Disclaimer: Once again, I'm taking Saban's characters and make them do things that sprang from my sometimes slightly demented imagination. I have no permission to do this, nor am I being paid. This story takes place a few years after CtD; the former Zeo and Morphin' Rangers lead normal lives in and around Angel Grove. Wait a minute ... did I just say "normal"?? Uh ... not quite. I hope I haven't mutilated the characters beyond recognition; any "aberrant" behavior is wholly my fault, and I've tried to give sufficient reasons for what I think are very Human reactions ... I'd rate this as PG-13, though. Warning: Major kleenex alert! As usual, please comment! DB, Fall 99
by Dagmar Buse
"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone..." (Gospel of St. John 8,7)
Kat's quiet statement seemed to echo loudly in Jason's ears as he looked at the pretty blonde sitting across from him at a small café in downtown Angel Grove on a sunny July afternoon.
"And it's my child." It wasn't a question, and both knew it.
"Yes. I haven't spent any time with Tommy ... like that ... for nearly three months. He ... he was never home long enough for us to ..." Kat shrugged miserably, not meeting Jason's eyes. It was precisely that fact that had led to their current predicament. While she was waiting for her former teammate to react to her announcement, scenes from the past year or so flashed through Kat's mind.
Kat and Tommy had been dating since High School; not even her scholarship to the Royal Dance Academy in London had been able to break them up. Of course, they'd had to work at their relationship, to keep the feeling alive, but that was normal, wasn't it? When Kat had returned to Angel Grove after two years, they had grown closer again, but at the same time, Tommy's racing career had taken off, resulting in long weeks on the road following the racing circuit. She had been sorry, of course, but a lot of their friends were still living close by; if she wanted, she had more than enough company after work and on those weekends when Tommy was away. There was Rocky in Stone Canyon, Jason in Angel Grove, both managing their own dojos and even cooperating loosely ... Tanya and Adam were married and living in Los Angeles, only a couple of hours away if she needed the big city, and even Kim, Trini and Zack dropped by from time to time, when their respective careers allowed it. Kat herself was teaching ballet at a dance studio, combining her two loves into a satisfying job.
Tommy did his best, but his busy schedule didn't allow him much time to himself to accompany his girlfriend (and eventually, his lover) to every function or outing that Kat wanted -- or sometimes had -- to attend. Since he felt it would be highly unfair to ask Kat to stay at home alone, one day, when a sponsor's whim suddenly cancelled his visit home, he hit on the perfect solution. He called his best friend since High School and asked Jason if he could substitute for him.
Kat was naturally surprised by the change in plans and partners, but since she'd always liked Jason and he was willing, she spent an enjoyable evening at an awards banquet with the former Gold Ranger, listening delightedly to the stories he told her of the early days of the Rangers, before and since Tommy had joined the team.
This wasn't to be the last time Jason deputized for Tommy; over the months that followed, there even had been a few instances when Kat had been Jason's escort, and the two had gotten into the habit of meeting occasionally for a coffee, a movie or pizza when the opportunity arose. Jason's relationship with Emily hadn't lasted past the time he'd been at college; although he dated casually, he was almost always available when Tommy called to ask him to take Kat somewhere.
It had been one such evening shortly after Memorial Day that had led to the situation they now found themselves in; the blonde dancer had had tickets for a world-famous ballet that was making a rare tour stop in Angel Grove, and Tommy had promised to go with her. Unfortunately, he'd told her when he called only a couple of hours before they were supposed to leave, his car had developed engine troubles, and Tommy felt that supervising the mechanics himself was more important than going to a theatrical performance that meant little to him personally. He'd been distracted and short on the phone, and Kat was still angry and very much disappointed as she opened the door of her tiny apartment to Jason as he came to pick her up.
"Hey, none of that," the former Gold Ranger lightly scolded his pretty escort as he noticed Kat surreptitiously wiping frustrated tears from her eyes. "Let's see if we can't make something of this evening after all. You've been looking forward to this for so long; don't let Tommy spoil it for you. I'll try and make it up to you, okay?"
Privately, he shook his head at his best friend; he didn't understand how Tommy could become so wrapped up in his driving that he was starting to neglect his girlfriend. Kat was too nice, too classy to be treated that way. If she were his girlfriend ... but she wasn't, she was his best friend's, had been for years, and Jason promised her and himself that her disappointment would be gone by the time he took her home. True to his word, Jason did everything he could to make Kat forget she'd been stood up. After the ballet, which he'd enjoyed (much to his surprise) because Kat took the trouble to explain things to him, he took the Australian to dinner, sharing a small carafe of wine, and then to a travelling carnival right outside of town. Once there, he made her laugh by coaxing her onto all the kiddie rides, winning a ridiculously silly-looking Pink Panther toy ("It is a cat of sorts, isn't it?") for her, and Kat whimsically bought a much smaller red dinosaur for him when he wasn't looking. It was close to midnight as the two friends arrived at Kat's place, and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world that Kat ask Jason in for a cup of coffee.
Jason sprawled on the soft couch next to the fluffy toys while Kat set the coffee to percolating and took off her jewellery and shoes. He helped her carry the mugs into her small but cosy living room, and the two laughed and joked while they companionably sipped the steaming brew by the light of a single Tiffany lamp that stood on an end table. Their mood was mellow, but after a while Jason noticed a certain restlessness in his pretty companion. Setting his almost empty cup on the table, he reached out and took her hand in his.
"What's up, Kat? Is something bothering you?"
"No ... not really. I was just thinking ... oh, nothing. It's really silly. Forget it."
"Hey, you know you can tell me almost anything," he coaxed with an engaging smile.
Kat returned it with one of her own, blushing slightly.
"Well ... I was just thinking how much I'd love to dance right now."
"Dance?" he laughed. "Ballet? Sorry, but you got me into that once -- I'm not about to try it again! Talk about feeling silly!"
The blonde giggled at the memory of Adam and Jason clumsily trying to follow her instructions for the King Midas ballet back when they had all been in High School together.
"No, not that." She shot the former Gold Ranger a mock-teasing look from under her long lashes. "I'd be afraid for life and limb if I let you try it in here!"
Kat grinned sassily, letting Jason fume for a few moments.
"The way I feel right now, I want to waltz ... or dance a rhumba ... something slow, and romantic ..." she then said with a wistful smile.
Jason considered her suddenly dreamy expression, then came to a decision. Jumping up from the couch, he quickly pushed the armchair to the wall and kicked the small rug out of the way. Then he stepped over to Kat's stereo and began flipping through the radio stations.
"What are you doing, Jase?" Kat asked, bewildered.
"Making your wish come true, milady," he grinned, having found an all-night station that played Golden Oldies. Bowing grandly, he pulled a by-now giggling Katherine to her feet.
"May I have this dance?"
"You're totally insane, you know that?" Kat laughed, but stepped willingly into Jason's arms.
The muscular young man shrugged.
"If I am, there's method to my madness," he replied, misquoting Shakespeare. "I told you I was going to make it up to you that Tommy couldn't come tonight."
He saw the shadow cross Kat's face, and mentally cursed himself. However, before he could react, she had already chased it away again and smiled brightly at her friend.
"So you did. Well, shall we, then?"
As if on cue, a new slow melody started, and the two former Rangers began to circle around the tiny living room. They didn't have much space, but it didn't matter; they laughed and talked through a few songs, swaying softly to the strain of violins and tinkling pianos. They relaxed even more, content in each other's company, and soon their words died down. Kat rested her forehead against Jason's cheek and he drew her close against his chest, holding her firmly but gently as they moved in perfect synch.
The DJ announced another set of songs, but the two were so lost in their thoughts, caught up in the atmosphere, that they hardly noticed. Although it wasn't really "their" kind of music, both were quite familiar with the tunes they heard -- after all, it was the kind of music their parents had danced to when they had been their age -- and Kat softly hummed along as Karen Carpenter's mellow soprano filled the room.
"It's only just begun ..."
When the song ended and the music segued into the next, Kat lifted her head from its resting place and met Jason's dark eyes. The last note died on her lips as she saw his expression. Suddenly breathless, she looked at her friend as if she were seeing him for the first time. In a way, she did.
Later, neither could say who had made the first move, but betwen one heartbeat and the next, their lips were softly caressing each other, tasting and exploring until they melted into an achingly tender kiss that left both reeling. The silence between them was electrifying, and nothing existed anymore but the two of them. Blue eyes drowned in midnight-dark pools, and when Jason lowered his head again, Kat didn't hesitate to meet him halfway. They were lost.
The next morning had been more than awkward, as they awoke in each other's arms. Thoughts of Tommy -- boyfriend and lover, and best friend -- chased memories of a night filled with passion and tenderness away like thunderclouds before a fresh gust of wind. Filled with embarrassment and a nearly overwhelming sense of shame, hardly able to look at each other, Jason and Kat agreed to forget about the night before as best and as fast as they could, united in the conviction that Tommy must never know about their lapse. However, their moment of madness would not stay forgotten -- just as things were settling back to normal, and Tommy had finally announced his intention to cut back on his racing and come home, to stay close to Angel Grove, the consequences of their actions caught up with them.
With a deep, unhappy sigh, Kat wrenched her thoughts back to the present. She focussed on the dark-haired young man sitting opposite her, stirring his after-lunch coffee absentmindedly as he tried to deal with the bombshell she had just dropped into his lap.
"What are you going to do?" Jason finally asked, his low voice carefully devoid of emotion.
"I ... I'll have to tell Tommy," Kat murmured shakily. Only the fact that Jason had grown noticeably pale under his tan enabled her to stay calm at all. Despite his outward control, to someone who knew him well it was obvious that he was deeply affected by what she'd told him.
"You don't necessarily have to," he said, with even less expression.
"Excuse me? A pregnancy isn't something you can hide indefinitely," Kat protested.
"It is if you ... do something ... about it soon enough," Jason replied. This time, a slight tremor shook his voice.
It took a few moments for Kat to catch his meaning.
"No!" she gasped, truly horrified. "Jason, you ... you're not seriously suggesting I have an abortion, do you?"
"Of course not," he hastened to reassure Kat, breathing a silent sigh of relief. While her announcement had come as a total shock, he found the thought of her ... losing ... the baby -- his baby -- strangely disturbing. Unconsciously, he decided not to think about that right now. Their immediate problem was Tommy, and how he would take the news that his best friend had betrayed his trust with his girlfriend. And it had been a betrayal on their parts, of that there was no doubt, however unintentional and accidental it might have been.
Jason echoed Katherine's earlier sigh. When they had been able to discuss their night of passion at all, they both had convinced each other that there was no secret attraction between them; their fault lay in giving in to the romantic atmosphere they had unwittingly created, in letting their mutual fondness for each other sweep them away without stopping to think about possible repercussions to their actions. They were Human, after all, and they'd made a mistake. Unfortunately, it was a mistake that couldn't be just forgotten, because they had failed to think -- whether about protection, or about the young man they both cared about very much. No matter what would come out of this for either of them, they were unhappily aware that they already had hurt Tommy with their actions, and were about to hurt him even more with the inevitable confession.
"You ... you're going to keep the baby, then?" he asked, too numb still with shock to think further than this right now.
"I don't know yet," Kat sighed. "I'll carry it to term, yes, but I don't know yet if I will keep it - or if I even can. My job isn't exactly well-suited to single parenthood, what with my erratic schedules, evening recitals and stuff, and I just can't expect my parents to raise my child. They're going to be retired in a few years, and it would be unfair to them to saddle them with an infant at this stage in their lives. Maybe putting it up for adoption will be the best thing. I ... I just don't know yet."
She sipped listlessly at her by-now cold cappucchino. As the slightly bitter fluid trickled down her throat, Kat suddenly became aware that she probably shouldn't be drinking coffee at all; the caffeine wasn't good for the baby. She pushed the almost-empty cup away, the sudden clatter of porcelain on the table top bringing Jason's eyes back to her face. She met the dark orbs with a wobbly smile that threatened to dissolve into tears. Impatiently, Kat dashed them away. She'd done enough crying as the home pregnancy test had confirmed her suspicions about her condition. However, there were decisions to be made - the first of which was when to tell Tommy. The "what" never entered the equation -- Kat knew without asking that Jason would agree with her that Tommy deserved nothing but complete honesty from now on - from both of them.
"When are you going to tell him?" Jason inquired, unconsciously mirroring her thoughts.
"As soon as possible." There was no sense in putting it off any longer than necessary.
"And what will you tell him?"
"Exactly what happened - that we never intended to do anything, that there is nothing between us ... that we just lost our heads that one time."
"It sounds pretty lame, when you put it like that," the young man remarked, running both hands through his short dark hair in a gesture of desperation.
"I know," Kat acknowledged hoarsely. "But what else can we tell him?"
"I wish I knew. Man, I can't believe I did that! Tommy's been my best friend for so long ..."
"This isn't exactly easy for me, either," Kat said more sharply than she'd intended. Jason had the grace to blush.
"I'm sorry, Kat; I didn't mean that the way it sounded," he apologized.
"I know," the former Pink Ranger said again. She swallowed hard.
"Jason, I ... I'm afraid."
Jason knew exactly what the former Pink Ranger was afraid of - because he shared her fears. Fear that Tommy would lose his occasionally formidable temper, fear that they'd both destroyed a relationship they'd worked long and hard for in their respective ways, fear that they'd driven someone very dear out of their lives forever, with no chance at forgiveness, or redemption ... He reached out and grasped her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze as he'd done so often these past months. With his free hand, he smoothed an imaginary line from her temple down her cheek, brushing the soft skin with his fingertips. The gesture was soothingly familiar and came naturally to both, but neither noticed.
"You want me to come with you?" he offered, but Kat shook her head miserably. Drawing a deep breath, she managed a very shaky smile.
"Thanks, but no. I think I owe Tommy at least the chance of saying whatever he'll feel he has to say to me without an audience."
"You're probably right," Jason conceded reluctantly. "Besides, I think ... I know he'll have to say more than enough to me himself once he knows." It was a prospect he dreaded, but faced with determination -- to take every well-deserved word of censure without protest - if Tommy even wanted to speak to him ever again.
Kat sighed once more as she put enough money for her largely uneaten lunch and coffee on the small table, watching Jason do the same. The two young people made their way outside and parted company with heavy hearts, agreeing to talk to each other once they'd both faced Tommy. Neither was looking forward to that confrontation, and they knew they only had themselves to blame if the former leader of the Rangers chose to vent his anger on them.
It was even worse than she'd anticipated. Once past the initial shock and incredulity, Tommy heard Kat out with an icy composure that was more unsettling than if he had shouted or flown into a fit of temper, something he was entirely capable of.
After Kat had finished her tale, she sat huddled miserably on the couch in the Oliver house - Tommy wasn't home often enough to make it necessary yet to rent his own apartment - and tried to hide the tears that had gathered in her eyes and threatened to spill over.
It was a long time until Tommy could bring himself to speak with anything even remotely resembling calm. His normally warm voice was cold as ice as he finally addressed his longtime girlfriend.
"So what you're saying is, this just ... just happened."
"Yes," Kat said hoarsely. "If we actually had fallen in love with each other ... which we haven't ... we ... we never would have gone behind your back." She recoiled from the flash of rage briefly visible in the chocolate-brown eyes.
"How do I know that?" Tommy sneered, unable to control himself.
"For that matter, how do I know it was just this once? For all I know, you could have been screwing around behind my back for months, until you got sloppy and got yourself knocked up!" The crude language was totally uncharacteristic for Tommy, and Kat had to fight harder against her tears. She didn't protest, though - it was nothing she hadn't thrown at herself ever since she'd found out about the baby.
"Tommy, please believe me, neither Jason nor I ever wanted to hurt you," she said desperately. "We both care about you too much to ..." but almost as soon as the words left her mouth, she knew it had been the wrong thing to say.
"You have a very strange way of showing it, then. Why should I believe you, anyway? Give me one reason why I should," Tommy challenged her.
"I've never lied to you," the blonde answered with as much dignity as she could muster. She could already sense where this was leading, and her heart sank even further.
"No, you just betrayed me with someone I thought was my best friend, didn't you?" Tommy said bitterly, letting his hurt briefly overshadow his anger. However, the softer emotion was gone almost as soon as it had appeared. He turned away from Kat to gaze out into the yard, trying to lose himself in the greenery and riot of plants in bloom. Kat had helped his mother plant most of them in the spring ... ruthlessly he shoved the memory away. The silence between the two longtime friends and lovers filled the room, hung there and lingered until it became almost unbearable to the young woman still sitting on the couch where she had spent so many hours cuddled in Tommy's arms. She hardly dared breathe, waiting for his next words, and still it came as something of a shock when Tommy spoke at last. His voice was deadly calm again, and betrayed nothing of his emotional turmoil.
"You heard me. Get out, and don't come back. I never want to see you again."
"Tommy ..." Kat tried, unable to believe what she'd heard. Deep down, she'd known what to expect, knowing Tommy as she did, but she'd been hoping against hope that he might be able to forgive her - not right away, but maybe in time ...
That hope died a quick and painful death as Tommy turned to face her with hard eyes. He didn't say another word, just stood there, with his arms implacably crossed before his chest and his face white under his tan. Kat's tears finally started to fall as she slowly got up and walked woodenly to the door, but she made no move to wipe them away. She swivelled around once more just before she left the sun-drenched room. It might as well have been the darkest night as far as Kat was concerned. Looking one last time at the man she'd fallen in love with almost at first sight nearly five years ago, whom she had watched grieve over the loss of another woman before he turned to her first for solace, then for affection and lastly for love, she knew that she'd never be with him like this again. Blinded by her tears, she choked out two words.
"I'm sorry ...."
When no reaction was forthcoming, Kat turned away again and made her way outside to her small car. She was so wrapped up in her guilt and misery that she never heard Tommy's last whispered words as he watched the blonde Australian drive out of his life.
"So am I, Kat. So am I."
During the next few days, Katherine buried herself in her apartment, barely managing to teach her classes. She was tempted to call in sick, but realistically told herself that with a baby on the way, she couldn't afford to, no matter if she ultimately decided to keep the child or not. Sighing, Kat dragged herself to work and back, fielding questions about her shadowed eyes and pallor with a fib about having caught a persistent flu bug. The sympathy of her coworkers and students made her feel even worse; it wasn't a very big lie as such, but somehow it only added to her feelings of dishonesty.
It was early evening on the third day after her breakup with Tommy as the doorbell rang. Kat opened the door listlessly, but her eyes widened in momentary shock as she saw Jason standing there, looking as miserable as she felt, but with a painful-looking bruise on his left cheekbone. Reaching out, she pulled him inside, into the living room.
"Oh God, Jason, what happened?" Kat watched him sink onto the couch with a pained sigh. His movements were stiff and slow, as if he were hurt.
"Tommy," he sighed, unable to look at the young woman.
"H-he hit you?" Her shock was apparent in her voice; it was normally very unlike Tommy to lash out in anger. *These are hardly "normal" circumstances, though!* The thought came unbidden, with a fresh rush of guilt.
"Yeah," Jason confirmed. "I ... I expected him to be angry, and hurt, when he confronted me at the dojo earlier, and I was prepared to take any blame he wanted to place; I understood that right from the outset. But it still didn't give him the right to call you some of the names he did. I ... I took exception to that, and things kind of went downhill from there." He tried to make light of it, but in spite of her own misery, Kat could see how strongly Jason was affected by what had happened between him and Tommy.
"Oh Jason ..." Kat didn't know what to say. She was still grieving for her lost relationship with Tommy, but something inside of her melted slightly at the thought of Jason taking the brunt of Tommy's anger like this, defending her -- who was just as much to blame ... She sank down next to him and gently touched his discolored cheek. Their eyes met briefly, and without having to ask, Kat just knew that Jason hadn't fought back, hadn't retaliated at Tommy's attack.
Their words were inadequate, but what else was there to say? Both knew that Tommy had shut them out of his life -- maybe forever. There was a slim chance that he might forgive them in time, but Jason and Kat were aware that things could never go back to the way they had been. They sat next to each other in silence, not touching, for a long, long time, while the evening shadows lengthened outside, chasing another warm California summer day into the night.
"What are we going to do now?" Jason finally asked into the stillness.
Kat sighed. She was gratified in some way that Jason had said "we", not "you", accepting responsibility for his part in this whole mess, but then, that was his way.
"I ... I guess we'll have to tell our folks next. I mean, they have the right to know as soon as possible, don't they?"
That was another conversation neither one was looking forward to. Both former Rangers knew that they would sadden and disappoint their parents for having been irresponsible, in more than just the obvious way. However, Jason had given the matter some thought, especially after his confrontation with Tommy, and it was one of the reasons he had come to see Katherine right away. He reached out and took both her hands in his, waiting until she hesitantly met his eyes.
"Kat ... I've been thinking about this. About the baby, and about us. I ... I know this is not the ideal time, but since you said you were going to go through with the pregnancy ...." He drew a deep breath; this was proving to be more difficult than he'd thought. "Kat, I know it's ultimately your decision, but I don't want you to give the baby up for adoption."
"I may not have another choice, Jason," Kat murmured. She had some misgivings about that herself, especially since Tommy had often told her about what it felt like to be adopted, never really knowing where he came from, or what his biological family had been like. Meeting David had been a stroke of luck for him that wasn't given to every adoptee, and if she was totally honest with herself, she didn't exactly relish the thought of maybe never knowing what became of her child, either.
"I can't afford to take more time off from work than absolutely necessary around my due date, and even so I'll have to start saving for the hospital and prenatal care soon. I haven't been working long enough for anything else, and it's only seven months 'til March ... "
"That's what I thought. Kat, I ...." He ran both hands through his short dark hair, then took her right hand once more. "Oh dammit, there's no easy way to say this! This may be totally out of left field, but ... Kat, what I'm getting at is ... will you marry me?"
The blonde was totally dumbfounded. She had expected an offer of financial aid past child support, but never in her wildest dreams had Kat thought to get a marriage proposal! She stared at the young man next to her, eyes wide with shock.
"But Jason, I ... I don't love you!" It was the first thing that came to her mind; maybe not very diplomatic, but very much the truth. Still, she blushed with embarrassment as she realized how it must have sounded.
"I know," Jason replied quietly, a slight, sad smile playing around his mouth. He gently stroked the back of her hand with his thumb. "But Kat, we've been friends for a long time, right? And I think I can say for both of us that we like and respect each other -- don't we?" He waited for her confirming nod.
"Yes, but that's no basis for marriage!" Kat's protest was automatic, but it sounded far less sure than she wanted it to. Desperately gathering her whirling thoughts, she withdrew her hand from Jason's grasp and got up, to pace around her tiny living room like a caged tigress. Finally, when she felt she had herself under control again, she turned to face Jason once more. His face was illuminated by the setting sun, making his eyes seem even darker than usual. Unbidden, an image appeared before Kat's mind's eye, of how bright they had seemed during their night of madness, just before he'd claimed her, but she deliberately and quickly chased it away again. She didn't want to think of that night! Rallying, she inhaled deeply.
"Jason, why? Why would you want to marry me at all? Don't tell me you've suddenly decided that you're madly in love with me!"
"No, I won't," Jason answered. "If I were, it would make the reason why this happened at all a lot easier. Losing control like we did ..." He shrugged helplessly. Even after all these weeks, they both were still at a loss to explain what had come over them that night, overwhelming them both. At least one of them should have been able to retain some shred of sanity.
"I wouldn't want to insult your intelligence by pretending to feel something I don't," Jason continued. "But Kat ... the more I think about it, the more I realize that I want the baby -- our baby. I want to be a part of its life, to see it grow up ... not just pay child support."
"If I decide to raise the baby myself, I'd give you visitation rights, of course ..." Kat said weakly. She felt rather overwhelmed by this turn of events. Here she was, still pining for Tommy, trying to work up the courage to tell her parents she was pregnant at all, and Jason was already talking about raising the baby! With her! A sudden rush of fear gripped her. She wasn't ready to be a mother yet!
"That's not going to be enough for me. I ... I never thought I'd say or feel like this, at least not for years, but ... I want to be a father to our baby, Kat. I can't stand the thought of it growing up somewhere with complete strangers, and I'd never know what was happening to it." The former Gold Ranger got up as well. Stepping up to his erstwhile teammate, he once more reached for her hands. Looking earnestly into the blue eyes, Jason tried to convince Kat of the seriousness of his intentions.
"Katherine, please? Will you at least think about it?"
"I ... I just don't know, Jase," the blonde said, her head whirling. Without thinking, she blurted out, "What will Tommy think?"
Kat flinched at her own words as soon as she uttered them; she knew she was grasping for straws, hoping for Tommy's forgiveness. Right now there was nothing less likely to happen. A covert glance into Jason's eyes confirmed that, and it brought a fresh surge of misery. However, when Kat tried to look away, Jason cupped her cheek in a very gentle, almost tender gesture.
"I'm sorry, Kat, but I don't think that's relevant anymore." She tried to lower her head guiltily, but Jason wouldn't let her. "Kat ... if Tommy forgives you, or if you ever meet someone else you feel you can love ... I promise I'll let you go. Only, I want a legal right to the baby; I don't want to have to fight with you or anyone else to be a part of its life. The easiest way to ensure that is if I'm on record as the baby's father - both biologically and legally, as your husband at the time of its birth." Jason inhaled deeply. He just had to make Kat see the sense in his suggestion, he had to!
"Besides ... we may have come a long way recently, but it'll also be easier for you if you were married. People still talk about unwed mothers, and if the kid should one day ask about his or her dad, it'll be easier for you to explain we've separated - if we have - than come up with a story that explains the truth in a way a kid can understand and not be hurt."
His arguments were convincing - more than that, really. Kat knew that all too well. Being in a teaching profession, she had to be more circumspect than most others. So did Jason, actually. In addition, it would certainly smooth the way with their folks if they were to 'correct' their mistake by getting married. She looked at Jason for a long time, searching his dark eyes for she knew not what. Reading only sincerity and understanding in them, Kat felt herself weakening. Another thought occurred to her.
"Do we have to tell our parents the truth?"
Jason met her eyes consideringly. That was something that had crossed his mind as well.
"What else should we tell them?"
"I don't know," Kat said, having to choke back a sob. "I ... I don't want to lie to them, but they'll be so disappointed if they knew what happened ..."
"Yeah," her companion agreed heavily. He turned away to stare out of the window for a long moment. Coming to a decision, he faced Kat once more. "I guess we could tell them something along the line that having spent so much time together lately ... we sort of fell in love. We don't have to be very explicit about it or anything, just pretend enough affection so they don't ask too many questions."
"It would also explain why Tommy won't be there, right?" Kat said somewhat bitterly. "He'd be so hurt that I left him just like Kim, that he wouldn't want to come to my wedding."
"Kat..." Jason's low voice clearly mirrored the anguish Kat was feeling herself, and it made her ashamed. Wearily, she sat down again on the couch. Looking at her hands twisted in her lap, she tried to think it through. If she accepted Jason's proposal, it would solve a number of problems quite neatly. But wasn't it terribly selfish of her? She lifted her head as he sat down next to her, touching her cheek almost tenderly once more.
"Katherine, I'm not asking for more than you're willing to give. You have my word that I won't try to make you do anything you're uncomfortable with, but this seems to be the best solution for us all right now. For you, for me ... and the baby. Please - at least think about it?" Jason's voice was hopeful, and warm. Kat knew she could trust him, had known it ever since she'd met him when they had both been Rangers. Suddenly tired of being independent and alone, Kat gave in to her mental and physical exhaustion (she shied away from calling it fear, but it would have been far closer to the truth) with a sigh.
She sighed again. "Yes, I'll marry you. For the baby's sake," she added, instinctively touching her still-flat stomach. When no answer was immediately forthcoming, Kat hesitantly met Jason's eyes. The relief and delight in them coaxed a reluctant smile from her, but he only stroked her face gently once more.
"You won't regret this, Kat. I promise to give this my best shot." He swallowed. "Thank you."
"No, thank you," she murmured, feeling as if life as she knew it had just come to an end.
Things moved with frightening speed after that. They jointly told their families at dinner one night that they were getting married; to Kat and Jason's relief, both sets of parents seemed to accept their explanation at face value, although Jason caught a few looks from his mother that made him doubt his folks' equanimity. When Doris Hillard voiced her concern about the form their wedding was going to take, though, and got insistent about wanting to know why Kat declined to have the big wedding she wanted to give her daughter, with all their friends and family in attendance, Jason exchanged a rueful look with his fiancée. Receiving a tiny nod, he gave the reason for their decision they'd agreed on earlier in the week.
"Mrs. Hillard ... it's not that we wouldn't like to have a traditional ceremony, but this is not exactly a good time for us."
"But why? It's almost August already, and a winter wedding has a certain charm ... I'm sure Helen and I could arrange everything for around Christmas, or maybe New Year's Eve. You could start the year as newlyweds ..." the older woman's Australian-accented voice, so like her daughter's, trailed off as she noticed the blush spreading over Kat's face and her automatic gesture of placing her hand on her abdomen. Helen Scott noticed, too, and inhaled sharply, searching her son's dark eyes. It was Kat, though, who gathered her courage and faced her parents.
"Mum ... Dad, we really can't wait that long. I ... I'm going to have a baby."
The silence around the table was deafening for a moment, then Robert Hillard looked accusingly at his daughter's fiancé. Before he could give voice to his sudden anger, though, his wife exclaimed in mingled shock and delight, "Oh my God, sweetheart, is that true?"
Kat nodded mutely, grateful for Jason's hand on her forearm, lending support. As the two mothers joined forces almost immediately in questioning Kat about her condition, she had to fight her tears again, but slowly a small measure of joy began to fill her at the thought that at least her baby's grandmothers were looking forward to its arrival.
Listening with half an ear to the women, Jason met his father's sad, disappointed look with a weak smile, then turned towards his future father-in-law. Forestalling the upset man, he was very pale but determined to be polite and civil as he softly admitted at least part of the truth.
"I'm truly sorry, sir. I never meant to do that to Kat, but ..." Jason shrugged, his helplessness not totally feigned. "We ... we both got carried away one time, and I give you my word I'll do my best to make it up to her. Kat means too much to me for anything else." It wasn't exactly a lie, but the young man was all too aware that it also wasn't completely true. He swallowed hard. How best to save the situation, before they got hopelessly tangled in a web of lies and deceit? Neither Jason nor Kat were very good at dissimilation, the necessity of keeping their former Ranger activities secret notwithstanding. An idea slowly began to form. Giving Kat's hand a warning squeeze, Jason put on his best smile.
"I ... we've been thinking of having a small, private ceremony at City Hall now, and maybe have a Church wedding later, after the baby's born ..." Kat looked startled for a second; they had never talked about this, but in the face of her mother's instant approval, she swallowed her instinctive protest.
"That's not a bad idea at all, isn't it, Helen? Robert? We wouldn't have to rush things, and your first anniversary, say, would be a perfect time. In fact, we could combine it with the christening. Of course you wouldn't be able to wear white, sweetie, but a pale pink or cream might work just as well ..."
The young woman let herself be carried away by her mother's enthusiasm, glad that the ordeal of confessing was over, and all things considered, it hadn't gone that badly, after all. Unconsciously clinging to Jason's warm hand around her fingers, Kat tentatively made a few comments of her own to her mother's plans, while the men listened indulgently and began to talk about more practical considerations, like finding a new, bigger apartment for the soon-to-be young family.
Finally, the evening came to an end. Leaving their families behind, Kat's face ached from holding a smile all night as Jason took her home; she'd never felt more like crying, but it was way too late for tears now. As she fumbled for her doorkeys and unlocked the door to her apartment, Jason followed her inside. The two stood facing each other a bit awkwardly; they hadn't been alone with each other in private since Jason's proposal. At last, Kat cleared her throat.
"Thank you for your suggestion about a later ceremony," she murmured softly, not knowing what else to say to her friend and future husband.
"I'm sorry to have sprung that on you like this," Jason apologized. "It was the only thing I could come up with then that didn't sound completely fake."
"No, it's fine; it makes sense, even. Besides, a year is a long time; a lot can happen between now and then. Maybe Mum will forget about it in time."
"Yeah." The two looked at each other in silence, neither exactly comfortable. Then, Jason took Kat gently by her shoulders and pulled her close, deliberately ignoring the slight stiffening in her posture although it sent a small, rueful smile across his face.
"Kat, are you really okay with this? I don't want to pressure you into anything. If you have any doubts ..."
"I have plenty of doubts," she admitted, relaxing somewhat at last. "I'm pregnant when I'm not yet ready for a child, I don't love you -- not like that, anyway -- and still I'm marrying you, for a lot of very wrong reasons, in four weeks at City Hall, when all I've dreamed about for years is to get married in a long white dress and veil, in Church, and to Tommy." Before Jason could say anything, she apologized for her bluntness with a weary smile, which held a touch of bitterness she couldn't quite hide. "I know it's the sensible solution, and now that I've gotten kind of used to the idea of having your baby, I'm glad you're going to be with me; I would have hated to give it away after all," Kat confessed softly. "But I can't help but wish ..." her softly-accented voice trailed off as tears threatened anew. Her doctor had told her that her weepiness was probably due to her changing hormone levels, but it was pretty annoying, nonetheless. And extremely unfair to and uncomfortable for Jason, who drew her gently into his arms.
"I understand, Kat," he murmured, stroking her back soothingly as he rested his cheek against her pale-gold hair. "I've always thought Tommy would stand up with me at my wedding. That's not going to happen, either."
Both sighed, for a moment mourning their shattered dreams. Then, Kat disengaged herself from the too-comfortable embrace. Guiltily she remembered that this was exactly the kind of situation that had led to their current predicament. Blushing slightly, she met Jason's eyes and saw that he shared her memories. Separating with less haste than Kat had intended, she felt momentarily bereft of warmth and security as Jason stepped back.
"I guess we're both losing something, then," she whispered sadly.
"Yes - but at the same time, I keep telling myself that we're also gaining something new. Our baby," he clarified as she looked at him uncomprehendingly. In a gesture that was startlingly intimate despite its innocence, he placed a large hand on her still-flat stomach. Warmth spread through her body at the gentle contact, and Kat smiled genuinely for the first time that evening.
"That's true," she agreed, covering Jason's hand with her own. The two stood like that for a long time before saying goodnight, comforted by the fact that if nothing else, they still had their friendship to lean on.
On August 24, their wedding day, Kat and Jason met with their parents at City Hall. Having refused most of the traditional trappings, Kat was dressed in a flowing, tea-length summer dress in off-white, her hair put up in a simple French twist. The only splash of color was the small bouquet of flowers in various shades of pink Jason had given her. A few trailing white ribbons made it bridal, but Kat couldn't help but notice there were no roses in it - the flower signifying love was conspicuous by its absence. Refusing to dwell on this, she looked her bridegroom over instead - the black suit wasn't new; Kat remembered it from Lt. Stone's Mystery Dinner all those years ago. It didn't matter though, since it was a classic cut, and it looked good with the dark red and silver-patterned tie Jason had chosen to wear with it. He reached out and took her ice-cold hand in his, raising it gently to his lips.
"Ready?" he asked, as pale as she, but smiling comfortingly.
"Yes," Kat replied, summoning a tremulous smile. Their parents at their side, the two former Rangers made their way hand in hand to the Judge's office.
"... and by the laws vested in me by the State of California, I now declare you husband and wife," the middle-aged woman intoned solemnly. The older Scotts and the Hillards watched misty-eyed as Jason slipped a plain gold wedding band on Kat's hand, an heirloom from his great-grandmother. Kat blushed; she had purchased a matching ring a couple of days after they'd gone to have the antique fitted, and she was unsure if Jason would want to wear a ring at all, but his hand was steady as she slid the metal band on. The rush of color to her cheeks made her look more like a happy bride, and Jason's slight nod and smile told her he understood and appreciated the gesture. Regarding the serious-faced young man and his lovely blonde bride, Judge Myers smiled encouragingly.
"This may not be a church, but it's still quite acceptable to kiss your wife, Mr Scott," she said.
Kat froze; she had not thought past the exchange of rings and vows, and for an instant, everything within her screamed out in protest that this was wrong, that Jason was not the man who was supposed to stand at her side right now, but his best friend. She raised panic-stricken eyes to her brand-new husband, and the fleeting look of pain in the dark eyes told her that Jason knew all too well what was going through her mind right now. It brought sanity back. Whatever else they were going to be to each other from now on, they were still friends, and Kat had vowed not to hurt any of her friends anymore if she could help it. Forcing a smile and enthusiasm she was far from feeling, Kat raised her face slightly, signalling Jason with a glance that it was all right for him to kiss her. He accepted the mute invitation with another understanding smile, and lowered his lips gently to hers.
Kissing Jason was sweeter than she remembered; Kat felt her senses reeling slightly as he caressed her mouth with his own, coaxing a response.It was the first time they kissed after their night of passion, but right at this moment, all guilt fled; instead, the newlyweds rediscovered briefly the magic of that first moment in Kat's apartment as their lips touched.
It was over far too soon, or maybe not soon enough; when Jason finally released her, Kat buried her face in his broad shoulder and let him hold her trembling body tightly. To the watching older generation, it was a reassuring sign of deep affection and shyness; they knew nothing of the pain their children were feeling in that instant. After a while, Jason cupped Kat's face in both palms and lifted it from his shoulder. Brushing his mouth once more briefly over the rosy-pale quivering lips, he asked Kat softly, so that only she would hear, "Are you okay?"
She wasn't, not really, but she nodded anyway, smiling through a few tears that trickled down her smooth cheek. Jason brushed them away with his thumbs, but before he could say anything else, Kat was whisked away into her mother's teary embrace, followed almost immediately by his own mother. He drew a deep, shuddering breath, then squared his shoulders and faced Robert Hillard and his father. John Scott embraced his only son briefly. "Congratulations, Son. Kat is a wonderful girl, and I hope and pray you'll be very happy together."
"Thanks, Dad," Jason managed to choke out, touched by his father's sentiment. The normally ebullient man wasn't often given to public displays of affection, but in this instant, he showed his son how much he meant to him. Then, he faced his father-in-law once more. Jason had had a long and deep discussion with the older man, who was naturally concerned because of Kat's unplanned pregnancy, but Jason was reasonably sure that he'd succeeded in allaying most of Mr Hillard's fears. His dojo was doing well, he had almost paid off most of the loans already, and even if Kat decided to stay home with the baby for a while, their financial future was fairly secure. They wouldn't be able to afford any big luxuries for some time, but they wouldn't lack for anything important, either.
Robert looked long and hard into Jason's dark eyes. While he still hadn't quite forgiven the young man for getting his only daughter pregnant out of wedlock, he respected the way he accepted his responsibilities, and was beginning to like Jason for himself. They'd rarely met before, but his quieter, more serious nature appealed to the native Australian better than the more flamboyant Tommy Oliver had, and inwardly he resolved to do everything in his power to support this marriage.
"You have my blessing as well, Jason," was all he said out loud, however. "I only ask that you take good care of my little girl. She's something special, even if I do say so myself."
"I know, and thank you, sir. That means a lot to me. And I promise you I'll do my best for Kat and our baby."
"I know you will. Welcome to my family," and with that, Robert also briefly hugged Jason. Kat watched the exchange from between her mother and Helen Scott, who patted her arm softly. When Kat turned to look at the older woman, she received a friendly nod and hug.
"I hope you'll also start to feel part of our family, too, Katherine," Helen smiled warmly. "I've always wanted a daughter, and I hope that in time, you'll become the one I never had."
"I'll try," was all Kat could force past her constricted throat, and she was grateful as they could leave Judge Myers' office for a celebratory lunch at one of Angel Grove's better restaurants.
At long last, the day that was supposed to have been the happiest of their lives was over. Kat and Jason found themselves back at the tiny apartment once more, with its vista over the park. Their new home would be ready by October 15, and until then, they'd decided to stay at Kat's place, since it was slightly bigger and more conveniently situated than Jason's bachelor pad.
Kat wearily hung up her dress and changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. It was too warm for anything else, and she needed to feel comfortable - at least physically. Mentally ... that was another matter, one she didn't want to linger on. She stayed in her bedroom for as long as she dared, desperately trying to forget that from tonight she would be sharing it with Jason. It wasn't that the memory of their lovemaking was unpleasant; quite the contrary, actually, and the young woman refused to acknowledge that it was precisely that fact that was a big part of the reason for her discomfort.
*I still love Tommy, and I always will,* Kat thought to herself a bit defiantly. *Jason doesn't love me, either; he's only done the honorable thing by marrying me because of the baby. And I don't want to raise it alone, or give it away. That's all. Jason and I are friends, and there's nothing more between us.*
The thought beat like a litany in her mind as she finally reentered the living room. Jason -- her husband; God, it was going to take time to get used to that notion! -- was standing at the window, looking outside. He'd shed his jacket and tie, and his back looked impossibly broad in his white dress shirt. When he heard Kat's soft footfall, he turned around and essayed a smile. For a second, Kat was struck by the fact that he looked as handsome in white as Tommy ever had, but she chased the thought impatiently away. She had to stop comparing the two men, or she'd drive herself insane. *Easier said than done, though!* Instead, she focussed on something that she had noticed the other day - a slight shadow in Jason's eyes that hadn't been there before, a worried frown he hadn't been able to hide and that she was pretty sure had nothing to do with them.
"What is it, Jason?" she asked softly. "Are you having problems?"
"No, nothing," he tried to reassure Kat, but knew he hadn't been able to hide his slight flinch. The look Kat gave him told him she'd seen, and her next words confirmed it.
"Don't give me that; I know you better than to believe that." She smiled to take the sting out of her voice. "Jase, whatever else we are now, we're friends, and have been for a long time. You told me that that wouldn't change, and I don't want it to, either. Friends help each other, even if it's only by listening. I know you've been ... preoccupied for the last few days. Won't you share your problem with me? I am your wife now," she added gently, coming to stand next to him.
For a moment, Jason was tempted to deny it, but if their marriage should have any chance at succeeding at all, they both would need to trust the other, and to share things, even if they were disturbing. He drew a deep breath, knowing that what he was going to tell her would hurt Kat. But there was no way she wasn't going to find out sooner or later, and it would be better if she were prepared.
"I ... I had a visit from Rocky on Monday," he admitted quietly. "He ... apparently, Tommy talked to him, and Rocky is siding with him. He was very ... upset, wouldn't listen to me at all, and ..."
"Oh Jason, no ..." Kat nearly moaned. She knew that there was a lot Jason wasn't telling her beyond the bare facts, but she knew both men well enough to realize the confrontation had to have been very unpleasant. Rocky's temper, his fierce loyalty to Tommy and the never quite resolved jealousy he'd been feeling towards Jason when he'd rejoined the team way back when made for a potentially explosive combination. "Please tell me you didn't come to blows ..."
Jason smiled grimly, astonished and gratified that Kat could read the situation so well. He reassuringly touched her cheek.
"No, we didn't. I may have taken that kind of reaction from Tommy - after all, he had the right to be furious with me - but not from Rocky, or anyone else. What happened, happened, and we're dealing with it as best we can. It's only ... I had hoped he'd at least listen to our side, but when he wouldn't ... I'm afraid we won't be seeing a lot of him anymore." He snorted lightly, a sound that conveyed anger, but also a deep disappointment. "He said, and I quote, that outside of business, he didn't want to have anything to do with us traitors. End quote. Then he stomped off."
Kat slumped and sighed. She'd written to Tanya, her best friend, a while ago that she was going to marry Jason and why, but hadn't heard from her or Adam since. True, they could be out of town on business, but still ... "Do you think they'll all react like that?" she asked sadly.
"I don't know, Kat, but I think we should be prepared for the possibility," Jason replied. "Maybe one or the other will come around in time, but I wouldn't want you to get your hopes up anytime soon." He gathered her comfortingly in his arms. Looking earnestly into the blue eyes that had lost so much of their sparkle over the last two-and-a-half months, he spoke what was in his heart.
"I'm truly sorry, Kat. If I'd been able to control myself that night ... if I had at least thought to protect you ..."
Before he could go on, Kat interrupted her husband. They'd avoided really talking about that night before, but maybe it was time they stopped doing so. Suddenly angry, she whirled away from him.
"Don't you dare try to take all the blame, Jason Scott! If I remember correctly, there were two of us in this room that night, and I could have stopped you anytime. I still have no idea why I didn't, but I'm just as guilty of not thinking as you are! We made a mistake, and now have to live with it; I'm miserable enough without having to contend with your overdeveloped guilt muscle, as well!" Tears threatened again, and Kat dashed them impatiently away. She was getting sick and tired of being so emotional, but couldn't help herself. All the day's turmoil suddenly crashed in on her, and her angry flush suddenly made way for an exhausted pallor. She drew a few deep, calming breaths and looked wearily back at Jason.
"I'm sorry, but I can't take this anymore. If this is the way our 'friends' are going to handle our situation, I'm not sure I want them to come around. I'm ... we're having enough problems as it is, and if we're left alone, we'll deal with that, too."
Her words were full of bravado, but just as Kat had seen through his attempt at sparing her earlier, Jason could read her sadness and disappointment now. After all, they mirrored his own feelings too closely. It wasn't that he'd expected instant acceptance from their friends, but he'd hoped for understanding, at least. Apparently, it wasn't going to happen; none of the "old" crowd he'd written to had responded to their wedding announcement. He could understand that Kim wouldn't reply, given that she still was very protective of Tommy despite their breakup, but Jason had thought that at least Trini, or Zack, would have reacted in some way. That they hadn't ... hurt. A lot. What was really surprising, though, was Tanya's silence ... the former Yellow Ranger was too direct and outspoken to let things lie, and to be honest, Jason had expected her to call, or even show up, demanding an explanation. Besides, Tanya was supposed to be Kat's best friend! That she, of all people, wouldn't give Kat at least some support was ... crushing. How much worse must it be for Kat? His protective instincts were kicking in full force, and Jason knew he hadn't been lying when he'd told Robert Hillard Kat meant a lot to him. She did, had for a long time, and Jason determined anew that he'd do everything in his power to not let her regret her decision to marry him - not only for their child, but also for themselves.
"I'm sure we will, kitten," Jason murmured, using the endearment for the first time. It brought a tiny smile to Kat's pale face, but it was gone almost as soon as it had appeared. There wasn't much more to be said, and the newlyweds busied themselves with looking through the few cards and presents they'd received from neighbors and colleagues. They made a half-hearted attempt at eating a light snack, but neither had much of an appetite; at the earliest possible moment, Kat declared her intention of going to bed.
There was an awkward silence following her announcement; the small apartment didn't have a guest room, and they'd both shied away from addressing the problem of sleeping arrangements. Now, however, it suddenly stared them in the face. Jason rallied first. His expression and voice unreadable, he made the only offer he felt he could.
"I'll stay here on the couch," he said. "It'll do until we move."
Kat was very much tempted to accept this out, but reason told her that her two-and-a-half seater wasn't going to be very comfortable for the broad-shouldered, massively-muscled Jason, and she herself had found out during a recent afternoon nap that her pregnancy, although still in its early stages, made her back extremely sensitive to inadequate mattresses. Steeling herself -- *We're married, after all; better get used to this* -- she summoned a brave smile and shook her head.
"No need. You ... you can share the bed with me ..."
The hot blush suffusing her cheeks was really quite ridiculous, considering the fact that Kat was already carrying Jason's child because he had once 'shared her bed' already, but she couldn't help herself. Thankfully, Jason chose to ignore her embarrassment, just smiled a little and gravely thanked her for the consideration. Hurrying through their preparations, both tried not to dwell on the awkwardness of undressing before each other, or slipping under the covers together, but it was hard on both of them. Once the lights were out, Kat lay on her side huddled away from her husband, attempting to stifle the unhappy sobs that would no longer be suppressed. She stiffened in alarm as she heard Jason sigh beside her, then reach out and draw her into his arms. She resisted at first, but it felt so good to be held, to be able to lean on someone, that she soon relaxed. Nestled aganst his broad, t-shirt-clad chest, Kat felt him stroke her back soothingly.
"Go ahead and cry if you need to, kitten; let it out. You certainly have reason enough. It's not good for you or the baby if you try to hold it all in," he rumbled softly. Kat fought for composure for another moment, but then she let the tears flow, crying out her loss and pain and anger in Jason's embrace while he continued to hold her through her emotional storm. When her tears finally subsided, fatigue set in almost immediately, and giving in to her exhaustion, Kat closed her swollen, burning eyes, unconsciously tightened her hold on Jason's waist and let sleep claim her, her last thought being how surprisingly nice it was to be feeling Jason's lips in her hair.
To be continued ...