Disclaimer: It's all Disney, none of it is mine.
Author Notes: My first go at RPM. I really hope it is enjoyed, as its a different style and tone to what I usually do.
FRAYS AND EDGES
It was no surprise to Ziggy that Corinth City being saved didn't stop Dr K from jumping back into working full time, like, immediately. If she wasn't planning and researching, she was in meetings with the military and whoever was now in charge of city education – Ziggy got a real kick out of seeing tiny Dr K talking down to a load of suits and telling them exactly how much smarter she was than all of them. And, hey, Ziggy was busy too – he spent a lot of time at the orphanage, trying to work out just how many kids were gonna work in each class, and getting Sarah's input on everything because she knew kids and how to get them to do what she said.
But he also spent a lot of time away from work, because the cartels were no longer trying to drag him back and it was safe to walk the streets for the first time in forever. Dr K clearly missed that memo, or wilfully ignored it.
Finally, a month or so before their school was due to open, Ziggy got Dr K to take a break. She hadn't seen the sun in too long, Ziggy'd been counting the days, and now there was no crazy computer virus-controlled robots swarming the streets looking to kill them, it was time to enjoy the freedom before their lives were overrun by the serious business of teaching kids how to be smart and have fun.
And he really wanted to spend time with Dr K away from the focused eyes of the military that were on guard around literally everything. Victory had made Colonel Truman kind of scary paranoid.
Ziggy couldn't stop moving. He danced on the edge of the sidewalk, gabbling and singing 'til all his words ran into one continuous stream. He was giddy from freedom and (almost) not always having to look over his shoulder any more. Dr K looked at him oddly, but there was a smile playing at the edges of her 'you are a moron' expression that made Ziggy get louder. Dr K needed to smile; it was his new mission in life to make that happen more often.
He got maybe halfway down Green Park Avenue before he realised he was walking alone. Dr K was back at the corner. When he skidded to a halt beside her, she was looking at a playpark, little kids shrieking and clambering on a jungle gym and a community of chatting parents protectively circling them. There was a little shack selling ice-creams and the smell of something frying. Ziggy inhaled deeply, it smelled really good.
It kind of felt like a premonition, staring at what their lives were gonna be full of in not too long. Was that what stopped Dr K? Ziggy wasn't sure. She was concentrating, drinking it all, an adorable little crease between her eyebrows.
"That'll be us soon," he mused, his shoulder brushing against hers. She didn't move away. "I mean, the whole being surrounded by kids part, not the parent part. Not that…….."
"What's the purpose of this activity?" Dr K interrupted.
Ziggy's thoughts stuttered to a shocked halt for half a second and then sped up again, because this was Dr K and even now, there were still some serious gaps in her experience. As in she didn't actually have anything resembling a childhood.
"This would be playing. They're having fun, you know, eating dirt, playing games, being kids."
Dr K nodded slowly. Ziggy could practically hear her computer brain processing his words and the scene spread out in front of her. Who never got to play even once as a kid? He'd thought he'd had it bad, until he'd met Dillon and Dr K.
He could feel the handle of the knife that he'd carried in his shoe since that first time he'd had to run. Only Dillon knew about it. Well, Dr K probably did too. She probably knew his real name.
"They are experiencing social interactions," Dr K figured out aloud. "Learning acceptable behavioural responses."
"Ah, I guess?" Ziggy shrugged. "It's not some kind of experiment. Mom and Dad don't have to worry about Venjix and his goons any more so the kids are finally allowed to have fun in the sun. It looks fun, right? It's important."
"There is…. .merit to it."
Ziggy grinned and chanced sliding his hand into hers. Dr K smiled, just a little like she thought he couldn't see it, and yeah, that was a victory right there.
"Hey, let's get some ice cream. What's your favourite flavour?"
"I don't know."
Ziggy winced. Of course she didn't. He squeezed her hand, but didn't say anything.
He chose a mint chocolate cone and Dr K ended up getting strawberry with sprinkles. They walked around the park in silence. Overhead, the Eagle Division were doing practice flights. The planes were noisy but whoever was flying was really good. Ziggy squinted against the sun, he figured one of them had to be Scott or Gem or Gemma. He waved enthusiastically with his free hand.
"They can't see you," Dr K informed him.
"Not really the point," Ziggy replied, almost dropping what was left of his cone.
"Then what is?"
Ziggy thought about it, mint and chocolate melting on his tongue. "The idea that they could, I guess. If they could see us all the way down here, then they'd know I was glad it was them."
Dr K had almost finished her cone and was crunching on what was left of the wafer. Her expression was both perplexed and thoughtful; like she couldn't work out how he had come to his conclusions and that she must be missing some essential math that he'd gotten hold of. It was endlessly cute.
"You are very strange," she decided eventually.
"Now that is a foregone conclusion."
A day later, Ziggy convinced her to go shopping with him. He'd found her in her school uniform and lab coat again. She always wore the coat when she was working, even when she wasn't in the lab. It got her science brain in gear, he figured. He had this really sneaky feeling that she hadn't had clothes she'd chosen for herself since before those creepy Alphabet Soup agents got her.
"I don't require anything new."
"Sure, if you don't mind prison clothes."
Because that was exactly what they were. They looked like a fancy school uniform, but Ziggy would bet Dillon's car that they had been given to her the day she was snatched and that she probably couldn't remember what it was like to wear anything else during the day. That was so wrong; he didn't even have the words for it.
Dr K paused, it felt like forever, and then she efficiently shut down her computer, collected her cape, and waited pointedly in the doorway for him. She looked impatient, but Ziggy saw the brittleness and the fear. He didn't leave her side. She took a deep breath.
They held hands and bumped shoulders and went through the shops in a pattern Dr K had determined. Since the government were paying thanks to all the team had done, Ziggy picked out what he wanted – jeans and sneakers and shirts – and chattered and helpfully prodded as Dr K began to choose. She was almost silent, letting her fingers talk instead. They flicked through the hangers and touched the clothes, tentative and hungry. All those different textures, all new. Ziggy watched, this big happy feeling stretching his insides. They were like big steps forward.
He bought her a hot chocolate with pink and white marshmallows in afterwards. She slid him a rich chocolate cookie.
He was never going to get tired of hearing her use his name. There were paper store bags at their feet and the noise of the half-built mall washing over them, growing and growing. Dr K's knuckles whitened around her mug. Ziggy moved his chair closer, his knee pressed against hers.
Ziggy could feel a big tug of pride inside of him. He wanted to stand on the table and shout; do you see how brave she is? Do you know what she went through for all of this?
For their next meeting, she wore a pearl-grey pinafore dress over a crisp white shirt unbuttoned at the neck. There were white stars on her hair slides and Dillon's watch tucked into her pocket. Ziggy grinned. He could never see her in jeans. Even the thought was weird.
And she let him stay in the lab as she worked. He liked to think it was because she enjoyed his company. It always made him sit up a little straighter. Colonel Truman looked down at him, shaking his head with a pointed look at Dr K like he wanted Ziggy out. But Dr K always ignored him.
She still wore her pyjamas and those adorable puppy slippers. Ziggy made dinner – soup tonight and hacked off thick slices of bread to butter for it. He'd rap his knuckles against the lab doorway and Dr K would argue about her latest work needing more attention and Ziggy would shoot back with the need for regular sustenance and even better company. Eventually, she'd sit beside him at the kitchen counter and they'd eat. Ziggy always finished first and made shadow birds swoop across the walls.
Colonel Truman had suggested that they move closer to their school, that they could have a nice new house in the rebuilt suburbs. Ziggy could feel something shrivel inside of him at the thought, like he couldn't breathe at all.
Dr K wanted to keep her lab, thank you very much, its parameters were exactly what she specifically needed for her work, which she was going to continue outside of running the school. Besides, Ziggy added later, drawing patters across her skin with his fingertips – shaky equations he was trying to learn and all the Power Ranger stories he told the kids - where would the rest of the team go if the garage wasn't theirs any more? There was no way that Dillon or Tenaya would fit into suburbia, or Gem and Gemma.
Ziggy needed to be close to the streets, to the wide open spaces. Dr K craved the familiarity and safety of the lab and garage. It had everything and it was where some part of their kind-of family belonged.
"We're like a lighthouse, you know?" Ziggy murmured sleepily. "There's all these sharp rocks and darkness and here we are."
"Your metaphor is simplistic," remarked Dr K, her head resting against his shoulder.
"But I'm not wrong."
Dr K didn't argue. Ziggy pressed a kiss against the crown of her head, felt her shift closer. By her lamp was Dillon's watch, slowly ticking the time away. Ziggy tapped out Dillon and Tenaya's tune. Dr K finished off the equation he'd left half-done, concluding it where their skin met.