Somewhat In Between

A/N: So something a little (or very) different from my usual style. It's a bit of an exploration of how people go from point A to point B and all the meandering and messed up choices along way. Also different is that I have all three parts of this finished ahead of time. No worries about me abandoning this like so many of my others. As always- reviews are love.~Del~

Edited to add: hates my formatting. Think I finally have it worked out. Cross your fingers.

Set after Shift into Turbo

A Kimberly Hart story. She doesn't drink strawberry smoothies anymore.

~l~l~

Part One: Not Quite the Beginning

Nothing is the same after Muranthis. The air seems dirtier and her throat feels smaller.

~l~l~

Jason comes back different. He stops sleeping on her floor and gets an apartment and a crappy job. Gets into fights that don't make a difference and Kim becomes a pro at applying peroxide and bandages to his broken skin.

He always apologizes after. Confesses as if Kimberly alone can grant him absolution.

"I am just so angry," he says.

"I keep having nightmares," he says.

"Stay," he says.

And so she does.

~l~l~

They sleep together on a Thursday night.

It's a mistake.

She beats the rain home and makes it to the bathroom just in time. She spends the rest of the night heaving into the toilet.

He called her beautiful.

~l~l~

Kim can't take it back. She can't undo it. Can't blame it on some spell or monster that Zedd sent down.

So she does the next best thing- pretends it never happened.

Jason doesn't play along. Keeps calling. Leaves messages like breadcrumbs. Recruits Trini, who makes a transatlantic phone call that Kimberly refuses to answer.

Finally he shows up, rain soaked and pleading. Kim listens from the hall as her roommate lies for her. Tells him that she is sick.

~l~l~

The guilt wakes her up at three am. She does two hundred sit ups and then moves on to planks. Maybe it's not such a lie after all.

~l~l~

At the Pan Global Games National Trials, she places 8th. They put her on the team anyway. She has a story that sends reporters clamoring (they have taken to calling her the Cinderella of the Beam) and all- American girl appeal and the NGO is suffering for want of both. Bela has his doubts but Schmidt insists she is worth the risk. Worse comes to worse she can specialize- her beam is fantastic.

When she goes, she doesn't leave a note. Learned that lesson already- pen and paper causes pain. Figures that Jason knows or will know or will stop by at some point. Her roommate can break the news. Tasha always did think he was cute.

She boards a plane for Colorado and doesn't take a single article of pink clothing with her. Leaves the bear Tommy bought her behind for good measure.

~l~l~

"I can't believe they put her on the team."

Kim hears the word specialist in sharp, hushed whispers. Like hell. She didn't give up her whole world for one event.

Training becomes her everything. She trades her smoothies in for water, water, water and vaguely worries about turning into a fish. Scales and eyes that can never see what's right in front of her. Rita would just love to do something like that.

She gets faster, stronger.

The air in Denver is cleaner. The air in Denver is thinner.

It's not the only thing that is.

~l~l~

The team places 4t h but she brings home gold for the beam. For a split second, after the scores are announced, she has to remind herself to smile. Remind herself to be happy. This is a dream come true after all.

Then she smiles for so long that she feels like her face may split in two. There are way too many cameras in the world.

~l~l~

Trini is in her hotel room when Kimberly finally gets back from the endless stream of interviews. She hugs Kim, wrapping her up in arms that know and, for a fraction of a second, there is nothing to battle. Kim can still be who she was before.

"You were amazing," Trini says and the bubble pops. Pin pricked with words.

"Oh god!" Kim swats at her and feels a blush crawl up her neck.

Trini thinks it's because she is modest.

It's not. Shame shaped spots.

Trini asks to see the medal and admires it from where it hangs, resting on next to Kim's heart. This is what Kimberly gave up being a ranger for. For this, she sacrificed her friendships, her senior year, her family, her calling. It hangs like a millstone around her neck and Kim can't even remember why it was so important in the first place.

"See! What did I always tell you? If you believe in yourself and anything is possible."

Except life doesn't allow do-overs no matter what you believe.

~l~l~

Trini dies a month later in a car accident at Kongens Nytorv square in Copenhagen. Her body is flown back to Angel Grove. Kim has no idea where the rest of her went.

~l~l~

Kimberly is supposed to sing at the funeral but can't get through it. Her voice cracks and breaks and so does the rest of her.

She rides with Adam from the cemetery. He is sweet and fills in the silences she lets linger too long with talk of the team and Justin.

"He's getting really good."

He is a child being used in a war but Kim doesn't say that. Doesn't say anything. Too busy battling down a familiar wave of nausea that tears through her as they turn down Maple. Memories regurgitate- how many times did she tear down that sidewalk on her way to collect Trini and Jason? Wonders if Mrs. Dober still lives in that yellow house next to the Kwans'- she could always be counted on to by at least two boxes of Angelette cookies. The city finally fixed the sidewalk, there is no longer that crack that sent Jason over the handlebars of his bike the spring of fifth grade.

"Stop the car, please." Retches out the door of his jeep. Spews forth the contents of her stomach until there is nothing left and she is choking on sobs.

Adam is there- guiding her steps over and around the bile on the grass. Settles her on the sidewalk, the same one that Trini and her used to decorate with chalk drawings of flowers and butterflies and hopscotch courses. Places a hand on her shoulder as she folds into herself and sits with her until Tommy arrives, his car sliding to as stop behind Adam's.

"Sorry. I didn't know who else I should call." Conversations over her bowed brown head.

"No, no. It's fine. Why don't you go on to the Kwans' ? Tell them we will be there in a bit." Still in leader mode, always in leader mode.

Adam's hand is replaced by something bigger, stronger, more familiar as she struggles to breathe. Sobs catch in her throat, strangles her with grief.

"Easy, Kim, easy." Rubs counter clockwise circles on her back. "It's okay. It's going to be okay." It's clearly not but she lets herself be engulfed in his touch, arms wrapping around her and creating a barrier between her and the rest of the world. "I've got you."

And she believes him.

~l~l~

Jason walks her home from the Kwans'. Guides her down the three block to his childhood home. Doesn't even try tucking her in a car and driving to the Angel Inn Motel. If he is still angry with her, he is trying like hell not to show it. Technically Kim is just stopping by to say hello to Mr. & Mrs. Scott but it's clear from the moment she enters that they have no plans on letting her stay anywhere else.

"It smells good," Kim says to Mrs. Scott, who beams over a simmering pot.

"Adam said you weren't feeling good so I asked Mom to whip you up some of that vegetable soup you love." Jason is kinder to her than she deserves. He sits on a stool at the island and Kim slides into the seat one down from him and tries not to remember that Trini always sat between them. Said they couldn't be trusted together. Turns out she was right.

"I wanted you to have something good to eat." Mrs. Scott's eyes tack on a silent appraisal that Kim knows she fails. "I know you always did like my soup."

Doesn't like- loves. Mrs. Scott always seemed to have it cooking on days when Kimberly needed it the most. On nights when she couldn't go home for fear of becoming another weapon in the endless arguing that filled her house. When she flunked the algebra test she spent all week studying for. When Bobby McCormick told everyone that she had made out with him in the back of his mustang when she hadn't done so much as hold his hand. Bowls ladled full with broth and vegetables and love and acceptance.

"You really didn't have to do that."

"No, I wanted to do that," Mrs. Scott replies.

Kim eats three bowlfuls and doesn't even feel guilty.

~l~l~

To Be Continued...

Next Part: Life after everything.