Title: "The Long, Hot Summer"
Written by: Shawn
Chapter (5/5)

Summary: By her side...

Category: Erotica/Romance/Angst
Rating: Hard NC-17
Timeline/Spoilers: Summer of 1997 following the Power Rangers Turbo season - Rangers have passed the Torch - Zack, Trini, and Jason have returned from the Peace Conference. Billy is healed and fine.

Disclaimer: Saban owns it all again.

Authors Notes 1: Slightly AU time-line wise as Rangers are all 20 or so here - Tommy/Kim never had their talk after the events of the Turbo movie as she went right back to Florida. This story will span the entire summer of 1997.

Authors Notes 2: Love, regret, passion, anger, and growing up are all issues explored here.

Authors Notes 3: This series will be a series of 1 scene chapters and I will only post this when all five are done. Then I will post each one day after the other.

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******

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"The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of."
~ Blaise Pascal

~~~~~~

St. Jude Hospital
Tuesday, August 16, 1997 2:45 AM
Los Angeles, Ca

Life happened.

No one was immune to it. That unexpected heartbreak when you were so sure you got it right this time... that layoff just as you were planning to start a family... a doctor's terrible diagnosis when you were certain there was nothing to worry about... that car that came out of nowhere even when you were paying such close attention to the road... that horribly unexpected 2:00 AM hospital phone call that tragically shocked you wide awake from a peaceful sleep.

With her eyes shut, Kimberly Hart sat alone in the sterile waiting room, dreading every outside footstep she heard as she waited for the doctor to return with news about her mother's
current condition. Caroline had complained all evening about a terrible Migraine headache. One that had her daughter so concerned she decided to spend the night with her just to keep an eye on her.

Two hours later Kimberly heard her mother stumble out into the upstairs hallway. She shot out of bed to find Caroline had collapsed in front of the bathroom, seemingly in the throes of
a seizure. Kim quickly realized this was very serious and dialed 911 immediately.

The next hour was a terrifying blur of activity that left Kim feeling helpless as she learned her mother had a brain aneurysm. One that caused bleeding in the space closely surrounding her brain and was a very dangerous condition. She was taken away while the doctor explained how serious this was, and how lucky they were to bring her in so fast.

But Caroline still might die tonight. And if she survived there was the real possibility of brain damage, memory loss, and or paralysis. Her strong, independent mother; Kim just couldn't imagine it.

How could this have happened? Caroline Hart worked out twice a week, didn't smoke or do drugs. She ate right and had regular check-ups. She was active all the time. Kimberly shook her head while fighting off a fresh wave of tears at how unfair life was sometimes. Her mom hadn't complained about anything physically in... years, Kim tried to recall.

Life happened.

It could be cruel, unfair, unbiased, and completely unexpected.

Beside her sat a full cup of coffee she hadn't drank a sip of. She didn't need caffeine to stay awake tonight. Her Dad and brother were trying to catch red-eye flights out of their respective States as soon as they could. Her mom's sister Pamela was nine months pregnant and couldn't make the trip, but wanted hourly updates. Her uncle was overseas and unreachable at the moment.

Kimberly knew that within one phone call word would spread to her friends and she'd be surrounded by all of them. She was ever so grateful to be able to count on so many people that truly loved and cared for her, but she didn't want that tonight. A crowd just felt like to much to deal with, and before she even realized it she had dialed Tommy's number. It rang several times before his barely conscious voice picked up. She didn't recall what she said outside of her mother being ill, the name of the hospital, and that she needed him to come alone.

On the other end of the phone she heard the desperate rustle of clothes and him promising
her, "Give me ten minutes."

She didn't call anyone else, needing to know her mom's condition before she could face
the gang. But her heart needed Tommy with her, and no matter the painfully puzzling state of their... whatever it was, she reached out to him.

Fast-moving footsteps were heard just before the waiting room doors pushed open. Tommy looked around frantically, finding a very pale Kim seated on a couch all by herself. He had on jeans, a white t-shirt and sneakers. He looked like a disheveled mess, but he drove as fast as he could to
get here. His heart sank at the somber expression in her eyes. Dear God no! He suddenly couldn't move. "Kim, is she..."

"No," she smiled weakly, visibly trembling, and then breathed a sigh of relief when he swiftly approached her. A heartbeat later she was within the warm embrace of his arms, clutching tightly
to him. Her face buried in his chest as she began to sob, her fists clutching handfuls of his t-shirt. Warm tears soaked through the soft white fabric as he held onto her, cradling her petite form. Scared eyes lifted to greet his own. "She's alive, but she's in emergency surgery right now to stop the bleeding. She had a brain aneurysm."

Tommy gasped loudly, knowing so very little about anything to do with that sort of
condition. "Okay, what do we know so far?"

As they took a walk around the hospital's 6th floor just to get Kim moving, she caught him up everything that happened tonight. He listened closely, her hand in his as they stopped by a large window, gazing out at the night sky.

"One in fifteen people will have a brain aneurysm in their lifetime," Kim repeated what the doctor had told her. "My mom," she trembled as fear gripped her tightly, her hand rising to cover her face as she crumbled. "There could be permanent brain damage or paralysis even if they stop the bleeding and save her life. There is no quick fix to this. Her way of life is..."

Tommy gathered her into his arms once more, clutching her tightly, resting his chin on top of her head. "For the moment lets trust in the doctors, educate ourselves on the condition, and then deal with where we are right now," he began, brushing her hair back softly. Oh how he would give his life to protect her from any pain. She was terrified for her mom, and so was he. "Its always good to know the possibilities, but lets deal with the facts when they come in. For now we wait and read some of the literature the doctor gave you."

"Thank you for coming."

"Where else would I be?"

She nodded gratefully, brushing her hand lightly over his cheek, simply needing to touch him. This was where he belonged. Where she belonged too. But the time to address that wasn't right now.

******

2 and a half hours later

5:15 AM

******

"Please."

Kimberly shooed the ham and Swiss deli sandwich away, but did take at least take a little nibble of a croissant. Her eyes locked with Tommy's. "There, are you happy?"

"No, but its a start," Tommy noted as they sat together in the hospital cafeteria. The corner booth was small and maroon colored in decor. He'd returned to her with food just a short time ago, hoping to help her keep her strength up. Her eyes were red from crying and worry, something he longed to take away from her. Even as he knew that he couldn't, he vowed to stay by her side.

Surveying the quiet cafeteria, Tommy found only four other people sat around them. He couldn't help wondering what each of their stories were. The older Hispanic gentleman sitting alone who looked drained and exhausted. The two Indian girls who sat across from them appeared to be sisters in appearance, eating without uttering a word to each other, seemingly lost in their own thoughts. The African-American woman reading a Oncology booklet while nursing a steaming cup of coffee.

Tommy could only hope for the best for them. He then turned his attentions back to Kimberly. "Eat a little more, please."

Kim wanted to swat him good, but knew he was only looking after her. She finished off half the croissant, but couldn't force anymore down. Ever since the doctor told her just a few minutes ago that her mother survived the emergency surgery, a tiny swell of hope grew within her. But they were a long way from home until she woke up, and even then the road ahead...

His soft, hesitant caress felt wonderful as she visually traced the way he held her hand between them. She stared down at their joined hands, pondering how anything could look so right. But her thoughts were foremost with her mother. The possibility of permanent damage to her brain was still present, even as the doctor told her to remain hopeful as the surgery went very well. "Life is so crazy sometimes."

Squeezing her hand, Tommy nodded. "You have to be grateful for every day you're alive and take nothing for granted. Easier said than done, but that's how it goes."

"There was nothing at all special about tonight," Kimberly considered out loud as she exhaled deeply. "It's her birthday or some special occasion. It was just another Monday night. We both went to work, came home, and then I met her for dinner. We ate Mac and Cheese and baked chicken. It was so average," she half-smiled as her nails lightly rapped at the table. "Then out of the blue she almost died." The tenor of her voice trembled as Tommy gathered her closer. "She almost died," whispered painfully from her lips. "She doesn't deserve this. She gives blood and does volunteer work and is so good to people. She's such an amazing mother. Why is this happening to her? I just don't understand God sometimes."

"Neither do I," Tommy replied while holding her closely. He pressed a dear kiss to her temple, resting his head against hers while gently rocking her. "Life throws so many unpredictable and unfair things at you, but you can't never give up. You keep fighting and you don't stop no matter how bad things look."

"Sometimes even when you do all of that, things still don't work out in the end."

"At least you know you tried your best. Nothing is promised to anyone."

The countless lives saved and lost when they served as Rangers crossed her mind. Kimberly paused for a brief moment, dreading what she was about to say. "The doctor told me that half the people who survive brain aneurysm's suffer some form permanent neurological damage."

"Whatever happens, your Mom won't face anything alone. And neither will you."

A tender smile curved the corner of her mouth. When he yawned she was reminded of how long a day he probably had, and that he was here with her all night simply because she needed him. He rushed to her side as fast as he could when she called him, and that meant the world to her.

Suddenly Tommy felt Kimberly's hand death-grip him. He glanced down the hall as the doctor treating Ms. Hart approached them quickly.

******

2 hours later

7:15 AM

******

Leaning against the wall outside of Caroline Hart's intensive care hospital room, Tommy thoroughly studied a pamphlet on surviving brain aneurisms. He read about how unique each case was depending on the severity of the condition, what was to be realistically expected throughout therapy, and what was hoped for in the way of going back to living as normal a life as possible.

The long road to recovery wasn't a promised one. It seemed that some amount of memory loss was a given. Add into that the issues of lost motor functions that needed to be relearned and the very real possibility of some paralysis illuminated that though Caroline was still alive, she had a tough journey ahead of her before she resumed some semblance of a normal life. The next days, weeks, months and years were going to require such patience, determination, courage, and love.

But Ms. Hart was a woman he knew was up to any task. She was a fighter, and failure was not an option.

Folding the pamphlet in half as his mind was a bit overwhelmed by so much information that was kinda over his head, he slipped it in his back pocket. Caroline was still unconscious, but breathing on her own without the help of a respirator. Her doctor told them the surgery could not have gone better, and there was cause for hope that the long-term issues she might face may be minimal. But that was no guarantee. Thank goodness for the skilled paramedic that recognized what Caroline had wasn't a seizure as he didn't use the heart paddles to revive her. For if he had he might of killed her.

Shaking his head, Tommy's thoughts turned to the young woman behind the closed door. Kimberly sat at her mother's bedside, holding her hand. She was talking to her mother, no doubt begging her to fight and promising that she wasn't going to go through any of this alone. Tommy watched her through the partially opened curtain, his heart going out to her. He had worried and been so frustrated over the state of things between them, as well as his rapidly regressing racing career, and so many little things that just didn't seem to matter anymore. For if you had your health you had just about everything you needed. All the rest was window dressing and decision making.

Ten minutes ago Tommy called his parents just to hear their voices. Just to tell them what happened and that he loved them and that he never wanted to take them or even one single day for
granted. They told him they would pray for Caroline and stop by after work to see her. He thanked them, told them he loved them again, and then resumed his protective watch over Kimberly.

The hospital door opened as Kim slipped out, and then quietly shut it. The former Pink Ranger seemed a bit stronger, summoning her courage as she offered him a small, fragile smile. "This isn't going to be easy. In fact, its going to be the fight of her life."

Tommy nodded as she quietly crossed over to him, and then leaned against the wall beside him. He followed her line of vision from where they stood, knowing that she now knew he was watching over her the whole time. She gave him a silent thank you. "I read the entire pamphlet twice." He slipped his arm, around her waist, pulling her closer as their shared warmth soothed them both. They drew strength from each other. "She's alive and she's a fighter. She's going to get her life back."

"Yes, but not her old one," Kimberly replied honestly, fighting her way through a yawn. "Not entirely."

"At least she has a life to go after at all. So many brain aneurism victims die before they are reached or on the operating table. Your mom survived. She's a fighter and somehow, someway she will conquer this."

Kimberly leaned into his solid form, seeking this familiar closeness, ever thankful he knew just what she needed to hear. He knew her so well it astounded her. "I know I've said this already, but thank you for staying with me all night."

Coming from her side, Tommy stood before her. His humble gaze reached her brown eyes. "I'm in love with you."

She sighed peacefully, and then smiled. "I know." It really was that easy to admit and
acknowledge. And the world didn't end either. "I'm in love with you too."

They enjoyed the gentle, sweet acceptance of their declarations to each other. After all the days of misunderstanding and hurt feelings over when he should have said it, or why she took what happened the way that she did, it was his actions today that spoke to her loud and clear. They weren't some fairy tail couple or some high school fantasy. High school was done and this was the real world, complete with all that came with the title of being a adult.

There were scars, tears, painful memories, and regret mixed in with passion, the sweetest love, and such a powerful connection that bonded them once more. They simply wanted to be together more than anything else in their individual lives.

'They' were worth fighting for.

Feeling relieved, Tommy curled his hand around hers, holding it between them. "We don't have to talk about anything to do with us right now, you know. I just wanted you to know how I feel about you and I never want you to doubt it again."

Kimberly tugged his hand along as they began walking down the long hall. "After what's happened to my mom, talking about us feels easy," she explained. "Its given me a new perspective on what's truly important. I've been driving myself crazy over us and asking myself a million and one questions."

She continued, "I just wanted to enjoy my last summer before college, and I did. That was because of you. We were just so..." she blushed, and then squeezed his hand. "We were wild and carefree, and nothing else mattered. I thought we'd enjoy a sexy affair and then walk away as friends, but every single time we kissed I wanted more. I didn't want to want more, but I did. And I was terrified you just wanted me sexually... but deep down I knew you felt more."

"I did," he agreed as two nurses walked by. "I was losing my mind over how much I missed you every day. I was just scared because of everything that happened with the letter," he revealed. "Guys come with a whole set of insecurities we try very hard to never reveal. I was scared of giving all of me to you again. I thought that if I did and it didn't work out, I wouldn't have anything left. But tonight just reminded me that life isn't promised and you have to be brave with your heart."

"So we're gonna be brave?" Kim smiled lightly, her voice a tiny tease.

"I hope so, but I'll understand if this isn't the right time with everything going on."

She was thankful he was so understanding, but she didn't need to think about this anymore. "I'm not going to have a ton of free time between work, school, and helping my mom. I'm just being honest with you now."

"If I offered to help you with your mom, would you accept it?" he asked as they stepped onto a elevator.

"Of course, but it won't be a lot romantic time. Nights of just us going out to dinner and a movie might be few and far between in the foreseeable future." She exhaled as the sheer weight of what was to come swept over her. The magnitude of the journey ahead that her mother faced, but would not face alone. "Us starting again is going to come with a lot of sacrifice and understanding. Are you ready for that?"

"I love you with all my heart, Kim. I'm more than ready. I'm determined we get it right this time. Whatever you face, I'll be by your side."

"Ditto," she smiled as they stepped off the elevator and walked toward the hospitals entrance. The doors opened, revealing a bright, sunny new day. The dark night, ever terrifying, had
passed. "I've got to go to the airport to pick up my Dad and brother. Will you call the gang and tell them what happened?"

"Of course," he nodded as they walked toward the parking garage. "Will you have lunch with me?"

"That's not a marriage proposal," she smiled.

"Gonna work my way up to that in a few years."

"Good time-line." She leaned into him, and as he bent down to her she rose to meet his mouth, kissing him thoroughly. The absolute bliss of the moment gently fell back into the reality of the day. Nonetheless they held each other for a long moment before releasing. "I love you."

"I love you too."

******

The End