Disclaimer: I don't own the Power Rangers.
Author's Note: So here's Part 2 and I'm still inspired to write for this six months after I put up Part 1. I think that means we'll see a Part 3. :grins:
Just to let you know, there is a fifty-fifty chance that the T rating will go up to an M later on. It depends entirely on how many times I can stand to revise two, possibly three scenes. If I can't write it so I'm happy with it, anything that was annoying me gets thrown out and it stays as it is. If the story seems to disappear later on, it probably means I liked what I ended up with and upped the rating. I can't think of anything else that you need to know at the moment, so enjoy!
"You kissed me last night."
Those weren't the first words Andros had wanted to hear in the morning. He hadn't even noticed that she was awake; she hadn't stirred, her head still tucked between his chin and his shoulder, hair spilling across her face.
"You kissed me back," he muttered uneasily. She didn't sound accusatory, though, and he figured that was a good sign.
Ashley finally moved, sitting up and stretching. Andros blinked at her in surprise, smiling as he watched her rub slowly at her eyes. Her cheek was red from where it had been pressed against his body and his smile widened at the sight. She looked very vulnerable like that... not to mention unbelievably beautiful for someone who had woken up half a moment before.
"Your eye looks better," she remarked, reaching out to trace what had been a rather nasty bruise the night before. "I thought it would heal a little faster, though."
"It was like this in the beginning, too," he told her, stretching out his arms. "It'll get faster."
"I hope so." Ashley stifled a yawn with one hand. "I should probably go get dressed..."
Andros nodded, unable to keep himself from yawning as well. "Thanks," he said, and smiled at her. "For staying with me last night."
"You're welcome." Ashley giggled for no discernable reason, and then settled back into his arms despite her earlier words. "I guess we're together now?"
"I--" He stopped and turned to look at her, unsure of whether she was asking or merely stating the fact. "Are we?"
"Looks like it," she said. Her voice was neutral, and did absolutely nothing to clear up his confusion.
"Ashley, I... I'm not sure what you're saying," he confessed finally. He sat up then, studying her expression carefully for anything that would clue him in to what she was feeling.
He'd never been in a relationship--of any kind--with someone who wasn't either telepathic or empathic, and he had never been very skilled at reading people. This was particularly frustrating given Ashley's ability to see straight through him effortlessly, whether he wanted her to or not.
He'd also never been in a relationship with anyone who wasn't Karovan, or close enough to it. Earth had to be different, but it hadn't occured to him to educate himself beforehand, and the result was that he was sitting on his bed staring down at Ashley in a mixture of confusion and helplessness. Not that he minded staring at Ashley.
"Okay," Ashley said slowly, and he turned to regard her in surprise and even more confusion. How exactly was that supposed to make anything clear?
Ashley pushed herself up until she was sitting beside him, tucking her legs off to the side as she turned to face him. He felt his breath catch in his throat as her eyes met his, as everything that he felt for her rushed to the forefront of his mind and he caught himself just before blurting out something that he would regret.
Andros was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't see her lean towards him. Her lips were gentle against his own, but the sensation was enough to make him jump in surprise. Ashley began to pull back and without thinking, he slid one hand behind her head to draw her close again.
"Andros," she murmured, letting him kiss her again. "I think that's a yes."
He laughed quietly and let her pull away this time. "I think so too," he agreed, reaching out to tuck wisps of her hair behind her ear unconsciously.
"I really should go," she muttered regretfully. "I should get dressed and if the others find out I... slept here," she said, a little uncertainly, "we'll never hear the end of it."
"We wouldn't," he said with a half smile. "Even if anyone else wanted to forget, Zhane wouldn't let them."
Ashley laughed and swung her legs over the side of his bunk, bending over to gather up her boots and jacket from his floor. He watched her silently, not daring to speak a word and break the comfortable silence. He doubted that he would be able to stop grinning long enough speak, anyway.
"I'll see you later," she said softly, and leaned in to kiss him again, quickly. Then she laughed and added, "Like at breakfast."
He couldn't help but laugh along with her. Living in the close proximity of the Megaship, he doubted that they would go for very long without seeing each other. Andros rather liked the thought.
"See you at breakfast, then," he said with a grin. He was moving to kiss her one last time before she left when he heard the door slide open.
"You know," Zhane's voice commented. "The doors around here do lock, Andros."
Andros glared at his friend over Ashley's shoulder as she stifled a giggle, watching his sister try not to laugh as well. "I hadn't noticed."
Ashley couldn't quite contain her laughter this time. "Sorry," she whispered, choking on the word. "I'll see you later."
He just nodded, too intent on glaring at Zhane to do much else. Ashley swallowed her laughter and hopped up from his bed, waving sheepishly to him, and then Zhane and Karone, before vanishing into the hall.
"She was here all night?" Zhane asked softly, the instant the doors had closed behind Ashley.
"Nothing happened," Andros said firmly. "But, yes, she was."
"I'm happy for you," Karone decided. "You've wanted this for weeks now."
Andros looked at her, taken aback by her unexpected support. After her words to him the night before, he would have counted himself lucky if she was in the mood to be in the same room as he was, let alone talk to him.
"And I think I overreacted a little last night," she added, letting out a nervous little laugh. "You just... scared me."
"Sorry," he offered. "I thought I'd be back before anyone noticed."
"You're lucky someone did notice," Zhane began, and then shook his head. "I hope you figured out that much, at least."
"Yeah," he admitted, and sighed. "That probably wasn't the smartest decision I've ever made--but I really thought that I was... helping you somehow."
"Andros," Karone sighed. She hesitated before adding somewhat grudgingly, "Well, at least you know it was stupid--now, anyway."
He kept his mouth shut. He still firmly believed that his going to the Dark Fortress alone had been a far better choice than letting any of the others go in his place, but if Karone was willing to let the matter drop, then so was he. He wasn't going to risk setting her off again by disagreeing, at any rate.
"Well, not that that's settled," Zhane broke in cheerfully, earning himself two amused glances in response to his less than smooth change of topic, "we've got better things to do today!"
"Zhane..." Karone's smile was more indulgent than exasperated.
"We do," the silver ranger insisted, quite literally bouncing up and down with glee. For a moment, anyway; Karone jabbed him none too gently in the ribs. "Ashley's party, remember?"
"Of course we remember," she retorted, laughing now. "But from what Cassie told me, there's no reason for you to be this excited about it."
"You know I love parties," Zhane continued, rambling on cheerfully. "And we've never been to a birthday party before. Or an Earth party at all! I'm still not quite sure what a birthday is, you know... Do you think they have games? I think I should get dressed now, don't you? I'll see you at breakfast, then..."
"I suppose that means he wants us to talk," Andros mused. Zhane was still babbling as he backed out of the room, and he couldn't help laughing a bit at his friends expense.
"Probably." Karone shook her head with a sigh. "He went out of his way to look like an idiot--we shouldn't make him waste that."
Andros laughed and stretched out his legs, patting the bed beside him. "Sit down," he offered.
She sit, dropping down beside him and turning until they were eye-to-eye. "Sorry I hit you," she said finally, though she looked about to laugh again and didn't quite sound apologetic.
"It's okay," he said, and raised one hand to his cheek unconsciously. "It doesn't hurt anymore, anyway."
"No," Karone agreed with a laugh. "Because it was the other side I hit."
"I told you it didn't hurt." He lowered his hand and shifted awkwardly on the bed. "Look, Karone... I really am sorry."
"I know," she admitted. "But Andros, you're the only family I've got left. I don't want to lose you, and especially not like that."
"I was thinking the same about you," he said, just a tiny bit frustrated. "Why don't you believe me?"
"Because... well, you were so stupid," Karone told him. "You had to have been thinking something more than you wanted us to be safe to sneak off all on your own and teleport yourself completely defenseless onto the Dark Fortress."
Andros decided right then never to mention what his original plan had been. She probably would have impaled him on her staff.
"I wasn't," he said sheepishly. When she put it that way, he did sound rather, well, completely stupid.
"Andros," Karone began, and then sighed. "I give up."
He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. "What?"
"I don't like what you did," she informed him. "I hate it, really. But you're not listening to me when I'm telling you why."
"So let's forget about this?" she continued. "Before you say something that makes me want to hurt you again?"
She definitely would have impaled him on her staff if she'd known what his original plan had been, he decided. Right before using Zhane's Silverizer to finish him off--slowly, of course.
"It probably would be for the best," he agreed, and reached out to hug his sister. "Promise me you'll stay safe, Karone."
"Promise," she whispered. "As long as you do."
"Promise," he said quietly.
"And you mean it?" she pressed. "No more sneaking off on your own?"
"I mean it," he assured her. "I won't be doing that again for a long time."
"Or ever," Karone said sternly, and he hastened to agree. "Now, let's get out of here... I'm starving, and I think there's a certain yellow ranger waiting impatiently for you to show up at breakfast."
Andros only laughed. She didn't need to know how impatient he was to see Ashley again himself.
"Oh, and Andros?" Karone hopped to her feet and then tugged him to his. "It's nice to have our red ranger back."