Little Girl Lost
A/N: A happy belated birthday gift for JTrevizo, this particular one-shot is set in MMPR Season 1, post "Crystal of Nightmares"
'Damn, damn, damn! Where is it?'
Dusk descended on Angel Grove Park as Tommy Oliver attempted to retrace his steps that day; not an easy task, considering he'd gone for a jog after finishing his homework. As expected with his Swiss-cheese-like memory, he'd completely forgotten where he'd set his bag.
'It could be anywhere!'
Tommy sighed, running a hand through his hair to scratch the back of his neck. For a moment, he wished he'd gone with the team to the mountains to study; they'd invited him, but he'd had chores to do… and honestly, he felt kind of weird hanging out with them now that he wasn't a ranger.
If only Rita hadn't drained his powers… if only he'd found a way to fight harder… if only, if only, if only. It was a thought that crossed his mind more and more often, especially when he'd catch one of them eyeing him across the hallway. The first few days, they'd nearly chased him down – especially Kimberly. It killed him to avoid her, especially after the great time they'd had at the dance the weekend after that horrible day.
But it killed him to be with her, too. To see bruises he wasn't able to protect her from getting, to hear her communicator go off – to watch them be blasted time and time again while huddling in the safety of a building far away from the battle site, knowing that they were anything but safe.
Eventually, they'd started to back off, respect his desire to be alone; still, it was obvious none of them liked it.
Night had set while he'd wandered the park, lost in his thoughts; his mother was going to be furious. 'Aw, man!' Throwing his arms up in the air, Tommy turned and began stalking back to the parking lot, giving up his search as a lost cause.
About halfway to his 4x4, though, Tommy was distracted from thoughts of getting home by a sniffle… a muffled sob. Cocking his head, the noise was soon followed by another sniffle.
It was coming from the playground; a lost kid, maybe? He immediately headed for the jungle gym in search – it was far too late for a kid to be out by themselves.
Following the sounds of crying, he stealthily made his way to the plastic and wood structure. The raised center was shaped like a castle tower with a slide coming out the side; he peered up the slide and could make out a vague shape…
'Looks too big to be a kid, but…' With a weary sigh, Tommy made his way around the sand to the wooden steps. As he walked, he couldn't help but remember the last time he had been on that particular play zone; putties had attacked Kim and Trini; they'd rushed to the rescue.
God Kim had looked good flipping through the sand – her unique mix of gymnastics and martial arts never failed to captivate him. He'd taken more than a couple cheap shots from putties while distracted by watching her move.
Those thoughts only served to depress him, and he made a nearly visible effort to shake them away. Sure, he wasn't a Ranger anymore, but at least he could still help somebody, even if it was just a kid. He finally tucked his head in the tower-
-and came face to face with a teary-eyed, flushed Kimberly Hart.
He blinked rapidly, as though he expected her to disappear. It was fairly dark, after all; the only light nearby was that of a few streetlamps, streaming in through the slats of wood.
Yeah, it was her… Was her speech slurred? A bit bemused, he twisted to sit, long legs dangling down the steps.
Then she whimpered, and every single protective instinct he thought was gone and buried with his powers flared to life.
"Hey," he offered softly, trying to catch her eye. "You okay?" The moment the words were out of his mouth, he wanted to smack himself. 'She's obviously not; what kind of stupid question is that?'
She sniffled and actually nodded her head, as though the obvious lie would somehow hide the fact that she was hiding on a playground in tears.
Tommy sat silently for a moment, just watching her as she looked away, trying to compose herself. She swiped at her cheeks with one hand, then ran it through tangled hair before giving up with a muttered, "Fuck it." He blinked. It was a side of Kim he'd never seen before; even when crying over her destroyed float, she'd never looked so very… child-like. Dressed in pajamas and looking like she'd been through a small tropical storm, he wanted nothing more than to grab her and hold her and make everything better.
It was only while silently eyeing her still-very-pleasing form that he noticed she clutched a small bottle by her side.
He cleared his throat, wishing for a moment that Kimberly Hart did not possess the ability to make him tongue-tied beyond belief, and went for broke. "Is… is that scotch?"
Kim turned her head to look at him, blinking somewhat bleary eyes, as though she had expected him to disappear. After a moment, she lifted the bottle and peered at it. "Hmmm… yeah. Want some?"
"Uh, no thanks." Tommy stared – he couldn't help himself. Out of everybody he had ever met, Kim was the absolutely last person he expected to stumble upon curled up in the park in her pajamas clutching a bottle of liquor.
'What the hell?'
A silence fell over the two – broken only by the sounds of nature and the distant rush of cars on the road – as Kimberly obviously did not wish to talk and Tommy anxiously wracked his brain for anything to say. Tears began to crawl down her cheeks again; her chin quivered, she whimpered again and he had to say something to stop her from crying!
"What's got you so bummed out?"
Actually meeting his eyes for the first time, Kim opened her mouth… and then just as suddenly snapped it shut and looked away. It was like she was warring with herself on what to say… on whether she could or should say anything.
He grimaced. He couldn't blame her. He'd done everything he could think of to make her smile, to make her like him. And then he'd lost his powers and done a complete turn-around.
'Way to make yourself reliable, Oliver.'
"Hey," he said, reaching out for her free hand, the one not clinging to the bottle for dear life, "you can tell me anything, you know." He smiled his most reassuring grin – only partially feigned, since touching her made him want to do flips, no matter what the circumstances – and shifted to be a bit closer, even if it was uncomfortable.
Kim looked at their joined hands for a moment before sighing.
"Everything's… wrong," she stressed. Tommy noticed her speech was still a little slurred – nothing major, but enough to make him wonder how long she'd been sitting alone in the jungle gym. "The weekend was a bust. We got a lot of studying done but of course Rita pulled a stupid stunt and made us all really insecure and we almost lost."
"Big bad monster?" he forced himself to ask. The Rangers were such a touchy subject for him now, but it was clear that she had something to get off her chest, and apparently didn't feel she could go to her other friends for help. It wasn't like she could talk to her parents about Ranger-related problems, either.
Kim shook her head. "No, some crystal thing. Gave us nightmares," she added, "about all the crappy stuff we've been through. They all ended with Zordon saying we weren't good enough and taking the powers away-" She stopped with a gasp, hand over her mouth and looking anxiously at Tommy, as though she just realized what she was talking about, and with whom. "Oh, God, I'm sorry. I didn't even think-"
"No, it's cool," Tommy said quickly. Remembering was painful, but being unable to help Kim because of it hurt worse. "Dreaming that would screw anybody up. And then you guys had to take on Rita anyway? Talk about a bummer."
Kim stared at him, as though judging whether or not she thought she could continue. He squeezed her hand and met her gaze solidly, refusing to back down from this.
With a sigh, she nodded. "It was… it was like the Island of Illusions, only worse."
Tommy winced. That particular adventure had sucked.
"We didn't even want to answer our communicators. Even Jase was freaked. But Zordon said we had to overcome our fears and break the spell. So we ended up at the cave where the crystal was and Goldar was there and so were all these putties…"
Kim trailed off and turned her head. "I tried to run away," she admitted quietly. "Afterward, when we were back to normal, I felt so awful. Everybody else was just talking about not doing things, but I actually tried to take off."
Tommy's heart went out to the girl; she sounded so ashamed of herself. "You couldn't help it," he murmured. "You were freaked. Rita's spells are really powerful, you know?" The conversation was hitting so painfully close to home, but he understood the feelings of inadequacy well.
Kimberly nodded her head slightly before tilting it back to rest on the wooden structure. She was still crying, quietly now, and Tommy couldn't help but lean forward and swipe his thumb under her eyes. It was ridiculously cramped in the wooden tower and he was far too aware of how close he was to her…
Perhaps under better circumstances, he would take advantage of the opportunity.
"I should just hand over my power coin," she said. "I should give it to you; you were a million times a better Ranger than me. I'm always getting put under spells or kidnapped or beaten…"
Tommy shook his head. "No way. You were chosen for a reason, you know? You've got more heart than the freakin' Megazord, and I don't just mean your name," he ventured, heartened when the corners of her lips twitched. "Besides, pink's not really my color… and I don't think I could pull off the skirt."
Kim chuckled and met his gaze with a small smile. All too soon, though, seriousness overtook her and the merriment in her eyes vanished.
"That can't be all that's wrong," he said quietly, suddenly hit with a flash of insight. "If it was, you could have gone to the others about this, couldn't you?"
She bit her lower lip, looking down before lifting the bottle of scotch. She had it at chest level when his free hand darted out, lightning-quick, and snatched it from her. She stared as he fluidly snagged the cap and screwed it on before setting it to the side – on the steps, where Kim wouldn't be able to reach it.
It was almost a full minute before she found her tongue. "What was that all about?"
Tommy shrugged, retaining his grasp on her hand even when she tried to tug away. "I think you've had enough for tonight."
Kim dropped her arm with a mumbled, "Whatever."
His eyes narrowed, and he finally admitted, "I never took you for a drinker. Seriously, Kim, what's got you so bummed out?"
Kim glared… and was only able to hold that look for several seconds before she seemed to crumble in on herself. Her posture slumped; her chin fell to her chest; her free arm wrapped around her stomach in a protective move that nearly broke Tommy's heart.
"I really don't want to talk about it," she muttered.
Tommy shook his head and tugged on the hand he still held until she was forced to move closer to him. He wasn't sure where this newfound confidence came from – any he had usually evaporated in Kim's presence – but he never could stand seeing her upset… and he couldn't shake the awkward feeling that she just really needed a hug.
God knows it had made him feel a lot better after losing his powers.
"Talk to me," he cajoled, forcing his tone to stay light and even. "Isn't that what you told me back when everything with the candle happened?"
"It didn't help," Kimberly said, finally giving in and slumping against him. He shifted, trying to get a leg underneath him so they didn't end up tumbling out of the turret. Finally physically comfortable, he wrapped his other arm around her and held her tightly.
Why was he so nervous? He'd already kissed her, and they'd danced together all that night… But this felt different – rather than reveling in their closeness, Kim was near tears. She was relying on him; not to fight anything, but to simply be there for her and make her smile again.
Letting a beautiful young woman lean on him for support was both gratifying and scary as hell. 'I'd prefer being able to punch something.'
"What didn't work?" he wondered when it appeared she wasn't going to elaborate.
"Talking. It didn't make you feel any better," she muttered almost angrily. "You still left."
Tommy was so very, very glad that she was leaning against him and couldn't see the look of pain that crossed his face at that remark. In that moment, he felt so selfish for avoiding her and the others; he'd never thought that their feelings of failure would linger as long or as strongly as his did. What was he supposed to say to that? An apology just seemed so lame after all this time.
"I shouldn't have been so surprised," Kim said, shaking him out of his thoughts. It seemed she didn't need nor want an explanation. "Everybody leaves. My dad left… my brother…"
She trailed off before tilting her head back at what Tommy imagined to be an impossible angle. "My dad's moving to Chicago," she informed him. She scooted closer, surprising him, clinging to his arms as though she was afraid he would disappear.
"Is he taking you with him?" Tommy asked gently, unsure of how to respond. Jason had confided early on that Kim didn't deal well with issues related to her family; the fights before, during and after the divorce had left her shaken and seeking stability elsewhere with a forever-damaged ability to trust. That she would talk about her family with him pleased him.
He tilted his head to meet her gaze when she didn't respond right away.
"No, he's not," she eventually answered. "Just him… and his new fiancé."
Tommy was unsure how to approach this particular issue. His parents – though not blood-related – loved him like he was their own and were insanely in love. In fact, sometimes it bordered on the embarrassing. He couldn't imagine them separating… much less dating other people.
"Do you like her?" he finally decided on asking; every other question floating in his head just seemed cruel.
"She's okay, I guess," was Kim's reply. "She seems to make him happy, and I guess I'm glad for him if she does." She took a deep breath. "I just… I really wish he would've been happy with my mom."
Tommy hummed noncommittally in response, wishing she'd say more – but thankful her speech had cleared up. Apparently she hadn't had as much to drink as he previously suspected, if it'd gotten through her system so quickly. He only wished he could solve her other problems so well, but he couldn't give her what she wanted: her family back. All he had to offer was a sense of security she couldn't find at home anymore.
"They asked if I wanted to go with them, though," Kim continued, unconsciously granting Tommy's unspoken wish. "I said no… I can't leave the Rangers, even if I want to sometimes, and I don't want to move some place I've never been before."
"I moved around a lot before coming here," Tommy offered. "It's really disconcerting; every time I'd get comfortable, we'd leave again."
"Do you think you'll move again soon?"
"Dad promised this was the last stop, at least until I graduate. They don't want to move me around during high school; it'd be hard to get in all the classes I need to go to college."
Kim nodded. "That's nice of them." She hummed a bit, letting out a yawn. Tommy couldn't help but bask in the small swell of pride that bubbled up as she shifted a bit closer, as close as possible without climbing into his lap – she was finally relaxing, and he was thrilled to think he'd helped her, at least a little.
"I'm glad you're not going to move away," she murmured, "but you still left… you don't want to be around us any more."
"That's not true," he said, tightening his grasp. "I just… I don't really fit in with you guys anymore."
"We still like you," she responded. "We want you near us. You're good for us, and you're still our friend. You're special… you know our secret."
"Yeah…" Tommy looked away at that point, and his eyes landed on the bottle he'd found in Kim's grasp when he'd gotten there. "So why come out here?" he wondered aloud, happy to move the conversation away from his own shortcomings. "Why be all alone?" Left unsaid was the question, "What's with the drinking?"
"I'm sick of it all," she responded almost matter-of-factly. "Mom's out on another date and left a note saying she didn't expect to be back tonight. Dad's leaving and getting married to somebody else. My family isn't a family anymore. We're all… broken and stuff." She forced a flat, dull laugh. "Kenny certainly seemed to relax when he'd had enough to drink; I guess I thought maybe it would help."
"Did it?" Tommy asked.
Kim shook her head. "No. I've always been a crybaby, and this just made things worse." She shifted again, twisting her legs underneath her until she was leaning on his chest. He stiffened a bit, still kind of shocked that she would have willingly turned to him for comfort. Finally, realizing neither of them was comfortable, he maneuvered her so she was sideways on his lap. He cringed, waiting for her to be upset, and was pleasantly surprised when she nestled her head into the crook of his neck.
"I'm glad you found me," Kim finally said around a yawn, a bit muffled by his shirt.
He nodded, tightening his grip on her slightly, and found himself content to just hold her, sitting in silence as dusk turned to total darkness.
Just as he was dozing off, Tommy realized three things at the same time: it was beyond late, his parents were going to be monumentally ticked off, and Kimberly had fallen asleep.
Redoubling his grip on her, Tommy eased upright and out of the turret, cradling her as he lowly made his way to his 4x4. She barely woke as he buckled her in. Then something in the backseat caught his eye. He couldn't stifle a sheepish grin when he recognized his bag sitting there, right where he'd left it in the first place.
He knew the way to her house by heart, and found himself in her driveway before realizing that all the lights in the house were off. Then he remembered that Kim's mom didn't plan on coming home after her date.
After everything Kim had said that night, it killed him to think she'd wake up all alone in that house.
Then again, his mom had always liked Kimberly. She'd understand; they had a guest room.
Maybe he could provide her with a stable, secure place to run… at least when she was feeling alone.
This was written not only as a birthday (belated as it was) gift for JTrevizo, but also as part of a collection for the LiveJournal un_love_you community.
This prompt was "I'm Drunk"
Anything from Power Rangers (and their affiliates) belongs to Saban and Disney. I don't have permission to use and abuse them as I plan on doing. I don't get any money for this, either.