bid for freedom... and she wished she could give it. Some part of her brain truly believed that anything would have been better than dealing with his rejection.
Reaching out to him had been difficult - agonizing in fact - and more so than she'd expected it to be. Not because reaching for him had ever been a problem - Tommy was and always had been her White Knight - but because of what she'd done to him and the resulting silence, taking that first step back had been more difficult than expected.
Stumbling and falling because he hadn't been there to catch her was devastating.
It was the sound of her teammates returning to her dorm that brought her tear streaked face up and snapped her from the melancholy that gripped her. Pushing to her feet, she collected the phone with a careful movement and hung it back in its cradle. Turning away, her gaze dropped to the piles of messages strewn across the table, Tommy's sitting by itself in front of the chair she'd been using.
The sound of footsteps approaching jarred her into action. Grabbing his message, she left the mess and darted from the kitchen, ducking into her room and closing the door carefully. A split second later had her opening the door and hanging the "do not disturb" sign on the handle before closing it once more.
Her gaze traveled around the room - the spares, white washed walls, the small single bunk and worn carpet underfoot and over to the night stand, and the picture she refused, even now, to relinquish. It was an image of the original six Ranger - dressed down - while hanging out at the park. Trini was deep in discussion with Billy, both completely oblivious to the fact the picture was being taken. Zach was in the middle of dropping a glass of ice water over Jason's head next to them and Tommy...
Reaching out she traced the oval of his face with her index finger, wishing skin, not cool glass, was there to greet her. She and Tommy in the picture were together - like usual - except it was a rare moment that the picture taker had captured. Tommy has his back against the tree, and she'd been leaning against his chest - except their heads were turned towards one another and their smiles were intimate.
A moment for just the two of them amid the chaos of their daily lives.
She still couldn't believe that Skull had been the one to take the picture - a fluke for one of their classes - and, Skull being Skull, had given it to her when she'd asked. Not that asking had been necessary - it wasn't a picture Skull had been inclined to keep. The bright side of the whole situation had been Skull backing off and giving her and Tommy the space to simply be together. That the picture had been taken less than a week before Coach Schmidt's offer for her to come and train in Florida made it all that much more special.
Turning away, she settled on the edge of her bed, swiping the back of her hand across her eyes in an attempt to stem the tears and regain her composure. It was a futile gesture.
Kimberly curled up on her bunk, hugging the bear Tommy had brought when she'd been in the hospital before leaving Angel Grove. It was worn and well loved. If she was teased for having a teddy bear she didn't care; it was her last and best connection to him and one she was unwilling to give up. Tightly embracing the stuff toy, she buried her face in his fur and inhaled.
It still smelled faintly of Tommy's cologne - and she ensured it stayed that way after buying a small bottle when she'd moved away - the scent torturing her senses with memories. Tommi-bear offered no sage words of wisdom, but he was her confidant and one true friend; he never judged. Not that he could, but he was truly reminiscent of what she'd surrendered to chase rainbows.
Exhaustion settled in, wrapping her in its foggy tendrils as she drifted off to sleep...
Mist encircled Kimberly's legs, darkness and light flicking quickly back and forth between the spectrums, lending the illusion of movement and motion. Slow motion, but motion, and colors began to intersperse the light.
Faces flickered in and out of her consciousness, some in Ranger uniforms, some not. Some she knew intimately, other who were little more than strangers. Almost all of them had their mouths open, as if trying to tell her something. Some simply looked sad, others desperate - she didn't understand.
There was silence to her call, the flickering increasing in speed as the mist whirled up, surrounding her knees and then her waist, tightening in a surprising move so that she could barely breath. Kimberly began to struggle against the links, the faces of her friends - current and former Rangers - flickering in an increased speed, still trying to tell her something.
"I don't understand!"
A loud swoosh made her duck instinctively and she overbalanced, hitting the hard ground with a painful thud as the mist suddenly disappeared. Completely clarity encompassed her for a moment as she was bathed in a pink and white light, the crane who'd made her duck hovering gracefully in the air above her.
The bird looked sad, almost worn - the way she felt.
With a flash of pink feathering, the majestic looking creature looked left, then right and let out a mournful call as the white light faded, leaving only a pulsing pink. The cry was chilling, reaching into the very depths of Kimberly's soul and resonating painfully in her heart. She knew that sound; she felt it intimately - like an extension of her own sorrows.
With a sudden shriek, the crane suddenly turned on her tail and vanished. Kimberly closed her eyes, dropping her head down to rest it against the hard surface on which she lay. She knew what the crane had been searching for; she knew because she was searching for the same thing.
A gentle, soft and furry paw touched her hand, and her eyes shot open. Blinking with disbelief, Kimberly stared at her teddy bear. The little white creation was offering it hand, a smile on its stitched face. He petted her hand again and then stood on its stubby little legs. The confident way the bear held himself was what had her reaching for him. Her hand slid into his, engulfing the soft paw in her grip.
With surprising strength she was pulled to her feet and Tommi-bear held tightly as he drew her onward, into the swirling unknown...
A knock on her door and a soft voice calling her name woke her.
Disoriented and sore, she lifted her head to find she lay curled in the center of her bed, clutching Tommi-bear in a tight, desperate grip. Her arms were numb from the force, even in sleep, she'd been exerting on the stuffed animal. For some reason she didn't yet recall beyond her dream, she'd been clinging to it like a life-line... and then reality hit her with the force of a freight train.
Their brief talk.
The knock came again.
"Ye-?" Her voice broke, the tightness from her crying bout having made it difficult to speak. She had to clear her throat and take a deep breath to ease the ache in her chest before she tried again. "Yeah?"
"Are you okay?" It was Mia again and the concern in her voice was telling. "Can I come in?"
"I'd rather you didn't."
Mia didn't pay her any attention as she opened the door and stuck her head inside. One look at Kimberly's pale face and the grip she had on the stuffed animal had her stepping around the obstacle and closing it behind her. In moments, she was at Kim's side and was pulling Kimberly into a hug. "What happened?"
"He doesn't want me back." Kimberly's broken admission was punctuated by soft, gut wrenching sobs.
Kimberly related the fiasco of her phone call. First at getting Tommy's answering machine and then their brief and silted conversation while he'd been at the Juice bar all resulting in Tommy hanging up on her when she'd begun to cry. It hadn't taken long to speak with him, just as it didn't take long to relate what had happened.
"I should have taken coach up on the offer for the Olympic team," Kim burst out bitterly between sobs, anger mingling with regret. "It's what Tommy wants for me anyway."
Mia was suspiciously silent as she continued to hug Kim and stroke her hair.
"Mia?" Kimberly pulled away, dashing her hands at her eyes to wipe away her tears with an angry gesture. "Don't you think that's what I should have done?"
Guilt clung to Mia's features, shadowed, but present and Kimberly frowned. "Why not?"
With a sigh, Mia pulled a folded piece of paper from her pocket and offered it to Kimberly. "Because I think you have it wrong."
"He hung up on me!" The words were more vehement now than desolate and Kimberly ignored the outstretched form. "Tommy's never hung up on me."
"Maybe he didn't understand why you were crying. You said he asked about the guy you left him for and how he was treating you."
"Maybe he thought you'd lied to him about it; that something really was wrong but you didn't want to tell him."
"Tommy knows I would never-"
"Or," Mia broke in, not allowing Kim to finish. "Maybe he doesn't know. Tommy's not a mind reader, Kim and you told me yourself he's dense as a brick. It's entirely possible he doesn't know."
"I-" Kimberly stopped, taking a deep breath as she struggled to reign in her temper, still ignoring the outstretched sheet. "Tommy knows me, Mia - better than anyone; there's no way he would have hung up on me if he thought I needed him. He's always…" Faltering, she fell silent as she considered what she'd been about to say.
He's always been there when I needed him.
But that wasn't exactly the truth.
Tommy had taken her letter at face value, given her the space she'd asked for and never presumed to step in - not even when things in her life had continued to crumble. Losing the Rangers had been hard, harder than anything she'd ever had to give up, but her friends were still with her. Or so they'd claimed. One by one the letters trickled off, eventually ceasing completely as they were thrown into a new battle with new villains.
They were busy, too busy for her - and that included Tommy. It's what she'd see at Christmas and New Years. It's what she'd heard about while she'd been back home - but that wasn't the only thing they'd talked about. It was simply the most common topic. Rangers stuck together no matter if they were active or not and she knew Tommy had been relieved he could still confide in her about his status as the Leader of the Rangers.
It was yet another reason she'd had to give him up. While she was in Florida, Tommy couldn't afford the distraction of worrying about her. Less and less she'd felt comfortable confiding in him via letter and slowly, gradually, those letters had ceased any kind of frequency. It had hurt, but she'd forced herself to be understanding about it. Tommy was out saving the world; she was only following her dream. The welfare of the planet had to come before she did. Like Zordon had said; once a Ranger, always a Ranger. And it took a Ranger - former or active - to understand the demands on a Ranger's time.
Tommy's free time was preciously minor and she knew for a fact he spent as much of it as possible working on his martial arts; it was what he did. They'd only been able to spend so much time together when they'd both been active Rangers because they frequented the same places - and they made the time. She'd watch him practice just as he'd be there to watch her.
"Kim?" Mia waved the folded piece of paper in front of her eyes.
Kimberly swallowed hard and considered what Mia had just told her - conceding the fact she was right. Tommy, for all his strengths, was as dense as a brick. He probably didn't know because she'd never told him; she'd never admitted to being scared or to her lies - could he forgive her if she did. Would he want to?
Kimberly rubbed her hands over her face. "I've made a mess of this whole thing, haven't I?"
"I've just been assuming all along that Tommy would understand whatever I was trying to tell him because he'd been so close to me before - except he's only got half the story." Looking up at her friend, Kimberly's eyes had dried, but they were still puffy and red. "He doesn't know I lied to him about meeting someone new."
"Then why'd he leave you this?" Mia wiggled the paper again.
"Leave me... what are you talking about?"
"Tommy called while you were sleeping, Kim." Kimberly's eyes widened but Mia continued. "I was able to talk to him before anyone realized who he was; I said it was my brother. He sounds like a real sweetheart."
"W.. what did he have to say?"
"A lot of stuff I didn't understand about a couple people you know - Katherine and Jason - and their pastime of kicking his ass."
Kimberly giggled. "That sounds like Jase, but I can't really see Kat..." she paused and considered it, reviewing what she knew about the current Pink Ranger. "Hmm well, maybe, depending on the circumstance."
"Whatever. Anyway, he said I was to leave you this very specific message. He made me write it down and read it back to him word for word."
Staring at the piece of paper in Mia's fingers, Kimberly's heart clenched in her chest. "Is it a message I'm going to want to hear?"
Mia shrugged. "I don't understand it - something to do with cranes and falcons and winds. He said you'd get it - just like you did the last one. Here - take it."
With a careful movement, Kimberly plucked the paper from Mia's outstretched hand - and her friend made to leave. "You're not staying?"
Shaking her head, Mia smiled. "I'm not supposed to. I gave Tommy my word I'd let you read it alone. Oh, and he said you can call him at any time after you read it; he'll be waiting by the phone all night - at home this time - for you to call."
Jaw dropping, Kimberly watched as Mia departed with a wink and a wave, leaving her alone with the piece of folded paper. Call him again? To be fair, he'd called her twice now, reaching out to her as she'd done to him - he was reaching back for her... it was a good sign, wasn't it?
Chewing on her lower lip, her fingers began to tremble as her eyes dropped to the paper. Carefully, so not to tear it, Kimberly began unfolding it. It unfolded twice, revealing Mia's neat, block printing running a part of the way down the page. Scanning it, she realize it was a poem and then did a double take as she realized what she was reading.
Lyrics; her lyrics to the song she'd written for Tommy.
Down the road, we never know,
What life may have in store,
Winds of change will rearrange,
Our lives more than before...
But you'll never stand alone, my friend,
Memories will never die,
In our hearts, they'll always live,
And never say... goodbye...
She smiled, shaking her head sadly; she had said goodbye - and never should have. Skimming lower, she found the note Mia had so faithfully taken.
Pink and White once shared the skies
Laughing and playing with their carefree cries
She watched his back, and he watched hers
Wing in wing through the atmospheres
She watched him fall and caught him close
Never judging, never critically verbose
Supportive of his flaws,
Accepting of his scars
Together they grew in skill and strength
And evil proceeded to go to any length
To tear asunder a love so true;
To turn the Falcon from White to blue
And then the crane flew off, to chase a dream
Exploring winds and causing change
She left behind the Falcon soaring
Keep watch and ever guarding
The winds died out, the winter raged
The crane's return did not emerge
Clipped and bare are the Falcon's wings
Awaiting a renewal only the crane can bring
Come back to me, my crane of winds
No grudges held for past sins
Mend my heart and wings together
Return to me and we'll make it better
Give me back my strength of flight
And soar with me from this long night
Fly with me in skies of blue
For through it all - I've missed you
Below it was written his phone number - like she didn't have it already - and the words "Call me" next to his name. Mia's hand writing, but all Tommy. A droplet slid down her cheek to splatter on the page and Kimberly realized it wasn't the first tear she'd shed while reading the poem.
He did understand!
Tommi-bear was pulled close and hugged tightly as she buried her face in the soft fur of his head. Her delighted laughter that was half a sob of relief, was muffled by the thick fabric. Tommy understood. He understood what she'd been reaching for when she's reached for him during Pan Globals. He understood that she wanted to come home - he was inviting her to come home; to come back to him.
Her future was suddenly one of options. Kimberly could stay in a place where the dream she'd once placed such a priority on had no chance of materializing or she could go home. She could stay in a place where her passion had been turned from fun into work, a chore to be mastered and perfected not enjoyed - or she could go back. Zordon had said she would return some day to resume the mantle of a Ranger. Kimberly doubted she would return as a Ranger no matter how much she wanted to. They had a team, a team that worked well and was a cohesive unit; one that she wouldn't dream of splitting for anything.
But she would dream of being a part of that group on the peripheral - and perhaps involved in some way. It wasn't the same as being a Ranger, but it was more than she currently had.
Butterflies roiled through her stomach as she realized what she was contemplating, her fingers absently stroking the teddy bear for reassurance. Returning to her old life; a life where her mother now lived in France and the family she'd been staying with no longer existed in North America. She was thinking about returning to Angel Grove, a city she knew better than the back of her hand with no money, no job, no place to live and two months left in her high school career.
Somehow, she would make it work; being with Tommy and her friends was more important than chasing some childhood dream in favor of a dream that was potentially her future. Tommy's poem showed he still cared - he'd never done anything like that before. Already a melody was swirling around in her head to go with them, but it was indistinct and she'd have time on the return trip to Angel Grove to pen it down.
Pushing up from her bunk, Kimberly stuck her head out the door, Tommi-bear still firmly clutched in one hand. The echo of her dream didn't escape her. Was this what it had meant? She hoped so. Creeping into the deserted dorm's hallway, she kept her steps light as she moved towards the kitchen. The rest of the girls were asleep or faint light showed behind their doors. She had no intention of having an audience and tomorrow's 04:00 wakeup call had ensured they hit the sack early and would stay there.
Creeping into the dimly lit kitchen, her eyes went to the digital clock on the stove - it was just before twenty four hundred hours. Almost midnight and the dorm was silent; perfect. Reaching for the receiver, she eased it off the hook and checked around her once more.
Tucking Tommi-bear under one arm, Kimberly dialed Tommy's number by heart, barely needing to see the numbers as her fingers danced over them eagerly - almost lovingly. She'd missed calling him, she realized; missed talking to him on a regular basis… missed everything about being with him and in Angel Grove.
Florida and Coach Schmidt had taught her incredible abilities, but so had being a Power Ranger - and there was a time when one had to put one's self first. Her coach wasn't happy she'd failed to medal - so what? She wasn't staying anyway and she'd deliberately taken herself out of the running so Tommy wouldn't misinterpret her message; that she wanted him more than any old hunk of metal. That her dream had been to compete, not to contend - and now that it was over, she wanted what her heart yearned for.
Her place back in his arms.
The phone connected on the other end almost immediately, even before the first ring had ended.
"Oliver residence; Tommy speaking."
She took a deep breath. "Hello Tommy."
"Kim!" He sounded so delighted, so breathlessly excited it made her heart flip flop in her chest.
"I hope I didn't wake your parents." Kimberly shifted Tommi-bear into her arms as she cradled the phone against her shoulder. "I wouldn't have called so late - except Mia told me you wanted me to call."
"It might be late there, Kim, but here's it's still early. My folks are still out - having a late dinner."
"Oh." She chewed her lip, turning her back to the wall and sliding down to sit on the floor with her knees bent to her chest, Tommi-bear tucked in close. ""I um... didn't know if I should call."
"I'm glad you did. I wanted to apologize for earlier."
"I hung up on you; I never should have done that." Tommy sounded so contrite it made her heart melt. He'd always hated causing her pain and always struggled to make it up to her after the fact. "Can you talk right now?"
"I should probably be sleeping but I..." she hesitated before forging ahead in a rush. "I got your message and I just couldn't wait until morning - I never would have slept if I had and-"
"Sorry." She blushed even though he couldn't see her. "The poem is beautiful."
"Beautiful is as beautiful does. It's not hard to write with you as my inspiration."
"What do you mean?"
"Umm, I uh," he coughed and she could almost see him blushing and looking away uncomfortably. "I got top marks in English for that poem - the first five stanzas anyway."
"And the last two?"
"I added tonight for you. I miss you, Beautiful; and I think you miss me too - more than you've said."
"Oh Tommy..." tears welled in her eyes again and she sniffled, hugging the bear tightly to her chest even as she wished it was him. "I wouldn't know where to begin."
"Then I will." His assertive manner made her long for his presence though she had no trouble envisioning him as he paced back and forth across his living room as a way to expend nervous energy. "I should have asked you what you wanted when you told me you'd been offered a chance to train as an Olympian, Kim. I didn't because I remember you once telling me it'd be really cool to be chosen to go to such a prestigious event - but I didn't remember at the time what you hadn't said. So I'm asking now. Do you want to go to the Olympics as a gymnast?"
"No." There was no hesitation in her answer and it was delivered with quiet conviction. "When I first got here, I would have told you otherwise but that was before..."
Kimberly swallowed hard; it was an opening that was too good to be true and one she wasn't going to let pass her by. "Before everything changed. Before I went through the withdrawal of being a Ranger; before you and I started this long distance nightmare; before gymnastics became a chore; before I sacrificed my future dream for my selfish childhood dream-"
"Your dream wasn't selfish."
"Yes it was, Tommy." Kimberly had a near strangle hold on Tommi-bear, the plush toy a practical pancake between her knees and chest. "Because I sacrificed the dream of us for a dream of me."
"I don't understand, Kim. It's what you wanted..."
"I lied." Her voice broke with the confession. "There's never been anyone else." There was silence on the other end for a long, long moment and for one, heart stopping second she'd thought he'd hung up again. "Tommy? Say something - please?"
Perhaps it was the way he said it; or the way that question reverberated around in her chest, knocking down the walls she'd built about her heart; or the heart wrenching agony he was able to put into it - whatever it was, Kimberly knew what he was asking. She understood he didn't want to know why he should speak, but wanted, instead, an explanation as to why she'd felt it necessary to lie to him. Why had she turned her back on him when all he'd ever done was support her and care about her.
Closing her eyes, she tilted her head back to the wall behind her as tears streaked silently down her cheeks. Her tortured whisper barely carried through the receiver. "I was afraid."
"Of what - me?"
"Not you, Tommy - never you. I just... I saw the way Kat looks at you - at us. I know how other women see you even if you don't and I kept thinking of what would happen if you found someone else - and knowing you had every right to when I couldn't be there for you. It wasn't fair. I... care about you so much I couldn't bear the thought of keeping you tied to me - of having you miss out on a part of life that was passing you by when I'm here and you're there. It wasn't fair to you."
"Why didn't you ask me first, Kim? Why didn't you give me the choice? We were in our relationship together; didn't you think I deserved a say in it?"
"You d-did," her voice broke again as she struggled to keep herself from breaking into sobs. He sounded so tortured, so agonized - a reflection of her own pain. She'd never considered he'd felt a fraction of what she had and the revelation that she'd been wrong was devastating. "I k-know I w-was wrong; that I h-handled it b-badly."
"You broke my heart, Beautiful."
His words broke her all over again. It was worse than she'd thought, worse than she'd ever dreamed. Tommy had never said he more than cared for her, but she'd suspected more; she'd suspected because she'd felt more. She'd loved him so much and been so passionately innocent in her belief that if she'd let him go, he'd come back to her; that he'd fight for her if she was what - who - he wanted. "Why d-didn't you f-fight for me, Tommy? Why didn't y-you come after m-me?"
"You said you were happy, that you'd found the person you thought you belonged with," She could hear him taking a deep breath and didn't fail to note the ragged edge to it - the one that showed he wasn't as calm as he was trying to make her believe. "I only ever wanted for you to be happy, Kim - I loved you enough to let you go."
"But not enough to chase after me," anger flooded her system, chasing away the ache of lost time. "Damn you, Tommy Oliver - I wanted you to come after me, to challenge me and my supposed new man; I only ever wanted you!"
"I'm not a mind reader, Kimberly," Tommy shot back sharply. "You asked me to let you go. You even described you new guy; how was I to know-"
"-that I was describing you?" Kimberly broke in on a hiss, shocking him completely and knowing it. "The only thing I did right in that letter was describe all the qualities that drew me to you in the first place and if you'd stop wallowing in that well of regret you just might be able to see the great guy I gave my heart to!"
Silence came back from the other end, but venting felt wonderful and Kimberly wasn't done with him yet.
"I know what you went through at the beginning; I was there. I saw it. I remember ever day, every minute, every word you ever spoke to me. I remember because it mattered, because I liked you; because I wanted you to like me." Her chest was heaving and at some point in her tirade Kimberly had regained her feet to pace back and forth as far as the cord would go. Tommi-bear lay, forgotten, at the base of the fridge as she whirled around once more. "I know how hard it's been for you to move beyond that, but even though your friends forgave you, you never forgave yourself. That's why you didn't fight for me, Tommy; that's why you let me go without so much as a whisper or a peep. You think I can do better - but I can't. You can't do better when you already have the best - you can only do worse."
"I - what?" Tommy's calm acceptance completely surprised her and caught her off balance, taking the wind out of her sails. "What do you mean I'm right?"
"Exactly what it means. Jason pretty much said the same thing and you're both right. I've never felt I deserved you mostly because of what happened in the beginning. You never gave up on me, not once; you were always there when I needed you and you let me go when you had to. I took your unconditional acceptance for granted; I took you for granted - and I never understood what I felt for you until you were gone. Even then, Kim, I felt like I'd... like I'd earned the pain of it. Like it was atonement for past sins and that losing you was inevitable - one way or another."
"Why, because you were once brainwashed?" Crouching to pick up Tommi-bear, Kimberly resumed her tight hug on him as she continued to pace. "Tommy, no one can hold you responsible for anything you did then; especially not me."
"I almost killed the team; I almost killed you, Kim. That's not an easy thing to get over."
"I thought you just said..."
At that moment, Kimberly realized she and Tommy were having a normal conversation. Sure, she was whispering to avoid waking her teammates, but nothing about this conversation seemed stilted in the least. Like something had shifted between when she'd spoken with him this afternoon and now; like something had shifted back to its proper place.
"We got over it; forgiving yourself isn't easy so don't. Use it as a source of strength instead of weakness. Kat was brainwashed too, but I never saw her beating herself up about it nearly as much as you do."
"Remind me never to fight with Pinks again; you two fight dirty."
Laughter bubbled out before she could stop it and she slapped her hand over her lips, looking back towards the hallway that led towards the rooms. Holding her breath she listened - and was greeted with blessed silence. Exhaling, relieved, Kimberly turned her attention back to her conversation. "Kat tore strips off you, did she?"
"She and Jason took their turns. They make a lethal team."
"And a cute couple." Kimberly's grin was audible. "But she's not going to let circumstance and chance rule her, Tommy; neither should you."
"So I hear. I never would have called you otherwise."
"Why did you call, Tommy?"
"To get some overdue answers. Jason said some things that got me thinking."
"Wait wait wait... Jason said? Not Kat or Adam or even Rocky?"
"He knows you better than anyone, Kim; it can't be that strange to hear he had something helpful to say."
She conceded the point with a soft snort. "Okay, I'll bite. What did Jason say that got you to call me back?"
"Something about girlfriends and how they react to their exes. You were my first friend in Angel Grove, my first girlfriend - and now my fist ex. Jason offered some sage words of advice from his experience and I wanted to know if it was true."
"Your reaction for starters. Why'd you tell me you missed me at the end of your routine at Pan Globals, Kim?"
"Because it's true." She put her back to the wall under the phone again and slid down towards the floor, hugging Tommi-bear. "I wouldn't have worked so hard to get your attention and keep it with my leotard and everything if I didn't."
"You didn't even know if I was watching."
"You promised me you would be," her throat almost closed but she forged ahead. "I was counting on you to remember that and keep it." And he had; the proof was in his voice on the other end of the line. "I'd lost my drive, Tommy. Gymnastics isn't fun anymore; it hasn't been for a couple of months now. It's work - hard work with little to no support - and until I hit on the routines I used for Pan Globals, I'd considered quitting and moving to France with mom."
"I don't understand. Competing at Pan Globals was your dream - and you love gymnastics; you still do. It was in every line of your body when you were on the floor.
"My dream was to compete, not to contend - and I realized when I came up with those routines why gymnastics wasn't any fun anymore."
"I did," the admission was tough for her, but she managed to get it out. "About three months ago Coach Schmidt noticed something was wrong and we talked about it. He knew I hadn't heard from you guys in a long time and I... I told him the truth. That I... I missed everything that had gotten me there; I missed my friends, I missed my family; I missed you Tommy. I didn't feel supported as I had in Angel Grove, I felt disconnected from it - so Coach suggested I do something about it. To not only remind myself of that connection but to reestablish it. I was allowed to create my own routines - with his input - for the competition; that's what you saw at Pan Globals."
"They were incredible routines."
"Thanks. They're the most challenging and rewarding sets I've worked on for a long time - and they reminded me of why I'd come out here in the first place. Of why I love gymnastics and of just who it was that supported my dream when I was willing to give up on it." She forced herself to smile through her tears. "You. I never would have achieved this dream without your support."
"You had the drive to do it without me, Beautiful - you just needed a kick in the pants to get started."
They shared a laugh, Kimberly's gaze darting back towards the hallway. Her smile slowly died as uncertainty crept into her hushed tone. "Now that I've lived my dream, I... I don't know what comes next, Tommy. All I know is that I don't want to be here anymore."
"And that's the reason you cried when I told you I missed you too?"
"Part of it," she admitted softly; it felt right to tell him. "I never expected you would ever tell me that again - and not couple with your nickname for me."
Tommy was silent and she could hear his footfalls as he paced from carpet to wooden floor and back. He was struggling with something and she didn't know if she should ask and risk breaking the fragile balance that had been established between them - or simply let him be. He spared her the necessity, taking a deep breath before dropping the bombshell she'd never expected to hear from his lips after she'd sent him her letter.
"Would you... Do you want to come home, Kim?"
YES! her heart was screaming - but Kimberly bit her lip on the automatic answer. Home to her wasn't what home was to everyone else. Probably to no one else. She'd come to the realization while in Florida that home wasn't where her mother and Pierre were; it was where her friends were... where Tommy was. Instead she carefully thought of her own answer before replying - and no in the manner she wanted to.
"I... don't have a home to come back to." Knowing it wasn't the answer he'd been expecting to hear - no matter how much her heart jumped at the thought of what exactly he was asking - she deliberately misinterpreted it... and gave him an out if he wanted it. "My mom's in France, Tommy; I've never been there."
"And you call me dense." His wry exasperation would have made her laugh if the atmosphere hadn't been so tense. "You know what I mean."
"Obviously not; explain it to me."
"Do you want you come back to Angel Grove? Here with your friends; you know, home?"
"After everything that's happened? After everything I've done to you?" Her fingers tightened on the receiver, her heart thudding painfully in her chest. "Would I be welcome?"
"With open arms, Beautiful. Katherine's missed you and Tanya's dying to meet the original Pink."
Tommy paused, as if mulling it over. Her breath caught in her throat as she waited, barely breathing, for his response. It wasn't long in coming and when it did, it was everything she was hoping for and more. An acknowledgement of what she'd done, of where they'd been and of what they had to look forward to.
"If you'd asked me when shortly after receiving your letter, Kim, I'd have told you no. But... like you I've changed and not having you here has forced me to grow. I've looked at my life before you, while you were here and now and... I've come to a lot of conclusions. Before you, I was lonely without realizing it; and when we meant, just being around you ensured I was never lonely. When you left, you took a part of me with you I hadn't realized was yours - and then you broke it." He paused and then seemed to throw caution to the wind. "I'd like my best girl back; you know, the one who accepts me unconditionally even though I've got the sense of a brick sometimes? The one that has a sweet smile, angelic voice and writes me songs when I'm down to cheer me up."
"Sounds like a large order to fill; she might not be up to it."
"Never. No matter the changes you've been through, Kim, you're heart's always been the biggest part of you. You made a mistake. You hurt me by leaving; heal me by coming home. Even if we can't go back to what we used to be, we were friends first. Even as friends you were - you are important to me."
"I'm grounded without you, Beautiful. Give me back my wings and come fly with me... please?"
His plea was the final straw - the one that decided things. Somehow she was going back to Angel Grove. She had no money, no transportation and no license even if she had - and she was dreaming and impossible dream. The realization was staggering. "I... I want to, Tommy, but I don't... have a way to get back. I guess I could walk... or hitch hike-"
"Not a chance; I'm coming to get you. Go pack."
What he was suggesting took a moment to register - and it was as thrilling as it was terrifying. "Tommy, you can't-"
"I can and I will; I'm not letting you change your mind."
"The price is too high."
"And it's one I'm willing to pay. Ten minutes, Kim. Be ready."
"Tommy!" She snapped her lips shut, biting off the shout to hiss desperately. "People will notice if I suddenly just disappear!"
"Leave a note; Mia will understand."
He had a point - and Tommy was using his leadership tone; she wasn't going to win this one. Caving gracefully, an anticipatory smile curved her lips. "Ten minutes?"
"Nine. I'll see you then."
There was a sound, as if he was making to hang up. "Tommy?"
"See you soon, Beautiful. Don't keep me waiting."
"Never again," Kimberly heard the line at the other end click and pulled the receiver away from her ear, hugging it to her chest. Never again. Seconds later she was on her feet and making her way back towards her room. She had eight minutes to pack and write a note for Mia before Tommy teleported in to whisk her away; she intended to use every one of them.
"Kimberly?" Mia stuck her head in Kimberly's room the next morning with a frown, her hair tied back in a ponytail and ready for practice. "Kim? You here?"
The room was neat, the bed made - but Kimberly's things were gone. The only things that remained was a piece of paper sitting on the plump little pillow.
Gone to give the Falcon back his wings and learn to fly again. I'll call you when I'm settled. Thanks for everything; wish me luck.
Mia stared at the short note, a smile slowly creeping across her face. Folding it carefully, she slipped it into her waist band and left the room, closing the door behind her. Coach Schmidt would be disappointed with Kimberly's choice, but not surprised. Kimberly had always been meant to fly; she'd simply needed to spread her wings and realize where she belonged.
And Kimberly belonged in Angel Grove - with Tommy.
Author's Note: Before anyone asks for a continuation I have this to say; Not Happening.
However, if you'd like to try and continue this yourself, to expand on it - even to just write something small like their reunion; "Does Tommy show up in Ranger gear?" "Does Tommy lose his powers because of it?" "How does the gang welcome Kim back?" etc etc, go for it. Just drop me a line when you do since I'd love to read it ;)
Oh – and Tommy's Poem; I agree with the statement that he wouldn't normally write poetry, but as someone who has the nickname "the grieving poet" I can totally understand how adversity can bring out a need for an outlet. One of the reasons I made it a school project is because I can't see Tommy writing anything without that push – but once pushed, I can see it being tough to stop the words. Hope that explains it.
Thanks for reading guys, you've been a fantastic audience!