Chapter 3

Co-Authored by psyco_chick32 & Shawn30

Timeline: Divergence after Season 3. Kim never left, Zeo never happened. It's their Senior year of high school.

Notes: Jason, Zack and Trini came back for their Senior year.

Genre: Drama/Hurt/Comfort/Angst – take note, there are no magic answers in this story. It deals with a variety of issues, and people deal with them in a variety of ways.

Ships (so far): Jason/Trini

Summary: Some serious confrontations lead to painful revelations; the battle against evil gets personal

A/N: psyco_chick32 – Shawn and I almost killed each other over the various scenes in this chapter. For the record, I would have won.

A/N: Shawn30 – What she said, only I totally would have won in the end

Leona's Bistro
Tuesday, September: Week 2
5:00 pm

Sunny skies and warm weather: California's claim to fame.

Jason waited patiently for his lady-love on the outside deck of Leona's Bistro, Trini's absolute favorite Italian restaurant. Normally not the dinner spot for a teenager on an average allowance as the dinner prices weren't exactly cheap, but he'd saved up for a while to take her here.

His original plan was a special night out on the town for her birthday the following month, but recent events called for them to need time away from the team and all the drama just to reconnect. He absolutely hated the distance he felt between them ever since everything came out and especially the night before. He hated being angry at her and knowing she was mad at him, and while he greatly sympathized with Kimberly's immense heartache and Tommy's guilt, he had to get his own relationship back on track.

And to do that they had to get away, even if it was just for one evening.

Feeling good after having gotten a haircut and wearing his nice red dress shirt, one he knew Trini liked on him, Jason was set for a romantic evening he hoped would be devoid of all outside issues. His mood was upbeat and hopeful, just waiting to see her…

And there she was.

His eyes widened appreciatively as the usually mildly conservative Trini Kwan was dressed to kill. She wore the shortest yellow skirt he'd ever seen her wear, one that exposed so much toned, smooth skin he had to adjust his seating position. She looked gorgeous and was wearing a smile he'd love to see for the rest of his life. He rose when she reached the table. "You look amazing."

"So do you," she replied, enjoying the loving, warm hug he greeted her with. He pulled her chair out as well, and once she was seated rounded the table to take his own. His manners made her smile. "Nice shirt."

"Nice skirt."

They hadn't had sex yet, and though that was probably a ways off, the eye sex was going on big-time.

Trini found herself bubbling with excitement despite the drama of the day before and the emotionally exhausting weekend that just passed. Tonight was about her and Jason, and she intended to enjoy that, to build on it and hopefully shield it from the fallout of everything else around them. Jason was certainly making her feel special so far. And he looked so good tonight. "I'm starved," she reported, wearing a grin. "The cafeteria special mystery meatloaf scared me today. I just couldn't eat it."

Jason shivered as he recalled it. "Same here. I don't believe any real meat was involved. I'll ask Billy to analyze a sample," he joked as another couple was seated across from them.

"You do that," she teased playfully as they engaged in small talk until their waitress arrived. They ordered a couple of diet sodas, and then two lasagna dinners.

"I've missed you."

Trini nodded somberly; she had missed him, too. They both knew why they hadn't seen much of each other in the past few days. A lot was changing far too quickly as far as the team went, as well as the interpersonal relationships, and she wasn't sure when things might get back to normal. If they ever would. "I missed you, too."

"It's not that I want to ignore everything that's happening. It's just… I don't want to lose us in the process, you know?"

She nodded. "Agreed."

Feeling good, Jason exhaled deeply. He loved her and this was a nice, romantic chance to prove it. Still, his heart went out to his little sister and the private hell she must be going through. "With that said, I have to ask… how's Kim holding up?"

A quick, painful retort died on the tip of Trini's tongue. She found herself staring at him, but tried to quell the anger. "Well, less than a week ago she found out her boyfriend cheated on her with her worst enemy in Angel Grove High. She's devastated, Jase."

It tore him up inside to hear that. "I know. I hate that Tommy hurt her like that."

"You hurt her, as well," Trini pointed out, unable to bite her tongue.

"If she'd see me, I'd tell her my side of things. I would apologize and promise I'd never do anything like that again. I know that I hurt her."

Control wasn't easy, though Trini had mastered it best. The problem was that her very best friend in the whole world was grieving as if someone died. "It's not going to be that simple, Jason. You were her protective big brother and you chose to keep Tommy's ugly secret rather than tell Kim immediately that he'd been unfaithful," she tried to explain. "She trusted you to look out for her, and you didn't."

Jason sighed, having not wanted to get into this again. But the door was now open and they couldn't avoid it. "I regret what I did, Tri. I should have gone straight to Kim, or forced Tommy to do it. But I can't go back in time to fix things. Believe me, I wish I could. I am sorry and would like to tell Kim that face-to-face."

"It's more than that," Trini conveyed. "You sticking up for Tommy felt almost like you were saying what he did wasn't a big deal at all… when to Kim, it's the worse pain she has ever felt in her entire life."

"I'm only," he sighed, reeling his emotions in check, "only supporting Tommy in that he shouldn't have to lose his leadership or place on the team because of a personal issue that – in my opinion – shouldn't affect the Rangers."

Trini rested her hands in her lap, suddenly feeling her appetite slip away. "Of all the people we know, we thought it was you we'd be pulling off of Tommy after kicking his ass."

Jason blinked, unsure of how to react. "That's my bro, like it or not. He screwed up bad, knows it, and accepts it. I knocked the crap out of him when I heard what he did. But in all my years of knowing him, he's never, ever been a bad guy – evil spells notwithstanding. What he did was terrible, yes. But If I completely abandon him now, what kind of friend am I?"

Trini's gaze narrowed as the tension between them grew. "What kind of brother are you after well over a decade of knowing Kim, and doing what you did?"

Biting his tongue wasn't his style, but he desperately wanted to avoid a fight. "I love Kim and always will. I would be by her side every day if she wanted me to, but she doesn't. She hasn't returned any of my phone calls or messages and won't say two words to me in school. I have been trying to reach her every single day since everything came out, but Aisha is always insulting me or Adam telling me to back off. I don't support cheating, never have, and I never cheated on you or any other girl I dated. I knocked Tommy on his ass. I hate what he did to Kim and the pain he caused her."

As hard as she tried to let this argument go, Kim's gut wrenching sobs came to mind. "Jason, you should be on Kim's side, period. You've known her longer and have always been her big brother. You and Zack, you have no idea how much more betrayed she feels that you both are siding with Tommy."

His head began hurting as he found was repeating himself. "I am not siding with Tommy. I am thinking of our job, which – like it or not – is more important than any romantic relationship. Tommy is a damn good leader and he shouldn't lose that. He's already lost his girlfriend, and other friends, and tons of respect from everyone who knew him. But he's a good man deep down and I believe he's a better guy than this. I'm not going to just throw him under the bus. At the same time I love Kim and want to apologize and be there for her. I'm not planning on telling her she should take him back or what happened isn't a big deal. I just want to be there for her."

"You can't be there for both of them right now."

"So I have to choose between people I love now?"

"Jason… you just don't get it." Trini was trembling as she spoke. "Kim is devastated by Tommy's betrayal, and there you are taking up for him." When he tried to speak, she lifted her hand, asking for a moment. "That's what Kim sees: her two brothers and a very good friend in Rocky all siding with the guy who broke her heart. All taking up for him against her, despite her being the one who was hurt."

Even as he heard the words, they made no sense to him. His chest suddenly felt tight as he sought to explain without losing his temper. Tonight was going downhill fast. "If you and Aisha would just let us in the house we could try and explain, again, that none of us condone cheating or think Tommy is all that great a guy right now. He cheated and she had every right to dump him and I don't disagree with that. But it seems that no matter how many times I say that, it's just not sinking in."

She was taken aback by his angry tone, and was insulted by the way he spoke. Her voice came out just as razor sharp. "Right now, Kim is grieving and we have and will continue to protect her until she's made some peace with this. You betrayed Kim too, Jason. You!" She pointed at him, unsure who he was right then. Not the man she knew, that was certain. "And you're all treating Adam like garbage."

"Adam has his own opinion… he's welcome to it. But he's not the kind of guy we want around us right now."

"You're not the kind of guy I want around Kim right now."

With that, Jason's gaze turned dark. "I'm sick and tired of defending myself to everyone but the person I hurt. I'm sick and tired of assumptions and accusations about me that I can't even answer for to the person I hurt. So believe whatever the fuck you want about me!"

Before she knew it, she grabbed her glass of diet Coke and threw it in his face. "Go to hell!"

Eyes shut, he heard the click of her heels walk away as he reached for a napkin to wipe his face. Just then, both dinners arrived.

He asked for both of them to go, and then paid the bill. Not one damn thing was accomplished that night. The battle lines were drawn and the team was fractured in a way he'd never seen… never even imagined before.

And two people he loved dearly were angrier at him than they'd ever been before. However were they gonna resolve this mess?

Park House
Tuesday, September: Week 2
7:00 p.m.

"Aw, man!" Rocky threw down his controller, watching as Adam's character in Mortal Kombat wiped his health bar dry. "You cheated!"

"Nope. You just suck." The Black Ranger snickered at his friend's put-out expression and stood to get some snacks, anticipating Rocky's empty stomach. For just a little while he allowed himself to enjoy the familiarity – a night playing games and hanging with his best friend. No drama, no relationship issues, no teams or sides to take. Just Mortal Kombat, movies, and some snacks courtesy of his mom.

"Thanks, bro," Rocky offered as he took the chips and soda. "I'm starving."

"Go figure."

The two were silent for a moment. As much fun as they'd been having, it was difficult to ignore the elephant in the room… the debacle of a battle the day before, Zordon's pronouncements and the verbal throw-down in the Command Center afterward.

"So… do you mind if I ask how Kim's doing?"

Adam shrugged. "She's dealing. Taking some things harder than others." Rocky nodded, and motioned for him to continue. "Uh… Aisha's trying to get her to go to the Homecoming dance, but I don't know if it's a good idea." He smiled ruefully. "Not that I know much about girls in the first place, so maybe Aisha's right."

Rocky frowned. "Does Aisha have a date?"

Adam gave him a look. "No. I thought you guys were going together, but word has it you're taking Terri Bradford. What's up with that?"

"Um, you remember the whole Aisha-thinks-I'm-scum thing, right?" Rocky asked, flabbergasted. "That's not exactly a winning combination for a great night out. Besides, it pisses me off. She's bitching me out for things she thinks I think, and not letting me get a word in edgewise."

Adam nodded. "Yeah… Aisha and Trini are especially protective of Kim right now. I think it's their way of proving they won't side against her, no matter what anybody else does."

"But I'm not siding against her!"

Adam held up his hands. "I'm not saying you are. I'm saying she's kind of going overboard in trying to reassure Kim that she won't leave her. You have to admit, that's what it looks like Jason did, and that hurts Kim almost as much as Tommy… maybe more," he added.

"If you think she's going overboard, why are you still hanging out with them?"

Adam looked at Rocky askance. "I can either hang alone or be with the friends who don't act like I'm a diseased creature." Rocky looked slightly ashamed at that blow. "Aisha's kinda going nuts, but Kim can still use all the support she can get. What else am I supposed to do?"

Rocky grumbled a bit; it's not as if he could argue. In Tommy's eyes, Adam was just as bad as he was – Tommy betraying Kim, and Adam betraying Tommy. Totally different dynamics for sure, but still cause for concern.

"Anyway," Adam shrugged, "I don't really mind hanging out with the girls as much. It's not like I've really spent a lot of time around them before, outside of Aisha. Trini says it's educational." He laughed. "And it really does make me feel good to make Kim smile. It's not as easy as it used to be."

Rocky nodded; it was easy to see Kim was still very affected by what had happened. Tommy was, too, but Kim and the girls weren't ready to see that yet. "I gotta tell you… I may not agree with your opinion, but I respect you for sticking to it, even when Tommy was a bit of an ass to you." He caught Adam's expression and nodded. "Oh yeah, you can't tell me you haven't heard about it at school. Almost everybody heard Tommy yelling." He really was impressed. He hadn't expected his shy friend to stick to his guns like Adam had.

Adam looked away, shrugging again. "Yeah, well… what else is there to do?" The two fell silent for a moment. "So, think you can actually get a hit in this time around?" he asked, motioning to the controller on the floor.

Rocky grinned. "You're on! No cheating this time, though."

Angel Grove Youth Center
Wednesday, September: Week 2
3:30 p.m.

For three years, the guys at Angel Grove High School were aware of one very large law of the land: Kimberly Ann Hart was with Tommy Oliver, and nothing would or could ruin that.

Except, apparently, Tommy himself.

But things had changed. Tommy had fucked up and inexplicably bailed on Kimberly to nail the sluttiest girl in the school. Worse, he had gotten caught. And as would be expected, Kim let him go.

Now, she was single. And the usual "army" of men any would-be suitor had to go through to get to her had thinned considerably in the aftermath of that betrayal.

But Kimberly wasn't exactly thinking about other boys when she arrived at the Youth Center after school. The only guys she'd thought about had been the ones she used to think of as family; it had taken nearly a full hour to work up the courage to go to a place they'd inevitably be working out or running classes. But she couldn't put her life on hold – her gymnastics, especially – because she wanted to avoid former friends. Plus, she had to meet Billy for a physics run-through before a big exam, and Aisha apparently had a friend showing up she wanted her to meet.

Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and walked through the doors confidently. She tucked her still-broken heart into the furthest recesses of her consciousness and embraced the fact that she was Class President, had the support of the most popular girls in school, and was wearing a kick-ass new pair of shoes that gave her height and made her legs look great.

"Kim!" Adam was sitting down at their usual table, smoothies in hand. Aisha and Trini sat with theirs, and an unfamiliar head of black curls faced away from her… probably Aisha's friend. Adam was talking animatedly with the person, and motioned for Kim to take a seat.

She turned, and blinked as she stared into deep blue eyes – almost the same shade as Kat's, and just as welcoming. "Um, h-hi," she stammered. "I'm Kimberly."

"Alexander," he introduced himself.

"Alex went to school in Stone Canyon with me and Adam," Aisha helpfully supplied.

Kim tore her eyes away long enough to see Jason, Zack, Rocky and Tommy over at the weight-lifting stations. A small corner of her mind felt bad, knowing Zack wasn't going to be hitting on Angela anytime soon. They'd reportedly had a big blow-up when she'd accused him of not coming down hard on "Cheating Tommy". It was a shame, since he'd finally gotten her to agree to accompany him to the dance.

She tuned back in just in time to hear Adam add, "And he trained with us and Rocky at our old dojo. Alex has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu."

"Actually, I recently tested for my black belt," Alex proclaimed proudly.

"Congrats!" Kim smiled. "That type's more floor-oriented, right?"

Alexander nodded. "Yes. I understand Trini here studies martial arts, do you?"

She ducked her head. "Um, not really. I mean, my friends have given me a lot of lessons so I can handle myself in a fight… and I used to take karate classes as a kid."

"Kim does gymnastics," Trini offered. Kim couldn't help but notice even the former Yellow Ranger was enchanted by this new addition. "She was invited to participate on the Pan Globals team but turned Coach Schmidt down."

"Really?" Alex's eyes were wide. "Why would you do that?"

"I just… a couple different reasons-"

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to make you uncomfortable," he responded, putting a hand on her arm. "I didn't mean to pry."

Her arm was warm where he touched her and she was sort of afraid she might be blushing. "It's all good. I'm still competing around here and want to do it in college."

"I would love to see you perform some time. My little sister is learning gymnastics, but she is still young. I am sure somebody of your caliber would be a great role model for her."

"Kim teaches classes," Aisha mentioned. "Maybe Andrea could come take one or two."

The conversation continued as Adam watched on contentedly. He'd been worried Alex would be dragged into the fight between the Rangers, but he'd simply waved at Rocky before gravitating over to him and Aisha. The Stone Canyon teen always been closest with the Yellow Ranger, since she'd studied with his sensei for a short while – diversifying, she'd claimed, although Adam always thought she'd had a small crush on their friend.

He snapped out of his reminiscing when Aisha kicked him lightly under the table. "You think so, right Adam?"

"What?" He smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, I missed what you said."

"I said," she stressed, "that Alex and Kim should go to Homecoming together!"

Adam's eyes couldn't possibly widen any further. "…what?" His eyes darted over to the guys almost on instinct before shooting back at Aisha. "Why?"

Trini laughed. "Um, because she needs a date?"

He noticed Kim was nearly the shade of her uniform in embarrassment, but Alex simply looked amused.

"I would hate to interfere," he interjected smoothly. "After all, somebody as beautiful as Kimberly must certainly have a date by now."

He was smooth, Kim had to give him that much. And pretty, and built… a bit like Tommy, actually, but definitely more extroverted. "Actually," she tried desperately to keep her voice level, "I recently broke it off with a long-time boyfriend. I wasn't even planning on going."

"You have to go," Aisha insisted. It was something she'd said repeatedly over the past couple days. "You can't hole yourself up in your room forever. Besides, you're likely to still be crowned Queen. The Queen's gotta be there, and Alex here makes for some delicious arm-candy."

Alex laughed. "Thank you for your vote of… shallowness?"

"I call 'em like I see 'em."

Still, the dark-haired young man turned his eyes back on Kim. "It would be a shame for you to miss Homecoming of your senior year simply because you're no longer with your boyfriend."

Kim winced when Trini added, "And she already has a gorgeous gown."

"I don't know," Kim demurred. "Wouldn't it look slutty to-"

"It's not like you're jumping into bed with him," Aisha interrupted. "Just a casual date. As friends. It'd be fine, right, Adam?"

This time the Black Ranger had been paying attention. "I don't see why not." Okay, actually, he saw 101 reasons why it was a Bad Idea (capitalized, even) and many of them revolved around the other half of the Ranger team. But if it got Kim out of the house, and not feeling sorry for herself on the day she'd hoped her and Tommy would-

He grimaced. That was still kind of a gross thought.

"Go for it," Trini encouraged. Then she realized, "Of course, that's all depending on Alex." The girls laughed as they realized they had been talking like he wasn't there. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," he waved them off. "I am friends with Aisha, remember? I'm used to being steered in various directions, whether I wish to or not." He smiled at Kim. "This, though, I would certainly not mind."

"Then it's settled," Aisha said with a clap.

"What's settled?" Billy settled himself into the last open seat.

"I'm sorry, but I must get going," Alex said apologetically. "It's a bit of a trip back home, and I still have homework to do. Do you still have my number, Aisha?"

"Sure do. I call you with all the information."

"Sounds good." He smiled again down at Kimberly. "I look forward to the dance. Have a good day!" With that, he strode out of the Juice Bar.

Trini began explaining the details to Billy as Kim's eyes followed Alex's progress out through the doors.

That man looked just as good walking away as he did walking toward her.

Rocky had a bad feeling when he saw Alex walk in with Aisha and Adam. He hadn't seen their old Stone Canyon pal in a few weeks, and it was odd for him to just show up out of the blue. He divided his attention between spotting Zack on the weight-lifting bench and the group sitting at a table on the other side of the Youth Center. "Hmmm…"

From where he stood spotting Tommy, Jason spared him a side-long glance and followed Rocky's gaze to where the other Rangers sat. A person he hadn't met sat with them next to Kim. He sighed, knowing that Kim was single right now and Lord knows Tommy didn't have a leg to stand on otherwise. Still, the way Aisha and Adam just brought some guy here irked him. Trini seemed a little too spellbound, too. "Hmmmm."

Tommy racked his weights, wiping his face with a towel when he sat up. "Any reason for the twin..." His eyes darted towards Kim's table and the dark-haired guy seemingly intrigued by her. He had that look in his eyes… as though he were living off her every word.

His first instinct was to- 'Okay, can't do that.' His second instinct was to- 'Dammit, no – not that, either.' He couldn't do anything but die a little at the sight of another man making Kim smile. What was worse was that lately, all he seemed to able to do was make her cry. "Who's the new guy?"

"Alex, old bud from the S.C.," Rocky reported. Then he remembered what Adam had said. "I get the feeling we are witnessing a little match-making."

Tommy grumbled, but held his peace, still seated. "Anybody want to help me hide the body?"

Zack snorted. "We're in so deep with you now that if he turned up dead, they'd all testify we helped you kill him anyway," he joked. "And thank you for ending any hope I had with Angela. I'm roadkill to her right now."

Tommy gave a regretful nod. He'd heard. "Sorry, bro."

"Don't be. If she can't separate me and her from my friendship with you, then I'll find someone else. The Zack Man don't cry over no woman."

'Bold words,' Jason thought, and he didn't believe any of them. But sometimes you told yourself what you needed to just to get through your pain.

Finally he couldn't watch anymore and looked away. Tommy knew he had no right to say anything if a guy was flirting with Kim. He had no rights to her at all, especially now. Didn't mean it didn't hurt to see the woman he still loved laughing with another guy not 15 feet away. And unfortunately, kicking his ass would be a bone-headed move, not to mention making things so much were than it already was. "Maybe I'll just break his leg."

"Nah, man. Limping guys get all the girls," Jason joked. "Sympathy and all."

Zack added, "He could break his arms."

Rocky shook his head. "Upper body casts are sexy to women. Seventeen magazine says so."

"How about we all just shove Tommy down a flight of stairs for ruining our love lives," Jason considered with a grin.

Tommy stifled a laugh as he watched the new guy smile a little too brightly at Kim, then get up and walk away. Nothing about this was funny, least of all him just sitting here doing nothing. But what could he do that wouldn't make things worse? "Thanks for the workout, guys. I'm heading out." He knew he wasn't invited to the Madden football night at Jason's house. The guys were serious that everything wasn't just going to be like it was before he cheated. But they hadn't turned their backs on him – and were willingly facing the consequences. It meant more to him than he could say. "I'll see you at school tomorrow."

"Later, man," Zack said, followed by Rocky and Jason.

Tommy made his way home – another night alone.

Campbell House
Thursday, September: Week 2
7:00 p.m.

Tommy shifted from foot to foot outside the door to the Campbell house. The last time his heart beat so fast, he was about to face off against Lord Zedd to save Kimberly's life. Nobody's life was on the line this time... but his heart was. Something told Tommy this was make-or-break time for their relationship.

It was only 15 minutes ago that Kim had called, requesting he come by the Campbells' home. It was the first time she'd said anything to him since she approached him in the park that God-awful day. She quietly told him she had some questions, and he would be the first to admit he owed her some answers. He owed her everything - anything - that he could give her, and he would bow and scrape for a chance to make things right.

He fervently hoped this was his chance.

Deciding it would be better to just tackle this, and not stand on the doorstep all day, Tommy knocked. The door opened almost immediately to reveal Aisha, whose face wore a sour expression.

"Hey, 'Sha… Kim wanted me to-"

"She's in her room," Aisha interrupted, stepping aside.

It passed through Tommy's mind that Jason, Zack and Rocky hadn't been allowed even this far inside the house, and a pang of guilt hit him in the gut. It was an all-too familiar feeling.

Tommy was taking off his shoes when Caroline Dumas walked through the door to the kitchen into the hallway. He froze, eyes widening. Kim's mother was here? His heart began to sink. There was no way this could end well.

Mrs. Dumas regarded him silently for a long while with lips thinned by a tight frown, her eyes boring into him until he began to fidget. "I shouldn't have let Kimberly stay. She should have come with us to France," she finally said. "I feel like I failed her by allowing her to stay here - especially for extending that out through this school year. You told me you'd never disrespect her like her father disrespected me."

Tommy hung his head, bobbing it lightly in a nod before looking up. "I'm so sorry. It's the biggest mistake I've ever made."

"I'm so disappointed in you and so very angry. I thought you were better than that; I told Kim you were better than that when you guys were arguing a few weeks back." His heart sank as it occurred to him that Kim had worried… while he was in bed with Jenny. Mrs. Dumas hadn't moved, but it felt as though she'd slapped him, for all she never once raised her voice.

When Tommy didn't respond – what could he say? – she turned her back on him and walked back into the kitchen.

Aisha leaned against the wall, glaring daggers at him. Arms crossed, her fingers were clenched as though she longed to wrap them around his throat and squeeze. It was a look he was sadly starting to get used to when it came to Aisha and Trini. He had little comfort in knowing that Kim had called this meeting, and Aisha had to let him pass whether she liked it or not.

Tommy eyed the stairs with trepidation. With a deep sigh, he crossed his fingers that this confrontation would go better than the one with her mother, and trudged past Aisha and up the stairs. 'She called me,' he reminded himself. 'She didn't have to. I can make this better. I can make this up to her. I love her and I know she loves me… we can get past this.'

He was halfway down the hall when the door to Kim's room opened; he thought for a moment she may have heard him coming and paused. Instead, he was confronted with a sight that made his blood boil: Adam backing out, hand on the doorknob. "Are you sure you don't want me to stay?"

Tommy couldn't understand Kim's responding mumble. He seethed at the thought of Adam sitting there when he and Kim were supposed to be working out their problems. 'Who the hell does he think he is?' Fucking traitor.

"If you're sure…" Adam turned, closing the door with a soft click. He looked up and for a moment, it felt like a stand-off in an old-fashioned Western film. It wasn't a long hallway but it may as well have been the Pacific Ocean for how distant they were.

Adam studied his leader from the entrance to Kim's room, feeling incredibly protective of the young woman inside. He'd spent a week watching her sob, hugging her, trying to bring up her spirits. She'd finally hit the point of numb – feeling enough to tackle Tommy and all the questions only he had the answers to.

But he loathed the very idea of letting Tommy through that door. Kim would get her closure, but at what cost? Tommy had caused Kim unimaginable pain. Sure, he was hurting too, but he deserved it for his actions. Kim didn't deserve anything Tommy did to her. There was some part of him that knew if Tommy went into that room, Kim would be a mess again – Tommy would walk off and leave him, Aisha and Trini to pick up the pieces.

Since the confrontation in the Youth Center, Adam had lost all but a shred of respect for this man who had betrayed Kim and then, because he couldn't handle the stress of what he did, burned the olive branch Adam held out to him. Adam hadn't fallen in line like a good little soldier, and that seemed to make Tommy mad as hell. He was seeing a new side of Tommy; a side he didn't like, and didn't care to get to know.

It was amazing what a week could do for a once-strong friendship.

"You hurt her," Adam said warningly, "and I don't care if you're bigger. I will break you."

There was a cruel retort on the tip of his tongue, but Kim was just on the other side of the door and the last thing he needed was to ruin any hope he had by starting this off picking a fight. 'Fuck him. What does he know?'

Adam wanted to smile when Tommy wouldn't, couldn't respond without looking every bit the asshole he'd been lately. As much as he hated being ostracized by the guys, knowing that he alone had the privilege of being Kim's "big brother" and defender filled him with a strange amount of satisfaction. If none of the other guys would call Tommy out on his douchebag behavior, Adam would.

Taking another deep breath, Tommy walked forward, stepping around Adam who stood like a sentinel in the middle of the hallway. "I've never, ever wanted to hurt her," he murmured.

"Next time, just stab her in the chest," Adam suggested softly, without making eye-contact. "It'll hurt less." With that, he headed down the stairs.

Tommy watched him leave, wanting nothing more than to shove him down the staircase. But that would be counter-productive, and Aisha was between him and the doorway, and all he needed was another reason for the Yellow Ranger to try to kick his ass.

'Enough stalling.' He knocked, lightly at first. "Kim?"

"Come in."

His stomach in knots, saying a silent prayer that he could somehow salvage his relationship, he slowly pushed the door open. He stopped in the doorway, a bit shocked at the changes the roof had already undergone. Part of her wall had been a collage of pictures of her and her friends - he had a bit of a starring role that he'd loved to tease her about. A poster of Leonardo DiCaprio hung in its place. A large picture of Brad Pitt hung where a large picture of them from their Junior Prom had been before.

'Whoa…' As much as he knew he hurt Kim, had seen her around school trying to put on a good face when they all knew she was breaking inside, this was more tangible evidence of her attempts to get him out of her life.

"Um, hey."

She sat on the bed, pointing at her desk chair. "Hi."

"You… um, you said you had some questions?" He took a seat quickly, fidgeting a bit as she refused to look at him directly. "I'll answer anything you want, but let me start by saying that I swear, I am so sorry for what happened with Jenny. I don't know why I made the mistake I did. I just know I regret it more than anything I have ever done before. And I am so, so sorry."

Kim sighed and forged on as though he hadn't said anything. "Is this the first time you've cheated on me?"

Tommy felt blind-sided by the question and blinked. It was only after a second that he realized, and grudgingly accepted, that she had no trust left in him. His gut clenched painfully. She looked so sad and utterly disappointed in him. "Yes. This is the only time ever."

"How… how did this even happen? I mean, I thought- I know we were arguing but I didn't think things were this serious." She clenched the sweatpants she wore tightly; her knuckles were white and she sounded lost. "I told you not to go to that party… was this some kind of way to get back at me?"

Tommy hung his head, and then pushed past his internal pity party. This was for her, giving the answers she needed. He'd give her the truth and nothing but. "I was frustrated after our argument and I just wanted to get away and lose myself. I never should have gone to the party, but I didn't go there with intentions to… I should have just gone home. God knows I wish I did." He looked up at her through his lashes. "But I didn't sleep with her to get back at you, or because I was angry with you or anything like that. I-I was just a selfish idiot who hurt the one person I love most in the world. I'm just a fool."

She wanted to hit him. To throw things at him, scream in his face about what a scumbag he was. Damn it, but some part of her actually wanted him to hug her and make everything better and he couldn't because he'd caused this damn pain. Or had it been her? "No, I'm the fool. I thought you were better than this. You told me everything I wanted to hear… that you understood, that you were okay with waiting, that you knew I was weird in relationships because of my dad and mom. And I believed you."

She sighed, eyes fixated at a point just over his shoulder. If she looked him in the eye, she'd break down again. Or kill him. Neither option was all that appealing. "Tell me what happened. How did she get you to fuck her when you seemed so willing to wait for me?"

And there it was: the big question. The final nail in the coffin. She wanted an answer to a question he was still pondering himself. He had never felt as low as he did right now. "I wasn't drunk or angry at you or any other excuse I could make. I was at the party, but was mostly staying off to myself. When she came over, we started talking and… I-I don't know why, but the music was too loud and I just wanted to get away. I never should have gone upstairs with her. I was perfectly happy waiting for you. I love you, Kim. I can only imagine how little weight that holds right now, but it's the truth. I just…" He sighed, so disappointed in himself as he relived those moments. "She kissed me and one thing led to another. I made the worst mistake of my life, and was such a coward that I couldn't confess to you right away. I'm so sorry I betrayed you." He couldn't repeat himself enough; she had to believe him!

The words coming out of his mouth made no sense to her. Zero sense. Negative sense! He couldn't stand Jenny, always brushed her off when she tried to drape herself on him in the past. Had it been an act? Something to make her think he only wanted her while banging that whore on the side? Jenny was the whore that prostitutes looked down on and called a slut.

She pursed her lips, trying to get through these questions she still wasn't sure she wanted the answers to. "And you just let her kiss you. And kissed her back? Was she sitting on your lap?"

This was a Kim Hart he'd never seen – never wanted to see – before, one who looked at him with disgust in her beautiful brown eyes. She hadn't asked him here for anything resembling a possible reconciliation; how stupid he'd been to hope for that! No, she needed details on the darkest, most ugly moment of his entire life. At the very least, hurt as he was, he could give her the truth.

"Kim, I just did it," he offered with no excuses. Nothing was going to fix this, he was starting to realize. "When Jenny locked the door behind us, I kinda knew what was going to happen. I was out of my head, just caught in a moment that I regretted as soon as it was over. I never wanted Jenny and wasn't flirting with her beforehand or since." It was little consolation, he was certain. "I don't want her, period. I'm just a jerk who made a terrible mistake I will always regret… and I'll never, ever do it again."

She swallowed, closing her eyes for just a moment to gain her composure. No doubt this would another night of being sick to her stomach over what he had done. He'd regret it? What about her? Did he have any idea how much she regretted ever falling in love with him?

"You regretted it as soon as it was over, you say? Did it ever occur to you while she was kissing you that you had a girlfriend?" She opened her eyes, staring out the window in a futile attempt to keep herself sane. "You didn't answer me. Did you kiss her first?"

"No," he replied softly. "She made the first move."

"And you went along with it."

"I… I didn't stop her. I should have, b-but… I didn't."

"How did it happen? Was it on her bed?" She sneered, "How many times did you get her off first?" He had always been enthusiastically physical with her, despite never quite crossing that line. The thought of him and Jenny- Oh, God, she wanted to hurl. She hated herself so much. What had she done to deserve this? She desperately needed the details, so she could stop imagining them together, each thought worse than the last. But the truth was no better.

Swallowing deeply, Tommy centered himself, not pushing for why she needed these specifics. It was enough that she did, and that every word would kill him just a little bit more. It wasn't enough that he knew he had utterly lost her. No, she wanted the facts and then she would want him gone. "We were kissing, and then we fell on the bed. I- we got undressed and did it one time. There wasn't any other stuff… oral or whatever. It happened and then it was over."

"Did you use protection? Were you on top? Just taking what you wanted and damning the consequences? Or is the Great and Powerful Tommy Oliver above those?" Kim stopped before she could get her rant going, letting out a deep sigh and rubbing her forehead as another tension headache began to build.

His hand covered his mouth for the longest time. "Yes, we used protection. She was on top cause I really didn't- You know I was a- We had sex with her on top and then it was over. We never really took all our clothes off."

"We had sex." Those words would echo in her head for days to come. It was one thing to hear Jenny say it, but from Tommy's own mouth… There was no living in denial now. Even the details didn't cement it as much as those three stupid, short words.

"So there was at least a moment or two there where anybody with a conscience might have realized, 'Hey, I'm not single and this is kind of a slimy, cheating, asshole, douchebag thing to do.'" She lifted her head to stare at him directly for the first time all night, forcing herself to ignore how pained he looked.

What right did he have to be upset?

"Why Jenny? Why the one person in the world you had to have known would take so much bitchy pride in rubbing this in my face?"

He was at a loss for an explanation. "I don't know, Kim. I wasn't thinking about her like that. I guess I just wasn't thinking at all. I… I just fucked up and betrayed you and I hate myself."

"Bull. You were thinking. You were thinking about you, and what you wanted," Kim scoffed. "She's taller than me… prettier, a red-head, bigger boobs. Did she kiss better than me?"

"She's nothing compared to you, Kim. Nothing at all, and if I wasn't so weak or just plain stupid and selfish, this wouldn't have happened. This is all my fault. You are beautiful to me. Always have been and always will be. It-It's just something happened that night. I don't have any feelings for Jenny at all. I only love you."

She snapped. "No you don't!" Kim pushed herself angrily off the bed, wobbling as her headache from fighting off tears made itself known. Her fists clenched at her sides so she wouldn't give in to the temptation to claw that kicked-puppy look off his face. "Stop saying that! You don't fucking love me! Don't lie to me like that! You may have loved me once but when you can do this… when you can betray me and fuck a person who has been out to get me for the beginning, then go on and act like nothing ever happened? If that's your idea of love, then I don't fucking want it!" Her chest heaved and she shook with the effort to stop herself from just bursting into sobs. A few tears managed to leak down her cheeks; she turned, refusing to let him see her cry.

There was no defense to her argument or end to her misery. He truly loved Kim, but his actions suggested otherwise. The sight of her crying tore at his heart. He longed… ached to reach for her and draw her into his arms, but knew that was the last thing she wanted. "I will always love you, Kim. And I am so sorry for all the pain I've caused you."

A couple slow, even breaths helped get herself back on track. She wanted to slap him, to break his jaw, to rip his dick off and beat him to death with it. She wanted- nothing she wanted was ever going to happen, and she had to learn to deal.

"I can't believe you told Jason but not me." She let out a dry, humorless chuckle. "I guess all the girls are right; guys just want sex with the first girl to spread her legs so he can go chat about it with his bros." She drawled the word out as if it had a disgusting flavor. "I have awful taste in guys, apparently… friends and so-called family."

She turned back to him. "So, keep going. You let her fuck you, with no problems whatsoever, probably loving every second of it. What then? A bit of cuddling? Telling her how beautiful she is?"

Every hurt word hit him like a fist. He was so ill-prepared for this, but you reap what you sow.

"All guys aren't like me, Kim," he hoped to explain; though between him and her father, he was sure it was difficult to believe. "I made a huge mistake, but that's not what all guys would do. I was too much of a coward to tell you right away that I betrayed you. I admit that. I won't make any excuses. It wasn't about the sex at all, though I can only imagine how that sounds."

"It wasn't about the sex? Then what the fuck was it about? Hurting me? Making me pay for being argumentative? Showing who the boss was? One-upping people? Well, congratulations," she mocked viciously with a slow clap. Anger to take away that pain. "You stuck your dick in a girl who probably has more STDs than As on her report card and all your perfect little man-pals stuck by you. The only thing you've lost is me and I clearly didn't matter that fucking much to you, because here we are!" She slumped on the bed, getting exhausted. This was painful, and killing her, and she had more questions. "You never answered my question."

He still couldn't figure out why she wanted the details. Still, this seemed to mean something to her. "Like I said, we barely took all our clothes off. When it was over with I just laid there for a few minutes and couldn't believe it even happened at all. I felt sick and just rushed up out of bed. I got rid of the condom, put my clothes on and left. No kissing, no cuddling, no nothing. I don't even remember the drive home."

"Well, that's convenient. You don't remember," she scoffed. "So if it wasn't about the sex, what was it about?"

He gazed into her eyes, wondering if she'd ever appeared so small and fragile to him before. He felt sick, angry, and unsure of everything in his world. "I don't have a specific reason, Kim. I don't have an excuse. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person and I just did it. I was selfish and stupid and immature. I regret from the bottom of my heart. I wish it had never happened."

When Tommy had first been used as Rita's Evil Green Ranger, she'd sworn there was still good left in him. Why was it so hard to find now, when he was trying so hard? She licked her lips before forcing out her next question. "…what did I do to deserve this?"

When he didn't respond right away, she swallowed and added, "What could I have done differently… what should I do next time to not be cheated on?"

How could he make her understand? She'd never believe him if he told her the truth now, of how happy he was, how much joy and fun she brought to his life. "Beau- Kim," he caught himself, knowing she didn't want to be called that. "No one helped me deal with losing my powers or being hunted by Zedd the way you did. Your support meant the world to me, and your love… God, it was all I wanted and I was happier than I'd ever been before. You're funny and sexy and smart and bold and- You didn't do anything wrong; I did. There's nothing about you I would ever change. I'm the one who needs to grow up. You are a wonderful young woman and I miss you every single day. I hate that I lost you."

For all she tried, she couldn't stop her lips from trembling. How could he do this and then say there was nothing wrong with her? "If I had put out, or been less bitchy lately, or not have told you to go to the party… would that have changed things?" She wrung her hands. There had to be something, anything she could do. "You, Jason, Zack, my dad… every guy just seems to- what the hell is wrong with me?"

"There's nothing wrong with you. Nothing at all. Sometimes people just make really bad choices in life. Your dad did and so did I. But Jason and Zack love you very much and want to support you. They don't think what I did was right at all."

Kim shook her head. "If he hated what you did, Jason would have told me." She snorted. "Seems like he forgot he was my brother first."

Realizing she was stalling, she dove in again. "Why the hell didn't you stop her? You've never seemed interested in that bitch before. You always blew her off and rolled your eyes, but then you slept with her?"

"Kim, I've already told you, I was just out of my head. I wish to God I had stopped her, but things were so crazy and… it just happened," he repeated with an exasperated, exhausted breath. What more could he say when he didn't have his own answers? "I betrayed our relationship, Kim. I just messed up," his voice trembled. "I'm sorry. There's nothing I'm not telling you or holding back. You know everything."

Kim's hand came down hard on the mattress. "I don't know everything! I don't know why you would do this to me, or what I did to deserve it, or why it would be that whore of all people! I don't know how you can sit there are look at me and try to sell that 'person I love the most' bullshit when your actions say so much more than your words!" She gulped for oxygen around the lump in her throat. Anger. Anger was so much easier than pain. "I don't know why my so-called brothers would jump to your defense, or why you would spend three days treating me like a Queen when you had to have known I was going to find out."

She leveled him with a tearful glare. She was beyond caring if he saw her cry… like it fucking mattered to him, anyway. "Were you ever going to tell me? Or were you just going to butter me up and hope she kept her lips firmly around your cock and not tell anybody?"

He faced her despair with the only thing he could give her: honesty. "I was a coward, Kim. I thought if I had a couple of days I could find a way to tell you, but…" He shook his head. "I should have never asked Jason for that. I knew once you found out you would end us, and I was afraid of that. I made so many mistakes. I take full responsibility for everything that happened. If there's anything you want me to do, I'll do it... except leave the team."

She rolled her eyes. What did she want him to do? Go back in time and never have cheated. Take a long walk off a short pier. Let her eject him out of the CraneZord at 10,000 feet without a parachute and without his morpher.

And she could do none of them.

"I can't ask you to leave the team," she responded sullenly. "You're our leader and it's been made exceedingly clear in the past few days that us lesser Rangers don't have much say anyway." She'd never let him realize how much that burned her up inside. She'd been a Ranger far longer than him and that service meant nothing compared to the Great and Powerful White Ranger.

"Just get out."

Lips pale and thinned, face drawn and white, Tommy nodded. He wanted to apologize again, to get on bended knee and beg for forgiveness… but something told him to just walk away, at least for now. So he did, the door sounding like the pounding of a judge's gavel. Each step felt like he was walking a mile until he got back down the stairs.

"-so thankful for everything you've done for my daughter," he heard Mrs. Dumas say from the kitchen. He took a deep breath, willing himself to keep walking past the door and praying for no more encounters – to let him get home and lick his wounds in private. "She's gold me about what a sweetheart you are, and the fact that you stayed to make sure she's okay tonight is proof positive."

"Not a problem, Mrs. Hart. Oh, sorry- Dumas."

Adam. Tommy's fists clenched. He was still there?

He padded past the kitchen, eyes drifting almost against his will to see where Aisha, Adam and Kimberly's mother sat at the table eating some fresh-baked cookies. Peanut butter cup and chocolate chunk – Kim's favorite. No doubt a comfort food thing.

Nobody said a word, and he stooped to shove his shoes on.

In a moment, he was gone, back in his Jeep and heading home, his heart utterly broken by knowing how badly he had mangled Kim's.

Friday, September: Week 2
4:00 p.m.

Thirty minutes ago Tommy found himself trapped in the dimly-lit, cold, smoky catacombs of the Dark Dimension. He was fully morphed, having battled a group of Tengas only moments before a bright light burned into him out of nowhere. He staggered awake to find himself trapped here, and if that wasn't bad enough…

'I have filled my Dark Dimension with dozens of violent alien creatures, all vying for my favor. I have informed them that the one who kills you will know untold wealth and power by my side. They all want to rip you apart, and won't stop until you are torn to shreds. Consider this an eye-opening gift, as that's what it's meant to be. Hahahahahaha!'

Lord Zedd's maniacal laughter rang through his subconscious as Saba slashed a deep gash across a hulking lizard-beast's belly. It howled in agony before Tommy severed its head from its broad shoulders. The slimy emerald-colored blood dripped off the edge of his blade as his heart beat to a primal war-drum. "Get out of my head!"

'Tommy, why are you so angry? Why are you so filled with rage? Look around you. I've given you exactly what you wanted tonight: an outlet for your pain and suffering… a way to kill the loneliness… to silence the voice of anyone who opposed you. Don't you see, my friend? You want so much more than what you have. Most of your friends have abandoned you. Your true love wishes you were gone forever. Why stay and suffer on Earth? There's a whole galaxy we could conquer. You're a warrior far above such teenage drivel. Look at all the dead bodies lying at your feet, the blood you've spilled in the name of survival. Would Zordon give you permission to kill? Never. But I would. I would unleash the rage you fight so hard to hold in check. I would never deny you what you want, Tommy.'

The Dark Dimension was frigid and violent; overflowing with the most insane demons and vile creatures Lord Zedd had captured, created, or simply enjoyed their violent nature enough to deposit there. Wretched darkness clouded the minds of anyone trapped in it as the endless maze of dread and despair could drive its occupants into madness as they struggled to escape.

That was where the White Ranger was now held prisoner, fighting for his life while Lord Zedd tempted him with power and damned him with the immense pain of his unexpected betrayal.

Evading a deadly strike, Tommy somersaulted over the heads of two Cyclops swordsmen. He could have easily severed their hands from their wrists, disarming them. But before he could think, Saba's blade cut into the meat of their throats, slaughtering them as they crumbled in agony. Their dark blood splattered over his armor before he turned and raced through the claustrophobic catacombs, searching for some way out. "I'll never turn evil or work for you!"

'You're halfway there already. If you could hurt Kimberly, you can hurt anyone.'

"Show yourself!" Tommy screamed as he navigated the dark corridors that seemed to go on for miles. It was so viciously cold he felt the biting air even inside his White Ranger armor. "Face me!"

'No, I don't think I will. This is a character study and you are my favorite guest. I'm giving you a little bit of war and simply proving that to you secretly love it. The battle… the hunt… your mind was susceptible to Rita's magic because deep down, you're far darker than you realize. Sometimes you simply want what you want,' Lord Zedd's menacing voice echoed inside Tommy's mind. 'You always thought you were superior to Jason, and you proved it. You wanted to be leader, and you claimed it. You wanted Jenny, so you took her. You want to kill me, and if I were there right now, would you deny yourself? Or would you strike me down without hesitation?'

Tommy traded wild sword slashes with a huge four-armed reptilian creature. He was slammed backwards into a huge cracked wall, the pain shuddering through him in waves. He rose to his feet, and side-stepped a second attack, wrenching Saba into the belly of the beast before tearing it out. The creature shrieked its final breath. Tommy lorded over it, gasping for air, waiting for the next attack. "I'm a Ranger. And you're no more than a violent coward."

'And yet over twenty dead bodies are littered around you. You're quite the butcher, Tommy. You wield such technique when you kill. By your own hand, you have ruined the love you shared with Kimberly. Half your team no longer believes you are fit to serve. Who trusts you at all? You have lost everything… and even more than you realize. Allow me to illustrate.'

The Dark Dimension dissolved around the White Ranger swiftly… a moment later the shadowy haze swirled to form a place he had been just the night before.

Kimberly's bedroom.

"Oh… ohgod… Adam, don't stop. Take me… make me yours!"

Tommy gasped loudly, struck wordless by the sight. His throat shut tightly as he was held perfectly still, in one place by some unseen force. But on the bed, he clearly saw Adam making love to Kimberly beneath the covers. They were moving as one, slowly, passionately. He shouted and yelled, but no sound came from his mouth. White hot rage filled his lungs, as fire scorched his thoughts. He never, everwanted to see anything like this! The pleasured expression she wore… the sounds she made… claiming that she was Adam's… and the whole time, Lord Zedd laughed in his ear.

'You have lost her, and to a so-called friend no less. See how she gives her body and heart to him freely. Do they appear to be new lovers… or has this happened a few times already? You have been replaced, Tommy. She craves him, making love to him at night while you struggle to sleep and die on the inside. So unfair, isn't it? So humiliating to watch how she clings to him as he takes her harder.'

Feeling sick with jealousy and sadness, Tommy wanted to die. Was this what Kim imagined at night? Him with Jenny over and over again? Was this the hell she endured knowing of his betrayal? He felt wretched and sick, so wickedly angry he wanted to… he wanted to…

'I can unleash you, Tommy. I can allow you to take what you want. I give you permission. Do it! Give into your passions! Take what belongs to you! Slay Adam! Kill him! Tear his throat from his neck! We will wipe Kimberly's mind and she will be your slave forever. I'll abandon Earth, and with you by my side we can take over the galaxy. Pledge your allegiance to me! Swear it and take what is yours!'

The invisible bonds that held him were suddenly gone. His fist clutched Saba tightly. Rage coiled in his stomach like a deadly cobra ready to strike. The past few weeks had been a pure hell all his making. All his fault. Kim's suffering… he was to blame. Only him. But here, now, he could wipe it clean. He could take her back and then that rat-bastard friend of his would pay the price for his fucking betrayal.

But… but this wasn't real, and he knew it.

Just because Tommy thought his character was dog shit didn't mean Kimberly's was.

Just because Adam didn't have his back one time didn't mean he'd ever do anything like this.

Tommy slowly shut his eyes, breathing deeply, blocking out Lord Zedd and everything else. He found that well of resolve and calm that had always allowed him to overcome any obstacle. "Nice try, Zedd, but all of this is my fault and it's up to me to make things right. There's no magic button that will all of a sudden fix things. You are a liar and a deceiver. You're selfish and angry and though I'm falling fast, I'm going to stop my fall before I hit rock bottom. I'll never be as selfish as you are. I'm going to find my way back to being the man I know that I am. I'm not going to take the easy way out," he swore to the shadows where he knew Lord Zedd hid. "And one day, I am going to cut your heart out."

A whoosh of air brought his eyes open, and he realized he was now standing in Angel Grove park all alone. Night had fallen, signaling he'd been gone for hours. His heart still raced, while the thrill of battle lived in his veins. Sighing, he began the long walk home as Lord Zedd's voice faded away with one last parting shot.

'We shall see, Tommy Oliver. We shall see.'

Angel Grove Youth Center
Friday, September: Week 2
9:00 p.m.

"What happened to you?" Katherine asked lightly, leaning against the wall after discovering Tommy sneaking out of the Youth Center men's showers stall. Finishing up her part-time evening job of cleaning up the place, she found the White Ranger emotionally shaken, appearing worn down, as if he'd been through ten shades of hell. When she called out his name he avoided her gaze, appearing agitated and he didn't reply. But she wasn't one to give up so easily. "You don't look like you were here for a late night work out. Spill or I start calling the others."

Frustrated by her presence, Tommy swiped a white towel over his face, collecting the last of the moisture following his hot shower. After today's grueling battle he wasn't in the mood for anything other than sleep… not that he'd enjoyed much of that in recent days. "Let it go, Kat," he warned as he walked by.

She tugged at his forearm, drawing his attention. "I'm not going to just pretend you don't look like you've been in a war tonight," the still-in-training alternate Ranger clearly stated. She marched right up to him, nearly tall enough to look him dead in the eyes. "I don't have a horse in this race," she eloquently noted concerning his breakup with Kim. "But I do care about all of you. I'd like to get to know you better. And maybe tonight you just need an ear. But if you won't talk I will get everyone to talk to you. So you better decide here and now. It's them or me."

She was feisty, he'd give her that. And not above manipulation either. Tommy groaned menacingly, and then threw in the towel. "I don't want to talk to anyone else tonight."

She tried to not let her tiny victory evolve into a smile. "So you'll talk to me?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"No. Not even a little." He almost gave her a grin, and she felt good about earning at least a little respect in his eyes. She wasn't a pushover… no matter how gorgeous he was. He wasn't on her romantic radar for a host of reasons. Still didn't mean he wasn't nice to look at.

They walked over to an empty table in the corner, with Tommy straddling a chair from behind while Kat sat across from him. She felt the tension lifting off him in waves and he appeared vastly uneasy. She was worried about him. And with him being the leader of the Rangers, a polarizing figure some either loved or hated, and currently in the center of a gigantic personal mess of his own making, she found him far too… interesting.

A tiny bit handsome too.

Unable to play the game of drawing things out, Tommy dove right in without a care. "Somehow, and this shouldn't even be possible given our technology, Lord Zedd was able to abduct me this afternoon. He took me to a place called the Dark Dimension." He knew Billy was bringing her up to speed on Lord Zedd and how he operated. "I was… he was testing me. I ended up fighting for my life, and after a while I refused to give him what he wanted. Then he just let me go," he finished with a faraway glint in his eyes.

Whatever was she getting herself into in becoming an alternate Ranger? Nonetheless, Katherine's interest was piqued. "How was he testing you and what did he want?"

Her pretty blue eyes showed genuine concern, something he wasn't used to from a girl these days. Then again, he didn't exactly deserve it, either. "It's not a secret that I enjoy a good fight every now and then. But mostly in martial arts competitions. As far as the Rangering goes, it's a part of life. We kill the bad guys or they will kill us. No exceptions. But today the fighting was… different- far more brutal… and Zedd tried to recruit me." He didn't find surprise in her expression. But she was listening intently as he continued. "Zedd tried to make me believe Kim and Adam were having an affair." Her initial absolute shock was followed by a calm he wasn't sure he liked. Did she know something he didn't? "Zedd wanted me to kill Adam and join him. He wanted me to walk away from my entire life, Earth… my family… everything and just serve him. He told me I didn't have to care anymore about what I did or what anyone thought. I could just have what I wanted and fuck everyone else."

With a hint of a darker tone he declared, "Lord Zedd gave me permission to not care."

She watched him closely, noting every nuance as if she were dissecting something on an operating table. Having heard so many varying opinions on him as of late, she was pleased to be able to judge him based on getting to know him herself. He was anything but simple. Powerful. Complex. Lonely. Selfish. Brave. Angry. "Were you tempted?"

Blinking, he hated to admit, "Yes," but he did. He wasn't quite sure why, since he didn't know her all that well. But she was here and at least listening to him vent. She even seemed to understand that he needed that. She had a warm spirit about her. "The woman I love with all my heart hates me and half my friends think I'm garbage. On top of that, my leadership of the Rangers will be re-assessed in a few weeks seeing as how a good section of my team no longer trusts me. My guy buds aren't nearly as happy or pleased with me as anyone thinks and my mom is very disappointed in me. My dad, too. So I'm not in the best frame of mind."

Judgment didn't live in her eyes. "No one's perfect, Tommy. You're allowed a stray bad thought."

"Of course, I would never join with Lord Zedd to hurt people on purpose. But sometimes it-"

"-would be nice to not care about anything at all," she finished softly. Her statement hung thick in the air between them as their gazes met. "When Rita had me under her spell… I remember everything I said and did. I hate how I almost killed Kim and hurt other people. But I also remember how it felt to not care about anything but what I wanted." At the time she wanted him in a warped, obsessive way that made little sense to her now. But touching the darkness left a mark. Stained her somehow, no doubt about it. "So he tested you and you passed."

"…barely," Tommy confided as he arched his neck. "For a moment there, I-" He shook his head at the lunacy of his life. "I'm not in a good place right now, Kat. I'm just… everything's such a mess and it's my fault. My selfishness broke Kim's heart and now other friendships and relationships are all screwed up. I can't fix any of this and I honestly don't know what to do."

"Been there… done that," Katherine noted absently, and then her eyes peered forward, meeting the surprise in his. "What? I had a life before Angel Grove."

"Kat tales, huh?" he gave a little smirk, enjoying the spotlight not being on him or once. "Regale me."

Arms crossed over her chest, she sighed and then gave a tiny shrug. "I like all of you guys," she began. "You're all… well, you were such a tight knit group and even after I was evil you all took me in and forgave me. It's never easy being the new kid, much less the new kid helping the bad guys and trying to kill the good ones. Everyone was so supportive and forgiving. It's something I'll never forget. I've made some wonderful friends since I arrived here."

Long ago memories assaulted Tommy as he considered what she said. Their paths into the team certainly mirrored each other. "You ever hear about the Green Ranger?"

"There was a Green Ranger?"

"…an evil one, for a time."

Her daring smile revealed her duplicity. "Yes, I've heard the story. You tried to kill the entire team on your first day of school."

"Hell of a first impression," he recalled not-so-fondly.

"It got your foot in the door," she replied, before pushing onward. "Anyway, when I heard you cheated on Kim, I was so hurt for her and shocked that you would do something like that. It didn't seem like you at all."

All that he could do was nod. The long list of people he'd let down with his actions seemed endless. "Trust me, I know."

"Betraying someone can crush them. It's just such a terrible thing to have to go through."

The range of emotions he saw cross her face piqued his curiosity. "You've had your heart broken?"

"No, I cheated and broke his heart," she confessed as he gave a slow nod. "I was deeply in love with my boyfriend at the time. We'd been together close to three years, and…" Lost in her thoughts, she trailed off. A deep exhale later, she said, "I think I was searching for something I didn't even understand. Was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person. I blamed it on a number of things, but I was just a selfish bitch in that moment. I was stupid and I really hurt a great guy."

Now it was Tommy who was listening intently. "I still one-up you. I actually tried being sweet to Kim afterward, all the while telling myself that I just needed to find the right way to tell her the truth."

"To make matters worse, you cheated with the one girl who apparently had always hated Kim and reveled in hurting her in the worse way possible."

Tommy's head bowed as he winced, shaking his head at his own stupidity. "I should have told Kim the truth that same night I did it."

"I agree." She paused before saying, "There is no right way to tell someone you betrayed them."

"I was really a piece of scum. I don't know what I was thinking… no, honestly, I do. I was terrified 'cause I knew I was going to lose her. I was such a coward," he hated to admit.

"So was I, Tommy."

"Did you get caught or did you confess?"

"I confessed… two weeks later. And I was extra sweet and affectionate the whole time even as I was crying myself to sleep at night." Her face darkened with regret as she was taken back to those sad days. "I felt horrible, but just couldn't find the words. I know how that is. When you want to tell the truth, but you know it will hurt the person you love so much and they will leave you."

"Kim will never believe that I would have eventually told her the truth."

"I know, and I don't blame her for feeling that way. But part of me thinks the guilt would have eaten you alive."

Tommy agreed, "It still does. Every second of every day. I would do anything to have never slept with Jenny. I'm still in love with Kim, and she doesn't deserve to suffer for my mistakes."

"If I never slept with Brent I would have saved Joseph so much pain," she expressed sincerely. "I hurt him so bad, broke his heart and our trust and just… I lost three really good friends in the process. Joseph told me I was dead to him," she revealed.

Tommy wondered how close Kim was to feeling that exact same way about him, or if she already did. "Did you try to win him back? Joseph, I mean."

"I thought about it. But my mom helped me realize I wanted him to forgive me more than I wanted him back in my life. I knew my family was moving, and a long-distance high school relationship would have been very hard. But I never wanted to leave under those circumstances. I apologized to him face-to-face, and then left. I broke his heart and I'll never forgive myself for doing that. All that I can do is be a better person from now on. But Karma will catch up to me someday."

Tommy sympathized with her, but didn't feel that same way about his predicament. "I want to try and win Kim back. I know now isn't the time, though, and even if I try she may not ever take me back."

"You crossed a line you may never be able to come back from."

"I have to try," he confessed truthfully. "I love her so much. I hate myself right now, and all I can do is be a better man."

"One day at a time."

"Just be better than yesterday."

Katherine felt a connection of sorts with Tommy, as she understood a great deal of what he was feeling and dealing with right now. Neither of them condoned cheating or ever wanted to be cheated on. The person hurt deserved justice, caring, and understanding first and foremost. But for the ones who did the crime, some actually cared enough to try and make amends. There were always two sides to every story.

"So," Tommy began as he rose from the chair, ready to head home. "Are you going to tell anyone about this?"

"No, you are. Tomorrow. Being kidnapped by Lord Zedd is too big a thing to hide. Agreed?" She extended her hand, and smiled when he took hers.

No doubt, she was a stunning beauty. Not his 'Beautiful', but stunning nonetheless. "Agreed." He shook her hand, more than a little grateful to have had her ear tonight. "Thank you."

"I just listened."

"You didn't judge. I needed that, even if it was for just one night."

"You're welcome," she smiled.

"So, you need a ride home?"

"I'm not sure I want to be seen with you," she teased. "You have a bad reputation, Mr. Oliver."

He gave as good as he got. "And here I thought you were a bad kitty."

She met his snark head on. "…I can be," she snickered, walking with him toward the side door. "I'll take you up on that ride. But don't buy me a Team Tommy t-shirt."

"You're not Team Kim either," he declared rather than asked.

She didn't deny. "I like all of you. I just hope things get better. They say time heals all wounds. I hope that's true here."

"You and me both, Kat. You and me both."