Title: Letter Proof
Timeframe: Post Dino Thunder
Disclaimer: Power Rangers and their affiliates belong to Disney and are used without permission and no money is being made off of this. I'm simply destroying the sandcastles in their sandbox
Summary: Kimberly wrote Tommy two letters; one which said her true feelings, and the one she sent him in hopes of having him move forward in his life. Tommy's read the one letter... now it's time he read the other.
Author's Notes: I blame this entirely on chrisangelo and his spectacular graphics - they're what inspired me to write this. To see them, search "Perfect Chemistry" and Power Rangers in your google bar – links aren't something I've discovered on here yet ;)
Dr. Tommy Oliver checked his mail box, extracting the envelopes within, and turned up the walk towards his front door. His satchel containing the papers he had to grade tonight was held in the same hand as he casually flipped through them. Bills. Bills. Junk. More bills - he was thinking he really needed to pay off his credit card when a post mark from Florida caught his attention.
His name was neatly printed in vaguely familiar handwriting. Curious, he unlocked his front door, dropping the satchel on the floor and the rest of the mail on the table just inside. Turning the letter over - he noted it didn't have a return address - and slid one finger under the flap. The paper tore easily as he slipped his shoes absently off and stepped into the living room for better light.
Sliding his glasses on, Tommy flipped on the reading lamp as he pulled out the folded papers - it looked like a letter - and discarded the envelope. As he settled onto the arm of the chair, he opened the tri-folded paper and stopped as another piece drifted to the floor. Bending down, he scooped it up and turned it over. The words "I'm sorry" were written in bold, block letters - but nothing else.
Frowning, a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach even as a shiver of unease raced up his spine, he skimmed the first paragraph of the letter.
Everything is going great here in Florida. Coach Schmidt has me as ready as I'll ever be for the competition.
A flash of déjà vu blindsided him, taking him back to a scene over ten years before when he'd been naive to believe that some things would never change because they were beyond change; they were sacrosanct and as they were supposed to be forever. He'd had his heart shattered because of it and it had taken a long time before he'd healed enough to move beyond that pain.
The echoes of it remained... but then, he'd learned enough in his thirty some years to know that you never forgot your first love. Especially when that first love out shone anything you'd encountered since. Shaking his head to clear it, he skimmed to the next paragraph.
Tommy, this is the second hardest letter I've ever had to write because the first one you'll get and I know it's going to break your heart. I know because I wrote it so it would and I did it deliberately. You've always been my best friend, the best boyfriend a girl could ask for and the other half of me - but I know I have to let you go. I have to make you believe you don't mean what you do to me - because if I don't, you won't let me go and... I don't know if or when I'll ever be coming back. That's not fair to you; it's not fair to me.
I was told a long time ago that if you love something or someone, let them go and if they find their way back to you, it was meant to be. I do love you, Tommy Oliver. I love you so much I ache at night thinking about it. I'm miserable without you; you're in my thoughts, my dreams, my fantasies; you're entrenched so deep within my soul I know you'll never leave - and I can't go on like this.
All isn't well in Florida and I'm not ready for the competition like I told you - but you'll never hear it from me. You want me to be happy, just as I want you to be happy, and I can't be with this distance between us. A part of me wishes I could stop loving you; that I could forget you and what we had - that I could move on. But I can't do that knowing you're waiting for me back in Angel Grove; so I sent you a 'Dear John' letter - a letter that will break you for a while before you can heal.
I know, because I broke writing it.
I never wanted to hurt you Tommy, but I know you and I know if I don't, you'll never let me go to move on without me - just as I have to without you. Please understand I didn't want to hurt you. If there was another way, I would take it in a heartbeat; but there isn't. I know you too well. If you knew I was doing this for you, you'd try and talk me out of it. You'd fight for me, come after me and jeopardize everything you've worked so hard for; I can't let you do it.
There isn't anyone else Tommy; there never has been and I... don't know if there ever will be. Gymnastics is my whole world right now and I don't want to meet anyone else. Maybe in a few years, when the pain of this fades, I might try again... but I don't know if I can. No man I meet will ever live up to you or take your place in my heart; I'm yours even if you don't know it.
I will always love you Tommy.
Please forgive me;
Tommy stared at the letter for a long minute, his throat suspiciously tight. The date on the letter was one day after the other letter she'd written him; the one he'd received at the Youth Center - the one that had turned his fairytale High School experience upside down and devastated him. He didn't need to dig up the old letter to know; it was simply one of those details of that day he would never forget.
And while he could well remember the feeling, the memory of it was no longer the crippling sensations he'd experienced then. It was more like a dull ache around his heart, knowing his girl had given up on them - and lied to ensure he'd give up on them too.
Still, it was a long time ago and his wounds had scarred over years ago. Taking a deep breath, Tommy folded the ten year old letter carefully, placing it on the table next to the lamp. Why he was getting it now of all times he didn't know - but it wasn't the only thing that had come in the envelope.
Looking at the other two sheets, he found another letter, this one shorter - more of a note than a letter.
I don't know why I've kept this all these years - except that I regret what I've done and... I feel guilty.
I feel guilty for running when I should have stood and fought; for being a coward when I should have been brave; for taking the 'easy' way out when I never had a reason to doubt we couldn't make it; for hurting you. Most of all for hurting you - and I know I did even if you deny it.
You deserve to know why I wrote you that letter all those years ago and still came back single during the whole Divatox fiasco. I'm hoping you'll be able to forgive me for being a terrified young woman. Not one who ever doubted your sincerity of feeling for her, but one who knew if she didn't let you go at that moment, she never would.
You said once that you would always be there for me if I needed you. If that offer is still open, I'm asking; attached is a phone number and address where you can reach me.
I need you.
Sure enough, the last page held her address - in Miami, Florida - along with three telephone numbers. One listed as her home, another as a cell and the last as a work number.
It was like being cold clocked after an illegal hit below the belt the referee didn't see - and knowing there was nothing you could do about it. Taking a minute to close his eyes, Tommy removed his glasses and rubbed his forehead with the back of his hand - a headache had started and he had a feeling it wasn't going to go away any time soon.
He hadn't heard from Kimberly in years and all of a sudden, out of the blue, she was asking for his help.
They didn't know each other anymore, but he well remembered who she'd been before leaving for Florida; how she'd looked and sounded after they're rescued her and Jason on Murianthias. He could still see her under the evil's influence, how she'd gone almost straight for Kat... and how he'd been unable to reach her when Kat had stepped in. Time had dulled the edge of that encounter and countless others - but not his desire to help her.
Kimberly had ever been his damsel and he her knight in shining armor. Okay, so his armor was old, probably rusty and tarnished, but that wouldn't stop him from helping her. He'd long ago accepted the fact that Kimberly and he had grown apart, but he'd never stopped considering her a friend. Not once in these long years apart had his view on her changed. She'd been his first and best friend; yes she'd broken his heart, but even the way she'd done it hadn't been enough to eradicate their tie to one another. Murianthius had proved that. He firmly believed - had Kat not stepped in - he would have been able to break the spell and help Kimberly on his own.
And now she was asking for his help.
Tommy couldn't have turned her away even if he'd wanted to. Folding the two letters together, he retrieved the envelope they'd come in and stuffed them back inside. The contents of the one could wait, but Kim's plea for help couldn't. The papers he was to grade forgotten, Tommy smoothed the parchment holding the address and phone number he would need.
The tone of Kimberly's letter indicated she needed him and soon so writing her back would likely mean it would be too late - and what would he say? He didn't know. Calling her was the most viable option. Checking his clock, he did the mental calculation on the time and winced. Almost eleven at night in Miami.
Still… if it was as important as the letter claimed - if she was reaching out to him, of all people - he surmised that the time of his call wouldn't matter to her, simply that he'd responded. That in mind, he reached for his portable hand set, plucking it off the charger and hitting the talk button all in one motion.
Dialing carefully, Tommy double checked the number several times to ensure he wouldn't misdial - he doubted if he did the person he ended up calling at this hour would be as charitable as Kim - and then held the phone to his ear. He didn't know where Kimberly was currently working or what she was doing, but he supposed she should be home this time of night; providing, of course, that she didn't work nights.
The line connected and the phone began to ring, Tommy taking a deep breath with each one and bracing himself for anything. For a man answering the phone; a child; a stranger - or Kim herself. He both hoped and dreaded the thought that Kim might answer the phone as he hadn't a clue what he would say to her.
The groggy voice on the other end didn't sound at all familiar. "Hello," Tommy replied hesitantly. Forging ahead, he decided that honesty was the best policy. "I apologize for the hour of my call, but I'm looking for Kimberly Hart."
"She's sleeping," groused the voice at the other end of the line - Tommy thought it was female. "Is this about her mom?"
About her mom? Tommy suddenly had an inkling as to why Kimberly had reached out to him - and a slightly sick feeling overtook him. If something had happened to her mother, she would need all the help he could give. "Kimberly sent me a letter asking me to call - my name is Tommy Oliver."
He pulled the receiver away from his ear. Yup, definitely female - and suddenly very much awake.
"Why didn't you say so in the first place? Hang on a second, I'll wake her. She's been waiting for you to call all week."
All week? Checking the post mark, he found it wasn't quite that old - it had come priority. Tommy turned that information around in his head, listening to the muffled conversation on the other end as the woman could be heard opening a door and trying to wake a sleepy Kimberly - not a good idea, Tommy remembered.
"Kim, wake up."
"You have a phone call."
"Hour's indecent." Came the muffled reply. "Take mess'ge."
Tommy couldn't agree more - though his interest was piqued as to why Kim would be in bed and deeply asleep before eleven at night. Unless of course she was still into gymnastics; back in High School she'd always been in bed no later than ten. It had meant finding things to do whenever they hung out that didn't involve late nights and forced him to be creative. Despite his nervousness, Tommy found he was smiling; hearing her voice, even muffled as it was, brought back a lot of good memories.
"Tommy's on the phone, Kim."
Kimberly suddenly didn't sound quite so groggy and there was no mistaking the anticipation in her tone. There was a scrambling on the other end as he figured Kimberly was reaching for the phone and a laugh which was unfamiliar - and had to come from the other woman - as Kimberly threatened the other woman with bodily harm if she didn't hand the phone over immediately. Finally, the noise stopped and he could hear a door closing before Kimberly's breathless voice came on the phone, still husky from sleep.
"Still the fire bird," he teased, unable and unwilling to stop himself. This conversation would be hard enough without starting it off awkwardly. "After all this time, I never thought I'd hear you threatening someone with broken legs just to talk to me."
She laughed - and he felt the years dropping away. Her laugh was the same. A little richer, but the laugh he remembered. "I would be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat surprised myself."
"I got your letter Kim." He hesitated, wondering if he should mention the contents of the first page he'd read - but decided against it. That old hurt was water under the bridge and her question in the second one was more important. "It sounded important so I didn't wait to call."
"You just got my letter - today?"
"Five minutes ago - when I go home from work," he confirmed. It wasn't exactly the whole truth - he'd stopped for dinner - but that was a moot point. "And I wanted you to know that... no matter what, I'll be here if you need me for as long as it takes."
"As long as it takes for what?"
"For you to no longer need me."
"It won't ever happen." She fell silent for a long minute before he heard her take in a shaky breath. "My mom's dying, Tommy."
After the question her friend - roommate? - had asked, he'd half-suspected as much. "I'm sorry, Kim."
There was silence on the line before Tommy asked his next, reluctant question. "How long does she have?"
"The doctor's in France say she's got less than eighteen months."
There were audible tears in her voice now and Tommy's reaction was instantaneous; he never could stand to hear or see her cry. He spoke before he thought about it, the words slipping out unguardedly. "Don't cry, Beautiful; she's not gone yet."
She laughed softly, sadness and disbelief evident in her tone. "Beautiful?"
"Habit." he quickly corrected, silently cursing himself for the slip. "Is she coming back here?"
"She's covered by Pierre's insurance in France and she couldn't fly even if she wanted to come here. Something about the altitude being dangerous for her condition."
"Do they know what it is?"
"It's a rare disease I can't pronounce. Pierre called me Monday to let me know."
Monday. The date on her letter; the day the envelope was postmarked from Florida. Today was Thursday - Kim's letter had taken less than three days to get to him. "What do you need from me Kim? Name it and I'll do what I can to help."
"I..." she hesitated. "I shouldn't."
"Hey, whatever it is, it's okay. The worst I can say is no, right?"
"That's what I'm afraid of." Her admission was shaky. "I have no right to ask what I want to after what I've done to you Tommy."
"Let me be the one to decide that," he told her gently. Standing up, he paced towards his front door and back into the living room, unable to sit still any longer. "It's been ten years, Kim. I'm not that same heartbroken seventeen year old anymore - and neither are you. I said I would always be here for you and I meant it then as much as I mean it now. Not just because of what we've been through together. No matter our past, I've never stopped thinking of you as one of my friends."
"Really." He put all the conviction he could into the one word. "Now ask; what do you need from me - how can I help you?"
"I... I want you to come with me to France for a few weeks - to see my mother." Kimberly managed not to race through the request, though her voice shook as she said the words. "I don't want to go alone."
Go with Kim to France - alone with Kimberly in one of the most romantic countries on the planet - right. If there hadn't been a history between them he might have misinterpreted why. "Isn't there someone else you'd rather take, Kim?" He had to ask. "A boyfriend or something?"
"I suppose I... could ask Jason," she didn't sound too thrilled at the prospect - and she didn't rise to his bait. "But his business is just taking off and he can't afford the time away. Mom would never believe he was- uh..."
"You mom would never believe Jason was what, Kim?"
"She's given up hope I'll ever find someone to be happy with, Tommy. There..." she sighed, resignation and acceptance clear in her voice, "there hasn't been anyone really serious since you."
That was a completely unexpected admission. Despite her letter - the one he'd just read - ten years was a long time. He'd hardly been a saint and he certainly hadn't expected Kim to be one. The Kimberly he remembered was a passionate and lively person, that she hadn't shared that with anyone was mind boggling. "Nobody?"
"Nope," this time her words were almost cheeky. "Hard to believe, huh?"
No kidding - and it wasn't something he could think about right at that moment. So Tommy did the only thing he could; he changed the subject. "Who are you living with right now - the woman who answered the phone?"
"Yeah. She's a fellow coach and my roommate. Ali's been great, but I'm not as close to her as I was to you or the rest of the team. I could call one of them, but I'd rather have you with me when I see my mom. She's always liked you - and there's no one who understands me like you."
"Understood, Kim, past tense," he hated to be the devil's advocate, but it needed to be said. "I haven't seen you in almost ten years; I don't know you anymore - and you don't know me."
"I know that. I know that's mostly my fault too. But I don't care. The Tommy I remember is in there somewhere - you can't be that different or you would never have called simply because I said I needed you."
She had him there. "You've always been my Achilles heel."
"Past, present, future - does it matter? But that's neither here nor there. France, huh?"
"I'll understand if you can't come." she conceded, but there was no mistaking the fact she hoped he wouldn't. "But... I hope you will. I don't think I can do this on my own."
Losing a parent was never easy - Tommy had watched several of his students lose theirs and the kids just weren't the same afterwards. Kimberly might have been an adult, but her mother was also her best friend and confidant - something he was sure hadn't changed in their years apart. Losing her would be a blow unlike any other loss Kim had ever suffered.
"Why not you?"
"Does this have anything to do with the fact that only family can visit in the hospital? I don't exactly pass as your brother, Kim."
"Maybe not, but I was thinking you could pose as my fiancé… just for the trip. If that's okay with you."
So that was it. She didn't just need his company and his strength; she needed him as an alibi, a way to grant her mother's fondest wish. To say he was tempted was an understatement. Kimberly seemed to sense he was considering it and pushed just a little harder.
"Anyone else I might bring with me would have to stay in the waiting room, and they wouldn't be able to help me when I finally go see her.. Mom's chart has her next of kin on it; what it doesn't have is extended family - and it wouldn't include my fiancé anyway." She didn't even pause to take a breath. "I know I'm asking a lot, but-"
"When?" He cut her off before he could change his mind, mentally calculating the days until summer vacation and how many days he could take before that.
"When did you want to leave?"
"As soon as possible. Pierre warned me that eighteen months is generous - she's probably got closer to twelve."
A year - not a year and a half. Making one of those impulsive snap decisions he was so famous for among his friends, Tommy came to a conclusion. He couldn't turn his back on her; even if he'd wanted to he'd told her the truth. He'd never been able - nor would be able - to resist coming to her aid... and she knew it. He had papers to grade - which wouldn't' take long - and local phone calls to make before arranging tickets for them; Kimberly was under enough stress to have to worry about their travel arrangements. Plus, if she was going to pass as his fiancée, they'd need the proper trappings.
"I've got to set things straight with the school here and finish out the week. Is Monday soon enough for me to fly out to meet you in Miami?"
"Does that mean you'll come with me?"
"You asked for my help, Kim - I wouldn't ever turn my back on a friend, especially not when you're already going through enough with trying to be strong for your mom and Pierre and - if I remember you dad and brother at all - the rest of your family. If you need me to lean on, I can be anything you need me to be. Is Monday soon enough?"
"You could meet me in France."
"If I'm going to pose as your fiancé, we're going to do this right. I'll meet you in Miami and we can talk about what exactly our story is since we're bound to be asked by various people once we get there."
"Can you make it out this weekend so we can fly to France on Monday?"
A smile curved his lips at how eager she sounded. Eager and sad all at the same time. Her mother's illness was giving them a chance to see one another again - an unexpected boon surrounded by sorrow. "I'll see what I can do. Go back to sleep; I'll call you tomorrow with my travel plans."
"Thank you, Tommy."
"Anytime. Do you have your ticket to France already?"
"Not yet, why?"
"I'll set those up too."
"Are you sure? I could call right now-"
"Just get some sleep and try to figure out what we're going to tell people about our sudden engagement."
"Alright." The laughter in her voice was warm, and it warmed him almost as much as it helped buoy her spirits. "Good night Tommy."
"Good night, Kim. See you soon."
As he hung up the phone, Tommy stared at it with a funny little smile playing about his lips. His world had just been turned upside down, the girl who'd been his first love was asking him to pretend to be something he'd used to dream of being for real and he was going to have to take off before the last few weeks of school were done. Yet, despite the hardships it would cause him, it was like a piece had suddenly fallen into place and given him the whole, unobstructed picture.
Reaching for the phone again, Tommy pulled his phone book from his jacket pocket. He had several other calls to make before he even considered grading the last papers of his school year. As he dialed the first of them, he considered what he was doing - and smiled.