After All That We’ve Been Through
This is it, I thought as I shifted in my seat. Graduation and the start of new things.
By now things in Angel Grove have settled into a familiar, although not always pleasant pattern. Of course being a ranger never has been easy. The last couple of months however have been a true exercise in how ‘unfun’ ranger life can be.
My being kidnapped and brainwashed *again*, this time by Prince Gasket, was probably the second least favorite event that happened in the last few months. The whole being evil thing has worn thin by this point in my ‘career’. As usual, Kim was there to save my ass. I guess having a guardian angel isn’t so hard to live with, when I get to have her as that angel.
So, for a little while it was the Zeo team and the Gold Ranger kicking ass and taking names, Kim and I, together again with the rest of the team, just like it should have been. Occasionally though, I’d notice Kim looking at Kat in her pink Zeo uniform.
I asked her one night in what passed now for ‘our’ bed, whether or not she would ever be okay with not being given back the pink ranger mantle when she returned. She has simply smiled at me with that loving, happy way of hers and nodded her head yes.
I ended up teasing her under the covers, my fingers playing over her naked flesh, dipping into delicate, sensitive areas, making us both breathe faster as I questioned her more on her answer.
“Are you sure about that? I mean, while you look hot in black, you always seemed comfortable in pink,” I questioned.
“I just need to be there for you and the team. What color I wear really isn’t the issue.”
That was the last of talking about the subject, or any subject to be honest, that night. I was surprised at Kim’s answer, but I understand exactly what she meant. I’ve been green, white and red, but all along I was fundamentally me under whatever color uniform I wore. Being a part of the team, making a difference was what mattered, not which color my uniform was. Although, I still hate wearing red.
Oh, and I cut my hair. Not spikes like I wanted to, but the ponytail is gone and I have it just above my shoulders, and its’ gotten wavy since I cut it. Kim was less than thrilled, but its’ been a lot easier getting it under my helmet.
So things were rolling along smoothly; Kim and I were together in every way we could be. We were passing biology and geometry, on our way to getting our diplomas while we were saving the world and making after high school plans. I should have known that it was too good to last.
Then my least favorite event in the last few months occurred… I almost lost Kim. Permanently.
The Gold Ranger powers had turned on her, and she got sick when she used them. I did my best to be there for her. I sat by her bedside during the worst of it, wiping her off with a cold rag to cool her fever and holding her close in my embrace when the shakes hit. There was a point there that I was ready to cut of my right arm to make the pain go away for more than a few hours.
Finally I had to make the decision I had been fighting against. With Zordon’s help, I decided we had to convince Kim to give up her struggle to keep the power. It was the first and only time I felt like I’d betrayed her, and I hated every second of it. But as we sit here, now, waiting for our diplomas, I know that if I hadn’t, the seat next to me today would be conspicuously empty.
Of course, that couldn’t be all. No, a ranger’s life doesn’t usually have more than a short period of time where things are calm and simple. Kim was dealing with the loss of her Gold Ranger powers when Jason arrived in town. With the rest of the team busy with a new crisis, Kim decided to take him up on an offer to go scuba diving. She was hoping the diversion would help her start dealing with life without powers again. The next thing we knew the new big bad, Divatox showed up and kidnapped them. I was just about out of my mind. My best friend and my lover held captive by a Rita wanna-be. Oh, and let’s not forget that Rocky got injured practicing for the charity martial arts tournament, leaving us one ranger short.
So we ended up needing something more than our Zeo powers, and Zordon came through just like he always did, with the Turbo powers. And a new ranger. I confess, I wouldn’t have picked Justin, but he’s done his best to pull his weight. And he helped me save Kim.
When we got to the island, Muranthias, where Divatox was going to sacrifice Jase and Kim to her new ‘hubby’ Maligore, we didn’t get to them in time. As Kim was lowered into that pit, I thought my life was over.
When she and Jase reappeared, my heart started again. Then she turned and broke her chains, and I knew that this was bad. Really bad.
I stared at Kimberly, I saw something I never thought I would see in those
beautiful eyes, now turned flame red rather than doe brown - hatred. And it was
focused at me. She said some spiteful things, and referred to Kat’s initial
crush on me and suggested that I had been unfaithful to her when she was in
I knew it wasn’t really her saying those things, but some part of me wondered if in fact that she thought somewhere deep down I really was guilty of those things. It hurt as much as getting that letter did, more in fact to think she might actually have believed what she was saying could have been even partially true.
In the hopes of throwing off whatever had possessed her, I removed my helmet and tried talking to her, but was shattered to find that her seeing my face, hearing my panicked voice wasn’t enough to do it. As the recipient of being put under evil spells, I know that even love doesn’t always break the spell. Actually, it rarely does. We’re not living in a fairy tale. Even if Kim changed from calling me her knight in white armor to red.
Luckily Lerigot broke the spell and once free of it, Kim and I helped rescue Jason. Once they were safe, the team and I took care of running off Divatox, and Jason even helped save the day with the charity event, filling in for Rocky.
we thought great, we’ve saved Kim and Jase, kept the
planet from being taken over and won a big check for the
Then another bomb drops on us.
I know that the opportunity that Lerigot brought, being able to go home, was too much to resist. Having to choose staying with us or going home was a horrible choice, and I can’t fault him for choosing to leave us. So before he left, he handed us over to Dimitira.
Since then, she and Alpha 6 have been doing their best to help us keep Divatox at bay. And Kim and I have been even closer than before. We talked everything that we’d left unsaid out, and found ourselves deeper in love than before.
Suddenly I notice something out of the corner of my eye, and I glance over and find that the woman I’ve loved for nearly four years is staring intently at me. The cap and gown do nothing for her, but I focus on the fawn colored eyes I adore and look past the fabric trash bags that she and I are stuck wearing. I guess wearing spandex sort of gets you spoiled for a more form fitting look.
“What’s going through that head of yours Beautiful?” I whisper carefully as the band plays some sort of montage of movie soundtracks to introduce the next part of the speeches.
was just thinking of what would have happened if you hadn’t come to
I bite my lip as I feel the dark emotions roll over me. This subject still comes up every once in a while, and I think Kim still feels a bit guilty about how much her letter hurt me when I got it, even though we’ve worked to resolve the whole thing when I got her back all those months ago, and some more after the Muranthias incident. No matter how many times I’ve told her I understand what she must have been going through at the time, how much pressure Coach Schmidt had her under, she still takes the whole thing too much to heart.
I wince inwardly at the bad pun with her name, then a nervous happiness starts to fill me to the point of overflowing.
Without thinking, I let my right hand float towards the spot beneath the graduation gown where the hip pocket of my jeans is. As my hand rests there, out of sight of Kimberly, I feel the slight yet heavy weight of the diamond ring I bought two weeks ago.
Mom and Dad, Kim’s family, the team and even Jase, Trini and Zack know what’s up. Everyone has done as I asked and kept my secret… that tonight, surrounded by everyone as we celebrate our graduation, I’m asking Kim to marry me.
“Tommy,” Kim’s forceful whisper pulls me from my thoughts, and I look up to notice that Principal is at the podium and wrapping up his remarks about good citizenship and our future and is getting ready to give out the diplomas.
With a grin, I reach over with my left hand and catch Kim’s right with it. She squeezes it a little, and behind me I feel a finger poke into my back. Swinging my head around I find Rocky and Adam giving me a knowing smirk.
“Come on leader-man, you need to stay alert here. We’re almost up,” Rocky announces with his regular humor.
“Daydream later,” comes Adam’s soft baritone from my left, and I can’t help but reach my hand back to catch his tightly.
“Let’s do this,” I say as I hear ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ start up, and we stand and face our future.
After the ceremony concluded, I don’t think more than fifteen minutes had passed before our communicators went off. After making our excuses to our families, I glanced around, and Kim and the team followed me to the shade of the science building, assuming that we’d be mostly away from prying eyes as we answered the summons.
“What’s up Dimetria?”
“PLEASE TELEPORT TO THE
We look around with concerned looks. Did something happen? There hadn’t been any indication of an attack or anything. Stricken, we all nod, and after Kat takes Rocky’s hand and I pull Kim to me, we all teleport together up to the command center.
It still is strange to be here. After the old command center blew up, it was tough to get readjusted to this new place. It doesn’t have the same memories as the original center did. I remember the first time I stood there, before I ripped the wiring out of the console, disrupting Zordon’s warp and then trashed the place. Then there was my acceptance into the rangers after Jason had broken Rita’s spell, and I joined the original team. Yet probably the most vivid memory is when I had been chosen to become the White Ranger, and I stood before the team, taking off my helmet and watched Kim faint dead away. It was one of the moments that solidified our relationship.
Right along with that day,
Dimitira finally appeared in her warp, and then suddenly we heard a voice that we’d thought gone forever.
“Zordon?” I asked tentatively, unsure my ears weren’t playing tricks on me.
“YES RANGERS. I ARRANGED WITH DIMITRIA TO RETURN FOR THIS MOMENTUS OCCASION.”
“What’s that?” questioned Adam, looking from Tanya to me to Kat for some kind of understanding of what was going on.
“YOU HAVE SERVED EARTH AND THE LEGACY OF POWER RANGERS ADMIRABLY. HOWEVER, YOUR PATHS NOW WILL BEGIN TO DIVERGE AS YOU STEP INTO THE NEW PHASE OF YOUR LIVES. THEREFORE, IT HAS BEEN DECIDED THAT YOU SHOULD BE RELIEVED OF YOUR DUTIES AS RANGERS,” announced Zordon.
There were a lot of shocked gasps and yells around me, but I really didn’t hear them. My head nearly whip lashed as I turned to Kim. The last thing I was concerned with in regards to our future – my being a ranger while she sat on the sidelines was being erased. Once I passed on my mantle to another, she and I could be free to live our lives however we saw fit. We could have kids and not fear that they’d be a target of reprisals, since we would no longer be rangers.
Still, there was part of me that was afraid of not being a ranger. After all these years, could I be just a normal person again? Would Kim love me any less for giving up my powers just to accept the safety that it would hopefully offer us? Would I still be me if I wasn’t a ranger?
“Tommy, are you okay?” Kim whispered at my side, pulling herself closer to me as I refocused on her concerned look.
“I was just thinking,” I began, and started to censor my thoughts, then changed my mind, “will this make a difference? Will I still be the man you love if I’m not a ranger?”
The next thing I knew I was being graced with Kim’s most brilliant smile.
“When I stood at
I bent my head and leaned into her, finally at peace with the idea of being without some kind of power. Letting others fight the good fight while I lived out my dreams with Kim. Finally I pulled away and turned to look at the rest of the team. Adam had been a ranger longest, after me. I wanted to see what he was feeling, as well as the others.
What I found was a bunch of shocked, but happy rangers.
I knew that we all had things we wanted to do, dreams that we couldn’t follow because of our ranger duties. Now, we wouldn’t have to make the kind of decision that Jason, Trini, Zack, Kim and Aisha had made – to stay with the team or follow our hearts.
“Everybody okay with this?” I finally asked, looking to each of the team one by one.
“We’ve done our part, I think I’m ready to let someone else take my place,” announced Adam, coming to place his hand on my shoulder, supporting his statement with that simple gesture.
“I want to do so much now, and with this chance, I’ll be able to do those things without feeling I betrayed the team by leaving,” stated Tanya, glancing apologetically at Kim as she said them, making sure Kim knew she wasn’t directing those statements at her.
Kim reached over and took Tanya’s hand and smiled. Tanya squeezed it hard and smiled back in understanding. Then Kat moved to them as well, and looked Kim in the eyes.
“I was given the chance to be a ranger by Kim. I’ll always be thankful for her for entrusting those powers to me. But I’m ready to move on too,” Kat softly said.
Kim pulled from my grasp and she and Kat hug. I know that after Kim got back from Muranthias, she and Kat had a long talk, and I guess they put everything in the past. Finally they pull apart and Kim comes back to my welcoming embrace. Suddenly, as I look at Rocky, I realize we’re one ranger short.
“What about Justin?” I ask, curiously.
“Justin has not served with the team for very long, and still can be an asset to the new rangers,” answered Dimitira, finally speaking up since her summons brought us here.
“BASED ON RECENT EVENTS, DIMITRIA AND I HAVE SEARCHED FOR SUITABLE CANDIDATES FOR YOUR POWERS. WE HAVE LOCATED FOUR SUCH INDIVIDUALS, AND NOW ASK FOR YOUR CONFIRMATION IN HANDING THE POWER TO THEM,” explained Zordon.
“IF YOU APPROVE, THEN IT WILL BE YOUR CHOICE WHOM TO BESTOW YOUR POWERS ON,” Dimitria added.
We all looked at each other and nodded our approval of the idea. Then, above us we were slightly blinded by blue and white light. Finally the light subsided, and we all strained to see four figures standing on the alcove above the command center floor. As our sight adjusted, another round of shocked gasps, yells and other exclamations broke from our lips.
There, above us stand Kat and my rescuers just a few days ago – T.J., Cassie, Carlos and Ashley. They’d put themselves into harms way to help us, and now they were getting a reward that even they couldn’t have anticipated.
“DO YOU ACCEPT THE NEW RANGER CANDIDATES?”
Nods of heads greet my gaze as I check with everyone in a heartbeat.
“They do Zordon. They’re fine choices for rangers,” I reply for us all.
“THEN YOU NOW NEED TO CHOSE YOUR SUCESSORS,” announced Dimitria, pushing us closer to the final act of closure. “TOMMY, AS LEADER, YOU MUST MAKE YOUR CHOICE FIRST.”
I glance at Kimberly and find her fighting off tears but smiling. I know the feeling Beautiful, I think and then turn back to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life.
“I select T.J. to replace me as the Red Ranger,” I announce, staring at the young black man as I remember his natural leading abilities that he displayed in my rescue.
“I choose Carlos as the new Green Ranger,” Adam says next, giving the male Latino teenager a thumbs-up sign.
“Cassie should be the next Pink Ranger,” Katherine offers, looking to Kim in silent confirmation of the former pink ranger’s approval of the dark hair Asian girl.
“And Ashley will be the Yellow Ranger,” Tanya confirmed, closing the deal in her selection of the ash-blonde young woman.
‘NOW THAT THE SELECTIONS HAVE BEEN MADE, THE POWER WILL NOW BE TRANSFERRED,” spoke Zordon.
Suddenly Tanya, Kat, Adam and I found we were glowing in the shade of our ranger colors, then we weren’t, and the colors enveloped our counterparts, morphing them into uniform. For a moment, I concentrated on that place inside where when I had the power I always felt it, almost hoping to find something. But instead I felt a similar absence; such as I had when I’d lost the Green Ranger powers all those years ago.
Except that this time, it didn’t feel the same. That part of me that had held the power felt different, but it wasn’t as if there was a gaping hole. I’d voluntarily decided to give up the power, not had it wrenched away violently. The difference seemed to allow me to deal with it better than I had before.
Before I could form my next thought, I felt two petite arms surround me. I turned to find Kimberly staring at me with a hopeful expression.
“Are you okay?” she asked me, and I realized she probably was thinking of my state of mind after I’d lost the Green Ranger powers. How I’d gone off in solitude and nearly cut off contact with everyone, including her.
I wasn’t repeating that mistake again. With her, I was able to deal with anything. It was when I was without her that I doubted and fell. And if I was planning on having us spend the rest of our lives together after today, I needed to share with her, rather than run from her.
“Yeah, it’s not like before,” I tried to explain fearing words would be inadequate.
“You just feel like something’s off, right?”
I nodded, and reminded myself that after giving up the Pink Ranger powers, then the Gold Ranger mantle, my love knew just as much as I did about losing the power and how it felt. How many days had she attempted to put on a brave front to everyone once Zordon and I convinced her that keeping the Gold Ranger powers would kill her? I know that my being there, sharing with her the understanding of the same kind of experience had been more helpful than either of us had realized it would be.
“But we’ve been there before,” I remarked simply. “Besides, as long as I have you, I know I can survive anything.”
She smiled at that, and I pulled her closer to me. Then I sensed the others around me, and it ended up being a big group hug of rangers leaving their warrior days behind. Surreptitiously I glanced up to see the new rangers gone, and I realized that it was time to get back to the celebrations.
“THANK YOU AGAIN RANGERS, FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DONE,” Zordon quietly said, and then we found ourselves back outside Angel Grove high.
It wasn’t more than a few minutes later that we resigned ourselves to celebrate our graduation along with our time as rangers, and waded back into the swarm of friends, family and loved ones.
The decision to have a party at the Juice Bar had been a given, but Ernie had made sure that the place was ours way before we’d thought to ask him.
When Kim and I arrived with our parents, the place was nearly full of the rest of the team, their friends and family, and other guests. Streamers and balloons were hung all over the place, along with a huge “Congratulations” banner that looked hand made. I suspected that Ernie was a bit over-invested in our graduation party when Kim pointed out the colors – pink, red, green, blue and yellow.
Again, I had to wonder if he knew something more about his regular teen customers than we realized.
Once we walked in, we were immediately greeted with yells and applause. It almost felt like the day when the original rangers had been honored by the city. And while I hadn’t been in uniform with them, I remember feeling the same pride in being appreciated, as they had to have.
Thinking about that day brought me back to thinking about passing our powers just an hour or so ago. Even with the slightly dull feeling of being without our powers, I thought that all of us were still in good spirits with the feeling of hope for the future. I looked at Kim happily talking with Kat and Tanya, and reminded myself that we were here to celebrate. Hopefully more things than just our graduation.
Now that we had handed off
our powers and could do what we wanted; Tanya was talking about to some of her
friends about going to L.A. and trying to get a recording contract, Rocky and
Adam been discussing college and/or a business, maybe a dojo, but now seem
really serious about doing it. When Kat had arrived with her parents, she
announced that she’d received a letter offering her a space with Julliard in
And I was getting ready to hit Kim with the question of questions.
Except I was waiting for just the right moment.
Which might be right about now, I thought abruptly. Coming through the door, I see Jason, Zack and Trini walk into the party. They’d promised they’d do their best to get here before the ceremony, but when I didn’t see them earlier, I assumed that they got held up.
Jase and Zack head straight for me. You would think that after nearly two years being separated by a continent and an ocean, only seeing each other occasionally with a phone call regularly, I’d have found a closer best friend. But Jason and I have too much between us. After everything, Jason has always stood by me, and I plan on having him do that again when Kim and I get married.
If we get married.
As I stand here, looking at Kim talking with Trini and Kat, I swear that facing Rita, Zedd, Mondo and Divatox single-handedly wouldn’t scare me as much as the prospect of her turning me down.
“You’re not getting nervous, are you?” Jason asks me with a grin as he clasps my shoulder in greeting.
“What if she says no?” I murmur, starting to feel a pack of Tengas fly around my stomach.
“This is exactly like the time when you wanted to ask her to the spring dance, my friend,” comments Zack humorously, “she’s gonna say yes. You just have to ask her.”
I shake my head in resigned understanding.
“Are you sure that I can’t convince you to ask for me?” I question Jason. In my calls to him, he’s always been supportive of my decision, and offered to be there for me through the whole thing. The fact he considers Kim like a sister made it easier. Still though, I’d be much happier if I could get him to ask for me.
“Please tell me you’re kidding!” Zack yells, a bit too loud as a few people turn to glance at us. I quickly smile and wave them all off.
“Sorry bro, but this is something you’ve got to do on your own.”
Sighing, I glance around to see if everyone’s here. As I make a mental count, I realize that I have nothing and no one left to wait on. It’s now or never, I tell myself, and start to head over to Kimberly when I feel a hand come down on my shoulder and my name being called out.
“Uncle John!” I exclaim, being surprised by the appearance of my dad’s famous car racing brother. I wasn’t expecting him, and I wonder if he’s here because of the graduation or the marriage proposal.
“Tommy, you’ve grown up so much,” he notes proudly, seemingly pleased.
“We’ll, it’s been a while. I didn’t know mom and dad had invited you. Hell, I didn’t know what state you were in this month, to be honest.”
“Being on the racing circuit
can be like that. But we were lucky that there’s an event at
“What?” I say inanely, sounding really dumber than I’d like.
“Racing cars my boy. I had one of my drivers decide to retire, so the team has a vacancy. I know that you’ve always been a natural with cars, and the last time we came through, you seemed to take to it faster than most.”
“But what about college? And Kim?” I question. This is really too much for my poor head to take. First graduation, then passing our powers, planning to propose to Kim and now an offer to drive racecars for my uncle. The day has been eventful to say the least.
“She can come with,” he replies with a wink. “We can always use another hand in the pit or with the crew. Besides, young lovers shouldn’t split up. Bad for a relationship.”
“I have to talk it over with Kim first uncle John,” I state firmly, hoping he’ll appreciate my honesty.
“Sure thing. You just go and ask her that other question first, then we can all talk about your racing career.”
Without another word or a moment to prepare, he gives me a shove in Kim’s direction, and suddenly I feel everyone’s attention turn towards me. Maybe it would have been better to do this in private. Or not let everyone in on the plan.
Then Kim turns and looks at me, and those thoughts just go out the window. Unfortunately, so does the nicely rehearsed speech I had planned.
“Kimberly,” I start as she smiles and tilts her head to the side, trying to figure out the expression of fear on my face, “marry me.”
There’s silence in the room now, except for the quiet buzz of nervous and excited whispers. Kim’s still staring at me, and I realize that I forgot to pull out her ring when I asked her, so I fumble in my pocket and pull out the black velvet box. The moment Kim sees it, her face goes white. She didn’t realize I was serious. Now she does.
I pull back the lid and reach in to pry loose the ring. I thought about it for a long time, but finally decided on the palest pink diamond, quarter karat heart shaped stone they had that I could afford, set into the gold band. Holding it out, I see Kim’s eyes filling with tears, break loose and start streaming down her face.
“I love you Beautiful, and I can’t imagine ever being without you again. Will you marry me?”
I hear a yes as she launches herself into my arms and I pull her tightly into my embrace. Around us I barely register the roar of approval from the team, our friends and family.
Slowly, we pull back and I kiss her deeply before taking her left hand in mine and sliding the ring on her finger. With her other hand, she wipes at her tear tracks and reaches over to run a thumb under my eyes, erasing the evidence of my own emotional reaction to her accepting my proposal.
“I love you Thomas Oliver,” she says in a whisper that only I can hear, and I smile what probably has to be the biggest grin of my life and take her hands in mine.
“I love you to Kim. And after all that we’ve been through, I’m never letting you go again.”
Kim moves forward and kisses me again at my statement, and when she finally gives me some air by breaking the heady kiss, we realize that we’re surrounded. Looking around, we start making the rounds with everyone, accepting their congratulations, hugs and well wishes.
And as the evening wore on, I realized that no matter what I had to go though, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it, because I was getting exactly what I needed to be happy for the rest of my live.
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