Broken

Chapter 6

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. Kat joined the team. They are alternate Rangers, and assist as necessary.

Genre: Drama/Angst/Hurt/Comfort – 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: As apologies are made, some people begin to have a firmer understanding of what actually went wrong. Nobody has been entirely right; it just took people a long time to realize it.

A/N: psyco_chick32 – And thus, we get to the chapters that Shawn and I will probably kill each other over one day. I'm predicting Morphicon.

A/N: Shawn30 – Friendships evolve in the most interesting ways


Campbell House
Sunday, October: Week 2
10 a.m.

Rocky trailed Adam up the driveway and into the Campbells' back yard, feeling incredibly out of place. It was a strange, unwanted feeling given that for 14 years he, Adam and Aisha pretty much had open-door policies.

Of course, that was before World War III erupted between the Rangers, putting them effectively on separate sides. They'd never fought like that before.

Rocky sighed. "Are you sure about this?" He hadn't been around Aisha lately, but the Yellow Ranger's temper had been the reason why, and he was certain the fights the night before hadn't made things much better. Even if he had been able to finally give Kim a hug, everything that went down afterward made him wonder if he was welcome at this late-morning pow-wow.

"Why not?" Adam shrugged. "You were one of the guys who didn't yell at her yesterday. You're probably more welcome than the rest of 'em. Besides," he said dryly, "Zack supposedly plans on swinging by today to apologize, and Jase went home with her last night. She could probably use a friendly face."

Rocky's brow furrowed at Adam's assessment. The Black Ranger had never been the most confident of the guys when it came to girls – especially when judging what they wanted or needed, given how independent Aisha was – but he talked about Kim like it was second nature.

Adam strode across the porch and rapped on the sliding glass door. Rocky came up behind his friend to see Aisha flipping the lock, and held his breath. It wasn't like he'd gotten any further any other time he'd tried to visit. But when Adam slid open the door, she simply eyed Rocky and shrugged before turning back to Adam.

"I'm glad you're here. Mom and dad are gone, and Kim needs hugs. She's in the front, acting all bummed out."

Adam sighed and rolled his eyes, wandering to the living room. Aisha and Rocky hung back; Aisha to get some cereal, Rocky because he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do now. The silence between them was beyond uncomfortable, and he couldn't figure out why. He just wanted things back to the way they were.

"So, how's she doing?" he awkwardly attempted.

"Kim?" When Rocky nodded, she sighed. "Been better. Been worse, though. I think the stuff last night has her feeling really guilty about everything."

"That's stupid; it's not really her fault," he pointed out, a bit baffled. "I mean, yeah, she pushed us away, but that's really the only thing she did." Then he shrugged, "And what she said to Tommy was really cruel. But what he did was worse, and I'm sure he knows that."

"She thinks…" Aisha pursed her lips, trying to figure out if she should explain how hurt Kim still was, and how convoluted things had become in her eyes. For a moment, she wondered if he really cared; it was hard to change mind-sets when it came to the guys. But he was at least pretending to be concerned, and maybe he could explain it to Jason and Zack. "She thinks Tommy cheated because of her… because she wasn't pretty enough or slutty enough or smart enough or whatever." Seeing his incredulous look, she nodded. "Oh, yeah, I know. We all know it's not true; that Tommy cheated because he's a scumbag who needed a place to put his dick, and didn't care whether or not his girlfriend found out." She didn't give Rocky a chance to refute her claim. "But it's the way she thinks, and it'll take some time to get it through her head that it's wrong. It'll happen, eventually."

He nodded, unwilling to rock the boat any more than he had. Another heavy silence fell between them, and Rocky began to fidget.

"I'm gonna go see how they're doing," he finally offered.

Aisha nodded, chopping a banana into her bowl of Cheerios. "'kay." She looked up as he walked out, admiring the way his shorts hugged his ass… then sighed. Terri was a lucky woman.

The Red Ranger nearly skidded to a halt at the sight that greeted him in the living room, his jaw dropping slightly. Adam sat on the end of the couch, smooshed between the arm and Kimberly, who leaned against him. His arm was around her, his thumb tracing soothing circles on her shoulder.

What was weirdest was how comfortable Adam looked as he murmured to her, getting a nod or two in response, though he couldn't hear what either were saying.

Trini noticed him standing in the doorway and waved him in, encouraging him to sit down. The television was on a channel that would appear strange to anybody but them: an intergalactic news feed from KO-35 they could connect to via a signal de-scrambler Billy built. "Hey, we're on."

"Yup. You guys look good."

Images of the Earth Rangers at the jail break flashed across the screen, an impressive display of zords and hand-to-hand skills. It appeared the news crews had arrived just as the battle escalated; Kim had been forced to land her zord and help take on the hoard of escapees trying to get out to the pods that had arrived. Aisha kept them from opening up while Kim took the offensive, weapons at the ready. From where she sat, Kim let out a muffled chuckle as the Pink Ranger took down an array of armed felons with her Power Bow. "That was totally a mistake."

"A mistake? If so, you make it look good," Rocky laughed, turning to the young woman. "You kicked ass yesterday."

"I only meant to hit one of 'em. That ugly gray guy shoved me, and I missed my original shot… instead, the arrows ricocheted. I mean, it worked, but I didn't mean to do it."

"That'll be our little secret," he responded with a wink. Kim smiled and it filled him with a small bit of warmth; no matter how strange it was to see her cuddled up against his best friend, she looked comfortable. Happy, sort of, or at least content. Relaxed, at the very least, and that was a hopeful sign. "So," he asked, grabbing her outstretched foot and shaking it back and forth lightly, drawing a giggle from her, "how you doin', pinkie?"

Kim shrugged lightly, pushing herself up off Adam; he grunted when her elbow accidentally dug into his ribs. "I'm hanging in there." Her words to Jason from the night before surfaced in her mind, and she forced a smile. "I… I'm sorry, by the way. For being so bitchy and mean lately, and for not letting you guys explain yourself. I was just…" She floundered a bit, unable to describe her concerns without starting another fight.

To her relief, he simply shook his head. "Nah, it's all good. I get it. I got sisters; I know how you girls can be," he teased, making sure she realized he was joking. "More importantly," he stressed, remembering what Aisha said, "you know none of this is your fault, right? Tommy was the one who fucked up, not you. You didn't deserve what happened and you did not thing wrong."

Kim blinked. It was the first time she'd ever heard one of the guys just flat-out say that Tommy was wrong, without some sort of qualifier or "but" at the end of the sentence. It was…

Nice.

She swallowed, eyes wandering to where Aisha had joined Trini on the couch. Both girls were nodding, and behind her, Adam rubbed her shoulder. "See? I told you so."

"Thanks, Rocko."

About an hour later, Rocky and Adam waved their good-byes and stepped on the porch. Adam had explained a little of his conversation with his predecessor the night before, and they hoped to get well away before Zack showed up.

After a moment, Rocky looked over at his best friend. "You know, I gotta say… Tommy would be pissed if he saw how close you've gotten to Kim. I mean, really. You guys were all but cuddling on the couch."

Adam rolled his eyes. "Oh, forgive me for caring more about Kim's needs than Tommy's misplaced possessiveness. He has no room to talk considering he fucked Jenny without even thinking about what it would do to Kim." He caught the Red Ranger's mildly shocked expression and shrugged. "Rocky, Tommy wouldn't piss on me if I were on fire. Last night, he apologized and was back to dissing me not even five minutes later. Why bother wasting the energy to try when he's not going to? He won't appreciate it… but Kim does, so I do what's going to work."

Rocky blinked, taken aback. The Black Ranger wasn't always so outspoken. Then again, things had changed a lot.

"You know how you guys were upset that Kim wouldn't talk to you?" Rocky nodded. "Well, Tommy and the other guys did the same to me. I tried to make nice with Tommy, and he wanted jack shit to do with me. You guys rallied around Tommy because he let you support him… I'm doing the same thing, just with Kim." There wasn't much Rocky could say to that. Adam rolled his shoulders. "Anyway, you wanted to spar? Let's get going."


Campbell House
Sunday, October: Week 2
1:10 p.m.

It was just after one when Jason rapped on the front door. After everything the night before, and a bit of self-reflection after speaking with Kim, he felt ready to tackle all of her issues and maybe finally get this whole situation sorted out.

The door opened to reveal Aisha with a wary look on her face. She looked him up and down; he glared when she seemed unwilling to step aside.

Finally, she let him in. "Kim!" she hollered into the living room. "The third of the Perfect Male Parade has arrived!"

"Be nice!" Trini yelled back, making Aisha mutter under her breath.

"Third?"

"Well, fourth," she clarified. Rocky and Adam were here early this morning, then Zack came by earlier," Aisha said with a hint of a smile. "Kim was pretty surprised when he brought flowers for her. Can you one-up the daisies?"

Rolling his eyes, Jason strode past her down the hallway to where he could hear Kim, Trini and Kat chatting. Kim laughed and he smiled, tossing his offering from one hand to another. That girly giggle had been in short supply as of late. Trini held open her arms; he gratefully gave her a hug before nudging her over to make room on the couch for him.

"Hm, maybe something like that, but in blue?" Kat asked Kim, tapping at a cardigan in the magazine in front of them.

Kim nodded. "That would really bring out your eyes. I think I saw those at Nordstrom's last time I was there… we should go tomorrow. They're having a sale, I think."

"Sounds good. Trini, Aisha, would you like to come?"

"Well, duh."

"Sure," Trini added. Then she turned to Jason, "Want to come carry bags?"

"Not on your life," he swore. "With the damage you four will do? No, no, no."

Kim snorted. "We're not that bad."

Jason was content to sit back and let the girls talk for a while more; just taking in the atmosphere he had been denied for far too long. It was always a pleasure to have Trini nearby, and Kat was a sweetheart. Kim and Aisha were still tense, though, as if they anticipated a fight. He hoped with a bit of time, they'd relax.

"Oh, look at the time. We should get going, Aisha," Kat broke in about an hour later. "The kids will be disappointed if we're late."

"Right." Aisha eyed Jason suspiciously. "Kim, we'll be back in a few hours… we signed up to take the shelter kids to the zoo. You sure you don't want to come?"

The Pink Ranger looked sorely tempted, but caught Jason's expression and shook her head. "Nah, I'll be fine. Thank you, though."

Aisha managed one more warning look – undaunted by Trini's increasingly frustrated attitude – before leaving the three original Rangers behind. Trini took off a few minutes later, giving Kim a reassuring smile before teleporting to the Command Center to get some follow-up work done on the prison break.

Silence stretched between the two for a long while – neither could give a specific time frame, but each was lost in thought. Jason wondered, for what was far from the first time, how everything had gone so wrong. Kim had never been so awkward or even uncomfortable around him. He was there when boys first started noticing her (much to his displeasure) and when her family had broken apart. He'd seen her at her best, winning gymnastic meets and even getting her orange belt in karate, and her worst… up until now. Now she seemed stiff, as though she wasn't sure what to say, or was nervous that he would yell at her or something.

For her part, Kim… well, was. She was waiting for him to start yelling, to start reiterating what she had done wrong. She also knew that Jason believed in Tommy, and believed he'd never do something to hurt her of his own accord. And because of that, it was probably easier to believe it was all her fault… and he wouldn't be alone, no matter what Trini, Aisha, Adam and Kat said.

Jason leaned back onto the arm of the couch, shifting so he could face her head-on. "Talk to me, Kimberly."

"About what?"

He stifled a sigh. They were all sighing too much. "Something. Anything?" He tried to keep his voice light when all he wanted to do was grab her by the shoulders and shake her out of this funk. "We haven't talked a lot lately and I miss it."

She let out a small smile and chose to touch on a relatively safe topic. "I got accepted to Sac State."

He stared. How did he not know this? Even Trini hadn't said anything and he was honestly hurt at the omission. "Really? When did you find out?"

"A week or so ago," she responded with a shrug. "I've been encouraged to apply to University of Miami, too. Their coach tried to recruit me at the L.A. meet a couple weeks ago."

"Are you going to?"

"Dunno yet. I'm not sure what I want to study… but I've been thinking about going into criminal justice."

Jason was shocked yet again by this diminutive woman. Had things changed so much in a month? Or had they been drifting apart before then? "Since when?"

"Well, I've wanted to go into physical education or maybe medicine, as a physical therapist. But there's something about Rangering that I love, and the jail-break was interesting. It really got my blood pumping. I feel alive when I'm doing something like that. Maybe I could eventually join a SWAT team or something."

"That's… unexpected." He wasn't quite sure what to say. The idea of Kim putting herself in the line of fire was disturbing. Being a Ranger was one thing; she had a team to protect her. Sure, she'd have one as a cop, but they weren't people he knew and trusted. He made a face. "I don't like it."

She rolled her eyes. "Of course you don't."

"Being a doctor is safer," he pointed out. "Not that I don't think you could do it, but it's really dangerous."

"Being a SWAT team sharpshooter would be something I'm decent at, thought," she refuted. "I proved that last night. I would have less to study."

He crossed his arms and grumbled. Knowing her, if he kept complaining, she'd do it just to spite him and prove she could. "So what else is new?"

"Nothing, really. Same old, same old." Kim wriggled in her seat, painfully aware of his eyes on her. Facing Rocky hadn't been difficult, and she'd had Adam, Aisha and Trini to run interference. Talking to Zack had been a trial after the blow up the night before, but the Zack-Man was nothing if not eloquent, and made the quick walk around the block as they chatted smooth and comfortable. And now Jason… she knew they were trying their hardest to show that they cared, and trying to reconnect, but she was staring to feeling overwhelmed with visit after visit after visit. To say she was thrilled to have to face all three of them one-on-one in the same day was a massive overstatement. "You?" She wasn't quite sure what else to say.

He wished she would lighten up; it felt like he was the only one trying. "The same. Spending a lot of time hanging with the guys, planning for Trini's birthday next week."

Her ears perked up at that. "Oh? Doing anything fun? For Trini, I mean," she hurried to clarify. She didn't need to hear about all the great times the guys were having with Tommy. Double-dates and the like – not necessary information. But Trini's birthday was important. A stray memory of Tommy's Valentine's Day surprise – it was a shock he'd remembered, much less the amazing birthday dinner he'd pulled off before the dance – flickered through her head before she could squash it down. "Any sweet surprises in store?"

"Well, I've been thinking about taking her to Leona's again," he said thoughtfully. Then a frown crossed his face. "But… well, our last date there didn't exactly end well."

Kim smirked as she recalled Trini's rage when she came back to describe how she'd thrown her soda in Jason's face before leaving in a huff. Her amusement fled quickly. "I'm sorry about that."

He'd been happy to see the smile, and was curious when her face fell; even more curious when she apologized. "Why? You weren't there."

"Trini said you guys were arguing about me," she pointed out. "If I hadn't been so stubborn from the beginning, you guys would have had a nice night."

"No!" Jason reached out and snagged her hand. "Why would you even say that?"

Kim looked away, but not before Jason could see her face was flushed. "Because it's true. I screwed up, and it really messed with your relationship. I'm sorry."

"Kim, you did nothing wrong!" He tugged on her arm a little bit to make sure she was paying attention. "I mean… okay, yeah, so you kinda did when you wouldn't talk to us." Her eyes dropped and she nodded in acknowledgement, and he mentally kicked himself. "No, no, I mean…" He made a frustrated noise, pursing his lips and taking a second to get his thoughts in order. "Look. What happened between Trini and me was just between us. And if you must know, we were arguing more about Tommy and Adam than you."

She was relentless. "Yeah, but if Adam hadn't-"

"Stop it!" Kim leaned back a bit, eying Jason warily. He'd rarely taken that tone of voice with her but he had to find a way to shut her up. He met her look quietly, examining her as though seeing her for the first time. It was a long while before he spoke again. "You really do blame yourself, don't you?"

Kim stared at him. "Why shouldn't I? It is my fault," she insisted. "You guys were fighting over me, and Adam, and… that wouldn't have happened if Tommy hadn't… If I had been prettier or smarter or sexier or given it up to Tommy sooner-"

Jason held up his hand to stop her. He was inwardly seething to hear her say stuff like that – it was so far from true it wasn't funny. It was painful. "Kim, you're beau- gorgeous," he amended. "All the guys in school think so. Hell, even Ben Greenstein thinks you're good-looking, and he's gay!" He shook his head. "You're popular and sweet, and the damned class president. You couldn't be more loveable. Tommy cheated because he was a selfish dumbass. He's a good guy that made a horrible mistake."

Kim snorted at the "good guy" comment, and Jason sighed. "He is. You know that."

She didn't respond, crossing her arms instead and turning to look out the window. It was obvious she wouldn't hear a word sticking up for him, and he bit his tongue. It was second nature to defend his bro, but he'd have to do it when she was more likely to listen. Apparently Tommy was a non-negotiable subject, at least when it came to the man's pros.

Yet another tense silence stretched between the two of them. Jason sighed, wondering angrily if this was even worth the effort. He'd never have thought that in the past; he'd butted heads with her many times, but she hadn't been so very obstinate.

"I brought you some Reese's Pieces," he mentioned, tossing the bag into her lap. Candy: a topic uncomplicated, unremarkable and entirely unrelated to the problems at hand.

Kim looked down and poked at the bag, a small smile coming out again. "Thank you. It was sweet of you."

"Not a problem."

She let out a deep breath. "So, Trini's birthday?"

Jason leaped to accept the subject change. "Yeah. I picked up some extra classes at the Juice Bar, and found an old check from Grandma Scott. It's enough for dinner, some flowers and a gift… I'm thinking maybe a necklace?"

Kim smiled wistfully. "A topaz? Oh, you should get her a locket!"

"I was thinking something a bit manlier."

"Um, Trini is not a man." She spoke slowly, enunciating each word like she thought he was an idiot.

"I know that," he defended. "I meant when I was buying it."

Her eyes rolled back. "Oh good God. I'm taking Trini shopping tomorrow and I'll take her window-gazing. I'll tell you what catches her eye."

He managed a positively radiant smile at that. She was being helpful, offering to assist him when it came to his girlfriend and making amends. She wanted to be a part of his life. She was taking steps.

Finally, there was some progress!

"I'd like that," he agreed. "It'd be a lot of help and I know you'll pick out something she likes."

"You know that means you'd have to step into a store with me," she pointed out. "Maybe even the mall."

His lips pursed. "I think I like this idea a little less now…"

She slapped his arm, laughing softly. "Don't be a jerk. I'm not that bad."

"Yeah, yeah. Just don't go telling her what you're up to."

She glowered. "I can be subtle! And sneaky! I can keep a secret just as well as you can!" As the words came out of her mouth, she cringed, catching their possible double-meaning. And just like that, without meaning to, the tension was back. They looked away; Kim awash with anger and hurt all over again, and Jason wincing at the oh-so-familiar feeling of guilt.

Kim fidgeted, braiding and unbraiding the fringe on the blanket draped over the back of the couch before clearing her throat. "I… I have a question." Her voice sounded small, like she was waiting for him to shoot her down, and it was killing him already. "And I mean, you don't have to answer if you don't want, and I know I already-"

"What, Kim?"

She stared at him out of the corner of her eye. "Did… um, before everything happened… did Tommy ever cheat on me before?" She hastened to add, "I mean that you know about. That he told you, and you just didn't tell me because he had asked."

Jason stared at her like she had grown a third eye. "You think I'd just watch him date you if I had any reason to believe he was banging some girl on the side?" He was so offended at the accusation; he couldn't fathom why this was even an answer she needed.

"It's what you did for half a week! He was going above and beyond, treating me like a queen, and you never batted an eye! So why wouldn't he do it before? Jesus, Jason! I have no way of knowing how long you would have let him keep it a secret! He would have kept convincing himself it was better than I didn't know, and kept trying to butter me up. Is it really so shocking for me to think he could have done this before? That asshole didn't have the decency to tell me!"

He glared. "Tommy loves you. Hurting you was the very last thing he has ever wanted to do, and it is tearing him up that he caused you pain. I don't think he could live with himself if he had done this before."

"Why not? Dad cheated for years before the divorce! Tommy could have, too! He's managed to keep a lot of secrets over the years, tried to kill us a couple times. He's always believed he's above the rules!"

Jason stood, raging outwardly now at the words coming out of her mouth. "You can really sit there and say things like that about him? You once swore you loved him more than anything else on the world, now you act as though he's less than scum. What the hell? It's like I don't even know who you are any more."

Kim rose and took a step closer to him, fists balled. Her voice was no less venomous despite the hissed tone. "Maybe you never did."

He gaped at the accusation.

"If you think I would just shove what he did to me under the rug? Ignore it? Pretend like it never happened? Then you know jack shit about me. You have absolutely no right to tell me how to deal with this. So fuck him, and fuck you!" She whirled and stomped up the stairs.

Jason shoved into his shoes and stormed out of the house. He needed a work-out.


Angel Grove Youth Center
Sunday, October: Week 2
2:40 p.m.

Grimacing with exertion, Jason pounded the punching bag like it was trying to kill him, relentlessly slamming lefts and rights into it as the bag swayed from its ceiling mount. "I don't even know why I fucking keep trying," he swore while beating the bag until sweat rolled off his face and down his shirtless back. "I swear if I see one more eye-roll or glare 'cause I said something in some way they don't like, even though apparently I can't say anything in the way they like, I am just going to scream!"

Tommy and Zack were seated a couple of feet away, so far just watching and listening as Jason ranted. It wasn't often the calm, cool, and collected Red Ranger got so angry he cursed. The ever-disciplined former leader was normally above such things.

"Kim had the nerve to ask me if you had cheated on her before and if I hid it!" Jason raged, glaring at Tommy, who could only bow his head in regret. "As If I would sit there and let you fuck some other girl behind her back for however long, all the while lying to her face each day and looking the other way." He shook his head before pounding the bag with a stiff right that shook the ceiling mount. Utter frustration set his shoulders and gaze. "Ten years of being her brother… I mess up one time and now I would just let people hurt her on purpose and look the other way? Well, fuck that!" His fist bashed the ever-living hell out of the punching bag again, rage channeling itself through his body.

Tommy rose from his chair, hands in his pockets. He hated having to remind his best friend that, "Bro, I tried to be extra sweet to Kim right after I cheated. You knew what happened and didn't say anything."

"Yeah, but you swore you were gonna tell her in a few days. You promised me… shit, you shouldn't have done any of this in the first damn place!"

"You're right," Tommy agreed, nodding. Even while he was still bitterly angry over what Kim said to him on the rooftop, he had to acknowledge his wrongdoing that started all of this. "I kept telling myself I would figure out the best way to tell her and not hurt her, but deep down I was a coward and didn't know what to do. I'm sorry for putting you in the middle of this."

Wiping sweat from his brow, Jason slumped down on the weight bench, rubbing his hand over his face. "I made my own bed, Tommy. I should have told Kim the second you confessed to me… or marched you over there and forced you to do it yourself."

Guilt ate away at the White Ranger. "I wish you had. I wish none of this ever happened, but it did. And you're pissed at Kim for doubting you, but she has a reason to… just like she does with me. Even though we know we would never do it again, she doesn't. Trust me, that's the bitterest pill I have ever swallowed."

"I went over there to try and talk things out," Jason argued. "I put forth the effort, but I'm met with attitude no matter what I say or do."

"That's enough, Jase!" Zack finally interjected, now standing between the guys. It was time for tough love, no matter how it came out. "Look, you both want there to be a magic button to push to fix all of Kim's hurt feelings and pain. But it doesn't exist. It never has and it never will. The hard, cold reality is that Kim does not trust us anymore. She is trying to listen more, but she is still very heartbroken and feels betrayed."

Tommy and Jason sat quietly, giving him the floor. Lord knows he knew more about girls than they did.

"Trust me; girls don't just get over things like that in a flash. The harder we all push, the farther she will run away. Then the day will come where she will simply not want any of us around her, period."

Jason sighed, "I tried calling her every damn day and going by Aisha's house to see her."

"I was right there with you, and I wish she had seen us. But that's what I mean by pushing," Zack said. "She thinks we all just ignored how deeply Tommy hurt her. We were finally able to tell her we didn't. But now that she is willing to listen to us, we have to be patient and not push. Like, super patient. Like, seriously, leave Kim alone and let her seek us out when she wants to talk or interact. Otherwise you're gonna keep fighting… until one day she washes her hands of you entirely. I know how much both of you love her and don't want that. It's why I only swung by to say I was sorry, explain myself, and got the heck outta dodge."

Jason frowned. He couldn't exactly argue that bit of logic. The thought of completely losing Kim from his life was heart-breaking. His voice lowered as he asked, "How could she think I would just let someone hurt her?"

"Because in a way, you did," Tommy hated to point out, his gaze fallen. "I cheated on her with Jenny and told you about it first. You kept my secret and that hurt her. And then Jenny… The person honest with her about it was the one person she probably wanted to hear it from the least. All that we can do is give her space. We've all apologized. I know it ain't easy, but like Zack said… if we keep pushing, she will turn her back on us all for good."

"So listen to me, since I'm the only guy in this room who understands women," Zack half-laughed to get their attention. He got small smiles from both his bros. "Kim is still very hurt, humiliated, and feels guilty for just about everything going wrong in the team. All of us want to tell her how wrong she is for thinking that, but just doesn't want to hear it from us. She needs to accept and know that in her own time. So we need to let the girls and Adam help her get past this. Tell her your love her from time to time, but stop with all the visits and phone calls. No forcing anything. Let her reach out to us when she is ready."

"What if she never does?" Jason hated to imagine it, but still wondered.

Zack shook his head. "She will. She wouldn't be so pissed if she didn't still care."

"While the Princess Frog isn't my favorite guy," Tommy sarcastically joked, "he's been wonderful to her in all of this. Hopefully over time we'll get to talk to her more and well, they say time heals all wounds. I sincerely hope that's the case here."

Jason snickered, "So what you're saying is the very best thing we can do… is nothing?"

"Take it from me: sometimes nothing works more wonders with girls." Zack offered his sage advice with a smile. But then he added seriously, "Tommy, if you ever hurt Kim again I will disown and likely kill you."

"That's only if I don't get to you first," Jason added. "I am trusting you this one time and one time only to never, ever fuck up like this again."

Tommy gave a nod. "Everything that's happened since that stupid night I spent with Jenny is all my fault. I promise you, I swear it, if Kim ever gives me a second chance – even if it's just friendship only – I won't ever hurt her again. I truly regret what I did, and I won't push Kim or the girls or Princess…"

"Adam, you dick," Zack laughed.

Tommy held his hands up. "Alright, Adam. Yeah, I know, he's another thing I gotta make peace with. But I'll keep the peace with Adam, too. I don't want this team or the family fractured any more than it already is. If all Kim can ever give me is friendship, I'll take it and walk away. No questions asked."

"You know that Adam will be a part of Kim's life now, right? He isn't going anywhere," Zack pointed out.

"Yeah, I get it. I may not like it, but I get it," Tommy sighed. "And you know what? I have been a dick to him. He was a damn good friend to me for a long time. I'm just jealous of how close they are and how much time they spend together. But that isn't right and I know it. He's stood by her side just like you guys stood by me. And as badly as I needed that, Kim probably needed it ten times as bad."

Zack nodded. "Exactly."

"I still want to punch him though."

"I'm guessing the feeling is mutual," Jason said, and then teased, "In this corner, Sexually Transmitted Diseased Falcon. And in the other, Princess Frog. Let the battle begin."

"Seriously, bro," Zack said. "You need to reach out to Adam, and then you two need to hammer out everything. 'cause right now you pretty much hate each other's guts. And before you cheated, you two never had words one single time. You're actually kinda alike in a lot of ways. Also, he's less jerky and you're more Princessy than him."

Jokes aside, Tommy knew that was the truth. Adam hadn't been anything other than a great friend to him. While they would always see some things differently, the bad feelings between them never felt right to him. Especially lately. "I'm going to give him a call sometime soon. We'll talk and… well, we'll talk out everything alone. Honestly, much as it sounds weird coming from me, I kinda miss him. I just think we need to yell at each other a bit."

"And you need to get rid of that disease," Jason teased.

"Hey, I do not have a disease."

Zack shrugged. "The cheerleaders say different. I don't drink after you anymore, just to play it safe."

Tommy defended his health status in a humorous debate with Zack while Jason looked on, feeling a bit more at ease. Being a guy wasn't easy, and figuring out girls only made it that much harder. Kimberly deserved his very best, and he missed her terribly and had no one to blame for that but himself. His actions, or lack thereof, caused this rift and there was no quick-fix. But over time, he was committed to regaining her trust and friendship.

He truly loved her like his sister and wanted to make sure she never doubted that again.


Hillard House
Sunday, October: Week 2
10:10 p.m.

Having just thrown on an old San Francisco 49'ers jersey and jeans, Tommy drove here as fast as he could.

Slipping past the gate that led into the Hillard's modest backyard, Tommy trailed the curving stone pathway until he found Katherine seated on a small bench beneath a broad oak tree that hung clear over the next door neighbor's yard as well.

Although all he could see was the back of her blond ponytail, the haunted tone of her trembling voice thirty minutes ago when she called him painted a clear picture of her troubled mood tonight. She called in her mark; an ear for an ear on a night she said was one of her worst. But she'd been there for him on one of his, and so he wanted to return the favor.

Deep down in a place some of his friends didn't believe existed anymore, it felt really good to be needed by someone.

Nightfall was upon them, with the merest hint of a chill in the air as Tommy's footsteps trampled fallen leafs. He rounded the bench, and then took a seat beside Katherine. The first thing he noticed was that she'd been crying recently, and was seemingly lost in her own thoughts. Her small hands held three sheets of notepad paper with what looked like handwriting on them.

He wasn't nearly as confident in how to comfort someone as he was in the martial arts, but common sense told him she needed to lead the way tonight. So he held his peace and simply sat next to her, offering his silent support of whatever she was going through.

"Joseph wrote me a letter," Katherine detailed, her voice gently cracking with emotion as the sheets of paper dangled from her fingertips. She lifted her head, turning to Tommy. "I'm sorry for calling you so late. I know it's after ten."

"You were there for me, Kat," he reminded her as a brushing gust of wind caressed their faces. "Just returning the favor for a friend."

"Thank you." She favored him with an appreciative expression, and then a small nod. "I just… no one else knows about what happened between me and my ex. I've been so ashamed of sharing it with anyone, and then with what you're all going through now… I didn't know who else to call… and I didn't want to call anyone but you."

The trust she placed in him, Tommy hoped he'd be able to live up too. He could certainly relate to her, knowing exactly how it felt to want to talk about certain parts of your life with friends, but maybe only having one or two that you truly felt comfortable sharing it with. Especially the parts that weren't so pretty or sweet or politically correct. "So what did the letter say?"

Tucking a few errant blond strands behind her ear, Katherine gave a sad little laugh, and shut her eyes. "Joseph wrote that he forgives me for cheating on him, and that he would always hold a special place for me in his heart," she began as warm tears descended her cheeks. She sniffled, softly brushing the wetness aside. "He told me I was a good person who had made a mistake, but that he still believed in me and was so thankful to have been a part of my life." The more-than-she-deserved words had shaken her. "He told me that writing the letter was as much for himself as it was for me. It was closure and he needed that, and wanted the same for me. His mother is battling cancer and he said life's too short to hold onto things you can't change."

Tommy wondered if he would have been as kind and gracious. He'd like to think so. "It takes one heck of a person to do that. It sure as hell isn't easy. He sounds like a good man."

"He is." Katherine sighed, and then continued, "Then he talked about Theresa, the new girl he's dating and in love with. He said he's really happy and hopes the same for me. Talked about letting go of all the pain, anger, and bad memories. He's moving forward and wished me well."

Tommy watched her neatly fold the pages of the letter back together, and then set them on the bench beside her. The Hillards' two-story home was dark behind them save for a single kitchen light on. Both her parents worked nights, but trusted their daughter on her own. "So how does that letter make you feel?"

"Your impression of Oprah is so cute," she teased lightly, smiling for the first time tonight. Then she sat back and shrugged. "He didn't have to write the letter, but I'm glad he did. I doubt we could have had this talk on the phone."

Katherine then answered his question, "I'm appreciative that he doesn't hate my guts. I'm still feeling guilty that I hurt him so badly, because he never, ever deserved that. I'm thankful that he cared enough to reach out to me at all. I'm glad that he seems so happy and found someone. And I'm sure now that I'm not in love with him anymore, but I'm kinda jealous that he moved on so fast and is in love again already. I know I don't have the right to feel that way, but I do."

Though he wasn't privy to how close Alex and Kim truly were, he knew how she felt all too well. "You're only human, Kat. You feel how you feel. You can't change that."

Just having him here was helping her, if only to have another person to rant to and not be judged by. She stood to her feet, needing to move in order to compose her tumultuous thoughts. "It's not like I want him back. Deep down I'm happy he's found someone else, and I hope she never, ever hurts him. He's a really good guy."

Tommy's eyes followed her as she paced in front of him. "You're sure you don't want to fight for him?"

"You only fight for people you're still in love with. I have no doubts about where I stand."

"Are you going to write him back?"

"…eventually," she acknowledged. "I think I owe him that. Just to thank him for his kindness and honesty. Then that chapter of my life will be closed for good."

Tommy nodded. "Kat, I know what I'm about to say may sound strange coming from me, but it's time you forgave yourself." She stood in front of him now, mulling over the concept, her slender arms crossed to ward off the night air. Her baby blue eyes were as sad as he'd ever seen them. "You cheated on Joseph and broke his heart. But he has forgiven you and is moving on. You know you won't ever do anything like that to anyone ever again. You've learned your lesson. It's time to let go and look forward like he's doing now. There's nothing more you can do."

Katherine's gaze challenged him, as did her words. "Like you're doing?"

Tommy didn't miss a beat. "The circumstances are different."

"How so? You cheated on Kimberly. You apologized. You learned your lesson. But you haven't forgiven yourself," she accused rather than asked, sure of her assessment of him.

"Kim hasn't forgiven me, and judging by recent events likely won't," he explained with no small amount of bitterness.

"You would never cheat on anyone again."

Tommy snorted, "How do you know that?"

"I can see it in your eyes," Katherine declared without a shred of doubt as their gazes held. Then his bowed. "If you didn't feel that overwhelming guilt for the pain you caused Kimberly… if it didn't hurt you night and day, then you wouldn't care at all. But you do. You see what your betrayal has done to Kim and just about everyone around you. I don't think you'd ever want to go through any of that again, or have it done to you."

He wasn't sure the person she described existed anymore. Tommy threw his hands up, and then let them unceremoniously fall in his lap. "Even Lord Zedd thinks I'm just about to go to the dark side," he half-laughed sarcastically. But there was nothing funny about all the pain he'd caused. "Maybe in time I'll forgive myself, but not right now. I hate what I did… and I'm angry at Kimberly, too!"

The sharp edge lacing his voice said it all. Katherine remembered the cruel thing Kimberly said to him on the Command Center rooftop, knowing all too well how to cut him the deepest. "She's still grieving the loss of your relationship. She felt like everyone and everything was closing in on her and she just lashed out as mean as she could. Deep down, you know she didn't mean what she said."

"Yeah, right," Tommy held little faith in her assessment. "I cheated on her because maybe my real Dad is a piece of dogshit and he didn't want me, but passed the dogshit gene down to me anyway. That's how it felt!"

His hostility was ever apparent. "You're wrong and you know it."

Peering away, Tommy's mood turned cold. "My real parents didn't want me."

"You don't know the circumstances behind that. Assuming won't help. If it means that much to you, then look into it now."

Tommy scowled before revealing something he absolutely hated to. "…I'm afraid."

Katherine blinked. That revelation shook her as she wasn't sure he feared anything. Then the notion felt silly; everyone alive feared something. He was just better at hiding it than most. Maybe they both were in that regard. "There's nothing you could learn about your birth parents that would change the man you are today. You're an amazing, patient teacher. You're the leader of the Rangers. You're a very good friend to me. And I know you're a good man," she boldly stated, and then cracked a small smile. "Albeit deeply flawed… forgetful… can't dance to save your life… bit of an ass…"

"Hey, you're supposed to be making me feel better," he chuckled with a smile.

"I called you over here to make me feel better, remember." A note of breathless tension flared when he rose to face her, suddenly invading her personal space, and she actually had to look up. Graced or cursed with a tad more height than she was ever all that comfortable with, Tommy still loomed taller. For a second, her traitorous eyes fell upon his mouth.

"I'm trying," he declared quietly, his heart beating a bit faster for some unknown reason. Even sad from crying and sans makeup, Katherine was a natural, breathtaking beauty, and if he wasn't seeing things, a faint blush tinged her cheeks. He swallowed hard in the back of his throat as the gentle silence between them hung thick with unspoken… something… something elusive.

And then they both took a step backwards, snickering.

Exhaling as her hands dug deep in the pockets of her jeans, she offered, "Thanks for tonight."

She seemed in a lighter mood, and he sincerely hoped he had some small part in that. When some thought all he'd been able to do lately was hurt people, it felt nice to make someone feel a bit better. "That's what friends are for."

"You know, I wish I could have called the girls and talked about this," she confessed as they stood together, gazing at the bright night sky in a relaxed mood. "I feel like I should have been telling all of them what I told you, but with so much of their conversations lately being about the evils of cheating – and I wholeheartedly agree with that – it's not easy to just up and reveal that 'Hey, I'm a reformed cheater and I'm not the most evil person ever.' I don't know," she sighed. "Whenever they asked me about my past relationships I've been very vague. I just haven't felt comfortable that right now that they wouldn't judge me. And I know that's not fair, because I'm assuming just the same way they did with Jason, Zack, and Rocky."

Shutting his eyes briefly, Tommy inhaled the fresh air. "Your past mistake isn't the sum total of your worth as a human being, or your character."

"Doctor, take thy own advice."

"Dr. Tommy Oliver…" he grinned, rubbing at his chin. "Not a chance in hell."

He had far too nice a smile and she wasn't supposed to think that. Shoving that thought away, she asked, "So tell me something about yourself that I don't know. Then I'll do the same."

Late as it was, he felt up to playing. They both could use the distraction. "As badly as I want to fight for Kimberly and win her back, I'm not sure if I could forgive being cheated on. I hate I feel that way. I want to be able to forgive people, it's just… there's a lot I don't have figured out yet. Some days I don't even know where to start."

"Sometimes I think you never know what you could do or would feel until you're in that position. I've seen how brokenhearted Kim is, and Joseph was. It's terrible what we did to them, and if anyone had hurt me that badly I'd… I guess I hope over time I'd be able to forgive."

Katherine looked to Tommy, considering this vastly complicated man. "Do you want to win Kimberly back because you truly still love her, or to satisfy your sense of guilt that you have to make her happy and get her to forgive you?" His stunned expression was met head-on. "I remember that before I talked things out with my mom I briefly thought about fighting to win Joseph back. I wanted to give him what he wanted and make him happy because I hurt him so badly. But I realized that I wasn't in love with him anymore."

His first thought was to denounce her words, but they were worth giving consideration to. Still, his answer was direct and without fail. "There's no doubt in my heart that I am still in love with Kimberly. I don't want her back just to ease my pain. I want her back because I miss her so much it kills me."

That was exactly the answer she wanted… and envied a little, that he could love someone so much. "Then don't give up."

"May not have a choice," he had to admit.

"Don't give up until there's not one damn thing left to fight for."

Her conviction was admirable. He smiled, "You'd make one hell of a cheerleader."

She rolled her eyes. "You just want to see me in that short skirt." As soon as she said it she wished she hadn't, and then his gaze swept over her and she felt curious about what was going through his mind. "It's my turn."

Tommy nodded silently… banishing bad thoughts and all…

"I'm into someone a lot," she admitted. "I mean, I like someone a lot. I've got a crush and he hasn't shown any interest in make thus far."

Wanting to know who this guy was meant something to him on more than one level. But he could tell she wasn't joking, and he didn't want to pry. "So go for it. Ask him out." Her frown surprised him. "What?"

"I'm afraid of what he'd think of my past with Joseph." When Tommy Oliver smiled it was a thing of sheer beauty, and oftentimes ego. "No, it isn't you," she teased him.

Shrugging, he wasn't hurt in the least. "Look, Galaxies is still open another couple of hours. How about I spring for milkshakes and a couple of bumper car rides. You can tell me all about Mr. Mystery Crush and model cheerleader outfits."

Considering how the night began, getting out of the house for a bit on a school night sounded like fun. "I won't tell you who it is, and no amount of guessing will get me to admit if you're right or not."

"Fine, deal. So what do you say, Katherine?" It was her turn to invade his personal space… close enough that his jaw ticked as he enjoyed a gaze into her blue eyes.

After quiet pause for effect, she purred, "Meow."

He laughed when she walked right past him, and then beckoned for him to follow. Their friendship was something special, that was for sure.


Campbell House, Kim's Room
Sunday, October: Week 2
10:00 p.m.

"Knock, knock," Adam announced as he let himself into Kim's room.

The Pink Ranger was bent over her desk, attempting to glare her science homework into submission. To her frustration, it wasn't working. "Hey." There was a wealth of anger and frustration in that one word, and rather than grabbing the black back pack at the foot of her bed, he flopped onto it.

"Problems?"

"I have a million problems, and you know that more than anybody," she muttered. "Starting with this stupid, stupid physics equation. Why am I taking physics?" she ranted a bit to herself. "I'm going to go into phys ed or gymnastics or police school. What does physics have to do with anything?"

"Trajectory?" Adam tried. "Um… you know, weaponry and stuff?"

"Shut up," she shot back playfully. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

He hefted his back pack. "We were working on Math before that meeting thing, remember? I left it here and didn't think to grab it earlier." His face took on a more serious expression. "Besides, I wanted to make sure you were okay after everything."

She blew her bangs from her face, once again debating cutting her hair. If anything, to show she could pull off anything Jenny could, after the girl came in with a pixie cut even Kim had to admit she wore well. But that was a stupid reason and Aisha had stared at her like she'd lost her mind. So a no-go. Still, his concern was touching. "Awwww. You are totally my new Jason." She crossed the room in a flash to sit next to him. "Today sucked. Not as bad as yesterday, but it still sucked. A lot."

"Aisha said when she came in, you were threatening to dismember Jason," Adam mentioned warily. If she was in a stabby mood, he'd prefer her across the room.

"I hate him!" she shouted, belatedly slapping her hand across her mouth and looking at the door. The Campbells had just gotten home an hour ago from visiting family and were exhausted.

Adam quirked a brow. "For future reference, you are not allowed to call me your new somebody, and then tell me how much you hate them."

Kim shot him a glare. "You know what I meant. You are the new and improved Jason. Jason two-point-oh. You are the Jason CD to the Jason cassette tapes: more complex, better looking, and less likely to unravel and fail on me when I need you the most."

Adam blinked.

"But oh my God he made me so mad today!" Kim began ranting, pacing back and forth in the limited space between her bed, her desk and the closet. "He's forcing all these chats and they're awkward! It's like he thinks just saying 'I'm so sorry!' is going to make everything better and it doesn't!" She sighed and flopped on the bed, looking up at Adam. "Why is Rocky so much more understanding?"

"He has sisters. He knows you girls can be weird when emotional." He grunted as she punched his shoulder in retaliation. "Anyway… at risk of you stabbing me, I think Zack gets it. I don't think he likes it, but he gets it."

"Doesn't seem like it," she muttered petulantly.

"Why not?" Adam wondered. "Really, the Zack one especially. I'm confused."

Kim grumbled. "So… they say that Tommy made a mistake, right?" She spat out the word like it was toxic. "But it was his choice to make and they stand by their 'bro' making that choice." Adam shrugged; it was close enough for now. "Well, this was my choice. My choice was to not give them a chance to come in here and tell me how sorry Tommy is and what a mistake it was and how he's really a good guy. I didn't need to hear it then. I still don't need to hear it; the only difference is by not letting them say it, I'm the bad guy. So I don't get a choice in the matter if I want their friendship."

She was warming up into her rant now, and Adam leaned back as she began to talk more at him than with him, trying to make sense of the thoughts bundled in her head. It was a common occurrence in the past few weeks. "I really don't understand it, Adam. They say they want to be my friends, but apparently being my friend means that I have to listen to them say whatever they want, and I have no right to ask them not to take up for Tommy to me. I apparently have no right to tell them that no matter how much they might want to worship the ground he fights on, I'm not interested in hearing about how great he supposedly is. My choices don't matter to them… just as long as they get their soapbox." Her face fell. "It's like they don't trust me to know what I want and what I don't. Am I that stupid?"

Adam tilted his head. "Not stupid. Not at all. But…" The look on his face guaranteed she wasn't going to like what came out of his mouth next. "They have a point, sort of. I think it's just getting lost in translation. I mean, they've been your friends for years, right?"

She eyed him for a moment, trying to figure out where he was going for this. If anything, maybe she'd avoid another lecture today. Or maybe she was being too hopeful. "Yeah. For more than ten years."

"So… why would you assume that they would take Tommy's side in things?"

"I didn't!" Kim rolled back to her feet, incensed. "I thought they would stick up for me! I thought they'd think what he did was wrong, and I thought that they were my brothers! I expected them to have my back, and they didn't!"

"How do you know, though?"

Kim stared at Adam like grown a third head. He was there. He saw what happened. "Um, I don't know. The way they didn't have my back?" The words came out slowly, one at a time, as though emphasizing each one would make her point better understood. "Jason kept that secret for three days. He and Rocky and Zack leaped to Tommy's defense, according to what Aisha and you and Trini told me."

"They never said he was right," Adam pointed out. "Just that it shouldn't affect his position as leader of the team." When Kim glared at him, he held his hands up defensively. "We know how that turned out, and we know what happened after that. That's not the point though. My question is, don't you think that after all those years as your friend, they deserved the benefit of the doubt?"

A snappy retort died on Kim's tongue as she realized just how serious Adam was. The words mulled around in her head as her anger began to abate. Maybe… just maybe he had a point.

Maybe all the guys did.

Maybe she was the one in the wrong, after all.

Kim's eyes widened. "No!" She raked her hands through her hair. "No, no, no! They do not get a free fucking pass for not supporting me! If they were my friends for so long, then why the hell didn't Jason tell me? Why did they just stand there? Jason wasn't worried about me. He was worried about his bro!" Again, the word was like acid on her tongue.

"And that was wrong of him." For his part, Adam just watched her pace. Jason, he knew, or even Tommy would have tugged her down for a hug. Zack or Rocky probably would have changed the subject, and Aisha would have joined in her anger. But this was a time for cold, probably painful facts. Not arguing, not coddling or diverting. "But, Kim, you never gave him a chance to explain why."

The look on her face was frightening. "Do I really need to know why? He did it! He did not find it necessary or even important to tell me that my scumbag loser of an ex-boyfriend cheated on me with the disgusting, diseased slut who has tormented me since she met me!"

"He thought Tommy would tell you."

"And look how well that turned out," she shot back dryly. She sat again, in her desk chair, head in her heads. Her fingers caught on a few stray knots - her hair was a mess - but for once she didn't reach for a hairbrush. It just… didn't matter, not then.

Adam took a deep breath before venturing further. "Okay, so Jason… you have every right to be mad at him, but-"

"I hate him!" Kim interrupted; her tone was just as venomous as if she'd shouted it to the sky. "He will never be my brother."

Adam chose to move past that. "But Zack didn't deserve not getting a chance to talk," he pointed out. "Zack didn't keep the secret, and Zack never said Tommy was right in cheating. He just said that Rangering and personal life should be separate. And he has a point, as strange as it sounds coming from me."

"I thought you understood that-"

He cut her off. "I do. And I clearly agreed with you, because here I am instead of anybody else. But," he stressed, "everybody has a right to their opinion. And you only assumed theirs. You didn't listen. Can't you see how that might make them angry? You didn't give them any benefit of the doubt… just jumped the gun and guessed that you wouldn't like what they had to say."

Kim didn't respond.

"You wouldn't have liked it if they'd done it to you."

"And I wouldn't have supported a cheating scumbag, either! So that's not the point!"

Adam stared her down, meeting her head on: honesty warring with anger and hurt. She looked away first, eyes closing as she finally allowed Adam's points to sink in.

"…so, okay, maybe I was wrong. And kind of unfair," she unwillingly admitted. She felt like she would be sick having to take the blame for how the guys had been acting. "I deserved for Zack to yell at me, and… I guess I can't be angry at Jason for being so mad."

He realized Kim was teetering again on that oh-so-dangerous precipice and pulled her back. "Don't you dare suggest that you're to blame for what Tommy did, or even for Jason keeping it secret. You're entitled to be upset about that. Jason was a jackass for it and Tommy… well…"

"How can they just forgive him?" she wondered softly. She might be wrong in how she was treating them, but they were so confusing to her.

Adam shrugged. "Guys are… guys. He was a great bro and a great friend. They think that what he did once doesn't really reflect on him as a person, I guess."

"You're a guy," she pointed out. "So why don't you suck?"

"Because I believe that as a person lives their life, their choices help to shape them. I can't just write it off as a one-off thing," he shrugged. "And that's just me. Are you going to be okay?"

Kim managed a watery smile and a shrug of her own. "I'll be fine. You just gave me a lot to think about." She sighed. "I guess I owe them another apology, huh?"

He shook his head. "No. You've apologized enough. You shouldn't be a punching bag in all this, Kim. You've been hurt enough." He pulled her into a short hug. After a moment, he dropped a kiss on her forehead. "Go to sleep. Want me to pick you up tomorrow?"

"I'll ride with Aisha." She caught him by his elbow as he opened the door. "Adam? Thank you. For being honest, I mean, without being mean about it."

He smiled, nodded and left.

Kim sat back down at her desk. 'Oh, boy.'


Angel Grove High School
Monday,
October: Week 2
3:05 p.m.

Kimberly sighed deeply as she gathered up her nerve. Eating crow was never easy, but there was no doubt she owed Tommy a big apology.

"He's really hurting, Kim. He can't believe you went that far." Katherine had told her at lunch. Of course, Jason had told her the same thing the night everything went down… she scowled. Damn him, anyway. But Katherine hadn't done anything to earn her anger… and she knew Tommy. They were so close, according to rumors, that they'd gone out the night before. She tamped down on a stab of jealousy; what they did, if they did anything, wasn't any of her business.

Still, she was putting things off. Fact was, she had been cruel to Tommy. She'd meant those words to hurt, and they had.

Tommy's back was to her as he dug through his locker; shoulders slumped and it looked like he'd been sleeping terribly.

'Okay. You can do this.' Clutching her books in both arms – a tiny wall between them guaranteeing space and that she wouldn't fidget as much – she stepped forward. "Tommy?"

The White Ranger's shoulder muscles tensed, and for a moment she thought he'd ignore her. Then he turned, eyes guarded. A part of her wanted to wince; another part insisted, 'He deserves it.' It was harder and harder to believe, but so much easier to cling to anger. Still, no matter what he had done, the fact that she had attacked his heritage, his family, was inexcusable.

"What?"

One more deep breath for courage, then: "I'm sorry." She lifted her chin as his face remained passive. "What I said to you on Saturday was wrong. I was angry, and I felt trapped, but that's no excuse. It was cruel of me, and I'm sorry." The words were bitter, but she meant them.

Tommy stared at her and not for the first time, wondered if he even knew the young woman in front of him. Memories flashed through his mind – the way she used to smile at him, then the defensive look reminiscent of a trapped animal back on the Command Center roof. Her tearful face when she'd found out about his betrayal, and the almost pleased look when her vicious words hit home.

"Did you think I was going to hit you?"

His question startled her. She blinked hard. "What?"

"It's a simple question," Tommy said, leaning his back to his locker. "Was there a moment on the roof where you thought I might actually hit you?"

She swallowed hard, emotions flaring as she recalled the hard expression he wore as he stalked toward her, his fists balled up. "If I were a guy you would have."

He shook his head, clearly irritated. "You aren't a guy. And you were backing up and looked scared, like you thought I might hit you with my fist. So honestly, did you think I would hit you?"

"…I never thought you would have cheated on me either."

The words, truthful as they were painful, hung thick in the air between them. He never told her he forgave her, and she never outright said she thought he was going to hit her. There was so much wrong with them right now that they could scarcely remember when things were right.

"I have never, ever hit a woman in my entire life… much less you. I never would, not when I'm of my own free will," he declared angrily, matching her own ire. "I hurt you, so you wanted to hurt me back. Well, you did," he explained while staring directly in her eyes. "I wish I'd never cheated on you. I really do, even though I know you don't believe that. And I know you don't believe… because I don't believe your apology."

"It amazes me how quickly you can twist and turn things around to make yourself look like the victim," she snarled. "Don't expect any more apologies from me if this is how you react."

"Why should you say something to me that you don't really mean? Especially when you think I would actually hit you."

She realized that was another dagger, though unintentional. Where was the amazing guy she loved with all her heart? Where did he go? How could she love and hate him at the same time? "Fine. So now what?"

"I think we just need to let things be," he barely found the heart to say. "I don't know what to do, but I don't want to hurt you anymore."

"I don't want to hurt you either," she replied honestly. No matter what she'd wanted in the days directly following his betrayal, or how she'd felt on the rooftop, it wasn't in her nature to want to see him in pain.

"For now… let's just be civil. You live your life and I'll live mine. Maybe someday, we'll figure everything out."

This wasn't at all what she planned or hoped for or wanted. Unfortunately, it was what it was. There was no fight left in either of them. No more harsh words to say. No more grievances to air. They were simply two people who once lo-

They were just two people.

"Have a nice day, Tommy."

"You too, Kim."

They walked in opposite directions… in so many more ways than one.