Author Notes: I don't own the Power Ranger, or the songs "Distance" by Jamie Walters or "Strong Enough (to be my man)" by Sheryl Crow... With that said, on with the story!

Tortured Souls 4
by: Mary "Signkat", Sara "Trini" and a lot of help!

The wooden floor pulsated rhythmically beneath their chairs, as the wildly moving colored lights bounced off the dance floor's occupants.

"I don't know why I agreed to this. You know I hate being fixed up, Trini!" Kim contested over the sound from the dance floor.

"Oh come on, Kim. It's about time you got out and had some fun! Besides, this guy sounds great. I'm sure if Jason didn't trust him or think that you two wouldn't get along, he wouldn't have even suggested it," Trini insisted, as if the reasons were obvious.

"Do you seriously think we'd let you get hurt?" she added, letting her closest friend ponder it for a few moments.

The soft tempo of a ballad reached Trini's ears as she watched the crowd on the dance floor dissipate. Catching the gazes of a few young gentlemen, Trini quickly looked away as she began scanning the crowd near the door again for any sign of the guys. Within seconds, she spotted the familiar face of her one true love.

"Oh, there's Jason!" she exclaimed as she jumped up out of her seat, waving her hand frantically, trying to catch his attention.

"Hey, we finally made it," he called out, returning her wave as he made his way over to them.

"Have you gals been here long?" Jason questioned, threading his arms around his girlfriend's waist to hug her.

"No, only about 15 minutes or so," replied Trini, as she melted into the embrace. Casting a look over Jason's shoulder, Trini frowned when she was unable to see his companion.

"Where's your friend?"

"He had to use the restroom, but he saw where the table was and will be here in a minute. Do you wanna dance, my lady?" Jason asked in his most gallant voice, while offering his hand to her.

Trini blushed just slightly, but continued on with their secret game. "I would be honored, kind sir."

A huge smile lit up Jason's face as he pulled Trini away from the table.

"Have fun,Kim, and remember, OPEN MIND!" shrieked the young lady in yellow, as Jason scooped her up, then twirled her around before settling into the flow of the multitude of couples that occupied the floor.

Sighing quietly, Kim slumped in her chair, as she watched the outpouring of love that was displayed on the floor in front of her. So many happy couples clung tightly to each other in hopes that they could somehow get even closer. Slowly, the song lyrics began to seep through her thoughts.

God I feel like Hell tonight
Tears of rage I cannot fight

*God, why did they have to play this song?*

I'd be the last to help you understand
Are you strong enough to be my man?

*Oh Tommy, if you only knew....*

Nothing's true and nothing's right
So let me be alone tonight
You can't change the way I am
Are you strong enough to be my man?

*Whatever I want never seems to matter as much as what *she* wants - no matter what I have to give up to accomplish it! I'm beginning to think that I'm just a puppet, and not a person. Why couldn't I have just told you how hard it was for me? But then, I guess trusting has always been my weakness.*

But please, don't leave.
I have a face I cannot show
I make the rules up as I go

Kim fought against the inevitable wetness that trembled on her eyelids and threatened to assault her cheeks once more. *I ruined the best thing I ever had by sending you that STUPID letter... I'm so sorry, Tommy,* she pleaded inwardly. Closing her eyes, the guilt-stricken gymnast swallowed hard as a single tear escaped. Wiping it away hastily, Kim forced her mind to change subjects.

It's try and love me if you can
Are you strong enough to be my man?
When I've shown you that I just don't care
When I'm throwing punches in the air
When I'm broken down and cannot stand
Will you be strong enough to be my man?

Lie to me
I Promise I'll believe
Lie to me
But please, don't leave.

As the harmony faded, Kim realized what a horrible idea coming here was, even if her two friends had the best of intentions. The DJ started up another slow song. Taking a deep breath, she slowly opened her eyes, the thought of leaving had just occurred to her when she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. Cautiously, the former Ranger turned to see a hand being extended to her. A chill unexpectedly made its way up her back as her eyes drifted upwards to see whom the hand belonged to.

Kim nearly fell out of her chair when she saw the person standing before her.

"Would you care to dance, Beautiful?" Tommy smiled his heart-melting smile at the shocked woman before him.

Unable to form a coherent sentence, she could only gape at him in bewilderment.

"Kim, it's all right --it's just me..." he soothed, as the girl's shock began to crumble away.

Slowly, she took his hand and allowed her one-time boyfriend to lead her to the dance floor. Slipping his arms around her waist, Tommy drew her a little closer.

He heard her gasp softly as their bodies touched for the first time in ages. It took Kim a few moments before she finally rested her head on his chest, though the rest of her body remained rigid.

In the Beginning
We were much too brave
We had our love and we were saved
We've come so far
And that's not how we are no more
Tell me why things have got to change
We held love in our hands
Why we tore it apart
I just don't understand

*What is he doing here?*

There's a distance between us
Now you feel so far away
The distance between us
How did we ever get this way
Oh baby don't slip away

*What happened, Kim?*

Now it's raining
And I'm driving much too fast
How can a city be so dark

*Oh God, what do I tell him? He's bound to ask why I sent it!*

There's this sensation
Feeding on itself
I've got to get to where you are

*I want to understand why you did it... was I really in the way of your dreams? Or were you afraid of something?*

We held love in our hands
Why we tore it apart
I just don't understand

*I wonder where Kat is... probably planning her victory party about now!*

There's a distance between us
Now you feel so far away
The distance between us
How did we ever get this way
Oh baby don't slip away

*I'd be lying if I didn't say that I want us back --I miss you, Kimberly.*

I want to reach out and pull you close to me

*I still love you, Beautiful.*

Wanna make you remember
Just how good it used to be

*I wish I could take back all my mistakes. I want us back, Tommy!*

There's a distance between us
Now you feel so far away
The distance between us
How did we ever get this way
Oh baby don't slip away

As the chorus faded, Kim slowly pulled away from the embrace she had been hungering for, though her eyes remained closed.

"What are you doing here, Tommy," she questioned in a small voice. A slight wave of dizziness from the immense heat within the crowded club forced the once Pink Ranger to open her eyes. Immediately, her vision was filled with a muscular chest hidden behind white fabric, broad strong shoulders, boldly handsome face smiling warmly down at her. She met his milk chocolate eyes for the briefest of instances. *Oh God, he even took the time to blow dry his hair straight!*

"I wanted to see you," he admitted plainly as time seemed to halt around them.

Kimberly's wide eyes darted up to meet his once more, an almost hopeful glint danced within them. A faint smile began to form on her lips, though she shook herself back to reality before it completely formed.

"I figured you'd hate me by now," she retorted, taking a step back, only to have Tommy counter by taking a step forward.

"I could never hate you, Kim." He shook his head. "There's nothing you could do to make me hate you!"

Even though he meant the comment to calm her, it appeared to do the exact opposite. "Quit playing the amnesia game, Tommy. I wrote the letter, remember?" Kim nearly shouted as she spun to walk away.

Catching her delicate hand in his, Tommy held it for a long moment to stop her from fleeing. To his surprise, she didn't attempt to pull away. Instead, Kim turned back towards him with tears in her eyes.

"Could we go for a walk? Just for old time's sake?" The words tumbled from Tommy's lips to her ears just as the DJ began another set of fast paced songs.

She bit her lip nervously. "I guess so." Taking a deep breath, she fought to regain control of her swirling emotions as they headed for the door.


Four blocks had been walked in an almost eerie silence. Now, the endless Atlantic Ocean shore sat empty before them. Both mentally noted how ironic it was for them to end up at a body of water, since their talking spot always had been the lake in Angel Grove park. Neither said anything. The cool evening seemed to glimmer in the moonlight. A breeze rolled off the water as the tide accompanied it.

"Which way do you wanna go?" Kim asked, looking both ways down the beach once they reached the rising shoreline.

"How about towards the lighthouse," Tommy suggested. The nervous woman shrugged before falling into step beside him, folding her arms across her chest. It was apparent that she was almost waiting for something. Once again, Tommy took the lead.

"So how are things with Coach Schmidt?" he asked, in an attempt to dispel the cumbersome silence that had once again formed.

"Really good. He feels I'm doing some of my best gymnastics. As of yesterday, the team has been given the next week and a half off to rest up for the competition next month."

"That's great. With all the hard work you're doing, I bet you can use the rest by now."

"You never did tell me what you're actually doing in Florida," Kim ventured bravely, expecting the worst.

"I'm racing in the Miami Classic tomorrow."

"You're racing cars?"

"Yeah, for my Uncle Jon's team. There's only one more race after this," Tommy supplied.

"Why racing? I figured you'd be busy teaching karate with Jason." Glancing up at her companion, Kim watched as a momentary look of discomfort crossed his face.

"Actually, I haven't been doing much karate since Christmas. I don't want to pull money out of my trust fund for winter semester at A.G.U., so I took Uncle Jon up on his offer."

Irked by his aloof attitude toward his one-time passion, she demanded, "How could you give up something you loved doing so easily?" Conveniently, she ignored the little voice in her head that added, *How could *you* give up some*one* you loved so easily?*

"It just didn't mean anything to me anymore. . . not a lot has since you left."

Simultaneously, they stopped. Kim stared wordlessly at him for a moment before shifting her eyes away shamefully. Her cheeks flushed with humiliation and self-anger as her eyes brimmed with another batch of unshed tears. Quickly turning away from him, she began to backtrack.

"We better go back; I think there's a storm coming in," she called to him, in the vain hope that he would drop the inevitable subject. A cold wind was now evident as the clouds began to slowly roll in off the ocean.

The disturbing conversation with his best friend a few hours ago was now starting to make sense to Tommy.

With every step, Kim felt the screams of frustration at the back of her mind growing louder.

*Why are you running away? This is what you've wanted for months, a chance to explain things -- to get him back!*

*But I don't want to give him a chance to hurt me like I did him.*

*When has Tommy ever hurt you?*

*It's better not to risk getting hurt,* Kim tried to convince herself. Tommy's voice calling her name caused her feet to involuntarily stop.

"Kim, we *need* to talk."

She kept her eyes downcast, as she heard his faint footsteps in the sand behind her. She had run out of diversions and she knew it. The chestnut-haired girl turned to face him.

Taking a deep breath in an attempt to calm her nerves, she raised her head a bit, though her gaze remained on something just past his shoulder. "Yeah, I guess we do. Tommy, I...." She stopped as the words hit a brick wall in her throat.

"What is it?" He searched her normally warm eyes for an answer, with no luck.

Her eyes skimmed the now cloudy sky, as if desperately searching for the answer somewhere among the cosmos. "Everything. Nothing's been right since I mailed you that letter," she declared quickly, clenching her jaw to kill the sob in her throat.

"How do you mean? You're about to win a medal at the Pan Globals, probably go on to the Olympics. You have a new guy, new friends. I thought everything was going great for you."

Putting her hand up to halt his words, the mentally worn out girl felt another tear escape down her cheek, and her voice quivered as she spoke. "Tommy, I lied. There was never anyone else."

He stared at her in astonishment, his jaw all but dropping to the wet sand. He hadn't even realized he had spoken until he heard his voice ask, "But why?"

"I couldn't stand being so far away from you," she began, fumbling over the words as they came out. "At first, I knew I only had to make it through two months, just until Christmas and then I'd get to see you again. But when I went back to Angel Grove, things seemed different between us. I thought that us being together and my being here in Florida was hurting you more than if we had just ended it. And since I got back, I heard from you what - twice? I figured that you were probably seeing someone else. So I thought it would be best if you thought that I had found someone else, too, and just backed out completely." Her gaze floated from him to the incoming ocean waves.

"I'm sorry Kimberly. I just thought that you'd want to spend as much time with Trini as you could while she, Jason, and Zack were on break from the conferences during the holidays ... that's why I took a step back. I knew there would still be time for us, too. As far as the rest of it, I didn't think -- with your competition coming up, all your practicing, Divatox keeping us so busy plus my racing." Tommy cursed to himself as he began to realize what a mess had been made on his part. "I know I don't have any right to ask this, but do you think there's any way we could try to make up for some of the lost time when you come back to California?"

"I'm not going back to Angel Grove -- I'm going to France after the Games," came her hesitant reply.

"For how long??"

"I don't know -- maybe permanently."

"And never come back to Angel Grove? You can't be serious!"

"I am...." Kim was still unable to look Tommy in the eye.

"I thought you said you had hated France when you were there with your mom," he stammered, recalling Kim's vacation with her mother two years prior. It was the same vacation where her mom had met a painter named John-Paul and fell in love.

"I did. But why should I go back to Angel Grove? There's nothing left for me there anymore. I finished school here; I don't have you. I have no family there; I haven't seen or heard from my father or brother in years, and Kat has my powers -- or whomever she gave them to. I've made a huge mess of things, and now I have exactly what I deserve -- nothing!" Unable to face him, she turned back toward the water.

As he watched the small-framed girl unload the heavy burden from her heart, he felt his breaking all over again. Tommy silently pleaded, *Won't you let me help? Why are you running from me again, Kim?*

He regarded Kim with uncertainty. Though she seemed fixated by the faint moonlight that danced on the ocean waves, he didn't want to risk her fleeing again. With a silent prayer that he had made the right decision, Tommy took a cautious step toward her. When he received no negative reaction, he slowly raised his hand to her face. Gently, he wiped a few tears away with his fingertips before cupping her check in his palm. He felt her shudder at his warm touch. Even though she turned her face toward him once again, she couldn't meet his gaze. It became clear that she was fighting to remain in control of the majority of the tears welling up behind her brown eyes.

"You haven't lost me completely, Harte," he reassured her quietly.
Kimberly allowed herself to be drawn into his embrace. As his arms slid snugly around her, she wished it didn't feel as good as it did.

*God, I've missed being in your arms, Tommy.... This is the only place I've wanted to be for the last year -- the only place that really feels safe to me, but it's not my place anymore. It's Kat's or someone else's -- someone who won't be afraid of letting go, someone who's not afraid of their past catching up with them. My mother controls me like I'm a marionette with chains for strings! Look at me; I'm a pathetic valley-girl with a life to match. You're too good for me, but why do you have to make me feel like this? Remind me of how good I felt and how comfortable I was with you? And why do you have to smell so good?*

With Tommy resting his cheek against Kim's hair, the two began ever-so-slowly swaying to some imaginary rhythm. Tommy could feel Kim almost allowing herself to relax, but then she stiffened up again.

*I'm not gonna hurt you, Beautiful, but at least now I have a small clue why you hurt me like you did.... I just wish that you would've talked to me about it*

He inhaled the fragrant scent of her shampoo mixed with the smoke from the club. Forgetting himself for a brief moment, he lifted his cheek from its rest and turned his head as if to kiss the top of hers - when something wet hit him directly in the eye: a big raindrop. Suddenly, a downpour engulfed them....