Disclaimer: Hey friends, what's up? I guess we ought to take
care of business. The characters depicted on "Mighty Morphin Power
Rangers" and "Power Rangers Zeo" do not belong to me. They
are Saban's. This is merely a work of fiction that uses the pre-established
characters. The characters of Copper Haines, Nathan Pierce, Luke Jackson
and the other Team USAers do belong to me. If for some bizarre reason you
decide you just have to use them, I'm cool with that as long as you tell
me first. This story takes place after "Infinity."
"Unbreakable" contains scenes of graphic physical and sexual violence. It also includes adult situations and strong language. If you are offended or bothered by any of these, it may be in your best interest to skip this piece. It is intentionally dark.
I would like to say a very big thank you to my STBR, Drey (Step away from the duck), and also to Cheryl and to my editor :-) Kittie. And of course my sister Paige. Well that's about it, all thoughts and constructive criticisms should be directed here:
The Royal Bell Hotel
St. John, Florida....
It was affectionately known as Operation Caffeine. And it had been running for well over three weeks. So far, so good. "Okay, here's the deal, love, we'll flip for it." He said in a soft voice. There was humor in his tone and she almost back-handed him because of it.
"Flip for it?" Kimberly Harte asked wearily. "Copper, I'm sick."
Copper Haines grinned widely, "Oh yes, Kim and I do like you this way but you still gotta run the Op. At least this way, you gotta fifty percent chance of getting out of it."
"Fine," Kim replied, sniffling for emphasis. In truth, she felt like she could retire to her bed for the next year. She reached into the pocket of her grey sweat shorts and pulled out a JFK. Turning it over affectionately in her hand, she seemed to recall one of her old friends from Angel Grove pulling it out from behind her ear during a magic demonstration. Now she carried it everywhere, using it as her lucky coin. Sighing, she handed the coin over to Nathan Pierce.
Pierce took the coin and placed it on his thumbs. Looking dramatically from Kim to Copper, he said, "Are you ready?"
"Oh just do it," Kim snapped. Copper lifted his eyebrow and smirked at her and mouth the word cranky. She stuck out her tongue at him.
Pierce flipped the coin into the air, "Call it, Kim."
"Heads... no, wait, tails, I mean...."
The coin landed in Pierce's hand. "Well, which is it?"
"Ooh... heads." Kim said quickly.
Pierce uncovered his hand and looked down. "Tsk."
"What do you mean 'Tsk'?" Kim demanded.
Copper leaned over, "He means you lost. I won. You suck."
"Thanks, Copper, I love you too." Kim replied. Then she sneezed. "Oh come on... if Wally knew how bad you guys were treating me right now while I feel like...."
"Kim, if Wally knew that we'd been running the Op for the last three weeks... he'd skin us alive. I can still remember how bad we got it for that stunt you pulled awhile back. You know, dyeing all the boys' work-out outfits pink. Now, it was funny as hell, oh yes but oh, my body ached for months, Kim, months." Erika Anderson said from her seat on the couch.
Copper allowed his jaw to fall, "Funny? You thought that was funny. None of the guys did. Am I right? Nate? Eddie?"
Pierce shook his head and Erika's boyfriend, Eddie Castillo was quick to follow suite. Erika jabbed him in the side.
"Oh shush, all of you. Go on, Kim. I'm thirsty." Jennifer Butler said from over by the door. They were all huddled in Dodge's room. Jen reached across and handed Kim the money and the list of drinks for the other unaccounted for eight members of the Team USA gymnastic squad.
Kim sighed dramatically and then looked up at Copper hoping for sympathy. She should have known better. Although Copper was her very best friend on the team, he was also through and through, a rascal. He shrugged at her and then handed her a dollar bill. "Keep the change, love."
"Bite me." She replied, opening the door. She looked back at her friends once more and said, "You suck, you know that, right." They all nodded and laughed. She shut the door.
Looking down the well-lit hall, she spotted the soda machine at the end of it. They didn't use that one. The assistant coach, Wally Estes's room was next to the machine and he'd surely hear someone drop down fourteen sodas. She secured the back-pack they'd given her to carry the sodas in and then began to pad down the hall.
Barefoot and wearing little but her shorts and one of Cooper's over-sized white tees, she was still hot. She had stolen the shirt from Copper but he hadn't seemed to mind. She liked to sleep in his shirts. Which was probably why everyone was so damn sure that the two of them were having some sort of seedy secret affair. The truth was that she could never see Copper that way. He was a like a pain in the ass older brother to her. He was even protective of her like a brother. Sure, she was one of the youngest on this unusual older team, but still, sometimes she hated having so many people watch out for her. "And yet they still make me do this. Billy wouldn't have." She scolded herself. Ever since she'd come to Florida she'd been comparing her new friends with her old friends.
Reaching the door to the stairs, Kim pushed it open. They used the machine on the floor below theirs. She used a wooden block to prop the door open and then stepped out onto the platform. For some stupid reason the stairwell wasn't lit. She hated moving around in the dark.
She placed her hand on the rail and began to inch herself down the stairs, still muttering about the unfairness of being sent. She lifted up her hand briefly to wipe sweat from her brow. When she brought it back, something very human touched it.
Kim never had the time to understand what was happening before she was savagely thrown to the ground. She cried out as she felt her ankle twist underneath her. She tried to regain her footing but a hand across the jaw knocked her back down. She put a hand to her mouth and felt blood seeping from it.
Curled shaking against the wall, she focused her eyes on the large shadow that loomed above her. She tried to collect her thoughts and in doing so she realized that her attacker had to be a man because there really weren't that many women that could hit quite that hard. "Except for me!" She cried out, throwing herself through the air at her attacker. She felt her fingers brush his face and he howled.
Enraged, he threw her off him like a rag-doll and then plowed his fist into her face. She wasn't quite sure just what he hit because her entire face exploded with pain. She shrunk away from him and tried to cover her face from his brutal blows. She tried to tell herself to hold it together and to not allow her attacker to see her cry but the fear was overcoming her and she began taking large short breaths.
"Shut up, bitch." The man growled in a deep voice. Well, at least she knew it was a man.
"Go to hell." She replied with more bravado than she felt. She spit at him. He wiped it off his face and then balled his fist again and sent the blow slamming against her rib-cage. She winced and tried to gather herself up in a ball but he wouldn't let her. He struck her ribs again and she doubled over gasping desperately for air.
Using his legs which seemed very strong to her, he pinned her flat against the wall. "We can do this my way or we can do this yours. Either way, I get what I want."
Eyes widening, she understood exactly what he meant to do. Desperation and panic renewed her fight and she started to thrash, using her legs. She even managed to connect and throw him off her. Once he was off her, she tried to move away and get to her feet but every part of her body protested. "No...."
And then something that felt like one would assume a truck going mach ten would feel hit her in the knee-cap and she screamed out. She felt a bolt of raw pain rush up through her leg. Unable to stop the tears now, she began to sob uncontrollably as she reached frantically for her knee.
He got atop her again and used his body to flatten her, "That was a crow-bar..try it again and next time it's be your skull I'll be using for target practice, bitch. Don't doubt for a second that I will kill you." He grabbed her by the chin and then shoved her roughly away.
"Now be quiet." He reached down and slid his hand under her shirt. She began to shake harder but he didn't even seem to notice. He smiled and then leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she tried to push him off of her but he didn't even seem to notice. Kim opened her mouth to scream; her last resort but it too was a waste of time. He saw the tiny "o" her mouth formed and it angered him. He slapped his open palm quickly across her face and she shrunk away. "Don't think so," He hissed. Reaching down he ripped a scrap of cloth from her shirt. With a strange laugh, her attacker forced the balled cloth into her mouth. Kimberly made a small grunting noise but he paid her no attention.
Much to her horror Kim felt his hands touch her tiny waist. Gliding their way down to the waistband of her sweatshorts, they stopped only when one hand slid unashamedly under the loose cloth. She couldn't see his eyes but she could well imagine that they were glowing a bright red as he yanked her work-out shorts down around her knees, pulling her undergarments along with them. She heard him unzip his pants and that was all she could take. He had her pinned to the ground; she couldn't move..she couldn't kick and he didn't even seem to notice her tiny fists slamming against him.
As the tears continued to fall, she turned her head away from him. Shutting her eyes tightly, she allowed her feverish mind to wander back to a place and time where there was no pain. No pain at all...
"Hey, Kim..you want to go for a swim?" Rocky DeSantos asked, jumping up and down like a young child. Kim glanced back at him with a large smile on her face.
"Rocko, it's the middle of the night..besides, we're cooking..cantcha see?" Kim replied, pointing dramatically to the stick she was holding in her hand. At the end of the stick were three absurdly large marshmallows. Next to her, her best friend Aisha Campbell also held a stick. Both girls were waving them over the bon-fire that Billy had made.
Rocky made a puppy-face, "Come on, Kim...I wanna go swimming..and you're the only one who's not too much of a chicken-shit." He stuck out his lower lip and then made some rude gesture to Kim's boy-friend Tommy Oliver.
Kim lifted an eyebrow and then sighed. Glancing at Aisha she said, "What do you say, Aisha? I mean..the hair already a goner..." One of the boys made a chuckling noise and was rewarded with Aisha throwing a marshmallow back at them.
To Kim's suprise Aisha nodded, "It's your last night with us, Kim, I say let's make some memories, girl." And with that she was on her feet. She handed the half-cooked marshmallow stick to Adam and then promptly proceded to disappear into the tent that she, Katherine and Kimberly were sharing. Kim glanced back at the others.
"What about the rest of you? Billy? Adam? Kat?" She grinned and slid over to Tommy. Wrapping her arms around him she murmured into his ear, "Tommy?" Rocky couldn't contain himself, he started laughing full-force and had to walk away before he doubled over. A moment later Adam joined him. Still, Kim didn't break away from Tommy. In fact, she continued to gaze up at him with a shy sexy smile on her face."Please, Tommy?" She pleaded. She took a marshmallow off the stick and pressed it into his mouth. "Please, for me." Tommy blushed.
Stammering he mumbled, "Sure, okay." Nearby Rocky and Adam went off into another fit of howling laughter. Kim peeled herself off of Tommy and excused herself. A moment later Rocky said, "Hey, ow," followed shortly by Adam saying the exact same thing. This time it was Tommy's turn to laugh.
Aisha stepped out of the tent dressed in her bathing suit and shorts. She spun around quickly and then went and grabbed Kim by the hand. "Let's go." And with that they were off towards the nearby river with the others in pursuit. Tommy murmured something about having to love it.
The river looked so peaceful and calm late at night..it was so enticing that neither of them bothered to wait for the others to show up. Kim said, "Jump together?" And Aisha nodded. Kim counted down from three and they both closed their eyes and leaped.
"Dammit, hold still, you move like a fish.."
Kim surfaced first and blinked. Well that was strange. She glanced at Aisha, "Did you say something?"
Aisha gave her a strange look, "How could I have, girl? I was underwater." She reached up and smacked Kim on the head. Kimberly tried to smile in reply but suddenly her go-lucky feeling had melted away and been replaced by dread. And then the cold hit her and thrust her back into the comfortable familiarity of the situation.
"Aiyee!" Kim screamed, bringing her arms together and shivering fiercely. "It's freezing!" She looked over at Aisha who was also shivering. They both glanced up at the cliff. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the others arrived and began peeling off their shoes and clothes. Just as Rocky and Tommy both leaped into the air Kim yelled, "Guys it's freezing."
There was a sudden sharp flash across her face and Kim brought her hand up to her cheek in shock. It hurt. Rubbing at it thoughtfully she glanced at Aisha in disbelief but the dark skinned Yellow Ranger was staring at the two boys who were just now surfacing. Still rubbing hr cheek, Kim blinked and the pain vanished. Shaking her head she called out to the boys who were now also shivering, "I tried to warn ya."
"Ya, after we jumped." Rocky growled. "Why I oughta.."
"Oughta what?" Tommy asked playfully, moving himself ever-so-slightly towards Kim. Rocky got a gleam in his eyes and then he leaped towards them, spraying water as he moved.
Both Kim and Aisha shreiked and Kim ducked behind Tommy, wrapping her arms around his waist and using his height to hide her from Rocky who was using his palms to spray water at the White Ranger. Tommy turned and looked at her, a smile lifting the corners of his lips. "Don't worry, Kim, I'll protect you." She was about to reply when his gaze turned menacing and he rumbled, "Because I'm gonna get what I want from you."
"What?" Kim gasped, badly frightened now. The color seemed to drain away for a moment and she felt an intense pain in her lower body. She tried to open her mouth to speak but she couldn't. Closing her eyes tightly she used all of her will-power to send herself back to the cliffs. Back to the night before she'd ever left Angel Grove.
Tommy...once again Tommy looked back at her concerned, "What's wrong, beautiful?"
She smiled up at him and shook her head. "Nothing. I don't want this moment to ever end."
Tommy laughed and leaned down towards her. He pressed his lips to hers and then deepened the kiss. Kim wrapped her arms around him. Behind them Rocky made a gagging noise and they broke apart, still holding each other. Kim stuck out her tongue at him.
"You're just jealous," She told him with a laugh.
Rocky gave her a mock stunned expression, "Jealous? Me? Pa-haw!" And with that he was air-borne again shoving the couple and Aisha back under water with a great sweeping motion. A moment later they were joined by the other Rangers.
Kim blinked and the scene changed to all of them sitting still wet around the camp-fire. Every now and then Rocky would stand up and flash his butt in front of it and someone would make some rude comment. Kim snuggled against Tommy's chest and listened to his heart-beat.
"What's on your mind, Kim?" Tommy asked, running a hand through her drying hair. He smiled down at her with such love in his eyes that it consumed her.
"I was just thinking..this is so perfect.."
"I've had better." The hand in her hair tightened and he jerked her head forward.
Kim cried out again and pushed away from Tommy. When she turned to look up at him, he'd been replaced. By the darkness and the pain.
She felt a sweaty hand touch her face. Instictively, Kim recoiled from it. A jolt of pain rushed up through her lower body and she remembered very clearly what was happening to her. Despite her reaction, the hand continued to stroke her bruised face.
Finally a disembodied voice rumbled. "Not bad, but you'll get better. I promise you will. I'll see to that. It's just too bad I wasn't your first but I guess to a two-bit whore like you would have had many men in your bed, huh?" He slapped her hard across the face as if infuriated by the mere thought of her having had multiple lovers. It wasn't true of course..she'd only had one..but that didn't matter to him. He hit her again, this time in the ribs. Struggling slightly she freed one of her arms enough to wrap it across her broken ribs protectively. She tried to pull herself into a ball but he wasn't having it. "I didn't say I was done." He hissed.
She closed her eyes again and tried to will herself back to her happy place but he seemed to anger even more when she looked away from him. The feel of his fist pounding against her small body once again brought her attention back to him. Moving slowly towards her, he removed the scrap of cloth from her mouth. Kimberly wanted to scream at him but all that came out was a sobbing whimper.
Lightly he told her, "Don't worry, bitch, I used a condom. I didn't want to catch any of those V.D.'s I'm sure you're carrying..that and I don't think we're ready to be parents yet..maybe later on, okay?"
The realization that he planned to cause her even more pain was too much. As she lay there bleeding and crying, a cold chill ran through her. She felt him lift her cotton shirt and glide his fingers upwards across her damages torso and that was all it took. The former Pink Ranger snapped.
"I'm not scared of you!" She screamed between sobs, her arms breaking loose and flailing at him. She connected several times but then her vision began to blur as her eyes swelled and she started missing her target. She felt the back of his hand against her face but it didn't stop her. He hit her again in the ribs but by now she was too far gone to even notice and she kept swinging blindly.
"Enough!" He cried, grabbing her wrists with his palms, In one giant motion he picked her up and hurled her body against the wall. Hitting head-first, Kim felt the darkness begin to swirl mercifully around her.
Just before it consumed her, she whispered, "Jason, Rocky, Tommy... help me, Oh God, please help me."
As soon as her struggles had ended, the man grinned and got back on her.Shaking his head and muttering, he reached down and was about to remove her shirt entirely when he saw a wisp of light come from the floor above. Someone had opened the door.
"Damn." He muttered, understanding that he had to make a quick escape. He glanced down at the bloody, broken, unconscious girl below him and sneered, "It's not over yet." He reached down and grabbed the blood and saliva soaked scrap of cloth that had served as Kimberly's gag and he stuffed it into his pocket. Almost as a second thought he reached down and pulled up her shorts. "Our business, Kimmie." Looking up once at the stairs, he turned and fled to the bottom floor.
"Well, I wonder what happened to Kim?" Jen said.
"Oh, I bet she saw some cute hunk and played her sympathy card with him." Copper laughed.
"No, honey, that's you." Jen replied. "I mean everyone knows."
"Whatever. In any case, we better find our girl before the coach goes on his midnight rounds." Copper replied. He didn't really mind the ribbing about him and Kim but he knew she did so he did his best to keep it to a minimum. Kim was after all, still recovering from her last relationship. Even if she wouldn't openly to admit to it. Something had happened between her and that Oliver fellow..
They started to descend the dark stairs still jibing each other. And then they heard it.
It sounded like sobbing. Soft and barely audible but it was still there. Jen and Copper exchanged looks and then they both made a bee line for the sound.
"Oh my God." Jen gasped, her eyes widening. She couldn't see most of the damage but she could see enough to know that it was her team-mate and friend who was sobbing, nearly hysterically. "Kimberly? Kim, honey... say something... please... it's okay, honey... we're here... you're safe now."
She could heard the fear in her voice. When she looked over at Copper, she saw the same stricken expression. She realized that Kim wasn't even really conscious.
Finally he moved into acting, "Get an ambulance. Oh God." Jen didn't ask any questions, just ran towards the door. Copper kneeled down next to her, "Oh God, Kim, who did this to you?" He turned her over in his arms and cradled her against his chest. On his lips was a promise of retribution.
Angel Grove, California....
"Okay, we got the sandwiches, we got the chips and we got uh pretzels. What are we missing?" Rocky DeSantos asked putting down a bowl of pretzels on the table.
"Sodas." Tanya Sloan said, reaching for one of the sandwiches Rocky's mother had made for them. Beside her, her boyfriend Adam Park flipped through the television stations.
"In the cooler. Get them yourself." Rocky chirped. He gazed over at Adam whose finger was pressed firmly against the up button on the remote.
"It's on ESPN." Jason Lee Scott told him, taking the remote from him. He turned the channel to 17. "All right, this is it guys, Dodgers versus Giants. All bets up front."
Rocky put a five on the table. "Giants."
Tanya laughed, "Dodgers."
Adam sighed, "Dodgers. I know better than to bet against her. She always wins and then she rubs it in my face." Tanya smiled wickedly at him.
"Well, I'm with Rocko." Jason said."Hey, by the way, where's Tommy and Kat?"
"Back at the Power Chamber working on the teleportation device. They'll be here as soon as they can." Rocky replied, practically downing one of the sandwiches in one bite. He leaned back against the couch.
"Now all we're missing is Kim." Jason said with a grin."She loves these games."
"Oh hell no!" Adam cried, "First, she only loves the games for the 'cute guys' and second, somehow or another, she always wins the bets. I hate that!" Tanya chuckled and gave him that "It's because girls are better" look.
"Aw shaddup." Rocky said between bites. "It's starting."
At the end of the fifth inning, the Giants were winning by two thanks to a homer off the bat of Barry Bonds. Rocky was looking very smug. Jason stood up to go for another soda when he saw a line of print go across the bottom of the screen.
"Hey guys, what's that say? Are those the Final Four scores?" Jason asked.
Rocky leaned forward, "No, I don't think so... it says, um...." His face went white, "Oh my God."
Tanya looked up at him startled and put her hand on his shoulder, "Rocky, what's wrong?"
"Look... it... it...." He stammered, his eyes still glued to the white print on the screen. He looked like he was about to collapse.
Jason walked around the couch and bent in front of the television. He read, "Team USA gymnast Kimberly Harte was attacked in her hotel room late last night and remains in critical condition. Stay tuned for a special report." He looked at his friends with agony in his eyes. When he saw his fear reflected in their faces, he decided to take over. "Adam, call Tommy and Kat and see if the teleportation device is on-line. If not, I'll call the airport. Are you guys with me?"
"What do you think?" Rocky asked, his eyes still on the screen. A shudder raced up through his body.
Tanya nodded, "Oh yeah." Her voice was cold.
Adam returned a moment later, "No luck. Tommy and Kat are on their...."
Jason shook his head furiously, "No, have them stay and repair it. Right now would be a perfect time for an attack by Rita. We need it on-line. Once it's repaired they can teleport to meet us."
Adam nodded and disappeared once again. Jason looked at the screen sadly again and then he took a deep breath and reached for the phone, "I'll call the airport."
Mercy General Hospital,
St. John, Florida....
Copper Haines rocked back and forth in the chair next to her bed. His head was rested in his palms and he himself was near tears.
Of course there was some good news; a few hours earlier, they'd upgraded her condition from critical to serious. That meant she was fighting. She'd suffered a lot of trauma and internal bleeding and he'd been told when she'd been brought in that it would be very easy for her to just give up. Just the same, he'd known that she never would. Kim was a fighter... a scrapper to the end. Sighing he rubbed his thumbs against his temples. It was a damn good thing that she wasn't the type to give up because he knew for sure that he could never have forgiven himself if she'd died. He shook his head not even wanting to think about that.
He was still wearing the same clothes, gray running sweats and a tee-shirt, that he'd been wearing when he'd found her oh so many hours ago. Except now they were spotted with her blood. It had been almost a full day since the attack but time seemed to have grinded to an abrupt halt for as faras Copper was concerned. "One hell of a brother I am, kid." He said. Kim always called him her big brother but all he could think about was how he'd let her down.
"Copper?" The door opened and Erika stepped through. She smiled sadly at him and then went and wrapped her arms around him. "Oh baby."
"This is my fault." Copper said into her shirt. She stroked his hair.
"No, you couldn't have known. Come on, why don't we got get you some clean clothes and something to eat okay?"
"I can't leave her." Copper replied, pushing himself away. "If she wakes up...."
"Shhh... the doc said it'll be awhile. Besides, you'll only scare her worse if she sees you all covered in blood."
He looked down at himself, "You're right." He took a deep breath and then stood. "Let's hurry. She needs to wake up to a familiar face."
"Okay." Erika replied, squeezing his hand and leading him through the door.
* * *
Swimming upstream was a bitch. But she did it just the same. After what seemed like forever, Kimberly broke the surface of the pool. She blinked and the pool disappeared and was replaced by a white hospital room. Only she could just barely see it through her swollen eyes. She tried to move her head to see if anyone else was in the room but it hurt too much. She felt like her head weighed a ton.
A door opened.
Panic welled up in her chest and she let out a gasp. The door shut again but she could feel others in the room with her. She tried to shrink away from them. Something flashed brightly in her mind..an image of being slammed violently against a wall.
"Kim?" She knew that voice. The muscles in her body relaxed but she was still tense. "Kim, it's me, Jason. Rocky, Tanya and Adam are here with me." His hand touched hers and involuntarily she recoiled from it. He pulled back quickly, stricken by the thought that he might have in any way caused her pain. Kim felt shame wash over her as she realized that these were her closest, oldest, truest friends.
"Jason?" She mouthed, though it was considerably difficult. Her lip was cut and swollen. She forced her eyes open a little bit more so that she could see him. Sure enough, the foursome stood protectively over her. Trembling slightly, Kim reached out and took Jason's hand. "Wha... what are you guys doing here?"
Rocky strode forward a bit but stayed within the protective shield they'd formed around her, "Did you really think we wouldn't come. The moment we heard, Kim. We took the first flight we could." She could hear the worry in his tone. He was scared. For her.
"I'm only sorry we couldn't get here sooner," Jason told her.
"Well that makes two of us." Copper said from the doorway. He'd changed into faded jeans and a blue tee-shirt. "Who are you?" Jason heard the implied threat in the boys' voice. If you're here to hurt her, I'll kill you myself.
Jason held up his hands in surrender, "My name is Jason. This is Rocky, Adam and Tanya. We're from Angel Grove."
"Relax, Copper, they're friends." Kim said softly. In all honesty, it was about as loud as she could get.
Copper nodded. "Okay." The threat still hung in the air but Jason took no offense to it. With the hand that wasn't being squeezed to death by Kim (who surprisingly enough still had a grip of steel) he reached out and shook Dodge's hand.
"Kim, the others will be here shortly."
"Others?" She asked in confusion. Her mind was a fog of dust and cobwebs.
Jason nodded and squeezed her hand reassuringly, "Yeah, Tommy, Billy and Kat."
"Guys," Kim protested weakly, "Really, I'm okay. Besides, I thought Billy was well... elsewhere."
Adam nodded grimly, "News travels fast. The moment he heard, he, well, he called us and said he was on his way."
Kim tried to smile but it hurt, "Thanks guys."
"Shhh," Copper whispered coming over to her, "You gotta rest now, kid." He ran his fingers past her eyes. To no one's surprise, Kim had fallen back asleep, the exhaustion and pain taking their toll.
Before she'd even opened her eyes as far as they would open, she'd known that they were all there. She could feel it. Curiously enough, she'd been moved to a larger room so as to accommodate all her friends. As she glanced around her eyes fell on all the flowers and balloons cluttered aimlessly around the room.
Gazing about, she took in each of their positions. Billy Cranston was sitting next to her on a chair with his fists rested against his forehead. Rocky was pacing the room like a caged tiger and Jason seemed to be watching him. With his eyes at least. Adam and Tanya were sitting on the floor. Well, actually Tanya was sitting and Adam was lying in her arms. Kim guessed that he was probably sleeping. Across the room by the door, Tommy and Kat stood next to each other. Their hands were almost touching at the tips but not quite. Kim felt her stomach lurch for a moment. Silently she scolded herself for her reaction. True, it was the first time she'd seen Tommy since... well, before the letter and he did look really hot and... Stop it. Been there, done that, I left him. Still... No, stop it... let it go. She guessed that Copper had probably been forced to go to practice.
She reached out and touched Billy's arm. He let out a surprised yelp and jumped to his feet. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Kim gushed. Her voice was just barely a whisper and the others had to strain to hear.
Billy stammered, "It's good to see you functioning within normal perimeters."
"Billy," Jason scolded softly, "She's a person, not a machine." His words were gentle and harmless but they made Billy blush just the same.
Billy apologized but Kim just waved him off. "Oh Billy, I could never be mad. Not at you. Not at that. There was a moment there when...." She let out a gasping sob. Rocky stopped his pacing and stared stricken in her direction.
"Kim, no, don't do this to yourself." He urged her. He started to move towards her as if to offer silent if not physical support.
She didn't even seem to hear him, "I... I... I... thought I'd never hear you... I... thought... I... was so sure... I thought he was going to kill me. Oh God, I was... so scared." The sobs had become full-fledged tears spilling down her swollen and discolored cheeks. Tommy moved away from Kat and strode quickly towards her and then reached across and took her tenderly in his arms. Cradling his fiercely trembling body against his chest, he tried to calm her while the others just stared helplessly at them. Damn it, this wasn't supposed to happen. Not to one of their own. And not to Kim. She'd always been one of the stronger ones. She'd learned how to roll with the punches life had delivered but this was too much. For anyone. Billy stepped out in to the hallway.
A moment later a nurse entered the room and quickly took it all in. In a series of quick movements, she adjusted Kim's I.V. She mouthed to Rocky, "I've given her a sedative to calm her." The nurse left.
Tommy who had pulled Kim even closer to him and had taken to rocking her against his chest, looked up at Rocky and then back down at Kim. Sure enough, she'd cried herself to sleep long before the sedative had even kicked in. Very gently Tommy laid her back down on the bed. He covered her up and then motioned to the others for them to follow him. Exiting her I.C.U. room, the seven teens stepped out into the sterile hallway. Jason noticed that Billy was staring down at the ground.
"What's wrong, bro?"
"Guys," Billy started, seeming flustered. "We gotta do something. I looked at Kimberly's charts."
"How bad?" Tommy asked softly.
"I think it's safe to say that her gymnastics days are over. At least as far as Team USA is concerned. Her knee was completely, uh destroyed... and she's got reconstructive surgery planned for early tomorrow morning. That combined with a badly sprained ankle, six broken ribs and a severe concussion... guys, rehab is gonna be hell for her." He spoke slowly and softly and they all knew why. All of Kimberly's dreams had burnt to ashes on the medical chart.
"We gotta find him," Jason said suddenly. They all looked up at him questioningly. "It might help her recover if she knew that the creep who attacked her can never hurt anyone else. Including her."
"But how? I mean, shouldn't we leave this to the police?" Kat asked.
"I already spoke to the detective in-charge and he says that they've got no leads at all. Nothing." Rocky said desperately.
Adam spoke for the first time since waking up, "We'll find the leads. If it'll help Kim sleep better and heal faster... well then guys, we owe her that much. At the very least." Determination burned in his dark eyes.
"I agree," Tanya said from next to Adam. "If we can hunt down all the rejects from the B movie reels that we do week after week, I'm sure we can hunt down one dirt-bag."
She was angry. Real angry. Hell may have had no fury like a woman scorned but it got really ugly when that same woman saw one of her friends hurt. Adam shivered a bit at the notion. Then again,he thought with a shrug,if Tanya doesn't maul the bastard, I might.
"Then we're unanimously consensual?" Billy asked.
There was a moment of confusion and then Tommy said coldly, "Yeah, bro, we're all agreed."
* * *
The plan was simple enough but they argued about it just the same. In the end, it was decided that Tommy and Kat would return to the Power Chamber to run diagnostics on all the clothes Kim had been wearing that night. The police had found nothing so they had merely inventoried the clothing. A little work with the teleportation device and that was taken care of. Billy was convinced that the Power Chamber, with its sophisticated diagnostic tools, could turn up something. Tommy wanted to stay in Florida and help more actively with the search for the guy who'd attacked her. Billy, who was going to stay at Kim's bedside, had promised to relieve him after a few hours.
Rocky and Jason decided that they would check around the gym and the hotel. Maybe, just maybe, it was someone who knew Kim. Rocky couldn't fathom why someone who knew Kim would attack her but they both knew that it was a definite possibility.
Adam and Tanya were to do the club scene. They looked the most like a couple so it was decided that they should attempt to go undercover in all the clubs and bars around the St.John area. Hopefully the attacker was someone who would shoot off at the mouth under a few drinks or such. Billy, after initially protesting, had created fake i.d.s for the couple.
As they were leaving her hospital room, Jason leaved over and touched Kim's face very lightly, "We'll find this guy, I promise."
* * *
He cleared his throat. "Um, I got a question. Yeah. I'm wondering how... I mean, I'm not objecting and all, I'm just wondering... Tanya, aren't you gonna have a hard time running in those things if we catch him and have to run after him. I mean it's not like we can morph and all." Adam asked, starring wide-eyed at his girlfriend. She was dressed in a stunning black and gold dress with black heels that seemed very high to him.
"Trust me," Tanya said with a mischievous smile, "A girl always knows how to use her shoes to her advantage." She winked at him.
"Well, sure, okay. How do I look?" Adam asked shyly. He always got like that when it came to impressing her.
She did a sweeping inspection of him with her eyes. Finally she nodded, "I'm impressed." He was wearing black slacks, a black shirt and a green button down shirt. On his feet were his brown hiking boots. "I really am."
"Uh, Jason helped me." Adam admitted, his face coloring.
"He may have helped you but honey, you're wearing it and you look great." Tanya reassured him. "Now, lemme see the identification cards."
"Oh yeah, here." Adam said, reaching into the pocket of his slacks and pulling out two plastic cards. "Billy was complaining about how hard he had to work just to keep Zordon and Alpha from figuring out what he was doing."
"Why?" Tanya asked, turning the cards over in her hands. She nodded her approval and then looked back up at Adam.
"I guess he thinks Zordon would disapprove." Adam replied with a shrug.
"I don't see why he would. I mean, all we're doing is assisting the St.John police department." She said her words very carefully, leaving little doubt about just how much use her heels would get if she caught up with Kim's attacker.
Adam nodded. "Okay." He offered her his arm, "Shall we go dancing."
She smiled, "Yes. I think it makes sense to hit the weirder clubs later tonight."
Adam agreed and then he made a promise to himself that if anyone came near Tanya, he'd kill him.
* * *
At just after two in the morning, Kim woke up with a start. She'd been dreaming again. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see him above her. There was never a face but the darkness was worse. She could feel him touching her, hurting her...Kim took a long deep breath. They didn't know about that. It was better that way. On the way to the hospital she'd regained consiousness just along enough for one of the medics to ask if she'd been raped. She'd told him no. She couldn't deal with it. She just wanted to forget it. And the less everyone knew about what had happened in that dark stairwell, the better. It would stay her secret. Hopefully forever.
Numbly, Kim realized that she could feel her injuries burning with agony. She'd always been a quiet dreamer even during nightmares so she was surprised to discover when she awoke that she had shifted into the fetal position and that she was covered with sweat. She could feel a burning sensation in her knee.
"Guys?" She cried out softly. It was so dark that she couldn't see a thing. She felt the fear rising in her chest. "Guys? Please?"Her voice rose softly as her panic increased.
"Hey, hey, it's all right." She felt a hand touch her and her instinct was to pull away even though she recognized the voice.
"I'm not gonna let you hurt me again." She cried out, ignoring sensibility. She started to push against the hand.
"Kimberly, it's me, Billy. It's okay." He leaned over and turned the light on next to her bed. She looked up into his concerned eyes and wanted to cry. He was one of her oldest and truest friends and she had treated him this way. And yet somehow, the look in his eyes wasn't anger, it was pure worry.
"Billy, I'm sorry." She gave him a hug, ignoring the odd feeling broadcast her mind sent out when she touched him. He was her friend and she knew that he would never hurt her.
He shook his head, "It's all right. Can I, uh..." He started to stammer, "Uh, get you anything?"
"Water? My throat is awful dry." Kim asked softly. Then she looked around the room. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be with the others? They're asleep at the hotel, right?"
"Negative. Uh, the others are doing... uh... other things." Billy told, not wanting to worry her. He knew she'd get upset if she knew her friends were endangering themselves to catch her attacker. She didn't need anything else to upset her.
"Besides sleeping at two in the morning?" She asked. She knew them and just how protective they were. She didn't need Billy to spell it out for her. "They're not out looking for him, are they?" Billy saw her shiver when she said the word 'him'.
"Uh...." Billy stammered, not knowing how to reply. "I'll get you some water." He left the room quickly. Once outside he smacked himself in the forehead. "Stupid."
Kim stared ahead at the wall. Part of her was relieved and thankful that her friends had taken it upon themselves to find her attacker but the other part of her was horrified. She knew firsthand just how strong and vicious he was and it wasn't like they could just call on their Zeo powers. That would be absolutely forbidden and they all knew it. If something happened to one of them because of her... she didn't even want to think about it.
Billy reentered the room holding a cup. He placed his hand gently under her head and lifted her towards the cup. She sipped gingerly, feeling the liquid slide across the cuts on her lips. "Uh, the nurse is on her way to give you something to help you sleep." Billy told her as he placed the cup on the desk.
"No!" She yelled. "I mean, I'm not tired. I don't want to sleep anymore." Kim quickly added when she saw the shocked and concerned expression on his face.
"Kimberly, you need your rest to help you mend correctly." Billy said softly, taking the cup from her after she was done. "Surgery later this morning is going to exhaust you."
The color drained from her face. "You know about that?" Then she made a bad attempt at smiling, "It's okay, they'll fix me up all good and I'll be back doing back flips in no time." The smile never came close to touching her eyes.
Billy knew the truth. There was a good chance she could make a full recovery but that was a long ways off and it would take traveling a very difficult and painful road of rehabilitation. He doubted however that she would ever regain her Team USA gymnastic form. Still, he didn't have the heart to tell her. "If anyone can do it, it's you." He replied with a small, tight smile.
She squeezed his hand. "How long are you gonna stay?"
"As long as you want me too. If you go to sleep, I'll be here when you wake up." He replied softly.
"Thanks. I don't want to sleep though. Will... will you talk to me?"
Flustered he replied, "Su... sure."
"Thanks." Kim replied."Now, tell me all about Aquitar."
* * *
Copper whistled. "All right, all y'all, shaddup." His voice was strong and tense. He glanced over at Rocky and Jason. "These two are friends of Kim which means they're our friends too. They wanna find the son of a bitch who did this to her. So do we so I want all of you to gave them your full cooperation. Okay?"
The other twelve members of the team USA gymnastic team nodded. It was early in the morning but no one could sleep anyhow. The last two days had been pure hell. They all thought of Kim as the kid sister of the group. No one could quite believe what had happened.
"Good. Guys, you can crash in me and Nate's room for tonight and then you can start talking to everyone over breakfast, okay?"
Jason replied, "Sounds good. Thanks, Copper." He glanced over at Rocky and saw that his blue clad friend was making a sweeping inspection of everyone in the room, seeing if anyone could possibly be responsible. Mostly what Jason saw was confused or blank stares. It was hard for him to believe that anyone close to Kim would have intentionally inflicted as much damage on her as they had. He reminded himself that there was no reason to suspect that it was anyone she knew.
"All right, everyone hit the sack. It's gonna be a long day tomorrow but rest assured, we will find out who's responsible." He waved his hand and everyone got up to move around. Jen approached.
"You get some sleep too, Copper. You look awful." She told him, kissing him on the cheek. He smiled at her and thanked her for her concern.
After the room was cleared leaving just Copper, Nathan Pierce, Rocky and Jason, Copper fell down on his bed in exhaustion. He'd never really known the true meaning of a bad day before. "I can't believe this happened. I never should have sent her... she was sick and...."
Nate grabbed his shoulders, "Stop it, man. You couldn't have known."
Jason nodded, "He's right. It's not your fault and I promise you, she doesn't blame you. It's whoever did this's fault."
"I know that but... if I hadn't been such a jerk to her. She was sick, man. Sneezing and everything. During practice she could barely keep her balance because she kept sneezing so damned much." Copper protested, staring at his hands.
Rocky shook his head vigorously, "We'll find him. He'll never hurt anyone again. We'll get him, Copper. I promise you that much."
Copper smiled sadly, "She's lucky to have friends like you."
"No," Jason said sitting next to him, "She's lucky to have friends like all of us and we're lucky to have her. And I for one intend to keep it that way. Deal, bro?" He offered his hand.
Copper stared at it for a moment and then took it, "Deal, bro."
"Okay, good. Now, what can you tell us about the other guys on the team?" Rocky asked, pulling out the Team USA gymnastics "Who's Who" manual and flopping it down in front of Copper and Nate.
* * *
"You know, "Tommy said, as he paced back and forth, "I never noticed just how long these machines took to analyze stuff." His hands were folded behind his back but they kept twitching s he grew more impatient.
"Actually," Alpha chirped, "It's going really fast. Why are you analyzing gym clothes, Tommy?"
"I believe I can answer that question, Alpha." Zordon spoke up. Tommy, Kat and Alpha all turned to look at him. "I have been monitoring broadcast channels and this is what I discovered." There was a pause and then they heard the ESPN music. Tommy blew out air between his teeth as the announcer began to speak.
"It's been about two days since up and coming Team USA gymnast Kimberly Harte was physically assaulted in the stairwell of her hotel in St. John, Florida. Doctors have upgraded her condition from critical to serious but remain extremely skeptical about the seventeen year old athlete's chances of an eventual comeback. Reconstructive surgery on her left knee is scheduled for tomorrow morning and doctors speculate that it could be several months before she can walk without using crutches. In the meanwhile, police still have yet to come up with any significant leads."
Zordon cut the transmission and looked down at Kat and Tommy.
"Why wasn't I informed?"
"We didn't want to worry you until we knew something more substantial." Tommy replied. It was a lame excuse but it was honestly the best he could come up with on short notice.
"And now?" Zordon asked. It was strange. For a large floating head in a cylinder, he sure sounded a lot like a parent. It was a bit disconcerting until Tommy realized that they had always considered the inter dimensional traveler something of a surrogate parent anyhow.
Tommy glanced at Kat and then back up at Alpha, "The news reports are generous. She got messed up real bad and she's pretty scared. I'm worried about her mental stability." There was a strange tone in the boys' voice. One that Zordon might have described as more that fear and concern for a comrade. Then again the ancient guardian knew exactly what it was that he heard in Tommy's voice..love. The young leader of the Power Rangers had never stopped loving his former girlfriend. Well duh. Zordon rather suspected that in truth, Kimberly had never fallen out of love with him. Well they did say that tragedy and tension brought people together.
"It's understandable that Kimberly might be having problems after an attack of such brutal proportions. I'm sure it helps to have all of her friends there. My question is, why are you scanning her clothes?"
Kat answered quickly, "We're assisting the police in their investigation."
"Ay yi yi, do they know this?" Alpha asked, looking as flustered as always. Who really knew just what kind of heart beat in the little android. He'd always had a soft side for Kim.
"Well, not exactly. Yet, anyhow."
Zordon made a strange nodding motion, "I understand your eagerness to put Kimberly's soul at ease by bringing in her attacker, however I must remind you that the Zeo powers are not to be used in your quest."
Tommy replied, "We understand, Zordon. This isn't a revenge mission. We just want to bring him in and then the St. John police can have him."
"Good. I wish you the best of luck." Zordon replied and then he faded back. To himself he said, And I hope you catch that bastard.
* * *
It was hard not to get swept away in the dancing but really all it took was seeing a mental image of the damage done to Kim's face to bring it all back to him. She'd been hurt. This night was not for fun.
"Are you okay?" Tanya whispered into his ear as they glided around the dance floor. They were at the Golden Bird and so far nothing. They were about to give up on this place and head over to the Dust Gator. They'd run the same routine already at several clubs. They'd started talking about Kim's attack to the bartender and others had gotten involved but they had yet to come up with anything that could even be considered a lead. It was deeply frustrating for the couple.
"I'm okay. I'm a bit tired."
"You want to call it a night?" Tanya asked with concern. She leaned back and put the back of her hand against his forehead. He shrugged it off.
"No, Kim wouldn't if it was one of us. Come on, let's get outta here. We're in the wrong place." He took her hand and led her from the room. Once outside in the cool air, he took a deep breath. "You know, I was looking forward to seeing Kim again but not like this. I had it figured in my mind that the next time I saw her would be when she was winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Instead...." Adam sighed, "Instead, we're here to watch all of her hard work and dreams crumble to nothing because...." He couldn't finish the sentence. Instead he just stared miserably into the clear night. It was too nice a night for everything that had happened.
Tanya wrapped her arms around him, "You know, I know that we're supposed to be role-models and that when, and I do say when, we find him, we're supposed to turn him over to the police... but you know baby, that's gonna be hard."
"I know." He whispered. "I just... I've never wanted to hurt anyone so bad in my life... and we don't even have a face to match that... I can only call it hate."
She brushed the hair out of his eyes. It made her just as angry to think that Adam's sweet innocence had been torn away by all of this. She patted his hand, "Come on, handsome. We'll hit one more club and then I'm taking you back to the hotel."
* * *
He'd done most of the talking, well actually it was more like babbling but she hadn't objected even once. In fact, she kept pushing him into talking more. She said his voice comforted her. He could tell that she was exhausted and he suspected that the reason she was resisting sleep was fear of dreaming.
Just the same, he had the nurse give her the light sedative. As she was drifting off, still fighting sleep, he promised her that he wouldn't leave her bedside.
"He's not gonn' come and gemme?" Kim slurred as her eyelids drooped.
"No, no one is coming near you." He told her, touching her hand deftly. "Go to sleep. I'll be here when you wake up."
She blinked once more and then drifted off. He glanced around the room and sighed, wondering how the others were doing. Tired himself but refusing to sleep until he was relieved by Tommy, Billy decided to look at the cards that had accompanied all the flowers and balloons that were cluttering up her room.
As he suspected, most of them were from fans. Kim had quite a following, especially in young girls. He smiled as he read the words of one seven year old aspiring gymnast, "You will always be my hero." He put the card back down and stepped over to a bouquet of roses. Odd, he thought. It was unusual to send roses on such on occasion as this unless the sender and Kim were romantically linked. Feeling a bit like he shouldn't, Billy picked up the card.
A moment later, he grabbed his communicator, "Jason." He hissed into it.
By luck alone, Jason and Rocky were in the bathroom washing up when Billy's voice came over their communicators. Jason shut the door firmly and then replied, "Yeah, Billy, what's up?"
"I think you'd better come here. There's something you need to see." Billy replied.
"What's wrong?" Rocky asked, alarmed.
"Just get here." Billy said flatly. Jason and Rocky exchanged looks.
"Give us a minute." Jason replied. He led Rocky out of the bathroom. "Copper, Nathan, we'll be right back. We gotta, uh take care of something."
Copper, who was lying on his back with his hands beneath his head looked up startled, "At three in the morning?"
"Yeah, we'll be right back." Rocky offered before pushing Jason out the door. Once in the hallway, he spoke into his communicator, "Are we clear to teleport into Kim's room?"
"Affirmative." Billy responded. Jason jerked his head forward and the two boys disappeared in a show of blue and white light.
They appeared in her room moments later. Jason looked over at Kim, "Is she all right?"
"She's sleeping, "Billy replied directly, "I want you to look at this." He handed Jason the card from the roses.
"To the one who got away, I promise we'll be together again soon. Love always the man of your dreams." Jason read. He looked up with anger in his eyes. "He's taunting her."
"We should throw away the flowers and take the card back to the Power Chamber." Rocky said, his anger building as he thought of how her attacker had casually walked into a florist shop and laid down the cash for the flowers. He'd probably been smiling as he wrote the note.
"I agree. I think the flowers would unnerve her and the note.."
"She can't see the note." Jason said flatly. "Get it outta here. Roses too."
"When we find him...." Rocky started.
Jason lost it, "I'm sick of 'when we find him'! I want him now!" He was practically yelling. Billy put his hand on Jason's shoulder.
"Calm down," he urged, "You don't want to wake her."
"Too late," Kim murmured, causing them all to jump, "I'm already awake. What's going on? Why are you yelling?"
Jason looked desperately at Rocky who just shrugged. Finally he said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you. I'm tired is all."
"Jase," Kim said, shifting in her bed. She groaned slightly as she moved, "I know you too well, you don't get angry when you get tired, you get quiet. What's wrong?"
Jason shuffled nervously and tried to pocket the card. "I'm just worried about you."
"What's that?" Kim asked, her eyes going to his pocket.
Rocky shook his head, "It's nothing."
"I don't believe you." She replied.
"Wo... would we lie to you?" Billy asked, trying to sound flip. He failed badly. She scowled at him and his heart jumped. That meant that she had to be feeling a little bit better.
"Yes," she replied flatly, "If you thought you were protecting me. Now, I haven't got much energy so don't play big brothers to me. Lemme see what you just put in your pocket."
Jason shrugged but made no motion to give her the card, "It's just a receipt. I was complaining about how expensive food is in this town." He said lamely. She gave him a dirty look.
"If that's true then why won't you let me see it. If all it is, is a receipt, I mean." She coughed and then refocused her gaze on Jason who was beginning to squirm under his old friends' scrutiny.
"Because it's real bad and we don't want you get to upset over just how much it is." Rocky offered. She lifted her eyebrow at him and shook her head ever so slightly. She winced at the pain that ran through her body.
"Not you too, Rocko. Damn it, Jason, this hurts. Just let me see it!" She raised her voice a bit and they could all hear the pain in it.
"Kim, it's just a sick joke, "Jason protested.
"I can deal with it." She held out her hand revealing her discolored wrist. Jason bit his lip and then reached into his pocket.
"Kim, I don't think...."
"Please, I don't want to fight with you." She was weakening and Jason knew that if he held out a little longer, she would probably fall into sleep but he also knew that the next time she woke up she'd be pissed as hell... and she'd still want to see the note. He couldn't deal with her being angry at him. Looking away, he handed over the note.
She took it from his hand and then tried to read it. "I can't... my eyes can't focus... Jason, read it for me."
He shook his head frantically,. "No, Kim, no... I can't...." He stepped away.
She tilted her head and then bit her lip as the nausea rushed over her. Gasping she begged, Please...."
"I can't... I can't hurt you...." Jason protested.
"Jason...." He could tell that she was weakening. As it was, the docs were surprised that she'd been conscious as much as she had been. They warned that she'd probably sleep for quite awhile after her knee surgery. They said that it would be quite painful and that she'd be pretty doped up on painkillers. The exact phrase had been something like " She won't know whether she's coming or going, she'll be so out of it."
He walked to her bedside and placed his hand very gently under her head, "You're like a sister to me, Kim, you know I'd do anything for you but this... Kim, trust me when I tell you, you'd be better off without knowing what it says."
"He's right, Kimberly. We'd all do anything for you. Whatever you asked of us." Billy told her.
Rocky finished the sentence for him, "Don't ask this."
"Guys, you're doing it again... you're acting like my older brothers. Come on, it can't be that bad...." She said between yawns.
Jason looked at the others and then he took the note from her hand. "Yeah, it is that bad." With one fluid motion, he ripped it apart. She tried to push herself up, staring up at him with wide-eyed surprise. When she failed at that, she sunk back against her pillow and to his horror, he saw betrayal on her face. "Kim...."
"I can't believe you did that...." she said, tears sliding down her cheeks. They all knew that she was likely to be overly emotional due to all the pain and stress but that didn't much help them as they watched the tears fall.
Rocky started to move forward, "It's for the best...."
"No, you don't know what's for the best. Just get out, all of you. Go, I don't need you here. Get outta here." She was nearly hysterical.
They all looked at each other desperately and then Jason nodded, "Okay, but we'll be nearby...."
"Just go away. I hate you. I'm not gonna let you hurt me ever again. Just leave me alone!" She cried. He nodded sadly and then led the others outside. They exited the hospital and stepped out into the alley. Jason slumped against the wall.
"Jason," Billy offered in a compassionate voice, "The statistical odds are that she was just exhausted, frightened and in pain. I doubt sincerely that she meant what she said. I believe she was transferring her anger and fear onto you, er us."
"It doesn't matter... I let her down, man." Jason said, running his fingers through his hair. He himself felt like he was about to cry.
Rocky started to move forward and then hesitated. After a moment he continued forward. He grabbed Jason by the shoulders and pulled him into a hug, "We'll get through this man... and so will she. You know why... because we're here for each other. We've been through too damn much, man to let our friendship crumble to dust now. It'll be okay." Rocky tightened his grasp to offer his friend comfort.
After a moment they pulled away from each other. Billy said, "You guys better get back to Copper and Pierce. I'll go back up to Kimberly's room. She should have someone she knows there. I'll stay outside if she's still awake."
"Good," Jason said. "Let's teleport."
* * *
In the morning they all convened at a small little diner in the heart of St. John. Billy reported that Kim had awakened just minutes before she'd been taken off to surgery but that he hadn't been able to talk to her. He added that she did call out for them and that she seemed much calmer.
"Well we had no luck," Adam reported bitterly, tossing a piece of bacon back down to the plate. Tanya placed her hand atop his on the table.
"Us either," Tommy said with clear disgust in his voice. "I feel like we're going in circles and it's not helping her."
"I second that." Jason said. Rocky noticed that he was still being rather quiet. His guess was that Jason had been more stung by Kim's tearful words than he was letting on. "We gotta do something more active... she's falling apart."
"We could have used that note for a handwriting analysis." Kat said gently.
Jason looked up at her, stunned, but Billy patted him on the shoulder. "I figured as much. I, uh, went back and picked up the pieces. I'm going back with you to the Power Chamber so we'll check them out there."
"No," Kat said, "You're going to bed. I'll check them out and you'll join me when you wake up." Billy looked at Jason for help but he sided with Kat.
"You've been up all night watching Kim. Tommy can take over. Besides, it'll be awhile before she's outta surgery," he said. "Get some sleep, bro. It's not over yet." He looked at Adam and Tanya, "You guys too. Rocky and I will hit the gym after breakfast."
Rocky leaned back in his chair, "You know, I looked at all the guys on her team and I kept thinking it coulda been any one of these guys and if it is, they're so cool about it. It just pisses me off."
"Oh, I know. I mean, what could make someone hurt someone so good like Kim?" Tommy asked.
Jason leaned forward, "They're sick. And whoever did this is just barely human. That's what it is." He stood up, "Breakfast is on me."
* * *
Copper Haines tried to smile pleasantly as he went around and introduced Jason to the athletes and coaches. Nathan was taking Rocky around. It made more sense to split up and then compare notes later. "Hey Scott, wuz up, man?" Copper asked one of the water-boys. "This is Kim's friend, Jason. They're all in town to give her support so Nate and I figured we'd show 'em around."
Scott Davenport acknowledged them with a nod. He was a tall big kid with dark curly hair and a ruddy expression. He couldn't have been more than twenty. He was leaning over gathering towels together. When he looked up Jason saw that he had a scratch on his chin.
Copper saw it too, "What happened to you, man?"
"My girl and I, uh, were getting frisky and she got too frisky." Scott replied with a laugh. "You know Anna."
Copper nodded, "Right, right. Well, I'll see you later, bro."
Scott grinned, "Yeah, man. Nice to meet you, Jason." Jason shook his hand and then he and Copper started to walk away. Scott called out, "Hey Haines, how's Kimmie doing?"
Copper lifted an eyebrow and then replied, "Hangin' in. Say hi to Anna for me."
"Will do." And Scott went back to his work. He glanced up once more to watch as Copper and Jason disappeared into the crowd of athletes and reporters. The media had been around all morning pining for information and interviews. Even Kimberly's hometown had sent a crew out to cover her attack.
Scott sighed, immensely thankful that Copper didn't seem to recall that he and Anna had broken up awhile back. It wasn't exactly like he lied to them. The girl he'd been with had been frisky. And she had cut him and even given him a few bruises to match. But the girl wasn't Anna. Anna was well, to put it gently, quite out of the picture. Chances were that she wouldn't be giving anyone any cuts anytime soon. Besides he figured, Copper had no reason to suspect him. After all, he was little more than a water boy. True, he'd worked almost exclusively with Kim and her roommate Jen Butler but that was irrelevant.
He touched his chin and allowed his mind to drift back to the bouquet he'd sent her. Actually, he'd hand delivered it himself. She'd been sedated when he'd wandered into her room. One of her old friends, Rocky or something like that had been in her room when he'd dropped off the flowers but the dark haired boy had paid him little attention. Rocky had been sitting at her bedside watching her as if he suspected that she could stop breathing at any moment. Three more of her friends, including Jason had been in the hallway talking to the doctor but they hadn't even seen him enter or exit the room so he had little fear of being connected to the flowers.
By self-delivering them he'd been able to see her again and that was important. She was so beautiful even all beat to hell and he still had faith that eventually somehow, some way, she'd be his. They were just going through a rough patch. He really hadn't intended to bang her up as much as he had but damn it, she'd thrashed around so much that she'd given him no choice. Oh well, she'd live and it'd all be okay. True, her gymnastic career was over but such were the burdens of love. She'd be cool with it once she understood that he'd done what he did so that they could be together as fate intended. Unfortunately he would have to apologize for calling her such awful names and saying that she wasn't good in bed. That wasn't true but with all of her fussing, well she'd just made him so damned mad but hey, that was the past.
He ran his fingers through his hair. He'd have to go see her again very soon. No one would think anything of it because he was the equivalent of her personal assistant. Yeah, he'd go see her and she'd understand.
* * *
"Anyone ask her out lately?" Rocky asked on a hunch. The foursome was seated around a table in the gym cafeteria but most of the food was in front of Rocky.
Nathan Pierce frowned, "Well, sure. I mean it's Kim. Someone asked her out everyday. Even Scott. That was just a joke though. Kim wasn't interested and I think he's still attached to Anna."
"Anyone more recently or more serious?" Jason asked. In his mind he'd already crossed Scott off his list. It just didn't seem likely that he'd do such a thing. He'd seemed genuinely concerned.
"Darryl," Copper replied softly. "Darryl's pretty intense and I know he's had the hots for Kim for awhile now. They even went out a couple times but she was always really upset afterwards because he kept trying to stick his tongue down her throat. He didn't push too far or anything and he backed off totally after Eddie and I had a few words with him. Evenso... I know he still likes her."
"Sounds like we should have a talk with Darryl," Jason said. He could still hear Kim's accusing words from the night before echoing in his head. In her fear and confusion, she'd likened him to her attacker. He knew she didn't mean it but it just made him want catch whoever was responsible even more.
"Right. But I must warn you, Darryl tends to piss you off because he's so aloof." Pierce replied as he put a ten spot on the table. He stood up.
"On the other hand, he's also about as transparent as they come. If he's stringing us along, I guarantee we'll know." Copper said.
He and Pierce led Jason and Rocky over to the other side of the cafeteria where three boys and a girl were sitting at a table munching on salads. A tall black guy wearing sweatpants and a tank-top lifted up his head when he saw them approaching. "Haines, dude, I was gonna hunt you down, brother."
"Oh yeah?" Copper asked wearily, "Why's that?"
"Well, all of us...." Darryl motioned to the other three at the table, "Wanna know how Kim's doing. Is the kid holding up?" He sounded sincere enough.
"You tell us," Pierce replied.
Darryl looked at him with genuine surprise in his dark eyes, "What? You don't... oh hey whoa! Look bro, maybe I was a little... okay a lot outta line with her when we went out and all but dude, if she told me to stop, I did. I know she was mad at me but I did back off. You gotta know I'd never hurt her. Not like that, bro. Not anyway if at all possible but definitely not like that." He took a deep ragged breath, "You gotta believe me. I mean, yeah, I wanted to be with her and I like her a lot but fellas, she told me she wasn't interested and I respect that. She and I are friends now." There was painful desperation in his eyes.
Copper touched his shoulder, "It's cool, bro. I believe you. We got to cover all the bags though, you know?"
"I dig but believe me, I want this guy. We all do."
"Good. So if you hear anything, you'll tell us, right?" Pierce asked calmly. His friends called him the rock for a reason.
Darryl nodded grimly, "Count on it. I'd want to beat the crap outta whoever did this if all they'd done was slap her but now, now I wanna kill him."
"Me too, bro." Jason whispered, "Me, too."
* * *
Tommy was sleeping in the chair next to her bed when two hospital workers wheeled her in on a cot. They hoisted her up and put her back in her bed. Tommy pulled the sheet down for them. She was still under the influence of the sleeping gas they'd given her before surgery. He noticed that her knee was heavily bandaged up.
"Did it go okay?" He asked quickly, urgently. One of the workers stopped and patted him on the shoulder.
"It went fine, Mr. Oliver. My understanding is that she is merely resting. Dr. Harris will be in later to speak with you and... are your friends returning?"
"Uh yeah... later. Is she drugged up?"
"You mean painkillers? Well yeah, of course. It's a very painful and traumatic surgery and it's likely to hurt quite a bit. However, she is on a very low dosage at this point because the doc wants to wait until she wakes up to prescribe anything more serious. Such injuries as hers have a bad habit of making addicts out of unsuspecting patients."
Tommy stared at him, "Where did you get all this info?"
"I read her charts. I'm going to medical school in the fall. Can't you tell?"
"Oh yeah. Thanks." Tommy said with a small smile. He seated himself next to Kim and then looked back up at the boy, "Hey, can you do me one more favor? When Kim's mom calls, tell me, I'd like to talk to her."
"No prob," the boy said before turning and leaving.
Tommy nodded his thanks and then turned to watch Kim as if it might help her rest easier. There was so much he felt and so many things were racing through his mind and his heart that it was almost too much. He was at a loss to explain it all. He very gently placed his hand over Kim's and then bowed his head and continued to let the thoughts crash down.
The Next Day....
The irony of it was that Jason was the one sleeping when she finally came around. Tommy was out at the nurses' station speaking to Kim's mother on the phone. To no-one's great astonishment, Mrs. Harte was nearly hysterical. She stretched and tried to reach out with her left arm. When she felt a jolt of pain run through her, she decided that her muscles must be sore from working out at the Youth Center too strenuously. She reached out again.
"Tommy? Baby?" Kimberly whispered softly. When she realized that no one was lying next to her, she opened her eyes and sighed. Then she gasped as she looked up into the worried eyes of her oldest friend. "Jason? Whaddaya doing in my room? Did my mom let you in? I'm gonna kill her!" She didn't even seem to notice her low her voice was.
"We're not in your room, Kim." Jason replied softly. He moved his chair closer to her bed. "I mean, we are in your room... but not in Angel Grove." He felt his heart ache as he spoke. Their friendship had bonded them closer than blood ever could. Her pain was his and right now, she was hurting bad. He saw realization dawn on her face and her bright eyes dimmed as a shudder ran through her body.
"Hold me." The request was so simple and her voice so tiny that he wasn't sure she'd even said it. But her eyes said everything. Jason reached across and gently wrapped an arm around her. He was careful not to move her but he made sure that she could feel him next to her. She'd been slipping in and out of a feverish consiousness for the last twenty-four hours so it was nice to see her awake and aware.
He slid his hand into hers and squeezed very lightly. He felt a wave of anger pass through him as his eyes fell on the finger-shaped bruises on her wrists. "You guys must hate me."
"Huh?" Jason asked, startled out of his angry thoughts. To his horror, he saw a stream of tears flowing down her cheeks. Using the hand that wasn't holding hers, he tenderly wiped them away. "What? Who? No one could hate you."
"Oh Jase, you, Rocky and Billy. I was so awful to you all. I was just... you... they were just trying to protect me...." Kim dropped her head in shame and she let out a single sob. Whether it was from the pain or from the hurt she was feeling over the night in question, Jason wasn't sure.
"No," he caressed her face with the tips of his fingers, "We don't. We're not mad at all. We love you, Kim... we could never hate you."
"Jason, I'm so scared." Kim asked suddenly. She looked up at him through bruised and swollen eyes with tears still streaming down her cheeks. She looked very much like a little child who could completely break apart at any time. She was so fragile that it scared him.
"It's okay... we're all here with you. No one is going to hurt you." Jason replied firmly. "Your mom will be here soon too. Tommy is on the phone with her."
Kim looked up at him, "She's gonna hate me, Jason. She's gonna be so disappointed in me. I should have...."
"No!" He yelled. When he saw her startled expression, he softened his voice, "No one blames you. Listen to me, this is not your fault." He pulled her a bit closer. "We're all here for you. Your friends from the team have been in and out all day. Copper is probably still pacing the cafeteria. And all of us," he lowered his voice, "All the Rangers are here too. We'll be here until they say we can take you home."
"Home?" She looked up into his dark eyes and he saw uncertainty.
Oh God, she doesn't realize how bad she is.
"I can't go home, Jase. The Olympics are in three weeks. I'm the favorite to win the gold in the floor routine. Sure, I'm a little behind now but...."
Jason lowered his head and looked away from her. He knew it had to be either him or Tommy that told her the truth. She'd need to hear it sooner or later. Not yet though. He'd wait until everyone was together. Maybe it would help her if she was surrounded by loved ones. They'd form a protective shield over her.
"Jason?" She asked tiredly. She tried to turn towards him and then the pain hit her. "No...." She started to sob, her hands reaching frantically for her knee. The sobs became terrified screams.
"Hold on, Kim." Jason said, practically throwing himself away from her. He stumbled out of her room and into the hallway. "Help! I need help!" Tommy looked up at him from the Nurses' Station in shock and then began to move towards him. Jason put up a hand, "She's in pain. Someone's got to help her." Both boys looked around at the nurse who had already moved into action. Another nurse followed her into Kim's room. Tommy took a step towards Kim but Jason held him back with his arm.
The first nurse said, "Find the doctor." She looked over at Jason and Tommy, "I need you boys to step outside." Her voice was firm but gentle just the same. She could see the worry and panic in their eyes. The girl was lucky to have as many good friends as she seemed to have. And they all seemed to be true friends which made the nurse think that young Kimberly must be a very special person indeed.
"No!" Kim yelled, still thrashing about, "No, don't go! Please! I'm sorry I said those things! Please don't leave me." Her face was red and streaked and she looked like a very small child.
"Shh, shh, honey. They'll be right outside." The nurse said, placing a hand on Kimberly's arm. Kim looked up into her eyes and then her cries ceased. She continued to tremble. The nurse whose name tag identified her as Carter nodded to the boys and they turned away and stepped into the hallway. Tommy walked back over to the Nurses' desk. He took the phone from the nurse who was talking to Kim's mother and he said very simply, "I think you better come to St. John. Kim needs you."
* * *
Billy rubbed his stubbled face and sighed deeply. Even though he'd been sent home to sleep, he was still exhausted. Well, that was because sleep had been impossible. He'd even tried to lie down but all he'd been able to see was Kim's tear-streaked face. He'd seen her so upset she'd cried before and that had bothered him because it was so not Kim, but this was so much worse. Kim was the type of person that would push her own pain away if she could help someone else through theirs and yet no one could help her when she needed it most.
They were trying though. He'd been in contact with all the others throughout the day and he could tell that they were feeling much the same way he was. All the boys had facial hair and all the girls were make-up-less. That was the least of it all. They'd all aged so much in just a few days. And that was ironic because they'd been placing their lives on the line constantly for years but somehow, that seemed so insignificant now. It was so much easier to die than to deal with the pain of being hurt beyond comprehension. And the strangest part of it all was, this wasn't even Zedd, Rita or any of the others' fault. A human being had done this. A human being had been capable of causing so much pain and that same person was still in the picture, still taunting Kim as her dreams curled into ashy tendrils of smoke.
"Anything, Kat?" Billy asked, leaning back against the chair. He looked over at his companion, who'd been working quietly for hours. Kat had her own thoughts and he chose to respect them. She knew that if she wanted to talk, he was there for her.
"No," she replied dully. "There's DNA traces on Kim's shirt but the database can't create a match. Same with the handwriting. The best it can do is create a profile." She sighed, "And we don't even have much information for that. It gives us a psychological personality evaluation."
Billy lifted an eyebrow, "Really? Lemme see that." Her reached over and took the white sheet of paper from Kat. He bit his lip, "Interesting."
"What is it, Billy?" Kat asked, stepping towards him.
Billy stood, "I think we should find the others."
* * *
They didn't seem like much of a team. Well, they seemed like a team in the fact that they were all dressed in the same work-out clothes; sweats and gym attire but they also seemed unfocused and a few of them looked ready to have nervous break-downs. The coaches couldn't seem to get them to concentrate no matter what they tried. The truth of it was, the coaches really didn't blame their athletes. If the Olympics weren't so close and if it weren't for the undeniable conclusion that the show must go on, then they would have allowed everyone to take a few days off to deal with Kim's attack. As it was, nerves were frayed awful close and the bond of trust between the male and female athletes had been broken.
Adam and Tanya watched the athletes work out with neutral expressions. They could hear the gymnasts talking among themselves and speculating wildly. If the team didn't pull together quickly, they wouldn't have a prayer of medaling. And that would hurt Kim worse.
Adam turned to Tanya and whispered, "Now, it's true that all I know about gymnastics came from Kim but... three weeks until... my God."
She touched his arm, "How would you be? I mean, if you were competing with say Rocky and Tommy in a very important karate tournament and one of them went down before the tournament and you knew that someone had caused it. Maybe someone close to you." Adam dropped his head. She put her hand under his chin, "Any of the guys here with the exception of Copper, Eddie and Nate could have done it. I would be scared of interacting with any of them."
Adam nodded and then chuckled dryly, "So we're not only trying to save Kim's sanity, we're trying to save Team USA." Anyone who didn't know Adam might have thought he was making a joke of it all but Tanya knew better. None of them were exactly dealing well with it all.
She smiled thinly and replied, "In a nutshell, sweetie."
Beep Beep BeepBeep Beep Beep.
Both Adam and Tanya looked at each other before glancing down at their communicators. "Not now," Adam muttered, doubting that he could take any more stress. "Adam here. What's up?"
"Adam, it's Jason. We're all meeting at Kim's room in a half hour. We need to talk. Is Tanya with you?"
"Yeah, Jase, I'm here. Is something wrong?" Tanya asked, looking up at Adam. He shrugged but she noticed that his dark eyes had widened.
"Well, no, nothing new but Billy has something he wants to show us and uh, I think we all need to be there when Tommy and I talk to Kim."
"Talk to Kim about what?" Adam asked, still confused.
"Her knee injury," came the reply. "We'll talk about when you get here. Half-hour. Jason out." His tone was so abrupt that they could both tell that he was getting more and more upset. And that was completely unlike him.
"Well, we better get going. It's about a twenty minute walk to the hospital and I'd rather get some fresh air." Tanya said softly. Adam nodded his consent. He glanced once more out at the mats were Jen Butler was trying her floor routine. She looked absolutely disgusted with herself. Sighing dramatically, Adam took Tanya's hand and led her out of the arena. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse in a hurry.
* * *
He was watching her sleep when Rocky, the last to show, finally arrived. The Blue Zeo Rangers' left eye looked puffy and swollen. Jason turned towards him, "What happened to you, bro?"
Rocky waved him away, "I don't even know. I was down at the coffee shop talking with Copper and Nate when I... never mind. I don't know what happened." His friends looked at him oddly.
"Rocko, what happened?" Tommy pressed. "You didn't just bang into a wall. Not with that kind of a mark."
"I got hit, okay. I don't know by who. But I got hit and yes, it hurt." Rocky replied hotly. It was obvious that he wasn't in the best of mood. "I was walking outside... you know, to answer your page, Jase. Well, as I was talking to you, I saw something move in the shadows so I followed it. Next thing I know I'm lying flat on the ground and someone is telling me I'd better back off unless I wanna join Kim in the hospital. Then he hit me again. I couldn't even see him. He sure does know how to use the shadows." Rocky rubbed the area just above his eye. "I was gonna walk here but I had to teleport because he made me late."
"And you weren't going to tell us?" Tanya asked him, more demanding than asking. Rocky winced away from the tone of her voice. His head was banging around as it was, he didn't need her to help it out.
"You figured it out, didn't you?" Rocky replied in a low voice. Tanya gave him a sympathetic look.
"I'm sorry. I'll go get you an ice pack, okay?" Tanya offered. He nodded and she began to move away.
"Wait," Jason instructed, "Have Nurse Carter do it. We need to talk." Tanya did as he asked and then returned.
"So, what's going on?" Adam asked softly. They all moved away from the entrance to Kim's room so that it would be impossible for her to overhear them should she wake while they were talking.
"This." Billy held up a piece of paper. Before anyone could question him on it, he said, "It's a psychological profile of Kimberly's attacker built on the information we have supplied the computers with." He took a deep breath, "And if we are to believe what it says, Kimberly's life is very much in danger."
"What?" Jason exclaimed. He reached across and snatched the paper out of Billy's hands who stood there surprised by his friends' outburst. Jason looked over the words on the page, "Obsessive sex offender... possessive, homicidal... Jesus." He put his hand over his mouth and leaned against the wall.
"And he's watching us." Rocky said. "He's someone close to Kim." The others all looked at him with shocked expressions but they knew he was right. The attack on Rocky hadn't been a coincidence. It'd been a warning.
"So what do we do now?" Kat asked. She had positioned herself next to Tommy who seemed oblivious to her presence.
"We crack down on people around the gym. It has to be someone there. He saw Rocky and me asking around and he knew why. He was at the hotel the night of the attack... probably because he's staying with the team or he's on the team. Everyone is a suspect... it's that simple." Jason replied, his calm regained. "Also, someone needs to be with Kim every minute. The docs have been allowing people to stay and sleep in her room even if they're not exactly happy about it. We need to take shifts just like we have been but she is not to be left alone for even a minute."
"Okay, so what about the other thing you called us here for?" Adam asked.
"Right." Tommy said. He swallowed. "Jase and I want to talk to Kim about her knee. The doctor thinks she'll take it best from us. She thinks... she thinks she's going to be able to join the team in a couple of days. She has no idea just how bad it is." He looked at the others. "All of us should be there for support. It's going to be hard on her."
"When?" Rocky asked.
"Tonight. She keeps asking when she's going to be released. We need to be up-front with her. I was hoping to wait until her mother got here but that's gonna be awhile because her mom's being held up by major storms in Paris. They're not likely to even lift off for several hours yet. And..." he looked at Billy, "The teleportation device isn't exactly working at peak right now. We can't afford to waste energy on it."
"Tonight." Adam repeated dully. "Tonight we get to crush her even further. Great, I look forward to it." Tanya put an arm around him and pulled him close.
"We need to be strong, guys. Kim needs our strength right now." Jason reminded them. He looked at each of his friends. They all had expressions of worry, anger and frustration on their faces. "She's sleeping right now. We'll wait until she's woken up and eaten. I suggest the rest of you get some food. I'll stay here with Kim."
"I'll stay with you," Rocky offered. "I have no appetite." He pressed the ice-pack Nurse Carter had given him against his head. Jason nodded his consent. "Go, you guys."
Tommy said softly, "I'm going to hang back too. Will one of you bring me a cup of coffee?"
Kat tilted her head in acknowledgement and then without further protest, the others departed towards the elevator.
* * *
She wasn't sleeping. How could she. She'd seen all of her friends from Angel Grove meet outside her room and she'd seen the look on Jason's face as he's turned away from her room. He was deeply upset. She'd known Jason and Billy the longest of all of them but she knew Jase the best. She understood that look. Years ago when Trini had hit her head on a table when she'd spun out of control, Jason had worn the same expression while they'd kept a vigil over her. And Tommy... he liked like he was about to collapse.
She could hear them speaking but she couldn't make out their words. They were too far away. She suspected that was intentional. Something was going on and not knowing made her more upset.
She brushed a strand of her hair away impatiently. She was so sick of lying on her back. It wasn't like she was in pain or anything. They'd given her a painkiller that had completely numbed her from the waist down. She still didn't exactly know what was wrong. She figured she must have tweaked her knee or something. It probably wasn't that serious and the boys were likely over-reacting. Well, the big-brother routine was normal when you grew up surrounded by overly-protective guys.
Still, she was getting annoyed. She wanted desperately to be up and on the mats. It'd help her get her mind off the attack. That and the Olympics were really close. She wasn't about to give up her hard-fought-for place on the team for a little pain. She looked to her side and saw a wheelchair parked next to her bed. "No, no, no, no" Kim muttered.
She dropped back to her pillow. She wished she had a mirror. "I probably look awful. I feel like I haven't showered in a week." She said with a laugh. She ran a hand over her cheekbone, "Ow." She massaged it gently, "Okay, well that hurt." She could tell that she was covered with bruises but she was used to that. She had, after all, been a Power Ranger and that was bound to hurt. Putties made the stupidest looking bruises too.
She didn't want to think about the attack so she didn't. She pushed it as far back as she could and concentrated instead on the fact that her friends were keeping something from her. "Jason!"
Jason looked up from where he was sitting outside Kim's door. He, Tommy and Rocky exchanged looks and then Rocky helped the two of them to their feet. They stepped into her room and Jason said quietly, "You're awake, kid."
"I'm not a kid. What's going on, Jase? Where did everyone go?" Kim replied. She could still vaguely remember breaking down the night (or was it two nights ago, she wondered) before. She'd said some awful things and yet he hadn't even been angry. Rocky either. They both looked at her as if she was some type of china doll. Maybe that was just her imagination though, after all, she did have enough medication pumping through her body to loop an entire army. Why that much was necessary was beyond her.
"Uh, they were hungry. They'll be right back." Jason replied.
"You didn't answer my first question," Kim reminded him.
Rocky moved to stand next to her. He had a sudden urge to pull her into his arms and just hold her. If anyone had ever touched one of his sisters the way Kim had been hurt... well, the point was irrelevant. To him, Kim was a sister. "How are you feeling?"
Kim recognized the side-step but she decided to humor the boys, "I feel fine. Ready to get up and get moving around again. I've lost major time here. I need to get to practice."
Despite his best efforts to keep his facial expression neutral, Tommy turned away, anger and pain etched across his bold features. He felt like crying but he couldn't let her see. She needed their combined strength to help her pull through.... "Oh Kim...."
"Tommy... what's wrong?" She looked desperately at Rocky and then gasped, "How did you get... your eye... Rocky, you've got a black eye!"
"Oh this? Yeah, Adam and I were just messing around. It's nothing serious." Rocky replied with a laugh that sounded fake. He tried to smile at her but it refused to meet his eyes.
"Adam never goes for the face. Rocky, what happened?" Kim felt her patience slipping away from her. She wanted to stay in control though so she took a few deep breaths and tried to remember the calming exercises Tommy and Jason had taught her.
"Kim, why does it matter? I got myself into a little scrap. Nothing big." Rocky replied. He hated being put on the defense but what he hated worse was lying to her. Still, she was much to fragile to be told that his injury was related to her attack.
She opened her mouth to reply but the entrance of the others cut her off. She brightened considerably as they approached her. "Hey guys. You know," She started with a smile on her face, "I'd planned to see you guys in three weeks anyways but this is ridiculous. You know, oh well. Don't you dare think you're going to get out of seeing me compete though."
Tommy and Jason exchanged looks. Finally Jason moved forward and sat down on the bed. He took her hand, "Kim, we need to talk."
"Why? What's going on?" She looked around at the others and noticed that they had fanned out to create a pseudo protective shield around her. She felt panic rise up through her and her knee started to throb as if on cue.
"Kim, we talked to the doctor and we looked at your charts...." Tommy began.
"So?" She asked, looking still at Jason who was refusing to meet her eyes.
"Do you remember this morning, Kim?" Tommy asked her gently.
"Vaguely. I don't know... not really... it's all really shadowy. Why? Did my hair look really bad or something?"
Jason smiled grimly. Only Kim could make light of such a serious situation. Of course if it had been any of them that'd been injured, she'd be leading up the comfort patrol. Kim was always the first one do anything for her friends. "No, Kim, your hair looks great just like always."
She gave him a dirty look. "So what is the problem? What about this morning? Did I talk in my sleep?"
"No," Jason said softly, "You had reconstructive surgery on your knee." He didn't know any other way to sayit yet the moment the words were away from his lips, he wished he could pull them back.
"What?" Kim asked, her voice suddenly tiny and confused, "Surgery... wha... what are you talking about?" She looked at him desperately, "You're wrong! No, it was exploratory... that's it. Nothing more. I'm fine. Why are you doing this? Why would you lie to me? You are angry about last night. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry... I didn't mean any of it... I'm sorry...." Her voice trailed off as Jason felt his heart break. He saw the tears stream down her cheeks.
And then just like that she pulled herself back together and stared up at him with eyes that begged him to say it was all just a nightmare. She could never possibly know how badly he wanted to do just that. But he couldn't lie to her anymore than he could himself. Eventually she'd have to face the truth and really, what better time was there than that where she was surrounded by people who loved her and would walk the fires of hell to protect her.
"Kim, what he's telling you is true." Billy said. He was standing at the foot of her bed. Adam was on his right and Kat stood to his left. Tommy and Rocky were still at her side. "Your injury was very severe. You'll probably be on crutches for the next three to four months."
"And that's hopeful, "Jason murmured. He took her limp hand and held it between his hands, trying desperately to comfort her.
She stared blankly ahead and he couldn't be certain if she'd heard anything Billy had said. Finally she looked at him, the same stoic, brave, concentrated expression on her face. "Will I be the same?"
"We anticipate you making a complete recovery. The operation was an absolute success. Dr. Harris doesn't foresee any further complications." Billy told her.
"In English!" Kim snapped.
Billy took a step back involuntarily. Adam steadied him with his hand. "He means, yes, Kim, you'll be as you were before the attack but it's going to take awhile." Tommy offered.
Kim looked down at her knee for a moment and then looked up. She gazed dully at Tommy and then whispered, "So that's it... it's all over. All my work... everything. Leaving home...."
Tommy slid his hand behind her and pulled her very gently towards his body. He wasn't all that surprised by the instinctive tension that overtook her body when he first touched her. Then she relaxed and allowed him to hold her. Still it felt weird, almost as if she was holding him.
Kim laughed. "I should have known it was all too good to be true. Everything I gave up for a stupid gold medal and now it's all gone. Oh well, life goes on."
The Rangers looked at each other shocked. They'd expected her to scream and cry but this was much worse. This was a silent, flat anger that touched each of them far more eloquently than they ever believed possible. Each of them could feel a part of themselves being ripped away. Kim's sweet, trusting, absolute innocence.
"Kim...." Jason said, shocked. He didn't quite know what to say but he knew the first signs of depression and denial. He'd seen it before in Tommy and he'd even seen it in Billy. It was a hard path to walk and an even harder one to walk away from.
"What?" She turned her head towards him causing her hair to cascade across her shoulders giving her face a very irritated look to it. There was anger and resentment in her dark eyes and involuntarily, Jason recoiled from her.
"We're here for you. We'll help you through this." He insisted.
"That's not much help, Jase." Kim replied flatly. "Can you fix my knee? Can you get me back on the parallel bars. No, you can't and you know what, neither can I. It doesn't matter anymore though. I just want to be alone." She looked at the others who all seemed rooted to where they standing, "Please... I just need some space."
Jason nodded to the others, "We are here for you, Kim. We always will be." With that he untangled himself from her completely and left the room. The others followed with Rocky and Tommy bringing up the tail.
Tommy glanced back at his ex and shook his head. _What happened to Kim? Where did all the life go? Stupid question. You know the truth; it didn't just go away..it was taken away_.
* * *
As soon as they were gone she fell back against her bed. She could feel the fire in her knee and she knew that Jason had spoken the truth to her. That didn't make it any easier. She knew that she shouldn't be angry at her friends but she wanted so desperately to release all of her frustration on something or preferably, someone. She wanted to lash out and hit someone. She wanted someone else to know and understand the pain she was in. But they couldn't possibly know. And now, they wouldn't care to know. She'd pushed them away.
Jason, who'd been her friend and brother since she'd moved to Angel Grove. He'd held her during the worst times of her life and had never asked for the debt to be repaid. Billy, whose calm, cool, collected way had always reassured her when things looked impossible. With Billy around, one always knew than anything could be accomplished. Tommy. Oh God how much she loved Tommy. Too much perhaps and it'd ripped her apart to be away from him. There never had been another man, but there had been a lot of fear and loneliness. The Dear John letter she'd written had been a lie. She'd wanted to push him away. Perhaps not exactly into the arms of Kat but all that really mattered was that he was happy. She could push back what she felt for him just as long as he was satisfied. Rocky. When he'd come with Aisha and Adam, she'd been a bit apprehensive at first. He seemed kinda doofus-like but that had changed. He could always make her smile no matter-what and he too was like a brother to her. Adam. Shy, reluctant, sweet Adam. He was like a little brother to her, the type of guy you just wanted to wrap your arms around and never let go because you were scared they would change. She didn't really know Kat and Tanya all that well but she trusted them somehow like she would family. And yet she'd pushed them away like they were nothing.
Laying back against her pillows, she gazed up at the ceiling. "Zordon." She murmured. He was his mentor and so much more. When he'd nearly died thanks to Ivan Ooze, she'd almost fallen apart. Now she needed him more than ever and of course, there was no way to speak to him. Again she whispered, "Zordon? If you can hear me... please let them know, I'm so sorry. I... I just can't deal with them right now. I can't handle their sympathy. I know they only want to protect me but it hurts... I've hurt them. I can't do that. Please, tell them I'm sorry." She turned her head back towards the pillow and began to cry into it.
From just outside the door Jason and Rocky could hear her muffled sobs. They'd heard her words to Zordon and they understood. Jason had known that telling her would be difficult but even he'd been stunned by just how hard it'd been. The dullness in her eyes had scared him. He'd seen it before in Tommy and it had shaken him to his very soul. Tommy had been hovering on the edge of calling it quits and only his eventual acceptance of the Rangers love and friendship had pulled him back. Now Kim seemed dangerously close to that same edge.
"I feel like we should be doing something more," Rocky whispered. He sounded like he was trying to speak louder but he simply couldn't. He felt like someone was using his vocal cords for a punching bag but that wasn't the worst of it. He, like the others, could feel a dark cloud moving around in their souls. It was anger and it was hatred.
"We should, but talking to people ain't gonna do it." Jason replied. "I'm losing patience. I've had enough. I can't just sit here and watch her fall apart like this while we fuck around doing nothing." He pulled himself fully up and started walking down the hallway.
"Where are you going?" Rocky called after him.
Jason didn't even bother turning, "I'm going to go run a scan on the stairwell. Maybe Billy's scanner can pick up something the cops didn't." And with that he was gone.
Rocky sagged back against the wall, "Oh God," he murmured, more to himself than anyone else, "The Power Rangers are falling apart."
* * *
He watched them move in and out of her hospital room and he cursed repeatedly. They weren't leaving him much of an opening. He wanted to go in and see her but he couldn't do it while the others were there. Scott wanted her to himself and he meant to have her. One way or another. He chewed his lip as he stood hidden just behind one of the corners watching Jason and Rocky speak. He couldn't make out their words but he could plainly see that they were both upset. They probably meant to do something that would interfere with him getting close to Kim. After a few minutes, Jason strode down the hall leaving Rocky alone. Still that wasn't good enough. Rocky looked strong and able. It would be difficult to take him down. That and he'd seen what Rocky had done in the alley. He'd seen him teleport. He hadn't understood what it had meant until he'd heard Rocky mutter something about the Power Rangers.
He took a deep breath and made his way over to Rocky. "Hi," Scott said hesitantly, "Um, this is Kim's room, right?" He gave Rocky his most innocent smile.
Rocky nodded, suspicion bright in his eyes. "Yeah. Are you a friend of hers?"
"Uh huh. I work out with her and Jen Butler at the gym. I've been worried sick about her. How's she holding up?"
"She's holding." Rocky replied. "What did you say your name was? I feel like I've met you before."
Scott frowned. This boy was too inquisitive. "I didn't. Name is Scott and no, you haven't met me before." He held out his hand. Rocky took it but the tension was obvious. "Look, I just want to see her. Can I?"
Rocky stared at the boy for a moment, his eyes falling on the cut on Scott' chin. Probably nothing. Hesitantly, Rocky nodded. Still, there was something about Scott that sent warning bells off in his head. "Yeah... but she's not in the best of moods. Don't get discouraged if she really doesn't want to see you, okay?"
"Right." Scott replied. He moved past Rocky and entered the room. Kim was faced away from him, still crying softly into her pillow. She wasn't saying anything and she was barely making a noise. "Hey beautiful."
Kim heard the voice but it was the words that sent a chill up through her. Tommy used to say those words to her and now they just felt so wrong from anyone else. She turned ever so slightly, "Please... not now." She didn't even bother to look at his face.
"Kim, it's me, Scott."
She turned fully and gazed up into his eyes. "Scott." Then she shook her head, "I really, I'm sorry... I just need to be alone."
Scott leaned closer. He could see Rocky still watching him from the doorway so he lowered his voice, "I can't do that, Kim." Her eyes widened as his tone took on a decidedly threatening tinge to it. She could feel herself beginning to tremble. "Stop that." He commanded. "You and I need to have a talk."
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Rocky starting to approach them. Kim saw it too. "Rocky...." she whimpered. Rocky looked alarmed.
"What's going on?"
Scott noticed that the door had shut behind Rocky and he grinned. "Nothing much, lad. The girl and I are talking."
"I don't think so. Your talk is over. Kim needs her sleep." Then he chewed his lip, "Wait a minute, I have seen you before... you... you delivered the flowers...." he looked utterly shocked by his own revelation. Then flatly he said, "Get away from her or I swear to God, I'll kill you where you stand."
"Rocky, no...." Kim gasped.
"Big words, boy but I don't think so. I'll give you that you're more intelligent that I thought. I didn't think you even noticed me deliver the flowers. Ah well, life's a bitch, huh." Scott reached into his jacket and pulled out a small pistol. "Now, let's consider the irony of sweet Kim being put in the only hospital in the St.John area without a metal detector. I like it myself."
Rocky lifted his arm and reached for his communicator. Kim's cry stopped him cold.
"Don't even think about it. Yeah, yeah, see I know who you are... Rocky! I watched you teleport. So, you're a Power Ranger. That means you can't kill me but see, I don't have the same problem as you do." He shoved the gun to Kim's head. "Now, you're going to help me... that's right, help me... or... I just might put a bullet through her." He saw Rocky's posture tense up, "Oh don't even think about being a hero. See, I'm a trained gunman. I know how to squeeze off enough rounds to kill a bull before you can even think to act. You try even one heroic leap and I'll kill her and then I'll kill you. Are we... are we understood?"
Rocky looked at Kim with utter defeat in his eyes. "Oh Kim, I'm so sorry." Then he glared at Scott, "Don't even think for a minute that you'll get away with this. My... our friends will hunt you down."
"Rocky, you've been watching way too much TV. See, buddy, the good guys don't always win. I'll kill you two before I let either of you go. You dig?"
"All right. If we go with you, you won't hurt her?"
Scott looked shocked, "Oh no. I won't hurt her. I love her, man." He gave Kim's arms a squeeze which she pulled away from. She stared at him blankly and it occurred to Rocky that she'd just been given a new dose of painkillers. _Oh my God, she doesn't even realize what's happening._
"Fine. Where are you taking us and why me?"
"Well, I'm taking you as insurance so that she doesn't get weird. And I'm banking on the idea that her presence will keep you in line. As for where we're going? Why don't you let me deal with that. See, I've got a real special place in mind." He laughed. "This is going better than I planned actually. See, I didn't quite know how I was going to get her out of this room without getting stopped but now you've helped me out there." He winked. "But I'd say now it's about time to get going. We don't want any more of your friends to crash our private party now do we? No." He glanced over at Rocky, "Let's teleport hero-boy."
* * *
He sat in the stairwell with his knees drawn protectively to his chest. It was the weirdest thing how unsafe and insecure he felt. There was a sense of dread like none he'd ever known threading itself through his body. They had lived so long within the protection of the power that they almost naturally assumed that something would always protect them. But that something had failed Kim. They'd all known it would be difficult to accept the loss of the power when they'd given it up but they'd never considered exactly what it meant. If Kim had been back in Angel Grove, still wearing the uniform of the Pink Ranger, then it never would have happened. She could have called for help, she could have teleported out... she could have done a lot of things.
He could still vividly recall his first few days without the power running through his blood. They'd been pure hell. He'd been weak and wasted like the others but worse, he'd felt like a part of him had been literally ripped out. True, the bond of friendship that existed had continued to do so but the difference had been obvious to everyone. It was more than teenage life that bound them all together; it was the fact that at numerous times, they'd all been willing to die for each other. And yet somehow, none of them had ever realized just how close they were to death because they'd had each other to help them through it. He could only imagine how lonely Kim had felt at times. He'd had Zack and Trini. They could all remember together and so the power bond had still existed between the three of them. But Kim had had no one. She couldn't talk to her Florida friends about struggles and pain they could only imagine. For her safety and that of the current Rangers, she could never speak of her experiences. It had to be devastating.
And then to know that if she hadn't given up the Power, none of the emotional and physical trauma she was suffering would have occurred... it was almost too much to comprehend. She'd left to reach for her dreams but because she'd left the protection of the power behind to do so, she'd been able to be hurt and now her dreams were gone.
Jason slammed his fist against the wall. It throbbed but he couldn't feel it as he starred down at the grey stone of the stairwell. There were still spots of blood there. Most of it had been cleaned up but it was obvious that something horrible had happened in the darkened stairwell. He waited impatiently for the scanner Billy had rigged together to stop humming. Billy had said that it would pick up everything there was to pick up.
Beep Beep BeepBeep Beep Beep.
Jason glared down at his communicator, "Jason here. What's up?"
"Jase, it's Adam. Something horrible's happened. I think you better get to the hospital fast. Teleport if you have to. It's worth the energy loss. We're in the back parking lot. It's clear."
"I'm there." Jason replied flatly. He pushed the panel on his communicator and then vanished in a wash of white light.
The others were already there. All but Rocky. Jason's natural assumption was to conclude that the Blue Ranger was still standing vigil over Kimberly but something told him that that was most certainly not the case. "What's going on?"
Tommy put a trembling hand on Jason's shoulder, "Someone has taken Kim and Rocky." He could barely say the words.
"Taken?" Jason choked out. "What do you mean taken? They're in a fully guarded hospital and Kim can't walk on her own."
Adam spoke up, "Rocky teleported them out. Them and a third person. We got very limited readings from the Command Center but they went somewhere in downtown St.John and then his communicator appeared back on her bed with this...." He gave Jason a piece of yellow paper.
"This is where the search ends, my friends. Your comrades are accompanying me but they will cease to do so should you attempt to locate us. From now on, this is a party of three." He stared numbly at the paper. "I can't believe this. Why didn't Rocky contact us?"
"I hypothesize that...."
"In English, dammit Billy." Jason snapped. He instantly regretted it but Billy seemed unperturbed by his outburst. Instead he simply nodded and dummied up.
"I would guess that Rocky was coerced into teleporting."
"So what we have now are two missing Rangers." Tommy whispered. He looked weak and like he was about to collapse yet every time Kat came to stand next to him, he moved away, not wanting to be comforted. All he could think about was Kimberly and how much remained unresolved between them.
"That's not the worst of it, I'm afraid. Kimberly is under severe medication and she's still got a lot of trauma. She won't be able to fight off whoever is responsible if they were to attack her again." Billy said. There existed an unbearable sadness in his blue eyes.
"This can't be happening." Jason said. He rubbed his temples and then looked up at the others, "All right, here's what we'll do. Tommy you and I will go back to the room, see what we can find out. I want you to take another scan and see if we can match it all up. Tanya, Adam, go to the gym, find out who didn't show up, okay? Billy, Kat, you guys talk to the police, stretch them for details. That bastard may think threatening us will make us give up but he's got another thing coming."
"Yeah, "Tanya said firmly, "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us."
* * *
The news had yet to hit to hit the gym when Adam and Tanya arrived. They both looked tired but there was something else there too, determination. Copper Haines saw them enter and moved over to them. He raised an eyebrow when he saw their matching grim expressions. "Something's happened? What is it? Is Kim all right?"
Adam pulled him by the collar of his flag colored warm-up jacket over to the bench, "No, she's not." He pushed Copper into a sitting position, "I really think you should. Listen, someone has kidnapped both Kim and Rocky from her hospital room."
Copper jumped to his feet, "What?"
Tanya pushed him back down, "Shh... we're trying to keep this quiet. We believe whoever kidnapped them is associated with your team. We don't want to scare them off or spur them into hurting Rocky or Kim because they think we're too close, okay?"
Copper nodded but he was breathing hard, "Okay, okay, what can I do to help?"
"We need to know who hasn't been here today. Called in sick, you know...." Adam instructed.
"Right, I'll have to check around a bit. It's been a busy day and not the best of them. The girls are having a real hard time. Especially Jen and Erika." He sighed deeply. "No one wants to compete for the spot Kim opened up on the team. It doesn't feel right. Everything thinks it's be taking advantage of her injury."
"Kim wouldn't want the team to suffer." Tanya told him.
"We know that," Nathan Pierce said suddenly. They all looked up and saw that the tall boy had joined their circle. "That doesn't make it any easier on the girls because whoever gets the spot will know that they only got it because someone attacked Kimberly. You know, they were picking her as the favorite in the floor routine."
Adam dropped his head, "I know. We talked to Kim this afternoon about the reconstructive surgery she had yesterday. It didn't go so well... that much is for sure. She took it really hard. I think she's depressed and now, with that maniac...." His words dropped off.
"We'll round up a list of who wasn't here. Shouldn't be too long because the coach pulled everyone in." Pierce said firmly. He glanced over at Copper who looked like he had drifted off into his own little world. "For the sake of everyone involved, Copper, myself, the girls, you guys and especially Kim and Rocky, we need to get this dealt with." He looked over at the mats, "If we don't, it'll be a waste of time to even send a Team USA gymnastics squad to the Olympics." He reached over and pulled Copper to his feet. "Let's go, bro. We got work to do. Will you guys be around?"
"We'll be in the cafeteria." Tanya replied. "And thank you."
"No," Pierce replied, "Thank you. It's good to know that Kim has such good friends. When we find here and we will find her and she goes home with you guys to Angel Grove like I assume she will, it's good to know she'll be surrounded by people who'll take good care of her."
* * *
"It's a match." Billy announced from where he was leaning over a computer screen. He glanced over at Jason, Tommy and Kat, "The guy who teleported with Rocky and Kim was the same guy who attacked her."
"Damn!" Tommy punched his fist into his palm. "And we let him get close to her again. If he hurts her...."
"Calm down, Tommy. We must believe that Kimberly is all right. Such anger is hardly productive. The Power does not permit it." Zordon told him.
Jason, who'd been quiet since Billy and Kat had arrived ten minutes earlier spun around suddenly, "To hell with the Power, what about Kim and Rocky? The power isn't protecting them right now, now is it?" Billy placed a hand on his friends' shoulder and gave him a warning look. He was going off on the wrong person. "You're right, you're right, okay but I can't handle this standing around! It's driving me nuts! He could be hurting her and all we're doing is looking at read-outs!"
Something beeped but Jason didn't even seem to notice. Billy glided over to it and stared at it for a moment while Jason continued his pacing. "We got something." He nodded the others over to where he was standing. "I cross-referenced what we've got with DNA databases around the USA."
"You're not going to believe this... we've got a match for a serial rapist and murderer named Luke Jackson... escaped from a high-security prison in Indiana. They call him the Midnight Reaper."
"I know about the reaper but there's no Jackson around the gym." Jason replied with apparent frustration.
"No, but Jackson is there, using an alias...." Billy held up the mug-shots. Jason's eyes widened.
Tommy stared down at the picture for a long moment. He remembered the face from looking over pictures of a party Kim and her Team USA friends had thrown a few weeks before the attack. Then it hit him. In a voice that was more an expulsion of air than words, Tommy said, "Scott."
* * *
She knew her injury had to be severe because the pain medication that she'd been given mere hours earlier was already wearing off. She could feel the fire in her knee and only Rocky's presence next to her kept her calm. He was holding her hand and sitting up very, very straight. But there was something else... yes, she could see a small stream of blood falling down his cheeks and pooling together on his blue tee-shirt. "You're hurt."
He looked at her, "Hey there." He rearranged his position ever so slightly so that he could hold her a bit more protectively. "How ya feeling?"
She frowned at his obvious side-step. And to her surprise, she discovered that it was much easier to deal with her own pain if she was concentrating on helping someone else. "Did you get that cut from when he hit you in the alley?"
"Huh? Yeah. Musta just reopened is all." Rocky lied. He ran a finger lightly over the cut just above his eye. The first attack had just caused his eye to swell but this time Scott had drawn blood. He could see Kim still staring at him doubtfully. "How ya holding up?"
She glanced down at her knee, "It's starting to go numb. If I don't move it all, I can't really feel it. I'll be okay. We gotta get outta here. You need to have that cut checked out. It looks like you're gonna need stitches." She wasn't the least bit fooled by his little white lie.
Rocky shook his head in wonder, "Forget me, Kim. I'm fine." He gave her hand a slight squeeze. "It'll be okay, I promise."
"You're even stupider than you look, boy." Scott said walking around the corner. He'd teleported them out to the street where a van, not his he'd assured Rocky who'd been carrying Kim protectively in his arms, had been parked. Then he'd taken them a to an old apartment building on the broken-down side of St. John. "It'll take them forever to find us here. By then it won't matter." Scott had said with a laugh. Now he stared down at Rocky and Kim with a strange smile on his lips. "Lemme see your wallet."
Rocky stared up at him for a minute but then decided he wasn't in the mood to lose any more blood. Besides, it wasn't just his life that mattered. He pushed down the cold flames of anger that were beginning to leap through him. Moving ever-so-slightly he pulled out his brown leather wallet from his left back pocket and tossed it sharply to Scott. He saw Kim wince and immediately forgot his wallet. "I'm sorry." He said softly, deftly touching his arm.
Scott opened the wallet and began to sift through it. "Rockwell Aaron DeSantos, huh? Okay, DeSantos, listen up closely." He closed the wallet and put it into his own pocket, "I'm gonna lay down the rules." He leaned forward on his knees, "First off, you do what I tell you. That's your only chance of getting outta here alive. Do it without giving me a hard time and I'm likely to just trounce you over the head once I'm done with you and leave ya for your friends to find. You'll have one hell of a headache but brother, you'll be alive." Then he smiled down at Kim. Rocky could feel her shiver against him. "Second, Kimmie is with me. She goes with me. Don't try to play hero because I'll put a bullet through the both of you faster than you can say her name. Only difference is, she'll still be alive, just in a lot of pain. However you, my friend , will be deader than a door." He stood up and started pacing around again, stopping only to pick up his pistol off of the dresser. "I would give Kim here a warning too but I think that's unnecessary." He turned and stared at Rocky, "Tell me we're understood DeSantos? I really honestly would prefer not to kill you. I think we'd both be a lot happier that way. So are we... understood I mean?"
Rocky wanted to tell him where he could shove it but one look at Kim made the angry words go dry in his throat. Instead, numbly, he simply nodded. He knew that if he didn't bring Kim home safe, he'd never be able to live with himself. And the others would blame him. For now he'd have to swallow back the anger.
"Good, good. You two kids look starved. I'll order up some pizza, okay? You guys like pizza? I know you do, Kim." He leaned down and touched her cheek, "And I'll get something special for us. We really want to celebrate our first night together." Kim shuddered when his fingers touched her face and she pushed herself against Rocky's chest. Scott seemed oblivious to it though however. He had started pacing again. "I just have no idea what... hmm... I'll think about it." Then he disappeared behind the wall again. Rocky didn't even entertain the notion of attempting to escape while Scott was out of the room. Without his morpher and his communicator, he was momentarily on his own. It wasn't like Kim could cover his back and he wouldn't risk screwing up an escape and getting Kim shot. He doubted that she could deal with any more pain. She was breathing very slowly as it was just to minimalize the amount of movement she made. He needed a plan first and that would take time.
He wrapped his arm around her, "I'm sorry."
Without lifting her head, she gazed up at him. He saw she was wearing an expression of confusion. "Why?"
He bit his lip, "I was supposed to be watching you... making sure he couldn't get to you. But no... I messed even that up. I just about hand-held him over to your bed."
"What's with you guys and blaming yourselves? You know, Rocky," Kim started, wincing as she adjusted herself in his arms so that she could look more easily up at him, "Ever since I've been young, I've had people around me watching my back constantly and that's a nice thing but it also comes with drawbacks. There were times when even Jason's brute strength or Zack's smoothness couldn't get me out of trouble."
Kim gasped and coughed but then she waved Rocky off when he started to adjust his body to see if he could offer assistance, "This isn't your fault." Kim told him. "This is his fault. You're my friend and you and I are tighter than blood could ever bring us." She laughed, "It's strange, I feel like my mind is clearer now that I'm in more pain. Everything makes more sense and if anyone should be sorry, it's me."
Rocky shook his head, "Kim, any of us would have been major basket cases had it been us. We'd never judge you... you gotta know that."
She smiled bitterly, "I do and that's half the problem." She curled closer to him and he could feel the tears wetting his shirt. He placed his hand against her face gently and willed her to sleep. Starring at the wall opposite him, he could only whisper, "Guys, we could sure use your help right about now."
* * *
The consensus was that it was better to keep Copper and the rest of Kimberly's Team USA friends relatively in the dark. Well, as far as the plan was concerned anyways. Adam took Copper aside and told him what they knew about who was responsible.
"Scott." Copper repeated. "You know, I shoulda known. Scott has always had this thing for Kim. Talked about what it'd be like to you know... but none of us ever really thought nothing of it. I mean, it's Scott. He was around Jen and Kim every single day. Every day, man. Talked to them like they were all close friends and the girls liked him. Used to say he was a sweetheart. Kim always used to shove that in our faces. He's a real man. I bet he's a gentlemen, unlike all you macho creeps. We all just laughed. She did too." Copper fell to the ground and Adam sat next to him. "You know, the strangest thing is that now that we know who's responsible, I feel angry but not like before. Now I'm just tired like I don't know what to do."
Adam touched his shoulder, "I think we all feel a little bit that way but don't worry, bro... we'll bring her home."
Copper smiled, "I don't know why but I believe that. Is there anything the boys and I can do to help?"
Adam nodded slowly, "As a matter of fact, yes. We want you to stay here and rile up your team. Kim wants you guys to be the best so do it for her if you gotta." He sighed and reached into his pocket, "And one more thing, Scott make be counting on us not talking to the police just yet. He knows something about all of us that he shouldn't know. If he happens to get too cocky, he might come back around here, if he does, I want you to contact us."
"Ho... how?" Copper asked, looking up in confusion. Adam grasped his wrist and attached something around it. Then he locked eyes with the young gymnast.
"If you see or hear anything, just use this. It's a communicator like the ones all of my friends and I wear. Please don't ask anymore questions. Just believe me when I say that for now, everyone is better off not exactly knowing everything."
Copper nodded, "Okay, I can accept that for now. Just bring Kim home. That's all that really matters. She may not be able to compete with Team USA at the Olympics but I'll be damned if she's not standing with us." He stood up and started to walk away, "The questions can wait because in the long run, Adam, they don't really matter. The only things that means anything right now are Kimberly and Rocky and if you have to be the Power Rangers to get bring them back to us, then so be it." And with that he exited the room. Adam starred after him for a long while wondering just how much Copper really knew.
* * *
Jason leaned over a map of St. John. "The Power Chamber has done all it could. It seems as though Scott has a bit of luck on his side right now. There's an electric storm jacking with its sensors so the closest we can get is a seven mile radius. That means we split up and check every corner of that area. Now, this particular area of St. John is especially dense. Lots of low-rent housing and scummy hotels. Red-light district."
"Right," Tommy said moving to stand opposite Jason. He put his finger to one of the lines of the map," Everyone is to check in every ten minutes to give location that way if someone falls out of contact, the next closest group can go to find out what happened." He looked up at Jason, "We almost sound military guys, but make no mistake, this is very much a Search and Rescue mission."
Tanya stared at the map, "What are the teams?"
Jason looked up, "Billy and Kat will go together and Tommy and I will team up. He and I will be taking the middle part of the grid. They call it Meat Alley. I don't know why but I guess we're about to find out. Tanya, you and Adam get the outskirts. Billy, you and Kat take Wolf's Lane."
Billy almost smiled in spite of himself. The wolf was taking the lane. Just the same, he knew a little bit about Wolf's Lane from the letters Kim had written him. She said that it was the half nice, half-seedy part of town. The middle line. He nodded, "Affirmative. Uh, everyone has the hand-held sensors I rigged up. They should, uh, pick up Rocky's power signature if you're close enough."
Jason looked at the others, "Remember guys, we're all Power Rangers and so are they but none of can morph. We find this son of a bitch, we bring him in. It's not our job to punish him."
Everyone nodded their agreement and then turned and exited the hotel room. Jason could feel something building up in his muscles that told him it was going to be a very long night.
* * *
Scott never really left the room. Instead he remained in the shadows watching his two captives. Kimberly had fallen asleep crying against Rocky's chest but the blue-clad boy remained awake and alert. He seemed almost like he was keeping watch over his slightly trembling friend. Even in the dark Scott could see that Kim was sweating. She was in agony. Every movement sent fire through her body. It was a good idea not to have given any of the painkillers he'd stolen from the medical locker at the hospital. With as much pain as she was in, she'd more than likely be a lot more reluctant to fight him. It fascinated him to listen to her almost feverish murmurs. She kept crying out for her friends, especially Tommy. It was almost too bad that he hadn't been able to grab Oliver instead of DeSantos... surely Kim would do _anything_ for her beloved ex-beau. It was obvious that she still had feelings for him. Just the same, he suspected that Kim had a close brotherly tie with Rocky and so he would do just fine.
Someone knocked at the door. Scott glanced casually up and saw that Rocky was staring sharply at him. He flashed the gun in Rocky's direction and then moved to the door. Opening it just slightly so that the visitor couldn't see inside the room, he plastered on a huge smile. "Hey, cool. You guys really do deliver in twenty minutes or less. Sixteen? No problem." Scott pulled out Rocky's wallet and took out a twenty dollar bill. "On me, brother. Thanks." He shut the door and then grinned at Rocky, whose eyes were still focused on him. "Thanks for the pizza, Rocko." Rocky tensed at the mention of his affectionate nickname. Scott jerked his gun at him. "Wake her up, she needs to eat."
Rocky glared at him but did as he was told. He gently brushed his fingers over Kim's sweat-streaked face and whispered her name. She shifted in his arms and let out a whimper. He said her name again and lifted her head ever-so-slightly. She blinked and then gazed up at him through blood-shot brown eyes. "Rocky?" She murmured, "Remind me never to go anywhere with you ever again. I always end up hurting afterwards."
He smiled thinly remembering the last crisis the two had been involved in together. He'd been poisoned by some maniac who wanted an ancient power that only Zeo Ranger III could give him. He and Kim had been kidnapped and they'd both gotten really bashed around but in the end, everything had been okay. Rocky wished he could feel the same confidence now. "You hungry?"
She blinked and the dark shadows in her mind slowly began to peel away allowing everything to come into focus. With a cry she recoiled, grinding herself into his chest. He let out a small grunt and stared down at her in shock. Her eyes were wide with terror as she stared at Scott. Her jaw began to tremble. All she could see of him was his shadow and that was far worse than actually seeing him. "No...."
Rocky touched her face, "It's me... it's okay." He lifted her chin so that she could see his familiar face. She lifted her hand, gritting her teeth, and brushed it over the cut above his eye. Then she stared back at the shadow and her jaw stopped shaking. Instead, almost magically, a cold defiance came over her.
"You can do whatever you want to me... it won't matter because you'll never break me." Her words were as icy as her tone was hard. Her pupils had become small and beady despite the lack of light in the room.
There was a moment of silence and then Scott laughed, "Don't be so sure. It's a lot easier to break a person than you would think. In any case, Kim... I just want you. You're just being stubborn is all. It's the pain, I understand."
"You're sick and you're delusional." Kimberly told him. Rocky noticed that despite her new strength, she was still clinging to him.
Scott's face contorted and he took three long strides towards the twosome on the floor. Involuntarily Kim flinched away. She could feel Rocky tense up under her, his chest becoming like iron as his muscles flexed in in anticipation. Scott didn't even notice. He reached forward to slap Kim but Rocky blocked the blow with his forearm. "You don't hit a lady." He snarled, pushing him back.
Scott's eyes lit on fire. He pulled his pistol out of his wristband and lunged at Rocky. Had Kim not been in lying heavily in Rocky's arms, he would have been able to copper it but as it was he was barely able to even move. The butt of the gun connected with his face causing an explosion of pain. He rolled over, his hands covering his face and he dumped Kim away from him. She cried out but managed to bite down on the nauseating pain as she watched her friend tremble in agony. Scott lifted the gun to Rocky's temple and pulled back the safety.
"No!" Kim screamed, "Please, no, don't hurt him. Please." Tears streamed down her cheeks as she stared up into the surprised but no longer furious eyes of her tormentor. "I'll cooperate... please, just don't hurt him."
Scott nodded and put the gun back into the waistband of his jeans. "Well okay, all you had to do was ask." His voice was almost gentle. He reached across and was about to spin Rocky on his back until Kim lifted a shaky hand.
"Please, I'll take care of him." Scott shrugged and then moved away, striding into the next room. He grabbed a slice of the pizza and then sat down. He couldn't see what was going on but he could hear them pretty well.
As soon as Scott left the room, Rocky turned himself, one hand still over the left side of his face. In the dark Kim couldn't see the damage but she could tell that blood was dripping from his fingers. He sat up with a groan and then reached out with his other hand and pulled Kim back close to him. "Are you okay?" He asked her.
She chuckled dryly, "I'm too scared to be in pain right now but don't worry, it'll be back soon enough. Now take your hand away and lemme see your face."
Rocky pulled away from her touch and grunted, "It's fine. I don't think nothing's broken but that guy is really starting to piss me off." He kept his hand over his face and Kim could see that it was still trembling not to mention that there was still blood dripping off his fingers. He was down-playing his injury for her sake, of that she had little doubt.
"Lemme see," Kim growled. If she concentrated on Rocky then the pain stayed away. She reached up and pulled his hand away causing some of his blood to trickle onto her hand. She wrinkled up her nose but didn't say anything about it. She tilted his head and then stared up at the large gash that had opened across his cheek-bone. Involuntarily she put her hand against her mouth and gasped. It looked deep and she could almost swear that she could see the white of bone. "Oh Rocky." Then she smacked his shoulder, "Why did you have to go play hero?"
His eyed widened, "What? Kim, I'm not gonna let him hurt you. I'd rather die if that's what it takes to keep him away from you."
"Don't be an idiot. I need you to get out of here." Kim snapped tiredly. Then her face twisted up as a fresh wave of pain jolted through her. "But we'll talk about that later." She moaned. Then she sagged against him. Within moments the pain had thrown her into the darkness of sleep.
As soon as she was out, Rocky reached down and pulled his shirt over his head. He bunched it up in his hand and then pressed it to his face to stop the bleeding. His eyes locked on the shadows being cast from the opposite room where Scott sat. Kim didn't realize just how deadly serious Rocky had been when he'd promised that Scott would never hurt her again.
* * *
Adam slammed his hand impatiently against the desk, "I'm not trying to run a prostitution ring, dammit. All I want to know is if you've seen any of these people."
Johnny Books stared at the couple in front of him. A tall pretty black girl dressed in too-tight jeans and a bright yellow t-shirt and a Asian male with longish curly hair, loose, pressed jeans and a green button-down shirt. She seemed too... well... out there, and he seemed too well dressed. "I told ya, this is a respectable business."
"And I told you, I don't want a room, I want your help. These people could be in danger." Adam said through clenched teeth. So far he and Tanya had continuously run into reluctant inn-keepers or real seedy ones who wanted money for useless information. Tanya had nearly strangled the one who'd told her they were waiting for her upstairs. Adam had been to shocked to respond at first but then he'd held his girlfriend back and literally drug her away from the offending man. Now Books was starting to piss him off.
"I don't know...." Books started shaking his head. "Maybe you're like some wacko revenge killers... I don't want no blood spilled here...."
Tanya leaned forward, "None will be... that is, if you help us." She smiled sweetly and Books looked taken back.
"Okay, fine, sure... what do you want to know?" Books stared at them with large eyes almost as if he was sure one of them was about to pull out a weapon. _Well,_ Adam thought tiredly, _at least he's cooperating._
"Have you seen these three people?" He put down a picture of Scott that Copper had given them and then a picture of Rocky and Kim that had been taken over a year earlier at the Youth Center. In the picture Kim was lying on-top of Rocky like she'd just tackled him. Which she had. He'd said something crude and disgusting and when she'd discovered that there had been nothing nearby to throw, she'd launched her body at him. Luckily Aisha had had a camera with her that day. Tommy had had a copy of the pic in his room and he'd had Billy reproduce it so they all had a pic to pass around.
Books squinted at the images. And then slowly, very slowly, he nodded. "That's Charlie Saint. Ain't never seen the kids though."
"Charlie Saint?" Adam questioned, lifting an eyebrow. "Are you sure? We know this guy as Scott Davenport."
"Nope, that's Charlie. He's one of the regulars around here. Real ladies' man is he." He tapped the picture, "He came in a couple days ago and said he's got a new girl and he hopes to bring her in real soon. Says he might even marry this one."
Tanya's eyes narrowed, "Did he say anything else about her... name... anything?"
"Well sure he did. Charlie's really taken with her. Talked about a mile a minute about her. Said she was beautiful and athletic. And sweet and funny. Said she's not all together there upstairs but that's she a real feisty one where it counts. As for name, I'm thinking... K... something...."
"Kimberly." Adam said dully.
Books eyes lit up, "Yeah, that's it." Then he got suspicious, "Howdya know?"
"They're friends of ours. We just didn't know they were together is all." Tanya told him. She reached out and squeezed Adam's hand.
"Yeah, "Adam said, catching on, "We're supposed to take them to a surprise party but the bait man is missing now also."
"Is that Kimberly?" Books asked, pointing at the picture. Adam nodded. "Is that the bait-man?" Adam nodded again. "Well, you figure out where they are, young lad." He laughed. "Pretty girl like that, handsome boy, they've found a hotel room." Then he shook his head, "Bad thing when Charlie finds out. He'll be mad as hell. I wouldn't want ol' Saint mad at me."
"Why's that?" Tanya asked.
"Well, as much as I like Charlie, he's got himself a mean streak. When he and Anna got in a fight, it was vicious. I guess he musta just figured out she was a tramp cuz I ain't seen her around in a long while. Too bad his new girl is so bad. Charlie's likely to have more than words with both of them young upstarts."
Adam sighed dramatically, "Have you seen Saint recently?"
"Nope but I do know that he sometimes stays at A.C.'s place across the road when he really wants his privacy. If the girl is with him, then maybe they're there. If that's true, that young lad there is probably still searching for him. And if that's the case, they're doing, you know, stuff, so I'd leave them alone. Charlie doesn't like to get disturbed by nothing when he's with his ladies and if he likes the girl as much says he says he does, I'd stay clear."
Adam nodded slowly and then he took Tanya's arm and started to leave. "Across the road, right?"
"Big yellow flashing lights. Can't miss it but you're a fool to interfere if he and the missus are doing it." Books told them.
Tanya smiled thinly, "Thanks. Just one more thing... do ya, uh, read the newspaper?"
Books looked surprised and then he said, "Nope, not never. News either. Just a waste of time. Why?"
"Just curious. Thanks." The twosome stepped outside.
Adam lifted his eyebrow, "What was that all about?"
"Oh, I was just curious... Kim's picture and name have been pasted all over the newspapers and the television ever since the attack but our friend Books seemed oblivious to it."
"Right." Then he looked at her with dread in his eyes, "We better contact the others."
* * *
Jason was in a foul mood but Tommy wasn't much better off. The amusement of being solicited by cheap looking women had worn off very quickly. And of course nothing had been accomplished. They were both exhausted and hungry and it just irritated them to even be thinking of such stupid and trivial things.
Beep Beep BeepBeep Beep Beep.
"Jason here," he grumbled, rubbing his eyes absently.
"It's Billy. We just found something out that might be of interest."
"Oh yeah?" Tommy replied quietly, leaning over to use Jason's communicator.
"Guys, a guy named Charlie Saint just ordered a dozen red roses from the all-night romance store down here. And that's not it. He got some well...." There was a pause, "sexual materials also."
"What's that got to do with Kim and Rocky?" Tommy asked irritated.
"We accidentally knocked him over and saw who the name on the card was," Kat replied. "It's for Kim."
"Did you find out where's he going?" Jason asked excitedly.
"No, he was real brisk with us. He wouldn't even let us talk to him. He got in a car and drove away."
The communicator beeped again.
"Join in." Jason instructed.
"I think we may know where they are if we're looking for a guy name Charlie Saint." Adam said quickly.
"We are." Tommy told him.
"Then meet us at Cherry and Tacken." Tanya said softly. "It's time to de-halo the devil."
* * *
Her dreams were horrible. In them she could see him assault her repeatedly. Only this time there was no happy place to retreat to. He held her face and made her watch and feel everything he was doing to her and then he let her know that he planned to do it again. She doubted deeply that Rocky would be able to protect her... he was hurt also. She wondered what would happen if he tried to stand up. First Aid training said he had at least a mild concussion. Rocky was a fighter.
Still, there was only so much he could do.
"Rocky...." Kim whimpered, sliding against him. He placed his hand on her back and allowed her face to touch the meat of his shoulder. It was a damn good thing that he'd never thought of Kim as more than a sister because there were times when she could really turn him on. Of course now was not one of those times. All he felt now was a building anger in his soul, shame at not being able to better protect her and fear and apprehension at what was yet to come. That mixed with the fiery pain from his face was almost too much to deal with all at one time.
"I'm here, Kim." Rocky replied, brushing the hair away from her eyes. It all seemed so unreal. All the blood, all the pain and the anguish. "You just hang in there, okay?"
He could feel her smile against his shoulder and that was enough to make him smile. "We've been through worse, right?" She asked him.
"Hey, did I tell you two kids you could talk?" Scott asked walking into the room. He was wearing a strange smile on his face. He laughed, "Naw, it's okay, I like listening to you kids thinking you even sport a chance of escape. See, you have never messed with me before. Not never. You don't know what I'm capable of."
"Long windedness." Kim muttered. Scott narrowed his eyes at her but then waved it off.
"So tell me, DeSantos, which one are you, huh? Red? No... he's taller... that means you're either green or blue." Then he laughed, "Or maybe you're pink." Kim tensed up against Rocky but remained silent. "So, which is it?" After a moment of stretching silence, Scott lifted his pistol, "Tell me."
"Blue. I'm the Blue Ranger." Rocky replied tiredly. He had discovered that vision out of his left eye was almost nil due to the swelling.
"Cool." Then he frowned, "The Power Rangers have changed colors. Have you always been blue?"
"Yes. Always blue." Rocky lied. He saw no reason to involve any of the others. It would only be putting their lives in jeopardy also.
"And Kimberly, has she ever been a Ranger?"
"No, in fact, I don't even think she knew until today." Rocky told him. He squeezed Kim's hand hoping it would keep her quiet. She followed his lead.
"That's too bad... I woulda liked being able to say that my girl is a Power Ranger. Ah well." Scott shrugged. Then he leaned over and brushed his hand past Kim's face. Rocky resisted the urge to grab his wrist and twist it but Kim couldn't help the impulse that made her recoil from his touch. He seemed unperturbed, "Relax, Kimmie, as soon as the delivery boy gets here with my gifts for you, we can settle down and have a nice, quiet, romantic evening. By ourselves. I'll shove Blue here in the closet or something. Just you and me. I promise you'll love it."
"Go to hell." She said, lifting her chin defiantly. Rocky almost wanted to slap her for her defiance. Yes, it was good that her spirit had remained unbroken but he could tell that Scott didn't share the same respect for that spirit. Rocky lifted his arm to hide Kim's face from Scott. Scott raised his hand but then decided against it.
"You'll need that spunk, Kim. It's why I love you and baby, it's gonna be a long night." There was a threat implied in his light airy tone and it made both Rocky and Kim shiver. He pulled her closer to him and allowed his mind to drift back to the plan he was formulating.
* * *
"Rangers, you are needed back in Angel Grove immediately." Zordon said sadly. "I am sorry but it would seem that Zedd and Rita have chosen this time to take advantage of Kimberly and Rocky's abduction. They have sent down an army of Putties and Tengas to terrorize the city."
Tommy slammed his fist against the wall of the building they were next to. He didn't even feel the pain. "Why aren't I surprised. Zordon, they need us... their lives could be in danger."
Jason touched his shoulder, "Go, Billy and I will continue searching, bro. We'll bring them home."
Tommy nodded, "You do that. But I swear, if something happens to Kim... and Rocky because of this...." He looked at the others and then nodded towards the alley. Once they were clear he said, "It's Morphin time."
"Zeo Ranger I, Pink."
"Zeo Ranger II, Yellow."
"Zeo Ranger IV, Green."
"Zeo Ranger V, Red."
In a splash of colors, Tommy, Adam, Tanya and Kat were transformed into the Zeo Rangers. Adam looked at Billy and Jason and declared, "We'll be right back. Let's go finish these claybrains off."
Another blast of light filled the alley as they teleported out.
Jason turned to Billy, "Let's get to it."
* * *
Jake Decker was already in a bad mood. First his car had broke down on the way to work so he'd had to borrow his brothers' and that had been a pain in the ass and then he'd been knocked flat on his butt by a pair of blonde kids. One had been male and the other female. Then they'd started asking him stupid questions about the delivery he was making. Like it wasn't bad enough working for a sex shop. But that hadn't been the worst of it, then they'd tried to follow him. His only guess was that one of them was the other half of the party he was delivering too. It was too confusing.
He stepped up to the door of room 111. Rubbing his hands together, he sighed. He sure hoped the night would get better. Finally he knocked. Someone asked, "Who is it?"
"Jake Decker, sir. I'm delivering an order you made from in-town."
The door opened and a tall dark haired guy stepped outside the room. He shut the door behind him and then gazed levelly at Decker. "Good lad. Okay, everything looks in order." Scott drew out Rocky's wallet again and offered up three twenty dollar bills. Apparently Rocky had been to the bank not too long ago. Decker thanked him and started to walk away. He heard Scott open the door and start to reenter his room. For some reason Decker turned. What he saw in the shadows of the room looked like two people hunched against a wall. Nah, couldn't have been. Decker took his leave.
* * *
Scott reentered the room was a box of flowers and various other little toys. He gazed over at Kim and a predatory smile came over his thin lips. He moved over towards her. "It's time to party, Kimmie."
She looked up at him through blood-shot eyes. Sweat gleamed from her skin and she was shuddering fiercely. Her features were drawn and her teeth were clenched. "I don't know where I am." Kim said.
Rocky looked up at her in shock. For the last hour or so she'd been getting progressively hotter. Her fever had seemingly jumped by leaps and bounds but this amnesiac delirium was definitely a turn for the worst. And it had come about so abruptly too. He put a hand protectively across her shoulders and pushed her back against his bare chest. Lacking the strength to struggle, Kim allowed him to move her but she continued to stare up at Scott in confusion.
Scott smiled down at her, "It's okay sweet Kimmie. Old Luke will take care of you." He reached down and was about to touch Kim's jaw line when Rocky moved him abruptly.
"Luke?" He queried. "I thought your name was Scott."
Scott sneered, "Oh I have many names, Rocko." He smiled in amusement when Rocky flinched again at the call of his nickname. "I go by Scott, I go by Charlie Saint and I go by Tommy Scott. But the name is Luke Jackson." Suddenly he laughed, "You know, considering how hung up Kim was or maybe still is over that what's his name, Tommy Oliver friend of yours, maybe I should have gone by Tommy Scott. That'd have thrown her for a loop, huh?"
"So who are you really? You ain't no water boy that's for damn sure."
"He can be taught!" Scott declared loudly, shaking his fist in the air triumphantly. He leaned over into Rocky's face. "You're right, I'm no water-boy. Tell me, have you ever heard of the Midnight Reaper?"
Rocky felt his body go cold, "Yeah... what about it?"
"That's me, moron. I escaped from Indiana six months ago. I created a new identity and bam... now I got me a new girl." He picked up his pistol. "Okay, Rocko, it's time for me and Kim to have some personal time, get up."
Rocky stayed put, his eyes never leaving Scotts'.
"Tommy?" Kim moaned softly. Her eyes were getting more and more glazed as she continued her gradual pain driven retreat from reality. She dug her fingers into Rocky's naked chest as she tried to push herself closer to him. There was nothing romantic about her gesture though. She was curling against Rocky like she would against Tommy trusting that he would protect her the same way that her ex-lover had.
"I said get up, DeSantos. Don't push me. I'd love to say I knocked off a Power Ranger but brother, I'm giving you a chance to stay alive. Don't be a damn fool, take it. She's a girl, a tramp really." Scott said, pointing the pistol directly at Rocky's chest.
Rocky felt the anger surge through his blood. And before he knew it and certainly before he even gave much thought to what he was doing, he was on his feet tackling Scott. If he'd been at full strength, his chances would have been good but the moment he stood, the blood rushed to his head and everything went dark. He felt himself drifting backwards as the pounding in his head increased. "No...." He murmured as his body collided against the floor with a sickening thud. Scott held the gun against Rocky's temple and contemplated whether to shoot the Blue Ranger for his stupidity. It wasn't like he was gonna be going anywhere soon. He was on the verge of deciding when Kim's moan brought him back to his original purpose.
He leaned over and picked Kim up into his arm. Delirious or not, she struggled in his arms, almost as if she sensed the impending danger she was in. "Tommy?"
"No, love." He replied, taking her over to the bed. She was so light in his arms, almost childlike. He placed her on the mattress and then contemplated whether or not he was really going to need to tie her down. She had no idea what was going on. He leaned over and started to kiss her face. She began to whimper and thrash.
"Guys... please... Jason... Tommy...." Her eyes ripped open and she stared at Scott with absolute terror. The pain of her knee ripped the cloak of delirium away as realization struck against her like a hammer. "No!" She screamed. He tried to kiss her lips again but she bit him, drawing blood. He pulled back away from her and stared at her in shock and awe. How was it possible that she'd pulled herself out of her feverish state so quickly? Then a slow anger began to build.
"Well that wasn't very nice of you." Scott growled. Using the back of his hand, he slapped her hard. Kim flinched and tried to turn away from him but he pushed her chin back up and slapped the other side of her face harshly. "Well I guess we'll be needing the ropes after all, Kimmie." He laughed. "I haven't done it this way in a very long time."
"Well it's gonna be another long while before you do it again." A voice said from behind him. He spun and walked right into Rocky's fist. The boy was pale and shuddering but somehow or another, he was standing.
"Rocky!" Kim screamed.
Scott shook his head in disbelief, "You know, I was going to let you live but now you're a dead-man." He lifted the pistol. Rocky reached desperately for it but Scott quickly silenced his movements by thrusting it against's Kim's temple. She let out a small whimper.
"No...." Rocky breathed.
"Oh yes, think you're gonna play here... don't think so. But I want you to know just who the hell you think you're saving. This girl ain't worth the time of day." He grinned as he saw the muscles of Rocky's body tense at his words.. "She's a cheap nickel and dime slut."
"You leave her alone," Rocky growled.
Scott laughed and shook her head, "Oh no no no no." And with that he leaned over to the desk and picked up a small switchblade. "It was meant to be, DeSantos. I never argue with fate." Still pressing the cold metal of the gun against her head, he poked the blade into the cotton of her white tee-shirt and began to slowly draw it upwards, splitting the cloth apart. Rocky could do little but watch in disbelieving horror as Kim' tremors intensified and she tried to protest. It was of no use; her strength was completely gone. Scott laughed as the cloth fell away from the smooth tanned skin of her chest and torso in two separate sections. He pushed them away and gazed down at her. Her ribs were wrapped in tape but her chest was completely exposed. With a chuckle and a leer, he dropped his hands down and began to fondle her. Kim tried to thrash away but he easily held her. He looked over at Rocky with amusement and pleasure on her face and then just like that, it all faded away when he noticed that the young Ranger had looked away.
With a growl, he shoved the gun harder against Kim and she let out a small cry of pain that caused Rocky to look up startled. He tried to look away again but Scott pulled back the hammer, "Oh don't even think it... I went out of my way to get you a front row seat... you better believe you're going to watch the show." With a savage light burning in his eyes, he dropped the knife down to the bed and then placed his hands on her hips. With a grin and a light laugh he pulled the loose sweat shorts that hung from her hips down to her knees. Her wracking sobs became more noticeable as they grew louder and she began to shake more. Unfortunately, they just seemed to encourage him. He picked up the knife again and turned it around so that the light from the lamp gleamed off of it.
"I don't understand why you're risking your life for her, DeSantos. Girls like Kimmie, here... they were meant to be had and enjoyed. See...." Placing the cold metal of the knife against her panties, he made a dramatic downwards cut. Kim cried out in shame and humiliation and tried to pull away but once again Scott steadied her. Still looking steadily at Rocky who'd begun to shake he said, "Look at her, man... I mean look at her... no brains... no nothing but sex on feet." And with that he pushed apart her legs. Kim screamed as a fresh bolt of pain shot up through her knee and rushed through her body. It propelled her into a few moments of peaceful unconsciousness but then a stinging sensation against her nose brought her back as he waved a strange plastic capsule under her nose. "Don't think so, Kimmie, you're staying here with me." To emphasize his point he drew the blade lightly against the skin of her chest, leaving in its wake a small trail of crimson blood. Grinning like a mad-man he looked back over at Rocky, "You know, bro, I'm willing to let all be forgiven, you can enjoy her with me."
Still staring at the pistol, Rocky's eyes widened in horror and then it hit him. Numbly he nodded, "Okay." His voice was no more than a whisper.
Kim screamed out his name and he saw the hurt in her eyes. It was almost too much. He tore his eyes from her even as she stared at him even harder begging for some type of explanation. He wanted to hold her and promise her that he'd never hurt her but that wasn't going to get them out. He glanced back up at Scott and used every bit of strength and control he still had to pull his emotions together. "All right, I'm in..."
Scott narrowed his eyes suspiciously, "Why the sudden change, Blue? You'll forgive me for me being so well... untrusting but just a few minutes ago you were promising to kill me if I touched her."
Rocky took a deep breath. Still unable to look at Kim he said, "Well, bro, I've always wanted to know what it would be like...." He forced himself to laugh... an odd sound to even his own ears, "Besides, ain't nobody's ever gonna know...."
"Well said, DeSantos. Well c'mon over... grab the rope... I want to make sure she's tied down and tight... she's a scrapper.."
Rocky nodded and moved to do as he was told. He could hear Kim crying, begging Rocky not to hurt her. God, why couldn't she realize that he loved her so much... she was like a sister to him... he could never intentionally hurt her... not without reason... and this was good reason. And still she cried... her words mashing together as she sounded like she was beginning to hyperventilate. He finally looked at her, praying that she would be able to tell by his eyes that it was all a hoax but all he saw was fear.
Scott looked up at Rocky with a wicked gleam in his eyes. He leaned back over Kimberly and said, "Don't worry beautiful, it'll be better the second time around. I promise. I'll go slow this time." Kim gasped and began to gag as she tried desperately to breathe.
Oh my God, he raped her. The realization cut through his body like a knife. It took all he had not to lose it himself and just go crazy. He wanted to cry and scream but for her sake he held on until Scott dropped the gun away from Kim's temple. And then he turned and charged.
Rocky shoved Scott to the ground and tried to wrestle for the gun. All Kim could see was the two boys falling on top of each other. Kim was confused and scared... unsure of what was happening. Trembling she reached down blindly and pulled the shorts back up to her hips. The waves of humiliation and shame that crashed through her body were too much. She threw her herself down from the bed and began to crawl pain-stricken across the floor. Then she found it; Rocky's blood-drenched tank-top. She pulled it over her shoulders and then rolled herself into a protective ball. She continued to shudder as the fight raged on.
* * *
Billy and Jake Decker nearly collided in the stairwell. Decker pulled away, "Ah naw, not you again. Naw, naw."
Jason grabbed his arm and shoved him against the wall causing the boy to cry out in alarm. Decker immediately began to struggle but Jason held him firm. He reached into his pocket, "Did you just make a delivery to this man?" He held up Scott' picture. "Tell me!"
Decker nodded quickly, "Yeah, yeah, man. I did... just don't hurt me... please."
Billy pried Jason away, "Look, we don't want to hurt you but two of our friends may be in danger. This is very important... did you see this man and where?"
Decker relaxed a bit due to Billy's calm voice. He nodded slowly, "One eleven, man. And yeah, that's Charlie Saint. He had some people up there with him too but I didn't see so well."
Jason squeezed his shoulder, "Oh man, thank you... I can't... thank you... I...."
His words were cut off by the sound of a gun echoing through the building.
* * *
The gun fired.
Despite her fear and growing confusion, Kim screamed out Rocky's name. She tried to move towards him but the fire rising up through her leg nearly spun her back into unconsciousness. Taking a deep breath, she allowed pure panic to keep her awake and moving.
Everything grinded to a horrible halt and it seemed like time itself froze. Kim let out a single cry. Neither of the combatants moved. Kim trembled as she stared at them willing Rocky to push Scott off of him.
Scott stood up. He shoved Rocky away and glared at Kim with eyes full of lust and anger, "Enough time wasted, bitch." He crossed over to her and using his arms pulled her to his feet. With a howl he tossed her back on the bed and threw his full body weight on her, crushing her tiny frame to the bed. He reached across and grabbed a scrap of cloth from the nightstand. A chill ran through as her as he taunted, "Remember this you little tramp? I took this from you at the hotel." Sure enough, it was the scrap he'd torn from her shirt the night of the the first attack. Mustering every bit of anger, fear and pain that she had in her body, Kim hit him solidly with her left fist, but he didn't even seem to feel it. He pushed her back down and shoved his hand against her chest until he realized that she'd reclothed herself. "Why you cheap little...." He raised his hand to strike her and Kim turned her face in fear and anticipation.
And then, just like that, he could feel his upraised palm being used to flip himself backwards and off of his frightened prey. Kim had pried her eyes closed so that she didn't have to see his face while he attacked her but now as the weight against her disappeared, she opened them and stared up at Billy. "It's okay, Kimberly, it's all over." He promised as he pulled her to his chest. Unable to stop herself, Kim began to cry softly. "Rocky...."
Jason lashed out with a high kick to Scott' chest. Scott deflected it and rolled to the ground, going for his pistol. Jason stepped on his hand but Scott reached back and punched him under the knee causing Jason to lose his balance. Scott lurched forward and grabbed the pistol from where it lay next to Rocky's unconscious body. He grabbed it and shoved it to Rocky's temple.
"I warned you that this was a party of three!" He pulled back the hammer. As Jason stood in shock Scott began to pull the trigger.
Jason tried to move forward but even as he did he knew he'd be too late to save Rocky. Kim screamed Rocky's name again and reached out for him as time slowed.
"I don't think so you sick son of a bitch!" A voice from behind said very coldly and very calmly. There was a loud explosion and everyone in the room cringed. Jason covered his head and Billy pulled Kim harder against his chest. When Jason looked up, ready to resume his attack, he saw that Scott was lying flat on his stomach in front of him with a small circular hole through his head.
And in the doorway stood Copper Haines holding a smoking .45.
* * *
Copper rubbed his eyes, "I followed you guys. It was my duty to protect Kim and that's what I did... at all costs." He stared over at the two ambulances where both Kim and Rocky were being loaded in. "How's Rocky doing?"
"The medic said it looks like a flesh wound to his left arm. Lots of pain and blood but no serious damage. He's more worried about his concussion and the damage to Rocko's cheekbone." Jason said softly. He wished the others would arrive. Especially Tommy.
"But he'll be all right?" Copper asked.
Billy nodded, "Affirmative. The prognosis on both of them is extremely optimistic." Copper nodded, seeming to understand perfectly.
"I'm just glad this nightmare is over. Luke Jackson or Scott or whatever the hell he wants to call himself can never hurt anyone ever again. Especially Kim." Jason said.
"Ditto, bro. And you guys didn't even need to morph to kick Jackson's ass."
Both Jason and Billy did a double-take. Billy stammered, "M... Morph?
Copper grinned, "Chill boys, your secret is safe with me, I promise."
"How did you know?" Jason asked quietly, lowering his voice almost to a whisper.
"Well, almost five months ago Kim caught a pretty nasty virus. She wouldn't let us take her to the hospital so she had to ride it out for about a week. Somewhere in that time she was talking all weird and stuff. She started saying stuff about the Power Rangers and crap. It didn't take much to put it together. It was only me and Jen with her and we asked her about it. No, actually we bullied her about it and she finally confessed. When you guys all showed up wearing your respective colors... I figured it out. Like I said, don't trip, it stays between us... that's my word."
Jason nodded, "Cool, bro." He smiled at them and then turned and walked over to Kim. Turning to the medic he asked, "Can I ride with her?" The medic gave his consent and Jason got in beside Kim's cot. He reached down and took her hand. "It's over, kid. Everything is gonna be okay."
Fresh tears fell from her eyes but for the first time, they were tears of relief. "How's Rocky?"
"He's okay... don't you worry about anything. Billy is with him now." Jason told her.
"Where's Tommy... and the others?"
"They'll meet us at the hospital."
Kim smiled and squeezed his hand. As she began to drift back into sleep she murmured, "I didn't let him break me, Jase."
* * *
It was the most peaceful sleep she'd had in a week and so it was almost a shame to pull herself away from the soothing blanket of REM sleep but the sound of familiar voices near her convinced Kimberly that it was time to wake up.
"I'm not going to be charged with anything. The police have decided that I acted in self-defense. I did what I had to do to protect Kim and Rocky, who couldn't protect themselves."
"That's great, Copper. I... we were really worried. I got to say, I'm glad you showed up, bro, because there was...."
"I know, Jase... but it's all okay now."
"Ungh... what are you guys talking about?" Kim murmured. She tried to swallow and realized how dry her throat was.
"Hey beautiful." Tommy said, stepping closer to her. She looked up and noticed that he was joined by Jason, Adam, Copper and Billy. "Welcome back to the world of the living."
"What do you mean by that?" Kim asked, trying to move so that she was more comfortable. She noticed that her leg felt as if it were completely asleep.
"Well," Adam told her with a laugh, "You've been out for the past four days."
"Four days?" Kim gasped, "No way...."
"Way." Copper grinned. "How are you feeling, kid?"
"Better... I think. Four days? I've been asleep for four days?"
"That's right. All of us have been making fun of your sleeping habits." Tommy joked. His tone was gentle and teasing.
Kim blushed deeply and then lightly slapped Tommy on the wrist. Then her eyebrow arched sharply upwards and she frowned, "Where's Rocky? Is he okay?"
"He's fine. Last I heard the girls were up at the front desk filling out all of his release paperwork and Rocky was talking to his mother." Jason told her.
"Well, talking is relative." Billy said with a smirk.
"Why's that?" Kim asked, obviously still concerned. Tommy put his hand over hers.
"His mother found out about him being abducted through the newspaper. I think she almost had a heart-attack. She's been yelling at him in Spanish for the last four days." Tommy told her with a grin.
"She calls him twice a day to make sure he's okay and then starts screaming at him. It's pretty funny." Jason added. "I've had to bail him out twice already." He had a strange look on his face that Kim didn't know exactly what to make of. She considered pushing him on it but then she decided to let it drop.
"Great guys." Kim shook her head. "But is he okay? What about the gun-shot?"
"Superficial." Rocky said from the doorway. Kim looked up and saw that he was leaning heavily against the door-frame. He had a bandage across his cheekbone which she took to mean that the blow from the gun had failed to break it. Rocky pushed himself up, "All that's wrong with me is a couple of bruised ribs." He crossed over to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She noticed that Tanya and Kat had followed him into the room. Rocky pulled away from her. "They released me today."
"I'm so glad." Kim said. She tried to push herself further up onto her pillow but quickly discovered that she was lacking in strength. She glanced over at Tommy who caught on quickly. He slipped his arm under her and lifted her gently. "Thanks, Tommy. So, when do I get released?"
"Well, actually your mother is speaking to Dr. Harris about that right now." Jason told her.
"My mother? She's here?" Kim asked. There was a mixture of fear an excitement in her voice.
"She's been here for the last four days. She's been sleeping here in your room." Tommy replied. He saw Kim's eyes fill with water. "Hey, it's okay...."
"I didn't want for everyone to put their lives aside for me...."
"You'd do it for us." Adam said gently.
"Hey guys," Billy said, "Kimberly's mother is approaching. I would suggest that we take our leave and give them time together."
The others nodded. Tommy and Jason both kissed her and the cheek and Rocky squeezed her hand. And then just like that, the room was empty. Mere seconds later, Kimberly's mother entered.
"Mom... I...." Kim started. She wanted to say she was sorry but the words caught in her throat. Her mother was at her side before she could even blink, holding and rocking her. Finally Kim murmured, "I'm sorry."
"No, don't ever be sorry." Her mom replied, stroking her hair. "You haven't reason. Oh baby, it's okay... it's all over."
"I know... momma, why... why are you here?"
Her mother pulled away so that she could see her daughter's tear-streaked face. "Do you think I wouldn't come when you needed me? I came as soon as I could. I had to make sure my baby was okay. I'm just glad all of your friends were here."
"Me too. Now what?"
"Well, that's up to you. You can return to Angel Grove or you can come to Paris with me." Her mom said softly, "I would of course, prefer you to come home with me but I think I know what you'd like to do."
Kim dropped her head for a moment. "Momma, I need to...."
"I know, baby. I understand that. In fact, I've already made arrangements for you to be transferred to the hospital in Angel Grove."
"Transferred? When can I be released?" Kim asked.
"Well, Dr. Harris said that he thinks you ought to be observed for a few more days. They want to make sure you'll be able to move about and such once you are released."
"Oh." Kim replied quietly.
"And... I've taken care of where you will live."
"Where? I mean, Aisha's parents took off to Colorado."
"I know but Tanya and her parents would like you to stay with them. Katherine and Rocky offered also but she's just moved into a smaller place and Rocky, well... I think he was pretty drugged up when he made his offer. That and I doubt his poor mother would have exactly been jumping for joy. So, if there are no objections... you can live with the Sloans..of course you're always welcome back to Paris with me....
"Momma, I need to go home and for me Angel Grove is home. Hey, how long are you in the States for?"
"As long as you need me."
* * *
"Hey, Kim? You awake?" He whispered as he pushed the door to her hospital room open.
"Mmm... yeah... why?" Kim murmured. She sounded like she was half-asleep but a moment later she flipped the light by her bed on and gazed up at her visitor, "Hey there, Rocko."
He smiled weakly at her, "Mind if I sit down?"
"Not at all." She patted her bed and offered him a seat. "What's on your mind?" He glanced down at his hands, obviously uncomfortable about something. "Rocky?"
He cleared his throat, "I want to talk to you about what happened in the room..about..you know... Kim... I'd never hurt you... you gotta...."
"Rocko," Kim interrupted quietly, "I barely remember what happened there... and honestly I'm not in a great hurry to. What I do know is that somehow you kept me alive and I don't really care how. And now, one way or another, I'm back here with all of my friends. It's okay." She took his hand and squeezed it. He smiled at her, obviously relieved.
"Thanks, Kim... that means a lot to me. You know, if you need someone to talk to about what happened..either time..I'm here for you,okay?"
She moved her hand up to his cheek, "Thank you but really, I'm okay. I didn't let him break me then and I'll be damned if he's gonna do it now. You told me once before that I'm scrapper..well that also means I'm a survivor..I'll be okay but if I do need help..thank you." She pulled his head down to her and kissed him on the cheek.
Rocky smiled shyly at her, "Um, I'll let you sleep, okay? I'll see you in the morning."
"All right... g'night, Rocky."
He waved and shut the door behind him. Kim fell back against her pillow, wondering just what the hell he was talking about. Her memories of the kidnapping were little more than blue swirls and that was just fine with her. Somewhere deep in the back of her mind, a tiny voice told her to do whatever she had to do to make sure she never remembered. And yet she knew that something very bad had happened. She hadn't acted as if she had noticed but she had... when she had squeezed Rocky's hand, she had seen a single tear slide down his cheeks. What that tear alone said frightened her far more than words ever could.
* * *
Rocky sighed as he shut the door behind him. He leaned heavily against the wall and placed a hand over his side. It wasn't really hurting but it was more like a nervous habit now. That and it reminded him that even after the horror that he and Kim had been forced to undergo, they were both still alive.
"You okay, bro?" A soft voice to his side asked. Rocky blinked and looked up. He had to blink again in order to adjust to the difference of light from Kim's room to the hallway.
Finally he nodded, "Yeah, Jase, I'm fine. I was just checking on Kim." He absently wiped a hand across and down his face in an effort to get rid of the tear wake.
Jason lifted an eyebrow. He'd always been too observant for his own damn good. "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah... why wouldn't it be" Rocky said with a laugh that was meant to be light but failed miserably.
After a brief moment of though. Jason decided not to point out the obvious. Instead he replied. "Well... when you're mom called earlier... you were pretty well... upset. I thought you were about to break down on the phone."
"I know... I just didn't need mama freaking out on me. Thank you for calming her down. I guess I'm still a little tense but it's all okay now... Kim's safe and that's all the matters. The nightmare is over for her."
"And for you...." Jason reminded him. "I don't quite know how you did it, bro... but you kept her alive and that's all that matters."
Rocky nodded and squeezed Jason's arm, "Yeah, man. Thanks." And with that he turned and headed down the hall towards the cafeteria. And as he walked a single thought echoed through his head, _You wouldn't think that it was all good if you knew what I did._
"Hey Jase, what was that all about?" Tommy asked, walking to the door to Kim's room. He leaned against it and looked over at the former Gold Ranger.
Jason shrugged, "Don't know... Rocky's probably just tired. What are you up to?"
Tommy colored slightly and stammering he replied, "I'm gonna, uh... go sit next to Kim. I just want to uh... you know...."
Jason grinned, "Watch her and make sure she's okay, bro? Cool... I think she'd like that."
* * *
"Bed-rest." Jason said, looking down at her sternly. "Have you any idea what that means? Hmm... here's an idea... it doesn't mean trying to play volleyball or joining the gang in a game of hoops."
"It doesn't mean shopping literally until you drop." Tommy added, staring down at her with the same hard expression.
Kim dropped her shoulders but refused to apologize. "You guys are over-reacting. Besides, I'm sick of lying down so much... or sitting...." She fell back onto her bed and looked up at all of her friends who were crowded into her room.
"Kim, your mother left you in our care... and we're not doing such a hot job." Adam said softly.
Kim rolled her eyes, "Guys, please, I'm okay. Stop babying me. All I want to do right now is go to the Juice Bar and get a drink, okay? That's it. I promise I won't do anything. I'll just sit at a table and watch y'all work out."
Somewhat doubtfully Rocky said, "You promise?"
"I do if you promise to lay off on your arm." Kim shot back. Rocky gave her a sour look. "Well, do we have a deal?"
"Come on, Rocko, it's only fair." Tanya said with a grin. The others joined in.
Finally he nodded. "Okay, fine but you gotta promise too, Kim."
Kim nodded, "Okay, I'll be good."
The others sighed, obviously relived. Then they turned and started to leave. Rocky shot her a dirty look. Tommy stayed back and helped her to her feet. He handed her the crutches and then whispered, "Remember, you promised."
She hit him lightly on the shoulder, "I know." She moved out into the hall and then shot back over her shoulder, "But all I said was that I'd be good for today."
Tommy shook his head and helped her to catch up with the others. Still smiling widely, Kim slipped her hand into the pocket of her shorts. She allowed her fingers to brush past a small plastic container. They were right there. Her pills. Her escape.