Disclaimer: I don't own the Power Rangers. Or any of the other characters mentioned here.
Out of the Ordinary
There had been a comforting familiarity about his daily routine. Unless he was out on a mission or other such excursion, as he was frequently, Andros's life had followed the same pattern day after day, month after month. Year after year. He bit his lip, hating the reminder of how long it had been.
But that wasn't the point. Right now, he should have been on the Simudeck, working his way flawlessly through an endless sequence of katas. Instead, he was standing just outside the holding bay, wracking his brain for any clue as to what exactly it was that his teammates were doing.
TJ, dressed in an oversized blue overcoat and brandishing a sword, was chasing a very green Carlos around the room, while Ashley and Cassie dug through several boxes of clothing spread out across the table. Carlos paused abruptly and threw a hurricane kick in TJ's direction, forcing him to leap back and land almost on the two girls.
Ashley laughed and shoved TJ away from her, making a grab for the sword. "Hey, I was looking for that!"
"Mine," he insisted. "And why does Sleeping Beauty need a sword?"
"I'm Sleeping Beauty?"
Curiosity finally won out, and Andros couldn't keep quiet any longer. "What are you doing?"
They all jumped at his voice, glancing over their shoulders at him in surprise. "What are you doing over there?" Cassie demanded.
"Get in here," Ashley ordered, pointing at the stool next to hers. "You can help us."
"I..." Andros hesitated, then took a careful step into the room. "What are you doing?"
"We're choosing our Halloween costumes," Ashley informed him. She caught his eye and grinned. "I'm sure we can find something for you, too."
He looked at her warily. "Halloween costumes?"
He should just get up and go do his workout. Whatever this was, it wasn't something he was or wanted to be a part of. Dressing up in costumes was something Zhane would enjoy, not something Andros would ever do.
His thoughts drifted to his frozen friend as he was struck with a sudden pang of guilt. Andros hadn't checked up on him since before he had taken on this team, not daring to chance being caught. He didn't want to explain about KO-35 and how he'd failed to protect it.
Andros took another tentative step forward, finding himself waiting for her explanation against his better judgement. He had work to do. He should check on Zhane. He should find Karone. He should train for their next battle.
He took another step foward.
"Yeah, it's--sit down already," she exclaimed, grabbing his arm and dragging him to the stool. "It's a sort of holiday. You dress up in a costume and go around asking for candy."
Andros looked at her suspiciously, but she seemed perfectly serious. "You... do?"
"Yeah." She shrugged. "I know it sounds silly, but it's a reason to have fun."
Not that Ashley needed a reason to have fun--or to force him to have fun. Andros sighed ruefully and shook his head. He'd never admit it to anyone but himself that he wasn't half as reluctant as he acted. He had a feeling that she knew.
"Okay," he said, feeling a slight smile form on his lips. "What exactly are you doing?"
"Adelle's throwing a kids Halloween party at the Surf Spot," Cassie explained. "We volunteered to help out, so we're trying to make some costumes that the kids'll like. Teej is a pirate and Carlos--" She laughed and shook her head. "See for yourself."
Andros cocked his head towards the Black Ranger, eyes narrowed as he studied him intently. Carlos was dressed head to toe in bright green, wearing some sort of padding across his chest. It looked not even vaguely familiar until he recognized the pattern across Carlos's back.
"You're... that turtle," he said finally, feeling more than a little smug when Carlos nodded.
The one that had shown far too much interest in Ashley for his liking, he added silently, carefully avoiding her gaze as he realized what he was thinking. He concentrated on Cassie instead.
"What about you?"
"Um... I think I'm just going as a witch," she said. "At least for the kid's party. I'll think of something else before the dance tomorrow night."
"And I'll be Belle from Beauty and the Beast," Ashley said.
"Make Andros go as Beast," Carlos suggested with a grin, earning himself a slap on the arm from Ashley. "He won't mind, will you, Andros?"
If his tone was anything to judge by, Andros would mind. "Who?"
"Don't worry," Ashley assured him, and he saw her shoot a glare over at Carlos. "We'll find you something else."
"Prince Charming," TJ snorted. "You should be Snow White, Ash."
"Or Ariel and he can be Eric," Cassie giggled.
"Sleeping Beauty and the other Prince Charming," Carlos put in.
"The other Prince Charming was in Cinderella," Ashley informed him. "Sleeping Beauty had Prince Philip."
Carlos wasn't distracted. "Him, then."
"Who?" Andros repeated, and Ashley laughed.
"I'll have to show you the movies sometime," she told him, studying him for a moment. "I think you'd make a good zebra."
"A good what?"
"It's like a horse." Sheepishly, she added, "With stripes."
Andros reached up to touch his hair self-consciously. Ashley caught his hand before he was halfway there and smiled at him a bit apologetically.
"I meant it in a good way," she said. "You know I love your hair."
He didn't, actually. Andros felt himself blush and tugged his hand away from her, unable to keep from smiling as he stared hard at his lap. She had this effect on him more and more often now, and the part that frightened him the most was that he didn't even care.
It was strange to think that after two years of convincing himself that he had needed nothing and no one, he wanted them. He wanted her, though he wasn't quite ready to admit it.
"Andros?" Ashley touched his shoulder. Startled, he glanced up at her before he thought to hide his smile. He thought she looked faintly surprised, but she only smiled back at him before gesturing towards the boxes.
"You're coming with us to the party, you know," she informed him cheerfully. "You need a costume."
"You don't have too much work to do," she cut him off.
"And if you do, it can wait," Cassie added.
TJ and Carlos nodded, and he sighed. He couldn't say 'no' to them anymore, not when they ganged up on him. It really wasn't fair, he thought grumpily, as he tugged the box a little closer. They had him outnumbered.
"What's this?" He studied the plastic contraption carefully, seeing that it fit together but not much more than that.
"Bow and arrow," TJ said, leaning over his shoulder with a smirk. "You should be Robin Hood."
Andros didn't bother to ask who that was. He simply decided that if the other Rangers found the idea as amusing as they seemed to, it wasn't something he was interested in. Quickly, he set aside the bow and arrow that looked nothing like any bow and arrow he had ever seen, returning to poking through the costumes.
"Oh!" Ashley exclaimed suddenly. She elbowed him out of the way and wrestled a large, heavy mass of orange-ish material out of the box. "This is perfect!"
"It is?" Andros was inclined to disagree.
"Is that what I think it is?" Cassie demanded, and a giggling Ashley nodded.
"It's perfect for you, Andros," she insisted, still laughing as she shoved it at him. "At least try it on."
"But--what is it?" He stared at the thing in his arms, mystified, until Carlos laughed and unfolded it for him.
"It's Simba," Ashley informed him gleefully. "He's a lion."
Andros didn't like the look in her eye. "No."
"Why not?" Ashley pouted at him. "It's a great costume."
Because he'd feel like a complete fool wearing it, he almost said, but didn't. "I don't like it," he muttered instead. Not looking at her, he set it back into the box and stood up.
"I should go."
"Hey, wait a second." Ashley caught his arm before he could take so much as a step. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he answered automatically. "I just... there's some things I need to do."
Ashley didn't let go. "Like what?"
"I... I have to..."
"That's what I thought." Ashley pushed him back down. "We're not going to force you into it, you know."
"Yeah, there's plenty of other costumes in here," Cassie assured him. "We'll find you something else."
"Go as yourself," TJ suggested. "As the Red Ranger. The kids will love it."
"But... I thought the point was to dress up as something else?"
"You don't have to," Ashley said, not quite hiding her disappointment. "It's just..."
"Fun," Carlos finished, and she nodded.
"It's our chance to just dress up and be silly and forget about all of this," Ashley explained, gesturing around the Megaship. "To not be responsible for the universe."
"To not be responsible at all," TJ added, and they all laughed.
Andros sighed. Damn it, but they were good at that... "I'll try it on," he muttered, only half hoping that it wouldn't fit.
He unbuckled his boots and laid his jacket on the table, awkwardly sliding his hands and feet through the wrong holes at least twice and then trying to put the thing on backwards. It didn't escape his notice that his friends seemed to prefer laughing at him over helping him, and he was surprised at how stupid he didn't feel. He was close to laughing himself.
"I told you it was perfect." Ashley grinned at him as he pulled the hood over his head. She hopped up before he had the chance to back away, and he froze when she kissed his cheek. "You make a good lion."
"I... thanks?" Slightly dazed, he couldn't think of anything else to say.
She giggled. "You'll wear that to the party?"
Andros sighed. "If it means that much to you..."
Ashley smiled brightly and nodded. "It'll be fun, I promise."
He couldn't help but laugh this time. Ashley looked at him curiously and he shrugged, not knowing how to explain. "It's just that... I didn't expect to do anything like this today."
"Good," Ashley said, and reached up to tug playfully on the hood. She smirked. "That's what we're here for."
And he was glad that they were here. Andros sighed and started to free himself of the costume; it was making him too hot. Ashley laughed and this time they stepped forward to help him.
Ashley was still laughing when he caught her eye without meaning to. He looked away quickly and reached for his jacket, wondering if just maybe... Haley's Comet would be coming around soon. Maybe he'd ask her to see it with him. Maybe.
Author's Note: So, I've always thought that Simba and Andros were essentially the same character. Which really doesn't matter here, but that's why he got that costume. In case you were wondering. ::grins::
Happy Halloween, everyone! Should be by the time you read this.
JAP (Jenny, AH/AY, Phantom Rogue)