Duty & Honor – Part 6
Tommy slowly opened the front door of the house, his body feeling almost like it had back before he’d found the black dino gem and had been fighting Mesogog’s Tyranodrones without any powers. Everything ached, and his shoulder hurt like nobody’s business. He’d been slammed through a cement wall by Symax, and only his armor and powers had allowed him to get up and back into the fight.
The rest of the team was probably in the same shape as well.
At least, he thought to himself, Kim was safe.
“Kim? I’m home…”
At the sound of his voice, Kimberly appeared from the bathroom and raced into his open arms.
“Oh God, I was worried, are you okay?” she rattled off, holding him tightly.
“Yeah, we survived… but my arm is a little out of whack.”
Pushing herself back, Kim pulled down the collar of Tommy’s back Henley shirt aside, seeing the beginning of a dark bruise at his shoulder.
“Oh God… you need some ice on that.”
“It’s not that bad…”
“Handsome, please, don’t try to kid me… I’ve seen more than my fair share of sports injuries over the years, and that needs ice, or you’re gonna not want to move that arm for a week,” Kim insisted, moving towards the kitchen.
Before she could get too far, the phone rang, prompting Kim to stop in mid step. Picking up the line, she pressed the talk button and brought the receiver to her ear.
She instantly smiled, and turned to Tommy, thrusting the phone into her husband’s unsuspecting hands. Once he had the phone, she turned back to her original goal, getting an ice pack for his shoulder.
“Hello?” said Tommy, curious at who Kim had smiled at hearing on the other end.
“Jason! How are you?”
“Good, just checking in with my favorite retired married couple… but you sound like hell Tommy. What’s going on?”
Tommy grimaced. Of all the people he knew, only two of them knew him so well, his wife, and the man on the other end of the line. And hiding things from either of them was like hiding a triple layer chocolate cake from a dieter.
“We’ve got trouble,” he said with a sigh, settling back onto the sofa as he switched the phone to the hand of the non-injured shoulder.
“What else is new.”
“I’m serious Jase… there’s a new evil in town, and his goal is to kill the rangers. Nothing else, no grand plan of conquering Earth or anything… he just wants us dead.”
“All rangers?” Jason asked with a twinge of concern in his voice, and Tommy mentally kicked himself.
“No, the acting ones only. You’re safe bro… and that’s part of my problem.”
“What aren’t you telling me?”
Sighing, Tommy ran a hand through his hair, wincing slightly at the pull on his arm. Kim looked briefly from her building of his ice pack to see if everything was okay, and once she heard his reply, she turned away.
“Wow, that’s great!” Jason exclaimed, but when silence greeted him, he amended his words. “That is good news, isn’t it?”
“Normally, yeah… but with this thing after the rangers…”
“Oh God… I get it. But you’ll beat him and send him on his way, just like you always do,” remarked Jason, and he was greeted by silence by his best friend, prompting him to probe a little deeper. “There’s more to this than that though, isn’t there?”
“I grounded her.”
“I told Kim that I wouldn’t risk her and the baby by letting her back into uniform.”
Jason groaned on his end. He could imagine the argument that had ended up being. For as long as he’d known Kim, she was as stubborn as they came. To have Tommy put his foot down and tell her what to do… ouch, he was glad he wasn’t there when the shouting match had gone down.
“I know she didn’t take to that suggestion very well.”
“How’d you guess,” Tommy remarked sarcastically. “Look, I know that I was a caveman about it, but I couldn’t face the thought of losing her...”
“I know. Did you two straighten this out yet?”
“Yeah… we came to an understanding. For now she’s on the sidelines. She saw the doctor today, but I haven’t gotten the details yet. I promised we’d talk about it after she got checked out. Still, I feel like a shit about putting my foot down like that and making her feel like she wasn’t in control of her own life.”
“Tommy, it’s no crime to want to protect her. You love her…”
“You know I do…”
“And you want to make sure that she and that little Oliver on the way stay safe. I’m sure that once she saw it from your perspective that she was more open to finding a compromise.”
“Yeah, so anyway, talk to me. What’s up in your life? Finally meet someone so I can give my best man speech?”
Jason laughed on his end, a sound that washed over Tommy like a balm. His best friend had helped him get through some of the toughest times. His voice now was almost enough to alleviate the worry that still sat in the pit of his stomach over Xondar’s plans for the rangers.
“I was just in New York City… Made me think of you guys when I met Kat for lunch.”
“Really? How is she?”
“Good. She and her boyfriend are moving in together.”
That’s great. I’m glad for her. So what were you doing up there anyway?”
“Business. We got a call from a dojo that’s planning to start up in the city and was looking for financial backing. It’s a really unique case. One of the partners was born with Spina Bifida.”
“Okay, you got me on that one bro…”
“I didn’t know what it was at first either. It’s a birth defect where the person usually ends up in a wheelchair, crutches or with braces, and a whole bunch of other health issues, from learning disabilities to social and environmental limitations. The partner who called us, James Mason was born with it, and has braces on both legs from the knees down. But he still got a black belt in a modified version of Tae Kwan Do. He and his two business partners want to open a dojo where they can teach specialized classes for the disabled along with standard classes.”
“Wow, I’m impressed.”
“So was I, as well as the rest of the management at the firm. I mean, he’s got to have had a lot of dedication in the face of his disability, and his desire to give others with disabilities a sense of empowerment through the Martial Arts is really inspiring. In the light of the good work they’re doing out there, the management company just agreed to help accredit and offer some venture capital to the school.”
“That’s really cool Jase. I’m glad that you guys were able to help.”
“Me too. It makes me feel like we did something good, you know? And without a uniform too.”
The two men laughed briefly before Tommy looked up to note Kim coming in, a ziplock bag of ice in one hand and a towel in the other. She stopped and sat on the arm of the couch and pulled at the collar of his shirt again, becoming frustrated when she couldn’t get it pulled aside enough to slide the ice in. Undeterred, she simply changed tactics, reaching for the hem of the garment and pulling upwards and thereby disrupting Tommy’s conversation as his mind focused on being disrobed by his wife.
“Sorry Bro, I gotta go. Kim’s trying to take off my shirt.”
“And some things never change…” Jason remarked with a chuckle, then turned serious. “Be careful bro.”
“I will. Thanks.”
With that, Tommy slid the phone in his hand and turned it off with his thumb as Kim slid the shirt over his head and laid the ice on the rapidly spreading bruise.
Kim stifled a smile and settled the towel over the ice, and then pulled the shirt back down.
“Wuss,” she said before flashing him a grin as she got back up again and headed into the kitchen. “How about dinner?”
They’d talked over dinner that night and Kim had explained that Dr. Button said everything looked good, but that she’d wanted to run some tests to see if there was anything that they could do to make sure Kim stayed healthy through the pregnancy.
With that knowledge Tommy had insisted that they wait until the test results came back before they broached the subject of Kim going back to duty. Kim had reluctantly agreed, knowing that if she didn’t there wouldn’t be a window to even discuss the possibility of her rejoining the team.
So for two days she’d stayed on the sidelines, not doing anything that would condone ranger work, and little else besides work. It was rather odd though that during those two days that things had been blissfully quiet, which for most people would have been considered normal life. However for Tommy and Kimberly, it only made them worry more. The longer Xondar didn’t make another appearance meant that he was plotting something. And based on the last meeting, he was slowly upping the stakes.
“How are you feeling Beautiful?” he asked as he finished the dinner dishes.
Kim looked up from the couch where she’d been shooed off to once she’d finished dinner with a sigh and a glare. Tommy had nearly jumped up and took her plate, silverware and glass from her and deposited them all in the sink. With a sigh she’d resigned herself to the sofa, knowing that sooner or later she was going o have to deal with his over protectiveness in their daily life more than the agreement they’d struck about her ranger status.
“I’m fine. I was fine when I left for work this morning, I was fine all day and I am as fine as I was when I got home,” she retorted exasperatedly.
“Kim,” he began, walking into the living room and sitting beside her on the couch. “You told me yourself that your doctor is running tests to make sure you’re healthy and the baby’s fine. How about you wait until they come back before you start taking on more, okay?”
“You wouldn’t even let me cook dinner for the last two days! Are you going to be like this for the next seven months, because if so, I don’t know if I can handle it.”
“What? All I’m trying to do is take care of you.”
“I don’t need you to take care of me. I just need you to be with me, love me… why does my being pregnant seem to make you think I’m weak?”
The word she chose was specific, and even in his mental state of over-protecting her, he could hear it. The one thing that 5’ 2” Kimberly Ann Hart had hated for as long as he’d known her was how she was viewed. People just seemed to instantly think that because she was a petite girl whose favorite pastime consisted of shopping that she needed to be taken care of; that she was a weak and helpless. It was one reason that as the pink ranger she had always thrown herself into her role and been a great ranger.
And now her own husband was treating her the way she hated.
Letting the towel drop from his hands, Tommy came over to sit beside her on the couch, turning her to face him as he held her hands tightly in his.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
“How did you mean it then?” Kim asked, her mouth painted into a frown.
“Kim, you are not weak. You couldn’t be weak if you tried. One of the things I love about you, have always loved about you is your innate strength. You have always been *my* strength; you have been the team’s… I’m not trying to marginalize you. I just want to do what I can to take care of my thoroughly independent, capable wife while I can.”
With that said, he brought her hands up to his mouth and kissed them tenderly, trying to remind her of how he’d always treated her: as an equal but always as the most precious thing in his life. And that simple act did remind her of than, and she smiled, her eyes tearing slightly.
“Okay, first… that was too long for you to be talking and not kissing me,” Kim said softly as she leaned forward and upwards, catching Tommy’s mouth with hers.
He responded immediately, wrapping his lips around hers, their hearts and souls communing through this slight contact. After long moments, she let his lips part from hers and she sat back, watching her strong, confident husband fight to gain some semblance of focus back. When she was sure she had his full attention she smiled at him again, giving him her famous megawatt smile.
“For the kiss?” he asked confused.
“No silly,” she laughed, “for calling me strong. It means a lot. After all the failures in my life… Florida, the Pan Globals, to have you say that makes me believe I really can be strong.”
“You always have been Beautiful. Deciding to try for the Pan Globals, especially after that bad fall that put you in the hospital… you could have decided to let it go after that, but you didn’t. You proved to all of us, and yourself that you were strong.”
“Okay then… with that said, could you cut me a little slack until the results come in and let me do something around the house? I mean I love you and all, but your cooking…”
“Alright, alright… but I’m taking cooking lessons at this rate so you can’t complain anymore” Tommy acquiesced, leaning over and kissing Kim softly.
The kiss didn’t stay chaste, and their mouths opened, heat and air exchanging between them as Kim gave his lower lip a bold lick before pulling back.
“You know… maybe I should take advantage of this not doing anything and being pampered thing a bit longer… I think going to bed sounds like a good idea.”
Her eyes blazed sparks of heat within the doe brown, and Tommy felt the answering heat race through his veins. He knew what Kim was suggesting, and while every part of his body raced forward to haul her off and make love to her throughout the night, a little worried voice in the back of his mind piped up, wondering about if he should be even thinking of that… with her in her condition.
“Is that a good idea?” he asked suddenly, and Kim could tell immediately what he meant.
Sighing, Kim smiled sadly and fought the laugh that wanted to break free.
“Yes Tommy, it’s a good idea. And just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean ‘that’ has to change…”
He gave her a grin before standing and offering a hand to her. Raising her up, he took the opportunity to reach down and pick her up, carrying her to the bed.
For a Thursday, it hadn’t sucked so bad, but Tommy knew that once his last period senior class heard what he had to say, that there was going to be lost of crying, whining and pleading to be saved from what was either going to pass them or fail them – resulting in whether or not they graduated.
Standing behind the lab desk, he cleared his throat and fiddled with his glasses nervously and the students slowly settled down. Ethan, Conner and Kira all watched him studiously, and he frowned a little. He could see the bruise on Conner’s cheek, and knew that he wasn’t the only one that hadn’t walked away with a reminder of their most recent fight.
“Okay everyone. Today I want to go over what your final next week is going to consist of. The test will cover everything for the last year, including all the dates, time periods and genealogy charts that we’ve studied. So, in case you’ve forgotten things, I suggest you reread your notes and go over your quizzes and tests. Everything is in there, it’s just up to you to make sure you know it.”
“Dr. Oliver?” called Cassidy from her spot in the front, and Tommy sighed.
“What if I can’t find my tests and quizzes?”
“Then find a study partner in the next five days who does have them.”
Before she could open her mouth to reply, he picked up the textbook on the desk and held it up.
“I’ll let you all get the chance to get a head start. Silent reading for the period.”
With that, everyone rushed to open their books, taking notes and rereading sections. The time for Tommy seemed to click by as he watched his students go over what they’d leaned all year in preparation for their last test. Finally the bell rang, and everyone jumped up and filed out the door, except for Kira, Conner and Ethan.
“What’s up guys?”
“We were…” Kira began and then faltered before she could continue.
“We were just wanting to see how things were… with you and Kim, that is,” Conner quickly continued, his eyes flitting from Kira to Dr. O.
“Everything’s fine guys. Don’t worry, okay? You have more than enough on your plate.”
“Still Dr. O, when you and Kim are unhappy, it, well it affects the team.”
Tommy stood still as that piece of news washed over him. He should have remembered… Even in the old days, his relationship with Kim did affect everyone. When he was happy, he was a great ranger, and the same could be said for Kim as well. When they were hurt, angry or in pain…
He grimaced at the fact that he’d neglected to adequately expect that his actions in regards to Kim’s status with the team, and the conflict that caused between them would be not only recognized by the team as a distraction, but affect them in a negative way too. Luckily the main disagreement was over.
“Well you don’t have to worry. Kim and I are fine, and it’s not going to be a problem anymore. Anyhow, you all should start heading for home and start studying the…”
Before he could finish his sentence, the ground shook. Outside the classroom the sky went dark, and a sudden bolt of white gold struck the ground right outside the building where they stood. It didn’t take any of them to wait to have their gauntlets chime the warning…
Xondar’s forces were back again.
“Kim?” called Hayley as she raced into the back entrance of the cave that housed the ranger’s command center.
She’d received a call from Trent saying the school was under attack, and that he wouldn’t be into work. Once she’d hung up, she had immediately gotten in her car, leaving Randi in charge at the Cyberspace as she made her way to monitor the situation from Tommy and Kim’s. Of course she also knew that Kim might be there too, and having some company might help keep the grounded ranger… well, grounded.
“In here Hayley.”
The red head paced decisively into the command center and found Kim there, standing like a statue with her eyes glued to the monitor, her hands tightly gripping the back of the console’s chair. Careful not to dislodge her, Hayley slipped into the seat, her hands flying of the keys and bringing the image of the fight in clearer on the screen.
The team was morphed and engaged with Xondar’s forces outside of Reefside High. There had to be at least two dozen of the wraiths, and Symax was with them. Things looked like they were bad already, as the rangers seemed to be being over run and spending more time on the ground than standing and hitting their opponents.
“They’re gonna be okay…” the red head said as she craned her neck around to watch the pale and fearful look on the pink ranger’s face.
Even Hayley’s obvious attempt to comfort Kim’s state of mind wasn’t enough to break her attention from the violence on the screen. Kim watched the battle outside of the school from the command center, her hands gouging the chair Hayley now occupied.
Hayley watched her friend out of the corner of her eye. She knew that Kim had just found out days earlier that she was pregnant, and Tommy had made the decision that kept her from fighting with the team. But she could tell by the situation and the look in Kim’s eyes that if things on the field got any worse that she was more than likely going to have to attempt to restrain the pink ranger from disobeying her husband and leader’s orders and going out to help them.
“Why aren’t they using their gems?” Kim breathed as the ghosts of the wraiths continued to mist out of the team’s grasp and then turn solid suddenly only to strike the rangers down.
“They are…” replied Hayley in a gasping whisper, as her fingers flew across the keyboard to pull the image in closer of where Conner stood over Kira’s partially prone form.
He had focused a beam of his red dino energy at the two wraiths approaching, but this time, the energy was flowing right through them.
“It’s not working anymore,” said Kim quietly, her mind filling with dread as she realized that their one advantage seemed to have been stripped from them when they needed it most.
“It looks like it.”
“They’re going to get killed Hayley.”
The terror as the bolts of lighting struck the rangers time and again was causing Kim’s stomach to churn. She felt dizzy, just watching it. Closing her eyes, she took in a deep breath and tried to remind herself that the team was capable… they’d been a team long before she’d arrived, but it was still difficult to not be there, watching Tommy’s back.
Suddenly a cold chill ran up her spine, and Kim felt her stomach cramp tightly. Her hands flew to her stomach, her body clenching and her reflex was to curl up in a ball, but she somehow fought it. Still she started to double over and she clutched at her skin through the cloth. A feeling of liquid heat seemed to slosh through her abdomen and a sudden sense of dread struck her as she felt her world start to tilt wildly.
“Hayley…” she breathed, her eyes beginning to flutter closed, “the baby…”
Hayley turned in the chair quickly, watching in horror as the inseam of Kim’s khakis started to turn black as blood ran down her legs, and the pink ranger slid to the floor in a heap.
Yeah, I know… you hate me. What else is new. I know what you want… the next chapter, but you’re gonna have to wait.
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