It’s strange how your entire life can change in an instant. Kimberly Hart had never really considered things like ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’ before becoming a Power Ranger, but she’s sure there’s something to be said about how certain things happen for a reason. And all it takes is a split second decision, one monumental moment, and all your carefully laid plans get wiped from the board, altering the course of your entire future.
A month ago Kim had hit rock bottom so hard she’d been tempted to bury herself six feet below the rubble and ash her life had crumbled to. And this wasn’t just some teenage angst fest or a cry for attention she’s sure people would have seen it as; after all she wasn’t the victim in any of this. She was the one who sent the photo that had ruined Amanda’s image. She was the one who punched Ty’s tooth out and put herself in detention. She had blamed everyone and everything in her life except herself. She was no victim, she was a coward.
It hits her in the bathroom, with the sound of Amanda and Harper’s laughter echoing in the silence around her and the picture of her broken life staring back at her. It hits her, this urge to just… disappear and leave it all behind. She grips the scissors until her palm oozes and a few drops stain the porcelain sink. She glares at the pathetic and broken girl looking back at her and she doesn’t even recognize herself anymore.
Yes the urge had been there, like a shadow creeping over her shoulder and whispering in her ear, taunting and beckoning her into the inky blackness.
But she doesn’t listen. Not yet at least. Instead she pushes the shadows back and channels the fire and fury coursing through her and cuts her hair. It’s radical and strange but the girl in the mirror at least looks strong and indifferent. She envies that girl. Because she’s the one splintering underneath it all. Like someone’s applying pressure to the glass and she’s watching the cracks creep across the surface, only to realize she’s the one breaking.
And you just know that eventually it’s going to shatter through and through.
That night she powers off her phone after receiving various threats and insults from her old squad, and the urge returns full force. She lays in her bed for hours, staring off at nothing and feeling numb, but her thoughts run in a constant loop. Thinking, contemplating, loathing, planning.
She’d been ready that night. Had even written up a small note and stuffed it inside her desk, mostly for posterity than sentiment. Her parents wouldn’t care- well, no they would care but she’s sure they’d be livid instead of heartbroken. Her parents care too much about image and impression, everything that a person sees on the surface but none of the things that lurk beneath the curtains. You know, the stuff that actually matters. They’re superficial and she kind of hates them for it, hates herself for taking after them, but they’ll move on just fine without her. Perhaps they’ll even notice her absence for a change.
She goes hiking for one last breath of fresh air. The mountains have always been her salvation, her sanctuary away from the real world. She enjoys the silence the dead of the night brings, the ominous woods that stretch for miles and miles, filled with its shadows and its secrets. She’s ready for one last swim, one last free-fall into her secret pond, and then she’ll head home and say goodbye to this sad crap town once and for all.
But then Jason Scott finds her little hang out, scaring the shit out of her but mostly just distracting her. Billy Cranston blows up the mountainside and she follows Jason instead of going home. Zack Taylor digs out the glowing rocks and she grabs the pink one, feels it pull her into its color. Trini Gomez runs away and without even thinking she gives chase.
She’s pretty sure they should have died that night. Probably did in a way or something similar but they don’t because then she’s waking up two days later and she’s alive. How ironic.
But she’s better than alive, actually. She’s supernatural. Inhuman. Alien.
And that was only the beginning.
The end comes not long after. They had been expecting it of course (some for longer than others, but Kim doesn’t tell them that) from the moment they shared the vision of Rita and the decimation of their world. It’s seems futile but they still train. And weirdly enough Kim’s almost certain that these misfits actually start to grow on her. Billy dies and Kim’s heartbroken, shaking and angry, mostly with herself. But then they morph and it feels like for the first time they actually stand a chance. The moment their Zords take off towards Angel Grove they’re all ready to die for the world, for each other.
But expecting your demise and living it are two vastly different things.
She’s burning, the fire eating at her Zord and her oxygen. She can’t breathe and she’s sure that she’s dying. It’s different from the time they sort of died getting hit by the train, because that had been sudden and she hadn’t known it was going to happen and she can’t remember most of it. This is slow and painful, and they’re all desperately trying to hold on to the ground and each other. It’s right there, in that moment, that the urge falls away and she realizes she doesn’t want to die. Goldar crushes her. She’s broken and useless, and then they’re all falling. She screams, her family’s cries echoing through her helmet as they burn and leave this world the same way they were brought into it. Together.
That was the end.
Except it’s not because they’re standing tall in the MegaZord and Kim can breathe again. Everyone regains their bearings and they figure out how to pilot the MegaZord together. They defeat Goldar and send Rita Repulsa’s sorry ass rocketing into the stratosphere. They save the Crystal. The save the town. They save the world.
So why does it feel like she’s still burning?
She supposes that it’s not going to be easy letting go of the feeling of utter defeat and the urge to just give it all up. But she’s stronger now, gets stronger everyday with the rest of them, and she’s a little relieved that the urges begin to fade into the darkest recesses of her mind.
That’s not to say that the weeks after Rita’s attack aren’t a struggle. Amanda and the squad still harass her, torment her, and spread every little which rumor or lie they can come up with. Ty is still an asshole but it seems that she’s now fair game for his friends, and now she spends most of her time at school dodging spiteful cheerleaders and cruel, crude douchebags.
People stare when she walks down the hall and whisper when they think she can’t hear them. She holds her head high for the most part, refuses to give these bullies the satisfaction their looking for and the onlookers the meltdown they’re waiting for. She waits until she’s alone to let her guard down and only then does let herself care about the words and the looks. Only when she’s alone does she let how much this is affecting her show.
Because she can’t go to her team. Not about this. Not really.
Jason’s a good friend to go to when she needs the motivation to make it through the day. He gives her pep talks like any natural leader would, talks her out of her slumps and her grumpy days, pats her on the back like he’s congratulating her on a job well done. And sure, she sort of discussed the Amanda and the Ty thing with him, even bravely mentioned wanting to end things for good, but he’d hadn’t understood. Not completely. He told her that things would turn out okay in the end and she wishes it were true.
For the days when she’s been thinking too much she goes to Billy. They work together in his basement and she lets her mind go numb listening to him explain circuiting and physics, formulas and robotics, and various other tools he uses for his insane inventions. He doesn’t seem to mind that she gets lost or confused easily because he’s patient and deliberate and she’s just thankful he’s not telling her that she’s doing okay, even when she knows she isn’t.
The nights are the hardest but Trini makes them easier. The week after Rita’s attack she hadn’t slept at all, hadn’t gotten around to turning her mind off long enough to relax. It wasn’t until Trini texted her and asked if she wanted to come over did Kim realize that she wasn’t the only one having difficulty sleeping. She had crawled through Trini’s window to find a puffy eyed and sniffling girl who looked much younger than Kim could recall. They spent the entire night wrapped up in each other’s embrace, whispering comforting words and random thoughts to one another until they were both waking up some hours later, not remembering when they’d fallen asleep.
Trini opens up to her first. She tells Kim one night about Rita’s attack and the nightmares, and Kim’s brave enough to talk about her own nightmares, the ones where she’s back in her Zord, burning and suffocating. She doesn’t even realize she’s crying until Trini’s wiping at her cheeks to catch her tears and kissing her cheeks gently, oh so gently, and Kim feels like she can actually breathe again. She smiles, watery and sad, and Trini makes a joke and they giggle softly as the tension fades. Kim likes how they always fall back into something more comfortable. It’s less painful that way.
But she can’t talk to them about what’s really going on. Jason knows but he doesn’t get it. Billy wouldn’t understand or if he did he wouldn’t know how to help. And Trini? She could never burden Trini with something as pathetic as her self-thrown pity party. If they knew who she really was would they even care anymore? Would they stick around or leave her like everyone in her life has done before?
So she keeps them at arm’s length, with her walls built up tall and her draw bridges raised high. It’s not healthy, she knows this, but she’ll be damned if she ruins another good thing because of who she is. Thankfully they remain blissfully unaware of everything Kim’s keeping to herself. They don’t know.
But somehow, regardless of her meticulous avoidance and crafty façades, Zack has her picked apart in a matter of seconds.
She knew it was going to be a tough night when she’d come home to her parents arguing with one another which had quickly turned into both of them ganging up on her. The evening only got worse when Trini texted saying her mom and dad were dragging her and her brothers to their abuela’s for the weekend and she wouldn’t be back until Monday. She had been very sweet and apologetic and Kim had smiled to herself and tried to wave it off, but she couldn’t deny the ache in her chest thinking about the long night she was in for.
She’s wallowing in her room some hours later when Zack comes tumbling through her bedroom window. And when she says tumble she means he’s throwing himself bodily through her window and over her desk, his foot snagging on the chair and knocking a bunch of shit over, and he rolls too hard into her bed and ends up kicking her in the face.
“The fuck Zack!” she yells, clutching her jaw as Zack face plants into her carpet but he’s right back on his feet a second later, grinning madly.
“Sup princess! I’ve come to rescue you from your ivory tower.”
Kim sneers at the nickname. It doesn’t sound as nice as when Trini says it and Zack must be able to tell because his eyebrows wiggle a little and her cheeks grow hot. She throws a pillow at his head and falls back into the head board. “Zack get out, I’m not in the mood.”
He mumbles something too quiet for Kim to hear but when she raises her brow he simply rebuffs. “Come on Kimmy, I barely get to see you outside training or at school. And we don’t really hang out just the two of us,” he says trailing off at Kim’s unimpressed look. He snickers a little before saying, “I’ve also got a thirty we can kill together.”
She rolls her eyes but she figures something would be better than nothing at this point. Just as she accepts the offer Zack practically yanks her out of her window and they fall three stories with a crash. She groans and hits him for good measure because “I have a door you dufus,” but she smiles. He cackles and Kim’s not sure she’s ever really heard Zack laugh so openly before. She kind of likes it.
An hour later and Kim’s really starting to regret following Zack out to his train car. She had been hoping they would just waste the night listening to his music and drinking until they got tipsy (because having a meta-human metabolism means they can’t really get drunk anymore unless they really try) and she would head home after. But Zack’s been uncomfortably forward since they left Kim’s and it’s really starting to grind her gears.
When he makes fun of her cheering years she laughs with him because she’s a masochistic and lacks self-worth. The playful insults he threw at her she lets roll off her back with an easy glare. But when he starts digging into her life, asking about her growing feelings for Trini—which she doesn’t know how to answer just yet—and wonders aloud about how her parents treat her and how spoiled she is, then her glares grow hard and she grits her teeth.
She tells him to knock it off but he keeps pressing. It’s like he’s got the manual to Kim and he’s pushing all her buttons just to get a rise out of her. Kim tries to ignore him, downs three beers in a minute, and tells him to cut the shit. But he just smiles too wide and continues to poke and prod and annoy the shit out of her. It’s starting to get to the point where she’d take her parents yelling over his company and throttling him gets more and more tempting. She doesn’t realizes how angry she’s gotten until the can she’s holding crunches in her hand and she spills beer all over her lap. She’s close to throwing the damn thing at the boy’s head when he starts laughing at her.
“Way to be a white girl Kim!”
“Shut the fuck up Zack!” she shrieks but only succeeds in making him laugh harder.
She jumps up, seething and cheeks burning red hot, ready to storm off and hold this over him until she can whoop his ass in training come Monday. She’s not even tipsy, but she’s pissed and moving hastily and she ends up misjudging where the edge of the train car is. The second she slips she’s cursing loud as the ground rushes up to meet her. She lands on her back with a thud and a gasp.
Zack’s still laughing when he jumps down to crouch over her. His grin is cocky and he looks at her before cooing softly, “Aw, is the Queen B falling from grace yet again?”
And that’s when she shatters.
She roars to her feet and slams Zack into the train with enough force to dent it. He looks thrown for a half a second but then he’s smirking and laughing in her face. Her blood boils.
“Shut up Zack!” She slams her hands against his chest and the metal groans under the force.
“Aw, what’s the matter Queenie? Why you gotta be like this?”
“I said shut the fuck up!”
“Bout time you actually showed some emotion! I was starting to think you really were just a bitch!”
Her vision goes red and before she even realizes what she’s doing her left fist connects with his jaw. For a brief moment she’s shocked, filled with shame and guilt, and she goes to pull back but then Zack laughs maniacally and hollers in her face. “That all you got Kimmy?! Where’s all that fire gone lil birdie? Where’s the girl who punched out her ex-boyfriend’s tooth?!”
She deliberately remembers pulling her hand back for the next punch, throwing it with all her might and screaming with fury. “Shut the hell up! You don’t even know what you’re talking about!”
Zack’s head snaps to the side and blood spills from his mouth. He spits and his smile is stained red. “No, I don’t. Care to enlighten me princess?”
“Just shut up!”
He’s still grinning but even an enraged Kimberly can see that something in his eyes has changed. There’s something softer and pained and if Kim had been thinking clearly she would’ve recognized it as empathy. But then Zack’s asking, “What’s the matter cupcake? Why won’t you let us in? Got something to hide?” and Kim winds up again.
This time she gives him an uppercut that sends his head snapping back and into the metal behind him. Something tugs in her chest and she thinks she might have pulled a muscle or something, but she’s not going to kid herself. She’s cracking, can feel her walls crumbling, and her bottom lip trembles. His eyes meet hers and Kim sniffs, gritting her teeth and blinking back tears. She pulls back for another swing but Zack easily catches it. And he whispers, “What are you so afraid of?”
She pants heavily, looking between the fist locked in Zack’s hand and his sharp gaze until it suddenly hits her what he’s been trying to do. It’s like a switch has been thrown because suddenly she’s breaking. The fight leaves her in an instant, her energy gone, and she chokes on a sob. She falls forward on shaky legs and Zack’s arms wrap around her immediately, catching and holding her tight as they sink to the ground.
And she cries.
She cries, and cries, and does it some more. Everything she’s been keeping bottled up comes rushing out and she can’t even find it in herself to stop. Zack doesn’t say anything but he doesn’t let go either. Just holds her and rubs her back and she clutches his shirt tightly in her fist, secure in his embrace.
It takes a lot longer than she had been expecting because by the time she finds herself calming down there are stars in the sky and the air is cold. She shivers, sniffling, and pulls out of Zack’s hold.
“Sorry,” she mumbles weakly, refusing to make eye contact. But Zack doesn’t say anything. She hears him sigh and get up, making his way over to the fire pit, and Kim watches him coax the fire out. Eventually he’s got it just to his liking and then he’s over by her side once more, taking a seat right beside her, their shoulders brushing. They sit quietly and after a while she rests her head against his shoulder. They stare into the flames for a long time before his voice suddenly breaks the silence.
“I’m afraid I’m not a good son.” Her gaze snaps to his face but he’s looking at the fire with a blank expression. “You know it’s always just been me and my mom, and that I would give my mom the entire world if I could. But when I was younger I wasn’t, well, very nice. I gave her a hard time most of the time and was kind of a little bitch to be honest.” He smiles a little and Kim chuckles. “But she was always patient with me and she worked hard to get us through thick and thin.” He pauses and Kim watches his face fall and he swallows thickly before continuing. “When she got sick I hadn’t realized… how bad it was going to get. Or how tough. When I look back on a lot of things in life, a lot of the little things I complained about because I didn’t understand what was going on, I’m actually really thankful for. She taught me how to be a pretty okay guy… but, like I said, there’s just so much to make up for and I don’t know… I don’t know if she’s going to be around long enough for that.”
Kim expects a few tears but Zack’s face remains stony and she finds herself taking a deep breath. “I did something I’m not proud of.” She feels his muscles pull as he cranes his neck to look down at her and she busies herself with pulling out her phone. She pulls up the picture and shows Zack.
“Amanda sent me this, along with a few others, because she wanted my opinion on which looked best. I’m sure you’ve already seen this or at least heard about it, but…” Something catches in her throat and she clears it before softly continuing, “I sent Ty this picture because he and Amanda were getting too comfortable together, along with a text that said ‘Is this the kind of girl you want to bring home to the folks?’”
Zack remains silent but his even breathing is enough to keep Kim talking. “I… I’m not- I know what I did was wrong, and Jason told me that doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person, but it’s just… so… hard. I can’t look at myself in the mirror anymore because all I want to do is punch the damn thing and the person staring back at me. I used to care about what I looked like, not physically but superficially. Like, I cared about how other people saw me. It wasn’t easy fitting in with Amanda and the rest of them but at least I liked how the girl in the mirror looked, you know. Now? Now I could kind of care less about how people see me but I hate the way I see myself… I don’t even remember the last time I looked in the mirror and actually saw me. That doesn’t really make sense but…”
She wheezes and Zack starts making circles in the dirt. It’s oddly comforting. She soaks in the silence before sighing. “I just wanted to end it all. I wanted to die. Was ready to do it too, but funny thing is we kind of became Power Rangers that night and after a while I didn’t want to anymore. Now, I’ve got you, and Jason, and Billy, and Trini,” Zack hums and Kim can hear the teasing edge to it and she nudges his shoulder playfully. “You know what I mean. A family t-that actually loves me…”
Her words have died out and she sits quietly and waits for Zack to say something. He’s looking up at the stars and she figures he’s gathering his thoughts and choosing his next words carefully.
“You know I rescued a stray cat once.”
She blinks. Twice. “Huh?”
He glances at her and smiles. “Sorry. I was just looking at Felis, the cat constellation, and it made me think of Meatball.”
“You named the cat Meatball?”
“Yeah! I was getting out of work late one night when I heard meowing outside that Italian restaurant downtown. The one with the awesome garlic knots? Anyways, I went looking and I found a little black kitten stuck in one of the trashcans. So I picked him up and brought him home.”
“But… why Meatball?”
“Because he smelled like meatballs.”
Kim stares at Zack, jaw popped open, until she feels something rumble in her chest and then suddenly she’s falling backwards laughing. It feels like a weight or some kind of pressure is lifting from her chest and Kim realizes it’s been a while since she’s actually enjoyed herself like this. She can’t remember the last time she’s laughed this loud, smiled this wide, and for the first time in a long time, she feels free.
They talk about Meatball for a while longer until Zack starts singing “Bella Note”, the one with the Italian guys singing while the dogs are eating spaghetti, and he’s trying to do his best impression but he only knows half the words and he’s so off key that Kim’s got tears trekking down her cheeks from laughing so hard. But then she’s jumping up and singing “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” and Zack chases her around the fire, countering with “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”.
“Aaaaaaa very merry unbirthday to me! To who? To me! Oh you!”
Kim laughs as Zack dances some jig around the fire while singing The Unbirthday song from Alice in Wonderland. He’s singing both parts but using different voices for each and he’s still so off key. “A very merry unbirthday… to ALLLLLL OF YOUUUU!!!” he screams and Kim shushes him through a fit of giggles.
“What? There’s no one around. I can yell AS LOUD AS I WANT!” He smiles and pulls Kim over to the edge of the cliff. “Go on, do it. Just… scream!”
Kim watches Zack for a long second before a grin splits across her face and she turns to the cliff facing the quarry. She takes in an exaggerated deep breath and shouts. “FUUUUCKK!”
“YEAH YOU TELL THEM KIMMY! FUCK THE WORLD!”
They scream, and laugh, and scream some more and it just feels so good to let it all out. They gasp for air once they’ve yelled their throats raw and Kim suddenly finds herself crying, sniffling and sobbing as she clutches her knees. She’s shaking and Zack gently lays a hand on her shoulder.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that not everything is going to be okay. There are going to be some things that we have no control over and that we can’t fix, no matter how much we try.” She looks up at him and he gives her a soft smile. “But you’ve got people who love you now, people who care about all of you, the good parts and the bad. I’m not exactly the comforting type but I just want you to know that I’m here for you. For the stuff you need to get off your chest, for the times when you need to let something out, I’ll always be here. And I’m not going to judge you.”
She closes her eyes as tears slip down her cheeks and she lets out a watery laugh. “Jeez, Zack didn’t know you were such a sap.” He shrugs his shoulders and suddenly she’s pulling him in, wrapping her arms around his waist and squeezing tightly. “Thank you.”
“No problem princess.”
Kim pulls back with a raised eyebrow. “Okay, no you can’t do that.”
Zack looks mildly offended. “What? Trini gets to!”
“Oh so just because you want to get in her pants means she gets special tre- uff!” Kim punches his stomach, cheeks burning. Zack wheezes and grins. “Okay, alright, I get it. That’ll be a discussion for another night.” He looks up at the sky and Kim notices that the stars have faded. “Well, I’m gonna go check up on my mom soon. Do you want to come? You don’t have to, of course, but if you didn’t want to go home…”
Kim bites her lip but ultimately shakes her head. “I think I’m going to head back. But, maybe tomorrow night? Or rather tonight, I guess. I’d love to meet her.”
And Zack’s smile makes her lips curl up. “That’d be awesome. I’m sure she’d love to meet you. She’s met Trini once but she also needs to sleep a lot. If you come round by five she should be awake.”
Kim nods. “Okay. I will.” Zack waves her off and they walk off in opposite directions. She spends the majority of her trek back through the woods to her house thinking about tonight and humming “Let It Go”. She doesn’t even realize she’s smiling until her cheeks begin to ache.
And right now, it’s the only thing that does.