Chapter 2

New Disclaimer: Okay, I also don't own the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. I mention them a few times in here, and thought that the disclaimer should be altered to cover that.

"Well, that's the last of them," Mrs. Starkey announced, setting her ladle, brandished menacingly until now, on a nearby counter and clapping Sam on the shoulder with one hand and Amp with the other. Both boys staggered slightly beneath Mrs. Starkey's surprising strength. "You can go now."

"Really? Thanks, Mrs. S!" Tanker exclaimed, tossing his hairnet aside and starting immediately for the door.

Sam was a little more reluctant.

"Are...are you sure there's nothing else we can help you with here?" he choked.

Mrs. Starkey looked thoughtful.

"The cabinets could use a good scrubbing," she finally announced. "Wait there. I'll be back with rags and buckets in a minute."

As she bustled away, Tanker shot Sam a withering glare.

"Thanks, buddy," he bit out sarcastically. "She was gonna let us go!"

"Yeah, but the detention time isn't up yet, Tank," Sam explained calmly. "If she'd sent us back to Pratchert, we'd probably be doing something a lot worse than cleaning cabinets."

"Yeah," Amp agreed. Then he shuddered. "We could"

Sam made a motion somewhere between a shudder and a nod and a twitch.

"Yeah, I get plenty of that with Elizabeth."

"Yeah; me, too," Tanker agreed.

Sam frowned.

"Tank, when was the last time you baby-sat for Elizabeth?"

"Never, man. I don't baby-sit. I just meant that I hear you talk about it enough that I feel like I was actually there. And I didn't want to be."

"Alright, kids, go to it," Mrs. Starkey commanded as she returned, setting down a huge bucket of soapy water, complete with several rags floating in it, at Sam's feet.

"On second thought," Tanker sighed, gazing about in dismay at the rows upon rows of cabinets, "an afternoon with screaming kids doesn't seem quite so bad."

Meanwhile, Malcolm was reflecting that an afternoon in front of a firing squad didn't seem quite so bad.

He was currently garbed in an ill-fitting tuxedo jacket that some parent or other had donated for the dress-up box, a scarf of lavender lace draped around his neck, that damned tiara on his head, and carrying a hobbyhorse.

"Now the prince mounts his violent steed-" Kelly commanded.

"You mean, valiant steed," Malcolm interrupted. 'This is embarrassing...'

"Whatever!" Kelly said impatiently. "Just get on the horse and gallop to the castle where the beautiful princess sleeps."

"Damn her," Malcolm muttered, glaring at the unmoving form in the corner as he pretended to gallop around the room on the hobbyhorse. "She gets the easy role."

"You should have told me you wanted to be the princess, Malcolm," Sydney called from the corner of the room where she was stretched out on the floor, pretending to be in a deep, enchanted sleep. "The dress would have suited you."

"Shut up!" he called back.

"Now, now," Ginny of the ever-listening ear admonished sternly from a nearby table where she was attempting to show several children the fine craft of macaroni art. "We don't permit the 's'-word in this room."

"Sorry," Malcolm sighed insincerely, returning to his galloping.

"Now the fairies will lead you to your princess," Blaine announced as the little girls, all with similar scarves to his tied around their heads, grabbed his hand and dragged him across the room.

"And now what?" Malcolm demanded, tossing the hobbyhorse to one side and crossing his arms as he glared down at Sydney, who apparently had gotten the worse end of the deal as far as the dress-up aspect of things went. The girls had found a rather ghastly pink polyester evening gown, donated to the dress-up box for the obvious reason that its previous owner had likely come down off of their 70's high and realized that the garment had no good qualities.

The instant the little girls had seen it, though, they had fallen in love with it, and had insisted that their princess was to wear it, whoever she might be on any given day.

This look had been completed by several scarves tied around her arms for 'princess sleeves,' since the strappy pink gown hadn't quite given the effect the little girls had seen in the movies that compiled their experience with princesses.

And, of course, was the tiara. Malcolm wondered briefly how she would manage to disentangle that thing from her hair, or if she would at all.

"And now you have to kiss her to wake her up!" Denise exclaimed, shoving him closer to Sydney.

"No chance in Hell," Malcolm insisted, narrowly avoiding stepping on the 'sleeping' girl on the floor.

"But you HAVE to!" Blaine exclaimed, angry tears already beginning. "It's the only way to wake her up."

"Actually, I feel pretty awake now," Sydney announced, sitting up abruptly. "I had a lot of coffee before the evil witch put me to sleep. Up early gathering those apples, y'know."

"No!" Kelly exclaimed, shoving Sydney back down to the floor and earning a pained squeak as the young woman's head collided painfully with the tile. "He has to wake you with a kiss of true love!"

"That isn't necessary, really. Why do princesses always need princes to get them out of trouble, anyway? Why don't you ever hear about the independent princesses who become doctors and lawyers, or rule alone and lead their kingdoms to harmony, prosperity, and happiness, and live full lives without men?" the dark-haired girl demanded, sitting up again and trying to tug the little plastic 'princess hat' from her hair.

"We wanna see a kiss!" Kelly, Denise, Blaine, and various and sundry other little girls shrieked together.

"Oh, I sense a tantrum coming on," Sydney sighed, feeling rather close to tears herself.

Malcolm smirked.

"Funny; I sense about eight tantrums coming on."

"Nine, if you count mine."

"I already counted yours. And mine."

"Gotcha. Um...Malcolm? Do you think we should just play along so they don't all start screaming?"

"Absolutely not," the young man said, crossing his arms and turning away emphatically.

"Brat," Sydney muttered, wincing as several piercing wails, from the little girls who wanted very badly to have their little fairy tale ended properly, echoed through the room.

"What?" Malcolm demanded sharply, wheeling about and kneeling next to her to catch her eye in order to glare more effectively.

"Just what I say," she replied airily. "Anyone who wasn't at the maturity level of these children, himself, would just play along to preserve the peace."

"Fine," he snapped, shoving her back to the ground.

"Eep!" she shrieked, quite unprepared for this.

And even more unprepared for what came after.

',' Sydney thought rather faintly as she found a pair of lips crushed against hers, a body pinning her firmly to the ground, a hand tangled into her hair and another hand tightening over her arm. 'This just goes to show, insulting Malcolm's level of maturity is a great way to get what you want...not that I WANT this, of course...heh-heh-heh... Um...I wonder if he's planning on stopping any time soon,' she finished, quite unaware that she was responding as favourably as she was.

'Uh...was that a tongue?' Malcolm was meanwhile wondering, his eyes widening in surprise as...something traced slowly along his lower lip and then darted inside his mouth. ' really can't ever tell with the quiet ones. I suppose, though, that these little brats will accept that their princess is awake now. Yes, I suppose now is as good a time as any to bring this to a stop.'

Two minutes later, Malcolm felt a hand clap down on his shoulder and drag him to his feet. The next moment, he found himself staring into the very angry face of Ginny.

"And just WHAT do you think you're doing?" she demanded, glaring at him until he felt that he would be lit on fire by the sheer force of her glare.

"Er...well...uh..." he stammered lamely, quite aware that he had no answer for this himself.

"He was the prince!" the ever-helpful Kelly chirped. "He had to awaken the beautiful princess with a kiss!"

Ginny raised an eyebrow at Sydney, who was still on the ground, looking rather stunned and dishevelled.

"Um...yeah, that's about it," she confirmed, still trying to unwind a curl from around the tiara, now somewhat askew.

"Well," Ginny began. "I would say the princess is awake now, so why don't you all put your dress-up things away and come watch the video with us?"

"Which viddie? Which viddie?" Denise asked, hanging off of the woman's arm and radiating so much excitement and energy that it was incredibly doubtful that she would have found it in her young mind to sit still long enough to watch any 'viddie.'

"The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Movie," Ginny replied.

"Yaay!" cheered several of the little girls.

"The...Power Rangers movie," Malcolm repeated slowly, scratching his head and carefully not looking at the dark-haired girl to his left.

"Yeah," Sydney confirmed, equally carefully avoiding his eyes. "I saw that one. It wasn't bad."

Malcolm raised an eyebrow.

"You actually paid money to see that?"

"Well...Sam was taking Elizabeth to see it, and...I was bored that afternoon. So I went with them."

He chuckled slightly.


"And I think the guy in red is cute," she added. "He kind of looks like Tanker."

"Ah," he said again, slightly more coldly as they made their way to the dress-up trunk and began shoving their costumes into it.

"I hate polyester," she announced with a sigh, yanking the dress up over her head and very nearly taking her own dress with it.

"Hey, watch it," Malcolm expostulated, colouring slightly and looking away abruptly as a rather indecent amount of leg - all of it - was exposed.

"Sorry," she murmured, blushing as she tugged her own dress back down to her knees. "I also hate static cling."

"Mmm. I hate everything," he announced.

"I know," she assured him, slamming the chest shut.

"Shut up," he requested, shooting her a glare before turning and stalking away angrily.

She blinked several times, rather startled. Then, with a tiny sigh, not quite sure why his obvious anger with her was more upsetting than it should have been, she started over to the corner of the room where the other four volunteers, plus upwards of thirty children, were all deeply engrossed in the adventures of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

Well, three other volunteers and upwards of thirty children. It didn't escape her instant notice that the dark-haired boy seated at the same table he had staked out previously, sketching doggedly away at something. She sighed again. It would probably be a bad idea to go ask what was wrong. And honestly, who cared, anyway? This was still Malcolm. The fact that he was a remarkably good kisser - God only knew where he had gotten his practice - was entirely beside the point. He'd never shown any interest in anything troubling her, so why should she rush over to him when he was upset?

That said, she would just sit here and enjoy the movie. Her brow wrinkled in confusion as the utterly gratuitous roller-blading scene, existing only for the purpose of showing all of the very good-looking young people of the cast in skimpy summer clothes, began. Okay, maybe 'enjoy' was too strong a word...

"Bored?" Ginny muttered to her.

"This...just isn't my sort of movie," she explained sheepishly.

Ginny laughed.

"Oh, believe me, I understand. Me, I'd hate this, if it weren't for that guy in blue. He's pretty cute..."

"Ah. I like the guy in red, myself."

"Really? I would have guessed the guy in black..."


"Well, you know; he's got the same fashion sense and colouring as your fellow babysitter over there. And from the way you two were...well, stage- kissing a little too convincingly to be STAGE-kissing, I'd say you like him well enough."

"No! That was entirely accidental. We just kissed to make the little girls stop whining! I don't know why it got so out of hand, but-"

"Don't have to explain it to me. I'd just rather it not be in front of the children. Anyway, if you're bored, why don't you take little Stevie over there to the nurse's office? He seems a little...queasy, and I think we're going to have him lie down until his parents come for him. You can take Malcolm with you, but if you two don't come back, we're checking every supply closet along the way."

"Ginny!" Sydney exclaimed.

"What?" Ginny asked innocently.

Sydney shook her head helplessly.

"Never mind. Which one's Stevie?"

Ginny pointed to a little redheaded boy clad in brown corduroys and a green sweater, slumped weakly over one of the tables.

"Poor little guy," Sydney commented sympathetically.

"Poor little guy, nothing," Ginny snorted. "If he didn't want to be sick, he shouldn't have eaten an entire tube of paste."

"Eugh. Okay, I see what you mean. Well, bye."

A little girl tugged on Ginny's sleeve.

"Ginny, can I go with Stevie too?"

"No, Kelly, you can stay here with everyone else and watch the video. Stevie needs to have a little lie-down, and I doubt he'll be able to do it if one of his friends is there."

Kelly's face fell.

"Oh. Well, can I give him a lolly to make him feel better?"

"I don't think giving him candy is the best course of action," Ginny said dryly. "But with all the paste in his system, it doesn't really matter. Go ahead."

"Yaay!" Kelly chirped.

Ginny and Sydney exchanged amused glances as the little girl sidled over to the table where the little boy sat and slid a purple lollipop underneath his arm where it was folded on the table. The little boy looked up and shot her a watery smile. She returned it shyly before scurrying away, blushing.

"Isn't that cute?" Sydney sighed.

"Yeah," Ginny agreed. "Now, get moving, or I'll let Angie and Sarah take him to the office."

"I'm going, I'm going," the younger girl assured her, rushing over to the little table where Malcolm was still deeply engrossed in his sketch.

Upon noticing a shadow cast over his sketchbook, nearly blocking out his sketch of him beating the crap out of Kilokhan with a folding chair, Malcolm glared up at the cause.


"Ginny wants us to take Stevie over there to the office."

"Does she?" Malcolm asked absently, going back to his sketch.

"Yes. So, let's go."

He glared at her again.

"I don't feel like it. Why don't you go?"

"Alright," she agreed with a shrug. "If you don't want a few minutes of relief from all these kids, I'll be more than glad to take it by myself."

I'd be more than glad to have a few minutes relief from you, too, she didn't add. Aloud, at any rate.

With that, she turned and started toward the other table, where Stevie sat, slurping happily away at the offering left by Kelly.

"Hold on!" Malcolm called. "I hadn't thought of it that way. I'll come with you."

"Whatever you want," she agreed with a shrug. "C'mon, Stevie. We're going to take you to the nurse's office."

"I don't want the vampire to come!" Stevie wailed.

Malcolm rolled his eyes.

"Look, honey, Malcolm isn't a vampire, okay? He's just...anyway, I'll carry you, so there's no chance of any creepy-crawlies getting you. Would you like that?"

Stevie nodded, wiping his eyes with his fists miserably, and then holding out his arms for her to pick him up.

"I hope your arms fall off from the weight of that kid," Malcolm muttered to her as Stevie snuggled comfortably against her shoulder.

"I don't think that'll happen," she replied sweetly. "After all, I'm not you. I do have SOME arm strength."

"You'll see how much arm strength I have when I'm strangling you later."

"Now, THAT isn't what Ginny would call 'playing nice,'" Sydney admonished.

"Shut up."

"Don't use the s-word!" Stevie commanded, lifting his head to glare at Malcolm as the trio set off down the hall.

"Yeah, Malcolm," Sydney agreed, suppressing a laugh. "No s-word."

"Are we almost to the office yet?" Malcolm whined.

"Whew," Sam sighed. "I'm exhausted. Is it almost time to leave?"

"Four-thirty," Tanker groaned in dismay.

"We've got another HOUR?!"

"'Fraid so," the taller boy replied.

"Isn't this great, guys?!" Amp called excitedly from his perch high atop the cabinets of the cafeteria kitchen. "What a cool place to take a nap!"

"Hey, if you boys are done with the cabinets, I got another job for you," Mrs. Starkey announced gruffly as she sidled past.

"Uh...what's that, Mrs. S?" Sam asked hesitantly, certain that this wouldn't be pleasant.

"Well, once every couple months, I like to scrape all the gum off of the underside of the tables. This just happens to be that special day, so grab a scraper and join in the fun," she commanded, taking one of the somewhat worn drywall spreaders and starting toward the door of the kitchen leading into the cafeteria.

Sam looked at Tanker.

Tanker looked at Sam.

Amp fell off the cabinet.

And in the distance, a dog barked.

Then, as one, all three boys fled the cafeteria kitchen, leaving a Sam- shaped dust cloud, a Tanker-shaped dust cloud, and an Amp-shaped dust cloud in their wake.

"NOW are we almost to the office?" Malcolm asked desperately. Honestly, if he had to listen to this little brat's constant chatter much longer, he honestly might snap and break something. Oh, and of course, the little boy was becoming rather trying, as well.

It astonished him, the sheer number of things Sydney found to prattle about, and to him, who had never shown the remotest interest in conversation with her.

"...and that's why I'm never, ever, EVER going over to Amp's on Halloween again," she was currently concluding, quite ignoring his question. "I think I still have little bits of pumpkin innards in my ear. Who knew it was an ancient Pere family tradition to have pulp-fights every year?"

"Yes, who indeed?" he murmured, rubbing his eyes tiredly, silently begging the heavens for a way to get her to stop talking.

"Well! It looks like we're at the nurse's office. Let's go inside and get you settled, okay, Stevie?"

It was harder to say whether Stevie or Malcolm was more relieved to hear this.

Stevie had, certainly, been ill at ease in Malcolm's presence, casting nervous glances at the young man to make sure that long, pointed fangs hadn't materialised from somewhere. After all, hadn't he tried to steal Syddie's blood? What else could he have been doing earlier, lying on top of her like that, that would have made Ginny so angry?

On the other hand, Malcolm was fairly aching to entreat his fellow babysitter to shut up, and it had quickly been imbedded in his mind that he couldn't use the 's'-word around the children. It was simply a lot easier to put up with Sydney's inane prattle than it was to go into lengthy and equally inane arguments with Stevie. However, as soon as the child was gone, he would take enormous pleasure in telling her that if she didn't shut up, he would strangle her and shove her into a supply closet where Ginny could find her, if she chose to search.

As for him, he would be long gone when that happened, already relishing the freedom of being out of school for another day.

This lovely vision kept Malcolm from growling out an angry response when Stevie bid a fond farewell to his new pal, 'Syddie,' and called out a rather derisive one to 'Mr. Vampire' as the two teens turned to leave the nurse's office.

Thus, he was rather disappointed when, by the time the journey back to the 'playroom' was half over, Sydney had failed to say a single word.

However, as they rounded a corner, and saw three figures approaching at a dizzying rate, it seemed as though life had once again become interesting.

"Sam? Tanker? Amp? What are you guys doing?" Sydney demanded, grabbing Tanker's sleeve in attempt to bring him to a stop, and serving only to get herself dragged along behind him for twenty yards, at which point it occurred to him that there was a girl hanging off of his sleeve, and he stopped running.

"What does it look like we're doing?" Sam replied amid gasps for breath. "We're running for our lives!"

"Oh, no," the young woman sighed. "Did you send Mrs. Starkey into a blind, murderous rage again?"

Malcolm raised an eyebrow. Again?

"No, no, nothing like that," Sam assured her. "She wanted us to help scrape all the gum out from under the tables in the cafeteria."

"Blech," Sydney noted articulately.

"Yeah, 'blech' about covers it," Sam nodded. "So, where are you two headed?"

"Back into the seventh layer of Hell," Malcolm grumbled.

"In other words, back to the room with all the kids," Sydney translated. Then she paused for a minute. "Yeah, the seventh layer of Hell is pretty accurate."

Tanker smirked.

"What have they been doing to you, Miss Kids-Are-So-Great?"

"Tanker," Sydney began slowly, "have you ever tried to tell a fairytale, give a piggy-back ride, scrub finger-paint off your dress, AND break up a fight between Malcolm and the kid who decided he was a vampire, at the same time?"

"Uh...I don't wear dresses," Tanker reminded her.

"Yutz," Malcolm muttered under his breath.

"Oh, shut up, Count Dracula," Tanker shot back, apparently hearing this.

"I'M NOT A DAMNED VAMPIRE!" Malcolm howled, by now far past the end of his tether. "HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ME DRINKING BLOOD?!"

"Well, not in the literal sense," Sydney admitted.

"Aside from that one time," Amp interjected. "Wait a second...that wasn't you. That was my pet rabbit."

"Amp, that was Bunnacula," Tanker informed him.

"And a good little pet he was," Amp sighed, his eyes going shiny with the sweet memories.

"You can be pretty parasitic at times, though," Sam commented, observing Malcolm closely.

Malcolm, predictably, fixed Sam with a glare that could have withered a stone.

"Shut up, Collins."

"Hey, I'm just teasing, Malcolm. Anyway, Syd," he continued, turning to his friend, "we're planning on making a break for it. We're gonna go get ice cream! You in?"

"I don't know, Sam. Won't we get in even more trouble if we don't show up again at the end of the detention?"

"After all, if we don't come back, Ginny will be checking all the supply closets between here and the office," Malcolm murmured with a smirk.

Sam looked at him strangely, then shook his head and replied.

"Normally, yeah. But Mr. P had to go home suddenly - Mrs. P and Yoli accidentally got their cat stuck in the dishwasher-"

"Don't you hate when that happens?" Amp commented aside.

"-and he has to bring a plumber home."

"I'd have thought a veterinarian, myself," Sydney said absently, pondering the implications of this situation. "So...Principal Pratchert won't be checking up on us?"

"No way! I heard him tell Mrs. Starkey to just dismiss us from the cafeteria, and I'm pretty sure he told the people at the fun-station to do the same with you guys."

"Hmph! Well, if that's all, I think I'll be going now."

Sam mock-pouted.

"Aw...don't you want to come with us for ice cream?"

"I'd sooner be shot," Malcolm snorted.

"Well! I'm glad to see that you've all learned to get along," a voice from behind them commented amiably, but with a hint of steel behind it.

Five very frightened teenagers turned slowly to behold the sternly frowning countenance of Principal Pratchert. Then he chuckled as his eyes flickered from Sam, Tanker, and Amp to Sydney and Malcolm.

"Especially you two. Ginny told me about the...ah...interesting display you two put on for the kids."

Sam raised an eyebrow as the two murmured weakly, blushing painfully.

"At any rate, you five are going to be spending a lot more time together. I don't suppose you're familiar with my rule that trying to skip out on detention will result in attending the rest of the week?"

What?!" Malcolm sputtered. "Four more days?!"

Principal Pratchert nodded, rubbing his hands together and cackling in delight.

"Well, I guess I'll let you off for the rest of today. After all, you'll need your strength. I've just spoken to Ginny, and she said she can always use more help in the play center. So, you'll be heading there tomorrow, just as soon as you've all helped Mrs. Starkey scrape that gum off of the tables. Well, have a nice afternoon, everybody!"

And so, five very miserable people shuffled out of the school, two of whom were trying to explain amidst painful blushes to a very curious third exactly what "interesting display" the principal had been talking about, and why they would likely not be playing dress-up with the little girls the following day.

This, of course, suited them just fine. At least, this is what they will claim.

But we all know better, don't we?

End Notes: Well! That about wraps it up. I apologize for not clarifying last chapter that there would be another bit. Anyway, thanks for reading. occurs to me now that I never got around to doing any of that Sam/Jennifer or Am/Yoli stuff that I was planning. Ah, well. The story was basically an excuse for me to use the 'Let's...SANITIZE, GUYS!' joke, and to vent my anger at children who demand several different things of their babysitters at the same time, regardless of the several things that those babysitters are already obviously busy doing. Oh, yeah. And to throw in a bit of silly, fluffy Malcolm/Sydney romance-ness. Ya think I'm obsessed yet? ^_^