Disclaimer: All the characters that you recognize as Saban's are Saban's and are used without permission. The rest are mine. I've been trying to draw on family information/backgrounds that I drew up for other stories, most notably "Family Wedding" and "Destruction of the Pink Ranger" but don't worry if you haven't read either of them; the references aren't that extensive, so you won't miss anything. My thanks to Yvonne and Rob for all their help (esp. with the title & figuring out where things are in places I've never seen) and reassurances. This story takes place about a month after "Til Death."
"What is taking so long? I thought the plane had landed,"
Tommy huffed. David Trueheart smiled at his brother's impatience. In the
short time he had known Tommy Oliver (just slightly over a year) he had
never seen him so anxious. The two stood in the Air France terminal at
Angel Grove International awaiting the arrival of Tommy's fiancee Kimberly
"They have to wait for the plane at the gate to taxi out," David reminded him with amused tolerance.
David simply shook his head, his long locks brushing his face. He hadn't intended on spending the evening waiting for a plane that was an hour late, but it was either do that with Tommy or sit in the waiting area of the garage while he waited for his jeep to be finished. Since he hadn't been able to spend time with Tommy as he used to due to Tommy's racing schedule, David opted to accompany his overeager brother and had spent the better part of the evening listening to him babble non-stop about the woman for whom they were waiting.
_A year ago, I didn't know I had a brother, and now...._ It had all started with a dream of a faded rose, a falcon, and a broken arrowhead.
* * *
"What do you remember of your mother?" his adoptive father, Sam Trueheart, had queried upon being told about the vision. "Do you remember how she used to call your unborn brother little falcon?'"
"The dream is about my brother? But you told me he died."
"I said the falcon had flown. To what fate, I did not know. He lives, and you will know him by the arrowhead he carries."
* * *
David could hardly remember when his natural parents were still alive. For the last nineteen years, it had just been him and his dad, as Sam had never married. He had spent his whole life living on the reservation, but he had been happy, content with his quiet life. Then came this brother he had thought dead, and his world was turned topsy-turvy.
"It's like I've found myself," Tommy had said about their reunion. "I know who I am now and where I come from."
However, while Tommy had found his answers, David had only found questions. There was an emptiness inside him that had never been there before... a sense of incompleteness, like he'd been cast adrift. From that day, he'd found himself searching for something--but for what?
It was difficult to admit, but sometimes David envied his brother. Good looking, easy going, friendly, popular... Tommy had a wonderful circle of friends who would always be there for him, and he was well liked by the rest of his classmates. David had counted himself fortunate to have had one close friend in his boyhood, and now there was his college roommate. There were the martial arts.... David had always been proud of his skills, yet his "little brother" had taken him down easily in their first sparring match. Then there was the fact that Tommy had been a Power Ranger; that was almost beyond comprehension. Tommy had traveled to other planets--other dimensions even!
Yet, David wouldn't have wished for Tommy's life. Tommy had grown up knowing he was adopted; though he was well loved, he'd never truly known who he was. David at least had that. The Olivers had moved around a lot as Tommy had been growing up; he had never really called any place home, never had a real friend as a boy. The Reservation had provided David with a sense of stability and security. Granted, Tommy's fortunes had changed upon moving to Angel Grove, but even that had come with a price. The idea of being a superhero was compelling, but David had had a taste of that part of Tommy's life and not found it to his liking. As for some of the stories Tommy had told him... no thank you, not for him.
Still, he wouldn't have mind having a wonderful girl like Katherine to share his life with. David had never met so sweet a woman--kind, gentle, full of warmth and caring, not to mention stunningly beautiful with her flaxen hair and crystalline blue eyes. And her accent... he could listen to her talk for hours. But, she was Tommy's girlfriend; it was obvious Katherine absolutely adored his brother. So imagine his surprise when he returned from his visit with Alex to discover that his brother was engaged but not to Kat!
"Kat and I never really clicked. I mean, we tried, but I think we both realized that I was just looking for a replacement for Kim, and that wasn't fair to Kat. We hadn't been a couple in the true sense of the word since we received our Turbo powers," Tommy had explained. Then, he told him about Kimberly. The thing that made the biggest impression on him was that Tommy was practically glowing as he spoke of her. He had never seen that in Tommy before, but even that happy glow had come at a price. As Tommy spoke of the break up, there had been shadows of pain in his eyes. If Tommy truly was happy with Kimberly, he had more than earned it.
* * *
"Ah man... I can't wait anymore!"
David's musing were disrupted as Tommy leaped to his feet. "Where are you going?" he queried.
"You shouldn't have had that fourth iced tea," David kidded. "I shouldn't have had that burrito either," Tommy grumbled. David laughed, and his brother made a face at him.
"Watch. With my luck, Kim will arrive while I'm gone."
"In which case, how will I recognize her? I've never seen her," David wondered, marveling still at the way Tommy's face lit up at the slightest mention of his fiancee.
"Here," Tommy said as he tossed David his wallet. "There are some pictures in here. They're a couple of years old, though. Pictures were the last thing on Kim's mind before she went to Paris with her mother." With that, Tommy made a rather hasty exit.
David flipped the wallet open and thumbed through the photo sleeves. There were a surprising number of pictures; David hadn't realized Tommy was that into them. There was a photo of him and Tommy, Jan and Thomas, two different group shots of Tommy's friends, and several of a young woman with caramel colored hair, soft brown eyes, and a warm smile. She had a cheerful, bubbly look to her. David thought her pretty without being an extraordinary beauty. He studied a shot of the two together. Kim seemed so small next to his brother--so ordinary, but he had to remind himself that she was an Olympic-class gymnast, a first generation Power Ranger, and trasher of would-be robot assassins.
"Beauty, little one, is more than just something you see on the outside. It is the goodness inside shining through that makes a person beautiful," he recalled Grandmother Trueheart saying once. Perhaps that was Kimberly's secret, David reflected as he flipped to the last photo. The edges showed that Tommy had looked at it often. He and Kimberly were seated with the lake behind them. The early evening sun made the water sparkle like gold champagne, the glare backlighting the couple, creating a silhouette effect. Tommy's arms were around Kim. She glanced up at him as he smiled down at her. Apparently, it had been a prelude to a kiss, but the emotions in their expressions... the happiness... the depth of affection and love.... It stirred old, old memories of a woman with large, chocolate colored eyes and thick mahogany hair that hung to her waist and a quiet man whose face he sometimes saw in the mirror. His parents had often looked at each other like that; he hadn't understood those looks as a child. He only knew that they had always filled him with warmth, happiness, and security--feelings he longed to know again.
Just as David closed the wallet, passengers began making their way up the ramp. Tommy would be fit to be tied! He started scanning the stream of people for a young woman bubbling over with enthusiasm for life. What caught his attention, however, was a vision in white. She was too short to be a model--her ankle boots giving her the illusion of height--but she moved like one with an easy grace and sureness, and an air of sophistication hung about her. Tanned legs disappeared under a short skirt with an off-center slit. The garment rested low on the hips, and her taut stomach was bared under the edge of a silky, emerald-hued midriff. A waist cropped jacket completed the outfit.
David's gaze traveled up the svelte figure and settled on her face. She wore little to no make-up; her moist lips curved ever so slightly into an inviting smile, and her eyes appeared heavy and smoky. Her burnished chestnut locks were gathered loosely atop her head with wispy tendrils curling about her face.
He knew he was staring but couldn't help himself. There was something about this woman that commanded his attention, and he wasn't the only one casting appreciative glances in her direction. As she looked around--most likely for a boyfriend or husband--her eyes seemed to meet his, and her smile broadened. David gulped as he realized that the vision was headed straight toward him, and before he knew it, she was standing in front of him. David looked around frantically for another man... there had to be some mistake. Yet, she reached up to run her fingers through his shoulder-length hair. Her eyes sparkled with... something.
"Hiya, sexy," she murmured throatily, then she pulled him down to her level and planted her lips firmly against his.
David was too shocked to do much of anything. He had never been in so outrageous a situation in his entire life. He had never dated much--let alone had a girlfriend, and here he was in the airport being kissed by an absolute knock-out of a stranger.
"When opportunity knocks, only a fool refuses to open the door," he could hear his father saying. It certainly seemed as if the woman wasn't going to be letting him go anytime soon, and she was a lot stronger than she looked, so instead of making a fuss, David tried to relax and enjoy. However, in some corner of his mind, he wondered just how would he explain this to his brother.
To his chagrin, the woman pulled away. He figured she must have realized that she was kissing the wrong man; he seriously hoped that her boyfriend or husband or whatever was not around--or if he was, that he was the understanding sort. The woman stood there smiling at him as she caught her breath.
"Mm, not bad," she murmured with mischief in her voice. "You're an awfully good kisser."
"Thanks... I think," David stammered, perplexed. The siren of a moment ago was melting away to be replaced by someone more effervescent.
"Apparently, it runs in the family. You must be David; I'm Kimberly."
"You're...." he sputtered. He glanced from Tommy's closed wallet to the young woman. She burst into peals of delighted laughter at his complete befuddlement.
"I'm sorry, David," she apologized. "It's just that I'd been planning that entrance since I first boarded the plane in Paris, and I was determined to use it on somebody since somebody else wasn't here."
Kim was talking past his shoulder, and David turned to find Tommy reclining against the wall. He wanted to die of embarrassment, but his brother looked more amused than angry. He let out a slow breath and decided it would be best if he sat down for a little while.
"I would have been here if somebody's plane hadn't been so late," Tommy jibed in return.
"The pilot knew you'd probably be late, so...."
"Oh, come here, you...."
Kim dashed into Tommy's arms, and the two were swiftly lost in a very passionate kiss. By the time the two broke for air, David was more or less recovered from both the kiss and shock.
"Oh man, Kim, I've missed you," Tommy murmured, still holding Kim close. "Paris would have been so much more romantic with you there," Kim sighed. She snuggled deeper into Tommy's embrace. "Mm, your arms feel so good!"
"Ah, but I know the real reason you wanted me to come to Paris," Tommy said with an impish glint in his eyes.
"You just wanted me there to carry all your packages," he teased. "So, did you buy out the Parisian version of Rodeo Drive?"
"You are so mean!" Kim protested. "I'll have you know that I only bought a couple of outfits--this one being the most impractical." She spun around, modeling the ensemble. She slipped off the jacket, revealing that what David had mistaken for a silk shell was barely more than a silk handkerchief held in place by two dangerously thin crisscrossed straps. "I even got it in your two favorite colors. Whatcha think?"
"I think it's probably a good thing we have a chaperone otherwise we'd never make it to my house," Tommy said in a husky whisper, his intent plain. David felt his cheeks burning.
"Oh, you...." Kim groaned, playfully swatting his arm. "You behave. I think we're embarrassing your brother."
David did his best to appear composed.
"Come on; let's go get your luggage," Tommy suggested, casting David a sheepish glance.
"Don't worry; I don't have anymore than I left with," Kim assured him. "I figured it'd be easier to restock my wardrobe here than try and cart it overseas."
It took David a moment to remember that Kim had lost everything she had to the Mercyte attack a month ago.
"Say, can we get something to eat; I'm starved," Kim continued. "Didn't you eat on the plane?"
"I slept through dinner," she pouted.
"Sounds good to me. Where would you like to go?"
"I dunno. I'm too tired to think. David, what about you?" David was surprised to find himself included in the invitation. "Look, I'm sure the two of you have a lot of catching up to do. Why don't I let you guys go and...."
"... and nothing." Kim silenced him with a finger to his lips. She threaded her arm through his as she pulled him to his feet. "Ever since Tommy told me he had a brother, I've been dying to meet you. After all, you're going to be my brother-in-law...."
"When Kim has her mind made up, the only thing you can do is go with the flow," Tommy interjected. Kim stuck her tongue out at him.
"Well, if you're sure...." David agreed reluctantly.
"Great! Tommy tells me you're into karate, too," Kim began as she slipped her other arm through Tommy's, and the trio headed for baggage claim. "Boy, if you're really as much like your brother as you seem, it's a wonder you don't have half the female population of Angel Grove camped on your doorstep...."
* * *
"Are you sure we can't take you home?" Tommy offered as he pulled his truck into the garage's parking lot.
"I'm positive. See? My jeep is right over there, and Chet's still here. If he hasn't gotten to it, I can drive it home and bring it back in the morning," David assured him. He had to admit to having enjoyed the evening. He felt grateful to have spent some time with the pair. Kim was fascinating, and he better understood what had so captivated his brother. Her openness and warmth, friendliness, her fiery spirit.... It was as his grandmother had said, her inner beauty enhanced her pretty exterior, making her far lovelier than she would be otherwise. Also, watching his brother and fiancee together had been refreshing. They were more than just lovers (in the loosest sense of the word); they were friends, too. Most of the couples he knew couldn't make that claim. It was as if Tommy and Kim's love for each other was merely an added bonus to what they already shared. David hoped that someday he could be so fortunate.
However, he had felt a little like the odd man out. Kim's stories about Paris had been as interesting as Tommy's racing anecdotes, and of course there were the veiled references to their days as Power Rangers. His contribution to the conversation--talk of AGU and matters on the Reservation--had seemed mundane in comparison. Towards the end of the meal, it was obvious that Tommy and Kim were wanting some time alone. He could see it in the glances they shared, the innocent touches, the way they sat so close together....
"I'm so glad I got to meet you, David," Kim said, leaning over to give his cheek a peck. "Same here."
"We'll head out to the reservation soon; I want Kim to meet your dad," Tommy added. "Will your folks be home, Tommy?" Kim questioned. "Dad's in Tokyo on business, and Mom's working a double tonight. It'll just be us for a few hours, but I think we can manage to entertain ourselves."
David pointedly ignored the looks the two gave each other. "I'll see you guys later, then," David said. He stepped back so Tommy could pull away. He waved and watched as they headed out onto Main Street and stopped at the light. Just as David turned to head into the garage, he heard the squeal of tires, the sickening crunch and tearing of metal, and the shattering of glass. There was a moment of stillness then the roar of a car disappearing into the night. David knew before he turned to look, but he still had to see. A glimpse of twisted white metal was all it took.
"Call 911; there's been an accident," he shouted in to the mechanic, then he was racing for the intersection.
* * *
Janice Oliver sighed with relief as she clocked out. She didn't mind working a double every now and again, but today's had been exceptionally busy. She was glad that Mildred had arrived early for her shift.
_Mr. Burke would have to put up a fight tonight,_ she mused, her uniform still damp from the pitcher of water he had knocked into her. She tucked a blonde-brown shock of hair that had fallen out of her French braid back behind her ear. _And the Anderson kid... Carol is going to owe me big time for this one!_
Jan positively ached and found herself wishing that Thomas was home instead of in Tokyo. _What I wouldn't give for one of his backrubs! Oh well...._ She didn't care how late it was; as soon as she got home, she was going to indulge in a long, hot soak in the tub. _Hm, it'll be nice having the house all to myself, though...._ Then, Jan remembered that Tommy was supposed to meet Kim at the airport.
_Thank goodness; the boy was like to drive me crazy waiting for her to get back! _ Although, she couldn't blame him. It had devastated him when Kim had sent him that letter; she had hurt so much for Tommy, and she hadn't understood the situation anymore than he had. She had felt certain that the two of them were one of those rare high school sweetheart couples who actually did wind up getting married. There had been no warning.... Kimberly had seemed as happy with Tommy as he was with her. It just hadn't made sense. Of course, for as much as she commiserated with her son, it had infuriated her that he had taken that letter at face value and hadn't even attempted to contact Kim. Even she could tell that there had to be more to the situation than the words on the paper, but no, Tommy wasn't going to fight it if that was what Kim truly wanted.... Jan had never been so happy to get a call in the middle of the night than she had that evening in Vienna. She was also proud of the fact that she had managed not to tell Tommy, "I told you so."
He hadn't been too bad during Kim's absence; after all, he had been off racing for most of the month, but when he was home.... She had managed to divert him somewhat by having him get the guest room ready. It kept him occupied and off the phone every night. Jan dreaded to see what an hour phone call to Paris was going to cost. However, she really couldn't begrudge him that. He had wanted to go with Kim so badly, but he had his obligations to John. She couldn't blame him for not wanting to let her out of his sight considering what happened the last time she left, and Jan knew she had no room to talk. Although she told everyone she had joined the army for the GI Bill, it had been as much to be close to Thomas as anything else. Oh yes, she understood Tommy all too well right now.
_And now my baby's engaged to be married._ Jan smiled and sighed wistfully as she collected her belongings from her locker. She just couldn't believe it. In some ways, it bothered her. Tommy and Kim were still so young... they were only eighteen, but they were only young in years. The two of them were rather like some of the soldiers she had seen in Vietnam. They had seen and done more in their short lives than most people who lived to be eighty or ninety. Their careers as Power Rangers had given them an uncommon maturity for teenagers.
That was something else Jan was still trying to get used to--that her son had been a superhero and battled monsters on a daily basis. She had had her suspicions, but it was rather unnerving to have them confirmed. Even more astonishing than Tommy's career was Kimberly's. Her son, she could see, but not Kim. _The soldiers in the MASH unit used to say the same thing about you_, she reminded herself. She did have to admit that Kim had the spirit and heart of a warrior; how else could she have survived being hunted over the past year?
She was sure Caroline had no inkling that her daughter had been a Ranger. In her eyes, Kimberly was her sweet little girl... at least that was the impression Jan had gotten when she and Thomas met up with her and Adrian in Paris. The whole Mercyte business was utterly beyond Caroline's ability to grasp. To be fair, Jan wasn't sure if she could have understood it either if she hadn't known of or suspected Tommy's extracurricular career. Caroline had no clue, and Jan wasn't sure if she agreed with Kim and Tommy's decision not to enlighten her. They had told her that the robots were after Kim because they had discovered that Kim had accidently found out who one of the Power Rangers was. Infuriatingly, Caroline had accepted the explanation without question.
"Mom wouldn't understand; telling her the truth would only confuse her and worry her, and if she thought that something like the Mercyte attack could happen again, there'd be no way she'd let me return to the states," had been Kim's argument.
As it was, Caroline nearly didn't let Kimberly go--in spite of the fact that she was eighteen and legally able to take care of herself. Jan could sympathize; she'd have been loath to let Tommy out of her sight in similar circumstances, but she would also have realized that Tommy was old enough to make his own decisions. She wouldn't have wanted to hold him back. It probably helped that Kim was going to be staying with them; Caroline wouldn't have to worry about her being on her own. Still, Jan had to laugh as she recalled Caroline's objection to that: "but it just doesn't seem proper for Kim to live with her fiance!"
Jan had to admit that she was looking forward to having Kim around; she had always wanted to have a daughter, and she and Kim had always gotten along well. As much as she had enjoyed Tommy's martial arts, she was looking forward to being able to do "girl things" with Kim.
_It'll be fun helping Kim plan the wedding,_ she reflected gleefully. However, that wouldn't be for a little while yet. The couple had demonstrated some of their maturity in deciding to wait to get married until Kim was finished with school. While Kim was doing that, Tommy was going to continue racing for his uncle to earn enough money for the wedding and to do something he had always wanted: own his own martial arts school. Jan was happy--and more than a little relieved--that he was going to go back to his first love. She didn't think she could handle Tommy being a race car driver full time--not after seeing the crash at the last race!
"Jan! There you are!"
Jan looked up to see Michelle racing towards her. She frowned suspiciously; Michelle was supposed to be at the nurses' station on five....
"I'm glad I caught you...."
"No," Jan said emphatically. "Whatever it is, no."
"Dr. Danielson just called up from E.R.; he needs you down there...."
"Why? I'm done with my shift. I've clocked out. My feet hurt, my back aches.... Besides, we both know Danielson can't stand working with me." _Because I won't take his crap!_ "Isn't there someone else he can pester?"
"Probably, but it's your son who was just brought in...." Michelle never got the chance to finish her sentence; Jan was already racing for the stairs.
* * *
Jan never took the elevator when she was in a hurry; invariably it stopped at every floor. She made record time down to the E.R. and was only slightly out of breath as she burst through the doors.
"Pat, what's going on? What's this about Tommy being brought in?" Jan demanded of the nurse at the admissions desk.
"At the moment, I don't really know much other than he and a girl were brought in just a few minutes...."
"Oh God, Kimberly, too?"
"Danielson is in with him now. I'd say ask Mark, but he and Paul got called out on another run almost as soon as Tommy and the girl were unloaded."
Jan felt like swearing; if anyone would have answered her questions, Mark Peters would have. She and the paramedic had worked together quite a bit when she had been assigned to the E.R.
"I'm sorry, Jan, but you're just going to have to wait," Pat murmured sympathetically. "I hate waiting," Jan grumbled. She always prayed she'd never have to be cast in the role of anxious loved-one waiting for word; she hated feeling so helpless.
"You might talk to that young man sitting over there," Pat suggested, gesturing to a man sitting across the room. His elbows were on his knees, and his face was buried in his hands. "He came in with Tommy."
Jan wandered over, trying to figure out who it was. It didn't look like any of Tommy's friends; none of them had hair that long. It was almost the shade of Tommy's, just slightly lighter, and draped over his shoulders. It was hard to tell, but he looked like he would be about Tommy's height and build.
"Excuse me; the nurse at the desk said you came in with my son," she began; her words faltered when the young man looked up. If she didn't know any better, she'd have sworn she was looking at Tommy; although, his face was more rounded, the skin more bronzed, and his eyes, while a deep brown, were smaller and did not have the luster of Tommy's--nor did he have the almost feminine lashes. "David?" she queried.
She had met David Trueheart shortly after her son had found this brother no one knew he had. There was no doubt about their relationship; all one had to do was look at the two together. David was a likable young man, perhaps a bit more reserved, his emotions more controlled than Tommy's; she wanted to be friends with her son's brother, but for some reason, Jan had never felt comfortable around him. No, she knew why David unsettled her. It wasn't anything that he had done or said; he had never been anything but polite, even friendly, to her and Thomas. It was just that when she looked at David, she saw her own failure.
_I'm sorry, Rose. I promised your son we'd find his family, but we never did. I never knew there was another child. I feel like I let him--and you--down._
"Mrs. Oliver," David said quietly. "I'd forgotten that Tommy told me you worked here."
"Please, it's Jan," she replied and dropped into the seat next to him. "What happened?"
"I didn't see what happened. One minute I was waving good-bye, and the next, when my back was turned, I heard...."
Jan put a steadying hand on his shoulder; the young man appeared to be in shock. His distress helped her get a handle on her own surging emotions. "Was it a car accident?"
David nodded. "They had been waiting at the intersection for the light to change...."
"How are Tommy and Kim?" Jan prompted, trying to get him past the actual moment.
"Tommy's okay, I think. There was a lot of blood, but he was awake and moving under his own power when he got into the ambulance."
"That's a good sign then. Tommy is notoriously thick headed," Jan quipped, and that elicited a small smile from her companion. "What about Kim?"
"I don't know. She was bad; it was her side of the truck that was hit. Tommy looked really scared for her."
"Okay...." Jan let out a slow breath. Danielson was going to have his hands full; Tommy was not a willing patient on a good day, but with him worried about Kim, he'd be impossible. "She'll be all right, David," Jan ventured, trying to reassure both of them. "She's a strong woman and almost as stubborn as Tommy. Knowing Kim, she's not about to let some careless driver do her in when she wouldn't let a bunch of high-tech hitman get her."
"I just found my brother; I don't want to lose him again," David said numbly. "You won't. We just have to have faith that we won't lose either of them."
* * *
Jan returned to the waiting room after having made a couple of phone calls. She had left word with Yoshio's secretary to have Thomas call her as soon as the meeting was over. Of course, if Tommy had been more seriously injured, she'd have insisted on pulling him out and to hell with the proprieties. She had also called Sam Trueheart; she doubted David had thought to let his father know where he was. She hadn't called Kim's parents yet, deciding to wait until she had more information. There was no sense in alarming them needlessly. On her way back, she stopped at the desk, but Pat hadn't heard anything else. It was a busy night in the E.R., and it was liable to be a while before they heard anything. She resumed her seat across from David, watching as he toyed with his arrowhead necklace--well, half an arrowhead. Tommy had the other half.
"Tommy told me how you were able to find each other with those," she spoke up, trying to draw David out. She didn't like just sitting there in silence anyway. It was odd, but she couldn't remember when or where Tommy had gotten the necklace. She knew he hadn't always had it, but yet it seemed as if he had.
"Hm? Oh, yes," David agreed. However, his voice trailed off thoughtfully, and his gaze grew distant. "I guess some good came out of having this."
"What do you mean?"
"Sometimes I think it's brought me nothing but trouble," he said with a sigh. "I mean, there was the mess when King Mondo got it from Tommy, and before that...."
His panicked expression coupled with his abrupt silence told Jan that he thought he had just betrayed a confidence. "Don't worry; I know all about Tommy's Clark Kent/Superman routine." David relaxed visibly, and Jan experienced a pang of disappointment and hurt that Tommy had confided in his brother but not his parents.
"When did you find out?" David wondered. "I had my suspicions but didn't have them confirmed until that business last month. And you?"
"It was shortly after Tommy and I first met. He hadn't intended on telling me, but it was the only way he could keep me from trying to rescue him when I thought Mondo had captured him, too."
Jan nodded, understanding. She suspected David might be quite a bit like Tommy. Tommy wouldn't be able to sit idly by if a friend or family member was in trouble. However, David had started to say something else before becoming sidetracked with Tommy's Ranger career. "What other trouble has this arrowhead brought you?" she prompted.
David shrugged. "Ever since my run in with Mondo and the Autochthon, I can't seem to shake the feeling that if my parents hadn't been looking for this, they would still be alive; I... Tommy!"
Jan twisted in her seat at David's exclamation and saw her son coming towards them. Her heart was in her throat as she noticed every detail from the bandage about his forehead to his ripped and bloodied jeans. Under the scratches and cuts, his face was very pale, and he limped slightly.
"Tommy," she gasped, hurrying forward to hug him. He winced slightly, and Jan figured he must have bruised his ribs. She wasn't holding him that tightly--was she?
"I'm okay, Mom," Tommy assured her tiredly as he smiled down at her.
"When Michelle told me you'd been brought in...." Her throat closed up just then, and she didn't bother hiding the tears of concern. She was a mother; she was entitled. "You scared me silly...."
"It's nothing major--stitches where I hit my head on the steering wheel, bruised ribs, sore neck, twisted knee and a cut on my shin. I've had worse."
His oblique reference to battle scars she had never known about sent a shudder racing down her spine.
"And I bet you're not even supposed to be out of bed yet," Jan countered, recovering her equilibrium. She had never been one to get overly emotional; someone had to keep a cool head in emergencies. If Tommy had smacked his head hard enough to require stitches, Jan was willing to bet Danielson was wanting to check for a possible concussion; he never took chances when it came to head injuries.
Tommy had the decency to look sheepish at her assertion. "Have you heard anything about Kim? No one will tell me anything."
"Sorry, Tommy, we haven't heard anything yet either," David said.
As the three conversed, a police officer entered the waiting room and approached them. "I'm Officer Langely," he introduced himself. "I need to ask you a couple more questions about the accident, Mr. Oliver...."
"Mr. Oliver, what are you doing out here? We haven't finished running tests...." Dr. Danielson snapped as he arrived on the scene.
The officer was forgotten as Tommy turned to interrogate the physician. It wasn't a wise move as he began to sway unsteadily. Jan and David each caught an arm.
"I'm all right," Tommy grumbled.
Jan just snorted.
"How's Kimberly?" Tommy demanded.
"The young woman brought in with him," David added helpfully.
"Use small words, Rick," Jan advised. "I don't think Tommy has the strength or patience to wait while I translate." She received a scowl from her colleague and a grateful smile from her son.
"She's in surgery to remove the metal from her side," Danielson related in clipped tones. At his words, Tommy sank limply into a chair. "Fortunately, no vital organs were damaged. She suffered a blow to the head, in addition to cuts and bruises and some swelling...."
"What aren't you telling us?" Jan asked, picking up on his reticence. For a no-nonsense kind of guy, Danielson could hem and haw when it came to bad news.
"We're concerned about the amount of blood she's lost...."
"Why is that a problem? The blood bank reported no shortages while I was on duty."
"The lab detected anomalies in Miss Hart's blood... we've never seen anything like it before. In her weakened condition, we're not certain if her body can support an infusion of...."
Jan wanted to swear; she bet those anomalies had to do with Kim's former Ranger powers.
"My blood's compatible," Tommy spoke up quickly. He gazed up at Jan earnestly. "Anomalies and all. This wouldn't be the first time I've donated blood to her."
Jan cocked an inquiring eyebrow and wondered if she really wanted to know just what happened on that occasion.
"You are in no condition to be donating blood--you've lost enough of your own," Danielson objected.
"If Kim needs blood...." Tommy insisted, rising. Jan put a restraining hand on his shoulder. Getting himself worked up about it would not do Kim any good.
"Rick, she's his fiancee. You'll be lucky if he doesn't march back there and stick the needle in his own arm."
"Considering his mother, I wouldn't put it past him," Danielson harumphed. "This is against my better judgement, but.... I want it noted that I am allowing this with severe reservations."
"No one is going to sue you," Jan muttered. "This is Tommy's call, Rick, and he's made it."
The physician muttered something unintelligible under his breath, and Jan's only question was what language it was in. "Very well. I'm sure the boys in the lab will be wanting a sample of your blood, too, Mr. Oliver, if it has the same anomalies as Miss Hart's. Wilkins is chomping at the bit for me to get permission for him to study Miss Hart's blood further...."
"No!" Tommy objected vehemently, startling everyone but his mother. She understood the frantic gleam in his eyes. If the technicians poked and prodded too much, there was a good possibility they'd find out about his Ranger powers, and although no longer an active team member, he was still sworn to secrecy. Although, his present behavior would only rouse suspicions, but he was in no shape to think clearly. She gave him a cautioning pat on the arm then pulled the doctor aside.
"Rick, this can't go any farther--not even a footnote in Tommy's chart. I mean it."
"Jan, you're being melodramatic."
"Wilkins can't have any of Kim or Tommy's blood. Those samples have to be destroyed. They gave their solemn word...."
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"The Power Rangers," Jan said, her voice dropping to a whisper. She looked around furtively; she saw Tommy biting his lower lip, trying to keep from laughing. Well, she was laying it on rather thick. "The anomalies have to do with the Mercytes--you remember, those robot assassins that attacked them last month?" She could see comprehension dawning. "They were exposed to something; the Rangers assured them that it wasn't harmful, but they didn't divulge the particulars. Don't press them, Rick."
"Power Rangers, huh?" Danielson mused. "My kids always wanted to meet them."
_You probably wouldn't mind it either,_ Jan laughed to herself.
"Very well," Danielson agreed. "No questions will be asked, and the samples will be destroyed. I will send a nurse to escort Tommy back to the exam room--and makes sure he stays put. By the way, Jan, I am planning on keeping him here overnight for observation--especially now that he'll be donating blood."
"Trust me, as long as Kimberly is here, I doubt you'll be able to get rid of him," Jan sighed.
"Nice save, Mom," Tommy whispered appreciatively, kissing her cheek.
"Mr. Oliver, if you please...." Officer Langley interrupted. "Can you tell me anything further about what happened?"
"I'll try; it all happened so fast," Tommy murmured. To Jan it sounded as if his injuries were beginning to catch up with him. "We were at the light; it changed.... Just as I started to go, this black car came out of nowhere. Maybe the driver couldn't see the light... the windows were tinted so you couldn't even see in. I slammed on the brakes since the other car wasn't slowing down... the way it was weaving all over the place, it was like the driver was drunk or something...."
Jan gave a start at Tommy's words. She felt herself go pale, and her blood ran cold. _Dear God! He's already lost his mother to a drunk driver; please don't let him lose Kim to one, too!_
"Mr. Oliver, if you'll come with me...." a nurse Jan did not recognize said as she approached.
"Thank you, Mr. Oliver; we'll be in touch," Langley said dismissively. Tommy nodded then turned to follow the nurse. As he walked past, he offered Jan a weak smile. She caught his hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
"Don't worry about Kim; she's a fighter. She'll pull through."
"I know she will. See you in a little while." Jan watched as Tommy disappeared down the corridor. Then, she headed over to the desk. "Do me a favor, Pat," she requested.
"If I can."
"Dr. Danielson wants to keep Tommy overnight for observation, and Kimberly will be admitted, of course. Do you think you can put them in the same room?" The other woman's eyebrows shot up at that. Jan knew that there'd be no keeping Tommy from Kim's side; if they shared a room, there was a better chance of getting Tommy to stay in bed.
"I'll let you know as soon as Tommy's admitted," Pat agreed reluctantly. "Thanks."
Jan wandered back over to the waiting room. She was tired, sore, hungry... but she wasn't leaving either. David didn't look like he was going anywhere either.
"They'll let us know when Tommy and Kim are in a room," Jan explained. "What did you mean when you said, he's already lost his mother to a drunk driver?'" David asked with barely-contained eagerness.
Jan hadn't realized she had spoken aloud. She suddenly felt as if there was a great weight pressing down on her shoulders.
"Do you know how my mother died?"
She considered for a long moment before answering. "Yes." She held up a hand to forestall his further questions. "Tell you what. Why don't you tell me your story, then I'll tell you mine." For a moment, David wasn't sure what she was talking about; she was about to remind him about his parents and the arrowhead when he slowly nodded his head. "Come on." She stopped by the admissions desk and left instructions. "We'll be in the cafeteria. Page us if you hear anything."
* * *
_ _ _
* * *
"Most of what I know about my natural parents, I've learned from Dad--er, Sam," David began as he stared into his cup of coffee. Tommy's mother had ordered food but picked at it absently. As for himself, he was wishing he hadn't eaten recently. "I've shared everything with Tommy pretty much; I would have thought he'd have told you."
"He's told us some," Jan confessed, laying her fork down. "Maybe he was nervous about telling us everything or something."
Her words lacked conviction. "Mrs. Oliver... Jan, I know you've never been very comfortable around me, and I've never understood why. Tommy told me that you already knew our parents were dead, so...."
"It's not that, David. It'll make sense when I tell you my story," she assured him. David nodded his acceptance. Then, he began. "Our natural father's name was James David Kinseeker; he wasn't born on the Reservation. His family moved there when he was five. He and Dad grew up together and were best friends."
"Kinseeker...." Jan echoed. "Rather ironic when you think about it."
"Dad said so, too. According to him, James was always interested in the past... history, archeology, folklore.... He was a loner, although he and my mother did everything together--even just sitting out under the stars for hours without saying a word to each other. I can vaguely remember them doing that a lot. It was like they didn't really need to speak. Somehow, they always seemed to know what the other was thinking.
"Our mother came to the Reservation when she was about twelve; Dad and my father were fifteen. Dad says she looked as if she had wandered away from an accident--dazed, bruised and bloodied.... The only thing she could recall was her name: Rose, Falcon's daughter--which became Falconsdaughter. Grandmother Trueheart said that she had the way of the Wise Ones about her, so she took Rose in and raised her with my dad. He, James, and Rose were inseparable, and Dad said that there had never been any question that my parents were meant to be together."
"Rose took one look at James and told him that their destinies were intertwined. We shall always be together,' she said."
David had never understood how you could just look at another person and know that he or she was The One, the person you were meant to spend your entire life with. Tommy had told him much the same thing about the first time he had met Kim.
"I looked in her eyes, and it was like I found a part of me I didn't even know was missing."
Briefly, David wondered if that might not be the source of his disquiet of late--a sense of looking for something but not knowing what it was. Maybe it wasn't a something so much as a someone. He pushed his speculations aside.
"Our parents were married while they were in college. They attended AGU, and after graduation father commuted to UCLA for graduate school. I was born the year he finished his Masters. Shortly after that, he started his doctoral research with Professor Matthew Hamilton-- an up and coming figure in the field of Native American studies--specializing in the tribes of California and the Southwest. He and my father spent a lot of time investigating old tribal grounds and burial sites; my mother even helped out with archival research at AGU. Often, she and I would go with him, camping out near whatever site they were exploring. That's where we were the Spring my father died."
The words seemed to logjam in his throat; David hadn't spoken of that day for years before finding Tommy. He remembered very little of what it was like when his natural parents were alive--just vague impressions really, but that day he could recall with surprising clarity. Part of it was due to Sam's abilities as a storyteller. Then there were the recurring dreams he had had over the years. _Maybe this has something to do with it, too,_ he reflected as he fingered the arrowhead necklace.
"We were camped out in the desert not far from the cave where Mondo held me, come to think of it," he said as he resumed. It had been a beautiful day; sky was cloudless, and he had been eager to get out of the tent. The rocks... the desert... called to him; something was waiting for him... he just knew it! Why was it that his mother picked that morning to be so slow in getting him his breakfast....
* * *
"Patience, little otter, you are not going anywhere until you've eaten."
"Mamma, that's a girl's animal!" David pouted, turning away from the tent flap.
"Who says so?"
"Then it must be so. However, the otter is a very curious animal, and so are you." David reluctantly wandered over to his place and sat down. He wished they could eat outside--that was always fun, but Mamma didn't want to this morning. David frowned. Something wasn't right with Mamma; she wasn't smiling like she usually did. She was acting the way she did whenever something bad had happened, but nothing had.
David's face brightened as his father entered the tent; at least he looked happy. He wasn't smiling either, but his pappa could look happy without smiling. He must have been digging in the sand and rocks; he always had happy eyes when he did that--especially when he found something. David pouted; it wasn't fair that Pappa had gotten to go outside before having breakfast. The gloomy look passed as his father tousled his hair. Someday, he'd have a braid just like his pappa's; he was always so proud when his mother told him that he looked just like his father, and he had part of his father's name. He wanted to be just like him when he grew up.
"What's wrong, Falconsdaughter?" James queried. David didn't understand why he always called her that. Even he knew her name was Rose!
Mamma didn't answer at first. Instead, she handed David his bowl. "Pappa, can I come with you today?" David queried around a mouthful of thick cereal. "I don't see why not...."
James looked as surprised as David at his mother's refusal. "Rose?"
"Where are you working today? At the base of the overhang?"
"Yes, it's a promising site...."
"What is Professor Hamilton looking for?" Rose queried as she handed her husband a mug of coffee.
"We've been following a series of legends regarding an arrowhead that is said to be the key to unlocking the old powers."
"If the key was lost, then it was not meant to be found," Rose murmured cryptically. "Rose, what's wrong? You've had one of your dreams, haven't you?" David looked up from his meal, suddenly more interested in his parents' conversation. He had heard about his mother's dreams. Grandma Trueheart said that his mother saw things in her dreams that became real sometimes, and his father always listened very seriously when his mother talked about her dreams.
"It was unusually vague, like someone didn't want me to see the whole image," Rose related. With a sigh, she sat down, sweeping her waist-length hair out of her way. "It was about the old powers... forces of good and equally strong evil... both searching for something.... There was a voice... only the innocence of a child....' It's frustrating! All I have is this sense of unease. It's important that we find this artifact Professor Hamilton seeks, but I don't think he's the one meant to claim it. Shadows gather in the distance.... I'm afraid for you, my Kinseeker." Rose reached for James and held on to him as if she wouldn't let him go.
"I'll be extra careful, love," James assured her, squeezing her one last time before reaching for his pack. "You have enough to worry about with the Curious One here. There's no telling where his wanderings will take him today."
David squealed gleefully as his father picked him up and tossed him into the air. "You are getting too big for this, little man. Be good, and look after your mother."
"Yes, Pappa," David promised. "When I go digging today, maybe I'll find an arrowhead."
"You just might."
David followed his parents as they left the tent. They hugged yet again; the boy frowned. It bothered him that his mother looked so sad.
"Be home in time for supper," she instructed James, and with a wave, he untethered his horse and rode off.
* * *
The sun was high overhead. David was hot, dusty, tired, and thirsty. He had a whole pocket full of treasures to show his father--things he had dug up in the sand: pretty rocks, some bits of bone, and a metal thing he couldn't identify, but no arrowhead. It was time to go back to camp to see if lunch was ready. Of course, his mother didn't know he was gone. He had snuck out when she was typing up Pappa's notes for Professor Hamilton.
As he scampered back over the rocks, David saw a man standing there watching him. He blinked to make sure he wasn't seeing things; the man hadn't been there a minute ago. He was an elder... his braid was as long and gray as Grandma Trueheart's, and his face was as brown and wrinkled as his father's leather pack. David had never seen him before, but he looked friendly... and he was an elder, so he must be respectful.
"Hello," David ventured.
"Greetings, young one," the wizened tribesman hailed in response. "I have been looking for you, Kinseeker's son."
"Are you one of the Wise Ones?" David queried. Mr. Trueheart always told him that the Wise Ones could know things about people they just met... just like his mamma could.
"Very perceptive of you, child." The gray-haired man looked to the sky and nodded. "The clouds gather on the horizon; darkness comes."
David didn't understand. When he looked up, all he saw was blue sky and sunshine. Just then there was a rumble like thunder, and the ground began to shake.
"What's that?" David stammered.
"The Dark Spirits are not pleased. Another has claimed the prize they seek." With that the elder removed an article from his pouch--half an arrowhead attached to a thong.
"It's broken, " David noted
"For a very good reason." The man handed it to David. "You must keep this safe; only a Wise One may know you have it."
"Like Mr. Trueheart or my mamma?"
"Yes. And someday, this will lead you to something you will value above all things." For a moment, David wasn't sure he should take it. Then, he stretched his hand out. "My pappa is looking for an arrowhead, too."
"I know. Now, you must go back to your camp; your mother has need of you." No sooner had the elder spoken than David heard his mother calling. When he turned to bid the Wise One good-bye, the elder was already gone. David frowned then shrugged it off. He ran as fast as he could back to camp.
When he got there, his mother, her face streaked with tears, met him and pulled him into her arms.
"Something has happened at the overhang," she choked out. "Pappa was at the overhang," David murmured, suddenly feeling very cold inside. "Go to your husband, Falcon Daughter; I shall look after the boy." David looked up to see the Wise One standing by their tent. His eyes met his mother's and she acknowledged his comment with a nod. She hurried to their other horse and rode off without saddling up.
"We will go also," the elder informed David, and the two more slowly followed the trail of dust. They walked for a very long time, stopping often to rest. When the two finally reached the overhang, they found that part of it was missing. A cloud of dust wafted up from the gully below. Rose stood at the very edge, as still and straight as one of the rock formations; her face was expressionless as she gazed at the rubble that filled the valley.
"Mamma?" David queried nervously, tugging on her arm but getting no response.
"It is not yet time to follow him, Falcon Daughter," the Wise One intoned softly. "Your sons have need of you."
"Sons?" Rose echoed numbly, casting vacant eyes at the weathered tribesman even as her hand went to her abdomen.
"Mamma, where's Pappa?" David asked plaintively. He was supposed to have been working at the bottom of the overhang....
His mother looked down at him, and David saw a sparkling drop of water on her cheek. He could never remember seeing his mother cry, and he felt something in his own eyes.
"Your father has gone to a place where he will no longer need to seek for answers," she said.
"Will he be home for supper?" David asked hopefully.
"No, little one, he won't."
* * *
David wiped at his eyes; it still hurt, even after all the years that had gone by. "It really didn't sink in that my father was dead, not then, but when it did...."
"I'm sorry," Jan said softly, her hand resting over his. "I remember how I felt when my mother died, although I was somewhat older. I think Jean might have been your age, though."
"After the memorial service, there had been a sandstorm. To look at the area now, you'd never know there had been a rockslide," David said, composing himself once more. "Professor Hamilton came to offer his condolences, and he and my mother got into an argument; I think he wanted my father's notes. Mamma wouldn't give them to him until he answered her questions. I'm not sure if he ever really did or not, but he formally hired my mother as a research assistant; I think she took the job because she needed one. Sam had said he'd take care of us, but Mamma didn't want to lean on him too much. She was very headstrong and independent.
"Mamma was pregnant, just as the Wise One had said; however, she worked long hours for Professor Hamilton: conducting interviews, more archival research.... Sometimes, I had the feeling that she had her own agenda. Then, something happened. It was after an interview; she never said what she learned--I remember her destroying the tape recording and telling Sam not to tell Hamilton about it. Ever since that day, Mamma seemed to be nervous, almost scared. She had many dreams, and I can remember her looking around when she and I would be alone like she expected someone to be there. It was most noticeable in the last week before she disappeared....
* * *
"Settle down, little falcon," Rose murmured, wincing as she patted her swollen abdomen. "I know you want to spread your wings but have patience; it is not your time yet, and I have much packing to do."
"Can I feel, Mamma?" David queried.
"Maybe you can calm your brother down," she sighed as she eased into a chair. With an expression of the utmost wonder, David ran his hands over his mother's stomach. Suddenly, his eyes went wide with surprise.
"He poked me!"
"That's his way of letting you know he knows you're out there."
"When will he be born?"
"Not for another few weeks."
"That's a long time! I want to play with him now," David pouted. Rose simply laughed. "Does he have a name besides little falcon?"
"I haven't made up my mind yet," his mother answered. "I know I want to give him part of your father's name--like we did you, David Samuel, but James just doesn't feel right for some reason. However, there is plenty of time; it will come to me."
"Why do you have to go away, Mamma?" David asked suddenly. "Because I need to find the answers to some very important questions--answers that could tell me what happened to your father."
"Pappa was buried under the rocks."
"I want to know more about those rocks. According to the geological information I've found, they shouldn't have collapsed like that."
"The Wise One said the Dark Spirits were not pleased. Were they angry at Pappa?"
"I don't think they were angry at Pappa, but they were angry at someone. There are some records Professor Hamilton needs me to copy at the National Archives in Washington D.C., and there are things I wish to look up. I'll only be gone a short while, my curious one. In the meantime, Sam will be looking after you. I want you to be good for Sam."
"I promise, Mamma."
"And remember, if anything happens to me, Sam will take care of you just like he was your Pappa."
"You have to come back so I can play with my brother...."
* * *
"... but she never did," David concluded. "When I waved good-bye to her at the airport, that was the last time I saw my mother. It was about a week later that I had a nightmare. Sam came in, but instead of soothing my fears, he told me my mother had gone to join my father at last and that the little falcon had flown to find his destiny."
"Did Sam talk to the authorities?" Jan queried.
"Yes, according to the police in Washington, she never arrived at the hotel she was supposed to be staying at, and no one at the Archives remembered seeing her. She just vanished."
"What about Professor Hamilton?"
"That was the strangest part. The night before Dad was supposed to meet with him, he was found dead of heart failure in his bed, but he had been perfectly healthy. Then, there had been a fire in the history department; Hamilton's office was the only one damaged, and no one could find any copies of his notes. Dad finally concluded that we were not meant to know--that Hamilton had been dabbling in matters man was not meant to."
"Yet you said earlier that you felt the arrowhead had something to do with your parents' deaths."
"After my run in with Mondo and the Autochthon, Dad and I figure that Hamilton had either stumbled across the legends of the arrowhead and was pursuing them on his own or he had been engaged by another party to find it. Considering my conversation with the Wise One and the snippets I remember of my mother's dream, I'd say it was the latter. Although, we'll probably never know the truth."
"Ancient powers, mysterious wise men, unexplained deaths... it sounds a bit far-fetched, but then so do intergalactic sorcerers and machine kings," Jan sighed.
"I also thought I'd never know what happened to my mother," David said pointedly.
"That's my cue, huh," Jan sighed. She took a deep breath. "I should probably wait and tell this when Tommy can hear it, too, but a promise is a promise."
"Why haven't you told Tommy?"
"I never knew how. Like with your story, it has the ring of the fantastic to it... he'd have thought I was nuts--well, at least before he became the Green Ranger."
David and Jan looked up as a nurse approached their table. "Pat asked me to tell you that Kimberly is in recovery and should be taken upstairs soon. Tommy's been admitted and is in room 336."
"Thanks, Anna," Jan said.
"I guess you'll get to tell us both together," David remarked as he and Jan rose from their seats.
* * *
"Hey, honey," Jan called out softly as she and David entered Tommy's room. Tommy looked like he was desperately trying to fight off sleep. She took the seat next to his bed and brushed the hair out of his eyes.
"Any word on Kim?" Tommy asked. Jan noted that David chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief--probably at Tommy's single mindedness when it came to Kim.
"They'll be bringing her up soon," Jan assured him. "She came through the surgery just fine." Maybe that would help him get some rest.
"They'll be bringing her here? We'll be in the same room? How'd you manage that?"
"I merely told them that it'd be the best way to get you to stay in bed." Tommy fidgeted under her knowing gaze. "And you will stay in bed--otherwise I'll authorize restraints."
"I would have thought a hospital gown would have been sufficient," David jibed drily. "Man, you got that right! What I wouldn't give for a pair of pjs."
"Considering how much you hate pajamas, that's saying something," Jan murmured. "What have the two of you been up to?"
"I was telling your mom about our parents," David answered.
"Oh?" Tommy's eyebrows arched questioningly. "And she promised to tell me how she knew our mother was killed by a drunk driver."
Jan smiled tightly. David wasn't making this any easier on her. "Mom...?" Tommy began puzzledly. "You knew something about my real mother and never told me?"
Such hurt and disillusionment in her son's voice. "As I told David, I never said anything because I didn't know how. I realize that this is long overdue... that I should have said something sooner...." She took a moment to gather her thoughts and sift through her memories. Not that it was difficult to summon the recollections; the day Tommy was born was one she'd never forget.
"Like your parents, boys, Thomas and I were married young--after we returned from the war and just before we started classes at UCLA. We didn't try starting a family then. I went on to earn a nursing degree and passed my state boards while Thomas went on to graduate school. That's when we started planning a family and found out that it wasn't going to happen. It wasn't such a bad thing at the time as Thomas' prospects were good. In fact, he was looking at a December graduation and had a job waiting for him out East. That October, I was away in D.C. attending a seminar; that's where I met your mother."
Jan's thoughts settled on that October afternoon nineteen years ago. She had been able to exchange her ticket and catch an earlier flight to L.A.--no mean feat considering she had a first class ticket. Coach would have been fine, but Thomas had insisted....
* * *
Jan settled back into her seat and refused to look over her notes as she had told herself she was going to do. Her mind wasn't on the presentation she'd have to give when she got home; she was thinking about how surprised Thomas was going to be when she arrived home early. No, she was going to sit back and relax. As she made herself comfortable, she found herself glad that Thomas had ignored her and had purchased the first class ticket.
The coach passengers were still loading, so Jan reached for a magazine. Just as she found a likely looking article, she was jostled by a passing passenger.
"Excuse me," the woman murmured.
"It's nothing," Jan replied as she looked up. The woman was fairly tall--probably taller than her own five foot eight. Her skin was deeply tanned, and dark mahogany colored hair hung down to her waist. Jan caught the woman's eyes as she smiled up at her and knew she'd never forget them. They were absolutely gorgeous pools of dark brown framed by lush, dark lashes. They seemed to draw a person in; it was as if the stranger was looking deep inside her, reading her heart. It was the queerest sensation. Then, the feeling passed even as the woman made her way to her seat. The other remarkable thing about the woman was that she was very pregnant. _Probably 8 1/2 months?_
Jan watched as the woman struggled into her seat--the center one about halfway back. There were already people on either side of her; it was a tight fit. Jan tried to go back to her magazine but kept sneaking peeks back at the woman. _American Indian,_ she concluded, trying to place the woman's ancestry. She didn't know what made her come up with that; she could have just as easily have been of Spanish descent, but that didn't feel right. Actually, there was something about her facial structure that reminded her of Thomas--he had Indian blood in his background.
_Poor thing,_ she sighed to herself. The woman did not look comfortable at all. There was something sad about her eyes, and she seemed very ill at ease as she waited. Jan noticed her glancing down and whispering a few words in the direction of her abdomen. No doubt the baby was being restless. Jan felt a twinge of envy; she'd never know what it would be like to feel a life moving within her.
As the stewardess came through to make sure everyone was seated, Jan cast yet another peek at the woman; they were in for a long flight....
"Miss!" Jan called out to the flight attendant. "Yes?"
"I'd like to change seats with the pregnant woman in the center seat about halfway back," she said. The attendant seemed both surprised and grateful.
"I'll let her know. Thank you."
Jan gathered up her carry on and headed back. As she caught up with the stewardess, the woman had just finished conveying her request.
"That's very kind of you," the mother-to-be demurred, "but I couldn't...." She winced suddenly, and her hands went to her stomach.
"Yes, you can," Jan interjected. "Sitting in this cramped seat isn't going to do you or the baby any good." Briefly, she wondered if she should "pull rank." Her I'm-a-nurse spiel always worked on stubborn, macho soldiers. However, Jan once again had the feeling that those deep dark eyes were taking her measure, and she tried to make sure that the woman knew she was not going to take "no" for an answer.
When the moment of scrutiny had passed, the woman said something that astonished Jan. "You're the nurse; you know best."
Jan couldn't have been more stunned if the woman had called her by name. "Thank you," the woman continued gratefully
* * *
"... we traded seats, and I pretty much slept the entire way home," Jan concluded, coming back to the present.
"Mamma always did have a way of looking at you like she was reading your thoughts," David remarked. "I could never get away with anything."
"You must have picked up something from her," Tommy teased his mother.
"I'm just used to dealing with unruly boys," she snorted. "There was one other thing that made an impression on me at the time: she didn't seem to have anything with her--no coat, purse, or carry-on."
Jan was interrupted by the arrival of a pair of orderlies with a gurney. She abandoned her seat so they could better maneuver a still-sleeping Kim into her bed.
"Stay," Jan commanded sharply as she noticed her son poised to bolt out of his bed. Tommy flashed her his infamous puppy look, but she'd become impervious to it over the years. She studied the monitor Kim was hooked to. "She doing fine, Tommy; her vitals are strong. Let her sleep; it's the best thing for her."
"Mom...." Tommy pouted.
She silenced him with a look and waited for the orderlies to leave. "David, give me a hand with these," she directed, indicating the chair and an equipment stand. After rearranging the furniture, she and David scoot Tommy's bed closer to Kim's until he could reach over and hold her hand. "Will this keep you out of trouble?"
"Thanks, mom," Tommy sighed as he rolled onto his side so he could see Kim better.
"I swear, you're worse now than when the two of you first started dating," she huffed, but her expression was soft. She knew what it was like to be that age and be so completely in love. If anything had ever happened to Thomas in those days, they'd have had to drag her kicking and screaming from his side.
"What happened once your flight arrived in LA?" David queried, interrupting her fond musings. Even Tommy pried his attention away from Kim to pay attention to her words.
"I lost track of your mother once we disembarked," Jan resumed her story. "I really didn't think much about her as I went to collect my luggage; my mind was on how quickly I could get a cab and get home. I had finally managed to flag one down--it never fails you can't get one when you really want one--when I saw your mother again. She was still inside the terminal, but I noticed that she was doubled over...."
* * *
"Don't go anywhere," Jan snapped at the cabby as she tossed her suitcase into the trunk. "I'll be right back."
She rushed back inside the terminal to where the woman she had traded places with on the plane was on her knees, obviously in pain.
"What's wrong?" she asked, trying to get a pulse. The woman's answer was obliterated by a moan. "The baby?" That prompted a nod. "Lord, you must have been in labor on the plane! Come on; I have a cab. I'll get you to the hospital."
"I c-can manage...."
"Right," Jan snapped as another contraction made speech impossible. They were way too close for Jan's liking. "Remember, I'm the nurse; I know best." The woman managed a weak smile at that, and Jan helped her to her feet. "It's not far. You can make it."
"Where to, ma'am?" the cab driver asked as Jan returned.
"Isn't it obvious? The hospital!" Men could be irredeemably dense sometimes.
"The closest one." _Geez!_
Jan got her patient into the backseat. She took her jacket off and placed it behind the woman's head as it was resting against the opposite door.
"What's your name?"
"My name's Jan. Okay, Rose. When the next contraction hits, I need you to take deep, even breaths. I'm going to try and time your contractions to see how close you are."
"It's too soon...." Rose moaned.
"Someone's a little impatient, eh? Okay... now, breathe...." Jan frowned as she looked at her watch. The child could be born in the cab! However, she didn't want to tell Rose that; she didn't want to upset her anymore than necessary, but Rose seemed unusually calm about the whole thing. She doubted she would be so complacent if she was about to give birth in a cab.
"My little falcon will be quite a warrior," Rose mumbled, her gaze distant.
"A boy? Have you picked out a name?" Jan queried idly. If Rose wanted to talk, that's what she'd do.
"T-thomas. It is a name of an honored ancestor of mine."
"That's a fine name. When we get to the hospital, is there anyone I should call? Your husband...?"
"No... I'm a widow...."
The rest of Rose's statement was lost in the squeal of tires and tearing of metal. Jan's world started spinning out control as shards of glass rained down on the two of them. Her last coherent thought was to protect Rose and the baby at all costs.
When Jan next opened her eyes, she found herself staring into Rose's pallid face. The other woman was barely breathing; Jan automatically reached for her wrist. Rose's pulse was very weak.
"Oh, God, Rose, please don't die on me!" Jan murmured. There was blood trickling down from her forehead... there was too much blood. Jan tentatively reached around to check Rose's wound. What she discovered made her want to be sick: the back of Rose's head was crushed.
"The driver's dead!" she heard someone call out. "Any passengers?"
"Two!" Jan shouted out, "and we're still alive!" She couldn't see much of anything else in the wreckage, but she couldn't move, either. Something had her legs pinned. She estimated that her own injuries weren't too severe--at least she still had her wits about her. Her hands were on Rose's abdomen, and she could feel it tighten with another contraction.
"Rose? Rose! Are you still with me, Rose?" Jan queried.
"Don't leave me, Jan," Rose murmured.
"I won't. I'll be beside you the whole way. They're working on getting us out of here."
"That doesn't matter. I know that my time has finally come," Rose remarked in a frighteningly calm tone.
"Listen to me, Rose. It does matter; you've got to stay with me for a while. What about your baby? Your little falcon, Tommy? He wants to be born, Rose; you gotta hang on for him."
"The falcon must fly free," Rose echoed. "... so tired, though...."
"It won't be long," Jan promised, but whether she meant until the firemen pried them out of the wreckage or until the child was born, she couldn't have said.
It seemed like an eternity before she felt the pressure lifted from her legs and felt the kiss of the fresh air. A pair of rescue workers eased her out of the twisted body of the cab.
"I'm fine," Jan shrugged them off. "But Rose... massive head trauma, probable crushed skull and neck injuries. Conscious; she's in labor."
"Christ," one of the men swore.
"Airport Med reports their ER is swamped," another paramedic reported. "We're going to have to route them to University Hospital."
Which was fine with Jan. She knew the ER staff, having worked there often as an undergraduate.
"What I want to know is what a drunk driver was doing all the way out here," the first paramedic grumbled as Rose was removed from the backseat.
"Jan...?" Rose moaned.
"I'm here, Rose," Jan replied. She didn't want to get in the paramedic's way, but she had the sense that Rose needed the physical contact. Rose began to fight the paramedics; Jan wondered where she could have possibly found the strength.
"Ma'am, you need to lie still so we can...."
"Let me quiet her down, all right," Jan interjected. She reached out for Rose's hand. "I'm right here."
"So weak... I won't see my Tommy, will I?"
"Yes, you will, Rose. Just hold on to me... I'll be strong for both of us," Jan assured her and wished her words could be more than hollow platitudes. She wished there was some way she could will her strength into Rose. _Lord, if there's anyway she can draw strength from me... just let her live to see her baby! Don't deny her that!_
The trip to UCLA hospital was the longest 10 minutes of Jan's life. Rose was fading fast, but somehow Jan had the feeling that just when Rose was on the verge of surrendering, she was gaining strength from somewhere. It was an almost palpable sensation of energy flowing from her into the dying woman; it was the strangest thing she had ever felt, but she wasn't about to question it.
Finally they were hurrying down the familiar corridors of the university hospital; however, Jan found herself separated from her new-found friend by a nurse she didn't recognize.
"Please, let me go to Rose; she needs me!" Jan pleaded, ready to bolt out of the unit she had been herded into.
* * *
"The doctors will take good care of your friend," the nurse murmured. Jan always hated useless soothing nothings. "You, however, are in need of some assistance."
"You can patch me up later. Who's on call...?"
Jan's head snapped up at the familiar voice and smiled at Doctor Martin Jamieson; of all the doctors she had worked with, he was the one she had liked the best. He had even lobbied to retain her on the ER staff after she graduated.
"What in the world happened to you?"
"Look, Martin, there's no time for questions," she snapped, grateful to find a friend. He had always preferred being addressed by his first name. Jan had been the only student with gumption enough to take him up on that. "I was brought in with a pregnant woman...."
"With the head trauma? I've already seen her. She isn't going to make it, Jan."
"I know that, and so does she. I want to be with her...."
"Maybe you can convince her to undergo a C-section; she's not going to live through the delivery...."
"... and you'll probably lose her on the table before you're halfway through opening her up," Jan countered, to the astonishment of the other nurse. That was the one thing she had always liked about Jamieson; she could always speak her mind and tell him like it is. "Let her at least try, and let me go to her."
"Very well. Should I have someone contact Thomas for you?"
"Please, and thanks, Martin."
Jan was lead to the curtained unit where Rose waited. Jan recognized the nurse with her. "Hey, Sylvie."
"Very, very weak. I can hardly get any information out of her, and I keep having to run in and out... we're hopping here tonight."
"It's a busy night everywhere. Don't worry about Rose; I'll call if anything starts to happen." Jan honestly didn't think Sylvie would take her up on the offer, but she left the two alone.
"Hey there, I'm back," Jan whispered.
"I knew you would be," Rose replied.
"Are you sure you don't want the C-section; it'll make things easier...."
"It doesn't matter... now; Tommy's... coming...."
"Martin...!" Jan shouted even as she positioned herself at the end of the table. She knew she shouldn't be doing this--it was highly irregular--but what else could she do? Then, there was no more time to worry about her actions. "That's it... another push... just a little more, Rose... I see the head! He's coming...." There was just so much blood; she had assisted in deliveries before, and there was never this much blood. _Internal injuries, too,_ Jan surmised, marveling at the determination of this woman to hang on until she could bring her baby into the world.
The doctor was a few seconds too late; by the time he arrived, Jan was already holding a very healthy baby boy.
"Oh, Rose, he's beautiful," Jan sighed, tears stinging her eyes as she transferred the baby to his mother's arms. Rose's strength was spent; she couldn't even hold him. Jan swung around so that she could help support Rose. The baby opened his eyes for a moment.... "He has your eyes."
"Oh yes, you'll be a brave warrior," Rose sighed. Jan's attention was caught by the monitor; the blips were fading fast. "I trust you to the arms that brought you into this world, Thomas. Fly free, my little falcon...." Rose smiled up at Jan as she surrendered her son to her, but Jan wondered if she was really seeing her. "James...."
And with that sigh, the monitor flatlined. "Rest well, Rose," Jan murmured, closing the young mother's eyes. Just then, the baby in her arms started fussing. "Sh, little falcon, don't cry; you won't be alone in this world. I promise, we'll find your family somehow...."
* * *
Jan reached for a tissue. She hadn't realized how much it hurt to share that story. It was the first time she had told it since she explained what happened to Thomas. She looked to Tommy and David; both had silent tears coursing down their cheeks, and in the mournful silence a soft voice murmured, "That's the saddest story I've ever heard."
"Kim!" Tommy yelped joyfully. Their attention shifted to the young woman in the bed. Her cheeks were as tear-stained as any of the others. "How long have you been awake?"
"Long enough," she murmured.
"How do you feel?"
"Well enough to want to know what else happened," Kim answered. "How did you and Thomas get Tommy?"
Improbably, Jan felt like laughing upon hearing Kim's query. She was as bad as Tommy! "Well, there I was sitting in the ER with a newborn, pretty much in shock from all that had happened when Sylvie returned to ask me some questions so she could fill out Rose's death certificate and Tommy's birth certificate. I had no idea what to tell her; at that point, all I knew was that Rose was a widow. Then, she informed me that what little she had gotten out of Rose amounted to next of kin and who was to have custody of her son. According to Sylvie, Rose stated that Janice and Thomas Oliver were her next of kin and were her child's guardians. I was blown away. How could she have known... I never told her my full name or ever mentioned my husband...."
"Mom had a way of knowing," David said quietly.
"I'm beginning to appreciate that," Jan responded. "At the time, I couldn't even think straight. I know I should have said that I'd just met Rose, that I had no idea who she was or where she came from--that we weren't related, but I looked down into those damned puppy-dog eyes of yours, Tommy.... I babbled out something about Rose being a distant cousin of Thomas'--natural parents and birth date unknown as she had been a foundling. For the date of birth I had given my own birth date, claiming it was the day Rose had been adopted. It seemed to satisfy the people in records--they automatically put Oliver' as the last name on both certificates. About the only honest statement I made was that the father was unknown.
"By the time Thomas arrived, I was a little more clear headed and had gotten my injuries treated. They were going to keep me and Tommy overnight, so Thomas went home and made arrangements for us to talk to a lawyer once I was released. We told him the whole story. His advice was that Rose's final request was legitimate--especially since it was witnessed by two parties who had no vested interest in the child's welfare. I insisted on searching for Rose's family; surely there had to be a parent or aunt or sister or someone! The paper work was drawn up, naming Thomas and myself as legal guardians.
"They searched for a year. I have to confess that the longer the search went on, the more and more I prayed no one would be found. I know that was very selfish of me, but... Tommy had wrapped himself around my heart, and I would have moved heaven and earth to keep him, but nothing turned up." Jan shrugged. "I guess we were looking in the wrong places."
"So when Tommy found me, it made you feel like you hadn't looked hard enough or something," David realized.
Jan nodded. "It was proof of my failure, and it brought back all my old guilt about wanting to keep Tommy so badly."
"Perhaps you were not meant to find David at that time," a new voice interjected.
"Dad!" David exclaimed as Sam Trueheart entered the room. "What are you doing here?"
"I called him to let him know where you were," Jan explained.
"I am grateful to know at last what became of the sister of my spirit," Sam said.
"Why do you say Mom wasn't meant to find David back then?" Tommy asked.
"Rose could have told Janice about David and myself at any point during that evening; she knew what she was doing--her words to the nurse about naming her next of kin are evidence of that. I do not believe that it was so much that Rose did not want David and I to be found; rather, she did not want Tommy found."
"I don't understand," Jan said.
"When Rose left for D.C., she felt as if a shadow of danger was hanging over her family, and while she didn't know to whom it was directed, she feared for Tommy's life."
"Rose had spoken with Dream Keeper who had told her the legend of the arrowhead."
"Dream Keeper?" David queried.
"The youngest son of True of Heart, my ancestor."
"True of Heart was the one who gave me my arrowhead!" Tommy exclaimed. Both Jan and David shot him inquiring glances. "It's a long story; I'll tell you later."
"True of Heart's son...." David murmured, doing some fast calculations. "He'd have had to have been over 100 years old when Mamma spoke to him!"
"He was 105."
"Did I ever meet him?"
"He was the Wise One who gave you your half of the arrowhead," Sam explained, startling David into silence. "According to Dream Keeper, the arrowhead and its powers did not originate with our tribe, but we had been its keepers for many generations. The legend stated that the guardians would be brothers and that the Dark Spirits would battle them for control of the arrowhead in order to unleash its powers for their own evil purposes.
"It was told that one pair of guardians had harnessed the arrowhead's power and contained the Dark Spirits, and for many years, the arrowhead was passed to new guardians without incident However, True of Heart knew that the Dark Ones would be awakened eventually. To that end, he entrusted one of the halves to Dream Keeper while he would see to it that one of his other children would pass on the other half.
"Dream Keeper knew the moment the Dark Ones awoke; he had sensed someone searching for the arrowhead, someone who did not know and in his ignorance awakened the old evil...."
"Hamilton," Jan surmised.
"Yes, and Hamilton's quest inadvertently alerted the Dark Ones to the identity of the guardians--before they had possession of the arrowhead. Dream Keeper was forced to give David his half as it would protect him, but there was the other guardian within their reach: Rose's unborn son."
"Me," Tommy gulped.
"But if the Dark Spirits had corrupted Tommy, he wouldn't have been able to claim his half of the arrowhead," David reasoned. "Mamma said something about the innocence of a child."
" Only one pure of heart and noble of purpose....'" Sam quoted. "However, Dream Keeper did not fear their corrupting Tommy as only the guardians could make the arrowhead whole. He feared that the spirits would trick you into reuniting the halves before you were old enough to understand or strong enough to fight against the dark forces. Had that come to pass, you boys would have been but the first to die."
"Rose had no other choice," Jan murmured. "If she was to safeguard the boys and the arrowhead, she had to separate them."
"Sam nodded. "She knew that hers was not to be a long life--that she would never see her sons grow to manhood. Rose knew exactly what she was doing when she entrusted Tommy to your care." A weighty silence fell over the hospital room as Sam's words took hold.
"Wow," Kim muttered sleepily.
"I think we've stayed long enough," Jan said, noting that Tommy's adrenaline rush was wearing off, too. He struggled to keep his eyes open. "We've had enough excitement for one day." To her mild surprise, Tommy didn't object. She smiled softly. He was tired; he was hurt, and he had too much to think about. "I'll see you first thing in the morning, hon." She kissed his brow and tousled his hair. She paused by Kim's bed but made no gesture as Kim was already asleep.
"May I interest you in a cup of coffee, Janice?" Sam queried.
"Why not. I'll need the caffeine for the drive home," she agreed. She still had dozens of questions she wanted to ask about the young woman who had the courage and the strength to do her duty to the future at the expense of her own present.
* * *
"David, are you coming?"
David looked up as his father spoke. He had yet to move from his chair, immobilized by the weight of all that he had learned.
"Yes, Dad. I'll be there in a moment."
"Good, I do not think the hospital would take kindly to your occupying their chair for the night, and I am sure Kim and Tommy would like a little time to themselves."
David grinned wryly at the jibe and forced himself up. _Not exactly the night either of you planned, eh?_
"You going to be all right with what our folks told us?" Tommy queried.
David laughed softly. "You never cease to amaze me; sometimes I feel as if you're the elder brother."
"Naw, just more used to all the weirdness," Tommy said, yawning. "All this talk about evil spirits makes me wonder if any of this influenced Rita when she made me her Green Ranger."
"It's possible," David agreed.
"You never answered me about how you're doing."
"I'm okay with it, I think. It's just a lot to get used to at one time. To know that Mamma had to give you up and keep us apart.... At least, I have some answers about her, though."
"You do look a little... I don't know... less lost? Confused?"
"Maybe I am. Why don't you get some sleep, and I'll be by to see you guys tomorrow. We can talk more then."
"Sure. Thanks for being here."
"I'll always be here for you, little falcon," David murmured, but Tommy hadn't heard the last of his words; he had already drifted off to sleep, his hand still locked around Kimberly's. With an amused grin, David shook his head. True, he had some answers; the emptiness was no longer so deep, but it wasn't completely filled. As he regarded the sleeping pair, he knew that there was something he had yet to find.
* * *
Six people stood at the perimeter of a sandy mound out in the desert. The sky was perfectly clear and the wind completely still, yet the heat was not oppressive. However, there were other weights pressing down on their bodies and souls. Sam Trueheart spoke the words of the burial ritual of his people; behind him stood all those to whom the rites had meaning: David, Tommy, Kimberly, Jan and Thomas Oliver.
"How are you holding up, Kim?" Thomas queried. He had been on the first flight home after receiving Jan's message.
"I'm fine," she responded, but her tone was tinged with exhaustion. This was the first time she had been out since being released from the hospital. There had been some hard traveling to reach the site, and she was looking a little pale and worn. "I wouldn't have missed this."
Tommy favored her with a smile and tightened his arm around her. They were gathered to put Rose Falconsdaughter Kinseeker's ashes to rest where her husband was buried. Jan hadn't known what else to do for Rose, so she had had her cremated and her ashes interred with others of Thomas' family. She had gone to L.A. with David and Tommy to bring their mother home.
"Welcome home, my sister; you have earned your rest," Sam whispered in conclusion. Then, he stepped back. "David. Tommy."
The boys stepped forward. David dug into the sand, clearing it away until he found the rocks underneath. Tommy handed his brother the urn.
"Hey, Mamma. Now you can be with Pappa like you were meant to be," David murmured as he sprinkled the ashes over the rocks and watched as they slipped between the cracks to the desert floor many feet below them yet. He hadn't wanted her ashes borne away by the wind. "However, I guess you've always been with him where it counts." David looked to Tommy.
"I never knew you, mom, but you gave me a chance at a wonderful life. Thank you." Kim's sniffle echoed loudly in the silence following Tommy's words. It brought a smile to everyone's faces.
"Would you care to say anything, Janice?" Sam inquired.
"Me?" she stammered, biting back tears.
"You knew Rose as well as either of the boys, and she trusted you enough to protect her son."
"All right, I guess," she agreed and stepped forward hesitantly. "Rose... I find myself missing you more than I ever imagined. Tommy lost a mother that day, but I think I lost a very good friend. It's funny, but I think I felt closer to you in your last hours than I ever was to my own sisters. I was a complete stranger, and yet you gave me the most precious gift in the world. I hope I did right by you and your son."
She stepped back; Tommy wrapped his arm around her waist, and she felt David's hand on her shoulder.
"I think Rose and James are proud of the way their sons turned out," Sam assured her. Jan nodded as she wiped her eyes; she could almost feel Rose's presence and knew that she approved.
"Now, it is time to go home and leave Rose and James in peace," Sam said. However, as the six made ready to leave, two of their number remained behind.
"Jan?" David queried, surprised to find her beside him. When she didn't answer right away, he asked, "Do you still feel nervous around me?"
"No," she laughed. "I don't need to feel guilty anymore. I know I did exactly as your mother wanted, and I've finally kept my promise to Tommy--his family has been found."
The two shared a moment of silence. Then, Jan extended her hand to David. He accepted it, and she gave it a heartfelt squeeze. The two looked to where their families waited and went to rejoin them.