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Superman Got Nothing on Us

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"I can't fucking believe you," Katherine hisses under her breath.

Tommy sighs, letting the other girl hold her jaw so she can get a better look at her deeply bruised cheekbone.

"You're an idiot."

"Uh-huh."

"You tried to take on three seniors."

"Well, I didn't just try," Tommy says then immediately snaps her mouth shut when Katherine shoots her a glare.

Katherine finally lets go of her jaw to rest both hands on her hips as she shakes her head. "What the hell were you thinking?"

Tommy shrugs and leans on one of the sinks of their school's bathroom. "That what those dicks said about you was uncalled for and deserves at least a kick in the shin?" She tries to cheekily grin, but she winces when the attempt only irritates her bruise.

Katherine points a finger at her. "Don't try to be cute. That's not gonna work on me."

"Really?" she asks, pouting.

There's a moment where Katherine tries to hold her ground. But she eventually sighs and leans on the sink beside Tommy. "Okay, maybe just a little bit. You still shouldn't have done that."

Tommy makes a face. "But they were being all gross. Besides, you're fourteen. The fact that those guys were hitting on you is pretty messed up all by itself."

"I'm a cheerleader, Tommy. Guys will always hit on me. Have you seen me?"

In any other time, she would have replied with a sarcastic remark at Katherine's show of narcissism, but this time she only frowns. "Did you like what they were doing?"

Katherine scrunches nose and says, "fuck no. They were disgusting."

Tommy smiles. "Then I don't regret what I did."

Katherine smiles, too, for the first time since she dragged Tommy to the bathroom for some furious reprimanding. "Thank you, by the way. What you did was stupid, but I appreciate it."

"Thank you for checking in on me," Tommy says in return.

"I would have yesterday, but you were immediately sent home. And I didn't know where you live. I didn't have your number either. Ah, speaking of." Katherine holds out a hand to Tommy, who only gives her a confused look. She rolls her eyes. "Give me your phone."

She slowly does. She peeks over Katherine's shoulder, seeing the other girl add her number to the contact list and send a message to herself. When they hear Katherine's phone chime with a new message, she returns the phone to Tommy.

"Oh."

"What?"

She smiles brightly. "I didn't realize we were close enough for that."

You see, girls like Tommy Oliver aren't usually friends with girls like Katherine Hillard. Tommy was only a nobody who happened to get partnered with Katherine in their literature class. They had a sort of silent agreement to sit next to each other after the project. Aside from making jokes and snide remarks to each other during classes they share and nodding at each other outside of the classroom, they didn't have much of a friendship.

They're acquaintances, really.

"Oh, please," Katherine says as she flips her blonde hair for dramatic effect. Tommy rolls her eyes. "You picked a fight with three guys for me. No way I'm not considering you a friend."

Tommy snickers, looking fondly at the new contact on her phone, a simple "Kat".

"Can I call you Katie?"

"No," Katherine is quick to reply.

"Cathy."

"Stop."

Tommy is about to suggest "Kitkat" next when Katherine's phone chimes again. She pulls it out and frowns at the screen.

"It's Amanda," she says. "Our captain. I'm late for practice."

"Oh yeah. And I'm late for detention, of all things," Tommy says sullenly.

"And whose fault is that?"

"Ty Flemming," she says without missing a beat.

Despite the places they're supposed to be in, neither are in a hurry to leave the bathroom.

Until the booming sound of explosion startles them.

The two girls exchange a look before they run out of the bathroom. It seems they weren't on the same page during they're silent conversation though, because they end up running in opposite directions: Katherine to the main exit, Tommy to the source of the sound.

"Oliver! You fucking idiot, what are you -" Katherine's exasperated hiss is interrupted by a slew of curses.

Eventually Tommy hears Katherine say "God dammit!" and follow her to the "C" section of the lockers. One of it is completely demolished, dust clouding the air and the destroyed locker door and rubbles of cement scattered on the floor. Tommy pities the poor janitor who will be tasked to clean this up.

They hear the sound of multiple foot steps before they see him, the teacher meant to look after the kids in detention. His wide eyes frantically look at the mess, hands coming up to grasp his already messy curls of hair. The students behind him are a mixture of amusement and awe.

"Cranston!" he bellows.

A tall student emerges from the crowd. He fidgets with his hands before sheepishly raising one. "That's my bad. Sorry."

Their teacher pinches the bridge of his nose. "I thought the principal already forbid you from bringing explosives to school."

"He did. I didn't bring more. Technically. I just forgot that it's been there," Cranston says, sounding more matter-of-fact than sarcastic.

The detention kids snicker, but a kid with jet black hair howls with laughter. He clutches a short brunette's shoulder as he laughs into it. The brunette rolls her eyes. His laughter is cut short when a girl Tommy recognizes as Kimberly Hart shoves him away from the brunette.

"Oh my god," Katherine breathes from beside Tommy. "Is he a terrorist or something?"

"Alright!" The teacher exclaims. "Everyone back to detention. You." He points at Cranston. "Stay behind later."

Cranston nods sullenly as he lets himself be led back to the room by a blonde haired boy.

The teacher takes notice of Katherine and Tommy then. He spots the bruise on Tommy's cheekbone and says, "Tommy Oliver?"

"Uh, yeah."

He points a thumb to the direction the other kids went to. "You're late."

Tommy nods uselessly. He only gives Katherine a parting look before following their teacher.

Much later, when a green coin forces Tommy into a mess she never asked to be in, they'll all laugh about this. How Tommy met them the same way the other five came together: with Billy Cranston blowing shit up.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

But that's later.

Right now Tommy is in the cafeteria, eating at a table occupied by another freshman too busy reading his book to acknowledge her. She thinks his name is Adam Park, but it doesn't matter. He isn't interested in talking and Tommy doesn't mind since she has a relatively quiet table to eat in.

She's scrolling through facebook on her phone when a lunch tray drops in front of her. Tommy looks up, surprised to see Katherine Hillard taking a seat opposite her. Adam finally pries his eyes away from his book then to gawk at the cheerleader sitting only a few paces away from him.

Katherine cocks a brow at him. "What?"

Adam blinks quickly before shaking his head and going back to his book.

Tommy grins amusedly as she pops a fry into her mouth. "What're you doing here?"

Katherine rests her chin on her hand. "Eating lunch."

Tommy throws her straw's wrapper at her and she snorts at Katherine's scandalized face. "I meant why here. You cheerleaders have a table, right?"

They briefly glance at said table where Amanda Clarke is chatting it up with her hoard of cheerleaders.

"I'm just a freshman. The new kid. They haven't even noticed that I'm not there."

"Uh-huh."

Katherine bites her lip. Then quietly says, "they don't notice me when I'm there either."

Tommy could only hum in reply. She may not know Katherine all that well, at least not yet, but she does know showing sympathy would be a bad idea.

Familiar laughter catches their attention and they both look at a table at the far corner occupied by five seniors: Jason Scott, Kimberly Hart, Billy Cranston, Zack Taylor, and Trini Gomez.

Jason and Kimberly have already been prominent names since the first months Tommy has been in Angel Grove, but she learned of the other three's when their teacher repeated roll call just to check that no one sneaked away from detention after the commotion Billy's bomb caused.

"They're so weird," Katherine says.

"Why? I've seen them in detention. Aside from the bomb thing, they're pretty cool."

"No, not like that. I mean it's weird that they're all friends. They have nothing in common. It doesn't make sense."

"Ah... You meant 'cause they look like they were cast for a reboot of The Breakfast Club."

"The what club?"

"Nothing."

"Kimberly Hart and Jason Scott, that I get." She pauses to observe Kimberly whispering something to Jason and the boy laughs. "They're probably dating. But why are they hanging out with Cranston and the two nobodies?"

Tommy only shrugs.

"Seriously? That's all?"

Tommy laughs shortly. "Sorry. I'm not really much of a gossiper."

Katherine sighs. "No, I'm sorry. It's just... all the cheerleaders do is gossip. Guess it's kind of rubbing off on me." She stands a little straighter and gives Tommy her full attention. "So. Speaking of clubs. What do you do?"

"This feels like an awkward first date kind of scenario."

Katherine's cheeks tint a shade of pink. The color actually looks pretty good on her. "Just answer the damn question, Oliver."

"I haven't joined anything yet. Just about to." She smiles giddily. "Softball try outs are this Friday."

"Figures. Should've expected you're a jock."

Tommy tilts her head to the side. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Katherine points a finger at her green letterman jacket.

"Ah."

Zack's laughter distracts them again. Billy must be telling a hilarious story. Kimberly's whispering something else to Jason's ear and he smirks into his spoon.

"Oh, they are definitely dating," Katherine says.

Tommy could point out that Kimberly actually does the same thing to Trini Gomez, with the brunette often looking like a flustered mess while Kimberly sports a smug grin. But Tommy only quietly listens as Katherine talks.

She wanted a quiet table but company isn't so bad.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

She blew it.

She's an idiot. Why did she even expect to get in? She was crazy to think that she was good enough.

She keeps her head tucked into her knees. Her phone chimes with another message from Katherine, probably asking how try outs went. She ignores it.

"Hey. Are you okay?"

Tommy makes the mistake of looking up. Jason Scott stiffens at the sight of tears staining her face. She snatches her hat from her bag and pulls it over her head, the visor shielding her eyes away from the senior's sight.

"I'm fine."

There's silence, and Tommy thinks he left. A part of her is relieved, but another, more pathetic part of her is disappointed.

But then she feels someone sit close enough to her on the bleacher.

"You're in detention with us, right? Tommy?"

Tommy finds herself nodding.

"I was watching the softball try outs. You're pretty good."

"But I didn't get in."

"You got J.V. right?"

"It's still not good enough. The other kids are better than me."

"There will always be other people better than you, kid. That doesn't mean you're not good."

"Easy for you to say. You're Angel Grove's golden boy."

"Was Angel Grove's golden boy. And did you really think I got in my freshman year?"

Tommy shrugs.

"You'll get in. You got plenty of time."

"I know that. But I just... can't help but feel frustrated. I was way in over my head for even trying. My dad was right." She pulls her visor even lower over her eyes. "God, how embarrassing."

She feels Jason awkwardly shift from where he's seated, probably debating whether he should touch the girl to comfort her. Thankfully, he decides to keep his hands to himself. She appreciates the thought, but getting a hug from a senior she barely knows will just be plain awkward.

"Look," Jason starts to say, "you can't beat yourself up for failing. Just trying is a really impressive thing. 'Goes to show how much you want this, and that's already half of what you need. Success doesn't always follow, but it'll get there, I promise."

Tommy snorts. She looks at Jason for the first time. "And from what bookmark did you get that one from?"

Jason grins. "Do I look like I read much? Let's just say I need to give speeches like those on the regular."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"Nothing." Hah as if, but Tommy knows not to push. "And whatever your dad's gotta say, don't listen to him. There will always be people saying you aren't good enough, too." He smirks. "Best you could do is prove them wrong out of spite."

Tommy laughs. "Now that's a motivational speech I can get by."

Jason offers to give her a ride, but Tommy politely declines, saying that she wants to stay a little longer. When he leaves, Tommy feels a million times lighter. She finally replies to Katherine.

Me
i didnt get in :/

Kitkat
shit sorry, T. are you ok?

Me
yeah
im ok :)

She really is.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

"I'm sure you did amazing."

"You didn't even see me."

Katherine pouts. "I would have if we didn't have practice." She leans across their lunch table to whisper conspirationally, "Amanda's a total hard ass during practice." Then she leans back and talks again at a normal volume. "What position were you going for?"

"Pitcher." Tommy looks warily at her. "Why?"

"And who's the pitcher now?" When Tommy makes a frightened face, she laughs. "I'm kidding. I'm not that kind of bitch."

"I don't think you're a bitch," she mutters through the straw in her mouth.

"Don't worry, Tommy. You'll get in eventually. I didn't my first try."

"But you're a cheerleader right now."

"That's because Kimberly Hart got herself kicked out." She looks down. "I'm just filling in for her."

Now Tommy understands why Katherine feels so much like an outsider in her own squad. They had no choice but to choose her. She probably doesn't feel like she deserved to be there, and the other girls most likely didn't make it any easier.

"I still don't know what their deal is with her," Katherine continues to say. "They all treat her like a loser, but look at her." They do, and she's smirking at Zack Taylor as she says something. "She's so cool. How could I follow that up?"

"Sounds like someone's got a girl crush," Tommy teases.

Now it's Katherine's turn to throw a straw wrapper at her. "I'm not gay," she says, a little too defensively.

Tommy laughs. "I'm not saying you are. I totally get it. Kimberly Hart is hot."

They glance at her again. Kimberly is talking animatedly with Trini Gomez now. Tommy catches Jason's eye then. He smiles and waves at her. She returns the gesture until he goes back to his conversation with Billy Cranston.

"What was that?" Katherine asks suspiciously.

"What was what?"

"You know what. Jason Scott just waved at you. He knows you?"

"Kinda. We're in detention together."

"Yeah, but you don't see him greeting Colt Wallace good morning."

"Okay, fine," she sighs defeatedly. "He talked to me after try outs."

"Why?"

"Because I was crying."

Katherine's expression softens. "Oh, Tommy," she says as she takes hold of her hand from across the table.

"I guess we're close enough for this, too."

"Can you stop saying that, please? You told me you were fine."

"I was. And I am. Jason cheered me up."

Katherine's brows raise, impressed. "Really?"

"Yeah. He was a little awkward, but he's actually pretty cool."

Katherine whistles. "How gentlemanly."

More like big brother-ly, but she just lets Katherine swoon over Jason Scott. She guesses giving him a good reputation to the ladies is the least she could do for the pep talk he gave her.

"You think he could be interested in you?" Katherine asks with her brows bouncing.

Tommy makes a doubtful look. "I don't think so, but I'm really not. And didn't you say he could be dating Kimberly Hart?"

Katherine shrugs. "That could always change. If it were true."

"Psshh. You just want her all to yourself." She laughs when Katherine throws a fry at her. "Hey! That's such a waste."

"Maybe you're the one crushing on Kimberly Hart," Katherine grumbles immaturely.

"Not really," Tommy says. She chances a glance at Trini who is throwing her head back to laugh at something Zack said. "She's not my type."

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Trini Gomez.

Now that's a girl Tommy could fall for. Tommy has always been a sucker for cool, lone wolf types. And, well, she's just the right mixture of hot and adorable.

They never really had any significant interactions with each other. It was just one of those crushes. You don't need heart to heart talk with someone to be infatuated with them. At least not for a fourteen year old.

But the opportunity to talk with the quiet senior came because of someone Tommy least expected to indirectly help her.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

"Oh. It's you."

Tommy looks up from the sink where she's washing her hands to see Amanda Clarke and another cheerleader enter the bathroom.

"Um..." Tommy struggles to think of a reply. Is she supposed to say something witty in return? "Yeah, it's me. How've you been?"

Nailed it.

Amanda rests a hand on her hip. It's like looking at a taller, older Katherine. "Don't think we haven't noticed. Kat keeps hanging out with a loser like you when she should be hanging around with us."

"How could she not?" Tommy distractedly says as she wipes her hands with a paper towel. "She needed a friend. And you guys obviously aren't."

People have often said that Tommy has a bad habit of running her mouth off without thinking about what she's about to say. And by people, she means Katherine.

She can't really help it, and she isn't aware when it's happening. But based on the offended look on Amanda's face, it's happening right now.

Amanda stalks her way toward her, the heels of her shoes echoing a menacing clink within the bathroom walls. Tommy blinks as the senior invades her personal space, retreating herself into a wall.

"Uh..."

"You got some nerve when you're just a loser freshman. You know I can make your high school life hell with just the snap of my fingers? Don't think you can say stuff like that to me just because Kat has no choice but to hang out with you."

Tommy's brows furrow at that. "She... she doesn't think that way. She's my friend."

Amanda laughs mirthlessly. "Oh, please. You can't really believe that. Being friends with someone like you is bad for a cheerleader's reputation. You're probably some dyke who's gay for a cheerleader. Look." She pulls at Tommy's letterman jacket. "You even dress like one."

Tommy's frown deepens, her heart beating loudly in her ears. She knows what's happening. She's being taunted. She knows that in her mind, but hearing those things hurt, and her mouth more often follows her heart.

"N-no. That's not what I'm after. Just because I'm gay doesn't mean I would automatically fall for the first girl who would interact with me."

Amanda's brows raise immediately at the thoughtless confession, and the other cheerleader dramatically gasps. Amanda opens her mouth to say something, but a stall that they didn't even notice was occupied opens like the door was violently kicked open.

"I've heard enough," Trini Gomez says, scowling viciously at the two cheerleaders. "Leave the kid alone, Clarke."

Amanda moves away from Tommy to give Trini a fake smile. "Oh hey, Didi. Nice to see you still dress like a hobo."

Trini gives an equally fake smile. "Nice to see you still dress like a slut."

The other cheerleader lets out a laugh before she could stop herself. Trini smirks while Amanda's cheek twitches.

"At least guys go for me. How about you, Gomez? Not even a man back home would probably go for you."

"Yeah, poor me," Trini drawls. "Because the peek of my happiness is determined by a man's dick. You, too, huh?"

Amanda could only clench her jaw, her scowl ruining her pretty features. "Now I know why Kimmy hangs out with you. You're just as horrible as she is aren't you?"

She leaves then, with her trustee cheerleader friend following her as she retreats.

Tommy could only look in awe at the girl before her. She never understood why damsels-in-distress would swoon over men who come to their rescue. Any decent human being should help someone out anyway right? But now Tommy understands.

"Wow," she breathes. "That was so coo-"

"What the fuck were you thinking?"

Tommy snaps her mouth shut. Trini doesn't look angry, but exasperated. That's a little better than the alternative, she guesses. But it's kind of weird that she always gets reprimanded in the girl's bathroom.

"You can't just come out to the head bitch of the school," Trini says lowly. "She's going to use that against you!"

"I..." Tommy blinks. Then it dawns on her. "Oh my god you're right."

Trini drags her hand across her face. "What kind of idiot are you?"

Tommy frowns. "Hey. That kind of hurts."

"You know who else would hurt you? Amanda Clarke, that's who. She's just the kind of homophobic bitch who would spread that to the school and let other people rip you apart."

"How would you know?" Tommy says, sounding a little bit hopeful.

Trini takes her time looking at Tommy before she could answer. "First hand experience."

Oh. Oh...

"You shouldn't come out to a stranger like that," Tommy says, a teasing smirk on her face. "I could use that against you."

Trini gives her own smirk. "I'm a good judge of character, kid. You probably wouldn't hurt a fly."

"Hey! There you are!" The two girls watch Kimberly Hart enter the girl's bathroom. She's quick to latch onto Trini's arm with one of those smiles Katherine has said multiple times she could have. "We're going to be late for Bio." She notices Tommy then. Her smile looks more polite than sunny now. "Hey. Tommy, right? From detention."

"Y-yeah."

"Okay, that's enough chit chat," Trini says. "I don't want to be late. We don't need our teacher to hate us more than he already does."

"You were the one who took so long," Kimberly says as Trini pulls her by the arm holding onto her. "Were you taking a shit or something?"

Tommy blinks at the crude statement. Maybe Kimberly Hart isn't the kind of "cool" girl Katherine expected.

Trini groans. "I swear to God. You're even worse than Zack," she says, but there's a fond smile on her face that Kimberly returns.

"But you love me more, right?"

Tommy doesn't hear Trini's reply as they get out of the bathroom. She's too distracted by the stall door swinging as it hangs from one hinge, the lower one broken. This was the stall Trini came from. She did this with a single kick.

She shakes her head. No, that doesn't make sense. The door must have long been out of shape.

Yeah, that must be it.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Tommy didn't forget what Trini said. She was worried Amanda would do something like announce her sexuality with a megaphone. But the day ended and nothing of the sort happened. Maybe Amanda just didn't think she was worth it?

Apparently, Trini was worried, too. When she opens her locker, she sees a yellow note that was slipped inside.

Tell me if she does anything. I got your back.
~ Trini

Tommy smiles, butterflies dancing in her stomach. She feels a warmth in her chest, knowing that there's someone else in her corner and understands.

She was right. Trini Gomez is a cool girl.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Katherine didn't go to their usual lunch table this time. She's with the cheerleaders, and it seems they have finally included her in their conversations.

There's a slight pang in Tommy's chest, if she were to be honest. But she's also happy for her. Feeling like she's part of the squad was what Katherine wanted in the first place, and Tommy wouldn't get in the way of that.

Katherine went to her because she was lonely. And now she isn't. It's as simple as that, right?

"Don't worry."

The sudden voice makes Tommy jump. She turns her attention to Adam Park. He has always sat in the same table as her and Katherine but never interacted with them. His nose was always buried in a book or his phone.

"Uh... What?"

"I've seen you two together every lunch break," he says. "And in classes we share. She isn't faking things with you. She'll come back when she's used to the shiny cheerleaders finally noticing her."

"Oh." She gives him a small smile. "Thanks." Then her frown returns. "What if she doesn't though?"

Adam shrugs. "Then she doesn't. There are more people outside of high school."

Tommy sighs. "Right."

She looks at the table in the far corner again, where Zack Taylor is cracking a joke. Billy is smiling, Kimberly is laughing, and Jason and Trini share a look as they shake their heads.

The school thinks they're a hodgepodge of losers who only stuck together because they had nowhere else to go, but Tommy always felt envious of what they had. Who cares how you ended up with someone when the bond you have is so unbreakable?

Tommy thought she finally had that with Katherine, even if the other girl only came to her out of loneliness.

Maybe not, then.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Tommy doesn't like making a habit of skipping school, but she isn't totally against doing it when she feels the need to just get away from teachers and textbooks for an hour or two.

She's laying back on one of the school's bleachers, one leg swinging as it hangs from the edge and her fingers tapping to the beat of the song playing from her ear phones. Her eyes are closed, imagining her own little music video for the song. The song momentarily pauses for when her phone vibrates with a notification from her father. It was just a couple of seconds, but it was enough time for Tommy to hear the sound of someone whooping.

Tommy reflexively sits up at the sound, pulling one of the buds out of her ear. She hears whooping again, and that's when she sees him.

Zack Taylor, hanging upside down by his legs from one of the football field's goal posts like a god damn bat.

"What the fuck?" Tommy mutters with narrowed eyes. She can't quite believe what she's seeing. When Zack's legs let go, Tommy's heart plummets as fast as Zack's body does. "What the fuck!"

Tommy didn't wait to see Zack fall head first onto the ground. She climbs down the steps as fast as she could, looking for the entrance to the field as quickly as her frantic eyes could manage. From that height, Tommy doesn't doubt that a fall like that could kill the boy. But just in case a cracked skull or broken neck doesn't kill him, Tommy wants to be there to help as soon as possible.

When she gets to the field, she braces herself to see a pool of blood and crumpled body. But she's relieved to find Zack standing upright, checking out his phone like he just accomplished taking a video of something.

He tilts his head at her when he finally notices. "Hey, dude. Whatcha doing here?"

She collapses on her knees.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

"Are you sure you're not hurt?"

Zack looks at every where but Tommy. He tries to act nonchalant and aloof, but she can practically feel the nerves radiating off of him from where he's seated next to her on the bleacher.

"Psshh! I'm fine. I do parkour tricks all the time."

Tommy looks from the goal post then back to Zack. "Really? I don't think you're even supposed to survive a fall like that."

"Well, I can. You should see me do a back flip on a moving train. I could do that before I got-" he abruptly stops, like he just realized what he's about to say. Whatever it was, he settles with "... into high school."

Tommy opens her mouth, then closes it. Then opens it again to grin. "I actually would want to see that."

He mirrors her grin. "My youtube channel is taylor dash 'z'. None of the letters are capitalized."

She laughs. "What? Seriously? You do stuff like that for views?"

He shrugs. "Someone has to see my badassery."

"You're crazy."

He smiles even wider as he proudly says, "I know." When she shakes her head, he lightly elbows her in the rib. "Oh, don't act like you're such an upstanding student, Tom Girl. Don't think I don't know that you got into detention because of a fist fight. With three dudes!"

Tommy rubs the back of her neck. "Hah. You got me there. And wait, what did you just call me?"

Zack just completely ignores her question. "So why did you do it? What did they do?"

Tommy blinks at the question. Every one else just assumed that she was a violent person. Barely any one asked her if her actions were justified. "They were harassing Katherine Hillard. And it made me mad."

"Protecting your girl's honor. Nice!" he cheers as he holds up a hand for a high five.

"She's not 'my girl'," she says but claps her hand with his anyway. She can never leave a "bro" hanging. "I don't think she even sees me as a friend."

Zack does this thing where he twists his lips to the side as he scrutinizes her with a tilt of his head. "Are you sure about that? Don't you guys always eat lunch together?"

"You guys noticed us?" she says with a bit of awe in her voice. So she maybe looks up to the group of seniors. Can you blame her if she feels delighted that they actually notice her?

"Of course, dude. Now back to this Katherine chick. Why do you think she doesn't see you as a friend?"

"She hasn't been at our table recently."

He gives her a disappointed look. "That's it?"

"Ah, w-well... she's new at the cheer squad. At first she was a little lonely, because the other girls don't make her feel like she belongs. She thinks it's because she was only Kimberly Hart's replacement."

"Oh, yeah. Kimmy said they had to replace her. So she was it."

Tommy nods. "So she came to me, because we already knew each other from the classes we shared. But now Amanda Clarke and the others have warmed up to her, so she... doesn't need me anymore I guess."

Zack hums in thought. "It's kind of unfair to assume her feelings for her."

Tommy sighs. "Yeah, I know. But I won't like, think badly of her if she does feel that way. The cheerleaders were the ones she wanted to be friends with in the first place. I'm just happy for her."

He gives her a doubtful look. "Really?"

She slumps and pouts. How is she already so comfortable with talking about stuff like this to a guy she barely knows? " Yeah, okay. So I feel a little upset and lonely and I miss her a lot. Sue me."

"Awe," he coos as he pats the top of her head. "Young love. So sweet."

She pouts even more. "You're not much older than me. And I don't feel that way about Katherine."

"Oh, yeah.... Suuuure."

She laughs, knowing he's only teasing. "I swear. She's not the one I'm crushing on."

His eyes twinkle with interest. "Who then?"

Tommy scrutinizes him for a moment, thinking whether telling him would be wise.

On one hand, he's Trini Gomez's friend. He could give her an in, if he allows her.

On the other, he could tell Trini and completely embarrass Tommy. Even Amanda Clarke outing her to the whole school would be a better alternative.

But Zack doesn't seem like that kind of guy. He's been really nice to her, even though they barely know each other.

"Trini Gomez..." she bashfully says. "I just think she's cool."

Zack over-dramatically gasps. "No my god."

"What did you say?"

"Oh my gosh, you're crushing on Crazy Girl?"

"Who?"

"Oh, this is gold."

"It's not a big deal." Great, now she's blushing. "It's just a crush."

"Okay, sorry, sorry."

She clears her throat. "So, um... is she dating anyone, or..."

"Oh my god," Zack is still laughing. "If she weren't such a useless lesbian she'd be dating by now."

"Oh, then..."

He shakes his head as he sobers up and her face falls. He places a hand on Tommy's shoulder to give her a worryingly apologetic smile. "Sorry, dude, but Trini's, ah, got other stuff she's worried about right now."

"... oh." Tommy gives him a half-hearted smile. "It's okay. You can say it. She's into someone else isn't she?"

He rubs the back of his neck. "Sorry, man."

She shrugs. "It's fine. Better have the fire snuffed out this early in the game right?" She leans back on her arms. "I'm not itching to get a girlfriend right away, anyway." She sighs. "Sure wish Katherine would hang out with me again, though."

"Well, why don't you ask her to hang out with you?"

Tommy shuffles uncomfortably in her seat. "I don't know... we've never hung out outside of school before. Are we even close enough for that?"

"You'll never know if you don't ask her. Look," he leans closer to her, "before Trini and I became best friends, she wanted nothing to do with me. All of us, really. That girl was willing to jump over a ravine to avoid us."

"That's an oddly specific metaphor.."

"But luckily enough," he continues like Tommy didn't interrupt him, "I was willing to jump too just to get to her. I'm not saying you should bother Katherine into becoming your friend. You just gotta do your part and reach out. A simple invitation."

"And if she says no?"

"Then it's her loss," he shrugs. "It won't kill you. If you get lonely during lunch," he winks, "we got a free spot next to Trini."

Tommy laughs. "Thanks. You're right. Maybe I'm just over-thinking things."

He pats her on the back. "Atta girl. Go ahead, then."

She shoots him a confused look. "And do what?"

"Ask her to hang out, duh!"

"Oh, you meant right now."

"Yes, right now. Just a text. I want to see you send it so I know you went through with it."

"You have no faith in me," she says even as she takes out her phone to type out her message.

hey kat. wanna come with me to krispey kreme after school? my treat.

She faces the screen in front of Zack so he can see. "How's this?"

He snorts. "It's a text, dude. Not a letter. I don't need to proof read it for you. Just send it."

So she does. It's not jumping over a ravine, but it's a step in the right direction.

When they hear the bell ring for the fourth period class, Zack stands up.

"Gotta go. I have this class with Billy." He shrugs his backpack on one shoulder. "I can't skip this one." He throws her one last suggestive smile before running down the steps. "Good luck getting your girl back!"

"I don't like her like that!" she says to his retreating back. Her phone chimes just in time with a new message.

Kitkat
omg yes!!!
i've been craving something sweet. u buying me coffee too?

A wide smile stretches her cheeks. She's just glad her bruise is long gone now. And that Zack already left.

She's pretty sure he would have teased her for how giddy she looks right now.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

So maybe they are friends. Zack was right. All she needed to do was take the metaphorical leap.

Katherine still occasionally hung out with the cheerleaders, but there are also days when she sat in her usual table with Tommy. She would get dirty looks from the cheerleaders' table whenever Katherine was with her. But since Katherine ignored them, Tommy ignored them, too.

Tommy didn't complain in the days Katherine wasn't there. She was content being on her own. Sometimes Adam would even talk to her. He's no Katherine, but he's a pretty cool guy, if not a bit awkward and shy.

Zack would often invite her to their table, too, making sure to pat the vacant spot next to Trini. Jason and Trini would smile, too, silently saying that she's welcome. Billy Cranston is always enthusiastic to gain a new friend, it seems. But Kimberly Hart, the girl doesn't even bother looking at her when Zack calls her over. She doesn't outright glare or throw disgusted looks, but Tommy has a feeling she isn't welcomed by the former cheerleader, so she would always politely refuse.

Adam was good enough company anyway.

With her worries about her friendship with Katherine and pining over Trini out of the way, she finally noticed things she never used to.

Or she always noticed them, it's just that she only now got the chance to actually think about the implications.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Three consecutive short rings, then one long one. Anyone who paid attention during the last school assembly knows what that means: a monster attack.

After the first appearance of the Power Rangers and their enemy that nearly destroyed Angel Grove, strange monsters have attacked three more times. So their quaint little town adapted and developed a system. While the Power Rangers fought the bad guys, people would either evacuate (if they were close to the battlefield) or stay where they are and stay together.

It's the first time it happened while Tommy's at school. Thankfully, it's during their Saturday detention, so no stampede will be caused by the whole student body.

Mr. Benson, their teacher, quickly shot up from his seat as soon as the principal's voice from the intercom finished explaining the situation.

"Okay, kids, calm down," he says even as he looks like he's just one glass of water short of peeing himself. "The area they were spotted at is far from here. So we'll stay here, where it's safe, until the Power Rangers come to save the day."

Jason and his four friends are huddled in a corner together. All the other kids, including Tommy, are scared in some degree, but they aren't. Alarmed, maybe, but not terrified.

"You can call your friends and family to check in on them," Mr. Benson says, "but no one leaves this room until further notice."

The five seniors all exchange troubled looks. But then Kimberly Hart raises her hand.

"I need to go the girl's bathroom."

Mr. Benson looks like he needs to go to the bathroom, too. "Can't you hold it in for now, Ms. Hart?"

Kimberly purses her lips. She takes a deep breath from the nose then says, "girl troubles. I can't."

"I'll go with her!" Trini says from beside her.

"Me too!" Zack says, appearing from her other side.

"Shut the fuck up, Zack!" Trini hisses as Jason roughly pulls him back.

"I don't know..." Mr. Benson says, suspiciously eyeing Zack.

"Please, sir. I'll have Trini and our phones with us. If I don't leave right now it will get really-"

"Oh my god, sir. Just let us go," Trini hastily interrupts.

Mr. Benson already has his hands cupped on his ears before Trini interrupted Kimberly. "Okay, okay. Be quick. Text or call me if anything mens - fuck - I mean monster related happens."

"Be careful," Jason says to the two girls before they nod with determined looks on both of their faces and run out of the room.

Tommy is startled out of watching the exchange when her phone vibrates from her jacket pocket. She pulls it out, greeted by Katherine's caller I.D.

As soon as Tommy answers, she's attacked by an onslaught of questions. "Tommy, are you okay? Are you still at school?"

"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine." She watches Billy, Jason, and Zack from the corner of her eye, all looking tense and worried. "You're in the football field?"

"No, coach had us come inside," Katherine says. "Please don't do anything stupid, like go outside or something."

Tommy scrunches her nose. "What makes you think I would do that?"

"I've seen you do a lot of stupid things, Oliver. Just promise me."

She finds herself chuckling. "Right, I promise."

"Okay. I gotta go. I promised my mom I'd call her back. Bye, Tom."

"Bye, Kat."

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Two hours later, the principal announced that all was clear. Mr. Benson almost shit a brick the whole time since Trini and Kimberly only came back just as the announcement was finished.

While Mr. Benson was yelling at both of them for worrying him while he was responsible for whatever might happen to them, Tommy couldn't help but notice how tired and worn down the two girls are. There's a rip at the end of Kimberly's pant leg, the girl seeming to have difficulty standing upright. Trini is clutching her ribs, her face looking paler than her usual tan complexion.

Tommy was about to ask if they were fine, but Jason, Billy, and Zack swooped in to talk to them before she could. They leave as soon as they were allowed, all three boys supporting the girls in some way as they walk.

Later when she gets home, newscasters show footages of rock monsters being destroyed by the pink and yellow ranger. Red, Blue, and Black were no where to be seen, but the two female heroes were able to clean up the bad guys by themselves.

Tommy stares dumbfounded at the television screen even as her father changes it to watch the sports channel.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Black, yellow, red, pink, and blue. The colors of each of the rangers. Coincidentally, Zack, Trini, Jason, Kimberly, and Billy all respectively have those colors in their usual outfits for school.

They wouldn't be that obvious, right?

"Tommy, didn't I tell you not to stare for more than a minute?"

Tommy blinks herself back from her thoughts, prying her eyes away from the five seniors' table to look at Katherine.

"It gets a little creepy when you stare longer than that," Katherine finishes.

"It's creepy, regardless," Adam pipes up from where his head is buried in his book.

Katherine and Tommy boo as they throw their straw wrappers at him. They laugh at the offended look on his face.

"Hi, Adam," a voice says and Adam automatically freezes up.

They watch Aisha Campbell and Tanya Sloan pass their table with linked arms, the latter smiling sweetly at him as she waves. Adam's own hand raises for a meek wave and his head turns as his eyes follow Tanya walk out of the cafeteria.

Tommy and Katherine exchange knowing looks and amused grins.

Katherine fakes a scandalized voice, "My goodness, Adam. Will you stop staring?"

Tommy shakes her head, playing along. "It's really creepy."

The dazed look on Adam's face is immediately replaced by a frown. They laugh when they dodge the straw wrappers he throws back at them.

"I'm staying in the library," he grumbles, shoving his book into his bag.

"Oh, you love us," Katherine says to his retreating back. "He doesn't talk much but he's actually starting to grow on me."

Tommy purses her lips, once again reminded of what was on her mind when she briefly glances at the seniors' table. "Hey, Katherine, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure. What is it?"

"Do you think... do you think it's possible that the Power Rangers are just a bunch of teenagers?"

"Huh? Um." Her face scrunches up. "I guess so? I just always thought they were generic-looking aliens behind their helmets. I guess alien teenagers aren't totally impossible."

"No, I mean, human teenagers. Like us."

Katherine's eyes widen with interest. "You mean they could be in Angel Grove High?" She looks around the cafeteria, as if the Power Rangers would come to school in full color-coded armor.

Well, if Tommy's bizarre theory is correct, they just come to school in color-coded shirts. Which is ridiculous. A group of super heroes hiding their secret identity would be a lot more subtle than that, wouldn't they?

"It's just... a thought," Tommy says.

"Well, if it were true, I'd hate to be in that position. Imagine? After a day of kicking alien butt, you go home and do your history presentation while you have stitches and bruises all over your body. As if high school isn't toture enough."

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Katherine was right about one thing. High school is horrible. Or, at least, the environment, expectations and status quo has the potential to make teenagers do horrible things.

Tommy is staring at the biproduct of what horrid things teenagers are capable of, her locker door the unfortunate casualty of numerous homophobic slurs.

It seems Amanda bid her time in attacking, fed up with the frequency of Katherine spending time with a bunch of "losers" and their apathy towards her frustration. Tommy has come to learn that things like these are only done by people who want attention, which a desire that she faults no one for. She just wished the senior cheerleader would just treat her friends better instead of stepping down on other people to take what she wants.

Ever since the time she had realized her sexuality, she read up on articles to know more about it so she can relieve herself of the confusion and curiosity she felt, and find comfort in the fact that there are other people who support and understand people like her.

You matter.

You are loved.

You're not wrong.

You're who you're meant to be.

Be proud.

Tommy found comfort in reading words like those, but seeing their scathing equivalent in her locker, directed at her, her eyes are too blurred by tears to remember what those comforting words even looked like. She knows she shouldn't feel this way,but she can't help but be ashamed.

"Son of a bitch."

Tommy jumps at the cuss said with so much ire. She was just on her way to the bathroom, having excused herself in the middle of their class, so no one else was supposed to be in the hallway. But she turns and sees Kimberly Hart with so much cold anger in her eyes.

"I, uh..." she instinctively moves to cover the words, but it's too late. She's already read them, judging by the disgust in her face. She looks down. "Sorry."

"Why the hell are you the one apologising?"

She looks up and sees how perplexed Kimberly is. "I... I don't know." She turns to glance at one word: disgusting. For that, perhaps.

Kimberly shakes her head. "Don't ever apologize for that. Not liking you is their problem, not yours. Unless you actually did something bad, don't ever feel sorry." She jabs a finger at Tommy's chest, her eyes burning with passion as it seems to always do. "And you did nothing wrong."

"But -"

"I'm a terrible person," Kimberly says and that makes Tommy forget what she was about to say. "It takes one to know one. And I know for damn sure you're not."

Tommy slumps back against her defaced locker, finding herself nod at Kimberly's attempt at comfort and validation. She opens her eyes when she hears the sound of a pen uncapping.

"Wait, what are you doing?"

Kimberly ignores Tommy, writing the same words on the locker beside Tommy's. "This way they won't know for who that message is."

"What, but... those guys did nothing wrong."

"Neither did you." She moves on to the next one in their row. "With this much vandalism, the teachers will be forced to take notice. The principal will have to take care of it."

Tommy looks almost numbly as Kimberly covers all the lockers in their row with slurs. It wasn't the kind of thing someone righteous or noble would do, but she has a feeling that Kimberly Hart has never been that kind of girl either. She's saving Tommy, in her own kind of twisted way.

"I thought you hated me," Tommy finds herself saying as Kimberly writes no one will love you.

She pauses, wondering for a moment before realization dawns on her. "No, I..." she runs her hand through her short hair. "It's not like that." She sighs. "I'm just being petty. I'm the problem. Not you."

Tommy nods, even though she doesn't completely understand what Kimberly meant.

"I think that's enough," Kimberly says, observing the work she did. "Were you going to the bathroom, too? Come on."

Tommy nods again, and she silently follows Kimberly until their trip back to their own rooms. When they're about to split up, she finds herself saying, "you're not a terrible person."

Kimberly scoffs. "I just vandalized four lockers of people I don't even know less than ten minutes ago."

"To save me." She smiles. "Like an anti-hero."

Kimberly laughs. It's the first smile she directed toward her. "Whatever."

Tommy grins widely, says, "It's no wonder Trini likes you so much," and takes a moment to look at Kimberly's flushed face before running back to her class.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

The principal did take notice of the vandalized lockers. He was completely adamant that there would be a no tolerance policy of the same thing happening, no matter the form. So even if Amanda spread by word the truth of whom the words were for, no one could act on their displeasure as long as they're in school.

Tommy is grateful, very much so. The hate she is subjected to has been minimal, but the person she most wants to talk to is avoiding her. She's sure, after the fifth day Katherine opted to stay with the cheerleaders.

She isn't outright ignoring Tommy, but she hasn't been able to look her in the eye either. She doesn't sit next to her in the classes they share, and they no longer go to Krispey Kreme after school. Even Adam's company isn't enough to distract her from the lonliness she's feeling.

Right now Adam is busy in the library, helping Tanya study for their upcoming exam. It's sweet that he was obviously thinking about refusing when he glanced worriedly at Tommy. Even when the object of his affection was offering to spend more time with him, he was reluctant to leave Tommy alone. So she was the one who literally pushed Adam to get out of the cafeteria, assuring him that she would be totally fine.

She and Adam barely talk anyway, Katherine always the one initiating conversation, but it was honestly still a little lonely.

"Do you mind if we sit here?"

Tommy sees Billy Cranston first, holding his tray of food as he shoots him a pleasant smile.

"Hey, hey, Tom Girl!" Zack comes in a blur of black, landing himself beside the younger girl. "Hope you don't mind. I've been running out of ideas for my next video. Could you help me out?"

"As long as it isn't anything illegal," Jason sternly says as he sits directly opposite to Tommy.

"Awe but where's the fun in that?" Zack says. "Am I supposed to wear a helmet, too?"

Jason smirks. "But where's the fun in that?"

"Hell yes." He reaches over to pat Tommy's other side when he sees Trini arrive with Kimberly. "Come sit here Crazy Girl."

Tommy rolls her eyes at the wink Zack not-so-discreetly throws her way. Trini isn't even finished forming a confused face before Kimberly stomps toward them and not-so-accidentally hits the back of Zack's head with her tray as she sits beside Tommy instead.

"Ow, fuck!"

"Sorry, meant to do it," Kimberly says with a faux innocent smile that makes Tommy giggle.

"Then why did you apologise?" Billy asks.

"She was being sarcastic, Bill," Trini says, taking the spot in front of Kimberly.

"Oh."

"Dude, aren't you gonna sit down?" Zack asks, stealing one of Jason's fries while the other boy is too busy looking at Billy.

"Yeah, just..." He takes a deep breath, then gingerly takes a seat next to Jason. "Yup. Okay. That's not bad."

Tommy looks worriedly at the senior. "Are you okay, you look tense."

"I'm okay," Billy says, vigorously nodding his head. It was obviously a lie, judging by the worried glances Jason keeps throwing his way. But Tommy lets it go since it's apparent that Billy doesn't want to talk about it and they all get distracted when Zack tells a story about the time he got caught doing one of his videos at the school rooftop.

Kimberly often makes teasing jabs at the validity of Zack's stories. Even though Billy claims that jokes fly over his head, he himself is hilarious. Jason and Trini are the least talkative ones, but there's a brief moment where they have their own conversation, Tommy hearing them talk about Trini's younger brothers and Jason's younger sister who are apparently friends.

For a moment, Tommy could forget about Katherine, but there are fleeting times when she would hope that Katherine would look her way and see that she's okay, even if she chooses to stay with girls like Amanda who care more about reputation than actual bonds.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

"I gotta go, now," Billy stiffly says, shooting up from where he was seated.

He gathers his things, and pauses from leaving when he rounds the table and is near Tommy. She looks on in confusion when he only awkwardly pats her head before speed walking out of the noisy cafeteria.

"I'm gonna go, too," Jason says. "See you in detention tomorrow, Tommy."

"Okay," Tommy distractedly says as Jason follows Billy out the doors. "What was that about? Is Billy okay?"

"Jason's got him," Kimberly says, standing so she can occupy the space the two boys vacated and sit beside Trini. "He doesn't like it when we over crowd him."

Tommy frowns. "Is there something wrong? He's been kind of tense this whole time."

"He just wasn't used to sitting here," Zack says, "routine's really important to Billy." He jumps suddenly with a yelp of pain, bending a little to rub her shin. "What was that for, Crazy Girl?"

Trini doesn't get to answer, because Tommy immediately asks, "Then why did he ask to sit here? He shouldn't have done that if it didn't make him comfortable."

Trini throws Zack one last glare before addressing Tommy. "He didn't want you to be alone. None of us did."

Tommy's face falls. "Oh. You didn't have to."

Trini groans and glares at Zack again. "And this is why we didn't want to tell her."

Zack sheepishly rubs the back of his neck. "Right."

"We didn't do it out of pity," Kimberly says. "Trust us. And don't feel guilty about Billy. It was his decision to go out of his comfort zone. He just... know what it's like, is all. We all do."

"He's always been isolated and bullied because other kids thought he was weird," Zack says. "He just didn't like that you're going through the same things, dude." He slings an arm securely around her shoulder. "What better way to get through isolation than with fellow outcasts?"

Tommy smiles, feeling so much warmth from these people she barely knows but have saved her in so many ways. Even if the thought that Jason, Kimberly, Zack, Billy, and Trini are the Power Rangers is ridiculous, the five of them would always be Tommy's heroes.

She only wishes she could be the same for them someday.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Can we talk?

Katherine still hasn't answered her text, but Tommy decides to be brave for once, waiting outside of their school's entrance for when Katherine's finished with cheer practice.

She can't just let whatever is hapening between them keep going until they float away from each other. She wants to at least know what's wrong, if the person she thought was her friend is disgusted with her. If that's the truth, then she'll back off. It'll hurt like a bitch, but at least she'll have comfort in knowing that she tried.

Her hands hide themselves in her jacket pockets, a nervous habit that she never really got rid of. Her brows furrow when she feels her hand grasp something solid, then they lift when she pulls out a strange green gem.

When she hears the familiar giggling of who are undoubtedly the cheerleaders, Tommy she shoves the gem back inside her pocket and stands up. Her phone vibrates from where it's tucked in her other pocket but she ignores it since the double doors open to reveal the cheerleaders.

Katherine is the only one not participating in whatever conversation they were having, her eyes on her phone as she's still typing. Tommy's own phone vibrates with another message.

"Oh, gross. It's the baby dyke."

Tommy's attention turns to Amanda Clarke. She feels anger boil within her at the word, but she feels more tired than anything else. Her hand instinctively grips the gem, and she could swear it's starting to feel hot.

The slur also gets Katherine's attention and Tommy's heart falls at the scowl on her face.

"Don't call her that," Katherine almost seethes.

What?

"What?" Amanda dumbfoundedly says. The other cheerleaders share the same expression.

A hive mind, Trini would say. At which Kimberly would scoff.

"Calling her that is wrong," Katherine says. "So just don't."

Amdanda places a hand on her hip. "You got some nerve for a baby freshman. You're going to talk to your captain like that?"

Katherine lets out a breath through her nose. She looks tired, like this is a conversation she's had before. "All I'm asking is for you to be a decent person to my friend, Amanda."

Amanda clicks her tongue and climbs down the steps. "Whatever. Go ahead and braid the lezzie's hair. You're not one of us anymore."

Tommy stares at Katherine. "Why did you do that? She could have you kicked out of the squad."

Katherine didn't have to do that. Tommy was perfectly fine hearing those words. Kimberly taught her not to listen to them. She didn't have to jeopardize herself.

"She won't do that," Katherine says with her usual air of confidence. Oh, how Tommy missed seeing that. "She doesn't have anyone good enough to make up for a lost member."

"But, she said..."

"She just meant that I don't get to hang out with them outside of actual cheer stuff. Don't worry. They can't find anyone else good enough."

"So you finally think you deserve the spot?"

Katherine shrugs. "I'm no Kimberly Hart, but I guess Katherine Hillard's enouh."

Tommy smiles when she realizes what this implies. "Does that mean I get you all to myself now?"

Katherine flushes. Then stutters. "Wh-what?"

Tommy giddily climbs up the steps to be level with Katherine. "You'll sit with me and Adam all the time now?"

"Oh! Uh... well, yeah... But... I saw you with Kimberly Hart and her friends earlier. If you prefer them..."

Tommy shakes her head. "They're awesome. Really awesome." She smiles softly. "But they're no Katherine Hillard. And I really missed her."

Katherine smiles shyly. Bashfulness is something Tommy rarely sees in her friend. "Great." Her hands move up to affectionately squeeze Tommy's arms. "Because she really missed Tommy Oliver."

"Wanna go to Krispey Kreme?"

Katherine grins. "Your treat?"

"Sure."

"Good." She runs down the steps and waves her phone. "No take backs!"

The action reminds Tommy of the message she didn't look at.

Kitkat
sure. can we meet in krispey kreme?
my treat this time

"Ah!"

"No take backs!"

|||| |||| |||| ||||

"So why were you avoiding me?"

Tommy isn't mad. She's upset, sure, but Katherine coming back and standing up to Amanda has more than made up for it. She's just curious right now.

Katherine's relaxed demeanor from before disappears. She starts fiddling with the straw of her coffee.Amanda told me about it, before she spread the rumors. Is it true? That you're... gay?"

Tommy doesn't hesitate. "Yes. I wanted to tell you, someday. Because you're my friend. Is that why?" She sees Katherine purse her lips. "I'm still me. You don't have to be scared or anything. Just because I'm into girls doesn't mean we can't stay friends."

Katherine groans into her hands. "God, I know." When she removes her hands, her face is suddenly red, and Tommy doessn't know why. "I know all that. I just, uhh... I needed to get my head wrapped around it, I guess?"

"Really? That's all?"

Katherine takes a moment too long to answer. "Yes. That's all. I'm so sorry if I worried you or anything."

"It's fine. I'm just glad you're fine with it."

"Yup." She nods vigorously. "Totally fine with it. Are you okay, though?"

"Yeah. I am."

"Really?"

"Really. Kimberly Hart and her friends are really cool. And oh my god, you should have seen Trini give Amanda a verbal lashing. She was awesome."

"Sounds like someone's got a crush," Katherine teasingly says.

It was just a joke, but Tommy finds herself honestly saying, "Oh, yeah. Well can you blame me? She's really hot."

"Oh. That's... yeah. I guess." She grumbles against the straw in her mouth, "if you're into that."

Tommy laughs. "I obviously am. But it's a loss cause."

"You don't know that."

Tommy considers telling Katherine that she's way off her theory that Kimberly Hart is into Jason Scott because of whatever's happening between her and Trini, but she decides against it. It's not her secret to tell.

"I just know."

"What? You're hot, too."

"Aaawwee..."

Katherine rolls her eyes, but she's smiling.

They're talking about Adam's obvious crush on Tanya Sloan when they hear screaming from outside. They barely have time to react before the glass windows shatter and a rock monster enters the shop.

The patrons and customers immediately panic, running in every which direction as they try to avoid the deformed creature.

"Tommy!"

In her shock over the chaos, Tommy didn't notice one of the monsters grabbing Katherine. It effortlessly throws her to the wall and Tommy almost feels the pain herself when Katherine's body hits the concrete and crumples to the ground.

"Kat!"

She feels hot rage for the sight of her unconscious friend. The gem glowers with heat from inside her pocket, but she ignores it, opting to glare at the monster with clenched fists.

Her cry caught the monster's attention. It raises one of its limbs to strike but never manages to land a hit. Its arm shatters when a blue lance shoots through it. Tommy feels a glimmer of hope when she sees the blue ranger run towards them. He jumps and lands a powerful kick on the monster's torso, making it finally crumble to pieces on the ground.

He picks up his lance before facing Tommy. "Are you okay?" His hands hover over her. "You're not hurt or anything, right?"

Tommy can't help but stare. The blue armor is so beautiful up close. So beautiful that Tommy couldn't focus on the fact that his voice is familiar. "Y-yeah."

But his head is still moving frantically, looking at every inch of her body for any sign of injury. Then his gaze lands on her right hand. "What's..."

"Huh?" Now that he's pointed it out, Tommy finally notices the strange sort of warmth starting from her elbow. But whatever it was the blue ranger noticed must have disappeared, because she sees nothing but her jacket-clad arm.

"That was -" Another monster entering the store interrupts the blue ranger. "Oh, dang. Go take your friend. Take her somewhere safe."

"What about you? You're alone."

"I'll be fine. My friends are on their way." He flinches when they hear the monster roar. "I gotta go now." He awkwardly pats her head before running off to pierce the monster with his spear.

Tommy's hand ends up on her head, where the blue ranger just patted it.

He wasn't even disguising his voice!

Katherine's groan pulls Tommy out of her thoughts. She immediately runs to her side, supporting her while she looks for any visible injury.

"Are you okay?"

Another groan. "No..." Her hand touches the back of her head before she winces "Fuck. That's definitely a bump." Her eyes widen when she sees who's fending off the monsters. "Holy shit! Is that?"

"Yup, that's the blue - oh."

Katherine fainted. Great.

Her body slumps against Tommy. She sighs but immediately adjusts the other girl so she can carry her on her back. Tommy isn't exactly scrawny, but Katherine is almost the same height as her. It's surprising that she isn't even struggling as she runs with Katherine on her back.

She gives the blue ranger one final glance before running in the direction of the sirens' lights.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

"Ow."

"You shouldn't touch it," Tommy tells Katherine and the other girl lowers her hand from her head.

Tommy managed to bring Katherine to one of the medics on stand by whenever the monster attacks happen. She only felt relief when her friend managed to come to and the medic said that Katherine didn't have a concussion or any other injury. They were far enough from the battle to not see whatever happened, but they heard that the other rangers arrived and helped the blue ranger defeat the monsters.

They said it was safe, but Tommy couldn't take any chances. She's walking Katherine home, even when the other girl refused and pointed out that Tommy's house was closer to where they were.

"Thank you," Katherine says.

Tommy shrugs. "It was nothing. Literally. The blue ranger was the one who saved us."

"But you were the one who carried me out of there. You're walking me home. When you could have left me.That's not nothing."

"I could never leave you."

Katherine smiles softly before her usual wry look returns. "Just accept my gratitude." She lightly nudges Tommy's side with her elbow. "You're my hero, Tommy Oliver. And that's that."

Tommy suddenly feels bashful, awkwardly chuckling as she rubs the back of her neck. "Okay."

Will you look at that. Guess she can be a hero, too.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

This is weird. Really weird.

The gem? Coin? Well, whatever is the thing she found in her pocket just won't leave her alone. Whenever she leaves it in one place, it just keeps reappearing in her pocket. Like a haunted object from a damn horror movie.

She gives up ridding herself of it by the time she has to go to school. It hasn't conjured up any evil spirits, so nothing wrong could happen, right?

(Fuck, isn't that what every horror movie character that's about to die thinks?)

As if getting almost killed by a monster and getting stalked by a gem isnt making her week weird enough, she finds Jason, Trini, Kimberly, Zack, and Billy all stalking towards her before their first period like they're on a mission.

She closes her locker, keeping her eyes on the five seniors until they stop to surround her. "Uh... hey, guys? What's up?"

They all exchange glances until Jason is the one who pipes up. "We need to know something, Tommy. By any chance, do you happen to have a green coin?"

Tommy's eyes widen. She nods slowly and reaches into her pocket, but Trini stops her, looking around at the many students preparing for school.

"Not here."

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Trini brings them to the football stadium. Kimberly is frowning the whole time, and Tommy has no idea why.

"Really? Here?" Kimberly says with crossed arms. It's almost like being here triggers a bad memory. The other four share the same sentiment.

"It's not a big deal," Trini says. "No one's here."

Tommy shifts from where she's standing in front of their semi-circle. "Can you guys tell me what's going on? This is starting to look like the start of a murder scene, if I'm being completely honest."

No one laughs at the joke. They all glance to Jason, like he's the one who calls the shots. He nods and reaches into his pocket, the other four doing the same thing.

Red, blue, pink, yellow, and black. All five teenagers hold a coin in each hand, each one bearing the color of a Power Ranger. But most importantly, looking identical to the one vibrating in Tommy's pocket. She pulls it out, and the heat intensifies when she reveals it.

All coins flash with a glow of multi-color lights. It makes Tommy close her eyes for a moment, and she blinks it open when the light calms to a warm glow in each of the coins.

"What was that?" Tommy asks the five seniors.

They have different degrees of relief and joy in their faces, but as expected Zack is ecstatic.

"We finally found you!"

He wraps his arms around her, easily lifting her from the ground in a surprising show of strength.

Tommy has no idea what's happening, but his cheering makes her laugh as he jumps whilst carrying her.

Trini and Kimberly are a little more low key from behind him, but they have wide grins on their faces.

Billy is jumping, pulling on the sleeve of Jason's jean jacket. "We did it! We did it, Jason! We found her!"

"You found her," Jason says. "Zack, put her down, man. She's still confused as hell."

Zack laughs and does as Jason asked. "Right, right. Sorry, dude."

"It's fine. But please tell me what the hell is happening."

"Well, first of all, we're the Power Rangers. Ta-da!" Billy even does jazz hands for added effect and Kimberly hides her face in Trini's neck in embarassment. Trini flushes but doesn't complain.

Tommy blinks, then a grin slowly forms on her mouth. "I knew it. I fucking knew it!"

"Wait what?"

Tommy shoots them a dubious look. "Seriously? You guys aren't that subtle." She points at Jason's bright red shirt. "I bet you're the red ranger."

Jason self-consciously pulls at the lapels of his jacket.

"Wait... but does this mean..?" Tommy glances down at the coin clutched in her hand, the gem in the middle glowing emerald green. Green. "No way."

Billy nods enthusiastically. "You're the sixth ranger. The green ranger!" He makes jazz hands again. "Ta-da!"

This time Kimberly groans into Trini's shoulder.

Zack grips Tommy's shoulder, a sparkle in his almond-shaped eyes. "You have to come to the ship. Now."

Billy frowns. "But, Zack, we still have school."

"I don't mind," Kimberly says.

"You forgot to do your bio homework, didn't you?" Trini says.

"Oh I didn't forget. I crashed on my bed after crushing twenty putties,completely aware that I have an untouched worksheet."

"Then let's go," Jason says, already at the top of the steps near the exit. He shoots Trini a knowing look before raising a fist. "Show of hands."

Trini smirks, turning her eyes to Kimberly when she raises her hand. Kimberly follows with a delighted grin. Zack's hand shoots up more than anything, and he looks expectantly at Billy, egging him on.

"Only because I'm super happy that Tommy's part of the team," he says, finally raising a hand.

They all look at Tommy now. She shrugs.

"Hell, I wanna see a space ship."

|||| |||| |||| ||||

Tommy hasn't even completely wrapped her head around what's happening but more strange things keep piling themselves on top of one another.

The ship is underground, and she had to pass through this weird floating pool thingy to get there. Her landing wasn't flawless, but they assured her that they took some time to get the hang of it, too.

Tommy got scared when she saw Alpha-5 and Zordon at first, but she eventually grew more fascinated than anything.

As she stands on her pedestal that Alpha-5 said reformed itself for her, Zordon explains to her what the Power Rangers really are. The five rangers stand back and talk in whispers every now and again. Kimberly even brought out a bag of chips at one point.

"Don't mind us," she said. "We're just auditing."

The look on Zordon's face reminded Tommy of a disgruntled teacher who gets ignored by his students.

"And you must never reveal your identity to anyone," Zordon says, saying the final ranger rule.

Tommy was nodding vigorously until then. "Not even a close friend?"

She isn't sure if she can hide a secret as big as this from Katherine.

"No, never."

"Just wondering," Zack pipes up. "Do we get any punishments if we break a rule? Because I'm pretty sure my mom already knows."

Jason turns sheepish. "I think my dad already knows, too."

"I'm a bad liar," Billy says. "I think my mom figured it out weeks ago."

"I told my family," Trini apathetically says before putting a chip in her mouth.

"Ah!" Zack points a finger at Trini like some petulant child. "Active violation of Ranger Rule three!"

Tommy thinks that Zordon would have dragged his hand across his face if he still had one.

"To be fair, I told them before we got 'oriented'," Trini says, making air quotes for the last word. "And besides, they probably just think I was shitting with them."

"Fascinating," Alpha-5 says. "Tell me, Master Trini, is it common for human teenagers to defecate with their parents?"

Kimberly must have inhaled a potato chip because she has started choke-laughing. Trini ignores the robot's questions in favor of rubbing Kimberly's back. Billy's panicking, asking Kimberly if he should do a heimlich maneuver. Jason and Zack, meanwhile, are busting a gut.

Tommy couldn't help but smile at the sight. But when she looks back at Zordon, his frown has gotten deeper.

"Rangers!" he bellows. "We are here to orient the new ranger, not mess around like undisciplined children!"

The five rangers sober up at his expression of outrage, and Tommy stands a little more rigid from her pedestal. She isn't the one being reprimanded but she isn't going to take the chance angering a not-quite-dead alien.

"You should be mentoring her into becoming a ranger and train her at once."

"You're right," Jason says, his expression now serious. "Yeah, we should be mentoring her, but we're not going to pit her against a putty now."

"If you don't prepare her-"

"We know. We've all talked about it."

"She's just kid," Trini says, staring down Zordon despite her size. "And she's been given a responsibility no one her age should be burdened with. Let her process it first."

"I can't focus on things I have to do when my head's cluttered with so many things," Billy says, his fingers fidgeting each other. "She should clear her head first."

"This is our team, Zordon," Jason say with a tone of finality. "We'll do it our way."

There's a tense moment where Zordon looks at them one by one, most probably battling within himself whether to argue further. Tommy may not know everything, at least not yet. But Jason's the red ranger, they said, and he's the leader now. Zordon must be reminded of the same thing.

"Very well."

|||| |||| |||| ||||

They go back to the ravine, all of them sitting on the edge of the cliff with their feet dangling. Tommy stares at the coin in her hand, looking on as the afternoon sun shines against the emerald green hue.

"Why me?" Tommy asks. "Of all people. I barely know what to do with my life. How can I be responsible to protect every one else's?"

She sees them exchange a look amongst themselves.

"We've been asking ourselves that since the beginning," Jason says. "When we were preparing for the first attack, we had no idea what we were doing."

"There were a lot of arguements," Billy says.

"Ah, well, for all we knew the end of the world was approaching," Trini says as she leans back on her arms with closed eyes. "We were all scared and frustrated."

Kimberly smirks. "You were scared?"

Trini still doesn't open her eyes. "Wipe the smirk off your face, Hart."

Kimberly grins even wider before hiding it with pursed lips. She faces Tommy and says, "none of us felt like we deserved this." She takes out her pink coin. "Honestly, I still don't think I do. But I... I get the feeling that this thing knows us better than we know ourselves. We just have to prove ourselves, I guess."

"Aawweee..." Zack coos from beside Tommy. "How sweet, Kimmy."

Kimberly sticks her tongue out at him before leaning against Trini.

Zack drapes an arm around Tommy's shoulders as he says, "who cares about whether we're worthy, anyway? Thinking about that won't save the world. It chose us, and that's it. We're just gonna do our job."

Jason nods. "Zordon doesn't think we have what it takes, but we'll prove him wrong."

"It's really scary," Billy says. "But we have to do it, so we will."

"Yeah," Tommy says. "It's really scary."

"Don't worry, kid." Trini smiles at her. "We got your back."

And she'll have theirs.

|||| |||| |||| ||||

"Tommy!"

She instinctively lights up at the sound of Katherine's voice. She stops at the top of the school's front steps and waits for Katherine to stop in front of her.

"Hey, cheer practice ended a little early today and I need to go the mall for new running shoes. Wanna come with?"

Tommy's face falls. "Oh, I'd love to, I really would. But I can't. I have... plans."

Katherine's own smile disappears. "Oh? With who? Are you... going on a date with a girl?"

Tommy's eyes widen. "What? No!" She laughs. "No. I'm hanging out with them."

She jabs her thumb to the bottom of the steps and they both look down to find Jason, Trini, Kimberly, Billy and Zack watching them with keen interest. They all wave at Katherine at the same time.

"Oh!" Katherine breathes a sigh of relief. "Cool." She leans closer to ask, "how are you suddenly their B.F.F.?"

"I'll tell you later," she whispers back.

She'll have to come up with an excuse since she can't really say that she's the new ranger that's most probably going to debut soon in an inevitable monster attack.

"I'm really sorry I can't come with you," Tommy says with a normal volume. "Maybe we can hang out later? In my house?"

Katherine's smile is back. "Oh? I didn't realize we're close enough for that."

Tommy rolls her eyes. "Is that a yes or no?"

Katherine nods. "Definitely. I'm gonna go ahead, then. Text me your adress."

Katherine politely waves at the five seniors on her way. They all wave back, synchronized once again, wearing the same amused smirks.

Tommy gives them a look as they start walking. "That was a little creepy."

But Zack ignores her statement, giddily asking, "Are you going on a date later?"

Tommy scoffs. "No. Just hanging out."

"So that was Tommy's girlfriend?" Billy asks.

"She's not my girlfriend!"

"Katherine Hillard, huh?" Kimberly says. "Not bad."

"Oh my god, Kat's just-"

"Hey, Crazy Girl. Guess you and Tom Girl have the same tastes."

Trini and Kimberly flush and look away from each other

"Guys," Tommy whines.

"Zack, stop it," Jason says with a stern voice. Tommy breathes a sigh of relief. "And Tommy." He smirks. "Make sure you don't let your girlfriend stay out too late."

Tommy groans.