Always a Ranger - Part 31
By Jeannine Trevizo
The next morning found them sprawled in Kim’s bed, bodies still linked like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Kim woke with the alarm, set as it was now for early morning practice, and heard Tommy groan beside her. Swiftly she untangled herself from his embrace and the sheets and turned it off. She moved from the bed and picked up the receiver of her phone, running her finger along the short list of the coaching staff and gymnasts in the housing. Quickly she dialed a five digit number and waited as it rang. It was only when Tommy opened his eyes and focused on her that whomever on the other end answered.
“Anton? Hey, it’s Kim.”
Tommy watched as Kim nodded her head, obviously listening to her boss, Coach Gregor on the other end.
“Yeah, he found me. Actually, that’s why I’m calling. I thought I might skip practice this morning with the team? He has a noon flight, and we thought we’d take a quick look around this morning.”
There was another round of silence, and then she smiled.
“Great. I’ll see you then.”
Hanging up, Kim slid back under the covers and found herself immediately wrapped up in Tommy’s embrace.
“So, are we good?” Tommy asked.
“We are. There’s an afternoon session I need to be at, but not until three.”
“Then let’s get dressed…”
It did take them a while, but after showering, Tommy threw on the clothes he’d worn to Greece: blue jeans, black t-shirt and a tan button up shirt along with his boots. While he dressed, Kim showered, and then chose a simple floral printed sundress of violet and pink tones and sandals to wear outside. Collecting a wide brimmed straw sun hat, she grabbed Tommy’s hand and her ID badge with her room key and cash and they headed out.
Once they’d gotten out of her room, they’d made their way through the building, down the elevator and out into the bright sun. Tommy shaded his eyes, and Kim threw on her hat. She’d bought it her first day out since arriving in Athens, and it was a purchase that was keeping her from melting in the hot Greek weather. Before they could start sight seeing, they had to hand in Tommy’s visitor badge at the security gate. With that done, they set out to look around Athens.
After a walk through the Olympic Village, they had headed for the real streets of Athens where they felt the crush of people disappear, unlike how it had been in the Olympic venues. Without knowing exactly where they were going, they headed West, passing street after street of shops, businesses and eateries. They walked along without a care, appreciating the little time they had before Tommy’s plane left for the U.S.
“So, you’re taking time off from ‘the job’ huh?” Kim joked as they walked along the tight pathways, stopping to peek into a souvenir shop window.
“The team promised to take care of things while I was gone. Besides, you and I both know that they’re more than capable.”
“Of course. You did train them.”
He batted a hand at her as they walked past a sidewalk espresso stand, and stopped briefly to get a cup each, as well as a local pastry to give them some much needed nourishment. The coffee was good, and the pastries tasty, but the simple act of being able to be together was more than enough to keep them energized.
It was then, holding Kim’s hand and turning to walk along the plazas of Greece that Tommy truly realized that that Kim was his.
They’d been through so much over the years: being rangers, losing powers, watching the other in danger, being separated, not being in love with one another… the list was as long as his arm. And when they’d finally found their way back together, he’d feared he’d lost her again.
To Chris Masters.
Yet after confronting the guy, and then the heartrending reaction Kim had at his anger, fearing it was directed at her, he’d felt like the last of the questions about their future had evaporated into thin air. Kim had in no certain terms informed him that she was in love with him, and had no interest in not only her former Pan Global flame, but anyone who wasn’t him.
But their reunion on the streets of Athens was bittersweet; his flight was leaving in just a few more hours. Still, they had some time, and they continued to wander through some of the tourist style shops.
“Do you think Aisha would like this?” Kim asked, holding up a replica of an ancient Greek vase from the front table of a local potter’s store.
“Probably. But then if it’s from you, I’m sure she’d love anything you got her.”
Undecided, she turned to head out, with Tommy only a step or two behind her. Once they were on the street again, he had her hand in his, keeping possession of what he considered his.
They crossed the street and then turned the corner, starting down along another narrow road, with just enough space for parking cars on one side and one lane of traffic going in each direction. The type of businesses along the larger street were eclectic, and Tommy wondered how much business they did before the tourists for the Olympics had arrived. Considering the rumors, their business would pick up again after the Olympics were gone.
As he noted an older looking local café across the street from them, Tommy found himself scanning the area rapidly. While the streets were not so busy, and nothing seemed unusual, something had set his radar off. It was part of his old habits of being a ranger and the leader of a ranger team. He had learned to trust his instincts about trouble. Yet before he could make any guess as to what it was that was bothering him, things quickly spiraled out of control.
The café blew up.
In a split second Tommy threw himself and Kim to the pavement as glass, flame, wood and stone exploded out into the street in a roar of noise. Billows of dark smoke rolled over them, and they heard screams and moans fill the air. Tommy picked himself up and then reached down to help Kim up.
They turned to look at the center of where the blast had come from and what greeted them looked like a war zone.
“Oh my God,” Tommy murmured.
The entire café was in ruins, and the cars and other vehicles in front were twisted heaps of metal on fire, black smoke pouring from them, the vehicles a little farther down the street had their windows blown out, like most of the buildings around the area. Then the sound of sirens in the distance hit them as the emergency vehicles more than likely had been called and were headed towards the chaos.
“Kim, you okay?” Tommy hurriedly asked, turning to look at his love as the sounds of screaming, crying, wailing and shouting continued.
Her mouth hung open slightly as she took in the carnage. He saw the scrape on her forehead where her hat had been flung off and she’d hit the pavement when he’d thrown them to the ground. Beyond that, she seemed alright. Another scream for help pulled him away from her, his body turning automatically when Kim gasped, bringing his attention back to her.
“Oh God, Tommy, you’re hurt,” she said shocked, reaching for him.
Tommy pulled up short when he felt Kim turn him towards her and to the right. Then her fingers brushed feather light along his left shoulder, and he winced.
“There’s a piece of glass here. We should have you see a doctor.”
Shaking his head, Tommy tried to reach for it himself, but couldn’t get a grip.
“There’s no time for that. Kim, we need to help these people while the emergency crews are still on their way. Just pull it out, and we’ll start helping check for injured people.”
He gave her a determined look, and Kim recognized it immediately. He was in leader mode. Their own pain and fear needed to get put away while they helped those around them. This was what they were – uniforms or no, years long past or none at all. They were heroes - rangers. Always.
And protecting life was paramount.
Biting down on her lower lip, Kim reached out and took a firm grip on the shard of glass. With a slight nod of his head, indicating he was ready, Kim yanked the two inch piece of glass from Tommy’s shoulder, and he grunted with the pain. Tossing the glass aside, she quickly ripped a piece from her gauzy dress and pressed it tightly to the bleeding wound.
Only after a few moment’s had ticked by, Tommy took hold of her hand and pulled it away.
“It’ll be fine. Let’s do what we can now.”
She gave a tight little smile, and they turned and waded into the chaos, doing what they could to help anyone they found.
An hour later, Tommy and Kim walked through the International terminal in Athens. His plane was leaving in just under an hour. He sported an Athens police t-shirt, given to him by one of the rescuers who had arrived after the carnage, and found him and Kim tending to the wounded and helping those who couldn’t get out of the wreckage to the ambulances. His shirts had been ruined with blood, smoke and the hole where the glass had cut into him, so the man had given him the shirt as a sort of thank you.
As they walked now, he found himself tightening his grip on her hand. The fear that he’d fixated on when he’d gotten on the plane to Athens was gone. No one had come between them, Kim loved only him and his fears about her former flame had been unfounded.
But when the bomb had gone off less than two hours ago, he’d been struck with another kind of fear…
Now, as they reached the last area for unticketed passengers, Tommy felt that fear creeping up on him again. The fear that he’d never see her again. It was irrational, he knew that. But still he felt it. He loved her so much, he couldn’t lose her again.
Every moment since the first moment he’d seen her flashed through his mind. After so many times of saying goodbye to her, he didn’t want to say it this time. And now, in this moment, he knew for a fact that he was going to marry this woman and they’d live happily ever after.
He turned her towards him, taking both of her hands and looking deeply into her heart and soul through her soft brown eyes. If nothing else, he wanted to leave with something more than he came there with; a real promise that he’d never have to say goodbye to her ever again.
“Kimberly, I love you,” Tommy said, and watched her smile at him, her head tilting slightly at the serious tone of his voice.
“I know Tommy; I love you too.”
“I know you do Beautiful, but I meant… God, I don’t know how to say this without just saying it. I spent so many years without you; before we met, after you left that first time, and then all the months since we found our way back to one another again. All I know is that I’m a better man when you’re with me. I can’t imagine being without you now.”
Kim tightened her grip on his hands, and felt his answering squeeze nearly crush her fingers.
“You are my heart and soul Kimberly, and I will love you forever,” he said softly, pulling her closer as he forced the last words past his lips. “Will you marry me?”
He watched as first her face went blank, the color draining from it and her eyes grew liquid as the words sank into her heart and soul. Seeing her reaction, Tommy quickly began to fumble through an explanation, as if to make her realize how serious he was.
“I didn’t bring the ring with me Kim… I hadn’t planned on being here, or being in this situation, but…” he stammered.
When she pulled her hands from his, his heart sunk. Then he saw the tears streaking down her face and the brilliant smile that he’d only seen a few times in his life – those moments that had always brought her to him.
“Yes, yes, God… a thousand times yes,” Kim said thickly as she flung her arms around him in a tight embrace, her hat falling to the carpeted terminal floor.
There was nothing to say. His love had agreed to marry him, and he crushed her to him tightly, sealing them together in the middle of the jet way, and people around them who had heard the proposal applauded around them. Still, that sound as well as the other noises of planes taking off, people moving past and talking was washed out by the thundering in their ears by the beating of their joined hearts as they clung together.
Reaching a hand up, Tommy clutched Kim’s face and guided it to him, locking their lips into an intense yet emotionally soft kiss.
Only when they finally pulled their lips from one another did Kim realize what they’d done.
“So, no ring,” she said smiling, teasing her *fiancé*. “Your memory doesn’t seem to have gotten all that much better since we first started dating.”
“Stop it… It’s in Reefside and I’ll have it in hand when you get off the plane,” he replied happily, smiling at the woman who was his life.
“Call me in 18 hours, alright? I should be in by then.”
“We’re going to make this work, aren’t we?”
“After everything we’ve been through to get here, I can’t see how we *can’t* work,” he replied, running a hand along her cheek.
Kim nodded, reaching up to cover the hand on her cheek with her own. Even if the team won the gold medal it wouldn’t compare to this moment.
“I have to head back…”
“Be careful, alright?” Tommy asked of her, knowing the danger was obviously not over and she nodded.
“You too,” demanded Kim, and he shrugged.
“Hey, I can’t avoid ‘work’ you know.”
“Just don’t do anything stupid.”
“Hey, it’s me.”
“I know, that’s why I’m asking you to try not to do the stupid, dangerous things I know you probably will end up doing anyway.”
Tommy laughed and leaned down to kiss her again. She knew how he was. Wasn’t that why he needed her in his life. The one person who called him on his stupidity and stubbornness?
“Love you too Tommy.”
“I’ll see you soon.”
Before he could step back, Kim reached up and wrapped her hand around his neck and pulled his lips down to her mouth. As they met, her lips sealed her return to him with a determined promise. They belonged to not just themselves, but to each other. And she was determined to make sure that she returned to him this time, like she hadn’t before.
When the kiss finally broke, they stared into each other’s eyes, seeing the love and dedication there.
“Go. Your plane leaves soon,” Kim insisted, and pulled her hand from its place around his neck. “I’ll call you with my flight information to Reefside soon.”
Unable to say anything more if he wanted to get on the plane, Tommy grasped Kim’s fingers and weaved them briefly with his own before breaking away and hurrying away to customs before he boarded his plane.
Kim watched him leave, her hand pressed against her lips to hold the feeling of his mouth on hers a little longer. Soon enough, she’d be back in his arms… her fiancé’s arms.
The thought of that made her giggle, and when the laughter stopped, she quickly bent to pick up her hat and then turned to head back to her current responsibilities while her mind whirled around her future ones.
A/N2: I want it clear that I in no way condone bombings, civil unrest and violence used as a tool for people’s causes. I HOPE that nothing like the bombing I described in this story occurs before the Games conclude. However, as this is the real world that we live in, I wanted to portray how our heroes might have dealt with this situation in this chapter. Thank you – Jeannine
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