Disclaimer: I do not own Power Rangers, although I do have a substantial amount of merchandise!
I'm afraid this isn't very good. I tried to write something about Ethan, but it's a lot harder than I expected. Following immediately after "Bully for Ethan".
He couldn't get it out of his mind. Geek, dweeb, nerd, a bunch of random 80s-movie insults. And now this.
Ethan James had been tortured in his two years of high school thus far. He was brainy, and the brainy kids were never respected. Especially not at Reefside High, where jocks ruled. He'd been bullied, verbally abused, and there had been an incident in his freshman year that most people seemed to have forgotten, featuring a no-necked senior quarterback and a broken wrist.
He didn't like it, but he was used to it. He had developed a cynical sense of humor by means of coping, finding that most of the jocks were too thick to understand Ethan's well-phrased barbs. He had gained enough weight that he couldn't easily be pushed around, not so much that they found a new target for mockery.
Things had changed dramatically in his junior year at RHS. Namely, Dr. Oliver's appearance and Ethan's subsequent change from 'King of All Geeks' to Power Ranger (still under the daily guise of the King of All Geeks). Ethan still possessed the confidence that came from being one of the top hackers under the age of twenty, and somehow in spite of his ego --or maybe because of it-- he had made friends with Kira and Conner.
Ethan often felt like the odd man out of the Power Rangers. Dr. O. had the experience. Conner had the physical capabilities and the drive to win. Kira had a lot of aggression, and the ability to keep Conner and Ethan from tearing each other apart. What did Ethan have? The brains. Fat lot of good that did him, because Dr. O. had created everything himself and knew how to work everything, and if he encountered a technical problem that he couldn't handle, he had Hayley to step in. Ethan couldn't help but feel moderately useless in terms of group dynamics, the one who couldn't quite fight, couldn't quite lead, and couldn't quite keep the group together.
Conner and Kira were such explosive personalities that Ethan often got lost in the shuffle. Especially when it came to Conner's under-the-surface crush on Kira, and Kira's unrequited feelings for Trent, and the supercharged fights that these two issues provoked.
Ethan was getting used to it, though, just like he'd gotten used to getting needlessly picked on. After awhile, it got to the point where it didn't bother him anymore.
But it had been the straw breaking the camel's back when it came to last week.
Kira was trying to pretend like she didn't know him, he knew. He knew she was just following the code. He'd been following the code himself not five minutes earlier, when he had refrained from morphing as a legion of students had watched.
But that was too much, the icing on the cake that had been his day of Derrick's moronic insults and threats. Even the Yellow Ranger, detached from Ethan's social circle, would have enough common sense to realize that he was a teenager in high school, and not a "little boy."
The three of them had walked off together, smiling and laughing, after Ethan had "resolved" things with Derrick. Ethan had a hunch that the soccer player would only be pacified for so long. And even if he was, it was only a matter of time before another jock with another overblown ego would come and take his place. It was only luck that Ethan was friends with Conner McKnight, the king of the jocks, who managed to keep people at bay.
They went to the parking lot and got to Conner's car. Ethan got stuffed into the backseat next to Kira's guitar. This had been the arrangement for so long that he hadn't even noticed it, until today. Until today, when he was emasculated by a girl in a canary-yellow spandex skirt. With a hiss under his breath, he shoved the guitar aside, and it clattered against the side of the car, masked by Kira's cheery chatter.
"Man, that was really cool, what you did," said Conner, pulling out of the parking lot.
"Yeah, too bad for you, bet you thought I was gonna get creamed," said Ethan lightly.
"No way," said Conner. "I figured you could take care of yourself." Ethan cocked an eyebrow at this statement, having been taken by surprise. "But you know you can't use your powers and stuff."
Ethan's expression fell. Of course. He was incapable. He was weak. He was a little boy. He needed the Power Rangers to come and save him from a monster. He needed his computer to save him an idiot soccer player.
Neither Red nor Yellow in the front seat noticed Ethan's shift in mood, palpable though it was. They were excessively cheerful as the three went into Hayley's Cyberspace and sat down on the couch. Conner was busy babbling about something, and Kira was fixated on her guitar, and neither of them seemed to notice Ethan's funk. It infuriated him to a degree that he didn't know he could reach--he considered the two of them to be his best friends, and they still couldn't tell when something was bothering him. They were clueless; they didn't really know him at all. Ethan was debating whether or not to go off on his friends or just stew quietly, when Hayley approached, presumably to take drink orders.
"Hey, guys. Long day?"
"Something like that," Ethan muttered.
"You look exhausted," she said, giving him an almost sad smile. Hayley was a lot like the big sister that Ethan had never had--well, the sister he wished he'd had. Dionne was going to graduate school now, and his pretty, successful older sister had never had much time for Ethan when he'd been younger. She had been popular, in demand, and he'd just been a computer nerd. But Hayley actually cared about him and his problems, and respected him, to a degree.
"I'll just need a double smoothie order to tide me over," he assured her.
"Actually, I was hoping you could help me," she said. "I've got to cut out early, my mom called and there was some sort of emergency at home."
"Nothing major, I hope?" Kira asked worriedly.
"No, just enough to put me out of commission for the rest of the day. Ethan, I was hoping you could take over for me for the evening? I'll pay you, of course, and smoothies on the house and everything--I just really need someone to keep an eye on things while I'm gone, and you're the only one I really trust to run things."
Ethan's only hesitance was that he might not get home in time for dinner, a problem that could be rectified with a phone call. "Sure, Hayley, I'm happy to help," he said with an easy grin, rising off the couch.
Hayley was visibly relieved. "Thanks so much," she gushed. "This is a lifesaver, really. Come with me." She led him back behind the counter, where the two employees on shift were convening. "Alan, Tyler, Ethan's going to be acting manager for the rest of the night. You guys keep doing your jobs, but help him out manning the counter if things get swamped. Any technical problems, I want you to go to him right away. Capiche?"
Alan, the quiet, serious boy that had been working there since Hayley's had opened, merely nodded. Tyler was the most recent hire, made out to be Trent's replacement, and an excessively cheerful and goofy boy. He gave Hayley a mock-salute. "Right on, chief," he said.
"Wonderful. Try not to blow anything up, boys. I'm counting on you." Hayley dashed into the back and emerged not seconds later, her purse clutched in her hand. The three boys barely had time to appreciate the brief looks they exchanged before the counter was under siege by hungry patrons. Ethan and his makeshift crew set to work, filling the smoothie needs of Reefside's under-twenty-five population.
When things finally died down enough that Alan and Tyler could go clear some tables, Ethan found himself face to face with Conner, noting Kira seated at one of the alcove terminals. "Hey, man," said Ethan cheerfully, his bad mood having long since evaporated, replaced with a tired sense of pride. He was working himself to the bone, with a new appreciation of the nonsense Hayley had to deal with, one afternoon after another.
"Hey. You look beat."
"Nah," said Ethan, waving it off. "I was just about to grab a drink and enjoy the lull. Want anything?"
"No, I'm cool," said Conner. Ethan poured himself a thick, fruity concoction, and joined Conner in front of the bar. "Listen, dude, I was wondering if you were…you know…okay and everything." Conner stared at the countertop, clearly not at ease with personal, probing questions.
"What, like Derrick had me trembling in my shoes or something?" said Ethan dryly.
"No, I mean…you seemed kinda ticked earlier, is all."
So he had noticed. "You know what, dude, I've been way too busy to be ticked."
"I noticed. Look, dude, I'm sorry about what I said earlier, you know, all that stuff about being weak and stuff."
"You're not wrong." Ethan found that he wasn't really in the mood for a fight anymore. He was too flabbergasted by Conner's sudden personality reversal to even be able to find the anger within him.
"No, man, I am kinda wrong. I don't give you any credit, dude, but you've saved my butt a few times."
Ethan lifted his wide-eyed gaze from his smoothie to stare at his brunet friend. "Uh…"
"Listen, dude, I kinda need some help. What am I supposed to do about Kira?"
"What about Kira?" Ethan asked, although he had long suspected something brewing within Conner as far as their female teammate was concerned.
"Dude, when is she gonna get over Trent? It's driving me crazy!"
"You're asking me for girl advice," Ethan said flatly, staring at Conner with utter bemusement.
"Well, yeah," Conner said in a 'duh' voice. "I mean, you know Kira much better than I do. She actually talks to you, and she basically writes me off as a dumb jock."
"You are a dumb jock," said Ethan. He winced. "Oops, sorry."
"Don't worry about it," said Conner dismissively. "Seriously, though, should I say something, or should I just wait it out? I'm trying to be supportive and all, but it's hard when she won't give me the time of day as anything more than a friend."
"She'll come around, dude," said Ethan. "You're not that bad of a guy."
Conner suddenly became fascinated by something over Ethan's shoulder. "Dude, company coming. I gotta split. Later, man. Thanks."
"Yeah, sure," said Ethan in a detached voice, utterly confused. Ethan waved at the approaching Kira before dashing out of the establishment. "Ethe, I need some major help," said Kira, occupying the stool Conner had just vacated.
"Uh, yeah, sure," said Ethan, trying to process his confusing conversation with Conner and at the same time, give Kira his attention. He shook his head to clear his muddled brain, and focused on his female friend. "What up?"
"This is kind of embarrassing to ask, but, um, I was hoping you could help me with my homework."
Ethan's attention was grabbed. "You never need help with your homework."
"Yeah, my homework very rarely involves computers, though. I have to make a PowerPoint presentation, and--" She sighed then, looking pleading. "Please, Ethan? The less of a fool I make of myself, the better."
"Yet you're willing to make a fool of yourself in front of me," he teased.
"You I like. You I trust. Those kids out there in my big, bad history class will tear me apart." She frowned. "More like, Mr. Evans will tear me apart if I screw up my presentation. Please? You're so good at this stuff, and I so suck."
He grinned, throwing an arm around her shoulders. First Hayley, then Conner, and now Kira. He was needed. He was trusted, respected, and admired. When it came to a pinch, he was needed just as much as the rest of them. "Sure thing, K-girl. Little Boy's on your side."
She blanched. "You know I didn't mean that, right? I was just trying to keep things under wraps."
"I'm not stupid, Kira," he assured her. "It's okay, really. After all, I did save your butt…"
Kira laughed, and Ethan assigned Tyler to cover the bar while he went to help his friend. Little boy, ha. He was suddenly feeling a lot bigger.