Disclaimer: I do not own Power Rangers, no copyright infingement is intended.
Rated for mentions of alcohol and sex. I said mentions! Get your minds out of the gutter! I'm not that kind of writer and you all know it!
AN: The poor Hartford men. First I kill Andrew's true love, then I do this to Mack.
Takes place during Things Not Said.
Had she been capable of thinking she would have thought her heart had stopped. Something was seriously wrong with Mack. Thoughts spiraled through her head. Maybe he had suffered brain damage during their last battle. Maybe someone had cast a spell on him. Maybe there was some sort of mental illness in the Hartford family like in other prominent bloodlines.
None of those options seemed quite plausible as Spencer shuffled them upstairs to the house. She could hear Ronny arguing that she had medical training, but all she cared about was catching one last glimpse of Mack before Spencer slammed the door in their faces.
The boys shrugged their shoulders and agreed it was probably stress before starting a game of pool. Ronny threw an arm around Rose's shoulders and ushered her into the kitchen.
"He'll be fine," she whispered, keeping her voice low so the boys wouldn't hear her over their competitive yells.
Rose nodded, finding she was unable to form actual words. Ronny squeezed her shoulders and sat her on one of the stools arranged on one side of the kitchen's island. Ronny then began pulling various items from the shelves: chocolate chips, milk, sugar, brown sugar --
Rose stopped looking after that and reached for a banana. Ronny dropped her load on the island and slapped Rose's hand away.
"I am making edible cookie dough. You'll love it."
Rose raised an eyebrow. Ronny frowned as she tore open the sugar.
"I have two older brothers and three older sisters. I know when someone's heartsick."
Rose's eyes widened and she started to argue but realized it was fruitless. She did have feelings for Mack. They were small and silly, but they were there. She'd had crushes before, but she'd always pushed them down in favor of her studies. The boys had always made it clear that they weren't interested anyway. But Mack -- they had so much in common. Sure, he was childish and made stupid jokes and obviously had no idea how she felt, otherwise his behavior was just cruel. But he was sweet and brave and strong -- not just physically because that was just a genetic enhancement, but personally as well. He hadn't hesitated to stand up and defend the world, no matter the danger involved. He was everything she could want in a white knight.
She shook herself and looked back at Ronny, who was finishing her mixing and smiling mischievously. Rose gave her a quizzical look.
"I know that smile," Ronny said in a sing song voice.
Rose rolled her eyebrows and stuck her finger in the mixing bowl for a taste. Her eyes lit up when the dough hit her tongue.
"See?" Ronny said, digging in a drawer for spoons. "I told you it was good, didn't I? Just don't tell the boys I can cook."
Rose nodded and took the offered spoon. The two dug in eagerly.
When Mack broke the news to them later, Ronny was the first to speak, assuring Mack that this changed nothing. Rose was grateful. She was still processing, still trying to figure out what this meant. Her white knight was a robot, an imitation. But Mack wasn't an imitation! He was real and sweet and funny and brave. All of that would have tipped her off that Mack really wasn't real, but he was far from perfect. He read idiotic adventure novels and his jokes were stupid and he couldn't for the life of him see that she liked him. But that was the problem -- there was no life in him. The others tried to cheer Mack up, get him to see the bright side of things. Rose couldn't bring herself to speak. She couldn't even bring herself to feel anything really. There was no emotional standard for "the guy I have a secret crush on is really a robot and needs my emotional support more than anything else right now."
Thankfully, Mr. Hartford showed up before she had to say anything. She couldn't look him in the eye as she and the other rangers filed out of the room past him. Ronny caught up with her and put an arm around her shoulders again.
"Guys," Ronny called, once they were out of Mack and Andrew's hearing. The boys stopped and turned. Ronny tossed Will the jewel and said, "We're going out for a while. We'll be back before midnight."
"What about Mack?" Tyzonn asked.
Ronny didn't lose her cheery exterior for a second. "He needs to talk to his dad right now, not us. And anyway, if anything I think he needs guy support more than girl support."
Ronny steered Rose out the door while Dax called after them, "Are you sure? Because guy support isn't all that touchy-feely and he'll probably want to be reminded that he can feel!"
"Where are we going?" Rose asked, her voice dull.
"Mexico. There's a great club in Ensenada. We'll dance till dawn and you'll be so tired that you'll sleep all the way home without once thinking about Mack."
"You told the others we'd be home by midnight."
The two of them snuck slowly up the stairs, their shoes in their hands. Ronny was right, Rose had slept all the way home and now was only half awake.
"You can find your room," Ronny said, "right?" Ronny's room was closer to the stairs, while Rose's was down another hall and to the left.
"Yeah," Rose muttered.
Ronny watched her for a few steps before shutting herself inside her room. She was sure Rose would get to her room all right. Neither of them had a drink, despite numerous offers, and Rose was far too emotionally drained to do anything but fall into bed. Yes, everything would be just fine.
Rose shuffled slowly down the hall. She'd always been able to instinctively know her way around a place; once she walked a hall once she always knew exactly where every barrier was. That was all that saved the priceless bust of Isaac Newton outside the bathroom and the medieval tapestry that hung beside the theater's balcany entrance. When Rose finally reached her room she paused. Music was playing further down the hall. It was an old song, one of her mother's favorites, but who would be playing it at this hour? She was still half-asleep when she opened the library door. Someone was sitting in the wingback chair in the corner. It had to be Andrew. Well, Rose would give him a piece of her mind. She was going to say something about him being a horrible man and not only hurting Mack, but those around him because they had made assumptions and felt things... She was stopped when he spoke first.
"He always told me it reminded him of my mother." It was Mack, sitting in the chair in the vast room, listening to a classical piece of music. He chuckled. "It probably reminded him of the jingle the manufacturer used. Can't you hear it?" He snapped his fingers as he sang, "Can't get a date? Can't get laid? Come on down and have a kid made!"
Rose stepped around the chair and stared blankly down at him. She was just conscious enough to decide that this was a dream -- it had to be.
"Well," Mack said with a shrug, "I guess I wasn't programmed with any musical talent. What am I saying? You can't program talent!" He laughed harshly.
Rose reached out a hand and pressed it to his lips. She knelt down so she was on his level while he stared at her, completely confused.
"I know this is all a dream and since you're a robot I'll never get to really say this, so I've got to say it now. I like you, Mack Hartford. When you came to my class after we lost our powers, I knew that I wasn't just missing the rush of saving the world, I missed you. When you caught that virus today I was terrified, I couldn't even talk for an hour. You're silly and stupid and brave and strong and everything I think I could have loved. And I'm sorry I'll never get to know what could have been." She kissed him quickly on the cheek and walked to her room to collapse into a deeper sleep.
Mack stared at the spot she had just occupied. As tears streamed down his face he couldn't help but think pain like this had to be real.