bunny with a pancake on its head
Her sheets were sweet and cool and lightly pink, though the color was washed out by dimness. The stars glowed up out of the floor. A crack of white light spilled through the not totally closed door to the control room, which was itself dark but admitted the sheer brilliance of the training area beyond. By the time it reached her room it wasn't enough to illuminate more than shadows.
She was used to having nice things. Or they told her she was, and she believed them, because look at everything around her. She was one of a very few people in the city who could point at something, say "I need that," and have it given to her immediately. She had technology she had created herself, she had security and resources and people willing to test anything she offered them.
And then there was this. She knew there had been a time when she was afraid to sleep. A time when being alone in the dark was the worst thing she could imagine. Sometimes she missed that, those days before the horrors of a world devastated by her own hand had challenged her imagination... but she never regretted these nights.
Warmth pressed in close, arms and legs tangling with hers. Curly hair and laughter. Strong fingers and sighs he never let anyone else hear. Two dear runaways: one running from the city, one to it. She had never felt more like herself than she did with them.
There was a snuffling sound from the direction of the floor. She let her head fall back, found a hand ready to catch her: it was always debatable whether Dillon anticipated them that well or if he was just that fast. Ziggy's breathless amusement wasn't quite enough to drown out the puppy's inquiring whine.
"Why," she asked, as steadily as she could given the circumstances, "is that dog in my room?"
Dillon's breath was warm against her ear. "Because you left the door open?" he murmured. His hand was careful and soothing against the back of her head, and she could feel his tongue on her skin.
"I didn't leave the door open," she insisted. "I wasn't even the last one through it. I couldn't possibly--"
The mouth on hers muffled any further attempts to speak, and she gave up even as she heard Ziggy exclaim, "Well, excuse me for being a little distracted!"
She felt Dillon smile, lips curving against hers, letting her breathe. "Okay," he whispered, his hand warm through her pajamas as he painted gentle strokes over her chest. "First one to get off has to feed the dog."
She scoffed, back arching, stretching into his touch without reservation. "That is, at the very least, unreasonable, and at most a foregone conclusion."
She heard Ziggy sputter. "Excuse me, what did you just say?"
"Come on," Dillon murmured, and his kiss was long and silky on her tongue. "Like you're gonna lose, right?"
"Um, in case you haven't noticed," Ziggy said, "there are two of us and only one of her. The odds of her losing are--and maybe this is just me, but--I think they're pretty good if we work together."
Dillon's voice was low enough that she could feel it vibrating through her skin. "You mean, if I side with you instead of her?"
"Uh..." Ziggy sounded like he was having trouble breathing. "Yeah."
She didn't have to see the slow smile spreading across Dillon's face to know it was there when he growled, "You're on."
It was directed at Ziggy. She knew it was; she didn't like aggression and he was unfailingly gentle with her. It still made her shiver... a feeling that melted as his arms encircled her. She felt a giggle bubble up inside as he rolled over, taking her with him. That was Ziggy he'd rolled into, now pressed against her side as Dillon held her up, and she scrambled to get her knees under her so she could sit on her own.
On top of Dillon. She felt his fingers tugging gently at her buttons, felt Ziggy press a happy kiss against her neck. She tilted her head, catching her breath as a tingle ran down her spine and the whisper of touch followed. It was a warm and comforting thrill, welcoming instead of isolating her in the dark.
They taught her that sometimes losing wasn't the end of the world.
"Okay," Ziggy gasped, his hand still hot on her thigh. "Bad plan. This was a bad plan. Why does she have to go, again?"
"Because--" Dillon moved, leg sliding against hers as he did something that made Ziggy's fingers twitch. His skin was the slightest bit clammy. He'd barely broken a sweat. "Someone has to feed the puppy."
She was already up on her elbows, the motion being what had prompted Ziggy to complain in the first place, but when she tried to sit up the rest of the way she felt a hand on her wrist. "You're sure you're good," Dillon's voice murmured. For the fifth time.
"Yes," she said, more tickled now than comforted by the brush of his hand on her skin. "I feel amazing, you're genius-level lovers, can I have my bunny?"
Dillon laughed, which, as far as she was concerned, was a sound they couldn't hear too often. The words were muffled when he bent down to whisper, "Give her the bunny, Ziggy."
She heard Ziggy swallow a sound at whatever Dillon did to get him to move. Feeling around where his head had been, she pulled the stuffed animal out from under her pillow. If she had to get out of the nice cozy bed to take the puppy back to the garage, she was taking something she could hold with her.
"See," Ziggy moaned, his hand finally leaving her leg as she squirmed off the edge of the bed. "What did I tell you? Terrible plan."
"It was mostly your plan," Dillon said, presumably holding Ziggy down with one hand while he pressed her wrist to his lips with the other. She let her fingers curl, brushing against his face before she pulled away.
"Oh, it so was not!" Ziggy protested. "It was totally your idea!"
Her pajamas were, predictably, buried under their clothes on the floor. The shadows stood out in sharp contrast to the stars, and she could identify hers by feel. The puppy only moved a little when her searching fingers encountered soft fur, and she wondered briefly if crawling back into bed and letting the dog sleep through to morning would work.
It never had before, so. Probably not.
Dillon had apparently decided there was no arguing with the truth, and--if the way Ziggy was breathing was any indication--he'd decided to win another way. By the time she'd tugged her pajama bottoms back on and gotten her shirt mostly buttoned, the puppy wasn't her biggest concern. Someone clearly had to get up and close the door.
She felt around for her slippers, finding them just under the edge of the bed. "Come on, Puppy," she murmured. She heard Dillon grunt, and she smiled to herself.
"C'mon, cutie," she coaxed again, patting the floor to make it more plausible. Dillon sometimes grumbled that she was sweeter to the puppy than she was to them. "Here, Puppy. Come on out. Don't be afraid."
Ziggy yelped, words spilling out like a confession. "Okay, he just bit me and that's totally your fault--why don't you just make up a pet name for Dillon so he can stop taking it out on me--not that I'm... mmf!"
Dillon had apparently covered his mouth, though with his own or with his hand, she couldn't tell in the semi-dark. "Quiet," Dillon snarled, and maybe that answered the question. "You're cute enough for all of us. You got that?"
Pet names were for pets. She couldn't imagine either of them, not even Ziggy, tame enough to respond to "cutie" or "pup." Even if Dillon thought he wanted to hear it. But she could tell them what she did see.
"Lightning in a bottle," she murmured, reaching through the shadows. Dillon saw--he always could--and his fingers closed around hers. His grip was irresistible, pulling her back down on the bed beside them.
Her hand landed on Ziggy's chest, breathing to burst while Dillon had him pinned, and she buried her fingers in his hair. "That's what you are," she said softly, her other hand free of Dillon's as it brushed against his face. She felt him turn his cheek into her palm. "Both of you."
She let go with some reluctance, scooping up her bunny and catching the puppy's collar with her other hand. "Come on, Puppy," she said, pulling her across the starry floor toward the control room. "Let's get you back where you belong."
She heard a gasp from behind her, and a groan, and she pulled the door shut as she stepped over the threshold. Puppy, slightly more awake now and willing to walk on her own, wandered in a more or less straight line toward the other door. There was a brief hesitation, but she seemed ready to bounce across the training room under her own power as soon as the second door was closed.
What neither of them expected was the light on in the kitchen, and the voices that greeted them as soon as they stepped out of the training room. Eyes wide, she had a moment of doubt as she tried to remember--without actually checking--how far she'd buttoned her shirt. Her hair would pass as "slept on," right?
"Well, if it isna the good doctor!" Flynn's voice exclaimed.
"Come to join the party?" Scott said with a grin.
"We didn't wake you, did we?" Summer asked. "We were trying to keep it down. We haven't woken Dillon and Ziggy, at least."
And they weren't likely to, she thought, wondering if the two of them would stay where they were afterwards. Ziggy always did when she was there. They gave each other something to hold onto when Dillon refused to cuddle. Dillon was more likely to get up and roam at night than not.
That would be hard to explain right now--but she supposed the rest of the Rangers were going to find out eventually.
"I was already awake," she said, glancing down at the dog. "I think Puppy's hungry."
"Us too," Scott agreed.
"What about you?" Flynn asked. Summer was already getting Puppy's food bowl down off of the refrigerator. "Can I interest you in some pancakes, Dr. K?"
She considered that. Saying no meant she could warn Ziggy and Dillon. But as soon as they heard there were pancakes, they would probably come out to the kitchen anyway, thus defeating any purpose she might have had in warning them. The logical thing to do, then, was to enjoy the pancakes herself until they joined her.
"Yes," she said, climbing up on one of the stools and setting her bunny on the counter beside her. She was allowed to have stuffed animals. It wasn't like they hadn't all seen it by now anyway. "Thank you."
"There you go, Puppy," Summer said. She pushed the bowl to one side of the floor so it wasn't in Flynn's way, then came over to reclaim the seat between her and Scott. "How did she get into the training room, anyway?"
"Oh," she said, raising her eyebrows at the puppy. The food was disappearing at an alarming rate. "Someone must have forgotten to close the door."
"First round coming up," Flynn announced, flicking something on the stove and waving his spatula with a flourish. "Plates!"
"They're chocolate chip," Scott told her, obediently picking up a stack of plates.
"The best," Summer agreed.
Flynn put a pancake on the first plate and Scott passed it to her. He held and passed as quickly as Flynn filled them up, the second pancake going to Summer and the third being left for Flynn. Scott took the fourth and fifth--and to her bemusement, the fifth plate was set in front of her bunny.
"The bunny isn't alive," she pointed out. "It doesn't eat."
Summer leaned over and said, in a stage-whisper, "It's for you."
"But I already have one," she said.
"Now you have another one," Flynn replied.
"Or," Scott said, leaning across Summer to tweak the last pancake off its plate. "Your bunny has a hat." He put the pancake on the bunny's head and gave her a rakish grin.
She frowned. "That doesn't make any sense," she said, staring at the bunny.
"Aye, but things don' have to make sense to be fun," Flynn put in.
"Sometimes they're more fun when they don't," Summer added.
She thought about it, but when they put it like that there was really only one answer she could give. "Yes," she said at last. "I guess I have some experience with that."