Title: "My Quiet Place"
Written by: Shawn
Summary: A two-year anniversary draws Kimberly back to Paris for a reunion and a most dear revelation.
Timeline/Spoilers: Everything up to the end of Dino Thunder is canon. After that its all my AU and will be explained in the story.
Disclaimer: Disney owns all things PR. I'm just taking these characters out for a non-profit spin.
Authors Notes: I've had the idea for this story for a long time now and my good friend Liz came up with a fantastic manip pic that sorta inspired this piece. Thanks Liz. Go check it out at the Tommy/Kim, Sky/Syd forum "Perfect Chemistry." You can find a link on my author page.
"I gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which I must stop and look fear in the face.
I say to myself, I've lived through this and can take the next thing that comes along.
We must do the things that we think we cannot do."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
"In the end, nothing we do or say in this lifetime will matter as much as the way we have loved one another."
~ Daphne Rose Kingman
"Do not stand at my grave and forever weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn s rain.
When you awaken in the morning s hush I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and forever cry.
I am not there. I did not die."
~ Melinda Sue Pacho
Cimeti re de Montmartre
37 Avenue Samson, West of the Butte Montmartre and north of bd. de Clichy
Friday, September 6, 2009 10:15 AM
In the 18th arrondissement of Paris, France.
Paris... famously coined the City of Lights, and here she was in the land of the dead.
With the masonry tomb of the infamously talented late author Emile Zola lording over the beautiful green lawn entrance of the cemetery, Kimberly deftly traversed a stone path she hadn't taken in years as if it were yesterday. Cloudy skies and unseasonably warm weather greeted her appearance moments ago. Led by unseen hands, the small sheet of paper she was handed by an attendant upon her arrival wasn't necessary to find what she was looking for. She hated that she knew exactly where she was going, the route forever imprinted in her subconscious.
One of the dearest chapters in the book of her life ended here. And as hard as she had worked to make peace with it, there were more words to add to the pages now. A new entry that just couldn't wait to be added. Who she was when last she was here... who she is now... and what she will become in the next year made this trip a soul requirement. Her every step a journey down sad memory lane.
Built in the hollow of an old quarry, this historic cemetery was just as moving and evocative as she fondly remembered. It epitomized the gentle, artsy Paris adored by its romantic visitors from around the world. Covering more than twenty-five acres, the below street-level cemetery possessed some of the most striking sculptures ever devised. The dearly departed surrounded Kim in lavish style, with some of the iconic hand-crafted statues dating back well over a century.
Her first visit nearly six years ago came with an expert guided tour of this landmark. She was shown the immaculate grave of L on Foucault, a scientist whose work in the 1800's fueled a great deal of the science behind the Hubble telescope in space, among his many accomplishments. Then there was the magnificent gravestone of Auguste de Montferrand that always fascinated her. He was an accomplished French Neoclassical architect who designed Saint Issac's Cathedral and the Alexander Column in Saint Petersburg. In her eyes he was nothing less than a genius. When she graduated college in architecture she made a promise to herself to someday visit both of those legendary structures in honor of him, no matter the personal cost to her checking account.
But neither of those men held a candle to the person she's visiting today.
As if walking under a mildly hypnotic trance, she quickly came upon her reason for being here. Bending down to the granite headstone, Kimberly softly grazed her trembling fingers over the immaculately raised lettering, whispering to herself the engraved words, "Grace was in all her steps. Heaven in her eye. In every gesture dignity and love - Beloved Wife and Mother - Caroline M. Hart - 1956 - 2007."
With a warm wind moving over her, tendrils of her shoulder length brown hair that escaped her ponytail blew free. Kimberly's eyes slowly slipped shut to ward off tears as she sought to compose herself. Her head bowed as guilt ate away at her for having stayed away from here since the day her mother was buried. Pain so gut-wrenching and final that she couldn't face it was the culprit. With apologies to Pierre, her father and brother; she'd flown home alone mere hours after saying her last goodbye and never looked back. The agonizing plane ride a blur of numb emotion and disbelief.
Two years later the daughter has returned to the mother to make amends.
"Good morning, Mom," she softly noted before covering her mouth with her hand, and then laid a bouquet of fresh lilies before the headstone. They were her mother's favorites. She inhaled a deep breath of cleansing fresh air, still reeling from the grief two years later that her mom was gone. It was a wound that would never heal completely, but live on she did with the emotional scar. Such was life. "I know its been a long time since I was here and I'm sorry about that. I just haven't had the strength to face this... to face you. But I'm here now and I have so much to tell you."
Comfortable in jeans today, she sat down in front of the headstone resting her arms around herself. She recalled how good it always felt when her mom held her close, and desperately tried to recapture the affection. For a fleeting moment, she did. "I miss you so much, mom. God, sometimes I don't even think I can take it," she revealed the depths of her personal struggles. "I know Paris isn't a hop, skip, and jump away from Reefside, but I still feel like I should have come back here sooner. I know I should have. My reasons for staying away didn't have all that much to do with my career or finances. I just... I just couldn't seem to face that you were truly gone forever. Being here forces me to face that head-on, and I just couldn't take it. Please know that you were never absent in my heart, but sometimes I cried for your physical presence. As you know all to well, I haven't needed many people in my life, but I always needed you. I love you so much and you're not here anymore. Its been really tough for me to deal with."
All at once her brother Jacob's frantic voice late in the night came back to haunt. The unforgettable phone call about the terrible car accident her mother was in that slapped her out of sleepiness into utter despair. The long, hard days that followed... the phone calls... the preparations... the painfully long flight to France and the funeral itself. She relived it all as the bright morning sun peeked out from behind a thick layer of clouds, warming her in the most natural of ways. "I think about you every day, mom. I miss you so much... you just don't know. But I've still been living my life, just like I know you wanted me too. You raised a strong woman because you were one. I've needed that strength in recent years more than I ever have before. Dad's heart attack was very hard on Jacob and I, but he pulled through. Of course you probably already know that. Even though you and dad divorced I remember you told me he was still one of the loves of your life. Thank you for looking out for him."
"I'm sure you know this as well, but Jacob's doing great. We've really reconnected since I moved back to California. You'd be proud of us. We haven't killed each other... yet. I still reserve the right to change that someday," she mustered a smile no matter her turbulent emotions. "Despite losing his right pinkie finger to a stupid accident I won't bother you with the details, I'm so proud he went back to college. I know you are too. And even though his girlfriend Jen is a airhead, she does have a heart of gold. I kinda like her. She just needs to read a book once and a while. Or maybe for the first time. But she's good to him. She's good for him, I think. He seems happy and I know that's what matters most."
Kimberly brushed some stray leaves from around her mother's headstone, and then settled back comfortably. "All in all, everyones doing well. My old Angel Grove gang are all grumbling about nearing thirty years old, but they're doing good. The family has stayed close and in touch as we can with our careers. I'm constantly emailing Pierre and checking on him. He's such a good man, mom. He's still dealing with his survivor's guilt, but I know he's going to be alright someday. I love him and I tell him often. He always treated Jacob and I as if we were his children as well. He calls us once a week, every week. I promise you that I will always remain close to him. And I know you're looking out for him too."
"As for me... well, Dean and I didn't make it," she confided while thankful that the cemetery was mostly empty this morning. It made this talk feel all the more intimate to her. "He was a dear when he came with me to your funeral, and the aftermath of that wasn't why we broke up. He was a real sweetheart, and probably one of the loves of my life. But we drifted apart... I don't know, life happened, I guess. We didn't have a major blow up and he never cheated. Neither did I. But something gently strayed between us until the day came that he only felt like a very good, close friend to me. We still talk occasionally to keep in touch. I know how well you liked him. He never disappointed me. He just wasn't the one."
"Speaking of the one," Kim noted playfully while nursing a dawning smirk of sorts, "I kinda found him years ago way back in high school. Of course with me being the relationship poison that I was for so many years, I dumped him. Flash forward fate and a decade plus, low and behold I ran into him at a baseball game." The warm suns rays swept the breeze aside, drowning her in delightful light and comfort. "One year and six months ago I was in LA visiting dad. We took in a Dodgers baseball game on a Saturday afternoon and who do I have the pleasure of running into with twelve rowdy ten year old boys? My dear old ex-boyfriend, Tommy. You remember him. Mr Dreamy Eyes. You teased me unmercifully with that name. And for the record, I liked his hair far more than his eyes," she smiled to herself. "It turns out he was taking a graduating class of martial arts students from a friend's academy to the game to celebrate. When we saw each other... Mom, I can't even explain it. Magic. It was magic. And as I was closing in on spinsterhood I'd begun to think magic didn't exist anymore. He walked over to me and we embraced in a hug I just didn't want to let go of. We ended up talking and... Mom, he was looking so good. I mean, I'm not trying to be shallow here, but he had a tan and his muscles were cut so nice. He finally gave up his ponytail for this short spiky style that was driving me bonkers. Since we were years removed from having worked out all our old issues, it was like two old friends catching up. Only this time we were both single again and the flirting started almost immediately. He was checking me out big time and I liked it. Before I left the stadium that day I had a dinner date that night."
As close as she was to the big 3-0, she recalled how nervous she was before their first date in years. She felt sixteen again, all excited and freaking out. And what she realized was that she missed feeling that way. Freaking out tended to tell you that the person causing the freaking out meant something to you. She wanted the butterflies and the nervous excitement and even the daring to boldly race into the great unknown. Being with Tommy was many things, but it was never boring. And there was nothing a woman hated more than boring. No matter that it was simply dinner. She'd felt the sparks earlier that day at the ballpark. She knew something was going to happen with them. And she saw in his eyes that he wanted that as well. "At dinner I learned about his dad's year-long battle with cancer and the emotional toll it took on Tommy. He was his mother's rock the whole time. You'd be so proud of him. Instead of a romantic evening of gazing into each others eyes, we talked for nearly six hours straight. We must have talked about everything that happened in our lives until it felt like we knew everything there was to know about each other again. Only this time it was the adult us. We laughed and teased and were serious at times, then silly again. At the end of the evening we were so exhausted we didn't even kiss. We just handed each other our cell phones, put our numbers in, and hugged goodbye. It was strangely wonderful, mom."
"From that day on, and trust me we didn't plan this, we ended up talking every night. When I returned to Florida it continued on like the most natural thing in the world. Sometimes we talked for barely ten minutes. Other calls lasted hours. I didn't know that I was falling in love with him again. I just knew that he was sharing his day with me, and I was sharing mine with him. It was so much fun, and I think in a weird way the distance helped us. Our nightly talks became the end of my day, and the thing I looked forward to most. I woke up one morning and realized I'd talked to him every single day for nearly six months straight. Romance for us wasn't steamy kisses or romantic moonlit walks on the beach. We fell for each other in a very gentle, almost accidental sort of way. I told him things I'd never told anyone in my entire life. Things that even you, Trini, and Aisha don't know. He confided things to me that I would have never expected. Very personal things. I was touched beyond words. Over time we bonded in a way I wasn't sure I was capable of bonding with a man. I've had my heart broken and I've broken some hearts. I've got the same sad love song and T-shirt to match as every other girl. But with Tommy... I just don't know. He touched me and I got through to him. We became something so private and intimate. None of our friends knew that we were talking every night for months. Even on the weekends. We were both caught off guard. Then the 'I love yous' started."
The first time he'd said it she was so floored she actually stared at the phone in disbelief. Of course he meant it as a deep and abiding friend was what she told herself. But his loving tone of voice rebuked her claim. She had to face the truth, unbelievable as it was to her. He had captured her heart again without her knowledge, and she'd taken his into her protective custody as well. Even now she shook her head at it all. "On the seventh month he came to Florida to visit me for a week... he ended up staying for two. We were inseparable and I just couldn't believe how happy we were. Mom, we can talk for hours or relax quietly and be perfectly content. We're both closet nerds in a way, and I think that makes us match up so well. We're addicted to stupid, low budget Sci-Fi channel movies. He's still got that loner quality about him, and I still love to be the life of the party. But I think our differences give us a great balance. He respects me with every little thing that he does, and I'm his champion. Our values are the same and we get along so well together. Mom, I doubt I could say this next part to you without being the first woman to die from a blush, but in bed the man is the Mount Everest of love making. And I have been vigorously climbing that mountain quite often."
Blush she did after saying that out loud. Oh how she wished that her mother was here. And then she realized, Caroline was with her. Always. This was one of her final passages into full adulthood. Dealing with the loss of a parent, something every son and daughter faces someday. Despite the absence, the love was still there. Endlessly. Suddenly an emotional weight lifted as acceptance swept over her in a way she hadn't planned on.
Kim cutely ducked her head when it dawned on her something she'd forgotten to mention. "Speaking of climbing that mountain... I, uhm... Funny story, actually." She cleared her throat, grinning wildly. "It appears that a few times in my intense zest to climb higher I might of forgotten some of my, uhm, protective mountain climbing gear a couple of times. It's just that I got so caught up in climbing that mountain over and over. And I hadn't ever enjoyed mountain climbing as much as I did with him... It was one heck of a large mountain too and... K, way to much information. Sorry. Jesus, I can barely keep this up. Okay mom, its like this. I'm three months pregnant. Oh, and we got married six months ago too. Is this too much to soon?"
Cringing slightly, Kim imagined if her mother were actually here the utter shock and awe that would tease her face, followed by the dearest of smiles. Sighing happily, she shook her head while trying to come to grips with all the changes in her life. And the ones still to come. "About a year after we started talking again we were racking up so many frequent flier miles it was unbelievable. So he came down to Florida one weekend and took me for a long drive along the coast. While driving he asked me to marry him out of the blue. I didn't freak out at all. I wasn't shocked or put off that he hadn't done the down on one knee thing. Our new relationship had started so backwards anyway that it almost felt appropriate we weren't doing the traditional thing. We were just taking in the sights, blazing down the highway while his question lingered quietly between us. It took me about twenty minutes of silence to go over everything in my mind and heart, and then it hit me so simply. I didn't want to live without him in my life. What he brought to my little world enriched it in a way no other man ever had before. Add to that the fact that I love him more than anything in the world. I love what he stands for, his character, and the way he treats me. I love who I am with him. So I just turned to him and said I didn't want a big, fancy, expensive wedding. I wanted something small and intimate. He told me I had to say yes first. I gave him what he wanted and six weeks later we were husband and wife. The mountain climbing only increased from that point on and now Tommy believes I'm carrying Chuck Norris Oliver. Trust me, I will never name my son Chuck Norris. But if Tommy thinking that makes him happy, I'll allow his glee for the next six months. Unlike him, I already know I'm carrying a girl. She'll be your namesake, Mom. Caroline Marie Hart-Oliver."
Her warm gaze roamed over the gravestone in earnest, catching the way the sun glint off its surface. She exhaled deeply, tucking a few errant strands of her hair behind her ear. "I'm very happy, mom. In my personal and professional life. I miss you with all my heart and soul, but I know you're watching over me, and you'll watch over your grandchild as well. I know you're with me, always. You don't have to worry about me or Jacob. We're fine. You raised us well."
"So in closing, I hope you're up in heaven raising hell or at least getting into some mischief. I love you, mom. Have a great day in heaven. Slap Jesus on the butt for me." Kim pressed two fingers to her lips for a kiss, and then laid them upon the gravestone... an eloquent goodbye. She gazed one long last time at her mother's resting place, and then placed her hand over her heart. Cemeteries held only the physical.
Even that faded in time.
Rising to her feet once more, she casually brushed some stray leafs off her jeans, and then turned toward the cemetery's entrance. She walked with a upbeat step, her heart satisfied that she accomplished what she needed too. And after waving goodbye to the nice guards at the guard station, she reached the black limousine waiting for her moments later.
Upon opening the door and climbing in, Kimberly found herself being gathered in Tommy's arms, drawn against his chest. She sat sideways, leaning her body against the firmness of his. Nestling in his warm embrace gave way to a peaceful sigh. She absently stroked her hand over his left one, gently grazing the sterling silver wedding band he wore. He was hers, just as the band she wore signified that she was his. And if there was one thing in the world she was sure of, it was that they were meant to be.
"Driver, you can start our tour," Tommy declared, and then released the small speaker button. Turning his attention back to his wife, he felt the grief she still carried with her, as well mature understanding that life wasn't promised to anyone. Nor was it often fair. The only constant was that it never stopped. So he tenderly massaged the tension from her shoulders as the limousine pulled out of the parking lot and exited the cemetery grounds.
The soft brush of his lips over her cheek made her nerves hum. "It went well." He nodded, offering no more of a response. She loved how he instinctively knew when she wanted to have a deep, involved conversations and when she needed simple understanding. Today was the latter.
Paris passed by in its eternal grandeur as they toured the city. Having only planned a weekend here, Tommy felt that after the emotional strain of visiting her mother's grave, a long tour of the city Caroline loved so dearly would ease Kim's mood. "Are you hungry?"
Yawning, Kim shook her head, the scent he wore drifting delightfully to her nostrils. "You?"
"Nah, I'm good." He watched her beautiful mouth curve into a smile when his stomach suddenly growled. He smiled, "Ignore that."
"I'll feed you at the hotel, dear." When he rolled his eyes she delighted in the simple pleasure of knowing him better than he knew himself. The patience he held for her was endless. He was as necessary to her as air, and she was so vulnerable to him it sometimes made her panic. But he would never hurt her. Just as she would never hurt him despite knowing she had the power to greater than anyone he had ever known. His heart was hers to protect and cherish. The responsibility was one she gladly accepted. "I told her about the baby."
"Little Chuck Norris Oliver?" he teased, snuggling her closer. She lifted her head, turning in his arms. Her smirk said it all. "Bruce Lee Oliver?"
"No and no. PS, you are crazy. But I love you," she laughed softly before claiming his lips in a long, heartfelt kiss. Then she rested her head back against his shoulder, yawning once more.
Brushing a kiss over her brow, Tommy settled her against him while taking in the City of Lights. He'd come so close to losing his own dad not long ago, having sailed through life with his dad's health being rock solid for so long he'd taken it for granted. Cemeteries had a way of reminding you that nothing should be taken for granted. Every single day was precious. Just like his beloved wife. The strength, support, and understanding he offered her today, he would someday need from her. So whatever she needed in this world, she would have. He'd see to it. He loved her with an absolution that he'd never felt before. The next time would be the birth of their first child. "So now what?"
"Do you know what you are to me?" she asked while gazing into his eyes.
"You're my very best friend," she began, sitting up to face him. "You're my confidant. My lover. My hero. My beloved husband. You're where I go when the world is turned upside down and I can't catch my breath. When my mind won't turn off and I can't figure out which way to turn, I look to you and find my way. When I'm lost, you always find me. You're my quiet place."
How did she effortlessly make him fall in love with her all over again? She stole his pride and ego, rendering him speechless and humble. "And you're mine." They shared the dearest of smiles, and then descended into a loving kiss.