Disclaimer: I don't own the Power Rangers.
Not Quite There
"What are we doing here?" Andros hugged his cloak about himself more tightly, warily following the Silver Ranger into the packed room.
Just two feet inside the doorway, he was so crowded by people that he couldn't move an inch more, the air already so thick and stuffy that he nearly gasped for breath. Painful music and equally harsh lighting grated his senses, causing his temples to throb in the beginnings of a headache.
Zhane exhibited no signs of sharing Andros's reluctance to go further. A hard tug on his hand drew the Red Ranger deeper into the swarm. An overenthusiastic dancer elbowed him hard in the stomach, but his friend's grip was tight and pulled Andros even further in.
"You want something to drink?"
Andros winced at the loudness of Zhane's voice. If they had been speaking aloud, he would never have been able to catch the words over the roar of a thousand other voices, but the telepathy carried the question to him loud and clear.
Hardly a moment later, he held a full tankard in his hand. Andros wrinkled his nose at the sickly sweet smell, glaring daggers at Zhane. Zhane cheerily ignored him, taking a gulp of his own drink.
"A toast!" he proposed brightly. "To... er, to us!"
Andros obediantly tapped the rim of his tankard to Zhane's, but he didn't drink. "I'm going to go wait in the hover."
"No!" Zhane shouted loudly enough to be heard over the cacophony, seizing Andros by the wrist. "We're celebrating, remember?"
Andros sighed. While the success of their first infiltration mission was cause to celebrate, he would never have chosen to do so in such a manner. But because Zhane had been the one driving at the time they had ended up here, in what Andros could only assume was some sort of interplanetary club. He doubted that was the proper word for it, but this was the sort of place he would never enter on his own.
"Fine," he muttered, prying Zhane's hand off of his arm. "I'll stay."
There was no way that his voice carried, but Zhane seemed satisfied. The noise and the lights still irritating him to no end, Andros took his drink and attempted to squirm through the crowd towards a corner where he could keep out of the way until Zhane was done partying.
It was more difficult than he thought it would be. Just struggling through the crowd took him the better part of ten minutes. Andros let out a breath of relief to find himself against the wall, only to realize that it wasn't anymore desirable as a location than the middle of the room--people still rubbed up against him, and now he was trapped in a corner on top of it.
Lowering his head, he squeezed his eyes shut. The noise grew louder and the air thicker, but his head ached a bit less with the absence of the flashing lights. He shouldn't have agreed to stay. They probably shouldn't even be here in the first place; their mission had been a success, but the information was troubling.
Dark Spectre had mounted enough forces to challenge the innermost League worlds. Eltare and Aquitar had formidable armies with which to defend themselves and full Ranger teams to lead them in battle. KO-35 was nothing but a border world with a fledgling army and two Rangers. They didn't stand a chance.
Andros curled his fingers more tightly around the mug he didn't know why he was still holding. He should just... leave. But he didn't, merely pressing himself as far into the corner as he could while he tried to sketch out a battle plan in his mind.
He came up blank, and opened his eyes with a dejected sigh. He couldn't think in here; he needed peace and quiet to strategize, and clearly, this place offered neither.
"I have work to do," he told Zhane, scanning the multitude around him for his friend. "I'll meet you back--"
"Don't you dare!" He could practically hear the scowl on Zhane's face. "Will it kill you to just relax for a few minutes?"
"I don't find this relaxing," Andros retorted impatiently. "And yes, it could kill us both if we're unprepared when Dark Spectre invades. You heard him at the banquet."
"Then before you die, you might as well enjoy yourself for once in your life." Zhane paused. "Besides, he was drunk. People say the strangest things when they're drunk."
Andros didn't deign to reply. He glanced around for a flat surface, anywhere for him to set down the drink Zhane had handed him. When he saw none, he rolled his eyes in exasperation and tried to work his way back towards the bar.
He hadn't thought the place could have possibly become more packed, but he could hardly move forward without being pushed backwards. People were all around him, dancing, shouting, jostling him as he tried to force his way back towards the front.
Someone jerked his arm, and the drink fell from his hand. Andros grimaced, but didn't bother to retrieve it. He'd be lucky if he wasn't trampled, and if he'd spilled anything on anyone, they either didn't notice or didn't care.
Only when he'd finally fought his way out the doors did he feel how his heart thudded frantically in his chest, and how his clothes stuck to his body with sweat. Letting out a deep breath to calm himself, Andros swiped at his face with the hem of his cloak, leaning back against the wall as a cool night breeze swept over him.
The wall at his back reverberated with the heavy beat of the music and the screaming of the crowd inside. Andros closed his eyes and tried to ignore them. He should just go wait in the hover. Zhane would be ages inside.
He straightened up and turned to go--and walked directly into a slender young woman with long, blond hair. She pursed her lips and glared at him in irritation, arms folded across her chest.
"I'm sorry." Andros rubbed his forehead with a sigh, giving his head a shake. "Are you all right?"
Her annoyance faded into genuine surprise. "Yes." She paused to look him up and down. "I've been looking for you."
"You... have?" Andros took a closer look at her, frowning. Tall, blond, in black leather... "Are you sure you're not looking for Zhane?"
"My--my friend," he said uncertainly. "He'd like you."
"Hmm." She narrowed her eyes at him. "You were at my party tonight."
"I don't party," Andros said firmly, and gestured towards the building. "I really think you're looking for Zhane. He's in there."
Her eyes strayed towards the building, and he swore he saw her shudder. "So many people," she murmured.
"I know." Andros shifted from foot to foot awkwardly. "I... I'm going to go now. I'm sure Zhane will be out soon, if you're still wanting to see him."
"Yes," she said quietly, as he turned and walked away. "I want to see him."
"Dammit, Andros." Zhane ran a hand through his hair as he left the lively atmosphere indoors for the cold night outside, looking around in vain for his friend. "You could have at least told me where you went."
There was no response, and he supposed he couldn't deny that Andros had every right to be irked at him. Zhane knew full well how Andros hated places like this, yet he'd brought him here anyway.
He liked to think that his intentions had been good. Better for Andros to be here getting irritated with him than back at the base searching fruitlessly for Karone, or worrying over what Dark Spectre was up to now.
It seemed Zhane had succeeded, at least in irritating Andros. Next time, he should probably choose a better location, if there was one. With Andros, it was difficult. Anywhere with large crowds was automatically out, he was always bored after one holoshow, and he didn't even seem to read much anymore. Really, Zhane pitied whoever tried to take Andros on a date.
He sighed again and looked around. Using his amazing powers of deduction, he decided that Andros was probably waiting for him in the hover. He hadn't taken more than a few steps when a hand tapped his shoulder.
"Your friend said you'd like me."
"Huh?" Zhane turned, his eyes widening at the girl in front of him. Since when did Andros set him up with girls? Any girls, much less hot girls in leather.
She just blinked, and he tried to figure out what was going on. "Andros said that?"
"Yes." She smiled at him, clearly amused. "He's a little dense, isn't he?"
"Well, yeah." Zhane couldn't help grinning a bit. "What'd he do this time?"
"He completely missed the point."
"He does that sometimes." Zhane nodded. "I'm Zhane, by the way."
"I know who you are." She smiled again. "I'm Ast... Astrea."
"It's nice to meet you, Astrea." Zhane offered her his most charming grin. Sometimes fame paid off. "Listen, I really should go find my friend right now, but... would you like to meet me somewhere tomorrow? My treat," he added, when she seemed to be thinking it over.
"I... don't think that's such a good idea," she said finally, staring at him strangely. "I should go. My... my father is probably wondering what's taking me so long."
"Oh." Disappointed, Zhane nodded. "Have a good night, then."
"Silver Ranger?" she called after him when he turned to go. "A warning--stay away from parties you haven't been invited to."
Her words hit him hard. Zhane whirled around just in time to see "Astrea" vanish into purple sparkles, and swore loudly. He took off at full speed for the hover a split second later; there were probably quantrons hidden all over, and Andros hadn't said a word to him in at least an hour.
"What the..." He looked around suspiciously when the hover was right where they'd left it. He approached cautiously, but no quantrons leapt out at him.
Zhane snuck a quick look through the back window before he opened the door. No one was hidden in the backseat. He slid into the passenger seat, fastening himself in and locking the doors.
"Andros!" He turned towards his friend, his heart stopping for an instant. Andros stirred before Zhane could panic, and he rolled his eyes when he realized that the Red Ranger was only sleeping.
"Wake up," he hissed, tugging on Andros's ponytail. "Hey, Andros. Get up."
Andros lifted his head with a sleepy groan. Zhane leaned back into his seat while Andros rubbed his eyes, wondering just how he was going to explain the fact that he'd just asked Astronema out on a date.
A/N: I hope you liked this random little oneshot. It's a birthday present for SweetSas, she's eighteen today! Happy birthday, hon. ::Hugs:: Please review!