Oh Goody, We're Bonding
Blake was still staring at the back door in confusion, hadn’t even bothered getting off the floor, when Dustin and Hunter made their dynamic entrance. And by this Blake meant they had dropped down from the ceiling they had ninja-glued themselves to and he hadn’t even been aware of them enough to not to make a noise of surprise. It could also, quite possibly, be classified as an unmanly shriek, but if Blake was anything it was manly, so clearly it wasn’t that.
“There was a window-” Dustin began to explain; probably going over how they had managed their stealthy entrance, but Hunter cut him off.
“Did he see you?” the crimson ranger asked, sounding urgent, but Blake was on another wave length, still too shocked by…whatever that had been.
“I don’t know what the hell just happened,” Blake admitted.
Hunter gave him a concerned look. “Blake-”
The younger Bradley rushed to explain, not wanting Hunter to get even more tense and worried than he was. “There was another ranger that almost threw fire at me.”
No joke, a fireball had been prepared to meet his head, which was just- It was beyond dangerous. There weren’t fire ninja’s for a reason so whoever that guy was-
Dustin shook his head in wonderment, looking back and forth between Blake and Hunter. “Dude.”
Which was essentially Dustin’s way of saying “holy-crap-are-you-okay?” and “I-cannot-believe-your-words-but-well-I-guess-I-can-cuz-it’s-you-but-OMGWTGALSKDFJA;FJA;KDJF;A”, all summarized in one concise word. The epitome of efficiency, if you thought about it.
Blake waved the yellow ranger off and began to pick himself off the floor. “I’m fine. It’s fine. He seemed happy enough to leave anyway.”
Hunter tilted his head to the side, eyes narrowed; staring out the back door as if the shadow of the other ranger would tell him things. “Why?”
Blake could really only think of one possible reason.
He scratched the back of his head nonchalantly, kicking away some stray debris as he answered, “…he might think I’m related to Eric.”
When he risked a glance at the other rangers Dustin was staring off into the distance, awed look on his face, already latching onto this idea. “This changes everything,” he whispered, playing with the edge of his shirt.
Hunter sent the brunette a sour glare and pointed at him. “Okay you,” he began in a tone that suggested he could not deal with this nonsense. “He’s not related to Eric,” and then he turned back towards Blake, venom in his eyes that wasn’t quite venom and totally jealousy he was failing to cover up. “And second of all that’s like, racism working in our favor.”
This suggestion startled Dustin out of his la-la land of Blake-Eric relations. He looked at Hunter, head cocked to the side in confusion. “How is it racist? Blake does sort’ve look like Eric.”
Hunter turned his not-jealousy-venom-glare to Dustin. “In that they are both Asian.”
The yellow ranger appropriately did not pick up on the blond’s bitterness. He shrugged. “I dunno; I think they both have the same hard-lived, bad-boy disposition going on.”
Blake didn’t have to look at Hunter to know how seriously he disagreed with that. The very idea of it was simply heinous, and he looked over from his inspection of the kitchen to see the blond vigorously shake his head.
“Okay, first of all, hard lived? Seriously?” he asked in a way that could have been mocking if Hunter ever mocked Dustin, which he didn’t, so it was really just his way of being playful but refusing to admit it. “And second of all-” the blond continued then stopped, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “No wait, I’m changing it to first of all. This one’s more important: clearly I am the one with the bad-boy disposition.”
He finished this argument by pointing to himself dramatically and raising his eyebrows, making him look half-crazed.
Dustin’s smile was sweet and sincere when he helpfully informed, “There’s room for two bad boys.”
Blake could just feel the protest Hunter was about to unleash.
With a sigh he moved into the living room, trying to find a place Eric could have missed in his Quantum Defender search so that he could stash the gun and be done with this ordeal.
Behind him Hunter’s voice was incredulous. “Weren’t you there for the nineties? Or like, the now- boy bands are coming back right? And count it, there is only one, one bad boy per group and I have dibs.” Insert probable fist pumping here. “Dibs I say.”
At this point, Dustin felt that Blake was feeling a little left out of the conversation, so he executed a stage whisper, which was, sadly enough, his actual whisper because Dustin was kind’ve the worst at stealth communications. “What happens if there are two bad boys?” he asked, voice earnest.
“The world explodes, along with Hunter’ s ego,” Blake deadpanned back, flipping some discarded couch cushions over with his foot. Looked like all of them had been ripped open and inspected; he would have no luck there.
Dustin continued his whisper, trying to be comforting. “Dude, I think he’s just jealous you can pass for Eric’s cousin or whatever.”
Hunter, who had been standing to the side with his arms crossed, resolutely not paying attention to them because of his exclusion, made a snorting sound. “I make it a habit not to be jealous of racism.”
Dustin winked at Blake, conspiratorially whispering, “Bad boy.”
“Dibs!” Hunter yelled, insistent and jabbing his finger into the air. Dustin just laughed at him, quietly though, to appease the blond’s ego.
In the corner, just below a side table with a drawer that was hanging precariously open, there was a small vent. It didn’t look like it had been touched in a while. It was perfect. Just perfect.
Blake smiled to himself as he made his way to it, preparing to slide Dustin’s backpack off his shoulders. “I’m just going to go plant the gun now, if that’s okay with you guys.”
Behind him, Hunter was snippy, trying for nonchalant but unable to hide his relief. “As long as we’re all on the same side of the bad boy issue.”
Blake could picture Dustin’s slow, wide-eyed nod of total placation. “Of course Hunter,” he said, sounding quite serious but somehow, not. “Everyone’s on your side.”
All they needed to do now was finish planting the gun and park themselves outside of Eric’s house until the Quantum ranger came home. After that, Shane and Cam had some kind of stratagem worked out that would help Eric find it. They were so close to freedom.
Which was the perfect cue for everything to fall apart. Again.
Somedays, Blake marveled as Marah and Kapri and the kelzaks flooded into the house out of seemingly nowhere, Sometimes we just can’t catch a break.
It had been a unanimous decision for all the teams to meet up at Bio Labs in order to establish a proper plan of attack. And also, you know, to meet fellow saviors of the universe. As it turned out, everyone who wasn’t a red ranger (and Rocky) was still a little miffed about the Serpentera mission and were taking great joys in trading introductions and war stories. Wes’ father had given him permission to close off the section of Bio Labs that contained the council room and his and Eric’s office to help maintain the secret identities of all the non-public rangers. Wes would have preferred to avoid the public workplace altogether, but they needed a centralized location that had the tech and the space they needed for tracking down the missing rangers. His house was too out of the way and the Clock Tower was still in the process of being rebuilt, which left them with limited options. Thankfully, it turned out the adrenaline-junkie part of being a ranger hadn’t been exclusive to just his team, and the rangers got a real kick of sneaking in and out of Bio Labs. Some of them (Rocky, Joel, and Wes thought he might have heard TJ (though the last two didn’t really need to)) going so far as to supply their own soundtracks, like they were taking part in a super spy movie.
Most of the rangers had taken over an abandoned employee lounge to swap tales, seeing as they all couldn’t fit into the conference room. Of course, each team had some representative in the conference room to keep an eye on things, along with all the techs on hand to tackle the momentous task of hacking into the Ninja team’s network. They had long come to the conclusion that someone was working against them from the other side, which only served to enhance the fury Justin had been brewing up all though the night. Working alongside the teen were Angela Rawlings, Joel’s wife (yeah, that guy had a wife; mystified Eric to no end) and Trip, who Wes had finally managed to track down after a couple of painstaking hours. There was another tech Rocky had talked about named Billy, but they hadn’t been able to reach him on Aquitar. However Wes was, or at least had been, confident that three geniuses would be enough.
Based on the impressive amount of cursing coming from their direction (in Trip’s case, a fair amount of “Oh, tarter sauce!”) Wes was beginning to doubt this hypothesis.
He leaned over towards Carter, whispering out of the corner of his mouth, “Should we-?”
“Just-” Carter cut off and then both of them paused to give the biggest, most supportive and innocent smiles they could manage when Justin turned to glare their way, as though he had heard Wes’ comment. He totally couldn’t have though, because he was too far away.
“Just,” Carter started again when they relaxed, leaning a little closer towards Wes which did nothing to dissuade him of Justin’s super-hearing abilities. “Let them work, okay?”
“Yeah,” Wes lamely agreed, because that was really all he could do. “They’ll get it.”
Or the guy on the other side would die. Either way, something was going to happen.
With a sigh, Wes settled back against the wall, bumping his shoulder against Eric’s to try and knock that permanently fixed scowl off his face. For his efforts he got an irritated glare, but Eric bumped his shoulder back companionably, then went back to staring down the rest of the room’s inhabitants. Wes shrugged, taking what he could get (and not giddishly happy because of it, that would be silly) and joined the Quantum Ranger in his efforts, studying the rangers he had just met.
Adam and Rocky were representing the Ninjitti team (with Tommy, regrettably, stuck out of town on some archeological dig). Rocky, as was usual apparently, had taken up his favorite position draped across Adam’s back. The red ranger was speaking animatedly over the smaller man’s shoulder to a stoic Andros, who was nodding in all the appropriate spots and got a somewhat relieved look on his face whenever Adam took over the conversation, dimming down the exuberant force that was Rocky into more bearable levels. Hovering over Andros’ shoulder was his team’s sixth ranger, Zhane, who was alternating between watching Andros’ discomfort and making what was undoubtedly snide remarks to Kai, the Lost Galaxy team’s representative, who was studying the conversation with detached fascination, like a scientist observing a natural phenomenon. Occasionally his eyes would dart to the techs huddled around their computer set up in the far corner and give them a thoughtful look, only for a second, before focusing on the door, probably on the look out for Leo. The Red Lost Galaxy Ranger had been suspiciously absent when the rest of his team arrived at Bio Labs. Wes had a good feeling he knew where he was though. So did Eric.
The last member of their group was Lucas, who had dutifully come as Trip’s backup. He had taken to peppering Eric with questions about the Silver Guardian SUVs and, surprisingly enough, they had maintained a somewhat-friendly conversation for the past ten minutes, Eric only pausing to cast bitter looks of disdain every once in awhile.
Wes himself had stayed occupied by sharing a quiet conversation with Carter, but most of the concerns/theories/ideas they had about the situation had already been said, so for the most part they just stood in companionable silence and watched the magic happen. There was something comforting about seeing all these rangers from different teams work together. It made Wes feel like a part of something bigger. Admittedly, being a Power Ranger in itself was a huge honor and nothing to laugh at, certainly wasn’t a small gesture, but it-
Something about them all being together…well, it made it seem bigger. Made him feel less alone in a sea of crazy. It was nice to know there were other crazy people out there too.
Speaking of…there was Leo, whistling a jaunty tune as he entered the room. He strolled right past Eric with a cheeky wink, not even bothering to look at the irritated glare he instigated by doing so as he turned his attention towards Rocky. He and the Hispanic man shared a high five, Andros getting a polite nod and Zhane a full bear hug, or rather, Leo initiated a friendly hug and Zhane wouldn’t take no for an answer, lifting the brunette completely off the ground before dropping him with a laugh.
The Lost Galaxy Ranger finally came to a halt by Kai, standing close enough so that their shoulders touched but far away enough so that Kai had space, giving the blue ranger a fond smile that was only meant for him, eyes locked like they were the only two people in the room. At least, the only two people that mattered.
Wes looked away and focused on Eric, still scowling at the Red Lost Galaxy Ranger. It wasn’t just Leo though; Eric seemed excessively grumpy towards all of the couples (yeah, totally not going to overanalyze that). Wes sighed and shook his head, looking to Leo and Kai as they exchanged their greetings.
“So glad you could join us,” Kai murmured, bitingly sarcastic, eyes sizing up Leo tiredly as though he was unsure why he put up with the troublemaking brunette.
Leo only smiled brighter, taking the bitter deluge as a sign of affection and turning so he could nestle his head into Kai’s shoulder. “Oh pookums, don’t be so cruel.”
Kai gave a tiny smile and flicked the side of Leo’s head, showing mild displeasure but not shaking the other ranger off.
“I cannot fight what’s in my nature,” he replied quietly and straight faced, making it hard to tell if he was continuing the joke or stating a fact.
Leo scoffed, “Our ability is to control nature.”
It was a cute moment, quiet and so oddly unlike Leo’s naturally boisterous attitude that Wes was almost certain it was three seconds away from being ruined by a very bitter Eric. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that the Quantum Ranger in question had tensed up, eyes narrowing, and Wes decided that maybe some kinder, more charismatic interceding was necessary.
“Hi Leo!” Wes called, breaking Kai and the Red Lost Galaxy Ranger out of their little staring contest. “How’s it going?”
The volume of his greeting managed to capture the attention of everyone in the room, even the techs for a moment before Justin started cursing at them to get in gear.
Leo shrugged, lopsided smile on his face. “Can’t complain.”
“Like hell you can’t,” Kai muttered under his breath, sharing a conspiring look with Zhane. Wes didn’t…he really did not understand that friendship right there. He just had a feeling it could quite possibly mean dangerous things.
Based on the mildly concerned look on Andros’ face, this was not an unsupported feeling.
Leo turned and cast the two a suspicious look, but their faces were schooled to total innocence; Zhane merely bearing the same mischievousness he always had and Kai calm and collected, looking for all the world like he had more important things to do than make witty remarks. Leo leaned in closer to Zhane (because Kai would not deal with unwelcome violations of personal space; Rocky had learned that the hard way), staring him down with an incredulous look until they were about nose to nose. Zhane winked at him in response then darted forward to kiss the brunette on the cheek, causing Leo to reel back quickly in surprise, overbalancing himself and landing on the floor with an undignified thump. It looked ridiculous enough that Zhane was spared any counterattacks from Kai, whose idea of being slightly overprotective included being…well, way overprotective. Instead of defending Leo’s honor, the blue ranger offered up his hand to the silver ranger, eyes still locked on Leo’s, and Zhane happily completed the high five.
Leo turned to look at Wes forlornly. “It feels like they’re all working against me.”
“Well you never could take a hint,” Eric grumbled, rolling his eyes.
Leo gasped overdramatically, probably saving the Quantum Ranger from some Kai-wrath as he continued playing. “Q-bear I am wounded! Wounded!”
Seeing as the situation could only go downhill from there, Wes decided to take a more proactive role and strode across the room, pulling Leo off of the floor and giving him a proper handshake, a friendly gesture but firm enough to ask him to please, back off.
Even through his smile, Leo read the memo, giving Wes a nod before turning towards Kai and Andros.
“So,” the red ranger began, looking at Kai. “Why aren’t you helping with the…” He nodded towards the techs over in their corner. This time it looked like Trip was the one closest to solving their problem, Justin and Angela hovering over his shoulders and jabbing at the monitor enthusiastically, Justin typing on his laptop with one hand while Angela typed away at some pda-thing (or for all Wes could know it was an actual pda, which would be a nice turn of pace).
Kai narrowed his eyes slightly, which was his way of expressing annoyance, Wes assumed. “They were already set up by the time I got here; said they didn’t need my help.” He shrugged, though it seemed odd on him, like he wasn’t used to it. “Too many cooks in the kitchen,” he explained.
At this, Leo merely raised his eyebrows before turning to give the techs a better look. “And Sheila’s cool with that?”
“Who the hell’s Sheila?”
Wes didn’t (he didn’t, shut up) jump when he heard Eric’s voice right over his shoulder and apparently…hey, there was Lucas and Carter too, looked like they followed Wes over whenever he dealt out his Leo-warning.
Kai might have frowned a little but Leo didn’t jump to the bait. Instead he smiled easily, looking a little bit proud. “Whenever we went to alter the satellites-”
“You mean when I altered the satellites,” Kai muttered and Leo just nodded, eyes still on Eric.
“Right exactly,” he chirped, giving his boyfriend a fond smile. “When Kai added in the ranger programs he upgraded the satellites. At the time we were having issues with data, that the satellites would get damaged and we wouldn’t know what was wrong, so…” he trailed off, looking at Kai expectantly.
After a pause the blue ranger finally sighed, taking up where Leo had left off. “So to improve the satellite’s efficiency and to ensure that the ranger programs were protected, I created an AI to monitor them.” He tilted his head to the side and looked back towards the techs, eyes narrowed. “Actually, I’m surprised she hasn’t stepped in to help them by now.”
Wes got all of .23 of a second to be dazzled by the idea of satellites and AI’s and programs when a voice chirped out of Justin’s computer, electronic but somehow with a human aspect to it. Especially since it sounded like it was forcing a cheerful tone to cover up some serious agitation.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the voice crooned, distinctly female. “It did not register that my assistance was necessary. As Mr. Stewart was so enthusiastic to access my equipment and create his own search algorithm, I assumed that the matter was left in capable hands.” She paused and the three techs by the computer could do nothing but stare, Justin all-out gawking while Angela leaned forward to study the laptop. At his own computer, Trip looked like he was close to clapping, the only one pleased by this turn of events, and he beamed at Wes.
“Was I incorrect?” the voice continued, smug but somehow sounding innocent.
After a pause, Leo leaned over and hugged Kai, the blue ranger too busy giving the other techs a knowing smirk to object to it. “Oh, I love her so much.”
It appeared as though Kai was going to let his work (literally) speak for itself as he said no more, even after Justin’s stares went from wondrous to promising-murder and Wes was trying to think of some way to intercede before that could become an issue, when Rocky stepped in for him.
The Red Ninjetti Ranger stared at Justin. “Did you just get served-?”
“I thought we were done with that word,” Adam cut him off, informing him quietly with an air of great patience. The poor guy had been trying to wean Rocky off of the more painful old slang words he seemed so fond of.
Rocky shrugged, his forearms brushing against the bottom of the black ranger’s jaw. “Well you have to admit, it’s kind’ve appropriate.”
Wes shook his head, still sort of shocked by the newest member of their search team. “Wow.”
A finger jabbed against his right side, towards his back causing the blond ranger to wince. He gave Eric a hurt look (because he knew it had been Eric) that the Quantum Ranger completely ignored in favor of studying Kai, deciding not to write him off as hopeless merely due to his association with Leo.
…Wes did not like this new development. He would have to keep a lookout on those two future interactions. Just…you know, in case. Totally reasonable.
Eric tilted his head to the side, studying Kai. “Did your program just tell him off?”
Hell yes she did. That was a question Wes could answer.
Unless of course, it was only cool if Eric heard it from Kai.
Sheila decided to answer this particular question for herself, cheerfully explaining, “It was not my fault that proper etiquette was not exercised. Perhaps in the future Mr. Stewart will remember to “knock” before meddling with someone’s subprograms.”
Beyond Eric and Lucas’ shoulders, Kai sent the other techs (sans Trip, who had appeased him by expressing pure adoration to all things Sheila) an epically smug look. “I’m sure he will Sheila,” he replied easily, eyeing Justin. The kid’s eye was twitching and he probably would have been a lot angrier if it weren’t for the progress they were going to make. “Now, could you please assist Mr. Stewart’s attempts to access the Ninja team’s network?”
Sheila’s tone took an instant one eighty as she addressed her creator, permeated with fondness; no sign of the earlier agitation. “Gladly. Initiating network breach.”
Justin had gone from shocked to angry and was now reveling in kind-of-sad, flicking the side of his monitor before collapsing in a chair, rubbing a hand tiredly across his eyes. Beside him, Trip managed to break out of his AI-induced haze of awe and nudged a bottle of water towards the Turbo Ranger, giving him a sympathetic smile when it slid into the other teen’s view.
Wes should…yeah, he should also keep a close watch on those two. Him and Lucas. Trip had been looking a little too fond of Justin. Though it was hard to tell with Trip sometimes. The Xybrian was very friendly.
With the AI set to work, Leo buried his head against Kai’s shoulder, emphatically repeating, “So much love.”
Justin gratefully accepted the water bottle from Trip and gave his monitor one last glare, on principal. “Son of a bitch.”
“Actually, you’ve got that backwards,” Sheila replied as cheerfully as ever.
Rocky cocked his head to the side, pondering this. “Bitch of a son?”
Beside Zhane, Leo pumped his fist. “Amen brother,” he chirped, hugging Kai again, who warmly accepted the affection. “Amen.”
And yep, there was that ominous feeling of doom and gloom from Eric. The Quantum Ranger looked off to the side, mumbling, put off. “Get a damn room.”
“Can it be this one?” Leo asked innocently.
When Wes and Kai simultaneously replied, “No, Leo,” the blond was the only one who got questioning stares. Which didn’t seem all that fair really.
But things were starting to look up, so he would take what he could get.