With a grateful sigh, Tommy Oliver sank into the cushions of his couch, exhausted. Graduation ceremonies were tiring enough, what with speeches, all that standing for awards, and the ridiculous heat intensified by those polyester gowns. Add in running off to stop Divatox from destroying the nuclear plant, and he was completely bushed.
It was hard to believe that they were actually high school graduates, but it had happened. They had the summer, and then fall would send them scattering off to different colleges. Zordon had known that, of course, and had prepared them accordingly. The search for their replacements had begun even before the Rangers’ longtime mentor had left the planet.
Suddenly, an item on the coffee table caught Tommy’s eye. Reaching out, he picked up his high school yearbook, which had been given out on the last day of classes, not long before. He opened it up and began to flip through it, smiling at how often he and his friend appeared in the pictures, always clad in their respective Ranger colors. Something about the pictures nagged at him then, and he frowned as he realized what it was.
In every picture, no matter what he was doing, Kat was there, a few steps behind him. Captain of the football team, martial arts championship- he was up for a number of awards in this book. But how often had Kat been recognized for what she did?
Not very often, he realized. In fact, he himself had taken his teammate largely for granted. How often had he bothered to let her know how good a dancer she was, or how he trusted her to back him up in battle?
That wasn’t right. Putting the yearbook down, Tommy stared off into space, seeing instead the numerous times Kat had been there for him, when he had leaned on her to get him through the hard times. Kat had always understood what it meant to walk the line between dark and light within your own soul. Kat had listened to his fears about not being good enough to lead the Rangers, and had not dismissed them or given him a pep talk. She had simply continued believing in him, as she always had. And it had been Kat who had simply held him, all too many nights after Kimberly’s letter had left him cold, and perhaps kept him from simply walking into the lake and ending everything there.
And how did he repay her? By shoving her into his shadow, and never letting her into the spotlight she so richly deserved. Part of it, he knew, was simply that Kat would never seek the spotlight on her own. She was so quiet and self-effacing that such a thing would be almost unthinkable for her. But even people like Kat craved recognition for their work, even if they didn’t realize it themselves. As her friend, he should have helped get her that, instead of allowing her to be reduced to simply “the beautiful blond on his arm.” The one who would smile graciously, even when her heart was tearing apart.
Frankly, Kat’s strength left him in awe. Before coming to Angel Grove, she had never fought a day in her life. But even with all the confusion from Rita’s spell and her ascension to the position of Pink Ranger, she had thrown herself into learning kickboxing with a will. And unlike him, she hadn’t let Rita and Zedd’s actions throw her into a depression or a fruitless quest for vengeance. Instead, she simply applied herself to being the best Power Ranger she could be, to make sure no one else was ever subjected to the same things she was.
Kat had always been there for him, and deep in his heart, Tommy knew why. On some level, he supposed, he’d always known that she was in love with him. And, insensitive jerk that he was, he’d taken advantage of that, absorbing her love and caring, without ever giving any real feeling in return- or even acknowledging what she did for him. He’d always been too blinded by Kimberly’s ghost to see anything else.
But after the events of Muiranthias, Kim’s image wasn’t in front of him anymore. Sure, he’d gone charging to her rescue, just like he had a hundred times before. The fire burning in his heart confirmed that he still loved her, perhaps more than his own life. But it wasn’t the same, somehow, and a long talk with Kim after the match had revealed something he had never thought possible. He wasn’t in love with Kimberly any more. Yes, he loved her, and he always would. But the passionate emotion that had once raged between them had transmuted into something else, something closer to what most of the other Rangers felt for each other. A love no less strong, but- different somehow.
Once he’d realized that, the pain of Kim’s loss had faded, and Tommy had been a little surprised to find something new in his heart. Specifically, feelings for Katherine. At first, he had wondered if he was simply latching onto her as the next best thing to Kimberly, but had quickly discarded that idea. He loved too many things about her that were different from those he loved about Kim. His love for Kat wasn’t replacing the one he had for Kim, just moving in alongside it.
But considering the way he’d been treating her, that love might end up going the way of the first one. Tommy was too well acquainted with heartbreak to go through another one, not if he could stop it. Making his decision, he left the house and drove to Katherine’s, where he knew that she would probably be resting from the events of the day, just as he was. Ringing the doorbell, he mentally rehearsed his words in his head, growing more nervous by the second.
“Tommy?” Kat asked, puzzled. “What are you doing here? Is something wrong?”
In response, Tommy gave her that two-thousand watt smile, the one he saved for special occasions. “No, Kat. Something’s very right. Can I come in? I have something I need to tell you.” As she moved aside to let him enter, he took a deep breath.”
“Kat, have I ever told you how proud I am to know you?”