[PRZ] "Reach For Me" (Tommy, Kat) [G]. This fanfic is rated acceptable for General Audiences by the Fanfic Association of North America. BUT, I'm STILL not afilliated with Saban Entertainment or Fox Television in any way, and I sure as h*ll don't make a profit from this. It's just for fun and the reading public's enjoyment. This is my first vignette, and you might think it a little mushy but you can just wipe that smirk off your face 'cause I think it's darn good. Remember; comments comment comments!
"Rocky, maybe if you put down the chocolate bar, you could use both hands!"
The impatience in Tanya Sloan's voice was lost on her friend. Rocky simply smirked at her and held his snack between his teeth as they worked. The two of them were perched precariously on ladders, hanging a large plastic "It's a Rockin' Fourth" banner on the Youth Center wall. Unfortunately, they couldn't agree on what the word "level" meant, and so neither would let the other put his or her thumbtack in.
"I'm telling you, your side is too low!" Tanya cried.
"Well your thide ith too high!" Rocky shot back through the candy bar in his teeth.
"You're unbelievable." the Yellow Ranger jammed her free hand into her hip. "There is a stripe right here on the wall. Why can't we get one rectangular piece of plastic to match up with it."
Rocky just shrugged. "Maybe 'cauthe your thide ith too high?"
"How would you like to eat those things through a tube for a month?"
Overhearing the threat, Adam left his sweeping to try and break up the quarrel.
"Guys, guys, guys!" he cried. "Violence is not the answer! Make love, not war. That's a figure of speech, Rocky."
Brightening with an idea, Tanya turned to the diplomat with the broom and suggested, "You have a fresh perspective. Why don't you tell us what we're doing wrong?"
So with an artists' scrutiny, Adam began to direct them in finishing their task.
"Ok, Rocky go up a little. A little more. Ok, hold it-- no that's too far, come back. Tanya, drop your end down to match his. Keep going. Wait, go back a bit...that's right. How about a little to the left, both of you....No, Rocky, the other left..."
Finally, the two ladder-bound Rangers cried "WILL YOU GO BACK AND SWEEP, PLEASE!!"
Adam feigned wounding. "Well if that's the thanks I get..."
"Hey guys! Where is everybody?" said Tommy, coming through the door with a grocery bag in hand. As Rocky and Tanya grouchily finished hanging the banner, Adam replied "We're the only ones who showed. Lt. Stone's out getting the smoke machine and the DJ is going to be here any minute to start setting up."
"Where's Kat?" Tommy asked. "Did she go to help Lt. Stone?"
Adam tapped his forehead, making a comment about Tommy's memory. "I told you, we're the only ones who showed."
Tanya and Rocky came down at that moment while Adam went back to his sweeping.
"So, how much were they?" Tanya asked, removing two bottles of Jolt from Tommy's bag.
"Uh, a buck each....you mean Kat didn't show up at all?" He followed Adam to the bar where the sweeping was in progress. Tossed one of the Jolts to Rocky, Tanya cracked the other open for herself and started unwrapping streamers.
"She didn't even call?" Tommy marveled.
"Not since we've been here. I thought she'd have told you if she wasn't going to come, but I haven't talked to her since yesterday."
Yesterday. The field trip to the Science Center.
Adam stopped to look quizzically at him. "You guys aren't fighting or anything are you?"
* * *
The day of the field trip had started out fairly normally; all of them meeting in the foyer to wait for the buses to arrive. The only thing odd about the scene had been Kat's uncharacteristic quietness and refusal to go on the first bus with the others. She hadn't been rude or spiteful, she had simply declined to join them when the bus pulled up. They all just assumed she was going to ride with another friend, so they boarded the bus that Tommy's mother happened to be chaperoning, and started their day.
No one had seen Kat after the field trip was over, but she always had her own classes during the afternoon anyway. Only Tommy noticed she wasn't at the Youth Center where she usually spent her off-hours. It was strange for her to change routines so suddenly.
* * *
"Fighting?" Tommy repeated, back in the present. "No, not us. I don't think she's mad at me, anyway. If she is, I don't know what I did to tick her off."
Adam shrugged. "Well you better talk to her tonight at the Bash. If I were you, I'd make sure I wasn't in some kind of hot water."
"Hey guys!" Rocky called from the floor. "Check this out!"
They both turned to see the Blue Ranger holding a pair of balloon-art nunchucks he had just made, with a length of red streamer tied around his head like a headband. Howling cartoonishly, he began to attack Tanya with the "nunchucks" just as she was starting to hang the streamers around the doorway.
"Hey!" she protested. "Get away from me, you dollar-store Ninja!"
Turning back to Adam, Tommy sighed. "Good luck getting this place ready on time." Then he turned and headed for the other door.
"Hey, where are you going?"
"To find Kat. I'm not waiting 'till tonight to find out what evil I've done this time."
And then he was gone. Adam sighed in defeat, looking around him at the myriad of unfinished tasks to be done. How was he supposed to get the entire place ready for the Fourth of July Bash on his own?
Catching sight of his two remaining companions, he stopped to watch them pelting each other with party-favor weaponry. Tanya had fashioned herself a shield from the lid of the plastic garbage can, and was beating Rocky with a paper-towel tube.
Well, if you can't lick 'em... said a voice in Adam's head. Join 'em!
Spinning the broom handle in his hand, the Green Ranger shouted a battle cry and leapt into the good-natured fray.
* * *
In his little black '88 Ford Ranger, Tommy drove to all of their favorite hangouts one by one, stopping to search for Katherine at each of them. He looked for her at the school, the lake, the plaza where the pizza place was, the swimming pool, Ernie's Harborfront Restaurant, and the little ballet academy where she taught sometimes. She was nowhere to be found. No one had seen her since the previous day.
Finally, his concern mounting, Tommy went to her home to see if she was there. Normally her Saturday mornings were spent away from home, but perhaps she was sick, and her father had insisted she stay in. Parking on the street, Tommy headed up the little concrete path to the front porch, and knocked on the Hilliard's door.
He waited for a half a minute, but there was no answer from the other side. He knocked again, and peered in the window before he gave up. There was no one at home-- not even Kat's father.
Of course... Tommy smacked himself in the forehead. Kat's father was away this week. He had been invited to visit an old work buddy over the holiday, and had flown out of Los Angeles International Airport that morning bound for Australia. Tanya had asked Kat if she wanted to come stay at the Sloans while Mr. Hilliard was gone, but the Pink Ranger had declined. She had told them she would be just fine on her own for a few days.
With no new ideas as to where else Kat could be, Tommy walked back to the truck and sat there for a minute, thinking. Then, silently justifying the cause, he lifted his communicator and spoke into it, "Kat, come in. Are you there?"
After a bit of a pause, he was relieved to hear a familiar accented voice come over the channel.
"This is Kat, go ahead."
"Kat, where are you?" he began, noticing her sober tone. "We missed you at the Youth Center today, the others are there decorating like Ernie asked."
She was unenthusiastic with her apology. "I must have forgotten. I can't make it after all, can you give them a hand instead?"
"Yeah, I planned to, but where have you been since yesterday. No one's seen you. Is everything ok?"
Once again, she was not eager to supply answers. "I've been around. Don't worry, I'm alright. Tell the others I'm sorry I couldn't be there to help."
"Kat, tell me where you are." Tommy insisted. "I've got the truck, I'll head over and we can go someplace."
"I don't feel like going anywhere today, Tommy."
"Then we'll just hang out. You're sure there's nothing you want to talk about?"
"Tommy, I'm fine!" she snapped impatiently. Tommy blinked. It wasn't every day Katherine Hilliard yelled at people.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled. "I'm just a little tired, that's all."
But Tommy's concern was peaked. Something was troubling her and she was refusing to let on what it was. When it came to not revealing problems to friends, Kat and Tommy were actually quite alike.
"Will you just tell me where you are?" Tommy asked gently, trying to sound casual and nonthreatening.
After a moment, she replied. "The gazebo. I've been doing homework out here, but I'm leaving soon."
Tommy thought of the place she spoke of-- the pristine little gazebo perched on the cliffs at the beach.
"I just wanted to know you were alright." he explained.
"Yeah, fine." she said flatly. "Don't worry about me."
Before she closed the channel, Tommy insisted that she call him later on and she gave a noncommittal OK. Then he sat alone for a while, replaying the conversation in his mind. There was no doubt that she was depressed, Tommy knew the attitude all too well; but she hadn't seemed angry at him personally. That was one question answered. The next question was what could possibly put bright, optimistic, smiling Katherine into such a melancholy state. He felt the need to find out before the evening, since she had been looking forward to the Independence Day bash for a month now. He wanted her to feel better, and to have a good time.
Unfortunately, he had made the unspoken agreement not to bother her, and it would do him no good to break that contract. He would have to wait for her to keep her part of the bargain by picking up the phone sometime that day.
Knowing Adam would get his team under control in time to get the Youth Center done, Tommy decided to go home and hope Kat would have the strength to reach out to him in her time of crisis.
The grandfather clock struck midnight. Lucy Oliver put down her book and yawned, glancing briefly at her sleeping husband in the bed next to her. Jim subscribed to the philosophy that "early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."
Lucy, on the other hand, believed that "Early to rise, early to bed, makes one healthy, wealthy and dead." Life was too short to end your days before Letterman came on.
Pushing back the covers, the 48 year old family therapist slipped out of bed, climbed into her robe and slippers, and took her book with her out of the room. She would fix herself a quick snack and then turn in for the night. The next chapter of The Convict Lover could wait until tomorrow.
There were purple grapes and cottage cheese in the fridge. Laying her book down on the counter, Lucy took a small bowl and a spoon off the drain rack and was about to raid the fridge as planned, when she heard voices in the next room. Cautiously, she crossed the front hall and peeked into the darkened living room, only to find Tommy sitting on the couch, watching TV. He had a simple white undershirt on, but still wore his jeans as well.
"Tommy, you're not at the party with your friends?" she asked, leaning against the doorframe.
He shook his head, flipping channels. "I didn't feel like going."
"You've been home all day. You're going to start growing mushrooms in your armpits if you're not careful."
She headed back into the kitchen and he followed her, sitting down at the table and picking up a stray paperclip to play with.
"Do you have any classes to teach tomorrow?" his mother asked, getting the grapes from the crisper and the cottage cheese from the door. Tommy shook his head again. "Most of the kids are going away with their families this weekend so I get a vacation." He popped a few grapes in his mouth. "Besides, you were up. Why should I go to bed at sunset like Dad does and miss out on all the infomercials?"
Lucy smiled. Sarcasm wasn't her son's most redeeming quality, but mothers were easy to entertain. Their snack assembled, she set her short frame down across from Tommy and they began to dig in.
"So," she began, conversationally. "What's the real reason you're up this late?"
Tommy looked at his hands. "I was waiting for a phonecall."
Arching her brows, Lucy replied, "Must be an important one."
"Kind of. Kat said she'd call sometime this afternoon. We haven't talked in almost two days."
"You having a disagreement?"
Tommy gave a short laugh. "No, but we might as well be. She hardly said a word to me at school yesterday, and she didn't show up to help decorate the Youth Center today. No one knew where she was until I finally got a hold of her at the park, and she was all sullen and quiet like I get when I'm depressed. She might as well be having a disagreement with the whole world."
In her mind, Lucy began to slip back into therapist mode, her instincts compelling her to learn more about Tommy's girlfriend's situation.
"Any idea what might be making her depressed?" she asked. "Is there some illness in the family or something?"
Tommy shook his head. "I doubt it. They don't have a lot of family, it's just Kat's Aunt and her son up in Tarzana."
"Some kind of unwelcome changes going on her life?"
He shrugged. "Nothing big, I don't think. Her Dad went away this morning to visit some friends in Australia, but Kat's been alone in the house before. That wouldn't get her down like this."
Sitting back in her chair, Dr. Oliver regarded her son calmly. "Well, without knowing what the root of a problem is, we have no means of solving it. Maybe you just need to step back and give Katherine some time to work things out."
"But I should be there for her." Tommy argued. "She's always there for me and so are the other guys. It's my responsibility as a friend to try and help her out."
Lucy countered this firmly. "Tommy, no one is responsible for anyone's feelings but their own. You know that. I understand you want to help Kat with her feelings, but she may not be ready for your help yet. Don't make her feel like she has to solve her problems at your request."
Tommy frowned, averting his gaze. "I wouldn't do that."
Lucy just smiled. "I know you wouldn't. I just want you to understand that people need to feel their pain. Katherine is a healthy, happy person, but everyone has their troubles, just like you still do sometimes." He could not argue with her there.
"Pain is here to make us grow, Tommy. We have our times of joy, and then we have times when we're forced to discover something about ourselves; something that we will need in life later on. A lesson will keep coming until you learn it, and then you get another one. It never ends, Tommy. You and Katherine are lucky to have the friends you do, to help you get through it."
The boy looked up for a moment, as though searching for a reason to believe her words, then he lowered his eyes again.
"How can I help her to be happy then?"
"By doing what you planned to do." Lucy replied. "By waiting for her to make the next move. You know in your heart what she needs, because you were there once. You just need to be gentle with her feelings, like Kimberly was with yours."
This made him look straight at her, surprised by the connection she was making. He hadn't ever thought about him being in Kim's shoes-- being on the other side of the table as the stronger one in the pair. He had always taken care of his friends, but it had been a while since he thought about how it had been to be taken care of.
Before he could think of what to ask next, both he and his mother were startled by the soft chime of the doorbell. Lucy Oliver looked at the clock on the microwave and then got to her feet, wrapping her robe a little tighter around herself. "Who would be out at this hour?" she wondered to herself as she left Tommy in the kitchen and went to the door.
Flipping on the porch light, she peered out the narrow window and saw a blonde head standing at the stoop. Undoing the latch, she opened the door and there was Katherine, wearing a wrinkled sundress and holding a thin sweater in her hands. On her feet were worn tennis shoes that looked a few sizes too small, and her normally silken hair looked unkempt and straggly. It was hard to tell in the contrasty light of the porch bulb, but she might have been crying sometime in the past hour.
Speak of the devil, Lucy thought.
"Katherine, this is certainly a surprise." she said. "What are you doing out at this hour?"
The girl seemed nervous. "I-- I saw your light on. I hope I didn't wake you."
"No, no, I was just up for a bit of a snack. It's chilly out there, why don't you come in?" She stepped aside for Kat, but the girl shook her head. "I, um...I was just coming to see Tommy. I told him I'd talk with him sometime today, and I didn't get around to it 'till now."
Good girl, Lucy thought to herself.
"Well Tommy's up as well. Wait here and I'll get him for you, alright?"
Leaving the door open, she left Katherine on the porch and headed back to the kitchen. On the way, she silently thanked the gods of psychology that she'd been able to talk to Tommy that night. Hopefully now he was just a little more prepared to deal with what he was up against.
Coming back into the kitchen, she found Tommy standing there waiting for her.
"Kat?" he asked, obviously having heard the conversation at the door. Lucy walked past him to the counter where the flour canisters were.
"We're foregoing curfew tonight." she said, reaching into the strawberry shaped cookie-jar and withdrawing an old ten-dollar bill. She put the lid back on and walked to the other wall where she took a set of keys off the rack. Then she turned back to her son.
"I want you to take your father's car, take her out for coffee somewhere, and let her talk. That's all, just talk-- let her work it all out-- and I want you to listen. Be sympathetic, be understanding, and be prepared not to solve any crises tonight. She's here because she's ready to reach out to someone, and all you have to do is be there. Alright?"
Tommy shoved the money in his pocket and gave his mother a quick kiss on the cheek. "Thanks mom." he said in a boyish way. So as not to embarrass him, she turned him around and pushed him towards the door.
"You're welcome. Don't say I never gave you nothing."
Stepping into some old sneakers and throwing on his brown jacket, Tommy left the house with Katherine and shut the door behind him. Lucy stood looking after him a moment, and then she heard a footstep behind her. Jim stood in the hallway in his shorts, rubbing his bleary eyes.
"Who was that?" he asked hoarsely.
"Katherine came by to see Tommy. They're going out for coffee, I told Tommy he could ignore curfew for once."
Jim looked confused. "What did she need to talk to him about at this hour?"
Lucy just shrugged, and slipped an arm around her husband's waist, leading him back into the bedroom.
"I wouldn't worry about it." she said. "Bob Hilliard raised a good kid. So did we."
* * *
His father's prize '76 Camaro parked on the street, Tommy settled down against the big Oak Tree in the park. Kat sat cross legged on the grass before him. The gazebo squatted in the dark nearby, and from the beach below they could hear the omnipresent sound of the ocean. Tommy's jacket was draped over Kat's shoulders, and a cup of hot chocolate from the Seven-Eleven steamed in her hands.
For a long time they were silent, listening to the ocean and the few nightbirds that were up and about. The sky was blanketed with clouds, which glowed a pale shade of pink from the city lights reflecting off them. Tommy sipped his drink silently, and waited for Kat to speak.
After a while, she lifted her head and stared out at the water. "I hope you're not missing the party just because of me."
Tommy shook his head. "I wouldn't have gone without you anyway."
That answer she seemed to accept. "I guess I've been kind of solitary lately. I hope you guys didn't think I was mad at you, I just needed to be away from people."
Nodding, he told her, "I know what that's like."
Another silence fell over them. Then Kat began, "It's my Dad being away this weekend. He told me on Thursday that he was going, and on Friday I was too upset to talk to anyone about it-- not even you guys. It's just that he and I have always spent the Fourth of July together..."
Tommy was confused. "But you've only been Americans for a year."
Kat shook her head. "I don't mean Independence Day, I mean the Fourth of July. The anniversary of when my mother died."
Of course... Tommy thought for the second time that day.
Kat looked away again. "Every year he and I used to go put flowers on Mum's grave. When we came to the states we started having a friend do it for us, and instead we would spend the evening together, just the two of us, as a family." Tears began to spill as she spoke. "We lit Mum's candle-- the Angel we bought just after she died. Burning her candle helps us remember that she's still a part of our family, and spending quiet time let's us listen for her. Aunt Cheryl always told me that whenever I felt confused or afraid, all I had to do was listen for Mum and she would tell me what to do."
Kat's eyes darted to her hands again. "But I don't hear her now. I go in the house and all I hear is silence. I can't talk to Daddy, and I can't hear Mum talking to me; everyone's left me and I don't know how to get through this..."
Her throat closed up with a lump of sadness, and she couldn't go on for a moment. Tommy took it as his turn to cut in.
"Not everyone's left you, Kat." he said, feeling his own tears rising. "I'm here for you. Adam and Rocky and Tanya are here for you. If you need her badly, your Aunt could probably be here too, and I know your mother hasn't gone away."
Kat shook her head. "All I have of her are the stories Dad tells me. I know them all by heart now, but it's when I listen to them again that I hear my Mum the strongest. Now Dad's not here to tell me. Why did he chose to go away when I need him the most?"
Tommy cycled a deep breath. He had been warned not to try and solve problems, but he couldn't help himself. There was something he had to try.
"I don't know why your Dad had to go Kat, but there's no reason why we can't have stories without him." he squeezed her hand. "Tell them to me."
She searched her thoughts, hesitating. "Th-- they're just scattered little anecdotes, Tommy. They barely make sense to me, they would mean absolutely nothing to you."
He brushed it off. "It means something to me that you're hurting, Kat. I want to help you get through this if I can, and the only way I know how is to listen. So please, tell me a story."
She looked at her hand, trapped in his, and in a trembling whisper, told him "I don't know if I can."
She ducked her head and her shoulders began to shake with sobs. Taking her drink aside, Tommy pulled her into his arms to hold her for a while. He had never known the pain of losing a parent, but Kat's pain was enough for both of them that night. She cried for a long time, and so did he in sympathy.
But it was a healthy cry. The longer she wept, the more Tommy felt Kat's body relaxing. Soon her tears stopped and there was a long period of silence while she seemed to be listening. Around them, soft breezes rustled the trees, the nightbirds chortled and sang, and the ocean sighed contentedly against the shore.
Finally, Kat wiped her cheeks and began to tell stories of her mother; stories of the woman's childhood and growing up; more vivid stories of her first few years of married life; funny stories and thrilling stories, and more than a few of her exploits in motherhood. Emily Hilliard had been a mother seven years when a brain tumor took her life. She had never lead a wealthy household, so she had few objects to leave behind for her daughter to remember her by. Instead there were only pictures and stories-- stories which Kat had been told dozens of times, but didn't know till now that she could tell herself.
As she spoke, Kat twisted a ring on her hand and let herself be swept away with memories. The fond ones made her smile, and after a while, Tommy thought he could sense a presence in the air around them; a presence that gave Kat strength as time went on. She only paused once, when the air was split by the sound of fireworks, and great streaks of colored light began to race skyward from somewhere in the city.
As they were bathed in in the brilliant, flickering colors, Tommy looked down to see Kat's reaction. He saw on her face a smile that simply brimmed with joy; the smile of a woman being told the world was indeed a magical place again.
And at that moment, under the rejoicing sky with Katherine snuggled smiling in his arms, Tommy could believe wholeheartedly that it was.