Never Too Late
She'd seen neither hide nor hair, so to speak, of Zedd all day. She knew
he got depressed around Christmas; she hated the stupid human holiday as
well. Usually, however, he stormed around the castle grumbling to himself.
This silence was not like him.
Suddenly she heard the sound of the television blaring away in one of the rooms. After the temporary destruction of the Machine Empire, Zedd and Rita had moved back into the castle, knowing that Mondo would be too busy rebuilding himself and his empire to bother him. Goldar and Rito had insisted on hooking up the TV set to a pirated satellite signal, and now watched the thing nearly twenty-four hours a day.
Striding into the room to tell them to turn it down, Rita received a shock. Zedd was sitting on the couch, watching the television absorbedly. Plus, he was in his natural form, that of a sandy-haired man in his mid-forties. Looking at the TV, Rita frowned. Zedd appeared to be watching the tail end of a Christmas special, of all things.
"Zedd?" she screeched. "What are you watching?"
"Huh?" The Lord of Evil looked up. "Uh- 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,'" he admitted sheepishly. "I used to read that story to my daughter to get her to go to sleep on Christmas Eve," he mused, more to himself than to Rita. The witch made a face. Zedd was getting maudlin about his deceased wife and daughter again, and she hated it.
"Well, Zeddy, it's Christmas! How are we going to make the Rangers miserable this year?"
"We're not," Zedd replied, rising to his feet. "You can do whatever you want, Rita. I'm going out."
"What? Where?" Rita was astounded. Zedd never passed up the opportunity to get in on the chance to make the Power Rangers miserable.
"Just out. Don't wait up- as if you would anyhow." Zedd disappeared in a flash of red, leaving an extremely worried Rita behind. Could the love potion that she had given him FINALLY be wearing off? She'd have to talk to Finster about that. If Zedd wasn't in love with her any more, their marriage ceremony wouldn't mean squat. Not that it necessarily did anyway. If only she knew that those mercenaries had done the job... Firmly, she pushed that out of her mind. Nothing was going to go wrong. Still- she'd better go find Finster.
"You want another
one of those?" Chuck, the bartender asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Sure," Zedd replied, pushing his empty shot glass back at the bartender. "I can hold my liquor. And besides, I'm not driving."
"Okay," the man sighed, and poured Zedd his third whiskey. Zedd took it and sipped slowly, feeling the alcohol slowly burn a path down his throat. He snorted to himself. His people, the Zarakin, had raised the consumption of potent drinks to an art form. He'd swallowed things that would knock most Earthlings back on their haunches. It was going to take a lot of work to get drunk off of Earth whiskey, but what did he have but time?
Zedd looked up as someone sat next to him, and his jaw almost hit the floor. The barstool beside him had been taken by none other than Tommy Oliver, leader of the Zeo Rangers. Easy, Zedd, he cautioned himself. You're in your Zarakin form. He has no idea who you are. He had knowingly chosen a bar in Angel Grove, feeling a strange connection to the town. However, he had never thought he would run into one of the Rangers there. Suddenly another question occurred to him. Tommy was only eighteen years old, and looked younger. How on Earth did he expect to get a drink?
His question was answered as Chuck approached. "What'll it be?" he asked, sizing up the teen with a practiced eye.
"Beer," Tommy replied. "Sapporo." Privately, Zedd was impressed with Tommy's taste. Sapporo was a very good Japanese beer.
"Draft or bottled?" the man inquired. "And I'll need to see some ID."
Tommy nodded, sliding a driver's license across the bar. "Draft, please. A big mug."
The bartender scrutinized the license, then Tommy. The Red Ranger gave the larger man a half-smile. "I'm older than I look."
"Must be," Chuck nodded. Turning away, he drew the beer and placed it on the bar in front of Tommy. Zedd was interested to note that the boy took a long swallow, not even flinching at the bitter taste.
Waiting until the bartender was busy somewhere else, Zedd turned to Tommy. Swallowing his whiskey, he looked over at the license that still lay face up on the bar. "That's a very good fake ID," Zedd remarked casually. "Make that yourself?"
Tommy raised an eyebrow at the man sitting next to him. "I don't know what you mean," he replied coolly, taking another sip of his beer. Zedd chuckled.
"Hey, I don't care if you're underage. Not my problem. I've just seen a lot of fake ID's in my time, but few that good. It almost looks real."
"You a cop?"
"Not hardly. Ex-bartender," Zedd lied. He wasn't sure why, but he felt like talking to someone. And, crazy as it sounded, he knew he could trust Tommy Oliver to listen.
"Yeah, well- no, I didn't make it. I had a friend, back in LA, before I moved to Angel Grove. She was really good at that. We used to go out, hit the bars, have a couple drinks together." Tommy admitted. He, too, was feeling the need to talk.
"But you're alone tonight." It wasn't a question, but Tommy answered anyway.
"Yeah. It's Christmas, and I'm alone. My girlfriend left me almost a year ago. February, it was. No warning, no nothing, just 'Tommy, I've met someone else.'" He sighed. "Then my two best friends, the only two of my old friends left in Angel Grove, they moved away. One four months ago, one two. I miss 'em, so I just figured I'd drown my sorrows in a beer or three." He took another sip of his beer. "So what's your story?"
Zedd sighed. "I'm just remembering my wife and daughter. They died a long time ago. Normally I can live with it, but Christmas, it just gets too hard. You know what I mean?" Too hard was an understatement. This was the reason that he had always hated Christmas. Normally, as Lord Zedd, he could bury the memories away, but at Christmas, they all came surging up again.
"Oh, yeah, I know what you mean," Tommy replied. He was having trouble keeping images of the Christmases that he had spent with Kimberly from overwhelming him. That was one of the reasons that he was looking forward to getting drunk. The alcohol would numb his emotions, at least for a while.
"You know," Zedd began, then stopped. Was he actually going to offer Tommy some advice? Seeing how badly I've screwed up my own life, he thought bitterly, I'm not sure that's a good idea. Still, he couldn't help identifying with the young man. "One thing I've learned is that when you love somebody, it's never to late to tell them. As long as they live, its never too late, but when you lose them, it's gone forever."
"Yeah," Tommy replied, "but what if you've lost them already?"
Several drinks and a long conversation later, Zedd was helping Tommy out of the cab he had called for the younger man. He's completely helpless, Zedd thought to himself. He's probably too drunk to morph. The image of Tommy slurring the words to his morphing call made Zedd chuckle for a moment, but then he sobered. I could destroy him now, but- I don't want to. Must be this stupid human holiday. I'm getting soft. Watching Tommy stumble up the walk and fumble for his door key, Zedd quickly checked for onlookers. Seeing none, he morphed back into his sorcerous form and pointed his staff at Tommy. With a whispered incantation, he cast a short spell and then changed back to normal. He watched, satisfied, as the boy entered his house. A short time later, a light went on in one of the upstairs windows, and Zedd teleported out, chuckling to himself. Wouldn't Tommy be surprised when he woke up in the morning without a hangover?
In Florida, on
Christmas Eve, a slightly tipsy Kimberly Hart was staggering back to her
room. "Definitely too much eggnog," she thought to herself. She hadn't
really intended to drink as much as she had at the holiday party, but it
was the only way to kill the memories that kept threatening to intrude.
Memories of Tommy.
"Stop that!" she scolded herself. "It's over and done with. He's probably moved on with his life right now, and so should you. It's too late to do anything about it."
She opened her door, more by leaning on it than anything else. As she staggered inside, she was surprised to see the lights already on and someone already there. Instinctively, she fell back into a defensive stance, as the person inside did the same. Then she blinked. "Tommy? What are you doing here?"
Tommy ran a hand through his long, dark, hair. "Damned if I know. I was in my room reading when there was a flash of white light, and here I was. At first, I thought Zedd or Mondo was trying something. I guess that's not the case."
"I guess not," Kim replied, shutting the door behind her. Good thing I have a single, she thought to herself. I wouldn't like explaining how the hell Tommy got here. Aloud, she asked, "So, why didn't you call Zordon to teleport you home?"
"I tried that. Something's blocking my communicator," he replied.
"Yeah." They sat in silence for a while, her in her desk chair, him on her bed. That arrangement was sending thoughts through her mind that she didn't want to particularly acknowledge, so she cast around for something to talk about.
"So, Rocky tells me you're with Kat now," she ventured. He smiled slightly.
"Not really. She's just a friend- just a comfort." He looked at her for a long moment. "I was talking to someone the other night, who said it was never too late to tell someone how you felt about them. Since I'm here, I might as well tell you. I still love you, Kimberly, and I always will."
Kimberly felt all of the starch go out of her. If she hadn't already been sitting down, she would have collapsed. "What? Even after the letter?"
He nodded. "Yes. I know you've found someone else, but I still love you, no matter what. I-" Anything else he might have said was interrupted by Kimberly's enthusiastic lunge. The next thing he knew, he was lying on his back, with her on top of him, kissing him passionately. He wanted nothing more than to lie there and enjoy it, but his usual sense of ethics intervened and he gently pushed her a little bit away.
"Kim- don't think I don't want- but what about your boyfriend?" She stared down at him with wide, dark eyes.
"I don't have a boyfriend, Tommy," she told him quietly. "I made him up. I didn't want you to be tied down to me, when I was so far away, so-" It was his turn to cut her off with a kiss. Her arms slipped around his neck, and then he suddenly pulled back again.
"Kim, have you been drinking?" he asked, puzzled.
She giggled. "Just a little eggnog," she replied. He sighed, half in frustration, half in resignation.
"Kimberly, you're drunk," he told her. "You probably have no idea what you're doing right now."
"Oh, I have a pretty good idea," she replied. She was still on top of him, and now her hands ran down his chest.
"Kim, stop it," he told her, fighting to keep his voice steady.
"Tommy," she told him seriously, "I'm not drunk. I'm a little buzzed, I'll admit, but I'm in full command of my faculties. Now, I haven't seen you or talked to you in nearly a year. Do you blame me for wanting to get closer?"
"I-" Tommy never got to finish as she lowered her lips to his neck and every neuron in his brain shut down. "Chaperone?" he managed.
She shook her head, smiling. "They trust us to make our own decisions," she replied. Looking over at the clock on her nightstand, she saw that it was midnight. "Merry Christmas, Tommy Oliver."
He smiled up at her. "Merry Christmas, Kimberly Hart." Then he reached up to her, and there was no more talking for the rest of the night.
Far above the planet, on the moon, another pair of eyes abruptly stopped watching the scene. Satisfied that his gift had worked out as planned, Zedd scanned the skies above the Earth. "Merry Christmas, Red Ranger," he whispered. "And thank you for listening to me."