A/N: Welcome to the final arc of The Power of Friends: Dance. This is the story of Lily and the Jungle Fury Rangers. As with OO, I don't know much about JF other than the characters and some vague characterizations. In light of that, I've opted to simply just write the story I feel I should. As always, thanks Librarian for the beta!
As far as days go, Lily was pretty sure that this one counted as a good day. Yes, she'd lost mentor, and had been sent away from Pai Zhuq, but she become a Power Ranger, a Yellow Ranger, and that made it a great day. At the moment, the only thing that Lily could say was bad about being a ranger was that she wasn't entirely comfortable was the so-called 'growing technique'. What bothered her about it was the telepathy that synchronized her body and mind was her teammates. It was a bit weird, because Casey was a cub, and she'd never met him before today. Theo, of course, was her best friend and he had been even more excited about becoming a Power Ranger.
As Lily lay on the twin bed that RJ had made up for her that night, she found that sleep eluded her. She kept thinking back to when they had become the Jungle Pride Megazord. It had been exhilarating but creepy. As the full moon cleared the neighboring building and its silvery beams flowed into the small guest room, Lily gave up on sleep. Instead she headed out to the small kitchen over the loft, as she climbed the stairs she realized that there was somebody already there.
Lily blinked, "Who's there?"
"Casey," Casey replied.
"I'm sorry," she said, "I couldn't see clearly, I'm sorry."
"It's all right. I wouldn't expect you to recognize my voice, given how long we've known each other. Couldn't sleep?"
"Yes," Lily said as she headed for the fridge, "just a lot on my mind I guess. It was an exciting day after all." She opened the door to the fridge, and blinked against the light as she studied its contents.
"Want to talk about it?" Casey asked, there was a soft thud as he boosted himself onto the counter. "I was going to make hot chocolate anyways, if you want some. RJ has some organic cocoa and soy milk, which tastes better warm than you might think."
Lily closed the fridge, "I'm willing to experiment. As to my restless thoughts, just the stuff that happened today is all. The Megazord was exceptionally weird I think."
"You mean how we could sort of but not really a read each other's minds?" Casey asked. He jumped down from the cabinet and flicked on a small light. "That was really weird, but I just had a tiger in my head, looking for the jungle."
"What, what do you mean by that?" Lily asked.
"It was just a weird dream," Casey said as he pulled a canister out of the cabinet and put it on the counter. "I think that maybe I got 20 minutes of sleep, and I'm not ready to go back."
Lily leaned against the counter, "It's not that surprising that you had a weird dream. I think we all did when we started to consciously channel our animal spirits. I mean, Cheddar has been around for a long time, but when I got the Academy, and I learned it deliberately, I was always dreaming about trees. Cheddar was always climbing trees when I was a kid."
"Who is Cheddar?" Casey asked. He knelt down to rummage under the stove, and came up with a saucepan.
"Cheddar is what I used to call my imaginary friend when I was a child. She was a translucent, yellow cheetah. Her spots look like holes, and I liked cheese, thus I called her Cheddar. I later learned that she was in fact my spirit animal."
"Are we having a party and I didn't know?" RJ asked as he came up the stairs.
"Not exactly," Casey said, "I had some weird dreams, and Lily couldn't sleep, and thus hot chocolate. Do you want some?"
"Do you know what are doing?" Theo asked as he followed RJ.
"Of course, I know my way around a stove." Casey opened the refrigerator and pulled out a carton and headed for the stove. "You don't mind, do you RJ?"
"I would only mind if you poisoned us," RJ replied as he turned on the larger kitchen light.
"Are you OK Theo?" Lily asked.
"I'm fine," Theo replied, "just a lot to think about."
Lily wondered if that was the same for all of them, she watched as RJ hovered over Casey and the hot chocolate. Theo sat down at the table, propped his head up with one hand, and watched the two with a little smile. Lily knew that Theo would deny enjoying the warmth that she could feel with all of them there.
The hot chocolate was as good as Casey had suggested it, although he had laughingly protested their compliments. After all the chocolate had been finished, the four drifted down to the half-court. RJ headed for his chair, but Casey led Theo and Lily over to a stack of gym mats where they were able to get comfortable, and see RJ's TV set. As some really bad late night programming created a background noise, Lily leaned into Casey's warm shoulder and soon fell asleep.
The next morning, Lily woke up warm. She was curled up with her head on Casey's chest and someone had covered her with a yellow blanket. Casey was partly covered by a red blanket. Theo, however, was gone. As Lily sat up, she saw Theo and RJ in the kitchen, Theo was leaning against the railing and RJ was waving a spoon as he moved around.
Lily stood up and folded her blanket before adding it to the neatly folded blue blanket at the end of the mats, and then she headed upstairs. "Good morning," she said as she entered the kitchen. "What are we doing today?"
"We are going to be training," RJ replied, "if you're going to help me run JKP, then there are things you need to learn."
"You know," Casey said as he came into the kitchen, "I have worked at a pizza parlor before. I worked at a local one before I came to the Academy. I mean your recipes are different, but pizza doesn't change much in its basics."
"That could be a good thing," RJ told him, "it depends on what you were taught. I do prefer that you at least pay attention during training so that if something is different you'll know."
"All right," Casey grinned at RJ, "I think I can do that."
"What about Dai Shi?" Theo asked.
"After your orientation, we'll do some training to see what you know. You all have different training from the Academy, being a Ranger is more than what the Academy taught you." RJ replied, he gave Theo a long look. "If you expect things here to be just like the Academy, you will be severely disappointed."
"Come on Theo," Lily said, slinging her arm over her friend's shoulders, "it'll be ok."
"Go with the differences," RJ added as he headed for the pizza kitchen, "and grow with the differences. I expect all of you down here in half an hour."
Lily pulled Theo into a quick hug, "I need a shower," she said, "I'll see you guys in a bit."
"Right," Theo muttered "I don't suppose there's something to eat?" He asked Casey as Lily skipped back down stairs.
Whatever Casey would have replied, Lily didn't hear as she entered the hall that led to the four bedrooms and the bathroom. Lily had lucked out in actually having a bed in her room, RJ had said it was for someone else, but that they wouldn't begrudge her a place to sleep. Casey and Theo had been given inflated mattresses and sleeping bags, which RJ promised would be replaced soon. He'd also said that they could decorate their rooms if they wanted as well.
As Lily showered, she reflected on the day before. When they had arrived at Ocean Bluff, Casey had insisted that they put their backpacks in the bus station rental lockers so that they didn't have to drag them all over the city looking for their new master. He'd also managed to retrieve the three bags while Theo and Lily were lingering over one of RJ's master class pizzas. They hadn't even noticed he'd left until he was coming back in the front door.
Casey was, Lily thought, an interesting young man. He was one of the oldest cubs she'd ever seen, most of the students joined the Academy as pre-teens, or even younger in Theo's case. For Casey to already be eighteen made him a bit of a three day wonder. Lily hadn't really paid attention to the gossip lately, she'd been more focused on the way their teachers had suddenly increased their practice time, and had been pushing all of them towards some unspecified goal. Even Master Mao had become harder on them in his way, more demanding of perfection, pushing them as no one else would.
As Lily headed into the parlor kitchen, she heard someone laughing in the kitchen. As she came down the stairs, she found that not only were Theo and Casey waiting, but Fran had arrived, along with a Hispanic boy who was clearly younger than the other two. "Lily," RJ said with a bright smile, "I want you to meet my other employee. This is Mike Ramos, he works here during the summer, and will be of great help to us. Mike, this is Lily, one of my new tenants."
"Hi," Mike said with a lazy grin. "I'm from off the coast. My mom sends me over in the summer to live with my aunt, to give me 'experience'."
"Nice to meet you," Lily said politely. "Hi Fran."
"Hi Lily," Fran said with a nervous smile.
"All right," RJ said, "Casey, Mike, and Fran, why don't you two make sure the front is set up properly. Theo, Lily, you'll start back here in the kitchen with me, and we'll switch you to the front later on."
"Sounds like a plan, sir," Mike said, he gestured back through the swinging door, "Set up isn't that hard."
Lily turned her attention to RJ, wondering just how they were supposed to keep things secret with not one, but two strangers in and around the pizza parlor all the time.