Sheesh, it's about time I actually got to the disclaimer part. The song "I'll Be There" is one of Mariah Carey's red-hot ballads on the "Number Ones" album. I listened through that album, and it really smacked me in the face with inspiration. And it goes without saying that the Power Rangers belong to Saban Entertainment.
The Pink Zeo Ranger shifted the weight of her backpack onto her other shoulder, and took a deep breath as she continued her trek from school.
Things simply couldn't be better. She had finally gotten her midterms back, which she aced with ease. At first, she was afraid she wouldn't perform well at American schools, especially with the added pressures of being one of the planet's premier superheroes. But with the aid and support of former Ranger Billy Mitchell, as well as diligent study, she was able to beat the odds and garner one of the highest scores in all her classes.
An additional bonus was the relative peace the city enjoyed. It had been several days since the Machine Empire's last monster, and it didn't pose much of a challenge. It seemed like the domineering engines had run out of good ideas. The battles became easier. Either the Machines were getting worse at creating formidable monsters, or Katherine was acclimating to her role as a Power Ranger.
In either case, things were going well for her.
"Jeez," came a voice, startling Katherine out of her blissful stupor, "you're grinning like a cat! No pun intended, of course."
"Of course," Katherine laughed, gazing up at the young man who had fallen into step beside her while eluding her notice. "So Rocky, were you trying to sneak up on me, or was I really that spaced out?"
The Blue Zeo Ranger laughed in response, pulling his fingers through his copper-brown hair. "I guess it was a little of both. I saw you from across the street, and I decided to join you... but you seemed so happy in your little daydream that I didn't dare interrupt."
Kat rolled her cerulean eyes as the pair stepped onto the threshold of the popular teen hangout, the Youth Center. "Well, I have every right to be in a good mood," she defended, walking into the restaurant, "I did great on my exams, it's a beautiful day, and the Machine Empire's been unusually quiet."
Rocky frowned slightly. "They've been too quiet, Kat. I think they're up to something."
Katherine blinked at Rocky's instantaneous change of tone. "That sounds a little... pessimistic. Coming from you, at least."
Rocky shrugged his eyebrows. "I've been a Ranger for over a year, you know. In all that time, I've learned that it's always quietest before the next strike. The Machines have been quiet, which must mean they're scheming something very time-consuming." Rocky then waved the grim thought away, his bright smile returning. "Of course, doesn't mean we can't enjoy the downtime while we can! If you'll excuse me..."
Kat smiled as she watched Rocky bound off towards the gym section of the Youth Center, where the exercise equipment was located. Rocky quickly located two of his best friends, and listened intently to what Adam was saying while Tommy laid down on the bench. Adam proceeded to heft a free weight into Tommy's grasp, and counted aloud as Tommy proceeded to lift the dumbbell.
Despite herself, Katherine's smile fell into a wistful grin as she watched Tommy Oliver. The distinguished leader of the Zeo Rangers. The merciful hero. The fierce warrior.
He was simply the most compassionate, gentle, handsome, wonderful man Katherine Hillard had ever laid eyes upon.
Oh yes... Kat had fallen for him. Hard.
In fact, Katherine couldn't remember a single moment during her acquaintance with Tommy that she wasn't completely captivated by him. Even when she first met him, while serving as Rita's pawn and spy, she had a soft spot for Tommy. He was her primary target, but she couldn't bring herself to really hurt him. Instead, she just wanted to be in his presence. She wanted to possess him... to occupy his attentions as he had hers.
Once she was freed from the dark spell, her weakness for Tommy didn't change. True, it manifested itself differently. She was no longer dangerous, either to Tommy or his loved ones. But she still wanted to be with him.
Of course, that indomitable desire was accompanied by a dark truth. Katherine knew that, no matter how strongly she cared for Tommy, she couldn't do anything about it.
Because Tommy was in love with Kimberly Hart. And Kimberly Hart was in love with him.
That probably would never change, Katherine realized. Tommy nearly died trying to save Kim. True, he risked his life for many individuals, but with Kimberly it was always different. Tommy fought with a desperation that simply didn't surface under normal circumstances.
Therefore, Tommy was totally and completely off limits. In fact, just thinking about her feelings for him made the young woman feel guilty... as if she was somehow betraying Kimberly's trust.
Why did her heart betray her... by allowing her to be so helplessly in love with someone she could never be with?
Katherine dealt with her conflicting, frustrating feelings by ignoring them. She did her best to put aside her desires, and channel her attentions in different directions. Instead of focusing her love for Tommy on selfish desire, she did her best to love him in a pure and chaste way. Her happiness was his happiness. So long as Tommy was happy, she would be happy. Her primary concern was his well-being. Her feelings... took a back seat to his.
In her opinion, Tommy deserved that kind of love. That kind of whole-souled devotion. And since he deserved it... it wasn't love in vain.
You and I must make a pact
We must bring salvation back
Where there is love
I'll be there
"Hey, Kat!" called a strong, almost worried voice. Katherine turned around in shock, and locked her blue eyes with wide, dark eyes. Her mocha-hued forehead was wrinkled slightly as Tanya turned in the direction Kat was looking. A rosy blush crept on Kat's pale cheeks when a grin of understanding tugged at the Yellow Ranger's full lips.
"I shoulda known," she sighed, gazing at her best friend knowingly, "After all, you only have eyes for one thing. Or rather... one person."
Katherine sighed defeatedly as Tanya grabbed her slender arm, and guided her towards the congregated group. "Tanya... what are you doing?!"
Tanya grinned mischievously. "I know you like the view from here, but it's even better from up close."
Kat's faint blush erupted into full-blown embarrassment as the two women crossed the Youth Center. "Tanya Sloan... you aren't actually encouraging my crush on Tommy, are you?"
Tanya shrugged. "Hey... just because you can't buy, doesn't mean you can't browse."
Out of all the Zeo Rangers, Tanya was the only one entrusted with Katherine's secret regarding her feelings for Tommy. She only opened up to Tanya because she was her best friend, and also because she, unlike the other Rangers, wasn't acquainted with the original Pink Ranger. Katherine couldn't get over the feeling that her love for Tommy was wrong, and she feared that anyone who knew how sturdy a relationship Tommy and Kimberly had would judge her harshly.
It wasn't rational to think her friends would condemn her. After all... you can't control your feelings. You can only control your actions. Katherine couldn't help loving Tommy. But she could restrain that love by not acting upon it.
That was all that was in her power to do.
"Hey ladies," Adam greeted, grinning widely at Kat and Tanya, "What brings you to this neck of the Youth Center?"
Kat cast her gaze away from the Green Zeo Ranger, allowing her companion to answer. "Well, it was getting a little lonely at the Juice Bar, so we figured we'd see what all the fuss is about here. It doesn't take three men to spot Tommy, now does it?"
"No," Billy answered, stepping forward, "but Tommy is utilizing a new workout regime he and I developed. It is intended to strengthen the person's durability and endurance, which are invaluable to an active Ranger."
"Yeah," Rocky chimed, his hands hovering over the metal bar Tommy was lifting, "So far, Tommy's acclimating to the new workout pretty well." He then turned his attention back to Tommy. "Okay, you've got two more sets. You ready?"
"I was born ready," said Tommy enthusiastically. With a frown of effort, Tommy lifted the heavy bar into the air, and began another set of repetitions.
Katherine couldn't help but stare as Tommy continued the exercise. His healthy arm muscles rippled as he extended and contracted them, and his tan skin glistened with a light film of sweat. But what Katherine most attended to was his face. He wore his grim expression of determination.
He never failed at anything he put his whole heart into. He always walked away the victor. That was because of the devotion he put into everything he did.
If it wasn't worth doing whole-heartedly, then it wasn't worth doing. It was the motto of Tommy's life. It totally encompassed how he lived his life. He put all his effort into all of his activities. No battle was too insignificant to merit his full attention.
And on the flip side of that, nothing was too much for him to handle. No emergency would shake him, no challenge would shatter him. Every stumbling block became a stepping stone, forcing him to become stronger.
How could someone with that amount of dedication fail at anything?
Katherine was completely convinced, as she watched his determined expression in awe, that there was absolutely nothing Tommy Oliver couldn't do. There was no challenge too great... no mountain too high. There was no pain too excruciating for Tommy to heal from.
Nothing could break Tommy's spirit.
Just one more reason why Tommy deserved her complete trust and support. And yes... even love.
I'll reach out my hand to you
I'll have faith in all you do
Just call my name
And I'll be there
"Hey Tommy," Kat heard Ernie say, "a letter came for you."
"It's from Kimberly," Billy added. Katherine's expression was neutral as she watched Tommy. She keenly noticed how Tommy's determined expression brightened into a wide grin of joy.
She couldn't help but feel saddened as she considered how only one person in the whole world could give Tommy joy of that degree. And it wasn't her, either.
"Cool! Hey Adam, could you do me a favor and read it?" Tommy asked, looking back at his friend enthusiastically, "I have one more set to do."
"You got it," said Adam, taking the letter and opening it, "'Dear Tommy, everything is going great here in Florida. Coach Schmidt has me as ready as I'll ever be for the competition.'"
"Man," Rocky interrupted, "Kimberly is gonna do great!"
"What else does she say?" Tanya inquired, leaning closer.
"'Tommy, this is the hardest letter that I'll ever write,'" read Adam, a frown crossing his face. "'You've always been my best friend, and in some ways you're like a brother to me. But, something has happened here that I can't explain. It's both been wonderful and painful at the same time. Tommy, I've met someone else...'"
Adam stopped short, and looked up from the letter, his eyes wide with alarm. Tommy, who was in the middle of a lift, nearly dropped the weight on his chest. He set down the dumbbell and sat up urgently.
Katherine blinked in utter astonishment. She wouldn't have been more alarmed if someone started firing a round of bullets in the establishment. "What?!" she shouted, her voice raw, "That can't be right!"
She felt a pit of pain in her stomach when she noted Tommy's confusion and frustration. She had never seen him so... unnerved.
It was a sight she never thought she'd see.
"Tommy," said Adam, fidgeting slightly, "maybe you should finish this another time."
"Let me see," said Tommy, turning around and snatching the letter from his friend's grasp. After a moment, he continued to read. "'Tommy, you know I would never do anything to hurt you, but I feel like I've found the person... I belong with. He's wonderful, kind, and caring. You'd really like him...'"
Tommy chuckled bitterly at that statement, his dark eyes starting to glass over. With deep breath, he continued to read the letter to the astonished audience. "'Everything would be perfect if it weren't for hurting you. But, I have to follow my heart. I'll always care about you Tommy.'"
He paused for a moment, as if lacking the strength to continue. "'Please forgive me. Kimberly...'"
Tommy's voice had lowered greatly as he read, to the point where it was a barely audible whisper. He squeezed his eyes tightly, and slowly folded the letter. His proud shoulders were uncharacteristically slumped, and his face was hidden by loose strands of chestnut brown hair.
Katherine felt herself tremble, as she tried to look past the curtain of hair that covered his eyes. She couldn't help but feel... slightly scared. And guilty... as if somehow, her desire to be with Tommy had caused this incredible turn of events.
"Are you all right?" asked Billy gently, keenly watching Tommy's hazy expression.
"Huh?" asked Tommy, snapping out of his tortured reverie, "Yeah."
The valiant leader of the Power Rangers then rose to his feet, his legs barely managing to hold him up. He turned to face his friends, keeping his gaze away from any of their faces. Moisture began to spill out of the corners of his eyes.
"I uh, I have to go; um, I'll uh... catch up with you guys later."
Then, the young man pushed past the rest of the crowd, rushing to the door. And all Katherine could do was watch, wrapping her arms around her body and biting down on her trembling lip as she stared at the door through which the one love of her life passed.
It didn't take long before she reached a decision, and hurried out of the Youth Center after him... desperation speeding her stride.
I'll be there to comfort you
Build my world of dreams around you
I'm so glad I found you
I'll be there with a love so strong
I'll be your strength
You know I'll keep holding on
Katherine practically burst through the doors of the Youth Center. No doubt many pairs of eyes were on her back after her abrupt departure, but it didn't matter to her one bit.
Now wasn't the time to be reserved. Now was the time for action.
She blinked in astonishment, tossing her gaze around the green grass just outside the Youth Center. She saw groups of friends sitting around, enjoying the warm weather. She saw cars buzz along the road. She saw teens walk into and out of the Youth Center.
But she didn't see Tommy.
"What did he do? Break into a run?" she whispered to herself, folding her arms. She was right on his heels. How did he get away so quickly?
And where was he going?
"He's probably at the lake," said a voice, almost sighing with a heavy heart. Katherine quickly noted Billy's presence, as he appeared alongside her from the Youth Center.
"The lake?" she repeated.
The young genius nodded. "That's where he sorts out his problems. He's always been one to like bodies of water. The shore, a river... it's easier for him to delve into his own mind in serene surroundings. And considering what's on his mind now... the lake is definitely the place to look for him."
"Thanks," Kat said, quickly directing herself towards Angel Grove Park. However, after just a few steps, Billy's words brought her to a rapid halt.
"He's not going to want you there."
Katherine turned around urgently. "I'm sorry?"
"He's not going to want you there," Billy repeated, catching up to the Pink Ranger, "He's going to want to be alone."
"I understand that, but..."
Katherine let her sentence hang. She didn't quite know how to put into words the need she felt to help him. To rush to his aid... as if he could ever need her help.
Billy waited patiently for Katherine to complete her sentence. When she didn't, he nodded in understanding, and shoved his hands into his pockets.
"Kat," he began, as the pair began walking in the direction of the park, "you haven't really known Tommy too long."
"That's true," she responded, "Only a couple months."
Billy's lips curled into a weak smile. "So, you've only known Tommy as he is now. He's a brilliant leader. An accomplished warrior. He just gushes self-confidence, doesn't he?"
"Well, yes," Kat answered, fixing Billy with a confused look, "What are you trying to say?"
Billy sighed quietly. "The Tommy you know... well, the Tommy you think you know... doesn't exist."
Katherine blinked in astonishment at Billy's words. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, he's not like that. He's not invincible. I know sometimes he comes off as almost god-like. I can see the way you look at him with awe."
Billy smiled as Kat blushed slightly in response to that comment. "It's nothing to be ashamed of," he assured her, "He's quite impressive, as either the White or Red Ranger. I remember well when Rocky, Adam, and Aisha joined the team. They felt the same way that you probably do... that Tommy can't do wrong. That he has no weakness. That he's as strong as steel."
Billy bit his lip. "But he's not."
"Billy," Kat whispered, knitting her brow, "why are you telling me this?"
"Because you need to hear it," the wise ex-Ranger responded, "Tommy's going through something right now that's very, very major. I can see that you want to help him, and I figure that before you can, you need to know a little bit about him before he was the exemplar of Ranger-dom."
"You mean the Green Ranger?" she inquired, nodding slightly, "Oh, I know about that. I know he once served Rita-"
"It's much more than that," Billy interrupted, "True, Tommy began his Ranger career on the wrong side, but that just marked the beginning... of his self-doubt."
Doubt. That was one word Katherine never associated with Tommy Oliver.
"He doubts in himself, much more than he lets on," Billy explained, "Over time, he learned to hide that doubt, and to a certain extent overcome it." He paused for a moment. "And a big contributor to his transformation is his relationship with Kimberly."
At the mention of her predecessor's name, Katherine tuned in even more intently to Billy's story.
"Kimberly is special to him. She's the one who never doubted him. The one who drew him out. Of course, all the original Rangers did their part in helping him adjust. But Kimberly is different. He looked to her like a radiant star. When they began dating, his confidence was bolstered by the mere fact that someone like her would care for him."
Katherine listened with great interest as Billy plainly recapped Tommy's earlier days. He mentioned the power losses, the disappointments, the evil spells, and everything in between. During their trek to the park, he went through them all.
And as tears built in her eyes, Katherine couldn't ignore the common thread throughout the tale. Whenever Tommy fell, Kimberly was always there to pick him up.
Kimberly was almost a guardian angel to Tommy. Someone cherished. Someone respected. Someone adored.
Their relationship was far more than just puppy love... at least as far as Tommy was concerned. It was the core of his self-image. During the months as the Green Ranger, Tommy transformed from a caterpillar to a butterfly. He endured so much, but Kimberly was at his side.
Katherine couldn't live up to that.
She shivered slightly as she felt Billy's hand rest on her shoulders. "I'm sorry I had to tell you all this," he said gently, "I... I hope I didn't hurt you, or belittle what you want to do for him. But I thought it was best to lay the truth bare before you begin to help him."
Katherine managed to prevent herself from crying, although tears glistened in her eyes. "But... I don't think I can help him..."
Billy grinned reassuringly. "Well, you're certainly going to try, aren't you? After all, someone has to help him. At times like this, when he wants to be alone... it's always the case that this is when he needs someone. He may seem like the man of steel when he wins, but when he loses..."
Katherine held her breath, as the lake finally came into view. And standing beside the shore, absently tossing pebbles into the still waters, was Tommy.
He looked so fragile and alone. So broken.
"When he loses," she whispered, "when he loses something important to him... he shatters."
"And we have to help him pick up the pieces," Billy concluded, giving Katherine a gentle push in Tommy's direction. She cast her eyes back at him hesitantly. "Go ahead," he pressed, taking a seat at a nearby bench, "It's what you came for... isn't it?"
Taking a breath to steel herself, Katherine strode slowly towards Tommy.
She was shaken by Billy's story. She was afraid of how severely Tommy had been hurt. She was afraid that, no matter how much she loved him, she would never be able to help him heal as Kimberly had.
But she wouldn't let that stop her. Nothing would stop her from being there for him... when it counted the most.
Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter
Well it's all I'm after
Just call my name
And I'll be there She couldn't stand seeing him like this. He seemed so broken and small... so fragile. It was as if life had dealt him a blow that he couldn't stand up against.
He had never seemed so... hollow. Now, seeing him so fragile and exposed, Katherine had to accept the fact that perhaps Tommy wasn't the indomitable hero she always perceived him to be. He was just another teenager, with the same weaknesses as anyone else. The difference was that Tommy could usually push passed the pain to accomplish his goal.
This time, however... he'd need help. Under normal circumstances, all the help he needed was the faith his friends put in him. But now, something in Katherine's soul made her feel that Tommy needed her help specifically.
Perhaps she could ease the pain a little.
"Tommy?" she whispered cautiously, standing a few feet from the engrossed Red Ranger, "Are you okay?"
Tommy startled at the sudden voice, turning around in an urgent motion as if he was moving on the defensive. Kat backed away a bit, watching his eyes carefully. He seemed confused, as if he had woken from a dream. Perhaps he was having a hard time facing the reality of the letter he had received.
"Yeah," he said half-heartedly, forcing his dismal countenance into a reassuring smile.
Katherine's worried expression collapsed into a dissatisfied frown at her leader's lie. "Everyone's really worried about you," she offered.
"I'm sorry," Tommy sighed defeatedly, turning from his companion to the clear waters of the lake, "but I just don't get it. I mean, Kimberly never mentioned anything like this to me before." His voice caught in his throat as he added grimly, "Until now."
Katherine bit her lower lip, her practiced self-control maintaining her reserved expression. The last thing she wanted to do was make him feel less comfortable by shedding tears. "I... I wish there was something I could say to make you feel better, but I know there isn't."
"Will you call one of us?" Katherine pressed.
"Yeah, sure," Tommy answered absently, turning once again to the lake, "No problem."
"You take care," Kat said sternly.
"Yeah," Tommy muttered, not even saying goodbye as the Pink Ranger slowly walked away from the lake, casting one final glance at him.
Taking a deep breath, Katherine walked towards the park benches near the lake, hugging herself in a desperate attempt to keep the coldness that enveloped the Red Ranger from entering her own heart.
She felt so guilty... so very guilty. She couldn't help but feel her love for Tommy was a sin. She loved a man she couldn't have, which necessarily meant that, on occasion, she wished she could be with him.
She couldn't deny it, no matter how wretched it made her feel. She had wished for this to happen.
In the darker, more selfish recesses of her consciousness, Katherine had wished that Tommy and Kimberly would break up.
The guilt threatened to swallow her whole as she walked away from the lake. Yes, she had wanted a chance to be with Tommy. But she never, ever expected it to happen so suddenly.
And after gazing into his hollow eyes, she wished with all her might that this never had happened. If it were in her power to restore Tommy and Kimberly's relationship, she would do it in an eyeblink.
She couldn't stand to see her friend in such agony.
As the faint breeze carried her flaxen locks around her eyes, she continued to walk towards an occupied bench, where Billy was waiting.
"Hey," she greeted, touching his shoulder as she passed. He quickly rose to his feet, and fell into step beside her.
"Any luck?" Billy inquired, shoving his hands into his jeans' pockets. Although he asked the question, it was clear that Billy knew the answer.
"He's really in bad shape," Katherine reported, shaking her head in remorse.
"This calls for drastic measures," Billy decided, a sly smile spreading onto his face, "We're going to have to do something to cheer him up."
"What?" Kat asked, curiosity building at her friend's knowing expression. "Do you have something in mind?"
"I think I just might," he responded, his pace quickening. Curiosity fueling her weak body, Kat raced to catch up.
"What is it?" she demanded.
"It's gonna take some effort," he answered, "and I'll need your help."
"You got it," she said without the slightest hesitation. She felt her spirits lift slightly at the thought that maybe... just maybe... she'd be able to help Tommy cope with his loss.
She was determined to do anything under the sun to contribute to his recovery from heartbreak... and there was no selfish desire fueling that. Once again, while she did want to be with him, her strongest wish was that he'd be happy.
She would work to that goal, no matter what sacrifices she'd have to make.
I'll be there to protect you
With an unselfish love that respects you
Just call my name
And I'll be there
Katherine trembled with cold as she trudged through the thick layer of snow that covered the ground of the ski resort. Even when covered by several layers of warm clothing, her lips quickly chapped and her nose and cheeks stung with the mountain winds.
Katherine had been in snow before, but she had never become used to it. The almost tropical weather of Surrey Hill, as well as Angel Grove, was the weather she was comfortable with.
She carried her heavy rented skiing equipment without giving any inkling to her discomfort. After all, when Billy had recommended a trip to the ski resort, she offered no complaint then, and she certainly wouldn't do it now.
When Billy decided to invite Tommy on this trip, he explained that the best thing they could do was take Tommy away from things associated with Kimberly. It was the best way to get him to take his mind off of her. And considering the fact that Kimberly was one of the first people he met after moving to Angel Grove, surely much of the city would be associated with her. The Youth Center, where he first saw her. The school, where he first met her. The park, where he first kissed her. Those memories, and all the memories that followed, took place in the locations in which he lived much of his life. So logically, going into an environment completely different from Angel Grove will spark less painful associations for Tommy.
Katherine found no flaw in Billy's logical psychoanalysis, and nowhere in the general area was more different from Angel Grove then their crisp new surroundings. And perhaps, the frigid mountain air would carry away Tommy's deeper thoughts, and let him enjoy the weekend.
So Katherine continued to smile warmly, despite her chapped lips and numbed nose, and managed to keep step beside Tommy and Billy.
"Guys," Tommy sighed after a long silence, as the group reached the slopes, "I... I just don't think it's such a good idea. I don't want to ruin your weekend."
"Come on, Tommy," Billy argued, "If anything will get your mind off Kimberly, it's a weekend away with your friends."
"Right," Katherine contributed surely.
"You guys ready to shred?" Billy asked.
Katherine scrunched her nose slightly. "Uh... I'm going to get some hot chocolate first... I'm not quite used to the cold yet."
"Okay, we'll see you at the top," Billy said, waving slightly.
"Cool. Have fun!" Katherine called, smiling cheerily as she walked towards the restaurant. Once she turned her back, she no longer needed to hold up cheerful appearances. Her smile quickly melted, and her lips trembled with cold.
"Please let this work," she whispered.
With all her being, she prayed that the trip would help pull Tommy out of the enclosure he erected around himself... and maybe let her in.
I'll be there to comfort you
Build my world of dreams around you
I'm so glad that I found you
I'll be there with a love so strong
I'll be your strength
You know I'll keep holding on
As the pair of snowmobiles shredded through the soft powder, Katherine reflected on the whirlwind of events that packed their trip to the mountains.
Firstly, after a rather long silence, the Machine Empire was back in full swing. Not long after her arrival at the mountain, she spotted a group of Cogs headed for the slopes. Although she did her best to stop them, she didn't manage to prevent them from taking the warning sign off one of the dangerous cliffs on the monstrous slope the Widowmaker. As a consequence, a young and talented skier named Heather Thompson, whom Tommy and Billy had met in the inn, almost hurtled off the cliff completely unaware of the danger. Fortunately, Tommy managed to put together a human chain, and pulled her to safety.
And then... something happened.
Katherine wasn't there when Tommy first encountered the bright and energetic ski champion, but she wished she had been. She had wanted to pinpoint exactly what point Heather first became interested in Tommy... and just when he reciprocated that feeling.
She knew that something had happened, for now, there was a glimmer of light in Tommy's gaze again. He was still hurting... that can't be denied... but at least there was hope in those dark chocolate pools of color.
Could it possibly be that Tommy really had feelings for Heather? True, Katherine couldn't deny that Heather had a lot to offer. She was beautiful, famous, athletic, and entirely friendly and likeable. But still... it all happened so quickly.
Katherine wanted him to heal, but she was suspicious. He only received the infamous letter three days ago, and now he was ready to start all over?
She watched them from her position behind Billy on their snowmobile. She then caught Billy's eye as he glanced behind him, and gave her a knowing grin. He was clearly observing the same thing she was.
Heather's arms were gripping Tommy's waist quite tightly. Her interest in him was as clear as day.
Katherine felt a twinge of jealousy. She hated that feeling, but it was always there, peaking up to the surface time and again.
She pushed the green-eyed monster in her heart aside, and tried her best to look at the situation from Tommy's perspective.
True, he's probably reacting to Heather's bold attention as a result of lowered self-esteem. He may be on the rebound, but that doesn't mean there isn't a genuine attraction there.
Katherine silently decided she's support him on this new romantic interest. Surely Heather could bring a smile to his face... even if she couldn't.
"Not bad, you guys," Heather giggled, as the two snowmobiles slowed to a halt, "You almost beat us!"
"Hey Billy," Tommy commented, leaning on the handles of the snowmobile, "I thought you said you never drove one of these before."
"The snowmobile basically rides like the Waverunners back home." He then shrugged his shoulders. "It's easy once you get the hang of it."
"So," Heather said, a competitive smile lighting up her face, "ready for another race?"
Katherine kept her gaze on the couple. Both Heather and Tommy wore energetic smiles, and Heather's arms once again made themselves comfortable around Tommy's waist.
They'd make a good couple. They each had a powerful, winning spirit. They liked to compete. They liked the thrill of competition. They liked to live on the edge.
Their personalities matched nicely.
"Actually," Kat said finally, "I've got a bit of a chill. Do you mind if we headed back, Billy?"
Billy thought about it, casting a glance at Tommy and Heather before turning to Kat. "No problem. I getting hungry anyway."
"Uh, Tommy," Heather picked up, "there's something I'd love to show you, if you have time?"
Tommy frowned slightly. "I... I don't know. We sorta said we'd spend the rest of the day together..."
"Don't worry about it," Billy assured him, "We'll be all right."
"You sure?" Tommy asked.
Katherine smiled, waving him away. "Of course! Go!"
"Okay, cool," Tommy said, his gloved hands gripping the handles again, "I'll see you guys at the bottom of the hill!"
"Bye!" Heather called, as their snowmobile pulled away. Katherine kept her gaze on them, watching the machine disappear into the ivory white distance while they continued in another direction. She sighed quietly to herself, her body jostling slightly as the machine raced along the powder.
At least there's a bright side. At least he's smiling again.
If you should ever find someone new
I know she better be good to you
'Cause if she doesn't then I'll be there
Don't you know baby?
Kat gazed into the distance, watching the sun set over the high slopes. She tossled a lock of her straw-gold hair pensively, letting her mind wander at the beauty of the sunset.
True, she also wondered how Heather and Tommy were getting along. They had been gone for quite a while, it seemed.
"Heather seems like a nice girl," Billy commented, resting his mug on the table before them, "Maybe things will work out between Tommy and her." He paused, looking back at his silent companion. "Kat? Are you okay?"
Billy's words had fallen onto her ear as a gentle background sound to the complex thoughts swimming through her mind. She startled slightly at the direct address, dropping her twisted curl and sitting up straight.
"Sure... I'm fine," she assured him, turning away from the window, "What were you saying?"
"I was saying how I hope things will work out between Tommy and Heather," he repeated, folding his hands in his lap.
Katherine lowered her gaze, toying with her fingers. "Yeah," she said quietly, "that'd be great." She nodded her head, lifting her chin. "As long as Tommy's happy."
The one sentence she constantly used to summarize her feelings for her close friend and beloved teammate. She had said it so many times, both in her mind and out loud, to friends, family members, and even her reflection. Usually, she was referring to Tommy and Kimberly's long-standing relationship. Now, it referred to a possible relationship with a young woman neither Tommy nor Kat knew very well.
Truth be told... it was much harder saying it now.
But she said it anyway. She made it her entire motivation for any action she would take... any interference she would make into Tommy's romantic life.
It was all for him.
Her love for Tommy had always been from a distance. Although the idea didn't sit well with her heart of hearts, she accepted it, and refused to think otherwise.
She would not be selfish. She could not be selfish.
Tommy was so fragile now... so in need of friends without ulterior motives. She wouldn't dare spoil their friendship. He trusted her... that much was made quite clear during their lengthening friendship.
She had always been there for him, and she always would.
I'll be there
I'll be there
Just call my name
And I'll be there
As the radio played in the background, Katherine busily laid a lace tablecloth over the solitary table on the raised section of the Youth Center. She placed two long candlesticks in the center, and fine china plates at opposite ends.
Her mother wasn't exactly thrilled when Katherine had asked to use the elegant diningware, but she didn't prevent her from taking it.
The mood was set nicely. Flowers were draped on a little gazebo she brought inside from outdoors, and their fresh natural scent filled the Youth Center. The lights were dimmed, allowing the candles to glow boldly. Smooth music hummed from a portable radio. Lush planters, filled with various flower arrangements, were placed along the wall, giving the feel of a night in a romantic garden.
She smiled at her handiwork, tugging at the hem of her modest pink tank dress. Everything was perfect.
It had taken a good amount of planning and effort, but it was worth it. Tommy was worth it.
She heard the sound of footsteps over the soft music, and glanced at the doorway. Amazingly, he was right on time.
He stepped into the Youth Center, wearing a distinguished black suit, red bow tie, and a confused expression. He toyed with the cuffs of his jacket, a smile forming on his face as he took in the display before him.
"Kat?" he asked, gazing at her questioningly. Katherine looked up at him, standing up straight after lying a basket of freshly baked rolls on the table.
"Ah, Mr. Oliver. You're table is ready."
Tommy blinked, slowly walking toward Katherine. "I... I don't understand," he admitted, "You did all this?"
Katherine lowered her gaze from his, straightening the tablecloth once again. "Please, be seated."
Tommy was silent for a moment, before finally taking a seat. "Thanks."
Katherine folded her hands nervously, watching Tommy's expression as he gazed at the table. She felt herself blush slightly when his dark eyes turned to her, and remained on her for a long moment.
"Kat," he said quietly, "you... you look amazing!"
Katherine smiled, her blush deepening as she bowed her gaze from Tommy. As she turned away, she noticed Heather slowly walk into the Youth Center, waving slightly at Kat.
"I believe your guest has arrived," she said to Tommy.
He turned around, his eyes widening in surprise as Heather walked to the table.
"Heather!" he exclaimed, standing up.
"Surprised to see me?" she responded, folding her hands behind her back.
"Yeah," he said, his brow furrowing slightly, "I... I don't get it."
"Well, Kat called me and told me you needed some cheering up, so I figured I'd give you one more chance."
Tommy's bewildered gaze fell upon Katherine once again. She once again averted her eyes, and pulled Heather's seat out from the table. "Your dinner will be out shortly."
The couple was quickly seated, and Katherine left the room towards the kitchen. Once she reached the corner, she took one glance back at them.
Heather and Tommy were involved in a conversation, both smiling widely. She had made the right decision.
During their skiing trip, Tommy had to make several quick departures, thanks to the constant threat of the Machine Empire's newest abominations Robo-Cupid and Defoliator. Unfortunately, the constant disappearances interfered with several rendezvous Heather and Tommy had planned, putting a great deal of strain on their budding relationship. And one final emergency that forced the vacationing Zeo Rangers home early left Heather quite upset, and Tommy quite disappointed.
Katherine saw how Tommy quickly isolated himself again, trying to force out his frustrations through exercise. It was clear he certainly couldn't heal from Kimberly's letter with new angst weighing down his heart.
That made it easier for Kat to arrange the surprise dinner date for them. Of course, the pang in her heart remained as she turned from them, and put the finishing touches on the elaborate dinner she had spent the entire afternoon preparing.
Hopefully, her small effort would mend their rocky start, and help their relationship bloom.
I'll be there baby
You know I'll be there
Just call my name
And I'll be there
Together, they sat in silence on opposite sides of the round table. No, not Tommy and Heather. Tommy and Katherine.
After one final disturbance by the Machine Empire, Tommy was forced to bow out of his dinner with Heather. And after an extended period of patient waiting, Heather was ready to leave.
Katherine felt horrible, as she rested her folded hands in her lap and kept her head bowed. She watched as Tommy twisted his glass in pensive silence. She was thoroughly convinced that this most recent heartbreak was completely her fault.
She was the one who arranged the dinner. She should have known better than to bring Heather over before the emergency was completely over. She should have known the Machines would attack again.
And, she should have put up a better fight. She and Tanya were ambushed by the Defoliator monster. If she had been a better, more accomplished Power Ranger, perhaps the battle could have been won without Tommy's assistance.
Katherine sighed again, resting her elbows on the table and her chin on her hands. "I'm so sorry things didn't work out, Tommy," she repeated, "I wanted everything to be perfect."
And she did. She honestly did. She wasn't just trying to convince herself that she wanted Heather and Tommy to be together. She wanted Tommy to be happy, and if that meant having Heather Thompson in his life, she was completely ready to do whatever she could to make it happen.
"Forget about it, Kat," he said, "What you did was incredible." His dark eyes locked with her crystal ones. "I'm just really lucky to have a friend like you."
A genuine smile crept on Tommy's face. And an equally genuine one lit up Katherine's expression.
In silence, they gazed into one another's eyes for a long moment, Katherine's slow music mix serenading them in the background.
"I... I just thought it would make things easier for you if you had someone in your life," she revealed.
"It's just going to take some time is all," he responded casually.
Katherine nodded in understanding. Suddenly, her smile lit up once again as a new song played over the radio.
"Oh, I love this song!" she commented, closing her eyes to relish the soft ballad.
"Hey," Tommy said, his own smile returning, "what would I say if I asked you to dance?"
Kat blinked in surprise, her smile falling. She hadn't expected him to utter those words, or anything like them. In fact, before that very moment, besides the comment he made about her appearance earlier he had never shown any sign of interest in her.
She felt warmth build in her heart as she said "I'd say... promise not to step on my feet, and you've got a deal."
"All right," Tommy said, rising from his seat and taking her hand. Katherine let him escort her to the cleared floor, and together they swayed to the music. Tommy hesitantly wrapped his arm around her waist, and she laid her arm around his neck. As they moved to the music, their foreheads moved closer, resting upon one another. Leaning upon one another.
Katherine lost herself in the moment. A song she had always loved played in her ear, and the man she had always loved held her close.
She knew at that moment that what she felt for him wasn't wrong. Her love was too pure and undefiled to constantly urge fiery guilt in her heart. She had remained loyal to her love and her friendship throughout the time Kimberly and Tommy were dating, and she was more than willing to give Tommy his space afterwards.
And now, the possibility of her having a future relationship with Tommy appeared on the horizon. In the future, of course... but it's there.
Fate works in mysterious ways. Her friendship with Tommy would help her help him while his heart mended. And her love for Tommy would make her more enduring than merely a friend.
At first, she loved the noble, indomitable hero she thought Tommy was. Now, the recent tragedies in his life have shown her his true self. He wasn't unbreakable. He wasn't invincible. He wasn't perfect.
He needed someone. And she loved him all the more for it.
Perhaps at some future time he would feel towards her what she felt towards him. But until that time, she'd be at his side... in whatever form he needed her.
Just look over your shoulder,
Just call my name,
And I'll be there...