Continuing Tales

All I Want for Christmas

A Power Rangers Story
by Cheryl Reynolds

Part 7 of 7

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All I Want for Christmas

Kim could not suppress the grin that spread across her face as she wrote across Dr. Carter's bill with a triumphant flourish: PAID IN FULL. For a moment, all she could do was sit there and stare at the check and the statement; there had been times when she despaired of ever seeing this day, and she wanted to savor the moment.

Of course, it hadn't quite come by her own efforts. She had her father and Great Aunt Madelyne to thank for it. She and her father had gone 'round and 'round Thanksgiving weekend about the issue of financial assistance.

"I don't want your money! Don't you understand? This is something I need to do on my own!"

Ultimately, she had told him that if he really wanted to give her money to set up a college fund for Olivia. However, the inheritance was another matter. Her father's aunt had never married, and upon her death, she had made bequests to her nieces and nephews (Kim's father had been one of her favorites), and in some cases, great-nieces and -nephews. That was money Kim felt entitled to. It wasn't a large sum; although, it had accumulated some interest in the time her father had held it for her. Yet, it was enough to pay off Dr. Carter and a few of her other small credit cards debts and, most importantly, Tommy.

That was something she wanted so desperately to clear up: her debts with Tommy. She felt like such a hypocrite talking about not accepting her father's charity when she was still accepting Tommy's. She wouldn't really be able to feel good about herself until she could honestly say that she could stand on her own two feet. Paying off the money she owed him went a long way to getting her on the right track.

Now, if I can just afford a place for Olivia and me to live so I wouldn't have to rely on Tommy for that, too . . . .

Kim set the bills aside and reached for the classified ad section of the newspaper.

Tommy headed into the kitchen with an armload of groceries. He noticed that Kim had her bills spread out all over the table, but remarkably, he found her smiling! That had never happened before.

"What's up?" he wondered as he began putting the food away.

"Some good news," she answered, bounding up from her chair happily.

"While doing your bills?" he queried warily.

"Uh huh. Here."

"What's this?" he asked as she handed him a check. Then, she handed him the billing statement he had generated at her insistence. He noticed that it said "paid in full" in big red letters.

"Just what it says," she responded.

"But how . . . ?"

"The money Aunt Madelyne left me. I had enough to cover one large bill and several smaller ones, leaving me with my Visa and the hospital bill."

"I can't accept this, Kim," he demurred, handing the check back to her. She refused to take it.

"Why not? After all, we agreed that I would pay you back."

"When your other obligations were taken care of."

"Tommy, please. I want to pay you back," she insisted. "It's the very least I can do; rightfully, I owe you for back rent and utilities and groceries . . . ."

"Kim, you don't owe me anything for living expenses; we've been over this," Tommy sighed. "I'm not paying anything to live here; I own the building now. And as far as utilities go, I'm not using that much more electricity or water than I did before you guys lived here."

"I just don't feel right letting you take care of all this for me. I want to be able to pay my share," Kim asserted.

"I know you do, and you will, when you can. Right now, though, you have other expenses you need to take care of."

"Actually, I'm pretty close to a point where I think I can contribute, even with my last two bills," Kim announced with a bright smile.


"Yeah, come see." She dragged him back over to the table. Tommy hadn't paid much attention to the newspaper, but now he saw that she had circled several ads in the classifieds. Next to the notebook with her figures were last month's utility bills. He began to feel very uneasy, a nervous lump forming in the pit of his stomach.

"I've found some apartments for rent," Kim began. "They're small, one bedroom places, but a couple are in this area so I wouldn't have to change Olivia's school. It'd be rather like living in the dorm again, but the rents are reasonable. I estimated the utility expense based on your past charges. With food and a monthly bus pass and making minimum payments on my bills, I figure that once I get Christmas paid for Olivia and I could move into a place of our own --probably around February or March. We wouldn't have a lot left over for extras or anything like that, but still . . . ."

Tommy felt like someone had kicked him in the stomach. From the start, Kim had said that she hadn't intended to stay with him indefinitely --only until she got her feet under her-- but why did it have to be so soon?

"Tommy?" Kim prompted when he didn't say anything. "Is something wrong?"

"N-no," he stammered, trying to get a grip on his emotions.

"Isn't that great?" she beamed happily.

He couldn't bear the thought of Kim and Olivia moving out, and he murmured without

conviction, "It's wonderful news." The thing was, he knew how much being able to hold her own meant to Kim. As miserable as the thought made him, he had to say, "I'm so happy and proud of you."

"I know I'd have to borrow some furniture and a few things, but . . . ." she gushed, heedless of the light that had faded from Tommy's eyes as he listened to her enthusiastic plans.

* * *

"Oh, Maggie, I just can't believe it!" Kim chirped as Maggie handed her the end of the garland to fasten over the top of the door frame.

They were part of the bevy of parents helping decorate the Youth Center for the annual holiday party for the children of Little Angel's Haven. This year, Kelly's junior high class was a sponsor, and she had asked Kim and Tommy to be chaperones along with her mother.

"After all this time, I'm finally going to be able stand on my own!" Kim continued in an elated rush.

"That's wonderful, Kim," Maggie congratulated her.

"Yeah, but I don't think Tommy thinks so," Kim remarked, glancing over to where Tommy was helping Olivia put the star on the top of the Christmas tree. Suddenly, Kim recalled Tommy and another little girl placing a star a-top the Youth Center tree; unlike that long ago Christmas, there seemed to be no happiness in Tommy now. Although he was smiling, there was a sadness about him; his smile never seemed to reach his eyes.

"I was going to ask if you had had a fight," Maggie said delicately. "The two of you have seemed so happy together since Thanksgiving . . . ."

"I don't know what it is."

"Maybe he received some bad news."

"Actually, I think I first noticed him being so gloomy right after I told him about being able to afford to my own place."

"As I said, maybe he received some bad news."

"What do you mean?" Kim wondered, not following Maggie's train of thought.

"Kim, are you really planning on moving out of Tommy's place?" Maggie asked, "because I think Tommy believes that you are. He really loves you and Olivia, and having you live with him has brought him a lot of happiness --anyone who knows him could tell you that. I think he's afraid he might lose you again if you leave."

"I guess I hadn't thought about it from his perspective."

"I think maybe the two of you need to have a little talk."

"You may be right. I'll sit him down after we finish up here. Would you hand me the sprig of mistletoe?"

Tommy cast about trying to see where Olivia had wandered off to. There were so many children underfoot . . . . He finally spied her with Min oohing and aahing over the presents under the tree. Then, he looked around for Kim. He located her over by the doorway working on decorations with Maggie. He sighed; he knew he shouldn't let Kim's announcement about wanting to move out get to him, but he couldn't help it. He didn't want her to go.

Then why don't you just tell her!

There were other things he wanted to tell her as well, but now . . . . He thought of the little black box hidden away a-top the bookcase. There was no way he could give it to her now. It'd come across as a bribe to get her to stay and not a genuine token of his love, and if she accepted it, how could he ever be certain she did so because she felt the same way or because she felt she owed it to him. No, that was going to have to wait a little longer, too.

He noticed that Maggie had wandered off, and someone had taken the step ladder Kim had been using. Presently, she was jumping up, trying to reach something in a way that made his heart ache with déjà vu. She was trying to hang the mistletoe.

"Hey, need some help?" he queried as he wandered over.

"Yes, I do," she answered, handing him the sprig.

He reached up and fastened it to the garland. "There you go."

"Thank you!" And she playfully offered him her cheek to kiss. Without Bulk and Skull to interrupt them as they had once upon a time, Tommy gave her the requisite peck, but it lacked real feeling. Kim frowned at him. "Tommy, what's wrong? You've been moping around for days," she said.

"I know. I'm sorry," he sighed.

"Is it because of what I told you about being able to move out?"

"Yes," he replied, deciding he had nothing to lose by being up-front with her. "Kim, I don't want you and Olivia to move out. These last five months have been the best five months that I can remember. I enjoy having you guys around; it'd be very lonely without you."

"Oh, Tommy . . . ." she sighed with a kind smile as she smoothed a hand up and down his arm. For a moment, she couldn't meet his imploring gaze, but when she did, it was with bright eyes and a glowing smile. "Just because I'm able to move out doesn't mean I will."

Tommy just stared at her, uncomprehending and unable to find his voice.

"Olivia and I will have to move out eventually --simply because we'll need more space as she gets bigger, but until then, as long as you'll have us, there's no real reason for us to move. Your apartment is home now, and I don't want to disrupt Olivia's sense of security if I don't have to."

"You're not moving out?" Tommy stammered.

Kim shook her head.

"Then what was all that talk about the apartment and budgets and . . . ?"

"It was important for me to know that I could move out if I wanted to, that I could make it on my own and support Olivia. I needed to know that I wasn't just depending on you. I'm staying with you because I want to, not because I have to."

"You're not moving out!" Tommy declared happily, and he pulled Kim into a fierce hug. Then, for the sheer joy of it, he lifted her into the air and spun her around.

"Tommy!" she laughed as she flew about.

"You have no idea how happy you've made me!" he insisted. "I have been going nuts ever since you started talking about leaving . . . ."

"Did you really believe you'd be rid of us just like that?" Kim smirked. "Olivia would make my life a living hell if I made her leave! However, we are going to renegotiate the terms of our living arrangement. Once the dust from Christmas settles, I want to start contributing financially."

"And I want you to pay off your other bills first," Tommy insisted, "but we can discuss this later, right now . . . ."

"Mommy! Tommy! Guess what!" Olivia chirped excitedly as she raced up to them and began tugging on their clothing.

"What is it, Princess?" Tommy asked.

"You're standing under the misty-toad," she announced.

"Mistletoe," Kim corrected.

"An' Mrs. Maggie said that the rules say that when two people stand under the misty-toad they have to kiss," she declared with a look of triumph in her expression.

Both Tommy and Kim shot Maggie inquiring gazes, and she assumed a "who me?" air of innocence then went back to decorating. The two turned their attention to each other.

"So . . . ?" Kim began, chewing on her bottom lip, a tiny, bashful grin tugging at the corners of her mouth.

"You know you don't have to if you really don't want to," Tommy assured her more out of habit than anything else. Kim hadn't displayed any fear of being close to him in a while.

"But I want to," she replied, grabbing his jacket and pulling him closer. "After all, I love you."

Tommy's eyes went saucer-wide at her admission, and before he could say anything, Kim pressed her mouth to his in a lingering, emotion-laden kiss. Tommy had forgotten how soft and warm Kim's lips were and how well they seemed to mold against his own. He tightened the embrace, kissing her back with the full force of his pent-up emotions. The exchange left them both more than a little breathless when they finally parted.

"Besides," Kim continued with a mischievous grin, glancing down at Olivia, who was just beside herself with delight, "it's the rules."

* * *

"That's the last of it," Kim declared with a yawn, placing the package under the tree. She inhaled deeply, the strong pine scent filling her senses. Looking over the explosion of brightly colored paper and ribbons, Kim shook her head. "It just seems like so much . . . ."

"Those aren't all for Olivia, you know," Tommy reminded her as he put the finishing touches on the training wheels of a pint-sized pink bicycle. "There are yours, mine, my parents', your parents' . . . we really didn't go overboard."

"I can't believe my Mom's going to be here the day after Christmas," Kim murmured for the umpteenth time that day. They had received a Christmas card from her mother, and in it was a note with her flight information. She and Adrian were joining them for the holidays. "I'm going to see my mother for the first time in almost six years!"

"Hey, none of that," Tommy chided her gently, wiping a glistening teardrop from her cheek. He wrapped her in his arms, and Kim relaxed into the feeling of warmth and security that rushed through her --a feeling that was still very much brand new to her, and one that she was grateful to know.

"Thank you, Tommy. For everything. I've never seen Olivia so happy; she's going to remember this Christmas forever."

"What about you? I'd like to think that I've made you happy, too," Tommy said quietly, "because having you and Olivia here has brought me more joy than I can say."

"You have, Tommy; you have."

Tommy crossed over to her and pulled her into a gentle hug. "I love you," he murmured.

Kim rested her head against his chest. "You know, when you first told me that, I almost couldn't believe you. I didn't think I deserved your love after everything that's happened."

"Do you believe me now?"

"Yes. That night, I wanted so badly to tell you how I felt, but I didn't think I had the right--not until I knew I could say 'I love you' and know that it wasn't just out of gratitude."

"Do you have any idea how badly I wanted to hear you say that?" Tommy sighed.

"About as badly as I wanted to say it," she responded with a grin. "I love you, Tommy."

Tommy reached for her chin and gently tilted it up.

"We're not standing under the 'misty-toad,'" Kim teased quietly.

"Do we really need it?"


Their lips met, and the two were lost in a kiss that seemed to envelop them completely in the warmth of their emotions. So involved were they that they jumped when the clock struck midnight.

"Merry Christmas, Kim," Tommy murmured.

"Merry Christmas, Tommy," Kim replied, barely able to tear her lips from his. Then, Tommy released her, and she frowned puzzledly as he reached into the branches of the tree.

"I have been wanting to give you this for forever," he announced eagerly as he pulled out a small, gold foil-wrapped box and presented it to her.

With trembling fingers, Kim untied the ribbon and tore away the paper. Inside the white cardboard she found a black jeweler's box. She looked up at Tommy with brimming eyes, her heart pounding in her chest. Tommy took the box and opened it, revealing a sparkling diamond solitaire ring.

"I've always wanted to give this to you," Tommy repeated, sliding the ring out of the notch. He held her left hand, softly stroking the back. Kim shivered with the memory of the first time he had ever done that to her --the afternoon they shared their first kiss. "I fell for you the moment I laid eyes on you, and as that deepened into love, I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. I'd like for you to spend the rest of your life with me --as my wife. Kimberly, will you marry me?"

Time seemed to stand still for Kim as she looked up into the depths of Tommy's love-filled, imploring eyes. There were still so many fears and uncertainties locked inside her that she hadn't even begun to address yet --things that would affect a relationship with Tommy. However, she now knew and truly believed that she could face them --and overcome them.

"Yes, Tommy, I will."

Kim could not believe the joy she felt swelling in her heart as Tommy, with trembling fingers, slid the engagement ring onto her finger. Happy tears spilled down her cheeks as he crushed her in a jubilant hug.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," he whispered over and over, holding her as if he'd never let her go. Kim knew she'd never let him go--ever again.

When he finally released her, all she could do was stare at the glittering rock perched on her finger. "I can't believe it," she murmured.

"Me either," Tommy confessed, his relief evident. Kim placed a hand over his heart and found it pounding a mile a minute.

"So, were you more nervous about asking me to marry you or asking me out that first time?" she teased.

"I'm not sure. If my ribs still hurt when I wake up in the morning, I think proposing will be the winner."

Kim flashed him a radiant smile. "How long have you had this? Since October?"

Tommy ran his hand up under his hair and around his neck. "Actually, I've had it since before you went to Florida."


"Well, not actually had it, more like paying on it," he confessed. "I wanted so badly to give this to you before you left, but . . . ."

"Have you any idea how badly I hoped you'd do something like that back then?" she laughed. "That Christmas, I wanted more than anything for you to propose or ask me to stay or something! I guess you were right when you told Olivia that sometimes Santa doesn't give you what you want until the time is right."

The two stood in each other's arms for a long, long time, reveling in the warmth and safety of their love.

"You know, we should probably get to bed," Kim murmured. "Olivia's liable to be up in a few hours."

"I know. It's just that I still can't believe you said yes," Tommy replied, taking Kim's left hand once again and regarding the token he had placed upon her finger. "It looks so small," he sighed. "I wanted to get you a larger one, but back then it was all I could afford. We could always take this one in and . . . ."

"No. Don't you dare!" Kim insisted. "I don't want any other ring but this one. It means more to me because you got it for me at a time when all we knew was that we loved each other; we didn't know what it meant to be hurt or frightened or lonely. We do now, and this ring--and our love--made it through those dark times, and both shine just as brightly now as they did then."

She hoped Tommy understood what she was trying to say and saw that he did.

Just then the pair heard a plaintive cry. Kim quickly disengaged herself and hurried down the hall; she paused in the doorway of her room and discovered Olivia sitting up in the big bed, not really awake. She shivered with cold. Kim groaned.

"Oh, Sweetie . . . ."

"What happened?" Tommy asked, coming up behind her.

"Someone had an accident in my bed," Kim sighed resignedly. "I guess she was so excited about Santa and everything that she forgot to go to the bathroom."

Tommy bit back a chuckle, and the two of them tended to the mess. Kim dressed Olivia in fresh panties and a nightgown while Tommy stripped the bed. He brought in the Lysol to spray down the mattress as Kim tucked the girl back into her trundle bed.

"This is just wonderful," Kim muttered as she rummaged through her drawer for her own nightwear. She grabbed the first thing she laid her hands on. She snatched up a pillow then marched out to the hall closet to grab a spare blanket. "I hope Santa doesn't mind me sleeping on the couch."

"Kim, take my bed. I'll sleep on the couch; it's not all that comfortable," Tommy offered.

"Couldn't prove it by you on Sunday afternoons," Kim said. "You're always sprawled all over the thing."

"That's to avoid all the lumps," he quipped.

"I'll be fine, Tommy."

"If you're really sure, but if you change your mind, come wake me up, and I'll trade," he said.


Kim popped into the bathroom to get dressed for bed and blushed when she realized just what she had grabbed to wear to bed: Tommy's pajama top. She hadn't returned it after she had borrowed it last August. Somehow, though, she found it fitting.

When she emerged all ready for bed, she found that Tommy was, too--dressed in the mates to her top. The two shared sheepish smiles. He had also fixed up the couch for her.

"Now, you're sure you don't want to trade places?" he asked again.

"Trust me; if I can't sleep, I'll be in to wake you. I don't want to be cranky for the best Christmas my daughter will ever have."

"All right. 'Night, Beautiful."

"Good night, Tommy."

Kim tossed and turned, and tossed and turned some more. Finally, she sat up and looked at the clock. It was almost two. She groaned. Tommy hadn't been kidding about the couch. Maybe I should have bought him a sofa for Christmas, she mused ruefully. As much as she hated to, she was going to have to take Tommy up on his offer. Pillow tucked up under her arm, she plodded down the hall to Tommy's room.

He had left the door open, so she wandered right in. He lay splayed out on his bed most comfortably; Kim sighed enviously.

"Okay, Tommy, your turn to have the couch," she said around a yawn. She sat down on the edge of the bed and tried to shake him awake. He didn't even budge. "Aw, come on, Tommy; this is not fair."

Kim blew a strand of hair out her face. Tommy was sound asleep. With a frustrated sigh, she flopped back on the bed, trying to figure out just how she was going to get some sleep.

A sharp jab in the ribs brought Tommy almost out of his deep sleep. His eyes flickered open, and the mocking numbers on the clock read 03:00.

"C'mon, Sweetie, quit hogging the bed; scoot over and give mommy some room," said a sleepy voice, followed by another poke in the back.

Tommy rolled over, startled into wakefulness. To his amazement, Kim lay snuggled up next to him. He had absolutely no idea how she got there, but if she wanted to share his bed instead of crashing on the lumpy couch, he had no complaints. She was pulled into a tight ball, shivering as if cold. He reached down and pulled the blanket up over both of them. Then, he lay on his side, gazing at Kim and gently stroking her hair until he lulled himself back into a contented sleep.

* * *

"Tommy! Tommy, wake up! I can't find Mommy!"

Wakefulness was not slow in returning as a thirty-some-odd-pound bundle of energy pounced on him most insistently. Tommy unburied his head and smiled up at the concerned tot. "Merry Christmas, Princess."

"Tommy, where's Mommy?" Olivia repeated.

"Easy, honey, Mommy's right . . . ."

Tommy grinned from ear to ear as Kim woke up and found herself in his bed. Her expression of surprise and confusion were priceless.

"Mommy, why are you sleeping in Tommy's bed?" Olivia wondered.

"I was sort of wondering the same thing myself," Tommy interjected teasingly.

"I came in here to boot you out onto the couch; I don't know . . . ." she began, totally flabbergasted. Then, she shrugged sheepishly. "I guess when I couldn't wake you up, I just fell asleep again."

"I don't mind," he said more softly. "I think I could get used to waking up next to you really quickly."

Kim flushed scarlet and brushed the hair out of her eyes.

"Ooh, Mommy, what a pretty ring!" Olivia gasped. She grabbed Kim's hand and pulled it towards her for a closer look. "Where'd you get it?"

"It was my Christmas present from Tommy," Kim answered with quiet pride.

"Is it what you always wanted?"

"Yes, honey, it is. Very much so."

"Can I ask you something?" Olivia continued without letting either adult get a word in edgewise. "On TV and stuff, mommies and daddies sleep together in the same bed, don't they?"

"Generally, yes," Tommy answered. He had a feeling he knew where this was headed, but he couldn't tell if Kim had a clue or not.

"Well, since you and Mommy are sleeping in your bed, does that mean you're going to be my daddy now?" she asked.

"Olivia!" Kim gasped.

"Actually, Princess, the ring means I'm going to be your daddy," Tommy said. "Last night, I asked your mom to marry me, and she said she would."

"YES!" Olivia shouted, pumping her little fists into the air and bouncing on the bed excitedly. "You were right, Tommy; Santa does bring you what you want if you really, really wanted it with all your heart and soul!"

"What do you mean?" Kim asked.

"Well, when I saw Santa, I told him that all I wanted for Christmas was for Tommy to be my daddy."

"You didn't!"

"No wondered he looked so stunned," Tommy murmured.

"And he did! Santa made Tommy my daddy!"

"I can't believe she did that," Kim groaned, burying her face in Tommy's chest.

"Well, Santa gave me the thing I really, really wanted for Christmas--for you to say yes," Tommy whispered.

"It's a good thing for you two, then, that Santa felt like leaving other presents to open, or we'd be all finished with Christmas," Kim snorted.

"You mean Santa left me other presents, too?" Olivia squealed and made a dash for the bedroom door.

"You know, I think Santa was pretty good to all of us this year," Tommy said as he sat in his bed with his arms around Kim, hugging her tightly. She beamed up at him happily, unable to find her voice. "I think this will be a Christmas we all remember for a long time." Kim reached up to cup his cheek, and he leaned down, capturing her mouth in a sweet kiss.

"Mommy! Tommy! Come see!" Olivia exclaimed, dashing back into the room.

Tommy peered up past Kim's shoulder and noticed Olivia watching them, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

"We're coming, Sweetie," Kim said as they reluctantly parted and emerged from under the covers.

"Santa brought me a pink bike!" Olivia babbled on. Then, she paused, eyeing the two critically. "Your pajamas match!"

"You know, this explains all those looks she's been giving us for the last month," Tommy said as he caught Kim's hands.

"I had the feeling she was setting us up for something," Kim added.

"Hurry up!" Olivia insisted, marching over and taking the pair by the hand, dragging them along with her. "Tommy, when can I start calling you 'Daddy?'"

All I Want for Christmas

A Power Rangers Story
by Cheryl Reynolds

Part 7 of 7

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