"Sir? Your companion has arrived." The maitre'd gestured toward the front, and there she was.
Adam's jaw dropped. "Oh... wow."
Tanya was wearing a long golden-yellow gown with a single slit up the right side. Her sleeves were of a sheer material, and the whole ensemble billowed about her as if swept by a soft breeze. Her hair was carefully piled up on top of her head, and her ebony skin fairly glowed. Adam gulped. This was definitely going to be hard. Tanya was escorted to the table by three doting bus boys, each of whom snuck a kiss on her hand before they retreated back to the front of the restaurant. Tanya smiled down at Adam and struck an alluring pose.
"Tanya...." Adam stood quickly and hurriedly pulled out her chair. "You look... amazing."
"Thank you," she demured. "You don't look so bad yourself. I hope I'm not overdressed?"
"Oh, no. You... you're perfect."
He went back to his own seat and sat down, watching as she gracefully placed her napkin on her lap and took a sip of water. "Aren't you going to eat, Adam?"
"Oh, um... not yet. I wanted to... wait." She looked at him, confused. "What's wrong?"
"Well...." He hesitated, not sure of what to say. "I wanted to... talk to you...."
"Why? What's wrong?"
"Well, I... I...." He closed his eyes and said it in one big rush. "I think we should break up."
She blinked. "What?"
Adam faltered just a bit. "I think we should... break up?" She stared at him. "Oh." She picked up her napkin and neatly folded it back up on the table. "Why?" She asked, her voice deadly calm.
"Um... I just... I mean... we're not really... compatible."
"Not compatible," she repeated slowly, letting the words roll around on her tongue. "I see. And when did you come to that decision?"
"I've been thinking about it for a long time. I wanted to talk about this... it's why we're having dinner here..." he gestrued to their posh surroundings, "I want us to be friends-"
"Friends," she repeated, nodding thoughtfully. "All right." She stood and systematically pushed her chair back in before turning to leave.
"Tanya, wait!" Adam jumped to his feet, heedless of the stares that were beginning to come their way. "Where are you going?"
She turned and regarded him with icy eyes. "I seem to have lost my appetite, Adam." And with that, she stalked out of the restuarant.
Adam sank back down in his chair, his face flaming and a curious pain in his heart. "Oh.... Okay."
Her mind began to spout out reasons for why Adam - sweet, adorable, beautiful Adam - would do such a thing. _You messed up,_ she told herself. _Somehow, this is your fault._ Stopping abruptly in the middle of Lewis Avenue, she shook her head furiously. "No, this is all him." She told herself in a voice that allowed little argument.
She glanced down at her watch and sighed. It was still relatively early in the evening. She had expected to be out until early morning, so she had told her parents that she would be crashing at Kat's place. Of course she could always call Kat and ask her to pick her up, but that would mean having to explain things, and that was just about the last thing she wanted to.
"He broke up with me, he gets to tell everyone." She announced to the silent night. When it didn't reply, she sighed deeply. There had to be something she could do to knock back a few hours.
The beach. Of course. It was always a nice place to relax and think. She could take off her shoes and walk in the surf. Maybe that would calm her nerves and allow her to come up with some explanation. Because damn it, there had to be some explanation for what had happened.
_It's a nightmare, that's all it is._
_No, this is far worse than a nightmare._
She tried to tell herself to shut up but her mind had spun into overdrive. She needed some reason. She had to understand. It wasn't her nature to accept blindly. Especially when Adam Park was involved. This was so unlike him. Maybe he was in trouble or maybe....
"Or maybe we just weren't compatible, "she said firmly. The walk to the beach was a lot shorter than she had realized, but that was partially due to the fact that she hadn't really been paying much attention to the trip. As usual, the dark waves crashing against the beach presented an ideal setting.
"A romantic setting," Tanya said sadly, thoughtfully. She brushed a hand impatiently past her eyebrows and blew out a gust of air between her teeth. Sitting down on a rock, she removed her heels and then her stockings. She wanted to feel the sand beneath her feet.
She began to walk down the beach slowly, looking down at the ground as if she was trying to comprehend every single grain. They all fit into some great puzzle. "Like I used to. Oh Tanya, stop thinking about it."
"Stop thinking about what?" A strong male voice said from her side. She looked up startled and gazed into the dark concerned eyes of Rocky DeSantos. Standing beside Rocky was Jason Scott.
Tanya thought quickly, "Just how glad I am that my parents are home." As angry as she was, she had no interest in getting the others angry at Adam. All the boys were very protective of the girls, and she knew that fireworks would start if she told Rocky and Jason that Adam had broken up with her because they weren't "compatible."
Rocky didn't seem convinced. "I thought you were having dinner with Adam tonight. You know, the big night. It's all you've been talking about for the last week."
Jason chuckled, "Yeah, do you think I'd look good in this, in that...."
Tanya felt the dagger turn in her heart but she did all she could to maintain her composure. _Don't break down._ "Adam got called home."
Rocky touched her arm gently, "I'm sorry, I know how important this night was for you."
Jason nodded, "I'm sure he'll reschedule."
"Yeah, I'm sure he will." She echoed, hopping that they couldn't hear the torment in her voice. She decided to change the subject quickly before she lost it completely. "So, what's up, guys?"
Rocky gave her a look of confusion but then decided to let it pass. Instead he plowed ahead, "Guess what?"
"What?" She asked gamely enough, even though she hardly felt it.
Jason answered, "We just got a letter from Kim in Florida. She just invited us to come watch her compete in the Olympic trials, and she sent us airline tickets."
"Isn't that great?" Rocky gushed.
"Yeah," she replied, "That's great." She smiled but it never reached her eyes.
"Passengers of flight 552, boarding at gate 12."
"That's us," said Tommy needlessly, and the group gathered their carry-ons and got on their way.
Rocky fell into step beside Adam, and Jason teamed up with Tanya. "You want me to carry your bag?" Jason asked, mainly for conversation purposes.
"No," Tanya shook her head. "Thanks, though."
"No problem." He glanced back to see Rocky talking with Adam, who still looked pretty down. He said as much to Tanya.
"Oh, he's feeling down?" came the cool reply. "That's too bad."
"Tanya... why won't you talk to me? I know we haven't know each other for too long, but... I really want to help, if I can."
"I know you do," Tanya smiled sadly at him. "I just... don't feel like talking, okay?"
Jason sighed and nodded. This could be a long flight.
"7-G. I'm behind you." Then he glanced up again and said, "Oh man. " He looked across at Tanya and Jason and a strange shade of red overtook his face. Stopping dead in his tracks, he waited for Jason to catch up. Curiously, Tanya hung back a step. "Hey Jas?"
"What up, bro?" Jason asked easily, glancing once over his shoulder at Tanya who was watching the conversation with a neutral expression on her face.
"Um, you think maybe I can trade seats with you. You got 7-B, right?"
"Yeah. Sure, why, what's up?"
"Oh nothing. Is it cool though?"
"Sure." Jason replied easily. He clapped Adam on the shoulder and then continued to move down the aisle. He walked over to the sevens and instead of going to the left, he turned right and went to his seat. Tanya followed and sat next to him. Somewhere in the back of Jason's head a bell rang and said, _Ah hah._
Rocky turned left and went and sat next to the window and then Adam moved and sat next to him. Rocky shook his head. Tommy sat next to Adam and then Kat seated herself across from Tommy and next to Tanya.
"Hi and welcome to TransCon Flight 171 direct to Florida. We should be arriving about 2:30 A.M. eastern time. I hope you enjoy your flight. Let's get this show on the road." The pilot chirped. Someone several seats back cheered.
"It's gonna be a long flight," Adam muttered, slumping down in his seat. He wished the plane would take off so he could put on his Walkman. That would help with at least a couple of hours.
"Well, why aren't you sitting next to Tanya, lover-boy?" Rocky chided.
Adam gazed up at him wearily. How could he possibly know. "I don't know. Just aren't." Adam replied mysteriously.
Tommy leaned over, "Did something happen between you two? I've seen some looks... whoa, I'll tell you this much, Kim used to shoot me those looks and when she did, I can guarantee you I was either running like hell or down at the florist preparing to make amends."
Adam chuckled, "I wish it were that easy. Naw guys, it's nothing. We just had a little argument." Sure it was a lie but they'd be mad. Real mad. Especially Rocky. He'd taken something of a protective edge to Tanya. And sure maybe the way he'd done it had sucked but....
"Prepare for take-off." The pilot said suddenly, interrupting his thoughts.
He settled back against his seat and closed his eyes. Muttering he said, "God, I hate this, couldn't we have just teleported there?"
Rocky laughed loudly, "Oh come on, buddy, there ain't nothing like an eight hour flight to get the juices pumping."
"And to kill the circulation." Tommy chipped in.
Rocky sombered, "All right, enough, what happened, and don't get me any crap about a little fight. Did you break up or something?"
Adam looked up startled and stammered, "Wha... what?"
Across the aisle, Tanya leaned forward and said in a deadly calm tone, "I think he asked you if we broke up... Adam." She said his name in a cold, icy manner that sent chills up his spine.
"Bre... break up?" He asked confused as he gulped for air. Oh God, he hadn't been prepared for this. He looked across the aisle and saw Jason, Kat and Tanya all watching him. Jason and Kat looked confused but interested. And Tanya... oh man....
"Well?" Rocky pressed, his lips coming together in a stern line.
"You know what?" Adam replied suddenly, "I, uh, don't want to talk about this right now. It's uh, between me and Tanya? Right?" He looked at her with pleading eyes.
For a moment she considered giving him over to the sharks but them she relented and in a cracked voice she said, "Right."
Rocky shook his head, something was definitely not right and he was going to figure out what it was. He turned to talk to Adam again but the Green Ranger had already put his earphones on. Sighing, Rocky decided that it could wait... for now.
"Put your seatbelt on, Adam," Tommy answered, sounding slightly amused. "We're about to land."
"Wha time izzit?"
"It's about 2:30 am, EST. Why?" Rocky asked. Adam just shook his head and leaned forward trying to locate his seatbelt. Almost involuntarily, he glanced over at Tanya, and was shocked as their eyes met.
Tanya's face was almost devoid of emotion. Almost. Tommy had just turned to ask Kat a question when he caught sight of the drama. Immediately, dead silence fell among the small group. _What's going on with these two...?_ All the color had drained from Adam's face, and Tanya's eyes were burning with an intensity he'd never seen from her before- not even in the heat of a cog battle.
"Um... guys...." Jason's voice broke the silence. "Guys?" Tanya abruptly turned to face front, and Adam suddenly looked as though he was going to cry.
"Ohh-kay," Jason muttered. "Tanya, um... you sure you don't want to talk about this?"
She nodded tersely. "I'm sure. Let's just get this over with."
"Get it over with? Tanya, this is a really big deal for Kimberly-"
"I don't even know Kimberly, remember," she burst out, her voice an intense whisper. "Look, I know she's a really good friend of yours, and I wish her the best, but I'm just not in the mood to be cheerful, okay?"
Jason drew back, much to the amusement of Kat, who had never seen him waver before. "All right," he said hurriedly, holding up his hands as if to ward Tanya off. "Okay, I'm sorry. Let's just relax, we'll be landing soon, okay?"
Tanya nodded. "I'm sorry, Jason."
"It's okay. We just... well, you're both our friends and we hate-"
Jason glanced across at Kat, then at Tommy and Rocky. They could only shrug in confusion. Jason sighed at sat back, trying to relax until the landing. Somehow this wasn't at all as he'd imagined it would be.
A brother... what kind of siblings made out in front of the fireplace on Christmas Eve? No sibling of his, that was for sure. He sighed, almost involuntarily, and was startled as a hand fell on his shoulder.
"I was wondering when it'd hit you."
"I guess it just did."
"Well, brace yourself. She said she'd meet us at the gate."
"Right," he nodded. "I guess I'm ready." Jason nodded and continued to walk beside him, as if to offer silent support. Tommy had to smile. It was just like Jason to try to-
He gasped. "Kim...." Tommy stopped dead in his tracks and stared over at Kimberly Harte. She hadn't seen them yet but he could pick her out anywhere, anyhow. It was inevitable. Jason put a hand on his shoulder and followed his gaze.
Kim looked unsually awake for so damn early in the morning. Her eyes were bright and she was smiling. Dressed in blue jeans and a pink and white shirt, she looked amazing. Her hair was down and flowing over her shoulders. "Wow," Tommy muttered.
"Suck it in, bro. Kat'll kill you." Jason kidded him gently. He'd known how hard this was gonna be on his friend.
Tommy nodded and then continued to move towards Kim. "I wonder who that guy she's with is?" he asked.
Jason shrugged. "Probably her boyfriend. Kim'd have no probs... hey maybe that's the other guy." Jason shook his head. _Oh, this is not turning out how I planned._ The way things were going, Adam and Tanya were going to start throwing luggage at each other over the carousel, and Kat and Kim were gonna start pulling hair.
Tommy had almost hoped to sneak up on Kim, but Rocky, walking back with Adam, who was still sulking with his head down, changed that. The moment he spotted Kim, he yelled out, "Kimberly!"
She looked up quickly and saw him waving frantically to her. A huge grin lit up her face. She tugged at the arm of the man standing next to her and then she parted from him and threw herself into Rocky's arms. "Rocky!"
People looked around at them but they didn't care. One by one the others approached and she greeted them with huge hugs. She smiled warmly at Tanya and then gave her a hug also. When she reached Tommy, she leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Curiously, the man Kim was with didn't seem to mind. "It's so good to see you all. I want you to meet my team-mate, Dodge Brody."
"As in Dodger?" Jason asked with a smile. The tall blonde guy nodded and grinned mischeivously. He seemed the likable type.
As if she knew what Tommy was thinking, Kim quickly added, "Now Dodge is like my brother so you be good to him or you'll have to deal with me." Then she gazed at Dodge, "Same goes for you. No pranks."
He shrugged, "Sure. Fine. Whatever." He stepped over towards Tanya and offered to take her bag. Instinctively Adam looked up at Dodge and he felt a feeling of jealousy. Naw, couldn't be. Tanya smiled sweetly and gave Dodge her carry-on. Then she glared at Adam. After a moment she broke the glare and followed Dodge to the carousel.
Kim arched an eyebrow and looked over at Adam who seemed about ready to cry. "What's going on there, Jase? Your letters said they were the happy, perfect couple."
Jason frowned, "I know, but something weird's going on. They've been like this since yesterday after their date."
Rocky moved forward, "Maybe she got pissed that he got called away."
Kim laughed, "Ha. Speculation. I'll find out what's going on." She gave Jason another squeeze, "Come on, let's get your luggage. I wanna show you everything."
Rocky sagged, "Aw, it's 2:30 in the friggin' morning. All I want is a bed."
Kim grinned from ear to ear, "I'll buy you breakfast."
He smiled and shrugged. "Well, what's another couple of hours."
After the first pot of coffee had been injested, and everyone was more or less awake, the real conversation began. "How's your training going?... Does Coach Schmidt work you really hard?... What kinds of routines are you doing?..." The questions were endless, but Kimberly did her best to answer them. Finally, she put her foot down. "That's it! No more questions! I want to hear about you guys!"
Dead silence. Jason cleared his throat, realizing almost immediately that the others were waiting for Tommy to respond, but under the circumstances, there was no way that would happen. "Um... we're fine, you know.... The usual."
"I heard you were sick, Jason," Kimberly said pointedly, her face taking on a slightly worried cast, "Are you okay?"
Jason nodded, slightly embarrased. "Yeah, I'm fine. You know... it just took a little time, that's all."
"I was worried... the way Billy was talking, you'd think you were dying or something."
"Billy?" Adam perked up a little. "You've heard from Billy?"
"Oh yeah, he writes me all the time from A-" she stopped and glanced at Dodge. "Atlanta."
"How's he doing?" put in Rocky.
"Fine, I think. He and... Sylvia," she said pointedly, "Are doing fine, last I heard." She looked over at Tanya. "He told me a lot about you, Tanya. It's great to finally meet you in person."
"I hope he said good things?"
"Oh yes! I think he said you were, um... 'demonstrating superb adaptive capabilities.' Or something like that."
Dodge gave her a lopsided smile. "Oh, Billy's the one who talks like an encyclopedia?"
"Yup," she nodded. "See, I've told Dodge all about you guys."
"It's wonderful to see you again, Kimberly," Kat gushed. "I know we were all hoping to see you again soon."
"I missed you guys so much," Kim agreed. "And Adam, I was so glad to hear about you and Tanya," she added pointedly.
He paled again. "Oh, um... yeah."
"Billy said you guys were really cute together." She ignored Jason's warning look and kept going. Something was obviously up, and there was no way she was letting it slide.
"I thought so," Tanya said coolly. "Though I'm sure it's not a unanimous opinion."
Adam suddenly found the ring around his coffee cup extremely interesting.
Kim lifted her eyebrow. "Whadaya mean? Adam?" She was trying to give him her warmest smile because she knew how shy he got.
He looked away from the table and then stood up. "I gotta... you know... go," Adam muttered. He glanced at Tanya and then made a quick escape towards the bathroom.
Kim glanced over at Jason and tilted her head. "Um, I'll be right back." Kim said standing up. She patted Dodge on the shoulder.
He grabbed her wrist. "What are you gonna do, Kim, follow the poor guy into the bathroom?" Dodge asked with a chuckle.
"Poor nothing." Tanya said under her breath.
Jason gave her a worried look and then turned his attention back to Dodge. "Don't put it past her, bro." Jason laughed.
"Right, she's followed me into a crowded bathroom before." Tommy said. Then he blushed because he remembered just why she'd followed him in. It hadn't been just to talk, that much was for sure. Kim gave him a look.
"Then by all means, Kim." Dodge said standing up. "I will go pay for breakfast." He started to walk away.
"Oh no you don't," Jason said quickly, "We'll split it." He put out his hands. Dodge shrugged and the two disappeared toward the counter. Kim took her cue and headed off towards the bathroom.
"Tanya, wanna join me outside? I could use some fresh air," Rocky said, standing up and offering her his arm.
She gave him a tired look. "Anyone ever tell you that you're not subtle at all?" Tanya asked.
His response was to smile. "Fine, okay. We'll meet you guys outside, okay?" Rocky took her arm and escorted outside to the cool morning air.
Tommy glanced at Kat, who'd been staring at him ever since he'd said the comment about Kim following him into the bathroom. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, "It was a long time ago."
"Uh, huh." Kat replied, taking a sip from her glass. It was going to take far more than words to convince her that Tommy wasn't still carrying a torch for Kim.
"Oh, Rocky... I don't even know where to begin." Tanya said, looking up at him. He was wearing his concerned puppy dog expression which made her feel almost bad about worrying him.
"I can show you where to begin!" A voice yelled out. They both glanced quickly at each other in shock and then turned towards the voice.
"What the hell?" Rocky said out loud, his eyes as wide as plates. He put himself in his fighting stance and Tanya followed suit.
"Figures we couldn't have a quiet vacation," Tanya said bitterly. The creature in front of them had to be one of Zedd's creations. It was that ugly. It was a giant globe with feet and what looked like planets revolving around it.
"I am Dementio," It announced proudly.
Rocky adjusted his stance, "Never saw that name in a baby book. Tanya, call the others."
"Right." She nodded, reaching to her communicator.
"Oh no, you don't." Dementio cried. He reached over with his hand and removed one of the planets from its orbit. "Say goodnight Gracie." He reared back and threw it at them.
Before either of them could blink or even think to react, a bright light consumed them, and Tanya screamed as she felt her body being pulled towards the light. She reached out for Rocky and managed to brush his fingers. "Rocky!"
He struggled against the light while at the same time trying to re-establish contact with Tanya's hand. "Hold on." He yelled, reaching out as far as he could. He felt his hand slide against hers and he squeezed. A moment later the lights went out.
"Uh huh, sure. I wouldn't ask my head the same question. It hurts." She replied, trying to find her footing in the darkness. "Where are we?"
"I don't know but I think we can safely morph without being observed." There was humor in his tone.
"It's Morphin time." Rocky said, swinging his arms together. Blue light swirled around him.
"Zeo Ranger II, Yellow."
"Zeo Ranger III, Blue."
Yellow and blue light engulfed them but when Rocky looked down he felt his heart sink to his shoes. "We didn't morph." He announced dryly, all the humor gone now.
Tanya looked around, "Where the hell are we?"
Rocky made a face, forgetting for a moment that in the pitch blackness, Tanya couldn't see him. "Who knows? Let's try to contact the others." He tapped his communicator. "Tommy? Zordon? Can anyone hear me?" There was nothing but static. "Communicators are down."
"Now what? We have to figure out where we are!"
"Hold on, I think I have a lighter."
"You have a lighter?" He could hear the disbelief in Tanya's voice. "Do you smoke?"
"Of course not," he scoffed, pulling his keys out of his pocket. "I've got a portable one on my keychain." As he spoke, he lit the small flame and held it up in front of his face. "Oh there you are. Hi, Tanya."
"Hi," she replied drily. "Seems like we're in some sort of cavern."
"Yup," Rocky agreed. "Now let's find a way out."
"Easy. We'll look for a breeze. The second this light starts to flicker, we'll know what direction to go."
Tanya nodded. "Right."
Rocky began turning in a small circle, watching the lighter intently. "There!" he finally said. "It flickered, did you see?"
Tanya shook her head. "No."
"Well it did. Come on, this way." Rocky took her hand and began to lead the way. It was very slow going in the dim light the lighter provided, and both of them nearly fell several times.
"It's really rocky in here," Tanya observed. "Pardon the pun."
"Uh-huh," Rocky muttered, wincing as his ankle collapsed against a large stone. "I can't take much more of this. If one of us twists our ankle or something, we can't morph to heal it."
"Did you twist your ankle?"
"Almost. We'd better take this really slow."
"I thought we were going slow," Tanya sighed, but she slowed down anyway. The two walked in silence for a long while.
"I know," she said grimly. "That diner was pretty crowded, considering the late hour.... I hope there were no civilian injuries...."
"I'm sure Tommy and the others were able to handle things," Rocky said, with more confidence than he felt. "But I'll bet they're really worried about us right now."
Tanya just nodded. Then she stopped short. "Rocky, look! I see a light!" Sure enough, a tiny stream of light was peeking from around a cave wall ahead.
"Let's go!" Rocky picked up his pace, just a little, and they reached the opening to the cave.
Rocky just stared, speechless, unable to even respond to Tanya's reaction. Outside of the cave was a vast, colorful world, filled with vegetation of odd colors and shapes. "Would you look at that," he said finally.
"You think it's safe?"
Rocky shrugged. "One way to find out." He stepped cautiously out of the cave opening, his entire body tensed and ready for action.
"Be careful Rocky," Tanya fretted, her nerves ringing relentlessly. He nodded, eyes darting in all directions, waiting for something to happen. Nothing did. "Um, well... I guess we're safe... for now." He reached out and took Tanya's hand, bringing her out into the sunshine.
"I guess we should... try to find a way out of here."
Rocky nodded and let out a long breath. "Okay...." He squeezed Tanya's hand. "Let's go."
He sighed, "It's a long story, Kim." He ran his fingers through his rapidly growing loose waves. She arched her eyebrow at him. "I know, I know, we've got all the time in the world."
"Well, we do. Talk to me." She put an arm around his.
"I think I made a terrible mistake. I... I dumped Tanya." He confessed softly. He looked down at his hands which were trembling ever so slightly. "This is not how I had it pictured. She wants me dead, Kim. She hates me!"
"Why did you dump her?" Kimberly asked, trying to gather all the facts before she offered an opinion. As it stood she wanted to smack him.
"I told her we weren't compatible but I think... she just got to close. I've never been in a relationship that close before. Not ever."
Kim smacked him hard in the shoulder, "Are you like nuts? No, you are nuts!" She whacked him again.
"Ow! See, that's why I didn't wanna tell anybody cuz I knew you'd all be mad." Adam cried out, flinching away from her.
She sighed impatiently, "I'm not mad at you, I'm worried about you. What makes you think that ending a relationship you really care about is going to be painless? Sorry, honey, that's just not how it works in the land of the living."
He put his hand down and muttered, "I know...." Just then the door to the bathroom opened and they both looked up, startled. They had forgotten where they were. To their mutual relief it was Jason who entered. Actually, he stood in the doorway, neither in nor out with his hand on the door.
"We got a situation guys. It looks like Zedd decided to join us on our trip," He reported.
"No kidding," Kimberly said sardonically. "What's going on?"
"Some kind of dimensional weirdo. He got Rocky and Tanya in his...."
"Tanya? Is she okay?" Adam asked urgently. Kim squeezed his arm to offer support.
"That's just it, this Demento dude has trapped them somewhere and he's still out on the street. He's waiting for the rest of us. You should morph. The others already have."
Adam nodded, "Okay." The concern was still apparent in his eyes. "It's Morphin time. Zeo Ranger IV, Green." In a flash of green light, Adam was changed into a Power Ranger. Nodding at his comrades, he teleported out.
Jason grabbed Kim by the arm, "Come on, we may not be Rangers anymore but let's see if we can help out any."
"You got it," Kim chirped, feeling the old battle energy race through her. She and Jason exited the bathroom and headed towards the front of the restaurant, where a spectacular light show was taking place. They looked around and saw that many of the patrons were screaming.
Jason moved to a better vantage point, "Everyone just needs to remain calm. The Power Rangers can deal with the problem." He saw a girl about eighteen or ninteen weeping and he went to comfort her.
Suddenly the light show stopped. "What happened?" Someone asked. Kim shook her head desperately and wished that she had a communicator on so that she could ask the Rangers.
A moment later the door swung open and Tommy, still in uniform, entered. "The problem has been dealt with." Kim knew him well enough to know that he wasn't telling the whole truth.
Dodge, who'd been quietly watching all the events through sleep deprived eyes, reached up and tugged on her arm. "It's way too early in the morning for all of this."
"What about Billy?" Jason asked, "Maybe he can help."
THAT IS A GOOD IDEA, JASON. ALPHA, CONTACT BILLY AT ONCE. IF ANYTHING FURTHER DEVELOPS, I WILL INFORM YOU IMMEDIATELY.
"Are you sure, Zordon. I mean, I understand... I want you guys to find Rocky and Tanya," Kim said, leaning over and using Tommy's communicator. They were all standing in Tommy and Jason's room.
YES, KIMBERLY. THERE IS NOTHING THEY CAN DO RIGHT NOW, Zordon replied.
Tommy nodded, "We understand." He closed the link and then muttered, "Whada morning."
Rocky was gasping for air, his face a bright red. "Sun... way... too... hot...."
"Oh my gosh, I forgot about that! Your skin is so fair...." She looked around quickly. "We've got to get you into some shade."
"I... I'm sorry," he gasped, his chapped and bleeding lips barely able to form the words.
"It's okay," she assured him. "I forgot I'm not as sensitive to the heat as you are. Come on, you've got to rest." She guided him over to a tree and sat him down beneath it, in the shelter of its shade. "Stay right here, Rocky, I'm going to try to find some food and water."
"Are you... sure? I don't want you to go off... alone...."
"Rocky, I lived in the plains of Africa for years. I think I know how to take care of myself out here. Don't worry about me, just get some rest."
Reassured by her confidence, Rocky nodded and allowed his eyes to close.
Rocky moaned and tried to roll over. "No... my throat hurts...."
"Then drink this."
Someone put a cup to his mouth, and he took a reluctant sip. All at once, he realized how very thirsty he was, and he began to drink in earnest. All of a sudden, the cup was pulled away. "That's enough, you'll get sick."
Rocky opened his eyes a crack and was greeted by Tanya's smiling face. "Wha-?" He jumped. "What are you doing in my room?"
"We're not in your room, silly. We're in some weird dimension, remember?"
Rocky blinked and looked around. "Oh yeah... There's no yellow sky in my room."
"No purple trees, either," Tanya added. "Can you sit up?" she asked, placing a hand on this shoulder.
He did, albeit slowly, and winced as his head started to throb. "Ow... that hurts." He then got a good look at the "cup" Tanya had offered him. "What's that?"
"A coconut half. I know it looks weird, being bright yellow and all, but it is a coconut. I saved some of the meat for you too. When you feel better, you can have something to eat."
"What did I just drink?"
"Just water, don't worry. But I did save some of the milk for later."
"How did you figure out how to do all this?"
"Rocky, I told you. Years in the African plains, remember?"
"Oh. right." Rocky grinned sheepishly and closed his eyes again. Tanya settled down next to him and rested her head on his shoulder.
"I'm glad you're okay, Rocky," she told him, taking his hand in hers.
"Me too," he sighed. "We're gonna get out of here, you know."
She pulled him closer and squeezed his hand. "I know."
Jason touched Kim's shoulder softly, "Sorry, Kim. All right guys, we gotta figure this one out."
"Zordon said there was nothing we can do." Kat said quietly from the couch.
Tommy crossed the room and placed a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. "I can't accept that," Tommy told her. "We've had this crap happen to us too many times. We gotta find them. It's our duty and our responsibility."
Adam sagged against the wall and blew out a gust of air. It was obvious that he was disgusted with himself. He saw Kim watching him and he turned away, embarassed. "Tommy is right. This is bullshit. I get so sick and tired of Zedd, Rita or whoever the hell feels like irritating us today ruining everything!" His voice rose as he spoke and he became oblivious to the startled expressions on his friends' faces. They'd never seen him quite so angry. Kim reached out and tried to pull him towards her but he pushed her away. "This has gotta stop!"
"So... what do we do?" Kat asked. She glanced over at Tommy who had moved away from her and was now standing next to Kim and Adam. She felt a flare of well, jealousy rush through her. She pushed it down and kept her eyes on Tommy who was actually looking more at Adam than Kimberly.
"We bide our time. Hopefully, Billy will show up soon and we can get some answers. Meanwhile, we do what we came here to do. Kim," He smiled warmly at her, "Is competing tomorrow and I mean to be there to watch her."
"And you guys don't want to call any attention to yourselves here," Jason reminded them. "Act normal, not on alert. Someone should go down to the police department and fill out a missing person's report. At least half a dozen people saw them disappear out of uniform. They probably assume they were just kidnapped."
"They were 'just kidnapped', don't you remember?" Adam said dryly, the anger in his voice still apparent. He could see the others watching him with concern. But he didn't care. If anything happened to Tanya... or Rocky....
"I think he means by humans, not by some ugly... gross... yucky bad guys." Kim replied gently. "He's right. I'll do that."
"No," Kat said, "Tommy and I can do that. You, uh, have practice, right?"
Kim nodded. She wasn't the least bit fooled. Kat was obviously on edge by the fact that she and Tommy were getting along so well. Well, in Kat's defense, Kim herself was a bit surprised. She'd expected Tommy to be much more stand-offish. "Right... in a couple of hours."
Jason said, "I'll go with you, if that's allowed. I'd like to see you work out. There's really not much more to do around here."
Kim brightened, "Okay, yeah. Adam, how about you?"
Adam looked up startled, obviously he'd been off in his own little world. "Uh, um, what? No... I... I think I just wanna walk around a bit. But I will catch up with you guys about noon, okay?"
Tommy looked doubtful,"I don't know if that's such a good idea. Rita may be trying to pick us off one at a time."
"I'm a big boy, Tommy... I can deal with it. If I even feel a bad blast of air, I'll call you." Adam replied.
Tommy nodded, noticing the same anger brewing in is comrade that he been there after Kim had broken up with him. That either meant Tanya had dumped him or he'd dumped Tanya. Either way, it was tearing the Green Ranger apart. "Good," Tommy replied. "Well, it's still early. Let's all see if we can't get at least an hour or so of sleep. Ladies, you can have the beds."
"Damn. Stupid." He rubbed the spot where Kim had punched him absently. "What was I thinking?"
"I don't know," A calm familiar voice said from behind him, "What were you thinking?"
Adam spun around, his body tensing, and then he relaxed. "Billy."
Immediately, Tanya was by his side. "What's wrong?"
He stared at her, breathing hard. "Sorry... I was... dreaming...." He struggled to calm himself. "Sorry."
"Must have been some dream," she observed, and handed him a coconut half filled with water. "What was it about?" Rocky shook his head. "Come on, tell me. What is it?"
He turned away. "It was... about us. In this place. We were... you...." He broke off, gulping hard. "Never mind."
"Rocky, it was just a nightmare. As soon as you're strong enough, we'll start walking again, and we'll find a way back home."
"I know we will," Rocky assured her, somewhat sheepishly. "That dream came outta nowhere."
Tanya grinned. "Sure it did."
He smiled back. "Anyway, why are you so confident? I mean, I am too, but... what makes you so sure we're getting out of here?"
"Easy," she shrugged. "I'm with you." She hugged him gently and planted a quick kiss on his cheek before moving away again.
Rocky stared after her, heat rising to his cheeks. "Okay," he whispered.
Adam turned his head away, unable to meet Billy's eyes. "I really screwed up, Billy. I really really screwed up."
Billy nodded. "Okay... I'll need a bit more info than that. Look, I've gotta get to the Power Chamber and get to work. Why don't you come along?"
Adam hesitated, then nodded. "All right. Let's go."
"Yes, hello, Billy," warbled Alpha, pacing worriedly. "We have already begun searching all known dimensions for their power signatures."
"All right.... I'll begin a search for their life energies and bio signatures, and I'll implement a new technique I learned on Aquitar. We'll search for human emotions."
"What can I do?" Adam figeted nervously, his eyes flickering between Zordon, Alpha, and Billy.
"Well...." Billy considered, "For one, you can relax. We're going to find them, Adam, I've no doubt of that."
"I... I know...."
Billy smiled. "We'll get the search underway, and then the computers will tell us if they're located. Alpha can take care of monitoring it all, and you and I can talk. Okay?"
Adam glanced nervously at Alpha and Zordon, as if for approval. Finally, he nodded. "All right."
He clapped, "Nice going, Kim." Then he laughed, "I knew you could do it."
"Thanks." She bit her lip, "I'm just so glad you guys are all here. It means so much." Her shoulders sagged, "Everyone but Rocky and Tanya." She threw off the towel that he'd given her as she'd stepped off the mat. "You know, this was supposed to be a retreat for you guys. I mean, Zedd and Rita are dorks... they never attack anywhere but Angel Grove so why all the sudden here?"
"Oh, just because they felt like they hadn't contributed enough stupidity to our lives lately. It's been mostly the Machine Empire for the last year. That and well, face it," Jason said with a grin, "Zedd's always had a thing for you."
Kim punched him in the arm and groaned, "Ew, gross. Seriously, Adam's worried sick. We all are. Who knows what psychotic dimension Tanya and Rocky were sent to."
Jason shrugged, "That's true but you know the most important thing I've learned from being a Ranger is patience, Kim. It'll all work out, you'll see and everyone will be here to watch you."
She smiled again but this time it didn't meet her eyes. "I don't think Tommy wants to be here. He seems so nervous around me."
"Well, it's not like you guys exactly worked everything out." Jason reminded her. "I hate to say it, Kim and don't take me the wrong way or anything but the way you did it... it was wrong."
She stood up and started pacing around again. Finally she stopped and stared at him, "I know. I... I just didn't know what else to do." She glanced around, "Come on, can we continue this conversation outside or something? People are looking at me and it's making me nervous."
"Sure." Jason replied. He picked up the towel that she'd thrown down and wrapped it over her shoulders. The gym was unnaturally hot and so she was sweating a bit from her work-out.
Once outside she let the humid air strike her face and that was all it took. She sank against the wall and let out a deep sigh. Jason was by her side instantly. She smiled weakly at him. "Jase, there never was another guy."
"I know." He replied, his eyes locked on hers. She gave him a stunned look but he just squeezed her arm. "Kim, I've known you for what seems like forever. I read that letter you sent him and I could practically see you shaking as you wrote it. Why you did it, I still don't exactly know why but I do know that it was a lie."
"How...?" She stammered.
"All any of us had to do was look at you and Tommy. It was obvious to everybody how the two of you felt about each other. And we all saw how you were when you guys kissed. I don't know many siblings that stay under for fifty-eight point three four seconds."
"Billy timed us?" Kim said weakly.
"Uh huh. The point's the same. You wrote what you knew would push him away. Anything else would have had him demanding answers, but you knew if you said you had found someone else and that you were happy, he'd respect that. You were right. Even if it was a lie."
"I had to. I was just so lonely and miserable here without him but it was easier to deal with if I knew that he was doing better than me." Kim replied, putting her head down. "You know, I told Adam that he was a fool for walking away because it got too heavy, but I should have listened to my own advice." She shook her head.
Jason reached across and put her head on his shoulder, "It's okay. A lot of things can still happen. But one way or another, you need to be upfront with Tommy, okay?"
"It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Rocky's voice startled her, and she jumped slightly. "When did you wake up?"
He laughed. "Just a few minutes ago. I feel great, thanks to you. You really know how to treat a guy."
Tanya blushed slightly without knowing why. "You would have done the same for me. Anyway, are you ready to get going again?"
"Sure." Rocky stood and stretched his tired and cramped limbs. "Now's as good a time as any."
"All right." Tanya stood too, and began to gather up a few things. "I've saved a few coconut halves we can use to carry water on the road. That way we won't have that problem again. I've got two halves filled with water now, and if we each carry one, and pace ourselves, we should last until the next lake or river."
Rocky nodded. "Coolness. Are you sure just that much'll be enough?"
"Yes," she nodded confidently. "We're in a pretty lush area, so there's bound to be plenty of water around. If there was less vegatation I might be worried."
"Good point." Rocky grinned and took one of the coconut halves. "Well, let's get going, then."
Tanya shook her head. "One second." As Rocky watched in confusion, she stepped up to him and placed a bunch of leaves on top of his head.
"I made you a hat," she chuckled. "I know it won't win any fashion awards, but I wove it together-"
"It's like a sombrero!" He exclaimed incredulously, exploring the "hat" with his fingers.
"Sort of," she shrugged. "Like I said, I wove it, so it's a bit loose, and not very attractive... but it'll keep the sun from beating down on you so hard. Besides...." She paused and blushed again. "It kinda looks cute on you!"
Rocky grinned. "Really? You like it?" He pretended to walk down a runway, turning every which way and looking at her mock-seductively. "I'm... too sexy for my hat!"
She slapped him lightly on his shoulder, laughing. "Cut it out! C'mon, let's get going."
Rocky hugged her quickly, then grabbed her free hand with his own. "Right, we gotta find a way home."
"I didn't dump her!" Adam wailed, his eyes begging for reassurance. "I just... I got scared-"
"And you regret it," Billy finished, nodding. He sighed. "Do you want her back?"
"Yes." Adam's eyes filled with tears. "More than anything. I love her, and... I'm so scared I'll never see her again. She has to know how much I love her!"
"Do you think she knows? That you love her?"
"No." Adam shook his head miserably. "I told her we weren't compatible. I know how that sounds, it sounds like a brush-off."
"But you didn't intend it that way." It was a statement, not a question.
"Of course not! I just... I was scared and I ddn't know what to say, or how to say it! She's so beautiful and smart and strong.... She's everything I... Everything I'm not. So sure of herself and... so beautiful."
Billy stared hard at him. "Why didn't you tell her all that? Why didn't you talk to her? I mean, really talk?"
"I don't know! I told you I don't know, stop interrogating me!"
"I'm not interrogating-" Billy stopped, seeming to reconsider his words. Then, he spoke again, quietly. "I don't mean to sound accusing, Adam. I only want to help you work this out. I know you love Tanya, you know you love her... now all that's left is that she knows you love her."
Adam nodded. "But what if I never get to tell her?"
Billy shook his head determinedly. "We'll get them back, Adam. I promise."
Adam nodded, but his fallen expression remained plastered to his face. He sank back against the wall of the cafe he and Billy were standing outside of. The others were supposed to be joining them soon, although he suspected that none of them much cared to eat.
Billy shook his head sadly. Adam was taking it hard, but then that was only natural. He was scared. Brushing a shaky hand back through his blonde locks, he glanced up the street and saw Kim and Jason approaching. They were laughing and Kim was holding his arm, practically pulling him along.
"Well they sure look happy, "Adam said bitterly from his side. Billy glanced at him and noticed that the Green Ranger had pursed his lips. Billy considered telling him to relax but then realized that Adam was simply dealing with his guilt, fear and frustration the only way he knew how.
Kim suddenly leaped into the air and did a series of flips. Jason started laughing hysterically as Kim landed flat in front of Billy. Billy blinked and then stammered, "K... Kim...."
"Duh." She giggled, kissing him on the cheek. Her face was bright and cheery but one look at Adam sobered her up immediately. She reached out and wrapped her hands around his left forearm, "We'll find her. I promise. You'll get to tell her how you feel."
Adam thrust his arms up in the air desperately, "What am I? An open book? Cripes, I can't be that obvious, can I?"
Kim gave his arm a squeeze, "No... you're not... but remember, I know you." Then she glanced back at Billy, "I want to hear everything... everything." Billy lifted an eyebrow at her but then dipped his head casually in acknowledgement.
"Hey, Tommy and Kat are approaching." Billy told them. He noticed the way Kim tensed at Tommy's name. "Something wrong, Kimberly?"
"What... huh... no... Jason, stop looking at me like that." Kim snapped, staring back at Jason who was giving her a lop-sided smile. The grin only deepened.
"Hey guys," Tommy said as he approached. He looked at Kim and couldn't help himself from blushing deeply. Kat noticed and tightened her grasp on his arm.
"Hey, let's stop standing out here looking like idiots." Adam grumbled. "Let's at least go inside."
Jason replied softly, "Sounds good to me."
"Hmm?" She was as bored as he was, that much was obvious by the bags under her eyes.
"Let's do something."
"We are doing something. We're walking."
"Yeah, but we've been walking for, like, ten years. Let's do something else."
"Like what?" She glanced over at him curiously, intrigued. Rocky obviously had something on his mind, and knowing him, it would probably be fun.
"Well... we could... sing something."
Tanya rolled her eyes. "Oh brother."
"No, really! Did you ever have camp when you were little? And you'd hike through the woods singing those silly songs about... I dunno, goats and stuff?"
"Okay, I'll show you. I'm gonna sing a line and you repeat it, okay?"
"Don't worry, it'll be fun, I promise!"
Tanya shook her head, grinning. "Go ahead. This oughta be interesting." Rocky started to sing.
He grinned. "It only gets better. C'mon, don't stop! So he'd never come back, c'mon!"
"So he'd never come back," Tanya repeated, still laughing. Rocky continued...
"I know! My Mami taught it to me. My Grandma. It's funny, I never noticed how sick it was until now. Oh well, it's not over yet!"
"Oh no, please...."
"Man, that was so psychotic!" Rocky swiped a hand across his eyes, smearing his tears over his cheek.
"Oh god, I can't believe your grandmother taught you that!"
"Hey, it's no worse than that lullaby, where the baby falls out of the tree!"
Tanya gasped and started laughing anew. "Oh my god, the baby does fall out of the tree, doesn't he?"
"Yeah! And they say television is a bad influence on kids! Parents all over the world are threatening to throw their babies out of trees!"
They laughed until they couldn't laugh anymore, and finally just lay there on the ground, curled up in each other's arms, gasping for breath. Tanya broke the silence, once she was able to speak. "Rocky... that was too funny. I needed that. Thanks."
"No problem," he wheezed, tears still flowing down his face. Tanya placed a hand on his cheek to wipe off his tears, and he caught her hand in his own. They stayed there like that, just staring at each other, her hand lightly caressing his cheek.
They spoke at the same time, and broke off, giggling like school children. "You first," Rocky demured, his hand tightening over hers.
"I... I don't know what to say," she murmered, her face inches from him. "You don't have to say anything."
Their lips met.
"Affirmative," Billy replied. "However it my hypothesis that Cestria believes that I am... homesick. She has some of the Aquitarian scientists working on a way for her to stay on Earth long-term."
"That'd be great!" Katherine chirped. Somehow or another, even though Tommy was attempting to use both hands to eat, Kat remained attached to him. And yet he continued to stray. Every time Kim would look directly at Billy or Adam, he would sneak a glance at her.
Little did he know that Kim was doing the exact same thing. Jason however saw every glance and it gave him a compulsive urge to smack the both of them upside the head. "Yeah, Billy, it'd be nice to have the whole gang living on one planet."
Billy chuckled, "I would have to concur. I, uh... have missed you guys." He looked at Kim, "You too. How have you been doing?"
"Great. I love this place. I mean... it's not Angel Grove but it's pretty cool here." Kim replied. She snuck another look at Tommy and this time met Kat's eyes. They locked gazes for a moment and then both turned away.
"Exactly." Billy replied softly. He turned and looked at Adam who seemed to once again be off in his own little world. The Green Ranger was wearing a perfectly emotionless expression. "Adam?"
Adam blinked, "Huh, what?"
"Are you going to eat, silly?" Kim asked, picking up his fork and stabbing his hamburger with it. Tommy rose an eyebrow and chuckled.
Adam gazed at the meat, "Guess it's dead, huh?"
"Uh, yeah." Tommy replied. He reached over and took the fork out of the meat. On the way back, his hand accidentally brushed against Kimberly's and they both blushed and moved away from each other. Only Jason and Kat seemed to notice and their own reactions were worlds apart. Kat quickly grasped onto Tommy's arm.
Beep Beep BeepBeep Beep Beep.
Everyone tensed but Billy waved them down with an impatient flip of his hand. "It's mine. What's up Alpha?"
"Billy, your search has come up with results. " Alpha chirped.
"Great... we're on our way." Jason said, leaning over to use Billy's communicator. He nodded to the others and they all stood. Tommy put down the bills and they quickly exited the restaurant with Adam, now wearing an expression of excitement and hope, taking up the lead.
"We're clear." Tommy announced.
"Teleporting now." Adam replied.
"What do you have?'" Tommy asked moving to Billy's side. Adam and Kim stood on the other side with both Jason and Kat leaning over his shoulder.
"I think we've found them. They are located in sector 21-12."
"Good... hey what's that?" Adam asked pointing to a multicolored line on the scan.
"That's their emotional status. Something is going on... they are both very excited... and scared." Billy reported.
"Ohmigod... they could be in trouble." Kim said, placing her hands over her mouth. Instinctively Tommy placed a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. She put a hand over hers and for a moment everything that had happened between them since the breakup was forgetten. For a moment they were simply Kimberly and Tommy again.
Katherine stepped over to the viewing globe and touched it, "Let's get this done."
Rocky jerked away from her and leapt to his feet. "No... oh god, what are we doing? We can't do this, so why are we doing it?!"
Tanya stood and grabbed his shoulders. "Calm down, Rocky, it's okay!"
"No it's not! Tanya this is so wrong, you and Adam"
He stared at her, unsure of what to say or do. Her eyes were flashing, her lips pursed... _God, but she's gorgeous,_... "But..."
"But what?" She shrugged. "He dumped me, Rocky. No warning, no nothing. He just dumped me like a bad habit. I thought I had something special with him, but apparently he didn't agree. You and I... we've always been friends, haven't we? We get along so well... you make me laugh, and I feel safe around you. I just never really noticed you until now. Until we had this time alone and I really got to know you." She reached forward and cupped his chin in her hand. "Rocky... do you like me?"
"You... you're my friend...."
"That's not what I mean, and you know it. Do you like me, Rocky?"
"I... I...." He couldn't think. _Why can't I think straight?_ Then he realized. All the blood in his body was headed in one direction, and it wasn't going to his brain.
She was still waiting for an answer, but how could he possibly give one? Now, with her so close...?
He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. He had to answer, he knew that, but he also knew what his answer would be, and he just couldn't accept it. Maybe she and Adam were through, but that was no excuse... Adam was hurting... hurting bad, and it was his duty as "the best friend" to help him through it. What kind of best friend would be doing this?
"I... god, Tanya, I do like you. I like you a lot."
"But... Adam's my best friend...."
She nodded curtly and stepped away, her hand dropping back to her side. "I see." Rocky was chilled to the bone by the coldness of her voice. "It's always about Adam, then. I see."
Rocky suddenly felt as though he wanted to cry. "Tanya... that's not fair."
"FAIR? You want to talk about FAIR?!"
Rocky drew back, almost falling to the ground in shock. "How FAIR is it that he just DUMPED me with no warning and no reason? How FAIR is it that I got dragged to FLORIDA to meet this oh-so-special person I've never even MET, and I'm expected to be cheery and pretend nothing's wrong? How FAIR is it that I ended up STUCK here, God knows where, with YOU, and just when I think I've finally figured it out, you bring it all back to HIM! Tell me Rocky, is that FAIR? Huh?" She was crying by now, sobbing, punctuating her words with angry gestures and short gasps of breath. She swiped a hand across her face and struggled to control herself. "How fair is it, Rocky," she continued quietly, "that I have to give up my happiness for him?"
She collapsed to the ground and dissolved in tears, her entire body vibrating. Rocky just stood there, dumbly, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides, his throat raw and eyes wet. "It... it's not fair, Tanya," he managed. And he knelt down beside her and gathered her into his arms. "You're right, it's not fair, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you... I do like you... a lot... but I know you don't like me, not that way. You still love Adam, and it would be wrong of me to take advantage of you now. That would be unfair." It was his turn to cup her chin in his hand, and he did so, pulling her face up to gaze at him. "I know he hurt you, but Adam is still my friend. Both of you are my friends. I want nothing more than to hold you, and... to kiss you... but I can't do it. You'd only regret it later, and that would hurt me more than anything in the world." He paused and stared deep into space. "I know it hurts now, Tanya, but later you'll be glad I said no. You'll find someone special... not me, and maybe not even Adam, but you'll find someone. I'd rather see you happy with someone else than to be with you and know you regretted it."
She nodded mutely, her eyes still filled with tears, and she buried her face in his chest, letting him hold her tight. "I'm sorry I yelled at you," she managed finally. "That's really sweet."
He shrugged. "Yeah well... I thought Kim was crazy for dumping Tommy like she did, but... I guess now I understand."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh..." Rocky sighed wearily. "There was no other guy, she made that up. I still can't believe Tommy fell for it. I guess she wanted him to be happy, you know? She wanted to let him go, so he'd find someone else. Someone who would be there for him." He just let his fingers trail through her hair. "So... I let you go a long time ago. For Adam."
She nodded and sniffled, finally sitting up on her own and smiling sadly. "I never even knew you were interested."
"Would it be all right if I asked you to just hold me? Just for a little while?"
He considered that. "No strings?"
"No strings. Just friends."
"Okay." He once again wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. "Friends."
Billy couldn't even lift his eyes... he thought it'd been a great idea to hook the viewing globe up to the emotional scanner. With a little tweaking, it'd given them a visual. Not exactly one any of them had quite anticipated but a visual just the same. "Stupid, stupid, stupid," Billy muttered to himself, his fingers fumbling over the control panel. He finally managed to switch off the viewer and then he straightened himself up to look at his friends.
Tommy was standing next to Jason, both boys wearing matching expressions of shock and disbelief. Tommy kept looking down at the ground and then back up at Kim as if something in his mind had snapped. Of course Billy had a prettty good idea just what that was. Rocky's revelation about Kim....
Katherine slid next to Tommy and gripped one of his hands, "It's probably a lie," she insisted.
Adam looked up from where he had buried his head against Kim's shoulder. There was a light flicker of hope in his dark eyes as he gazed at Billy. Slowly, the ex-Blue Ranger shook his head.
"I doubt that even Zedd or Mondo or whoever would have been capable of fabricating the visual we just saw." Billy replied softly. He crossed the room and gripped his friends' arm supportively.
At long last Tommy found his voice. "Fabrication or otherwise, you heard and saw them, bro...they didn't do anything...." He glanced at Kim and then blushed as he muttered, "They would never want to hurt you, man."
Kim caught his words and dug her hands into Adam's back as her strength started to ebb from her. She saw Adam's eyes widen in alarm as his own pain was forgotten and he immediately focused on her. "Kim?" His voice pulled her back and she blinked.
Licking her lips nervously she shook her head. "I'm fine.... I'm, uh... late for... uh... practice.... I'll catch up with you guys later. Billy, would you uh...?"
He nodded, "Affirmative, Kimberly." He moved over to the controls.
"Thanks. Contact me the minute you hear anything, okay." And with that she was gone.
Absently Adam rubbed his back. He muttered, "That was sure strange. I coulda sworn Kim said she didn't have practice 'til much later...."
"She doesn't." Tommy said flatly. "I'm going after her." Jason rose an eyebrow and then faught back the small smile that was threatning to spring to his lips. He glanced over at Katherine who looked shocked.
"Tommy, she wants to be alone," Kat insisted.
"No," he replied, "She only thinks she does." He placed his hand on his communicator and was about to teleport out when Kat placed her hand over his.
"You're right, I'll go with you. Um... a female perspective might help."
Tommy looked like he was considering her words but none of the boys were even remotely fooled. Jason stepped forward, "I think Tommy should go alone... the rest of us need to work on bringing Tanya and Rocko home."
Kat looked she was about to protest until Adam very softly placed a hand on her shoulder. In his quietest, most sincere voice, the young Green Ranger said, "Please, I really need you right now."
Unable to deny him, she nodded. She squeezed Tommy's hand, "Okay, go on and help her." She leaned forward and kissed him. Tommy broke first and then teleported away without saying another word. Kat glanced over at Jason and whispered, "I've lost him, haven't I?"
The boys all looked at each other without saying anything. Billy started to speak but Kat held up a finger to his lip. "No, no, I finally understand the truth... I haven't lost him... because I never had him." She took a deep breath and then composed herself. She could tell the others still gazing at her sympathetically so she said, "This isn't the time, boys.... All that really matters right now is that we have got to find a way to bring Tanya and Rocky home."
Billy nodded. "Now that We've got a visual, it's only a matter of time before I can lock onto their signals and teleport them back here safely. It didn't look as thought they were in any immediate danger...." He let his voice trail off, unsure of what else to say. Billy sighed to himself. This wasn't working out at all. Adam was a wreck. Finding his friends had turned out to be even more heartbreaking then losing them in the first place. Kat, too, was uncommunicative and moody, though she tried to hide it. Jason appeared to be the only sane person in the room.
"Hey Billy," he said, coming up behind the young genius, "You need any help?"
"No," Billy answered quietly. "It won't be long. I'll have contact in a second."
Jason nodded, than clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Quit blaming yourself for all this, Billy. You couldn't have known what was happenning out there."
"I know," he sighed, a blush rising to his cheeks. "I just... this is such a huge mess...."
"Yeah, and you had nothing to do with it. Just get them back here and then we can worry about hurt feelings and all. After they're safe."
Slightly reassured, Billy got back to work.
Tanya looked up at Rocky, who was still holding her tight. "Is has gotten a little cold, hasn't it?"
"And dark," Rocky added worriedly. "I think... I think something's going on."
"Like what?" Tanya sat up, alarmed.
"I dunno. But something... I was wondering why Zedd would send us to a perfectly beautiful and safe place... there has to be something icky lurking around... just waiting for us. We'd better be on the lookout."
"Oh." Tanya shivered and looked around nervously. "Okay."
Rocky pointed up into the sky. "That can't be good...."
Jason, Adam, and Kat ran up behind him. "What's going on?"
"It's Rocky and Tanya! Their fear, excitement, and adenaline levels are through the roof... I think they're under attack!"
"Get that visual back," Adam commanded, his voice tight. Billy hesitated, but then complied. It had to be done. He mentally crossed his fingers as he flicked the switch.
"Oh my God, what is that thing?" Kat's hand flew up to her mouth, and she took an involuntary step back.
"Whatever it is, it's not friendly. Billy, have you got contact yet?"
"If I had contact, I'd have done something about it by now!" Billy was near hysterical, that much was obvious. His fingers flew accross the console. "I'm doing the best I can...."
The rangers watched helplessly as their friends fought a losing battle.
Kim sagged down against the wall of the alley that Billy had teleported her into. She'd have to talk to him about that, alleys were just so not her scene. Dropping her head down to her hands, she began to cry softly. _Get it all out now, Kim. Deal with it so that you can concentrate on helping Rocky and Tanya._
"Hey, beautiful, don't cry." A soft voice said from her side. She looked up and sure enough, there was Tommy, standing above her... well... actually he was towering above her. He quickly went to one knee and swept her into his arms.
She wanted to ask him questions but the words wouldn't form in her mouth. Her throat was dry and her mind went blank. All Kimberly knew for damn certain was that it felt good in his arms. It felt right. She curled closer to him and allowed Tommy to rock her against his chest.
"It's okay, Kim, it's all okay." Tommy whispered into her ear. He pressed his face to hers. The next thing either of them knew he was kissing her face and moving progressively closer to her lips. Kim moved her head ever-so-slowly so that he could reach her mouth sooner and then as if impatient, she reached across and pulled him to her.
And yet she pulled away first, barely able to breathe. Still she managed, "Don't do this if you're not sure, Tommy. I want to be with you because you want to be with me... not because you're having a rough patch with Katherine."
He stared back at her with disbelief in his eyes and then he pushed himself to his feet and started to pace about. For a moment he looked like he was about to leave and then he spun back and glared at Kim, "I've always been sure about what I wanted, Kimberly. It has always been you. Always. That will never change. I wish I could say the same about you."
It was as if he'd thrown a dagger into her chest. She felt the tears in her eyes begging to roll down her face but her pride made her wipe them away. "That was a mistake, Tommy... I admit that... is that what you wanted to hear? I made a mistake."
He shook his head, "I still don't get it, Kim. Another guy? I mean, I thought we were close enough that we could talk about these things. Jesus Christ, Kim, do you think I'm such a jerk that I wouldn't have understood that you were lonely?"
"Do you really think that was all it was, Tommy? I was lonely so I decided to fool around with someone else? Is that what you think of me?" Kim asked with disbelief.
He turned and looked at her, momentarily speechless and then he finally murmured, "Well, I'll be honest, which is more than you've been, I don't get it. After all we had, after all we went through together, putting our lives on the line constantly for each other, how could you leave me with a letter?"
She bowed her head, "Because Tommy, I never would have been able to let you go any other way."
"What? I don't understand." Tommy replied, his anger melting away.
She looked up at him and he saw the tears streaking down her face. She didn't even seem to notice. "I loved you so much that it hurt not being able to feel your arms around me every night. It hurt like hell being three thousand miles away from each other and then knowing that it was my decision that pulled us apart. I couldn't live like that... walking out of my hotel room every morning and hoping somehow that you'd be there. I couldn't concentrate... I couldn't think... I just wanted to be with you. I was depressed but that wasn't all, Tommy. I could have survived... I could have dealt with my own depression...."
Tommy tilted his head and whispered, "What are you talking about?"
She took a deep breath. Well, after all this time, he deserved to know the truth. What did it matter anyway; she was certain she'd lost him for good. "About a week before I sent you the letter, the boys called me on the phone... Rocky and Adam. We were just talking and laughing and then I asked how you were and there was a huge pause and then Adam said you were fine. I realized he was lying so I made Rocky tell me the truth. He told me that you were depressed and lonely... I couldn't do that. It occured to me that as long as you were tied down to me...." Kim took a deep breath, "I wanted to give you a chance to be happy."
Tommy went numb as the realization of exactly what Kim had done struck him full-force. "There never was another man?"
She shook her head, "Not since you. I've gone out a couple times but nothing serious. I love you, Tommy. What I did was for the best."
"What right have you to decide that?" Tommy exploded. His outburst made Kim take an involuntary step backwards. He'd always had a bad temper but it had rarely if ever been directed at her. "You didn't even give us a chance! We could have made it work but you didn't let us!"
"Don't you think I know that!" Kim screamed back at him. Just as his temper raging at her was unusual, her anger was even more-so out of place. Her words had he effect of an ice cold bucket of water being thrown over him.
He stepped over to her and reached out to take her into his arms but she pushed him away, glaring up at her with so many emotions visible in her eyes. She slammed against his chest with one fist.
"I don't need your sympathy, Tommy. I know what I did and I wish to God every single day that I could take that latter back but I can't. What's done is done."
He held her hand and managed to pull her to his chest, "Yah, Kim, what's done is done but that doesn't mean we can't go from where we are right now. The truth is out, Kim. I finally know why you did what you did and although I don't agree with, that doesn't mean I don't love you. I do... I never stopped... I never will."
Her only reply was to push herself further into his chest, tears staining his shirt. It hurt him to see her so upset but it felt good to be holding her in his arms again. He dropped down to the ground again and began to stroke her head and murmur nonsense words.
Behind him a flash of light pink appeared. Katherine took a deep breath and walked towards them. She'd made her decision just as they'd made hers and as far as she was concerned, the most important thing was the friendships she shared with Tommy and Kim. Part of her had always known that she'd never really had Tommy, but she'd held on hoping that he'd let go of Kim. Deep down inside, she'd always known that he never would. Kim and Tommy were meant to be so they would be, and she wasn't about to stand in their way.
"Tommy, Kimberly?" Katherine murmured softly, so as not to alarm them. Tommy looked back at her and she could see that he was clearly exhausted. She leaned closer towards the couple and noticed that Kim was pressed to his chest, still unaware of her presense, and crying softly.
"What's up, Kat?" Tommy asked her. She could plainly see a bit of apprehension and fear in his eyes. _He thinks I'm going to totally lose it and flip out on them._
She placed a hand on his shoulder and whispered into his ear, "It's okay, Tommy. Believe me, I understand. You and Kim are two of my dearest friends, I wish you all the happiness in the world."
He gazed back at her for a moment as if confused and then he smiled. He placed one of his hands atop Katherine's and said, "Thank you, you really are one of my best friends... I hope you know that."
She smiled, "I do."
"Good... now, what's up?" Tommy asked, straightening up. Kim blinked and also came back to alert status. She looked up at Katherine but all she saw was a peaceful easy-going expression.
And then it changed to one of worry, "We gotta get back to the Power Chamber, Rocky and Tanya are in serious trouble."
Tommy jerked to his feet, almost dropping Kim. He offered her a hand and then gently pulled her up but it was obvious to both former and current Pink Rangers that Tommy Oliver had slipped back into leader mode. "What?" He exclaimed.
"I'll fill you when we get to the Power Chamber but we need to hurry," Katherine replied.
Tommy looked over at Kim, "Maybe you'd better sit this one out, let us deal with it. You've got a big competition to concentrate on."
Kimberly gave him a dirty look, "Whatever. I'm with ya guys all the way."
He didn't respond. She was on her own.
The cloud of mist grew closer, and she swore she saw a grin in its nonexistent features. Now for you, Yellow Ranger, it hissed.
Tanya's eyes flashed as she stood over Rocky's battered and motionless body. "You may be bigger than us, and stronger than us, but we have something you don't."
Your friend doesn't have anything, the monster chuckled cruelly. Not even his life.
Tanya faltered. Rocky couldn't be... no. She had to focus. He had fought to the end to protect her, and now it was her turn to do the same. "He has more than you'll ever have... even in death he's got more."
Oh? It seemed almost interested. And what could that corpse possibly have that I don't?
"Friends," she answered. "We have friends." And she leapt at it.
"What is that thing," he whispered, his voice trembling. I HAVE COMPLETED A SCAN ON THE MIST MONSTER, Zordon answered grimly, AND I FEAR THAT UNLESS WE FIND A WAY TO JOIN TANYA IN HER FIGHT AGAINST IT, SHE WILL SURELY PERISH.
"Zordon..." Adam spoke, his voice taking on a pleading tone. "Is Rocky.... Was it telling the truth?"
Zordon was silent for a long moment. ROCKY IS STILL ALIVE, BUT HE NEEDS IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION. WE MUST-
"I got it!" For the first time in a long time, Zordon was interrupted by one of his pupils.
All of the Rangers, past and present, ran to surround Billy at the surveilance console. His face was flushed, and his fingers flew across the buttons and switches, but he was grinning for the first time since they'd seen him. "Guys," he said excitedly, "I've almost got specific coordinates! Rocky and Tanya's signals were too weak to trace, but that monster is so huge.... Hold on, and get ready to teleport."
"All right!" Tommy clapped Billy on the back, and the three remaining Zeo Rangers took their positions. "It's Morphin Time!"
"Zeo Ranger One, Pink!"
"Zeo Ranger Four, Green!"
"Zeo Ranger Five, Red!"
In three flashes of color, they were gone.
Where are your friends now, Yellow Ranger?
"Right here, ya big bag of wind!"
Tanya's heart lifted as she caught sight of three brightly colored figures, now surrounding her. "You made it! You're really here!"
"We're here Tanya," Adam told her gently. "And... And we'll never leave you again."
Before Tanya could even begin to ponder what he meant, Kat placed a hand of her shoulder and teleported with her back to the Power Chamber.
"Ya, it's me," the other girl said gently. "Come on, sit down, we gotta take care of those wounds."
Tanya watched as Jason picked Rocky up gently, cradling him to his chest as if he were a child. He placed him on the diagnostic table, and Billy and Alpha immediately got to work examining him.
Kat nodded to Tanya curtly. "Don't worry about a thing," she said. "Everything will be okay." And with that, she teleported back into battle.
"Time to clear the room," Tommy chirped, coming at the monster with a high kick. Irritated, the mist creature threw him off with a flick of his hand. Tommy hit the ground panting and stared upwards. "Uh oh, we're in trouble."
Adam offered him a hand and pulled him to his feet. "I'm not ready to concede the battle yet." His tone was icy and laced with anger. Tommy nodded to him.
"All at once." Tommy said quietly. Immediately Katherine, Tommy and Adam formed a triangle around them. And yet they were all very aware of the fact that without Rocky and Tanya, they were severely under-manned. Tommy lifted his hand and they all charged. Only Adam managed to connect.
Just the same, it was a powerful kick and for the first time, the monster went down. Adam stood above it and delivered another kick, "This is where it ends," he growled. "I will not let you hurt anyone else I care about." He flew around in a complete circle and slammed his foot against the creature. "Ever... ever... again!"
Behind him Katherine and Tommy just stood stunned. Finally Kat grabbed his arm, "We need to help him." He nodded and started in Adam's direction.
The monster made a growling noise and then reached out and grabbed Adam's foot. Careless ranger, it scolded, Allowing emotion to overtake you... you might have had a chance.... Eyes glowing, he turned Adam over and reached towards the helpless Green Ranger. A moment later, Adam screamed.
Tommy pulled out his blaster. Sure his shot wasn't clean but at this point it didn't matter... the monster was killing Adam. He nodded to Kat and they both fired. The creature gazed up at them reproachfully and then a moment later blew apart. Tommy and Kat were at Adam's side instantly. "Are you all right buddy?"
Adam looked up at them, confused and disoreientated. He tried to speak but the words made no sense even to his own ears. He swallowed and took a deep breath and then he extended his arm. "Help me up, I'm okay."
Tommy lifted him to his feet and gazed at the dark marks on the ground, "Well that wasn't so hard."
Adam turned away from him, a strange light in his eyes and he said, "No... not at all. Let's get back to base camp."
"Base camp?" Kat said with a frown. "Whatever, let's go check on Tanya and Rocky." And with that the threesome teleported out.
His thoughts were whirling. Why had Adam calld the Power Chamber "base camp"? That was just plain weird. And that look in his eyes-
Tommy was jarred out of his thoughts as the green light beside him was violently wrenched away. A second later, he landed in the Power Chamber with Kat. Adam was gone.
"What... what happened?"
Billy was staring at the two of them, white-faced. "I... I'll pull Adam up on the view screen."
He turned to the surveillance console, and with a shaky hand, brought up an image on the view screen.
Outside, on the searing hot desert floor, stood Adam, but somehow, it was not the same person they knew. The young man's eyes glowed with a fury none of the teens had ever seen before, and his face was twisted into a menacing sneer. He was banging on the unyeilding walls, heedless of the blood beginning to flow down his wrists and arms. "Let me in, how dare you lock me out!" he screamed, his voice low and grating. "Come out Rangers, I'm not through with you!"
"Oh god...." Kat looked at Tommy with terror in her eyes. "What's wrong with him?"
"That's not Adam," Billy murmered. "That's why his teleportation signal was interrupted. That monster... it's inside Adam."
Tanya felt even more tears gathering in her eyes. "No... oh Adam... please, we have to help him!"
Billy looked over at Tommy, his thoughts plain on his face. Tommy gulped and nodded. "We gotta get rid of that thing," he said reluctantly. "And we... we might have to kill Adam to do it."
And you are powerless to stop me. You may only watch as I cause untold destruction throught your world!
He was surrounded by oppressive mist. It clung to his body, crawling all over him as if it were alive. It wrapped itself around his wrists and ankles, rendering him immobile. He could only watch in horror as the mist monster joined with Tommy and Kat and teleported with them to the Power Chamber.
It came as a complete shock to both of them when they slammed into the building and fell painfully to the ground. The mist monster growled furiously. What?! What is going on?
Adam smiled. "You can't get in. They know you're evil, and no evil being can enter the Power Chamber. You won't beat them."
It growled again, getting to its feet. I WILL defeat them, Ranger, and I will do it with your help.
"I'll never help you!"
Ah, but you already have. If it hadn't been for you, Dementio would never have trapped the yellow and blue rangers in my dimension. It was you who allowed me to exit my lonely prison and prey upon your world. And it is through you that I will conquer this world. Yes, Green Ranger.... you WILL help me. You have no choice.
"I...." Adam's throat went dry, and his heart gave a painful lurch. "No... It wasn't my fault...."
The monster just laughed.
The Adam-monster grinned at him, licking its lips. "I am Miklok, and I think you know what I want. I want your world."
"Well you can't have it," declared Kat. "Let Adam go."
"Oh I don't think so," Miklok laughed. "You can't defeat me, there's only two of you."
"Think again, ugly!"
Miklok looked up, its eyes momentarily widening in shock. "So... the pretty little yellow ranger has decided to join the party."
"That's right," she answered, stepping forward to join Tommy and Kat.
"And so has the pretty little Blue Ranger," came another voice. "Though I don't think I quite measure up to her."
Tommy looked around in shock. "Billy?!"
"In the flesh."
"Will be fine. I think you have other worries right now." The Blue Ranger motioned to Miklok, who was quietly fuming, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides.
"You dare challenge me?" it hissed.
"What? You scared?" Tanya taunted, placing her hands on her hips. "I think not. You'll never defeat me."
"Big talk for bag of wind."
That did it. Miklok leapt for her, snarling. Tanya shrieked and jumped aside, narrowly avoiding the savage attack. The Adam-thing began to grow bright green. "You shall see how powerful a 'bag of wind' can be, Yellow Tart!" it screamed. It raised its hands to the sky, and the rangers watched helplessly as a ball of pure energy began to form between its palms.
It grinned at them- a grin of pure evil, lit by the green glow from the energy attack. The green ball continued to grow, becoming brighter and more blinding by the second.
Tommy backed away slowly, never taking his eyes away from Miklok. He drew his power weapon, and the others followed his example. Miklok just kept laughing. "Billy, what's his weakness," Tommy whispered desprately.
"Unfortunately, we were unable to ascertain the solution to that particular problem before I departed from the strategy base."
"I wish you wouldn't talk like that."
"I know what you meant, but you took so damn long to say it!"
"My vocabulary tends to expand when I am in a heightened state of-"
"I use big words when I'm nervous."
"I noticed," Kat muttered under her breath. "There must be some way we can beat it."
"We can't," Tanya whimpered, never losing her defensive stance. "We can't hurt Adam!"
"We may not have a choice-"
"We always have a choice, Tommy! There has to be a way!"
Just then, Billy's eyes lit up behind his helmet. "I've got it!"
They won't, Miklok jeered. Not as long as I hold your life in my hands.
"They won't let you win...."
Ah, but they already have. Miklok brought his hands down to form a steeple over his breast. The green energy pulsed there, seeming to dance with excitement. Watch, Ranger, as I destroy your friends. Starting with the Yellow Tart.
"It- Tanya, look out!"
She stepped back in horror. Miklok was grinning at her, his hands poised for the release of energy that would surely kill her. "Goodbye, Yellow Tart," he said coldly. His hands came together....
Tanya froze. She hadn't screamed, had she?
"No, she's not a tart!"
Her eyes widened. "Adam...?"
The Adam-Thing had clamped both hands to the side of its head, and was arguing with itself. The green glow dissipated harmlessly into the atmosphere. "Leave her alone!"
"You dare to challenge me, green weakling?"
"I'm not weak, and I won't let you hurt her!" The Rangers watched in dumbfounded silence until Billy snapped out of his trace. "Guys, I think I know the way to get rid of Miklok and save Adam at the same time!"
"What is it," Tommy whispered, desperate not to interrupt the heated argument unfolding in front of them.
"It couldn't get into the Power Chamber because it was too evil, correct?"
"So, we should be able to destroy it if we bombard it with the pure goodness of the Zeo Crystal. That, in combination with Adam's... more unconventional techniques, should banish it from this dimension- and possibly any other- forever."
"Are you sure?" Katherine asked.
"We don't have a choice," Tanya decided. She straightened and planted her feet on the ground, then held her hands up side by side, palms facing Miklok. "Let's do this."
Kat nodded her agreement and stood beside her friend, her hands forming a circle.
Billy joined them next, making a triangle with his fingers, and Tommy was last, his palms facing the ground and five fingers splayed out.
"Zeo Ranger One- Pink!"
"Zeo Ranger Two- Yellow!"
"Zeo Ranger Three- Blue!"
"Zeo Ranger Five- Red!"
The energy shot from their outstretched fingers and sped toward Miklok. The ancient monster didn't see it coming until it was too late.
"Nooo!" It screamed, enraged. "You can't do that!"
Somewhere, over all the din, an exhausted young man had the last word. "We can, and we did. Get the fuck outta my body."
In an explosion of colors, Pink, Yellow, Blue, Red, and finally Green, Miklok the mist monster ceased to exist.
She glanced up at him with a large smile, "You are so over-dramatic. You know, Pablo is going to kill you when he finds out you stold all the programs, Dodge."
Dodge glided across the floor of the locker-room. He, unlike his female counter-part was already in uniform. Of course you wouldn't know that because he was wearing loose sweat-pants and a tee-shirt. "Honey, have you seen the pictures that bindayho put in here, have you?"
Kimberly slapped him lightly on the shoulder and then took one of the programs from him. She flipped it open and then gasped, "Ohmigod, these are from the party at Dan's place."
Dodge nodded, "Uh huh, the night you got drunk off your ass...."
"My first time," Kim murmured, staring at the picture of herself. In the pic, she looked pale and half out of it. It would have been funny if not for the fact that these were the official programs.
"Yeah, I recall." Dodge said with a laugh. He reached down and grabbed a towel and then he looked up at her and frowned,"You're not dressed yet, why?"
She gave him a dirty look,"Because you're in here standing over my shoulder." She reached for her flag-colored unitard.
Dodge placed a hand on her shoulder and leaned over so that his face was right next to hers. "Nah... I don't think so... everyone's been looking for you all day, Kimmie. Whatcha been doing? C'mon, tell me."
She patted his face and then stood up. He had no idea how badly she wanted to tell him that she and Tommy were back together. And it wasn't like he was a blabber-mouth or anything but she knew exactly what he would do. "Dodge, if I tell you, you gotta promise me that you won't be a jerk about it...."
He gave her a puppy-dog look, "I'm insulted." Then he grinned, "Okay, you change and talk and you've got a deal and don't gimme that look... I've seen you naked before."
Her jaw dropped open, "Excuse me? You have?"
"Well who the hell do you think it was that cleaned your sorry butt up after Dan's party. Girl, I had to drag you outta there and shove you under a shower."
Kim blushed, "Oh... okay... but don't look or... or I'll sic Tommy on you."
Hie eyebrow lifted, "Tommy... oh you didn't?"
She nodded slowly, "Tommy and I got back together." Despite her warning, she turned around and squeezed Dodge's hands. He wasn't exactly a genteman about it but he wasn't lewd either. He gave her a quick look over and then looked back at her eyes.
"Right on... that's great... wait... what about that cutie, Katherine?" She could see concern in his eyes.
Kim chewed her lip thoughtfully for a moment, "She gave us her blessing but I think she's still upset. After the competition, I am going to go talk to her. She and I were friends before this whole thing with Tommy ever started. That's what's most important, Dodge."
"Good girl. Well, hey, since now she's single...." Dodge began.
Kim smacked his forearm, "Dodger, you are incorrigable!" Then she grinned, "But I love ya just the same." She leaned forward and pecked him on the cheek.
"I would love to leave you two alone to continue whatever you're doing but the competition starts in five minutes." A voice said from behind them. Kim and Dodge looked up first at their coach and then down at each other... Kim's appearence alone was enough to raise eyebrows. She blushed and pushed on Dodge's arm to shove him away.
"Get outta here and lemme get changed." And then as an after-thought she said, "And Dodger, remember our deal."
Rocky frowned, "I think I can manage."
"She's right, Rocky, it would probably be better if ya just chilled," Jason said said softly. He took a seat between Rocky and Adam. Oddly enough, the two Rangers had barely said two words to each other.
Rocky made a stange growling noise and then threw up his hands. "Fine, sure, whatever." He glanced back at Tanya, "Something with caffeine in it, okay."
She nodded and was about to walk away when Jason said, "Hey, Adam, why don't you go with her? She could probably use the help bringing back all the food."
Adam glanced up at her with a shy expression on his face and then looked away. He wasn't sure if she was still angry at him but he was certain that he had no idea where to evne begin apologizing to her. Like she'd take him back anyways. So what if Tommy and Kim had been given a second chance....
He swallowed hard, "Nah... uh, I gotta go use the bathroom." He got up and jetted down the aisle, nearly tripping as he ran. Tanya glanced over at Rocky and Jason desperately. Then Rocky stood.
"I'm going after him."
The door to the men's room opened with a squeak, and Adam gasped, almost involuntarily curling up into a ball there on the floor. The door to the stall was still slightly open, and he could see someone walking slowly into the room. He shoved a fist into his mouth and scooted backward, praying he wouldn't be bothered.
"Adam?" Rocky called his name softly, heading slowly but surely over to the handicapped stall in the corner. He was almost sure he heard strange noises coming from in there, but the door wasn't closed completely, so the chances of him walking into something gross were close to nil. He gently pulled open the door. _Then again...._
His heart almost broke as he looked down and saw Adam lying there on the floor, his face blotchy and his eyes red. "Oh Adam...."
Adam just pulled even farther away from him, curling tightly into the fetal position. At that moment, he looked even younger than when they first metwhich seemed like ages ago. Without another word, he knelt down next to Adam and scooped the smaller teen up in his arms, ignoring Adam's feeble attempts to pull away. After a while, Adam's struggles ceased, and he sagged into Rocky, just letting himself cry. "It's okay," Rocky whispered hoarsely. "I mean it. It's okay."
"No, it's not," Adam responded, his voice thick with tears. "It's not...."
"You screwed up, so what? I screwed up, she screwed up... we all screwed up. Now we have to move on."
"I can't... I don't know how...."
Rocky sighed and placed a hand on the back of Adam's head, slowly stroking the growing curls. "I know it's hard, Adam... I know you're hurting... but she wants to talk to you... and so do I.... I don't want to lose your friendship over this... that's why I said what I did...." He stopped, feeling Adam stiffen against his chest. He decided to cut to the chase.
"Okay look.... I've never said this to another guy before, and I'll never do it again, so listen close. I love you, Adam. You've been my best friend for I don't know how long, and I'm not willing to lose you over a girl. Not even over a knockout like Tanya Sloan." He paused as Adam snickered slightly. "And you know what? She doesn't want to lose you either."
Adam spoke up, his voice muffled. "She said that?"
"She's worried about you. I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that you two will get back together, what do I know? But I do know that she cares about you, and she wants to work this out, but you've gotta talk to her, Adam. You can't keep this up, it's not healthy."
Adam nodded and pulled away slowly and reached for the toilet tissue. Rocky let his arms stay lightly around Adam's waist, and he watched as Adam dabbed at his wet face with the thin paper. "I'm sorry, Rocky. For everything."
Rocky gave a sad smile. "It's all right. I'm sorry too. We still friends?"
"Yeah," he sniffled, looking Rocky in the eyes for the first time in a long time. "Always." His eyes travelled downward. "I got snot all over your shirt."
Jason glanced down at the floor and then shook his head. He looked up at Billy and said, "Did you get a program?"
"Negative. In fact, I don't believe anyone else did either." Billy replied as he glanced around and observed other spectators also looking in vain for their programs. "Curiouser and curiouser."
Tanya glanced up, "What's that, Billy?"
He shook his head, "Nothing."
"Tanya, are you all right?" Jason asked, concern creasing his brow. She nodded slowly and was about to reply when she saw Adam and Rocky slowly making their way back towards them.
"Hey guys," Kat said softly. Rocky placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. How could she possibly know that he felt much the same way she did. She glanced up at him and gave him a small smile but it never met her eyes.
The boys took their seats with Adam finally getting up the courage to move next to Tanya. She looked at him and they locked eyes for a long moment but then they both looked away. Jason shook his head. The team was definately not in good shape.
"You'll do just fine, beautiful." A calm voice said from behind her. She started to turn but strong hands held her steady, keeping her faced towards the mats. His fingers rubbed at her shoulders and slowly the tension began to bleed away.
"Tommy... what are you doing here?" she asked quietly.
"Dodge came up and got me... he said that he thought you'd do better with me on the floor. I guess he begged your coach because here I am." Tommy replied.
"Did he gave you a hard time... his big brother talk I mean?" Kim asked suspiciously.
"You mean the part where he told me if I hurt you, he'd kill me? Yeah... don't worry, he's just watching out for you."
"Uh huh." She glided away from his fingers and then turned to face him. "I'm so glad you're here." He favored her with a smile.
"Hey, Kim... you're on." Dodge yelled at her.
The boys exchanged nervous glances. The tension was so thick that you could literally cut it. Jason looked over at Kat who was sitting next to Rocky. She'd barely said a word the entire time.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the first half of our program. We will continue in forty-five minutes. Please take this time to visit our snack-bars and souveneir shops," the announcer said.
Jason stood up, "Hey guys, let's take a walk." Slowly the others stood. Kat was about to protest but Rocky lifted her to her feet. He gave her his classic puppy-dog look and she smiled back at him.
Billy quickly took the lead. After what seemed like forever, they group broke through the crowd and resurfaced in the cool Florida air. It was a gorgeous night. Adam gazed up at the stars and sighed. It wasn't too long ago that he's been walking down the beach holding Tanya's hand.
Without realizing it, Tanya stood beside him, also staring thoughtfully into the night sky. Jason rose an eyebrow. This was almost amusing. Placing a finger to his mouth, he motioned with his other hand for the others to follow him away from Tanya and Adam. They nodded and slowly moved away from the couple.
"Thanks, you too." She replied, squeezing his hand. "Hey, where are you going?" She asked as he put his warm-up jacket on.
He brushed a hand through his hair, "I dunno... guess I could use some fresh air. I'll be back in about fifteen." He kissed her again and then left through the back door of the locker room.
"Well?" She squeaked to Tommy. He was looking down at her with a strange expression on his face.
Then he grinned. He leaned down and pulled her into his arms, "That was awesome."
"They left us alone," Tanya told him softly. She closed her eyes for a moment as if to pull herself together and then she reached out and took hold og his arm. "We need to talk, Adam. Right here, right now. I've got to know...."
"I love you," he blurted out. Then he looked down, his face deepening in color.
Tanya's eyes widened and she swallowed hard, "Do you really mean that?" Her tone wasn't the usual confident one. He glanced up at her and nodded. "Then why did you push me away? If you love me then why aren't we compatible?"
"We are," he croaked. "Oh God... I really screwed it up. Look, I don't blame you for hating me... truth is... I don't much like myself.."
"Oh, Adam... I couldn't hate you but you really, really pissed me off...." She paused and then added, "And you hurt me."
Unable to look at her he said, "I know, and I guess it doesn't mean much but I'm sorry...."
Shaking her head, she reached over and grabbed his shoulders, "Why don't you let me decide that? That's what the problem is, Adam... it's gotta be both of us or it's not worth it. We can't make the decisons for each other but we can make them for ourselves. I chose to love you... I still do...."
"You do?" He asked, lifting his head... "But... what about Rocky?" It was Tanya's turn to blush. She took a deep breath and replied softly, "We both made a mistake. We were scared and I was angry and we were both afraid of dying. But the whole time, I kept thinking that he ought to be you. It's that simple."
Adam glanced down at his hands for a moment and then looked up, "So... we can give it another try?"
"Hey, aren't those the words to the song? 'In chapter four ya break up, but then ya give it just one more chance...' hmm?"
He nodded, "Okay."
"You okay Kat?" Rocky's voice broke into her thoughts. "Hmmm? Oh yes, I'm fine."
He smiled sadly at her. "Bullshit."
She just gaped at him. He rarely, if ever, used words like that. "Rocky...!"
"Well...?" He sounded a little defensive, and it was then that she noticed the slight edge in his voice. "You look like crap, Kat. Well, as much like crap as is possible for you. And for you, that means you look just slightly more beautiful than mere mortals."
"No. I'm going to keep going until my face turns blue. It'll match my uniform."
She giggled again. "How do you do it?"
"You're always so... up."
"Well yeah. I figure the alternative isn't too pleasant."
"No, it's not." She looked at him for a long while, studying him. He started to get uncomfortable. "What?"
"Nothing," she smiled. "I was just...." With that, she grabbed him in a hug and rested her head on his shoulder.
Rocky startled at first, then melted into the hug. They just stood there together, taking comfort in the closeness.
"Can I cut in?"
They jumped apart, startled and embarrassed. "What...?"
"Whoa, sorry!" Dodge back away and held his hands up in a surrendering gesture. "I didn't mean to scare ya."
Kat flushed. "It's... okay."
"Hey didja like the competition so far?"
"Oh yes, it's been very exciting," Kat answered. "What did you think of the programs?"
"Um... we didn't get any. I don't think anyone did."
Dodge grinned. "You're right. No one did. Know why?"
"Because I took 'em all! Here." He pulled a crumpled program out of his pocket.
"I can't believe you!" Kat took the program from him, wide-eyed. "Why would you do a thing like that?"
"Look at it," he answered, still grinning. Kat opened the program, stared for a moment, then smiled up at him. "Oh, well... you did the right thing."
"I know," he conceded. "She looked like... well, not good."
Kat smiled. "I think I'll keep this. As a souvenir."
Dodge looked at her reproachfully. "Do I detect a bit of jealously?"
Kat flushed again. "No...."
"What does she have that you don't have? Nothing, that's what. In fact, you have more."
"Oh? How so?"
Dodge flashed her a winning smile. "You've got me, babe!" Neither of them noticed as Rocky quietly slipped away.
She jumped up into his arms and pressed her mouth against his. It was such a sudden move that at first it startled him but then slowly he settled into it and murmured, "Congratulations, Kim...."
"I won!" She yelled, jumping up and down. She looked over and saw Dodge who was standing very near to Kat and she bounded over. He grinned as he saw her approaching and then he pulled her into his arms and swung her around. "We won, Dodgie!"
He put her down and kissed her on the cheek, "Yes, we did." He pumped his fist into the air and let out a howl of victory. "And now...." he turned to Kat, "Ahem... we have a... uh... victory party... would you care to be my date?"
Katherine grinned and nodded slowly, "I would be honored."
Dodge laughed, "Excellent." He glanced around at the others, "You guys are all invited too. I think both Kim and I are thankful for your presense."
Kim dipped her head and acknowledgement and moved back over to take Tommys' hand, "I know I am. So, you guys are coming right? Adam? Tanya? Boys?"
"Sounds like fun," Tanya said. "Count me and Adam in."
"Good to hear it," Kim said softly. "Jase? Billy? Rocko?"
"Party!" Jason yelled, high-fiving Tommy.
"Affirmative." Billy replied.
"Rocky?" Kim urged. He looked up at her and for a moment she thought she saw a flash of something in his eyes but he quickly changed his expression back to an impish grin.
"I'll make my way there eventually," Rocky replied. He kissed her on the cheek and started to walk away. Tommy moved as if to follow but Kim put a hand and indicated that she would go.
"Rocky?" She asked, stepping around the corner. "You okay, honey?"
He smiled and laughed, "Kimberly, you worry too much... I'm just exhausted is all. It's been a long couple of days. I'm okay."
"Okay." She squeezed his hand and then bounded off back towards Tommy. Rocky stood there a moment, the plastic smile frozen on his face. He watched them- Billy and Jason, as close as always - Adam and Tanya, more in love than ever - Kimberly and Tommy, finally together, their souls complete... even Kat and Dodge looked happy. They made an adorable couple.
Rocky's smile faded as they all disappeared into the crowd. _And the cheese stands alone._