Disclaimer: Please see Chapter 1 if you REALLY want to read one!

Tortured Souls Chapter 5
by: Mary "Signkat" & Collaborators

As much as Kim tried to compose her wildly racing thoughts, it seemed impossible. With every breath, the butterflies trapped in her stomach seemed to do another back-flip. Her fingers worked diligently to untangle another snarl, as the warm blowing air began to alleviate her drenched hair. Even though she barely heard the knock from the opposite side of the door over the drone of the hair dryer, still it startled her.

"Yeah?" Kim called, silencing the blow dryer as she reached for the doorknob.

"I know these will be a little big on you, but I don't have anything smaller," Tommy replied, as he handed her a pair of sweat pants, a T-shirt and sweat socks.

Setting the remaining pieces on the counter, she held the sweat pants up to her waist, allowing the excess length to puddle at her feet. "I think a little big is an understatement here," she smiled.

As he ran his fingers through his own towel-dried locks, Tommy couldn't help but chuckle to himself. "I guess it is. I might be able to scrounge up a couple of safety pins if you want."

For an awkward moment, Kim just stood there fumbling with the drawstrings while slightly biting her bottom lip. Her face clouded with uneasiness. Finding her voice again, the still-wet girl muttered softly, "Um, actually, if I just roll them up they should be fine. Thanks, Tommy."

"Anytime," came his instant reply, along with a nervous smile. As he turned back toward the main room, he heard the bathroom door latch softly, and a moment later, the hum of the blow dryer resumed. Once he had made his way over to the bed, Tommy whipped the damp towel from around his neck and deposited it on the floor before allowing himself to plop on down on the striped bedspread.

His eyes strayed to the windows near the door. Flashes of lightening filtered through the small openings in the curtains, as the thunder continued to rumble above.

*I guess it's a good thing I picked up in here when I came back to change for the club,* he thought, releasing a sigh before allowing himself to fall back on the bed. Small fragments of the talk with Jason earlier found their way back into his thoughts, as Tommy watched the shadows on the ceiling.

*Was I really that blind or did she hide it so well I couldn't see what she was going through?* he wondered. Jason had hit the nail on the head when he mentioned Kim being skittish. In the beginning, even though she seemed genuinely happy to see him when their paths crossed, it was only when their other friends were with them that she seemed to be at ease.

Looking back, Tommy also realized it was not until they had been dating for a few months, that Kim had let him pick her up at her house. Before then, she had always insisted that they meet at the Youth Center, the park or his house. From the first moment that he was introduced to Mrs. Harte, she had given him the distinct impression that he would never be good enough for her daughter. *'Besides,'* Mrs. Harte had vehemently reminded him one time. *'Kimberly's much too busy with her gymnastics to have any time for boys --or anything else for that matter!'*

The slight creak of the bathroom door pulled Tommy from his reverie. He shook himself back to reality as he sat back up. *Oh gosh, I forgot how good she looks in my clothes,* he gulped inwardly as he found himself staring at the wondrous sight which stood before him.

"Pretty pathetic looking, huh?" Her eyes held a faint glimmer of humor.

"You look beautiful as always!" Tommy gave himself a mental slap for actually voicing that thought, and He noticed Kim blushed deeply, as her eyes darted toward the floor. "If you don't mind, I'm going to go dry off." he informed her, trying to steer away from his outspoken thought.

Kim carefully made herself comfortable in the armchair near the window. "Oh, no, please go right ahead. Um, do you think I could borrow a hairbrush?"

"Sure," he reached into his backpack and grabbed it. A small, hopeful smile possessed his lips as he walked over to hand her the brush. His fingers lingered on the handle longer than necessary, until she slowly drew it from his grasp. "Well, I'm gonna go dry my hair and stuff," he announced for no apparent reason, before picking up another pile of dry clothes and pushing himself into the bathroom.

As Kim worked the remaining tangles from her caramel locks, the overwhelming emotions of the evening flowed through her mind once again. Tommy's sudden appearance, the dance they had shared and the fact that he was actually talking to her instead of being furious, took her by complete surprise. It started to pour while they were on the beach, so they had to run back to the club for cover. Both had gotten completely drenched upon reaching it.

It was a few minutes before they discovered that Jason and Trini had gone back to their hotel. Upon returning to Tommy's truck, her one-time boyfriend had offered to drive her back to the gymnastics compound, but Kim had refused, claiming that she didn't want to be there by herself during the storm.

*Since when have I been afraid of a stupid thunderstorm?* she silently chastised herself, not wanting to admit that it was the idea of being alone that still scared her to death. To her surprise, Tommy then offered to take her back to his motel. For a reason still unknown to herself, she agreed to it. Rising slowly from the comfort of the chair, the gymnast gently placed the brush on the table, before her feet carried her toward the center of the room.

*Great --what have I set myself up for now?* Kim asked herself as she bent to pick up Tommy's discarded towel from the floor. Hesitantly, she nestled her nose in the damp terry cloth, inhaling his faint scent deeply. *Is this his way of rubbing it in that I hurt him, by being nice to me?* Regarding the gray towel with a regretful expression. *If it is, it's working.*

Setting the cloth down on the bed, she continued her brief tour of the room. Kimberly was about to sit down on the bed, when she noticed the old green and white backpack sitting on the low dresser beside the television a few feet away. She found herself drawn to it, then almost instinctively, she reached for it. *I wonder if he still carries...* Suddenly, her conscious mind took over once more, forcing her hand to stop a few inches short of touching the canvas-like material. *No. Kim, he's not your boyfriend anymore; stay out of his stuff!* she scolded herself. But a need overwhelmed her, and she was unable to help herself. Reaching out once more, her fingertips lightly brushed one of the straps. She couldn't help but recall the shopping trip just after Tommy had received the White Ranger Powers and how they agreed that the color combination was so fitting.

A loud noise from behind startled Kim from her thoughts. The girl spun around, her eyes settled on the telephone as it rang again. For a moment, she debated whether to answer it, then walked over to the night stand. With one swift movement, she picked up the receiver.

"Hello?" Her voice came out in a slight whisper.

"Is this Tommy Oliver's room?" an all too-familiar accented voiced asked, sending Kim's stomach nervously churning as her knees turn to Jell-O, forcing her to sit down on the bed.

"Yes, but he's in the bathroom blow drying his hair right now," she finally answered, hoping the sudden quiver in her voice wasn't too apparent.

"Who is this?" Kat asked; Kim could picture her wondering who the girl was in Tommy's room.

"Kim; who's this?" she replied, already knowing the answer.

"Oh my goodness! Hey Kim! I thought it sounded like you; it's me, Kat. How's everything going?" Her voice was so friendly and chipper, that Kim's teeth began to ache.

Forcing as much happiness into her voice as she could muster, the petite girl launched into what she thought was a dreaded conversation. "The Pan Global's have been going really well; Coach is making us rest up a little before the games start. Jason and Trini are down here visiting. Little did I know that Tommy was here for a race --so Jason surprised me and brought him along to the dance club that we all met up at tonight."

"Oh, that's nice -- the four of you get a chance to reminisce about the old days," Kat responded, her voice sounding almost sincere.

"Yeah, something like that. So how have you been doing?" Kim asked in return, not wanting to sound rude to her one-time good friend.

"Well, I could just talk your ear off all night about ballet school, guys and me, but I better start warming up for my first class. I'll be here still for the next hour, will you tell Tommy I called and ask him to give me a ring back when he's finished? I really need his opinion on something!" Her Australian-accented voice sounded ever-so-sweet.

"Uh, sure. No problem."

"Thanks, Kim; you're the best. Good luck; I'll be cheerin' for ya!"

*Yeah sure, you'll be cheering for me to break my neck!* Frowning, Kim couldn't believe she had thought that; thank goodness she hadn't said it out loud. "Take care, Kat."

"You, too; shout at ya later!"

"Bye!" Kim mimicked Kat's too-happy tone.

After nearly dropping the receiver into it's cradle, Kim remained seated on the bed. Her stomach remained knotted tightly as she twirled a piece of hair around her finger. *Remember, you're the one that gave him up!* an inner voice reminded her for the millionth time.

A few moments later, Tommy emerged from the bathroom.

"Hey, who was on the phone? I thought I heard it ring."

"Oh, it was Kat," she informed him, trying to keep the jealousy and confusion from her tone.

"Oliver curse!" he groaned, smacking his forehead. "I was supposed to call her earlier; I knew I forgot something! She's probably ticked at me by now! Did she say what she needed?"

Kim shook her head. "No, just that she wanted your opinion on something."

Unable to keep her emotions under control any longer, She got up and headed over towards the door, picking up one of her wet shoes and furiously tried to push her foot into it without undoing the laces.

"Kim, what are you doing?" frowned Tommy.

"I should go so you can call her back...." Kim forced out through clenched teeth, unable to even look in his direction.

"Wait, what are you talking about? You don't have to leave --I can call her later; it's no big deal! Besides, it's still pouring out there!" he insisted, watching her intently.

As she grabbed her other shoe to put it on, Kim hesitated for a moment. "We wouldn't want her to be upset with you...." This time the jealousy oozed out.

"I don't get it, Kim. Why do you have to leave so I can call Kat? Am I missing something?" he finally asked directly, still baffled at her sudden need to leave. He took a step toward the gymnast.

Hurt with herself for being upset and jealous of her friend, Kim angrily snapped, "Give it up, Tommy; wouldn't it be kind of awkward to be talking to your new girlfriend on the phone with your ex-girlfriend in your motel room?"

Finally putting two and two together, Tommy slowly shook his head in disbelief. Closing the distance between them, Tommy took the remaining shoe out of her hand. She immediately grabbed for it, but it was impossible for her to snag it as he raised it over his head.

"What? Give me my shoe back!" she demanded, obviously thrown off by his sudden move.

"No, because I want you to actually hear me out, Kim. You broke up with me, remember? I don't know where all this anger you suddenly have is coming from, but Kat and I are not dating." The words abruptly sprang from of his mouth, hitting her directly in the face.

Kim's eyes went wide. "You're not? But I...." she fumbled, unable to even finish her sentence.

"After I got your letter, we went out two or three times, but it just felt really weird." He took a calming breath, his voice returning to it's normal calm tone. "I couldn't help but feel guilty. Even though you broke up with me, I still felt like I was cheating on you."

As his words chipped through the image she had built up in her mind, Kim could only cast her eyes to the floor to keep herself from crying. Embarrassed for her outburst, as well as how happy hearing his words of truth made her feel.

"Anyway, Kat figured out something was wrong and sat me down for a good talk," he continued. "I told her that I couldn't keep pretending that I was over you. Kat thought it would be best for her and I to just remain good friends. And that's all we are; friends. In fact, she's been seeing quite a lot of an old boyfriend recently. From what she told me, they dated a little when she lived in Australia. Just by chance he's going to the same college she is in England." Tommy lowered his arm, flipping Kim's small shoe back in towards the vent it had been drying in front of.

The mixture of embarrassment, guilt, and hope whirled in her mind, as Kim felt the heat stealing into her face. "Oh God, I feel so stupid! I just assumed... I forgot that she was even in England... I think Kat said something about getting ready for class, but I guess it went in one ear and out the other!"

Stealing a glance at her foot, Tommy couldn't help but chuckle to himself. "Now, could I offer you another dry but extremely oversized sock?"

Looking down herself, Kim realized what she'd done. "Pretty stupid thing to do, huh?" she laughed a little less nervously.

Becoming completely serious again, he caught her gaze for a moment. "Well, at least it kept you from running away from me again."

"I'm not running from anything, Tommy," she insisted.

Something in her voice made him not believe her, but he decided to let it go for the time being.

"I never had a chance to apologize earlier," he began, retrieving another clean sock, as Kim sat down on the bed to unlace her shoe.

"Apologize for what?" she wondered, dropping the wet shoe onto the floor and pulling off the equally soggy sock.

"I'm sorry for not calling you when I got your letter. I was just so floored... I didn't have a clue how to react. I played turtle instead of doing what I should have done; called you so we could have talked about it."

Kim shook her head. "No, I should be the one to apologize. My imagination kinda got the better of me. You know how they say history has a tendency to repeat itself... well I guess I just assumed...."

Squatting down in front of her, Tommy placed one hand on each side of her on the bed. "Kim, this morning when Jase and I were talking, he told me about the conditions of your parents' divorce and the hell you went through. It must have been hard, but I hope you know by now that I just want you to be happy. I would never do anything that would hurt you, especially like that."

"Exactly... how much did Jason tell you?" Kim asked defensively

"Everything, I think...."

"He promised me he would never breath a word about it -- I'm gonna kill him!" she fumed, slipping the dry sock on.

"Jase didn't do it to hurt or spite you, Kim; he opened my eyes up a lot wider, like they should have been from the beginning. I always thought you had the perfect life --you're beautiful, popular, perfect at just about everything... you could have any guy in the world --yet, for some reason, you picked me! What Jason did was made me realize that you are still human. That even you make mistakes; you feel hurt, depressed and like the world's given up on you... just like I have at times. I'm sorry I didn't realize that you were probably hurting, too, after that letter. I wish I could go back in time and change things." As he took her trembling hands in his, Tommy continued, "But I know one thing I wouldn't change for the world; getting up my nerve to ask you to that dance."

Kim tried to smile, but it was suddenly was replaced by a yawn. "Sorry."

"That's okay, there is a lot we need to talk about, but we should probably get some shuteye. I've got to be up in five hours." Tommy straightened up and took a few steps away.

Kim glanced over her shoulder to see the green numbers glowing 2:58 a.m. As Tommy pulled down the bedspread and blanket, Kim picked up her remaining wet shoe and placed it with its mate.

"Uh... yeah, there's just one other problem.... There's only one bed."

"Well, at least it's a queen size. But I don't think either of us should have to sleep on the floor," he commented, grabbing an extra pillow from the top shelf of the closet.

"What... do you suggest then?" she ventured, already knowing the answer.

"The only idea I have is to share the bed. I promise I won't bite, if you promise not to pinch me," Tommy added teasingly, as he threw the pillow across the bed at her.

"Hey, I don't pinch!" she protested, catching the missile and immediately heaving it back towards Tommy. He quickly ducked as it went sailing over his head and hit the wall behind him.

"Oh, I forgot, you just put your ice-cold feet on my legs and freeze me!" the tall boy recalled from the few occasions Kim had 'stayed over' while his parents were away visiting family.

"I was just trying to warm them up, you human electric blanket! Sleeping next to you would be okay...." Kim finally admitted, her cheeks turning red again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Early the next morning, rays of warm sunshine leaked through the small slits in the curtains, falling across Tommy's face. Feeling something warm and soft in his arms, he recalled being woken only hours before by Kimberly crying in her sleep. He had quickly gathered her into his arms to calm her, reassuring her that it was just a bad dream. Although she never really woke up, Kim had snuggled up to him immediately. Now, he couldn't help but regret the morning's arrival, Tommy's mind filled with thoughts as he cradled the still-sleeping female for a few more cherished moments.

*I'm so happy just to be with you again, Kim. I know there has to still be a chance for us. I've missed you so much --missed being close to you. I wish I could hold you like this forever.* He extracted himself from under the slumbering beauty ever so carefully, not wanting to wake her just yet. Even though an extra half hour of sleep may not be a lot, he figured she could probably use it.

Tucking the warm covers in around her gently, Tommy headed into the bathroom to take a shower.

A loud sound drew Kim from her peaceful sleep; a knock at the outside door, then a man's voice yelling something to someone, followed by faint footsteps moving away. Opening her eyes as she sat up, a white clad figure appeared in the bathroom doorway.

"Hey, sleepyhead, twenty-five minutes before we have to leave for the track!" Tommy sang out, as he finished combing his long locks.

After taking a moment to recall the events of the previous night, Kim asked hesitantly, "Are you sure you don't mind me going to watch?"

"I would really like it if you were there." His eyes pleaded with hers. "Hey, Trini and Jason will be there, too."

"Okay... at least my clothes should be dry." She slid out from under the covers, noticing that Tommy had already set her shorts, socks and under things on the foot of the bed.

"Uh... most of them are, but I accidentally knocked your shirt off the rod as I was turning on the shower; it's a little wet again. You can borrow whatever you want though." Tommy motioned to the closet before turning to head back into the bathroom with his blow dryer in hand.

Kim walked over to the closet with slight hesitation. Her eyes skimmed along the various shirts and pairs of jeans until she came to a white short sleeve T-shirt with some logo on the back. Picking up the hanger, a flash of green caught her attention. Her eyes settled on the sleeve of a very familiar white and green flannel shirt. After debating the idea, Kim slowly reached for it as well.

A few minutes later, dressed in the her jean shorts, Tommy's T-shirt and the flannel tied around her waist, Kim was french braiding her hair when Tommy once again appeared.

"Are you about ready?" he asked, pulling his own locks into a ponytail.

"I think so; I just hope my shoes have dried." Twisting the red-flowered scrunchie around the end of her braid, Kim turned to find Tommy looking at her with a taken aback look on his face.

"Oh, I'm sorry; I hope you don't mind my borrowing it." Her hand fall to her side, and her fingertips brushed the soft green and white material. She hoped he wouldn't suddenly object.

"No, not at all. It always was your favorite! I had just forgotten that I still had it," he said quickly.

"Yeah, we threw it in to wash at your house after the last group picnic, when Rocky spilled pop all over it," she reminded him, once again wishing for the good 'ol days.

"I guess I forgot to get it back to you before you left." He recalled how Rocky had mercilessly teased Kim at the picnic about how she was going to wear it out.

"Still smells like you though." The words left Kim's lips before she could stop them, however she didn't regret it.

"I guess we should probably get going... catch up with the pit crew at the raceway."

"Yeah I guess we should."