Chicken Soup, the Everything Cure
Wes called Eric somewhere around twelve, partly to check up on his friend and partly to revel in the absolute misery said friend must be experiencing. Normally Wes wasn’t one to take pleasure in someone else’s unhappiness, but Eric had been more than happy to rub in his suffering when Wes had been taken down by a summer flu of his own. Eric’s barely coherent and venom-loaded grumbling was entertaining enough for Wes to bend that rule, if just for the day. He would play nice later.
He expected Eric’s greeting to be nothing but hatred delivered after about five rings, whenever he managed to find the phone, so Wes was surprised to hear the line pick up almost immediately after he dialed. Eric must have moved it closer to him after the first two calls.
Which had also been completely necessary.
Wes was about to give a one-quarter-soothing/three-quarters-mocking quip when the voice on the other end startled him, distinctly not Eric’s. “Hello?”
It sounded like some high school kid, which was the almost opposite of what Wes had been expecting. Well, that explained the early pick up. He must have dialed the wrong number.
“Sorry,” he said, doing his best apologetic voice. “Wrong number.”
“Oh,” the kid said. “That’s cool.”
Which…okay, so that was the end of that because the dial tone clicked. Clearly they were done with their conversation. Whatever.
Wes was more careful when he dialed this time, making sure he got each number right. Alright, the afternoon was still young. Eric would still be unhappily grumbling when he picked up the phone this time. Wes would give him six rings.
The line picked up after one.
“Hello?” the voice said. Same kid one from before.
Wes frowned. Had Eric changed his number? He had threatened to earlier but he could barely manage moving right now, let alone fast track that civic procedure.
Maybe Wes had just switched the numbers around or something. He would look up Eric’s number in the computer; make sure he got it right.
“Me again,” he said, realizing that the kid was still on other end of the line. “Sorry.”
“Don’t sweat it dude,” the kid said, just as upbeat as before and the line clicked out again, signaling the end of the conversation.
Kids today, man. Just because they were strangers didn’t mean they couldn’t exchange a few simple “goodbyes.” If the kid hadn’t sounded so cheery Wes would have immediately flagged him as one of Eric’s clan. Same gruffness. Just with more pep. Which was actually a great deal more disconcerting.
The blond ranger pulled up his contact list on his computer and…no, the number wasn’t any different. It was the same one he had dialed the last four times.
This was weird.
He punched in the numbers again and waited for the one ring; the kid, as now expected, picking up on the other end.
“Dude, it’s still just me.”
Which was kind of what Wes was afraid of.
The kid, not needing any kind of response to manage the conversation, carried on. “Who are you looking for?”
Hey, the kid sounded friendly enough. Maybe this was just some kind of misunderstanding, or something.
“My friend. Eric Meyers.” Wes paused before he added, “He lives there.”
“Oh yeah.” The kid didn’t sound at all perturbed by supposedly being in someone else’s home. “He’s sick,” the kid explained. “I’m making him soup.”
Wes glazed over the part he was familiar with, being that it was the entire reason he had called, and focused on the latter half of the kid’s story. For all his skill in interrogation, instead of asking something that could be meaningful his mouth went ahead and blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
“Why are you making him soup?”
Because that was the really troubling thing about this whole situation.
The voice on the other end was not bothered by his question, if anything, it seemed cheerful. “Because he’s sick.”
Yes, he got that, but –
“Why are you making him soup?”
Which was also a bad question because it implied the kid shouldn’t be there, though in Wes’ defense the very concept of “kid plus Eric” was mind boggling enough that it in itself supported his entire argument as to why the kid shouldn’t be treading in such sacred territory.
Luckily the possible-home-intruder seemed too focused on whatever he was doing (the soup, right) to actually notice what Wes was inferring, and actually sounded a little patient when he replied.
“Because he’s sick.”
And that was apparently that.
Either this kid had mastered the art of being interrogated, or he genuinely did not see any qualms with him being in Eric’s house. Making soup. Which probably meant that there actually was a good reason for him to be there. Like, he was being paid to.
Well that took a load off of Wes’ shoulders. Eric had finally seen the light and paid a nurse or someone to come take care of him. Maybe a neighbor kid; Eric had a soft spot for them. Though how this kid could worm his way into the Quantum ranger’s heart was beyond Wes. He seemed way too perky for Eric’s taste.
Oh. Ooohh, maybe Eric didn’t even want him there. But he couldn’t do anything about it and –
Wes’ afternoon looked a whole lot brighter.
That would teach him for making fun of sick people.
“So it’s your job?” Wes asked, spirits raised as he confirmed his theory.
There was no hesitation.
“Yep,” the kid chirped. “Chicken doesn’t boil itself.”
“Mmhm,” Wes mumbled absently, smiling at the sheer unpleasantness Eric had to be experiencing from this kid. He would get homemade soup with a side of unyielding optimism.
And he would hate it.
“Well don’t let him get to you, okay,” Wes advised. “He’s grumpy when he’s sick.”
“Oh,” the kid replied. “Yeah, I got that. He tried to throw a tissue box at me. But it’s cool. I’ll make him better.”
“I bet you will.”
This was going to be magical.
Wes wasn’t cruel though; he would come by and relieve Eric later, let the kid go home, but for now –
For now he would just sit back and let nature run its course.
“Take good care of him, okay?”
“Roger that,” the kid said, completely serious, and Wes’ smile grew.
It was going to be a good afternoon.
Dustin felt better after he hung up the phone. So Eric the ranger wasn’t alone; he had friends to check up on him, they just had to work and stuff because they didn’t have a magic ninja base to supply all the necessities. How unfortunate.
Dustin wondered if whoever he talked to was the other ranger from Silver Hills. He probably should have asked for his name. Oh hey- the other guy didn’t ask for Dustin’s name either. Man, these guys were like, super trusting. Maybe there actually was a secret ranger network set up and they just assumed (except for Eric, because Eric had wanted him out) that Dustin was a part of that and people sneaking into their houses wasn’t a big deal. Most people don’t do break-ins. Clearly, only a ranger would think to do that.
It was an option. Dustin would hook Cyber Cam into Eric’s computer later to see if it had any merit.
With the chicken set to boil (he was sure Eric wouldn’t mind him raiding the fridge; it was for the sick ranger’s benefit anyway) Dustin went to work looking for fluids that would optimize Eric’s recovery. Orange juice, Gatorade, Ginger ale, the works. He had his hand wrapped around a bottle of orange Gatorade when he heard a loud thump from upstairs, giving him the sinking feeling a certain someone had fallen out of bed and probably couldn’t get up.
Dustin took the stairs two at a time, making it up to Eric’s bedroom to see the other ranger attempt to drag himself towards the bathroom.
“Dude,” Dustin began. He still had the Gatorade in his hand so he tossed it on the bed before making his way towards Eric’s side. “I told you to thump the walls.”
Maybe that had been too hard for him but whatever, Dustin didn’t think about it too much. He just bent down, wrapped the sick guy’s arm around his shoulder and hauled him up as carefully as he could; slow enough so there would be no inadvertent pukings.
Inadvertent pukings never equaled happiness.
“Bed or bathroom?” he asked just in case Eric had changed his mind or something and the guy (the huge guy, by the way, he was bigger than Shane, like muscle-y and big) thankfully kinda jerked/flopped his head in the direction of the bed. Super good; that was much closer than the bathroom. Way easier to deal with.
They hobbled/collapsed onto the bed, Dustin grabbing the stray Gatorade bottle just before Eric fell on top of it. He placed it delicately on the nightstand then got to business re-wrapping the other ranger in blankets, making sure he wouldn’t get cold.
It was too bad there weren’t anymore pillows. A pillow mountain was always good whenever you had a cold. Dustin should look around the rest of the house to see if there were other bedrooms or something.
“You don’t have any straws,” Dustin began once he had Eric settled in (giving him a stink eye he in no way deserved, if anyone wanted to know). “Which is a shame because they greatly improve the whole drinking experience, seriously bro, and they like, keep your teeth from getting all stain-y.” He leaned towards Eric to look him in the stink eye as he cracked the seal on the Gatorade bottle. “You should definitely consider investing in a box or two. It will change your life.”
“Who…are you?” Eric grumbled, displeased or cranky (or both. It was most likely both), and Dustin waved another hand at him. It helped in these kinds of situations. Distracted from the things that need not be spoken of.
“We’re not getting side-tracked,” he lectured, because they weren’t; Eric was going to drink his Gatorade and take his nap and Dustin was going to make soup and-
Oh, but for peace of mind…
“I’m Dustin,” he explained, and then he offered the bottle out to Eric who had what he could only describe as the most epic look of disdain on his face.
For a second Dustin thought they were going to start throwing things again, but then Eric just grumbled and buried his face into his pillow, nesting down until he was just a pile of blankets.
The yellow ranger blinked, then waited, like, maybe the guy was gathering his energy, and when Eric continued to not turn back over and drink his electrolyte-regenerating beverage like a good little sick ranger Dustin gave a grumble himself and re-capped the bottle, placing it to the sides and rolling up his sleeves for the job to come.
He was Dustin Brookes. He was the yellow wind ranger, an earth ninja, and semi-pro motocross racer/mechanic. He had fought enough monsters to be well into double digits, he had been sucked into at least three alternate dimensions, he had been trapped as a perfume, he had been exploded more times than he could count, he had fought in enough zord battle to last him a lifetime and on top of all this he had dealt with not only Hunter, but Cam on the very worst of days.
He was not going to let some grumpy, bed-ridden, too-stubborn-for-his-own-good ranger stand in the way of him and making said ranger feel better. That was not in his realm of capabilities. Not now. Not ever.
Alright Eric, it’s on.
“Now you,” he muttered, grabbing at the lumps that were probably Eric’s shoulders. “You are going to quit your-”
Eric fought against him, beginning to curl into a ball.
“He-ey!” Dustin cried, moving to straddle the slow moving mound of blankets; that would solve one problem, “I am here to help you. And you-”
With what Dustin assumed was an immense effort, Eric rolled to his other side, pinning Dustin partly beneath some blankets as a growl echoed out from the mulit-colored mass.
Dustin scrunched his nose. “You wanna play tough huh? Well-”
He sat up and dived-ish, as best as one could dive into a pile of bedspreads, and attempted to find the face of the elusive Qua-something ranger. When he did manage to pull off this monumental task he was met with an accusing look, eyes narrowed as Eric tried to bundle himself towards the edge of the bed.
“Wes sent you,” he spat, so beyond displeased it wasn’t funny, like he was offended by the very thought. And you know what? Fine. Let him think that. Clearly this Wes-guy was awesomesauce if he was nice enough to send people to help sick people, and if Eric didn’t like that well, tough stuff. Now they could both be mildly unhappy.
“You need fluids,” Dustin countered, grabbing onto Eric’s shoulders and pulling him up into the sitting position, propping a few pillows behind his back while he remained the least helpful person ever.
“I don’t need help,” Eric declared, pretending for all the world that sitting up was exactly where he wanted to be the moment he realized he couldn’t overpower Dustin. The yellow ranger shrugged and grabbed at the Gatorade bottle again.
“Right,” he said, because Dustin found when you agreed with someone it was hard for them to keep arguing with you. “You need fluids.”
Which was not help, it was a beverage. A delicious beverage.
Eric gave him/the wall a sullen look. “That’s helping.”
Alright. Fine. Time to break out the logic and smack down this ranger with some intellectual undeniabilities.
“How much have you drank today?” Dustin asked. “Have you had anything?”
There was the steady silence of Eric not replying because he was stupid and hadn’t had anything.
“Right,” Dustin said, holding up the bottle. “So since you know and I know you need fluids to stop feeling like a big ole’ pile of awfulness, why don’t we put an end to our little throwdown and you drink the freakin’ beverage?”
When Eric continued to stare at him/wall because he had pride and couldn’t admit to things, Dustin opened up the drink and took a long sip of it, making a show of wiping his lips with the back of his hand.
“Mmmm, yeah, man, this orange stuff, it’s so good. And not poisoned. Look at how refreshing and healthy and aiding to my recovery it would be if I were sick. Perhaps you would like a taste?” He batted his eyes at Eric, because if he was going to be stupid then Dustin could be too, and the eyes, though narrowed, stared longingly at his bottle.
Dustin smiled and took another sip, sighing just as he pulled the bottle away. “Man this bottle is huge. I can’t finish it. Would you…?” He tilted the bottle in Eric’s direction, grinning innocently as he made his offering.
Eric gave him one last glare before begrudgingly relieving him of the bottle, chugging the thing in a couple of seconds before tossing the empty bottle over the side of the bed and collapsing back into his pile of blankets.
“Thanks,” Dustin said, not at all smug or anything and helped Eric resettle himself. “You’re a good friend.”
When he went to go check on the chicken he heard a stubborn and not-at-all sincere protest.
“Not friends,” Eric muttered.
See, Dustin knew it wasn’t sincere because he was friends with Hunter, and when you were friends with Hunter, you knew when to look over some things.
They were totally on their way towards best-friendship.
After Dustin de-boned the chicken and added the frozen vegetables into his wonderful-healing-soup-of-awesomeness he grabbed another two bottles of Gatorade and headed upstairs. More fluids definitely wouldn’t hurt. Maybe he should have grabbed three bottles. You know what; he’d just go heavy on the orange juice whenever the soup was done. That would work.
Dustin had been checking in with Cyber Cam and Sensei regularly over the past couple hours. So far doom-pot man had been quiet, no actions, still just waiting for Dustin to come and get sucked in. Not that the yellow ranger wasn’t grateful for it, but man, that guy was stupid. Clearly Dustin wasn’t going to show up anytime soon. Shouldn’t he be like, rampaging the city to make the yellow ranger come out or something?Whatever, Dustin was willing to bite into this too-good-to-be-true sandwich. The way he figured, the guy from the other end of the phone was bound to show up sometime to check up on new-friend Eric. After that Dustin could find the weapon he sincerely hoped Eric had and leave, save his friends, and bring the weapon back. It was a win-win-win scenario (phone guy got to win because he got awesome-healing-soup).
When Dustin got back upstairs he was greeted with the sight of Eric staring very unhappily at his bathroom door, hands fidgeting in that oh-so familiar way that Dustin only had too much experience with. It was the potty-hand dance. The dance specially reserved for sickness when no other energy could be exerted to demonstrate how badly you needed…well, the potty (or the facilities, as Cam liked to put it).
Dustin blinked, trying to fight off the wave of sadness that hit when he thought of Cam, then shrugged, plastering on his best happy face.
“Bathroom?” he asked cheerfully, and he received a heavy and stubborn glare, because clearly no, Eric didn’t need to use the bathroom, and if he did he could do it by himself, thanks.
Because he obviously hadn’t attempted to drag himself there before. And had done pitifully. Of course it was obvious that if Eric had wanted to go to the bathroom he would have done it by now because he was fine.
Dustin sighed and put his two Gatorade bottles down, thinking of a new plan of attack.
“So…” he began after a few minutes of Eric glaring at his bathroom for having the audacity to be four feet away. “I have to use the bathroom.”
That got Eric’s attention.
The bed-ridden ranger blinked at him, confused, and Dustin cleared his throat awkwardly.
“I have to use the bathroom,” he tried again. “But I…I uh, I get scared!”
Yes, that was it.
Eric jumped at his sudden outburst and Dustin smiled, clapping his hands at his own ingenuity.
“Yes!” he said, bounding over to the bed and gripping Eric’s arm. “Yes, I get scared and I need you to come to the bathroom with me!”
He was met with a properly befuddled look and absolute silence, so Dustin added, “Please.”
He was totally going to use this on Hunter if he ever got sick. No, wait, he’d tell it to Shane. It would be way funnier if the red ranger did it.
God he missed them so much-
“Fine,” Eric grumbled, because he knew what it meant and Dustin knew what it meant and Dustin needed to stay focused and-
“Yes!” Dustin cheered, pumping his fist, and without further ado he freed Eric from his blanket cocoon and dragged him into the bathroom, going as fast as he could so that the other ranger wouldn’t change his mind.
Dustin stared thoughtfully at the ceiling while he kept a hold of Eric’s arm and another wrapped around his back, making sure to keep the other ranger stabilized while he did his business. Neither one of them commented when Dustin failed to use the bathroom, or for that matter, on any part of the bathroom excursion. What happened in the bathroom, stayed there.
Like, literally, but Dustin meant figuratively too.
“Tell no one,” Eric grumbled after he face planted onto the bed.
“Why would I tell anyone about me using the bathroom?” Dustin replied innocently. “That would just be silly.”
Eric lifted up his head and gave him a level look, studying him for the first time with what could have been serious intent. The other ranger nodded, then flopped back down, pulling a blanket around himself.
“Of course,” he mumbled, sounding…relieved maybe? Or just like, tired and appreciative. “But we’re still not friends.”
“Okay,” Dustin whispered, grabbing the abandoned Gatorade bottles. “We’ll just be best friends.”
He was pretty sure Eric had heard him but the other ranger didn’t comment on it.
Which was his way of totally agreeing.
Dustin spoke fluent Hunter. He knew how it translated.
The soup was almost done, the grumpy pants mostly asleep, and Dustin was just searching out one more box of tissues to put by him when he discovered It.
Dustin hadn’t been expecting a lot, okay, because even if he did get any weapons it wouldn’t be ninja weapons (which were arguably the best) so when he found…it, he couldn’t actually describe the supreme feelings of joy that fireworked out of his poor, overworked limbic system (yes, even in his state of complete awe he could still remember Cam’s teachings).
It was a dinosaur gun.
Like, a dinosaur head, as a gun.
IT WAS THE RAY GUN!
It was red and black and silver and looked like a dinosaur and holy sweet mercy Dustin had never been more glad to see anything in his life. He could feel it, should it be weird that he could actually feel the morphing energy going through the gun? It matched the morpher on Eric’s wrist; it had to be his.
This was it. This was the answer. This was what Dustin had needed and he found it and all he had to do was drive back to Blue Bay Harbor, sneak up on what’s-his-face and shoot his doom pot dead.
And it had been hiding in Eric’s bedside table the entire time. Figures he would keep it close by.
Dustin had checked under his pillow first.
Like fate or the universe or whatever decided to call, Dustin’s morpher immediately started beeping, Cyber Cam informing him that doom-pot man was attacking civilians (finally) and it was now or never. Just after that Eric’s phone rang again and, thank goodness, it was phone-man again, calling to say he was going to relieve Dustin of his duty.
Great. Awesome. Fine.
Dustin quickly told him (but his head was totally somewhere else) about the soup on the stove, the Gatorade that had been digested, and that phone man had to play nice (because for all Dustin knew he could be a crazy stalker man) and then he hung up without saying goodbye (so much more important things to do) and began packing up his stuff, shoving the dinosaur gun into his backpack and whispering a quiet goodbye to Eric, who had entered into fully-asleep mode.
He wished he could leave a note or something but there was no time. He had to get back. If he sped really fast and maybe ran lights and-
Oh, scratch that. Cyber Cam said to dump his bike in the woods. He would send the Samurai Star Megazord to pick Dustin up. Yeah, that would save a bunch of time. He would trade email addresses with Eric-new-friend whenever he came and returned the gun.
Of course, in all the excitement, it was highly plausible he may have forgotten to mention he was a ranger on a mission.
That probably wouldn’t come back to bite him in the tukkis.
Wes was far into impressed when he surveyed Eric’s house. Not only was it still in good condition with no obvious fires rampaging amuck, but the odors of what could only be the most delectable soup ever wafted through the air. Eric himself wasn’t in too bad a condition; his bed was way cleaner from when Wes had last seen it (because he was an awesome friend and no, it wasn’t just to take pictures, though those had been nice) and it even looked like…yep, the kid had managed to get Eric to drink something. Miracle worker.
Wes smiled. He would have to trade tips with this kid on Eric-handling. Despite his lack of social skills the kid had that down like a pro.Maybe it was that “birds of a feather” thing at work.
“Glad to see you’re in one piece,” Wes offered, leaning against Eric’s doorframe.
It would probably make him mad. It was Eric’s doorframe and Eric should be leaning against it.
Wes slumped a little more.
Eric, unexpectedly, did not glare. He rolled his eyes instead and looked off to the side, fidgeting with his blanket. “Yeah well, that kid you sent over…he wasn’t so bad.”
The last part was said as off-handedly as possible, and Wes would be all for calling Eric out on that if he hadn’t gotten stuck on the first part of the sentence.
“I didn’t send him,” Wes began, straightening up. “I thought he was your neighbor.”
They stopped and stared, and Eric slowly craned his head around to make sure Wes wasn’t playing him, but he wasn’t because-
“Who. The hell. Was he?” Eric growled, fists clenching in his sheets as he began to sit up. Damn if he hadn’t been perfectly content two seconds ago.
“Hold on,” Wes said, trying (and failing, oh boy was he failing) to put a comforting hand on Eric’s arm. “How did he get into your house?”
Eric gave him that special kind of silence that said he had absolutely no idea but refused to admit it to Wes.
Wes was fluent in Eric.
And that meant…
“Holy crap,” Wes said, the beginnings of a laugh building in his throat. “A kid broke into your house and made you soup.”
He then gave up on all pretense and burst out laughing because that, that was too sweet. Eric had a not-so-secret, super-fan admirer who was willing to put up with him while he was sick.
On second thought, kid totally earned his right to bask in his idol’s presence.
“It isn’t funny,” Eric mumbled, trying very poorly to hide the flush in his cheeks. Eric hated the attention they got for being rangers. He just wanted to do his job.
“Think of it this way,” Wes said, not attempting to cover his smile. “You said he wasn’t so bad. That means you like-”
“Shut up,” Eric warned, aiming a finger at his chest. “We never speak of this again.”
And since it would be bad to encourage other young fans to break into their houses and (quite possibly) make them soup, Wes decided to go ahead and let the Quantum ranger’s pride have this one.
“You gotta admit though, it is kinda sweet.”
Eric shrugged, but Wes knew he totally agreed.
He almost felt bad for a moment. Eric had really liked that kid. He was probably disappointed with how things had turned out.
“What was his name?” Wes asked, scooping up some empty Gatorade bottles and depositing them in the trash can.
Eric grunted. “It doesn’t matter, does it?”
Well maybe, but…
“I guess not,” Wes said, shrugging his shoulders and barely containing his smirk.
He knew it. Eric did like that kid.
When he exited the room, fully intent on loading up some bowls with that delicious smelling soup, he stopped just outside the door, waiting for…
“Dustin,” Eric mumbled, begrudgingly even to the emptiness of his room. “His name was Dustin.”
Well, whatever Dustin had been looking for, Wes hoped he had gotten it. And he really hoped the kid would pop out of the woodwork again. Think of the evils they could do if they tag-teamed Eric together.
And that was the really important thing.