"Scenes From A Mauling"
By N. E. Shaw

The medical center on the nearby planet of Yotto was as clean and pleasant as one could ask for. But it was still a hospital. After five days there, all six Rangers were eager to leave. Unfortunately Carlos, TJ, and Ashley were the only ones on their feet. Andros and Cassie were bedridden, and Zhane was forced to motor around in a hoverchair. But it wasn't all bad in his case, he was having fun playing taxi. As he zoomed down the hall with his latest passenger, he looked forward to seeing the face of the person she was visiting.

Andros's door was open and he was reading in bed, when Zhane rode in and parked at the foot of the bed. The Red Ranger did a double take when he saw Ashley draped over his best friend's lap like that.

But her smile quickly distracted him. She slid out of the chair, paid Zhane with a kiss on the cheek, and went to see her Karovan Lover.

"Anytime Ash," Zhane chirped, zooming away.

"What was that all about?" Andros asked as soon as he was gone. A little bit of jealousy edged his tone.

"Don't worry about it," Ashley ordered, putting his book down. "I'm here to see you. How are you doing?"

Andros's face still showed the scars of from his beating. His lower lip was split so he found it hard to smile. "I'm getting there," he answered. "Slowly."

Ashley worked his hand gently between hers. "You know I never got to thank you for staying with me all that time. When I was in my little coma I mean."

"You don't need to thank me. You turned around and kept me alive the whole time in the cryo-room."

She seemed a little surprised. "You knew I was there?"

"Of course," he replied. "You were cradling my head against your chest. I had strange maternal flashbacks."

She blushed furiously. "I thought TJ was particularly tender about checking up on Cassie," she remarked.

Andros was on a roll. "Probably because if he damaged her any more, she'd take it out of him later."

Ashley dissolved into giggling, picturing that scene in her mind. Andros was making her laugh, so she knew he was going to be just fine. Then the laughter subsided a bit. "Could you tell when Zhane was there?" she asked him.

Andros nodded solemnly. "Yes. I could feel your tension when he left the second time."

Ashley shrugged. "Of course I was tense, I didn't think he'd be coming back..."

"Ashley," he blurted suddenly. "Will...will you humor me a minute and tell me what he means to you?"

She searched his eyes for a question behind the question. But he seemed simply curious.

"Zhane is my friend..." she started off slowly. "..in the ways that you sometimes can't be..." She waited to see what kind of response that got.

"As in, how I don't play practical jokes to express affection? Things like that."

Ashley found herself giggling again. "Yeah, exactly like that. Zhane fulfills my occasional need for silliness, which is a quality you just don't posess."

He nodded, taking his gaze away finally. "I don't need any. He has enough for both of us."

Ashley was promptly in stitches again. Literally she had stitches, but she was laughing a lot too. Andros forgot his worries and set his mind to getting kissed if he could. After that day, every Ranger plus Alpha deserved one.