Disclaimer: I don't own the Power Rangers.
Author's Note: So, I was supposed to write a Fourth of July story for the "Holiday Specials" stories that Jenny (Star Le Faith), AH/AY, and I have been doing since Halloween 2005. It's not really about the Fourth of July because I forgot I was supposed to write a Fourth of July story; it's more of a bonding-with-friends story that has no real plot. But! There are fireworks at the end!
Friends and Fireworks
"My parents will love you," Ashley insisted. She kissed him with a smile, and brushed her fingers over his arm. "It's a family barbecue; there's nothing to worry about."
Andros smiled back a strained smile, and sighed. He understood well enough that Ashley's parents wanted to meet the person who had been dating their daughter for the past six months. He only wished that the timing had been a bit better--wandering around Angel Grove during the past month since the invasion had become somewhat complicated.
The public attention on KO-35 had been bad enough. As inconvenient as it had been to keep anonymous on Earth, it had had an upside. And for once he wasn't the only one--Zhane detested the attention here on Earth nearly as much as he did. Andros wasn't quite sure if that was for Zhane's own sake or Karone's, but it didn't matter.
He started as Ashley's voice broke into his thoughts. She smiled at him hopefully, and he heaved another sigh. "Ash..."
Her lips touched his lightly, and he felt his smile widen into a real one. "What time?"
She beamed at him. "Six."
Ashley sauntered over to her boyfriend with a plate piled high with food in each hand. Andros looked relaxed enough as he and Cassie chatted with her parents and so she took her time, waiting until he'd spotted her before she stepped up to his side.
"Brought you something," she said cheerily. Her elbow gently nudged his side as she handed him the plate, and she saw him hide a smile as he accepted it. "C'mon," she added. "Let's go sit down."
Carlos and Karone were huddled together in conversation at the table she pointed him towards and as they approached, she heard Karone laugh. The grin she caught on Andros's face told her that he'd heard it too.
"Happy?" she teased gently, and for once he answered her.
With his free hand, he touched his sister's shoulder as he took the seat next to her. She tilted her head back to see him and smiled. "Where were you?"
"He was being social," Ashley answered when Andros didn't. "For once."
He shrugged and poked experimentally at his potato salad with a fork. "Your parents are nice," he said, frowning at his food. "What is this?"
Andros glanced at Carlos strangely. "This doesn't look like salad."
"It's salad made with potatoes instead of lettuce or spinach," he explained, and Ashley tried not to laugh.
"Just try it," she said. "You'll like it."
Andros still looked dubious, but he became suddenly interested in his food. Ashley realized why a moment later when her grandma appeared beside her, and tried not to sigh. After that whole mess with Carlos...
"Hi, Grandma," she said, smiling cheerfully. "How are you?"
"Hi, Mrs. Hammond," Carlos added weakly. "It's good to see you again."
"Oh! Carlos!" Grandma beamed at him, looking from Ashley to Carlos and back again. "It's so good to see you again, and you're Andros, of course I remember you, but you're a new one," she said to Karone, who only blinked at her.
"This is Andros's sister, Karone," Ashley introduced her. "Karone, this is my grandmother."
"Well, it's always lovely to meet Ashley's friends," Grandma said, and continued on without pause for breath. "Were you a Power Ranger, too? You never said a peep about that," she added reproachfully to Ashley. "It's not healthy to keep a secret like that, dear. But I supposed it did all work out in the end, didn't it?"
"Yes, Grandma," Ashley said patiently, and quickly changed the subject. "Did I tell you about my new boyfriend?"
"Oh? Boyfriend?" Her grandmother's ears perked up. "Well, who is he?"
Carlos snorted into his napkin. Ashley elbowed him in the side, trying hard not to laugh when Andros glared at her. "Well..."
"Well, what'd I miss?" Zhane stretched out on his back, hands tucked behind his head as he gazed skyward. "Anything exciting?"
"Andros almost got engaged," Karone volunteered, and he choked.
"He did what?!"
"It wasn't his idea," she said, amusement lingering in her smile. "Ashley's grandmother talks a lot."
"She talked them into getting married?"
"Not quite." Karone shook her head, tucking stray wisps of hair behind her ear. "She offered them her mountain cabin for their honeymoon. Unless, of course, they'd rather go on a cruise or whatever young people like to do these days."
Zhane snickered, laughing outright as he tried to picture Andros on a cruise ship. "I missed that?"
"That was only the beginning," Karone informed him. "You should have left KO-35 earlier."
"I did leave early," he said, indignant. "The Megaship moves slowly when Deca's angry."
She shook her head at him. "What did you do this time?"
"She wouldn't tell me."
Karone laughed and stretched her legs out in front of her. "She'll get over it. Eventually."
"Eventually," he agreed. The night sky exploded with color before he could say more, and he watched the fading streaks of red with a smile. "Pretty."
"I could do better," she murmured under her breath, and Zhane grinned. He didn't doubt it.
Showers of green and yellow exploded above them. Zhane watched the sparkles fade before he looked towards Karone again. Her hands were cupped together and he saw a faint purple glow, as if she were seriously contemplating putting on a more impressive show.
He grinned and looked away, pretending not to notice. Not too far away, he saw Andros and Ashley curled up together; she had her arms around his waist and her head on his shoulder. He shook his head. Since when did Andros cuddle?
"Hey," he said, his eyes shifting back to Karone. "Happy Strange Earth Holiday."
She laughed, her hands falling to her sides as she contemplated the deep purple that lit the sky. "Yeah," she said quietly. "You too."