"I can't believe how stupid I looked," Kim grumbled as she turned off the television. She wandered over to the master bath where Tommy was fixing up the tub. "All I could do was stand there with tears streaming down my face! I couldn't even speak for myself--you had to do it all."
"No one will think anything of it," Tommy replied as he emerged from his parents' bathroom. After the media had finished with them and the paramedics released them, they had retreated to the quiet of the Oliver house. "You've been through a horrible ordeal; it's only natural to be shocked and relieved that it's over.
Is it? Kim wondered privately. Someone had gone to an awful lot of trouble to try and kill her; that someone wasn't likely to give up easily. Kim didn't relish the idea of living her life always looking over her shoulder; however, Dimitria had said that she would monitor any unauthorized time portals, so she'd have some warning next time. She leaned against the door frame, her arms wrapped about her as if to ward off a chill. "I can't believe there were so many reporters at the track covering a practice," she murmured.
"The Canyon Classic is big news around here."
"I suppose; it's just that I'd always tried to avoid getting into the news."
"I'm glad the emergency crews were on hand. The Mercytes really did a number on the track," Tommy said.
"I really feel badly about that. I shouldn't have gone with you . . . I knew an attack was coming...."
"They would have wrecked havoc anywhere you'd have gone. At least the track was mostly empty; there were firemen and paramedics on hand, and the damage wasn't that bad. Things will only be set back a day or two at the most, according to Uncle John." Tommy pulled Kim into his arms and hugged her reassuringly. "Now, it's time to put this behind you. You have your life back; what are you going to do with it?"
"I don't know." Kim looked up at him with confusion in her eyes. "I stopped thinking about the future a long time ago."
"You'll want to see your family again," Tommy suggested.
"I can't believe my mom will be here in forty-eight hours!" Kim bubbled, perking up. The first thing they had done upon reaching the house was call Paris.
"You'll probably want to go home with your mom, too," he continued, his tone carefully neutral. He didn't want to let Kim out of his sight again, but if she really wanted to go to Paris with her mother . . . .
"Just for a little while." Tommy's expression brightened noticeably, and Kim smiled. "I've been on my own for so long, I don't think I can go back to living in her house and by her rules. She may try to treat me as an adult, but I'll always be her baby. Besides, Angel Grove is home. More importantly, it's where you are."
"I'm glad," Tommy whispered huskily, giving her hand a squeeze. "Will you get a place of your own and find a job?"
"I'd like to, but in order to get a job that I can support myself on, I need to finish school."
"Will you go back to Angel Grove or work on a GED?"
"I'd feel funny going back to school--being older than everyone, following a rigid schedule--but I missed a lot when I left, and school just may be what I need to help me discover a sense of normalcy. However, going back to school means I won't be able to work full time . . . ."
"You know you can stay with my family until you get on your feet."
"I don't know, Tommy; I don't want to be a bother . . . ."
"You were a bigger bother when you weren't around," Tommy said with a laugh; he hugged Kim when he saw her flinch at the reminder of what she had done. "At least think about it. My folks would love to have you, and it might make your mother feel better about you staying."
Look what happened the last time she let me stay, Kim reflected, but she knew Tommy was right. "Okay, I'll think about it."
"How about thinking about it in the tub? The water isn't getting any warmer." He offered her a chivalrous bow. "You bath awaits, milady."
With a giggle and an exaggerated curtsey, Kim allowed herself to be ushered into the bathroom. She gasped in surprise and delight. The room was aglow with candlelight, and soft music added to the romantic atmosphere. Beside the tub sat a tray with two wine glasses and a bottle in the ice bucket.
"Allow me," was all he said. He reached around and untied the knot in her belt, then he held the robe for her as she slipped out of it and eased into the steaming, foam-covered water, immersing herself with a contented sigh.
"May I join you?"
Only then did it register that Tommy wore his bathrobe as well. Her grin widened, and her eyes danced with joy. "Be my guest." She slid over to make room as Tommy dropped his robe and waded in.
"Mm," Kim purred as she snuggled into his arms.
"I figure we might as well make the most of this before my folks get home."
"Oh, you . . . ." She gave him a playful swat, and she turned her attention to the bottle chilling in the silver container. "That isn't what I think it is, is it?"
"If you think it's sparkling white grape juice, it is," Tommy quipped as he reached for the bottle to pop the cork. "Dad hates the real thing, and where would I get champagne?"
"Grape juice is perfect," Kim assured him. She gave a startled squeak as the plastic cork burst free. Tommy poured out the drink with flair then handed her a glass.
"To the future," he toasted.
Tommy attempted to twine his arm around Kimberly's as they sipped their drinks; however, both glasses tipped, and Kim shrieked as the cold beverage splashed down her chest. The two burst into peals of laughter, and Tommy made as if to brush the stain away. Suddenly, neither one of them was laughing.
"So, do I get to wash your hair this time?" Kim queried after a lengthy pause.
"That depends," Tommy responded lightly. "Will you be in any shape to after I'm done pampering my princess once more?"
"Hm, good question," Kim sighed longingly. "A girl could get used to this royal romantic treatment. Might as well enjoy it while I can; more than likely, it'll be a while before we get another chance."
"Maybe," Tommy answered absently as he scooted the ice bucket out of the way and reached for the remote for the CD player.
"What's that?" Kim queried, noticing a small box that had been hidden behind container. The old wood was dark with age and trimmed with brass fittings. With its domed lid, it resembled a miniature treasure chest.
"You've seen this before," Tommy replied. "It's always been on my dresser. It's Nanna Maggie's 'treasure chest.'"
"I remember now! You once told me how she'd play the queen and you'd be her faithful knight who rescued the royal jewels from the wicked dragon," Kim recalled, smiling fondly at the image. "I always thought that was so cute of your great-grandmother--and so fitting considering you were always my knight on a white horse."
"Tiger," Tommy corrected, and Kim's smile warmed him. "I never showed you what's inside, did I?"
"Puzzled, Kim pushed the lid back; inside the velvet lined chest was a ring, cunningly wrought. The band resembled a braided vine, and the etched leaves making up the shanks were dusted with tiny diamond flecks. The crown was an exquisitely crafted rose in full bloom, the delicate petals shaded a burnished rose color. In the heart of the flower sat a large diamond that sparkled and flashed in the firelight.
"It's beautiful," Kim gasped, awestruck. "Where did you get this?" She couldn't imagine that Tommy could afford something like this, and the craftsmanship was unlike anything she had ever seen.
"Read the inscription."
Kim peered into the band. The spidery script was worn, but she could make out the words: To my beloved Rose. JM 1863.
"It belonged to Nanna's grandmother," Tommy explained. "Nanna gave it to me the Christmas before she died."
"But you were only three!"
"It was the last of the 'treasure,' she said. She commanded her 'faithful knight' to guard this until he found a worthy princess to bestow it upon."
Kim handed the ring back to Tommy, and he studied it with a distant, thoughtful gaze and a soft smile. She couldn't fathom where his thoughts had wandered, so she watched and waited. Tommy suddenly snapped out of his reverie at the intro to the next song.
You know our love was meant to be
The kind of love to last forever
And I want you here with me
From tonight until the end of time
Kim just looked at Tommy, unable to speak as her throat tightened inexplicably and her heart began racing. There was something shining in his eyes, his smile . . . .
You should know
Everywhere I go
Always on my mind
In my heart
In my soul
"You are you know," Tommy whispered. "Even when we were apart."
You're the meaning in my life
You're the inspiration
You bring feeling to my life
You're the inspiration
Wanna have you near me
I Wanna have you hear me saying
"No one needs you more than I need you."
Happy tears glistened in Kim's eyes.
"I need you, Kim; you're a part of me I can't live without. More than that, I love you, and I want to be with you always. Kimberly Hart, will you marry me?"
Kim's eyes were wide as Tommy held the antique ring at the tip of her left ring finger. She tried to speak, but the words still wouldn't come.
Tommy saw the answer in her eyes, but he waited. He needed to hear her say it. When it finally came, it was scarcely above a whisper as the music swelled in the background.
Tommy slid the ring onto Kim's finger and pulled her close, their lips meeting in a tender kiss that blossomed with the passion and love running deep in their souls.
. . . you're the inspiration
When you love somebody
'Til the end of time
When you love somebody
Always on my mind/No one needs you more than I . . .
"No! It wasn't supposed to happen like this!"
Blue eyes--as hard as the diamond Tommy slipped on Kim's finger and as cold as the dark side of the moon--narrowed as the scene played out in the flickering light of the crystalline globe. Energy crackled around slender hands in an angry nimbus of black light.
"She was supposed to die! He wasn't supposed to propose to her!"
The energy flew from fingertips, smashing into the orb and shattering it into dust-fine particles. The sorceress known as the Dark Lady rose from her throne, the lunar palace quaking with her wrath. She crossed the antechamber to the balcony; like a blue/white jewel on a velvet cloak, the planet Earth loomed beyond the moon's horizon.
She cared not for conquering the planet. Her burning ambition lay in other directions . . . her acquisition of wealth and power--technological and arcane--geared towards one goal: the destruction of Kimberly Hart--a woman who had been dead for more centuries than the Dark Lady cared to count.
To that end, she had marshaled all the resources at her command and laid her plans carefully for centuries . . . The Mercytes were the most lethal, most feared, and most successful assassins in the galaxy. It had cost her nearly half the wealth accumulated by her predecessors to purchase a cadre loyal only to her programing.
And they couldn't even kill one powerless human female!
The time hole had also cost her dearly--an expenditure of her magical powers that had taken her years from which to recover.
And those meddlesome Rangers sealed it!
It would be centuries before she could open another, unless she could find a naturally occurring portal (most, however, had been sealed over the millennia by one group of Rangers or another). A window to the past did not concern her; time was one commodity she had in abundance. The day she destroyed her mistress and unwittingly assumed her powers was the day time stood still for her.
"Invincible assassins--HA!" the Dark Lady sneered. "The little slut figured out how to take you out--even without Tommy's help."
They had had her! Kimberly had been as good as dead; if only Tommy hadn't interfered.... If she hadn't pulled the plug when she did, those stupid blast-happy robots would have fried him right along with Kimberly. That would have ruined everything! Tommy had to live . . . if he had died, there would be no hope of ever undoing the damned spell.
"This is all your fault, little pink bitch," the sorceress hissed menacingly, conjuring a vision of the hated young woman. "If Tommy had never gone back to you, none of this would have ever happened to me!" Clapping her hands together, she obliterated the image. Would that she could be rid of the woman as easily. "This isn't over, Kimmie, not until death claims one of us, and I have all the time in the universe!"
Laughter reverberated throughout the corridors of the deserted palace as its mistress swept through the lonely halls to begin her scheming anew. She would have her revenge.
Through the twisted, madness-darkened corridors of the Dark Lady's mind, laughter echoed--the shrill, screeching cackle of a mistress long dead at the sorceress' own hands.
"Such an evil kitty . . ."
Song List :
Chicago: Look Away
Queen: You're My Best Friend
Part V Chicago: Hard To Say I'm Sorry
I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love
Will You Still Love Me
Queen : Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Chicago: You're The Inspiration