Note: This story takes place sometime during Space and before Zhane's return.
A Bubble Bath Gone Awry
With a contented sigh, Andros sank into the bath on the Megaship and, for the first time in recent memory, allowed himself to lower his guard. It had been a long week: Astronema had been sending out monster after monster, a strategy which was succeeding in slowing down the search for Zordon. Between that and trying to get used to the customs of the other Rangers' home planet—he still wasn't comfortable with the whole hand-shaking concept—he was extremely tired and needed some time alone.
For awhile, he amused himself by looking at the things the other Rangers had left on the rim of the tub. There were several bottles of strange-smelling creams ("shampoo" and "conditioner," whatever those were), an odd poofy object whose function he couldn't even begin to guess at, and, inexplicably, a rubber duck. The latter made him smile: he was positive Ashley had put it there. It was yellow, after all.
He was reaching out to pick up the toy when he noticed something else nearby: a pale green ball, big enough to rest comfortably in the palm of his hand. He held it up and examined it closely, noticing that it left a faint residue on his fingers. What on KO-35 is this? he wondered, confused. He knew TJ played some sport called baseball; but baseballs were red and white and had a completely different texture, even if the sizes were similar.
Making a mental note to ask Ashley about it later on—the others would probably have been able to tell him, but he liked having excuses to talk to her—Andros went to place the ball back on the rim of the tub. Its roundness worked against him, however, and almost immediately it slipped off the edge and disappeared beneath the water's surface.
The next instant, he gave a panicked shout and leaped out of the tub: the ball was hissing and sputtering, dissolving into the bathwater and turning everything a sickly green color. In his haste, he tripped over the edge of the tub and fell to the floor with a loud crash. He landed in an inelegant heap and with the fear that he had broken something, but he was more concerned about whatever it was that had just sabotaged his bath.
Before he could scramble to his feet, the door opened and Ashley ran in. "Oh my God, are you—oh my God!"
It was not a proud moment for Andros. He gave a most undignified shriek and lunged for the nearest towel—which, unfortunately, necessitated him moving closer to Ashley, who by now had pressed her hands over her eyes and was muttering something about having heard a crash.
"I'm… I'm decent," he announced as soon as he had wrapped the towel securely around himself.
Ashley slowly lowered her arms, but her cheeks were flaming red and she was very determinedly looking anywhere other than him. "So, um… did you see a spider or something?" she asked in what he thought was supposed to be a joking tone, one which couldn't be pulled off in the mortification of the moment.
Andros had no idea what a spider was, yet he was certain that this green ball was far more sinister. "Ashley," he said hoarsely, giving voice to his worst suspicions, "I think Astronema or one of her servants have been aboard the Megaship."
Ashley's expression immediately switched from embarrassed to shocked. "What happened?" she demanded, her hand automatically flying to her morpher.
"This," Andros answered grimly, gesturing towards the now murky bathwater. "It looked like a ball, but when it fell into the water it started to dissolve into a strange substance. I'm lucky I got out before it reached me. We should have Alpha scan it for toxins or spells; in the meantime, we need to check the security systems—"
All of a sudden, Ashley burst into hysterical laughter. Andros stared at her in stupefaction as she doubled over, clutching her stomach and howling so much that tears came to her eyes.
"A-Ashley?" he asked, wondering if the powdery residue he had noticed on the ball had somehow contaminated the air. He accordingly held his breath.
"Andros," Ashley began when she had calmed down a little, "that's not one of Astronema's attacks… it's a bath bomb."
"A… A what?" Andros questioned, narrowing his eyes. Contrary to what Ashley had said, a bath bomb sounded very menacing indeed.
Giggling, Ashley explained, "It's something you buy at the store and put in the bath. The fizzy stuff is just what makes the water smell nice." She stepped past him—Andros felt his breath hitch when the sleeve of her jacket accidentally grazed his bare chest—and bent over the tub. (This time, he had to look away.)
A second later, he heard her say, "Here, see?"
He glanced back at her; she was holding the bath bomb out to him, or rather what remained of it. Slightly dubious at first, he hesitated. Only at her encouraging nod did he reluctantly take it out of her hands. He noticed that she had painted her nails yellow again, another strange Earth custom that she seemed to enjoy.
After wreaking havoc on his bathwater, the now shriveled and pocked bath bomb was wet and slimy. Andros wrinkled his nose, still perplexed as to why anyone would pay to put this in their tub. "Is this something you use regularly?" he questioned, handing it back to her.
"Not all the time," Ashley told him, "but on special occasions."
"What do you mean, 'special occasions'?"
"Well, you know, if it's been a really long day and I just want to relax," Ashley said.
"Oh," Andros replied, frowning. Now he felt guilty for wasting her bath bomb, and he dejectedly noted, "I guess I still have a lot to learn about your planet."
"Don't worry about it," Ashley shushed him, a warm smile on her face. "At least you know Astronema wasn't trying to kill you in the bath."
"I—" Andros was about to respond when they heard footsteps outside the corridor, followed rapidly by Cassie's voice.
"Was someone screaming in here earlier?" the Pink Ranger inquired, an instant before she stuck her head in through the door. "I thought—oh."
Cassie's eyes took in the situation, lingering on Andros's shirtless state and the bath bomb in Ashley's hand. "I think I'll leave now," she said, smirking at Ashley.
As Cassie walked away, Andros thought she murmured something in a language he did not recognize. "Bow chick-a wow wow," it sounded like.
"What does that mean?" he asked Ashley, perplexed.
Ashley's cheeks were pinker than Cassie's uniform. "I should probably get going, too," she muttered, thrusting the bath bomb at him. "Here, try it out," she suggested, already edging towards the door. "It's fine, I promise!"
Without further ado, she bolted out of the room and left a very confused Andros standing there with the bath bomb. "Cassie, I hate you!" he heard her yell a moment later.
There were some things, Andros supposed, that, as a Kerovian, he would never be able to understand about Earthlings. He wondered if TJ would be able to tell him what "bow chick-a wow wow" meant, since Ashley hadn't seemed to want to explain.
Shrugging, he discarded the towel and, after a pause, lowered the bath bomb into the water. This time he was prepared for the fizzing, and he did, in fact, notice the fragrant smell he had previously overlooked. If Ashley enjoyed it so much, he decided, it was worth a try. (As long as, of course, he didn't think of Ashley in thatway, not while she was enjoying her bath bomb.)
Eying the green water suspiciously, he lifted one leg over the edge of the tub and dubiously stuck a single toe in. The water didn't feel any different than it normally did, but he wasn't taking any chances.
"DECA," he called out, glancing up at the corner of the ceiling where the system had been installed. DECA had no eyes in the Megaship's bathrooms, but she was still on hand in case there was trouble. This, as far as Andros was concerned, was definitely trouble.
"What can you tell me about bath bombs?" he inquired, cautiously swirling the bathwater around with his toe.
"I am sorry, but I do not know what you mean."
"They're…" Andros struggled to remember what Ashley had told him. "They're fizzy."
"Could you be more specific?"
"They're made on Earth. Ashley likes them."
"Might I make a suggestion, Andros?"
"You seem to value Ashley's opinion. Why don't you just try it?"
Andros blinked in surprise. "Er… Well…" He stammered, unable to come up with a reason beyond a strong aversion to pale green bathwater.
I am the Red Ranger, Andros reminded himself in the silence that followed DECA's departure, bravely stepping into the tub. I have dealt with much worse than a bath bomb.
Yet there was a substantial amount of trepidation to be had as he lowered himself into the murky depths of the water, and it was only after he hadn't suffered an allergic reaction or been poisoned or died that he realized that maybe, just maybe, the bath bomb wasn't as sinister as he had been led to believe. As usual, he thought with a smile, Ashley was right.
Besides, despite the fact that his quiet evening had been rather rudely interrupted, it hadn't been a total waste. After all, now he knew what to get Ashley for the Earth holidays.