Chapter 8

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 – Issues come, issues go, and they're not simply gone because we want them to be.

Ships (so far): Jason/Trini, Adam/Kat

Summary: A brush with death leads to some deep soul-searching.

A/N: psyco_chick32 – Edmund Hillary once said, "It is not the mountain that we counter, but ourselves." That said, this chapter probably demonstrates that I've been playing too much Skyrim.

A/N: Shawn30 – "…it won't die, what's between us. Do what you will. Ignore it. Neglect it. Starve it. It's stronger than both of us together." –Author Unknown

Command Center
Saturday, November: Week 4
10:15 a.m.

A riot of color streaked into the Command Center at once as each Ranger responded to Alpha's frantic summons. Rocky was the first to step forward, glancing around and noticing that two people were missing. "Where's Tommy? And Kat?"

Zordon looked as serious as they'd ever seen him. "Tommy fell ill a short while ago while with Katherine. We are running tests to determine the cause, but I am afraid it appears he has been poisoned."

"What?" Kim demanded. "How? Where?"

As Kim asked, the doors behind them opened with a hiss. Katherine strode through, looking disheveled and distraught. Her pale face was tear-streaked and she wore only loose shorts and what appeared to be Tommy's shirt, tied over a pink sports bra. "I don't know what happened! He was fine… w-we were working out." She gulped back tears and went on, "He was showing me a kata and got some water for a drink and he just… just…"

Adam stepped over to her and wrapped his arms loosely around her waist. "It's okay, Katherine. Just breathe for a moment."

She nodded. After a few deep breaths, she continued. "I turned my back to keep working, and he just collapsed when I wasn't looking!" She leaned into her boyfriend. "I couldn't figure out what to do… he was shaking and I was going to call 9-1-1 but…"

Jason put a firm hand on her shoulder. "You did the right thing. If it's not Ranger-related, we can still take care of it here. But given how quickly it happened, and the way Zedd's been gunning for him, it was smart to contact Zordon." His lips thinned as he recalled that everything Zedd had done in the past few months; maybe it would have been better for Tommy to have killed him. It was a dark thought for the original Red Ranger – they did not kill, and he had believed in and supported Tommy's decision. But the further Zedd went, the more he wondered when it would end, or how.

As if it were a cue, the alarms began to wail. Since Alpha was still with Tommy, Billy hurried to the controls. "It's-" His voice hardened. "Zedd's hailing us."

"Put him on the Viewing Globe," Zordon ordered.

Lord Zedd cackled as his red visage filled the screen. Aisha shuddered as she recalled the last time he'd contacted them directly; he'd taken Kimberly hostage in order to blackmail them into operating the ShogunZords for him. Billy, Adam and Rocky all frowned, remembering the same time and fighting against a similar wave of helplessness.

They hadn't failed Kim then, and they wouldn't fail Tommy now.

"What do you want, Zedd?" Jason took their fallen leader's place, aggressively questioning their foe. "And what have you done to Tommy?"

"Your dear White Ranger is going to die." If Zedd weren't wearing a mask, he'd be grinning wickedly; they could hear it in his voice. "As I'm sure Zordon will explain to you shortly, there is only one antidote to the poison currently in his system. Getting your hands on it will be… difficult."

Kim snorted. Everything involving Zedd was "difficult." The monster positively thrived on fucking with people's minds, so why would this be any different? It was only then she realized she was trembling. The idea of Tommy lying in the infirmary, dying, scared the hell out of her. What if he-

Another console let out a sequence of beeps; Trini turned to it and began examining the monitor. "The results of the scan are in the system now," she reported. "It doesn't look good… Zordon?"

Zordon appeared to be skimming through the information, his face growing livid. It was rare to see their normally unflappable mentor so emotional. "You have violated no less than seven intergalactic laws by administering this poison," he declared angrily. "Rangers, the antidote is located-"

"In an alternate dimension," Zedd interrupted. "But do not think it is that easy. I have taken precautions." A roll of paper appeared in his hand in a burst of flame. "The Tomb of Aiza has recently come into my possession, you see. It – and everything inside, including the antidote – is mine to do with what I wish. I'm willing to part with the bottle… provided you send one of my favorite Rangers after it."

Kim shuddered, knowing without a doubt who he meant by 'favorite.' She'd never told a soul – not even Tommy, Trini or Aisha – the disgusting things Zedd has said to her when she was lucid while trapped in his Dark Dimension. She doubted Kat had heard, either, even though she was working for the enemy at the time.

He confirmed her fears a moment later. "Your Pink Ranger is the only one I will teleport there."

"Kim?" Jason asked, turning to her. He wore a slightly wary look on his face, and she couldn't tell if it was because he doubted she'd go, or because he doubted Zedd would honestly give so easily. She agreed with the latter sentiment. There was no way this was as straightforward as it seemed.

She shoved her fear away, allowing herself to thrive on the very idea that Jason would doubt her determination. "Of course I'll go! I'm not going to just let him die!" she snapped. It was never an option; she wouldn't ever willingly let anybody die, much less Tommy. No matter what he'd done to her… not when Trini flicked the Viewing Globe from Zedd's gloating to the monitor in the infirmary, where Tommy lay sweating and gasping, looking like all the blood had been leeched from his body.

Though he was no longer visible, Zedd's voice rang out, "I do believe you are stalling… and if you don't take this chance, I'll withdraw my proposal and seal the tomb away for good. I hope Jason is prepared to yet again take his friend's powers… unless you accept, Kimberly?"

To be frank, Kim wanted nothing to do with any 'proposal' Lord Zedd could put forth. But there was a life on the line - Tommy's life on the line - and this was no time to be flip about semantics. This suggestion of Zedd's had DANGER: THIS IS A TRAP written all over it. But what else could she do?

"I accept," she stated, refusing to meet anybody's eyes. She didn't want any of them to know how terrified she was.

"Excellent." His oily voice seemed to echo in the chamber, tinged with pleasure.

A couple of the Rangers sighed softly, apparently relieved, and Kim bristled a bit at the insinuation that she might have chosen not to help him. They didn't even know the one reason she'd be hesitant to go. "Let's do this. It's Morphin-"

"A couple things first, dear Kimberly," the Evil Emperor broke in again.

Kim leveled a stern glare at Billy, who hadn't cut the feeds. He shrugged, mouthing, 'He has to send you.'

"What?" She wanted this done and over with. "Tommy is dying; I don't have time for this!"

"Tsk, tsk. Don't be rude. You have a couple rules. No morphing. No use of your communicator. You will be sent back to the Command Center after your task is complete. Until then, you're mine."

More things she didn't like the sound of but couldn't argue. "Fine, can I get going?" She ignored Adam's anxious look, and the way Jason seemed torn between shoving her out the door and grabbing her to never let her go. Then, her body was enveloped in a dark, blood-red power…

And she was gone.

The Tomb of Aiza
Time Unknown

Kimberly landed unceremoniously in a heap on a cold, stone floor. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the single source of light in the room: a flickering torch above her head. A small amount of light streamed in under the one door, but it was nowhere near enough to let her check her surroundings.

She stood and pried the torch from the wall, gazing around slowly. The room was dusty and smelled fusty; rubbish littered the floor and broken shelves lined the walls.

She'd just kicked a small sack, intrigued by the metal clanging from inside, when bright white light blinded her, wrapping around her body and seemingly seeping into her head.

'What the fuck?'

'Such language, Pink Ranger!' Kim recoiled as Zedd's voice resounded in her skull.

Her eyes throbbed with the weight of the light, and it occurred to her that it must have somehow connected her to him mentally. The very thought made her want to take a hot shower and scrub her skull clean. 'Is this what Tommy talked about?'

'I didn't think he would have told you about that.'

'Get out of my head!'

Zedd ignored her. 'Did he tell you of what he saw? How he saw you and Adam in a lover's embrace?'

Kim's lip lifted in a disgusted grimace. Adam was cute, but more like a brother to her than any other guy she knew; hell, more than her own flesh-and-blood brother, now. So gross.

There was no response to that, and so as her eyes grew accustomed to the light again, she continued her search again, looking for something she could use as a weapon. A couple daggers… a bow – no arrows, of course, because that would be easy – and a hand axe. 'Goodie.' A whole lot of good these things were going to do her. She grabbed them anyway, tucking the daggers into her belt and hoping she wouldn't fall and stab herself. She grabbed the bow in one hand and the axe in the other, wishing for some sort of bag, and warily opened the door.

She was immediately overwhelmed; somehow, the heavy wooden door had filtered out the musty air, laced with the stench of something foul. Sounds of water dripping, something skittering on the floor or walls echoed eerily. She couldn't figure out where it came from and her knuckles tightened around the handle of her axe. Then a low howl, wind or animal she wasn't sure, raised the hairs on the back of her neck. 'Oh, God, what kind of place is this?'

Suppressing a shiver – cold, she told herself, not fear – she began creeping forward. She was not going to linger here when Tommy was dying without her in the Command Center.

'He has Katherine,' Zedd seemed to enjoy telling her. 'After all, was she not dressed in his shirt when you arrived? How often do friends wear each other's clothing?'

Kim forced herself to ignore him by trying to discern where the skittering sound was coming from… it was getting louder. She gazed around a corner-

And came nearly face-to-face with a giant fucking spider.

She screamed and backpedaled, slipping in something spilled on the floor. It hissed and spat something at her; she barely dodged it and in doing so, dropped her torch.

The liquid in the hallway went up in flame the moment the stick hit the ground, engulfing the spider and quickly reducing it to a charred corpse. Kim heaved at the smell, backed herself against the wall, and whimpered as the fire began to die down, leaving her in near darkness.

She'd fought a lot of things in her time as a Ranger: snakes, spiders, even a weird clown-turned-plant thing. Giant pigs and toads… but nothing as creepy and horrifying as the spider she'd just seen, and those eight eyes would haunt her nightmares for months, she was sure. A lantern shone dimly at the end of the hall, but it took a few minutes for her to regroup. In the end, it was the haunting image of Tommy shuddering on the infirmary bed that moved her.

Kim pressed herself up tightly against the wall to get past the burnt remains of the humongous bug. "Thank God I'm not Zack," she joked to herself quietly. She knew it was dumb to speak aloud and draw attention to herself, but she had to say something or she'd go insane. Questioning every sound wouldn't get her anywhere.

Just steps ahead, a half-eaten corpse lay sprawled in what appeared to be smeared, dry blood. "Ewwww. Tommy Oliver, you had better appreciate this." She almost missed seeing the one thing she really wanted: a quiver of arrows!

"Oh, thank God!" She snagged them, ignoring the blood stains on the bottom of the leather quiver. For all the guys had taught her hand-to-hand combat, she preferred to attack from a distance… especially if her prey was going to be giant spiders or moaning things that should have died forever ago. She hooked it over her shoulder, held her bow with a surer grip, and kept moving.

She turned another corner, staring down the hall at a well-lit room. In it, a decomposing human-like creature shuffled. Biting back the ingrained temptation to scream, Kimberly crouched and very slowly crept forward, an arrow nocked and ready to fire. Five more steps… three more… she ducked behind the remains of a fallen wall when it stopped to look down toward her. She let out a breath when it resumed its pacing; she leaned over the wall, aimed…

And managed to shoot it right in the neck. Two arrows followed – not as quickly as her Power Bow, since she actually had to ready the weapon rather than simply summon the arrows – and the zombie lay dead.

Kim let out a full-body sigh, and then straightened her shoulders.

She could do this. "Hang on, Tommy. I won't let you down."

"How freakin' huge is this crypt? Who needs a tomb like this?" Kim muttered, stepping carefully over the remains of the skeleton she had just dismantled. They were harder to kill than the spiders, if only slightly less gross, and she needed to use her axe on them; arrows just weren't cutting it. "And who in the world hides important stuff like this in a grave? Really? The only antidote to a poison, in the middle of a goddamned crypt in the middle of a freakin' other dimension, filled with traps and dead things? What if somebody important needed it really fast? Is there some back door you haven't told me about, Zedd?"

Kim wasn't sure how long she'd been inside the tomb; she had no way to tell the time, or judge how long until Tommy-

'No,' she insisted to herself for the millionth time. 'You are not going to let Tommy die.'

Still, she'd stopped hearing from Zedd right about the time she'd forced herself to just force her way through the monsters and corpses, no ifs and or buts about it, and that of all things had her worried. There was no way the Emperor of Evil was just going to let her go on her merry way, retrieve the antidote and zip out of there.

A groaning from behind her was a cue to move forward a bit faster; she'd snuck past a room of the zombie things and somehow managed to avoid getting their attention… but she couldn't avoid that last encounter with the skeletons, and they'd made a lot of noise.

Reaching the other end of the room, she nocked an arrow, and in a move finally perfected, swung the door open and readied to fire… and almost shot Kat in her pretty blonde head.

"Whoa, crap! Don't just appear like that!" She quickly shut the door, struggling a bit with the wooden bar. It was only once she was sure that the way behind her was safe that it occurred to her… "Wait. How did you get in here? I thought you couldn't come. And how did you get ahead of me? You look so… you know, not like you've been fighting all sorts of gross things for the past however long I've been here." She motioned to her shredded jeans and stained-beyond-salvaging shirt. It had been a favorite, too. "What's going on?" She gasped as a possibility ran through her mind. "Is Tommy…?"

Kat smirked, arms crossed. "You really thought we were going to put his life in your hands? Puh-lease. We're not that stupid." Kim blinked, not just a little speechless and hurt on top of how confused she was by the very fact that Kat was there.

Kat took the opportunity to continue. "We've decided that I'll continue on from here. It's taking you forever. Tommy could die at any minute and it would be all your fault. No wonder everybody thinks you'd just let him die… it's what you're doing right now."

The Pink Ranger was taken aback, but gave as good as she was getting. "Excuse me? Who the fuck do you think you are? I have been fighting tooth and nail down this freaky place like I'm Indiana Jones, and here you are looking like you stepped out of a Nordstrom's ad. I've clearly got this covered."

"I can replace you at any time," Kat explained. "Even Zedd agrees. So when Tommy took a turn for the worse, and we realized you were just fooling around, the Rangers took a vote. I'm going to be the Pink Ranger from now on."

Kim shook her head. "You're not Kat. The real Kat wouldn't leave Tommy's side… not with the way she was acting before I left." Something that still was tearing up her inside, something she'd examine later when she wasn't half thinking about surviving and half panicking at Tommy's imminent demise if she failed. "And the real Kat has told me many, many times that she's not replacing me."

The blonde snorted. "Yeah. Right. See, this is why it was so easy for Tommy to dupe you. You're willfully blind to what's going on right in front of your face. You see it, but refuse to believe it."

Okay, that struck a nerve. She'd seen Tommy's interest in Kat when she'd first moved to Angel Grove. And the way Tommy and Kat interacted now… well, they acted all nice and innocent but Kim assumed from a few things Tommy did that there was something more, at least for a little while. She couldn't put her finger on what, but she knew Tommy.

But Kat was dating Adam. She'd helped set it up, and Kat would never hurt the Black Ranger. Even more, she knew Tommy. If he wanted something, he would go for it. She told Kat as much. "If you were replacing me with Tommy, he would be more expressive to you. Maybe he has been looking at you kind of weirdly but that's none of my business. The only thing that matters is that I get that antidote back to the Command Center. And some poser-Kat isn't going to stop me." She looked around at the empty room. "You hear that, Zedd? I'm not convinced, so give it up."

Kat's eyes flashed a dark pink. "You won't be able to save him. No matter if you get to the end of not, your mission is going to fail and he will die. What you're doing now is worthless."

"It's never worthless to save a life."

The fake Katherine disappeared in a puff of pink smoke at that moment.

Kim lowered herself to weak knees, hands trembling. The confrontation hit a little too close to home for her comfort… despite some things being patently untrue, the comments about her being replaced terrified her. And Kat's close relationship with Tommy… 'Why do I still feel this way after what he did? He cheated, lied, and then has the audacity to say he doesn't believe me when I apologize for being mean. Why can't I let him go?'

She already knew the answer, but Zedd put in his own two cents with a cruel cackle. 'It's as she said: you're consciously blind. You refuse to see that he's beyond you now. You cling to illusions of the past, childish as your friends outstrip you in maturity.'

"What do you know?" she shouted loudly, wincing as her voice had to have carried and drawn more enemies her way. "You're not human and you never will be. Maybe he has moved on, and maybe I do just need to deal. That's something to worry about later, not now. I don't need your words in my ears, so leave me the hell alone!"

His presence faded… and as another low howl and the tell-tale scrape of wood against wood – a coffin opening – came from the other side of the next door, Kim actually missed it for a moment.

She'd never felt so alone.

Kimberly was limping by the time she managed to barricade herself in a side room. She hated to stall, to waste time, but if she had to sit down before she fell down. The room looked to be a pantry of some sort; cheeses, wines and various fruits tempted, but she had no idea how long they'd been down here. The wine could be poisoned. It could be something other than wine. Even if that's all it was, alcohol on an empty stomach would be stupid.

The thoughts didn't stop her stomach from growling.

A chuckle from her left nearly made her shout; Adam suddenly shimmered into existence next to her. "Hungry, Kim?"

She rubbed her eyes a moment, wondering if all the time she'd spent in the musty catacombs was making her hallucinate.

"I'm real," he sighed, sounding as put-upon as she'd ever heard. "And you're a mess." He strolled over, unwrapping the bandanna from around his head and using it to mop up some blood seeping down her arm. "You're really putting yourself through a lot for him." There was no need to clarify who the 'him' was.

Kim choked on a whimper as he pressed a little too hard on a bruise – the result of a tumble down a few stone steps while trying to shoot and walk backwards at the same time. Not smart. "Yeah, well… I'd do it for anybody." Her protest was weak even to her ears. "I can't just let him die. I'm not that person."

"Told you." And he had, several times: insisting she loved him, whether any of them liked it. Insisting that he probably still cared for her a great deal, again whether or not any of them liked it. And he certainly didn't; that was no secret. He said it more now that he was hanging out with Kat; his girlfriend – Tommy's best friend – was reportedly just waiting for the White Ranger to make his move.

Her stomach grumbled again, and Adam's hand trailed up to brush the skin peeking through the torn shirt. It sent a jolt through her body; he'd never touched her like that. "Poor thing. I'll have some food waiting when you get back."

Kim smiled. "You're always taking care of me."

"Any time." His hand moved up, tickling her side and then brushing against her breast.

"What the hell?" Kim stood, freaked out. He had never- she would never- They just… "What do you think you're doing?"

Innocent eyes, glimmering with the touch of something more, gazed up at her. "What do you mean?"

"You know what you just did!"

He rose smoothly and quickly invaded her space, trapping her between him and the wall. "Do I?" He mock-sighed. "I suppose you're right. I guess I just can't hide it anymore. Kim, don't you know what you do to me?"

She shoved ineffectually at his shoulders, trying to make some room. Everything that had happened so far was causing a tangle of confusion and emotions she couldn't sort out – didn't have time to even if she could. Still, this was the weirdest thing yet. Adam had never, ever, not even a little shown interest in her. It just wasn't the way their relationship was.

"Come on… don't fight it, Kimberly." His hand trailed up to cup her cheek, wiping away a smudge of blood. He tilted his head and pressed his lips to her forehead; while purely a platonic move in the past, there was something about it this time that sent a shudder up her spine. "Who knows you better than me?"

'Nobody,' she hated to admit, and chose not to tackle that particular issue. "Adam, you need to stop."

"Kat doesn't need to know."

With that, the puzzle pieces slotted neatly into place. Katherine. The apparition from earlier. Zedd's mind games. "I knew you'd screw up some way, Zedd."

Adam's eyes went black and he frowned. "Excuse me?"

"Stop acting. You're not Adam any more than you were Kat, and that's where you messed up." When he didn't respond, she grew bolder. "Adam's like my brother, and he'd never come on to me like that. He wasn't even bold enough to do that with his own girlfriend. More importantly, Adam would never cheat on Katherine. He hates cheaters."

With a scowl, the not-Adam went up in black smoke, making Kimberly cough.

'You think you're so smart, Pink Ranger… but you were nearly fooled.'

Kim straightened, shoulders back defiantly despite the fact that she was alone in the room. She knew that somehow, Zedd was watching. "Nearly doesn't count. You've nearly taken over Earth a few times, but you're still getting beaten by a bunch of teenagers. What matters is what really happened."

His chuckle reverberated in her skull. She winced. 'An interesting locale, is it not? There is more to this tomb than meets the eye… and more to what meets your eye than my own machinations. But the clock is ticking, precious Kimberly, and Tommy won't live much longer. Here you are, taking a break when his life rests in your hands.'

She didn't deign to respond, grabbing her various paraphernalia and, after a cursory listen at the door, slipped out. He was right… but she wasn't going to let him win.

"Oh, thank God!" Kimberly pushed open the heaviest door yet to see an empty room – a stone dais near the back, with a ruby-colored bottle on it. Still, with her goal within reach, she hesitated.

It was never that easy.

She took measured steps in, eyes darting around in an attempt to stop anything from getting the drop on her. She failed, however, when Goldar was teleported in, landing and swinging in the same movement.

"Shit!" Dropping most of her weaponry, Kim launched herself into a backflip, barely avoiding his sword. "Where the hell did you come from?"

"Lord Zedd sends his regards, Pink Ranger," the golden-armored simian gloated. "Not that you'll be able to bring them to the other pesky Rangers. You die here!"

"Just try me!" She sounded cocky, but inside she was panicking. She rarely took on Goldar one-on-one. He'd always had a bone to pick with Jason and Tommy, focusing solely on them. Still, bruised and battered, she knew she could hold her own… as long as nothing else came to interfere.

Kim ducked another one of Goldar's swings, coming up with her hand axe. The weight added to her counterattack; she went for the shoulder, where his armor was thinner on the joints. Swing, parry, step forward – she invaded his space and made it all the more difficult for him to wield his broadsword. She took a painful fist to her neck and fell to the ground, gasping painfully. Still, Jason's voice muttered in her memory, making her get up and moving again through the pain. Adrenaline would help for now; the Power would help later.

'If you can get around Goldar and your hands on the bottle, I will teleport you back,' Lord Zedd offered almost cheerfully in her head. In a distant part of her mind, she noted that it was strange for him to sound so happy about her nearly thwarting his plan.

She just wanted out.

Her thoughts were cut off by Goldar's wing knocking her back to the ground. She landed next to her bow and, in a move nearly instinctual after all she'd gone through, she flailed for an arrow and took a knee. In seconds it was airborne, another right behind in. He was able to bat the first out of the way, but the second embedded itself in a leg.

His bellow of pain was the distraction she needed. She launched herself into a series of flips, around and past him. She pulled out of the tumble pass and set off in a dead run for the bottle.

Unfortunately, she didn't notice the oil near the dais and nearly slipped to the floor, barely managing to grab onto and hold the container. The slight bobbling caused a bit of liquid to splash onto her skin, where it burned on contact. The lip had a crack…

That didn't matter. "I did it, Zedd. Send me back!"

'You think you've won… hold onto that illusion, Pink Ranger.' The voice remained annoyingly pleased. 'You will not succeed. Even in victory, the Rangers will fall… beginning with your White Ranger. Make peace with your failure, disguised as it is.'

"Oof!" Kim dropped into a heap on the cold floor of the Command Center.

"You're back!" Aisha was the first to reach her, pulled Kimberly up and into a hug. "Good job…"

Billy's concern was torn between her and Tommy. "I shall attend your injuries once I administer the medication," he promised, lightly pressing a finger to the bruise on her temple and making her wince.

In the midst of her friends grouping around her, she somehow retained the presence of mind to keep her hold on the crystal bottle; as she was pulled into another hug, the antidote again sloshed over the broken lip. Like before, it felt like it was eating away at her flesh. With that, Zedd's words popped back into her head.

'You will not succeed. Even in victory, the Rangers will fall... beginning with your White Ranger.' His gloating voice seemed to echo and, as her friends rushed over, something clicked into place.

Jason tried to tug the container from her hand. A frown furrowed his brows as she clutched it tighter. "Kim-"

"Wait a second." She was breathless was understanding dawned. "Wait… no, Jase, this is wrong. We can't give him this." But what if she was wrong? Tommy's life… but if she was right, and she was pretty sure she was, then this would be the worst thing for him. Maybe Billy could-

"Kimberly, he's dying!" Katherine's voice quavered, tears threatening again. "You have to hurry!" It was clear the blonde had no idea what she was thinking, and she wasn't the only one.

"No!" Kim shook her head, then bit back a groan as her temple pounded. How to make them understand when she wasn't entirely positive herself? "Guys, think about it… why would Zedd help us after being the one to poison Tommy in the first place?"

"What?" Rocky asked, tilting his head. "That doesn't make any sense."

"Exactly! It's way too weird. And he said something about how we would lose even in victory, or something like that…" Again she refused to relinquish the bottle, this time to Billy. "I don't think we can give it to him… unless you want to check it first, Billy, but-"

Jason broke in. "Kim, you can't bet on his life like that. You look like you've been through hell. It couldn't have been easy to get the antidote."

"It wasn't." Kim felt like her head was swimming as she continued to shake it. "It sucked, and there were zombies and spiders and-"

"Can we talk about this after helping Tommy?" Kat interrupted, finally breaking away from her vigil at Tommy's side. "Look at him!"

Kim did, biting her lip as his chest heaved, sweat beading on his pale skin. "Yeah, but not with this. Can't you trust me when-" She was overwhelmed as arguments began to break out at her continued reluctance.

To her surprise, Zack was the one to accompany Aisha to her side. "Hey!" He cut through the chatter angrily. "What the hell is wrong with you guys? Kim's not going to just-"

"She always does this!" Eyes widened as Kat stalked toward the Pink Ranger, a vicious snarl distorting her face. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she pointed accusingly. "He has been lying here, calling out for you. He's been waiting for you to come and save him. I've been promising him that you could pull through for him, no matter what. And here you are, refusing to hand it over." She was shaking with anger and stress, never having been in a situation like this before. "You arrogant bitch! Who do you think you are? Zordon says he'll die without it!"

Kim all reeled back under the onslaught but refused to back down… and refused to let Katherine's attack distract from the issues at hand. "Look at my hand, Kat," she said with a calm she didn't feel. She could still hear Tommy's choked breathing, and her palm trembled as she held it out for all to see. "See how it's burned? That's not from the fire in the tomb… that's where this stuff has spilled on me. Do you really want to force that down his throat?"

"If it's what Zordon says-"

"Then have Billy analyze it first."

"We don't have time for that! Stop holding out on him!"

"Katherine, you need to stop arguing and think rather than react." She was one to talk. "My gut tells me that this is a really bad idea."

Adam's arms wrapped around Katherine and stopped her from responding. She leaned into him as he stared at Kim stoically, supporting her silently.

Jason crossed his arms. The leader in him trusted Kim; the part of him that was Tommy's bro bristled at the very small possibility that Kimberly could be holding out on saving him. But… that's not the way Kim was. Kim wouldn't willingly let somebody die, no matter who they were. Still… "You're sure?"

Kim was surprised when Zack was the one who spoke up, cutting off an angry Aisha. "Jase, you know Kim better than that. She isn't dumb, bro… and I don't think she'd go through everything just to come back and let him die."

Tommy coughed, a wet, hacking noise that echoed in the chamber.

Aisha rubbed her back as Kim began to tremble. She was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. "I gotta back him up. My girl isn't like that."

"Zedd said some really weird stuff. Billy, will you analyze it?" This time, she handed the bottle to the Blue Ranger, who looked at her with serious eyes before nodding and taking it over to the machine.

Fire flashed in Kat's eyes. "You'd better hope you're right. If something happens to him…" Threats laced her tone, though she never verbalized them.

"Kat, I'm would never-"

She wasn't able to finish. Instead, the erratic beep tracking Tommy's heartbeat broke into a long, low tone. He was flat-lining.

"No!" Katherine rushed back, Billy just a step ahead of her as he left the equipment on the bench. She clutched Tommy's hand as the Blue Ranger began administering emergency aid, trying to bring Tommy back.

Kim sunk to her knees as it failed each time. It was unreal. She barely noticed Zack's arms around her as she stared unflinchingly.

'Oh my God. He's dead. I killed him. Oh my God. Oh, God… No, please no…'

Katherine was sobbing into Adam's shoulder. Jason held Trini, a slightly accusing look in his eyes as they traveled over to where Kim sat.

She never noticed; Kim couldn't take her eyes off of Tommy's body.

A full minute passed… then two. A silence hung… nobody knew how to react. There were sobs, and tears, and Katherine's pleas for Tommy to wake up. Kim remained quiet, unflinching… in shock.

Then, the heart monitor began beeping again, slowly but steadily. Tommy let out a strangled gasp, beginning to shake.

"Tommy?" Katherine wrenched herself from Adam's grasp, all but throwing herself onto the bed. "Tommy? Can you hear me?"

Kim couldn't hear his mumbled response as she finally broke down. This last twist in her already overwhelming day left her reeling; she didn't know how to handle it anymore.

Zack's arms stayed around her, just letting her cry. "Shhh... it's okay. I got ya. Things are gonna be okay now." His gaze followed Jason as he came closer and put a hand on her shoulder, his strong grip saying more than he knew what to put into words.

On the opposite side of the room, Katherine was babbling everything that had happened to a groggy and incredibly confused Tommy. From the moment he collapsed to how Kim had gone into Zedd's dimension to how he'd died…

Tommy blinked slowly, still trying to fight the haziness in his mind. "Kat… slow down." He swallowed, his throat dry. "I died?"

Kat lay against him for a moment in the closest approximation to a hug possible with him lying down. "Yeah. For a few minutes, at least."

"But I'm alive now." For some reason, his brain wasn't quite catching up to speed with the fact that he'd died and yet was not dead anymore.

"Kim saved you," she repeated. "It was amazing. She went through a big tomb and fought zombies and stuff. She's so battered and looks so tired. When she came back, she apparently had a feeling it was all wrong and wouldn't give you what we thought was the antidote. Then you died and… but she was right. You're alive." She sniffled and managed a watery chuckle. "You know, I think you're going to have to at least forgive her for what she said on the roof."

He blinked, and then slowly nodded. "Yeah… you're probably right." He was still flabbergasted by the whole experience, and exhausted on top of that. "Do you think she'll-"

"Kim?" Kat's voice sounded suddenly contrite, and Tommy managed to spare a moment of thought to wonder why as she continued, "Tommy wants to talk to you for a moment."

Tommy turned his head toward where he heard Kim and Zack talking. A few seconds later, she limped into view. He'd never seen her as such a mess; her hair was missing a huge chunk on one side and the rest was tangled in ways that would probably take hours to fix. Her face was grimy, with tear tracks clear through the dirt and… was that blood? Her clothes were shredded, dirtier than the rest of her, and scorched in some places. Tucked in her pants was a hand-axe; old-fashioned and bloody.

Damn, she looked beautiful, even like that.

Kat rose and let Kim have her seat. "Here, sit down… and Kim, I'm so, so sorry that I-"

Kim tiredly waved her hand, cutting Kat off. "It's fine. You didn't say anything that wasn't true."

"No! It's not-"

"Don't worry about it."

"Can we at least talk about it later?" Kat hovered anxiously, and Tommy was still left confused as to what Kat was apologizing for.

Kim sighed and nodded. "Later, yeah." She let out a dry chuckle. "Maybe once I've slept and gotten a shower and stuff, k?"

Kat nodded and, squeezing Tommy's hand, turned to Adam.

Tommy's gaze hadn't left Kim's face; she looked immensely tired and stressed. "Hey… thanks."

Rather than smile back at him or play it off, like he had expected, Kim started crying. "I'm so sorry, Tommy; I didn't mean to-"

Wait, what? "What?"

"I killed you!" Kim all but wailed softly. "I knew it was wrong but I didn't think that you would die!"

That didn't mesh at all with what Kat had said. "But… Kat said you saved me?" He was too tired and confused to be tactful or attempt to be suave.

Kim sniffled. "Well, I went to get the antidote, but it wasn't an antidote because Zedd's a lying bastard. But I didn't know for sure but I thought… so I didn't let them give it to you. And then you died!"

Tommy managed to snag her hand, tugging on it lightly to get her attention. "I got better, though, see?"

"But I killed you!"

Tommy sighed. When Kim had a point she could prove, she'd cling to it like a terrier to prey. The best he could do was try to change the subject to more worrying matters before he fell asleep again. "Are you bleeding?"

Kim touched her hand to her temple; only a couple spots of blood stuck to her fingers. "Not so much anymore."

"What happened?"

"I thought Kat told you…" Kim looked almost as confused as he was.

"She said something about poison and then a tomb that only you could go to. And something about zombies, I think?" He was enthralled by that part.

Kim shrugged and leaned forward, laying her head on her crossed arms on the side of his bed. "Zedd would only let me go. So I went."

"You look… well, like you went through hell." He winced as he said it - it was far from a compliment - but Kim shrugged again.

"I wasn't exactly an exotic destination."

"Kat said something about zombies?" he pushed again. The idea was too cool.

Kim made a face at that, sitting up to tug the axe out of her pants. "And skeletons. And giant spiders. Really creepy place, actually." She eyed the weapon for a moment. "You can have this, if you want… I know you collect weapons, and I mean, I don't know anything about it. I just grabbed it off the ground but you could clean it up and-" She was babbling, partly from exhaustion and partly because she wasn't sure what else to do.

"Kim… Kim, that's really great of you. The only backstory it needs is that you used it to save my life." He put as much love and respect and appreciation as possible into those last three words, stubbornly forcing his eyes to remain open. Juvenile as it was, he had Kim's attention for the first time in weeks. He wasn't about to let some stupid poisoning short-term death experience cut that short.

Kim blushed and shrugged. "You would have done it, too. It's what we do, right?"

She had a point, but this meant so much more to him than a normal Ranger mission. "You held your own against creatures like you were Lara Croft. Or Indiana Jones. That's way cool. Will you tell me more about it?" It was a losing battle against sleep, but he needed every moment he could get…

Billy came up behind Kim at that point. "You were right, Kimberly. That potion was actually the poison we believed Zedd to have administered. From the blood work I just did, it appeared a weaker form was in Tommy's bloodstream; one that his immune system was able to overcome, though I suspect it was furthered along by a spell."

"All that matters is that he's okay now," Kim responded.

"I am," he spoke up, getting another look from her and reveling in it. "But you're not. Billy, can you-?"

"We should clean those wounds, and allow Tommy some rest." Billy tugged Kim to her feet, putting an arm around her shoulders as she swayed alarmingly. "Tommy, one more strong sleep should help you fight the effects, though I'll want you to stay overnight for tests in the morning."

"Alright." Kim almost walked away when he managed to snag her hand and tug it up to his lips, pressing them to her in a thankful kiss. Just her hand, but the only part of her he could reach… "Thank you." He put all the love and appreciation and awe he could into his voice – a lot, considering how much he had for her in that moment. "You saved my life, Kim."

Kim flushed, though it was difficult to see under the dirt and blood. "Anytime, Tommy."

He let himself fall asleep then, vowing that he'd get the full story from her once he was well… and swearing he'd apologize, too.

Hillard House
Saturday, November: Week 4
10:25 p.m.

While Adam shut the door behind them, an exhausted Katherine flopped down onto her living room couch. Her eyes closed and her head reclined back as she tried to relax, sighing deeply. She settled against the warmth of him when he joined her, his arm curling around her waist, hugging her close. "What a crazy day," the alternate Ranger declared in a weary tone.

"At least we got a happy ending," Adam replied as he rested against her. But even as she seemed to finally calm down, he felt wired… restless even, for a number of unvoiced reasons. The raw fear etched on his girlfriend's face when she brought Tommy to the Command Center terrified him. But now that Tommy was safe, he couldn't help certain issues picking away at him. The last thing he wanted to do today was start a fight, but he had questions he needed answered. Problem was, he really hated the questions. "You okay?"

Sitting up a bit, Kat gently rubbed her hand over her face, still trembling a bit. "I thought Tommy was going to die today. I really did," she began thoughtfully. "And when Kim wouldn't give Tommy the cure I felt this rush of rage… thank God she didn't listen or I would be blaming myself for Tommy's death right now. I'm… I guess I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it all."

"Kim's pretty good under pressure," Adam noted. "She thought it over and things just didn't add up."

"I was horrible to her. My God; the things I said. I jumped to conclusions and was so mean." Wiping her face of a stray tear, Kat looked to Adam. "I really need to apologize. Should I call her tonight?"

"Tomorrow sounds good. She needs to clean up, rest, and get a good night's sleep." Thought he hated the way some people played games, a part of him wanted to gauge her reaction to what he was about to say. "Plus, I think Tommy and Kim were really catching up before we left. Not sure what that means, but they're all alone." Kat's soft chuckle didn't reveal much. "What?"

"You don't care that they're catching up, dear," she nodded wearing a smile. "You don't have to pretend you're in favor of them getting back together. I know differently."

"Are you?"

"Am I what?"

"Are you in favor of them getting back together?"

The question wasn't asked in his usual way, giving her pause. She wasn't sure if she was misreading him or not, but he seemed a bit tense. "If being together makes them both happy, then I am for it… but if they never get back together, I think they'll both be fine. I don't really have a horse in this race. I'm just standing back and letting them find their own way."

Adam gave a nod, seemingly lost in his own thoughts.

Katherine sat up facing him, and then reached out and caressed his cheek. "What's on your mind? Really?"

"I'm… I don't know," he sighed. He shook his head, part shy and part something he wasn't used to feeling. "The way you hung over Tommy today… you were so worried and concerned. You were beside yourself. And when we all arrived at the Command Center, you were even wearing his shirt."

He paused, and found Katherine waiting patiently for him to continue. "He means the world to you, doesn't he?"

"Yes," Katherine answered softly as she took Adam's hands in hers. His was a gentle heart; no less than any other, but perhaps in need of a bit more assurance considering current events. She suddenly felt guilty that she hadn't provided this sooner. "Tommy is my best friend, but you are the man I love. There's a huge and meaningful difference between the two. I hope you know that."

"I do, it's just… the way you were holding him today? I just want to make sure you're with me because I'm who you truly want to be with, or if there's some part of you that wants to be with him."

Choosing her words carefully, she was honest as well. "Don't you think I already asked myself those questions before we started dating?" He didn't look sure. "You remember how I told you about what almost happened between Tommy and I? Trust me, that night I thought long and hard about Tommy and I and what was between us long after we talked. I'm as clear now as I was then. I love him dearly as a friend, but no more. I'm not pining for him. I don't wish he felt differently about me. I'm not waiting for him to give up on Kim or for her to tell him he has no chance with her. I'm in a relationship with you because I'm falling in love with you… only you, and you aren't competing with anyone." Bringing his hands to her soft mouth, she pressed a kiss on each. "In my eyes, no one compares to you."

"Thank you." He smiled. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't doubt you. I honestly don't. I guess it's… in a lot of ways you're my first love, so I'm a little possessive and I just really don't want to lose you."

"You won't," she assured him.

"I don't intend to." Bending to her mouth as he smoothly covered her body with his, their lips met in a slow, passionate kiss that washed all thoughts of other couples and people away.

This moment was all about them.

Campbell House
Saturday, November: Week 4
11:00 p.m.

"Hey, I'll go in and distract my folks so you can run upstairs," Aisha offered when the two teleported behind the shed in the corner of her yard, eying Kim's mangled clothes with a wrinkled nose. "I don't think we can save them, sorry."

Kim shrugged tiredly. "I'll probably be more upset about this when I'm cleaned up and get some sleep. Right now, I just want a shower." She motioned to the right side of her head, "And to figure out how to make this happen. Looks like I'll need a haircut." She hummed to herself thoughtfully. "Maybe Trini can come over and shape it for now, before I can go to the salon. They'll want to know what happened."

"I'll give her a call while you're in the shower. Gotta do something," Aisha agreed. "Looks all sorts of screwed up right now. I don't think even you can make that mess trendy."

"Thanks," she responded dryly.

Aisha winked before darting inside, hollering to her parents and getting their attention in the kitchen.

Once Kim was sure they were focused on their daughter, Kim darted in with a quick hello and sped up the stairs.

In no time, she was kicking her ruined clothes to the corner of the bathroom. As steam from the shower filled the room, she studied her reflection in the mirror. Her shirt had hidden scrapes on the upper part of her right arm; no doubt she'd gotten them from sliding across the floor while battling some of the zombies. Billy had cleaned up the side of her head, but her wound had continued to ooze a little bit and was trickling down the hairline again. Bruises crisscrossed her lower back in various shades of purples and blues; some were beginning to turn green and yellow as her Ranger powers kicked her healing abilities into overdrive.

Still, she remained strangely detached from everything that had happened. Despite everything she'd seen and done in the course of Ranger duties, it was hard to believe she'd fought through a gross tomb, confronted some of her demons - literally, even - and gambled on a man's life.

Tommy's life.

'Tommy died.' The thought pulled her back to Earth like a sucker-punch, almost enough to make her physically sick. 'I killed him.' Okay, it wasn't technically true… now. But for a minute or two, his heart had stopped beating and he wasn't breathing and he wasn't there. But he was alive and breathing now, albeit a little worse for wear…

Having died because she was so damn cocky that she knew what she was doing, because she was so fucking sure that she was onto Zedd's tricks.

She'd almost been wrong.

Almost mechanically, Kim slipped into the shower. The water was nearly scalding and she scrubbed herself nearly raw, as though she could wash away more than the blood and grime of the day. She wished she could clean herself of that heavy weight that slipped over her when Tommy had flat-lined, or the sickening sensation that remained after Kat viciously but honestly speared every single one of her faults into a shish-ka-bob of mistakes and issues.

"He has been lying here, calling out for you. He's been waiting for you to come and save him. I've been promising him that you could pull through for him, no matter what. And here you are, refusing to hand it over."

He'd died knowing she failed him, believing she'd never forgive him.

'Have I forgiven him? Can I?' she wondered not for the first, nor the millionth time. He couldn't forgive her for what she did, so how could she forgive him when his actions were so much worse? He did the one thing she'd never thought him capable of: willfully betrayed her while of sound mind and body.

Yet, the thought wasn't as painful as before. Slowly, with time, it was being replaced with a cold, slightly-bitter sense of acceptance. She doubted she'd ever understand it, but no matter why it had happened, it had. She couldn't change the past, couldn't live in the past and couldn't let her past dictate her future.

So… had she forgiven him? 'Not yet.' It was hard to loosen her stubborn grasp on her anger. If she forgave Tommy, she had to forgive Jason, who had hurt her almost as badly. Somehow, it felt like forgiving Tommy would be tantamount to disregarding of what he did. She couldn't bring herself to do that.

'Can I forgive him?' She couldn't answer her own question with certainty, though a tiny voice that reminded her that forgiving and forgetting were two different things, and didn't have to go together. On top of that, there was a part of her that ached to teleport back to the Command Center, to make sure that Tommy was okay, to stay nearby. That had to mean something, right?

She was jerked from her thoughts by Aisha pounding on the door, letting her know Trini was there. The contemplation was tucked aside for now.

Maybe one day, she'd have the answers.

Oliver House
Tuesday, December: Week 1
4:00 p.m.

Peering out his living room window, Tommy searched the street for any sign of Trini's car. Nothing so far. He yawned before flopping back down on the couch, arms behind his head. Shutting his eyes, he wore a devious smile, very much looking forward to his contribution to the plot at hand.

Trini's birthday was in two weeks and Jason wanted to throw her a surprise birthday party. But he needed her parents and a couple of her close friends help to pull it off. Tommy was charged with getting Trini, a mathematician if there ever was one, to help him with his Algebra while Jason, Trini's parents, Kim, Aisha, and Adam met to plot the conspiracy. Just being involved made him feel good. Whatever they wanted him to do, he would do it with no objections. The old gang was slowly trying to mend fences, and he couldn't be happier about that.

Of course, he'd be happier if things with Kim were improving as well.

To be honest, things weren't bad. The constant sniping had ended, and she didn't seem to hate his presence anymore. There was still a great deal of hurt he found in her beautiful eyes when he was able to capture her gaze, but being around him didn't start any new arguments. There was so much he wanted to say to her, to express, but he had trouble finding the words.

And then she'd saved his life, and that was huge. Beyond huge. He was so proud and jealous of her adventure into the underworld. She battled zombies and huge spiders while traversing deadly caverns and the only thing worse to him that she had to do that at all was that he wasn't with her. More, the cost of his survival was almost her life, a fact that wasn't lost on him. If he'd woken to her death… it was too much to bear, the thought of losing her again in the most final way possible.

Thankfully, Kimberly was as brave and clever as they came, hardly a fool, and it was her keen mind that saved his life when Lord Zedd tried to trick her. If she hadn't trusted herself, he'd be dead right now. He owed his very life to her.

Tommy recalled seeing her when he came around; Kim looked as though she'd been through a war, and yet he still thought she was beautiful. She'd fought zombies for him. 'Actual zombies,' he smiled on the couch. Hadn't hesitated to go and risk her life for his and all that after he'd broken her heart and refused to forgive her for what she said on the Command Center rooftop.

What if she died and he never had the chance to apologize to her? He knew he'd never make peace with that, or all the hurt he's caused her. Even after all of that there wasn't a hint of hesitation in her effort to save his life.

Sighing, Tommy sat up and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. She deserved forgiveness for what she said in the heat of the moment, regardless of if she forgave him for a crime ten times worse. He wanted to make things right with her, at least in regards to that, as soon as possible.

Then he could really throw himself into trying to win her back.

He'd thought about it enough. Asked his heart the tough questions, like did he want to win her back so that she forgave him, or was it because he truly missed her love and the way she made him feel? He'd talked to Jason at length, and Katherine about what they thought of his chances.

Was it even worth trying if he had no guarantee of victory?

The answer his heart gave was yes, and it would be the fight of his life.

The time had come for him to fight for her. Enough time had passed since their break-up and he felt it was now or never, as every day it seemed she grew closer to Alex, or was at least ready to try again with someone. He'd been such a selfish, immature fool when he cheated. The lessons of life he learned and was still learning sank in deeply. He had a lot of changing to do, a lot of personal work ahead, and no promise at all that he would win the woman he loved back.

Allowing himself to get lost in thought, Tommy mused about how Kimberly was just so damn charming and fun to be around, something that eased his early transition into the team. Being a natural loner and someone who was used to moving every two years or so, letting anyone get to close wasn't something he did often. With Kim he simply had no choice, falling in love with her so fast he barely had time to get used to it. She bulldozed her way into his heart.

Her kindness, outgoing personality, gorgeous smile, and sexy legs she felt were far too short, but were perfect in his eyes… 'What a fool I was,' Tommy bitched at himself. He'd never been happier than when she was at his side. She was also one hell of a kisser, he recalled fondly. He'd wanted her from the moment he saw her and every day since. He desired her and wanted nothing more than to someday make love to her, but she didn't believe that anymore after he cheated. One terrible decision broke her heart and altered how she saw not only him and their relationship, but herself as well.

The latter was crushing, to think he'd damaged how she viewed herself in some way. A woman's self-esteem was always a tricky thing, but that he'd contributed to hers falling over the mistakes he made only mad him hate himself more. He never, ever wanted that. She was an amazing young woman, and he hoped she would one day never doubt that again. If anything, it was him that wasn't worthy of her anymore.

But now he was working on fixing that, hoping to someday again be the man she so believed in.

His recent liaison with Katherine was vastly profound in that it revealed where his true heart still was. Connecting with Katherine on an almost elemental level, she was a dear, best friend and someone he greatly appreciated. But he wasn't in love with her, falling, or worried that he might. He still was deeply in love with Kimberly. That never changed. She was his first love, and the only one he wanted.

So now was the time to come up with a foolproof plan to win her back. Only he didn't have one… and she didn't deserve schemes and stuff like that. He just wanted to make her feel special and explain how much he loved her and missed her and wanted a second chance to prove how wonderful they could be, how much he learned about himself and life and the importance of the respect of the woman you love since everything happened, and how deeply he regretted and was sorry for betraying her.

But to be perfectly honest, at the end of the day, even if she forgave him she may not want to try again. She simply may not be able to see him that way. If that's the case, well, he'd have to live with it.

But he had to try.

The sound of a car pulling up into his drive way shook Tommy out of his inner thoughts. Trini was here. He walked to the front door, opened it, and stepped aside. "Thanks again for the help. I really need it."

He did, but he really didn't and Trini knew that. She was well aware of the birthday party plot her boyfriend was scheming up, but didn't mind playing along. "No problem, really."

It dawned on them both as Tommy shut the door that this was the first time Trini had come here since everything happened. When usually there was some sort of something at Tommy's place at least once a week, now months had passed… it seemed like a lifetime in teen years, dramatic as that sounded.

They moved to the living room couch as Trini regarded Tommy. He pulled his Algebra book out of his book bag on the floor and two notepads, pretending to the best of his limited acting ability that he needed help. He was a C+ Algebra student at best, but far from failing. And truthfully, Billy was the team genius, but he was trying to help do something really nice for her, and she had her own motives for wanting some alone time with him. "So where do we begin?"

"Well, I have a test on chapter 6 this Thursday afternoon. I guess we should start there."

Trini gave a nod, legs crossed as they sat side-by-side on the couch. "I think we can work on that today and make sure you are ready for that test," she noted. "Now what about the other thing?"

Looking up at her, Tommy blinked. "Other thing?"

"When is my birthday party, where, and how shocked do I need to pretend to be?"

Tommy didn't dare make a move, quickly processing a proper response to Trini's direct inquiry. His brain back-flipped and cart-wheeled around a number of possible choices before eventually deciding on, "Uhm…"

"You need help with English too, right?" she laughed, enjoying his deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression. This was the Tommy she dearly missed. There was the warrior, no doubt, and then there was this shy, mildly innocent, very typical young man who didn't always know what to say or how to say it. This was the guy Kimberly fell in love with. "Before you say something and begin digging yourself a hole, save it. I accidentally overheard Rocky and Adam talking about it and am well aware my significant other is planning me a surprise birthday party. I do not in any way intend to ruin his surprise as from what I heard he's working very hard on it, and I love him for it. But I just wanted you to know that I know you don't really need help with Algebra. I had another reason for wanting to talk to you alone."

Tommy chuckled, sitting back; a bit relieved he didn't have to play dumb. Really, it was all that he could do as Trini eyed him oh-so-victoriously. "I'm supposed to keep you occupied for at least 90 minutes. So please tell Jason I was extra lost and dumb today, alright?"

"Scouts' honor," she snickered, her right hand over her heart.

"Okay, I'll bite. So why are you here?" Tommy watched Trini's expression turns serious, so he gave her his full attention.

Trini sighed. "This sucks 'cause I hate to even bring up crap like this, but I wanted to talk to you about the rumors flying around school about you and Kat," she finished in a mild flurry. Tommy only nodded. "I hear dumb gossip and stuff every day, and usually let it fly over my head. But I have seen you and Kat spend a lot of time together. I know you're single and you certainly don't owe me any explanations, but with Kim being my best friend I feel I need to look out for her. And if there is any truth to the rumors, well, I'd like to know from you."

Having heard the rumors as well, Tommy sat up straight, ready to address them; then his and Trini's attention flew to his kitchen back door as it opened and then shut. A moment later, Katherine's voice could be heard. "You had better be half-naked and ready, because I need to work off some tension. Don't go easy on me either. I want it rough."

Shutting his eyes, Tommy groaned under his breath, while Trini looked from him to their new guest. Kat walked in wearing her workout attire of sneakers, black short-shorts and a matching ladies Nike tank-top.

The alternate Pink Ranger clearly wasn't expecting Trini's presence and instantly regretted how what she said must have sounded. Her wince looked particularly painful. Her eyes darted from the first Yellow Ranger to the White, and then back to Trini. "Tommy, I thought we had a workout planned today?"

"You forgot to check your answering machine, kitty," Tommy joked. "I had to 'study for Algebra' today."

Katherine's eyes widened as she instantly recalled and berated herself for forgetting the planning session for Trini's birthday party. "Oh crap, I'm sorry. I'll get out of here so you guys can study."

"It's cool, Kat. I know all about my birthday party. I just really wanted to talk to Tommy about the rumors of you and him being more than just good friends," Trini elaborated, but not in a bitchy accusing way. Her tone was more teasing than anything, but then she noticed when Kat's face fell.

"I heard about those rumors today too. I've talked to Adam about them already." She was annoyed by the gossip; not because she had anything to confess, but denouncing rumors of infidelity only weeks into a new relationship wasn't exactly a good thing.

Turning his attention to Trini, Tommy dove right in. "Katherine has become one of my closest, best friends. I'm not going to lie about that because it's the truth. We spend time together and are very close." He looked her directly in the eyes. "We are not lovers. We're not dating or have gone out on any dates together. We're not talking about dating and we aren't in love with each other."

Katherine nodded, and then added, "I think this started one night when Tommy took me somewhere 'cause I was having a really bad day and needed to get my mind off stuff. I was sad and he was being a really good friend. We had milkshakes and drove bumper cars for an hour, and I think Cari and her gossipy friends saw us. But Tommy and I are just very close friends. I'm dating Adam and I'm very happy."

"So there's no truth whatsoever to those rumors?" Trini asked, looking from one to the other. She caught a ghost of something pass between them. "I just don't want Kim getting hurt." She wasn't going to reveal that she was pretty sure Kim was still in love with Tommy, but she needed to stress how important this was to her. "I just want the truth; no judgment here."

Katherine didn't want to lie, and wanted everything out in the open. "Trini, Tommy and I had a moment where we almost crossed a line, sexually," she admitted. Trini listened quietly. "But we didn't cross the line, and talked about how other factors contributed to it, and it's not something that we really wanted with each other. It hasn't happened before or since, and I am committed to Adam. He knows about this as well. I love Tommy dearly, but only as a friend."

"And I love her too, but I am still in love with Kimberly," Tommy revealed the world's worst kept secret. "I don't really know what to do about the rumors. Sometimes acknowledging them only makes them worse."

Trini never doubted Tommy before he cheated on Kim. She still hated it ever happened, and that she now found herself truly gauging if he were telling the truth or not. She thought the world of Katherine, someone who was at the Campbell household almost daily after Tommy and Kim broke up. No, she didn't think they were lying. "I believe you two, I just had to ask. Sorry if I offended you."

"You didn't," Katherine said. "I don't blame you for asking or looking out for a good friend."

"I certainly gave you a good reason to doubt me when I cheated, so I understand. It's alright," Tommy said to Trini. "I never want to lose your trust again, so rest assured I'm telling you the whole truth."

"I believe you, Tommy." She leaned over and tugged him into a big hug. "So, since you're still in love with Kim what are you going to do about it?"

"Yeah, I'd like to know that one too," Kat added, wearing a smile.

Tommy looked to them both, grinning, and then gave a shrug. "I have a plan… sort of. Don't know if it will work, but it's all I got and I came up with it myself. I'm going to start with a…"