Chapter 5

The sun had long since set by the time Dillon pulled the Fury into the garage and shut off the engine. Sighed.

Longest. Day. Ever.

He glanced over to his passenger. "Ziggy." No response from the figure curled up against the door. Dillon thought that was fair, considering the kid was probably the only person on the planet who'd had a longer day than he had. Guy was out. Looked almost peaceful, really. Probably would've looked more peaceful without the black eye and various other cuts and bruises. Made Dillon so mad. That those thugs had found the kid just to hurt him, and Dillon had come very terribly close to never seeing him again, and he would never even have known why, and there would have been a whole new set of nightmares. If there wasn't already. But Ziggy was right there. Sleeping. Almost peaceful. Made Dillon so glad. He unbuckled his seatbelt. "Hey. Zig." Reached over and shook the nearest shoulder.

There was an immediate hiss, "Ah, don't," and Ziggy flinched away from him, plunking his head against the window. Another hiss, and hands were raised defensively, and Ziggy didn't seem to understand where he was.

"Hey." Dillon waited for bleary, anxious eyes to focus on him. Watched Ziggy relax as his head caught up to where they were. "Sorry," he shrugged, honestly remorseful. "Forgot." Last thing Ziggy needed right then was to get jostled. Dillon had gone with him into the trauma unit. They'd taken his shirt off, and there had been bruises on top of bruises and raw, open scrapes on top of those. Kid was just generally torn up.

"'s okay." Ziggy shook his head. "We home?"

I don't know. Maybe. Dillon cleared his throat and answered what Ziggy was asking. "Yeah. We're here."

"Good." Ziggy suddenly frowned. Rubbed his face. "Did you hit me?"

"What? No."

"Oh. Yeah, you wouldn't. Thank you. Very much." He turned and pulled the door handle, heaving a quiet groan as he shoved the door open like it weighed a ton. "Come on."

Dillon rolled his eyes and followed suit. "I don't think I like you on pain meds."

"You made me take 'em. I…" he trailed off while thinking of the word, "protested."

Before Dillon could say anything else, there were Rangers everywhere.

"There you guys are." The irritation in Summer's voice almost covered the worry. That didn't remind Dillon of anyone. "Where…Ziggy." And there was the horror.

"Good grief, man!" Flynn said as he stepped toward the Green Ranger, squinting. "Dr. K said you might have a wrist injury. You look as if you've been mauled! Like by a lion. You weren't this bad when we got back; what's happened?"

Scott's eyebrows were somewhere up under his ridiculous hair. He glanced at Dillon. "You didn't do that to him, right?"

Dillon rolled his eyes. "I know that's not a serious question."

"Where did you two go?" Summer demanded.

"The hospital." Of course.

Ziggy raised his hand. "I hate it there by the way."

"He does."

Ranger Green nodded heavily. "Terrible things happen."

Dillon tugged him forward, passed the three gaping senior members of the team and toward the lower level bathroom. "Hang tight a second." He retreated up the stairs and into his and Ziggy's room. He rummaged through Ziggy's drawer, grabbing socks and boxers, and he found an old pair of dark gray sweat pants, but all Ziggy had otherwise were t-shirts. Kid had nothing warmer. Kidding me. Dillon picked through his own stuff, pulled out a black sweat shirt, and headed downstairs. By the time he got there, Ziggy was in the center of a circle of Ranger concern and trying to figure out whether or not he loved it.

"Really it wasn't anything anyone with…supremely honed defensive skills and a deep-seated sense of justice wouldn't've done." Maybe Dillon's memory was a little screwy, but he was pretty sure he'd never heard anyone hopped up on pain meds string together a sentence like that. Even if Ziggy was slurring a little.

Summer had her hand on his arm. If the way Scott and Flynn were keeping close was any indication, she wasn't the only one worried their newest member might topple over.

"Wait." Flynn looked confused. He wasn't the only one either. "So…you managed to take down a mafia drug lord with…a hospital-issue wheelchair?"

"And Dillon," Ziggy nodded. "And gravity."

" 'Gravity' isn't the name of another one of your street friends, is it?" Scott asked.

"No." Ziggy looked vaguely thoughtful. "I did know a fence once who called himself Sir Isaac Newton. Good guy. Wore these weird…" he gestured absently around his collar, "shirts. An' any time you had to move stolen goods, he'd always, always give you a fair…"

"O-kay," Dillon cut him off, coming up behind him. "Come on." He had to search for an unscathed patch of arm to grab and steer Ziggy into the bathroom. "Get cleaned up. Take a bath, not a shower." Last thing the kid needed was to slip and brain himself on the shower floor. "Do not lock the door, and do not fall asleep. You got ten minutes. You take more than ten minutes, I send Summer in to check on you." Ziggy's ears turned red, and he looked horrified. "Yeah. You don't want that. I don't think anybody wants that." He dumped the clothes into his roommate's arms and ended with a condescending tousle of already-mussed hair and an impatient, "Ten minutes starts now."

He'd made it to the bathroom door before he heard "Dillon?"

Dillon turned. "Mm?"

Ziggy looked puzzled and it made him look helpless. He pulled out the folded sweatshirt and held it out by one sleeve. "This isn't mine."

Dillon thought that was pretty obvious. "Borrow it."

Ziggy looked more helpless. He still held out the shirt and quit looking at Dillon. Didn't move for a second. Then, "I don't want it," he said quietly.

Eyebrows shot up. That was sort of insulting. "Why?"

"I…" Ziggy stopped. Dillon braced himself for some story, some lie, because whenever Ziggy got weird like this there was always a reason, and Dillon would probably never know what those reasons were. But Ziggy surprised him. "I don't want to say."

Dillon frowned. "Say anyway."

"Dillon," Ziggy sighed. "I…lost your jacket." Cringed a little.

Dillon waited for the something else that would explain why Ziggy was so reluctant. Nothing else was forthcoming. "I know." Duh.

Ziggy's head popped up. Shock. "You know?"

"Yeah. I noticed. I'm not blind."

"You didn't say anything." It was almost an accusation until he caught himself. "I mean I…I'm sorry. It just seemed like the only way to get away from him, and he was saying…stuff, an' he was smiling, and he was gonna…and then I…I was medicated at the time, right? Didn't know what I was doing really. So…"

"Zig." The younger boy quit rambling at the floor and winced a little. Bracing himself? Dillon shook his head. Unbelievable. What was the kid thinking? "It was a jacket."

"It was yours." Stubborn.

"Yeah. Doesn't upset me."

"Really?" Surprise. Hope. "Why?"

"You're still breathing." Dillon shrugged. "Pretty easy trade." He gave a reluctant, lop-sided grin. "Besides, I can just have them order me a new one when they order you yours."

"Think they'll get me one? My track record with jackets isn't real encouraging of late. I'm...irresponsible." He nodded like he wasn't being serious.

"If it means you don't get dead," Dillon said, voice a little more serious than he meant it to be, "lose the jacket. Every time. You hang onto the jacket and get yourself hurt," or worse "then you'll see me mad."

"Oh." Thinking that made it issue resolved, Dillon turned back toward the door. Should've known better. "Dillon?"

He turned back again, exasperated. "What?"

Ziggy paused and Dillon waited. "Thank you." Ziggy was a con artist. Yes. That was true. But right then—the brown eyes glazed over with exhaustion and pain, glancing up at him under the eyelashes, bashful of all things—didn't take a genius to figure out that wasn't all he was. He was a lonely kid in way over his head. He was mouthy and obnoxious and a thief and a liar. He was afraid of things he had every right to be afraid of. He was stubborn and crafty and mysterious and maddening. And he was—maybe—Dillon's best friend.

Dillon opened his mouth, ready to shrug off the sincere-bordering-on-sappy thanks, but Ziggy beat him to the punch.

"Thank you for taking my kitchen duty for…I believe we said a month, didn't we?" The innocence. Oh, the innocence.

Dillon felt his jaw drop. "What…"

Suddenly there was a little slip of paper fluttering around in Ranger Green's hand. "Digits. Seven of them. Written in pink gel ink with…oh. Is that glitter?" Innocence was gone. Smugness reigned. "Cute."

Dillon grabbed the paper. "She did not give you her number."

"She did." Grinning like the proverbial cat. "And she wants you to call her before the weekend."

"Wha…You…" Realization dawned, and Dillon covered his disbelieving smirk with a hard glare. "You got her number for me?" Oh, Dillon had to resist the urge to knock the kid upside the head. Concussion and all.

"Don't think we ever covered that in the rules. Kind of a gray area. But I believe I did get her number. Think that meets all…the stated requirements."

"I'm not calling her."

"I told her that. She thought I was lying. Wasn't much I could do about that."

"You're a rotten cheater."

"But a rotten cheater who won't have to scrub dishes for a month."

"I could kill you."

"Well then you'd be doing my chores forever."

Dillon shook his head, looking at the paper. Seven numbers. Signed Leah. With a heart. He glanced up at Ziggy, and his glare turned into a tight-lipped grin. Swung an arm and cuffed Ziggy lightly in the side of the head. Couldn't have hurt. "I'm outraged."


Rough sigh that was not a chuckle. "Just hurry up. Don't drown."

"Good advice."

Grinning, Dillon tried again to leave. This time he nearly made it. Could've made it if he'd pretended not to hear.

"You didn't have to, you know." Voice was suddenly quiet. Saying more things than the words could. "None of it."

This time when Dillon stopped, he didn't turn. "Think I did actually."

"Why?" It was a hesitant sort of question. The kind the asker wasn't sure he should ask.

"Well, word on the street is," Dillon said, glancing over his shoulder, "me and you are brothers."

This time Dillon made it out the door, shutting it firmly behind him. But not before he caught a glimpse of the sudden delighted smile. Just about scorched his retinas.

Summer hadn't moved since Dillon had ushered Ziggy off. Come to think of it, neither had Flynn or Scott. At last Flynn reached up and scratched his head. "Looked sort of rough, didn't he?"

"Only Ziggy," Scott sighed, eyebrows having still not lowered. "Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone in Corinth wants our newest Ranger dead?"

"Trust me," Dillon said, appearing next to Summer. "It's not just you."

Summer sent him a short welcome smile. "Great. So do we know why everyone in Corinth wants our newest Ranger dead?"

"We don't." Dillon glanced toward the closed bathroom door. "He does, though."

"Not saying, I take it?" Flynn ventured.

Dillon shrugged. "Not yet."

Scott didn't look happy about it. Not that any of them were particularly happy about it. "It's kind of a safety issue."

"Thought I noticed that."

"It's gonna be hard to fight Venjix if we have to fight our own people, too."

"Just 'cause they're people doesn't make them our own. There were four of them. Against Ziggy." Dillon shook his head, face grim and set. "They smiled."

Dr. K's voice really shouldn't surprise them anymore. "Our primary objective here is to defeat Venjix and secure the future of humanity." There was a pause. "With that stated and unquestioned, any threat to one of our Operators is a threat to the future of humanity. And should be treated as such." The danger in the voice caused all of them to look at each other.

Flynn grinned. "The Doc's been emotional like this since we found out Ziggy was hurt."

"I assure you, emotion has nothing to do with it. I am merely stating…"

"Yeah, yeah. We hear you," Summer tried to keep a straight face. "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us."

"As a necessity," the doctor practically sniffed. "Yes, of course."

"Oh, now you're just being sappy." Flynn was pushing buttons on purpose now.

"I do not understand how stating relevant and necessary facts could possibly constitute as 'sappy.' Ranger Operator Series Blue, I'd rather you kept your sentimental fantasizing to yourself as it serves no purpose in an open forum where we should be discussing pertinent information applicable to our purpose."

"Really, I had no idea you were so sentimental. Honestly, if saving the world doesn't work out for you, might I suggest writing greeting cards. Yours is a rare gift. Truly." There was such joy in Flynn's snarkiness.

Scott was practically giggling.

"This conversation is now over. Obviously you're too delirious with fatigue to be much use to me at the moment. I suggest you get a good night's rest, Series Blue."

Scott slapped his friend's shoulder. "That's probably not-so-subtle Dr. K-speak for, 'I'm going to run you 'til you drop tomorrow."

"Oi. Well. I suppose I could use a good challenge. As if today weren't enough of one." His grimace was still part smile.

Openly grinning, Summer nudged Dillon. "Come on. You hungry?"

"Yeah, actually."

"I made muffins," Flynn volunteered, and he had, and he was still excited about them. He started toward the kitchen, and one of the things Summer liked best about him was that no matter what, he always seemed like he was winning.

Dillon leaned toward Summer. "I thought smoothies were his specialty."

"Oh, they are," she agreed. "But it was a box recipe this time, and he only tried to improve them a little." At his look she continued. "It worked out. They're good. Not like last time."

"The blue ones," Scott shuddered as he followed after Flynn.

Dillon looked uncertain. "Blueberry?"

Summer winced. "Apple cinnamon." Ooh, that had been a bad day. Before Dillon could respond, the phone rang on the side table by the couch. Summer grabbed the handset, reflexively sobering. "Hello?"

"Hello." She didn't immediately recognize the voice. Male. Perhaps older. Dillon stood closer, frowning. "I was looking for Ziggy Grover. Is this his residence?"

In light of recent events, Summer was feeling quite protective and quite suspicious of anyone who came querying about her Ranger Green. "I'm sorry, who is this?"

"Oh, right. I'm Dr. Morgan. I treated the boy's wrist this evening, and I heard there was some trouble before he could get himself released. I was booked up with some other patients and didn't get to see him before they let him go. Just wanted to check in with him, make sure he was all right. This is the number he listed in his chart, so…"

Dillon's eyebrows were raised, and he was mouthing questions at her about who was calling.

"Oh. Dr. Morgan." She looked at Dillon, and he relaxed a bit, and it made her relax, but his eyes were still questioning. "Yeah, Ziggy lives here. But…he's in the shower now, cleaning up."

"I see. Could I speak with his brother?"

"His brother?" Oh. That blew her away. There was a lot about Ziggy she didn't know. She admitted, "I…didn't know he had a…"

"That's for me." Dillon reached for the phone, and she released it without thinking. "Dr. Morgan. Something wrong?" The anxiousness was written into the lines of his face, but whatever the doctor said next smoothed them out pretty quickly. It was Summer's turn to try to get Dillon to answer her questioning eyes. "Oh. Good. No, yeah, he's fine. I mean, he's pretty banged up, but he'll live." He paused, and Summer tried to ask, but he held up a hand, and she rolled her eyes. "It was Dr.…Youse I think she said." He paused as the doctor spoke again and Summer motioned for speaker phone, and Dillon ignored her, and she wanted to punch him. He snorted, "No. I don't think Ziggy liked her either. How he was with you…apparently that was him relaxed. No, she made him nervous. He kept saying something about Lincoln at least being better than Margaret Hamilton…?" She didn't need speakerphone to hear the doctor laughing on the other end of the line. Dillon looked like he thought it was funny but didn't really get the joke.

Eventually this Dr. Morgan must've sobered and been content with the answers he'd gotten. She could tell the conversation was winding down. "Okay. I will. Thanks for calling. Yeah. Bye." He ended the call. Finally seemed to notice Summer standing there. "What?"

"His brother?" Her smile was slow and wide. Everyone knew Ziggy was Dillon's responsibility. It went unspoken, sure, but everyone knew it from the time Dillon brought the kid home like some yappy little puppy he had no idea what to do with. It was just so insanely gratifying to hear him acknowledge it.

Dillon shrugged. "It's what they wanted to hear to let me go back with him."

Summer thought she would melt. It was very difficult to keep herself from just dissolving into a puddle of awwww… right there on the floor.

Dillon rolled his eyes like a guy. "Don't look at me like that."

"It's kind of adorable," she told him, unrepentant.

"I'm not adorable."

"Not usually. You've definitely got some in you, though." He gave her a much more tolerable version of his usual glare. "Don't worry," she held up her hands and tried not to be smug. Well, sort of tried. "I won't spread it around. Scout's honor." She grinned. "Although suddenly I feel compelled to buy you bunk beds and to carry a picture of you wearing matching sweaters."

"You're not funny."

"I think I'm kinda funny."

"You would." He walked past her all blustery, and it surprised her she knew him well enough to know it was mostly an act. Her grin widened, but she took all the teasing out of it. She really didn't want to tease him too much about finding a little piece of family in Ziggy. They both needed it too much.

"Dillon," she said, and he turned back without looking annoyed. She felt warmer these days when she looked at him and he looked back without looking annoyed. "I'm sort of proud of you," she said in confidence. Then shrugged. "I mean I know I'm not really in a position to take any credit for you, but I'm proud knowing you."

He quirked an eyebrow. "I actually get that."

"Really?" 'Cause she didn't completely.

"Mmhm. Come on. I'm not eating any of these muffins 'til I see you take a bite first."

She snorted. "Chivalry is dead."

"If there was a door, I'd hold it open for you."

"Oh, thanks so much, good sir."

"Milady." And before he went to the kitchen, he crossed back to the bathroom door and knocked twice loudly. "Ziggy? You still conscious?"

The returning voice was muffled by the running shower. "Umm. Let me check. Yep. Also I'm pretty sure I haven't drowned yet."

"Good news."

"Soap hurts."

"That's life."

Ziggy garbled some response that Summer didn't quite catch, and Dillon chuckled and told him he had two more minutes. She did catch the theatrical moan. They were like brothers, she thought. And actually, they sort of had been since she first met them. Scott and Flynn were brothers, too, but that was different. That was born of common goals and interests and respect and necessity. Dillon and Ziggy, though, they had something else. Something all about choice. And even if it had been coincidence, at the end of the day, it wasn't accident. Dillon took care of Ziggy, and Ziggy got Dillon out of his head, and it was natural and unspoken and on purpose. They were opposites in about every way. They even got on each other's nerves. Daily. But she'd seen each of them do something selfless and beyond the call for the sake of the other on numerous occasions. Brought out the best and each other. Because what she saw now when she looked at them both was certainly different than the brooding, overconfident jerk she'd met in Dillon or the babbling idiot she'd met in Ziggy. They'd both been loners who should never have been alone. Maybe that's why they'd bonded so quickly.

"Summer. I told him if he wasn't out in two minutes you'd be in to check on him."

She raised her eyebrows. "I don't want that."

He smiled, and there was humor. "Nobody wants that."

Summer hardly knew how to respond. "Muffins?" she offered.


Ziggy awoke rather unpleasantly. He must've shifted or something because the ache in his ribs flared just this side of unbearable. He muffled a groan in the crook of his arm and then lifted his head, foggy brain trying to process where he was. There was a flash of panic as he realized this was definitely not his bed and not his room. And just as quickly, he relaxed. No, it wasn't his bed. It was the couch.

The shower had relaxed some of the soreness out of him, but even so, stairs had so not seemed like a good idea. He'd suggested a movie for form's sake, knowing he wouldn't last through the opening credits, planning to quietly pass out while everyone else went to bed. Curiously enough, though, Dillon—who by all rights should've been sick to death of him—had plopped down next to him on the couch. Then Summer sat on Dillon's other side, smiling and suggesting movie titles. Flynn had sprawled on the floor with his usual cheeriness, and there had been banana nut muffins that were delicious, and even Scott came in and claimed the recliner, tossing him a grin and the phrase "Welcome to the freak show," which Ziggy didn't understand, but it sounded like an actual welcome, and before he could ask, Scott was shooting down all the titles Summer suggested and catching all the pillows she threw. It had been late. Didn't make sense that they should want to watch a movie right then. But all of them stayed. And now, movie over, lights dim in the early morning, there was a blanket draped over him that he was sure hadn't been there before. And everyone was still there. Albeit in different places.

Summer was curled in the recliner now tilted all the way back. Scott had crashed on the floor right in front of the coffee table, and Flynn lay a few feet away sleeping on his side facing away from the TV, one cushion under his head, another clutched in his arms. And Dillon was sitting upright on the other end of the sofa, and he could've been awake if it hadn't been for the slow breathing and chin sunk to his chest.

Ziggy looked at all of them, gathered around him, and he thought, this is what it must be like. Not that he had much to compare it to, but this is what it must be like to belong somewhere. He'd seen it in Summer and Scott and Flynn. They were where they knew where they were supposed to be, and they had other people who knew it, too. And maybe this wasn't exactly the same. Because Ziggy really wasn't where he was supposed to be at all, and he knew it and they knew it, but he was there, and they didn't seem to actively want him gone so much anymore. It was awesome.

Well, except for the rather intense pain that threaded all through him. Apparently sleeping, though he'd been convinced it was all he really needed, had allowed all his abused muscles to stiffen and all the blood to settle in his chest and all the bruises to settle in deep and all the medication to wear off. Slowly, carefully, Ziggy eased himself up, keeping all the sounds of pain muffled in the back of his throat. He was sitting then, up on the couch, and he felt sort of feverish and shaky, and it seemed like a good idea to take a break. He usually ran a low grade fever after getting hurt like this. Wasn't sure why, but it was annoying, though. Made everything even more uncomfortable and harder to think straight and harder to not cry like a little girl. He took a couple quiet deep breaths. He'd had pills. Dillon had made sure they picked up his pills, and he wanted them now. Where were they? His eyes scanned around, and it took an inordinately long time to spot them on the coffee table right under his nose. Oh.

He reached forward to get them, and had to stop, and would've shouted if nobody had been around. Too fast. Don't move so fast. Why was the coffee table so far away? He had to bend forward at the waist to reach out to get them. It was like three feet. This shouldn't be so hard. He reached out again with his left hand, wrapping his right around his sore middle, and just a little further, and the room had gone from warm to hot, and he blamed his lack of depth perception on the stupid dim lighting because his brace-covered left hand bumped the bottle, and it tipped and rolled slowly off the other side of the coffee table. Fell to the floor with hardly a sound, and all those pills were inside and just so far away. Ziggy hung his head and let out a small sigh that was not even close to a sob. He had to work up a lot of courage to get his legs ready to lift him, because now there'd be walking and bending, and this was going to hurt.

He began to move forward, ready to lever himself up, when there was an arm stretched out in front of him, blocking him from going any farther. Startled him. He looked over, and Dillon was watching him.

"Where are you going?"

"Uh…I…" He was going to lie. Because people think you're weak when you take medicine when you hurt, and you should never let people think you're weak because then that gives them license to hurt you, and… He shook his head, quieting instincts. This wasn't people. This was Dillon. "The pills fell." He pointed. And he was a little proud of himself for telling the truth. "I got 'em."


He swiveled his head toward Dillon, and there was shock and hurt. Dillon said he needed the pills, and Dillon made him get the pills, so why would Dillon not let him have them now when he hurt so bad? "B-But I…I need…" He stopped. Were instincts right? Was Dillon the same as people?

Dillon shook his head. "You're in a roomful of people, moron," he said quietly, almost scolding. "Are you serious?"

Ziggy wasn't sure what that meant, and he was too muddled to know how to pretend, and he didn't remember how to smile like he was dumb.

Dillon sighed and explained. "You stay put." The arm that had cut off his pain pill rescue mission pushed him gently back into the cushions. "I got this. Next time wake somebody up." Shook his head and said, "Crazy," like he was talking to himself.

And Dillon was standing and moving, and bending down without effort, and in three seconds he was holding pills when it would've taken Ziggy three minutes and probably would've felt like three years.

"Oh," he croaked. It seemed simple, and he felt silly for still being so amazed.

"Yeah. I'm going to get a glass of water. You need anything else?" Ziggy shook his head. "Fine. Try to get up again, I may kill you."

"Seems extreme."

"Then don't move."

And Dillon disappeared, and Ziggy had to wonder why he had to wait for Dillon to get a glass of water to take his pills, and it took almost until Dillon got back to figure out the water was for him. Two pills were held out, and a glass of water was held out, and Dillon looked impatient, but the impatience wasn't real, it was just something to paste over the concern, and there was fever, and that's why there were tears.

Ziggy swallowed and blinked and accepted the pills and the glass without saying anything. Dillon sat next to him, and their shoulders touched, and Ziggy's throat was almost too tight for the pills to fit down.

"You should actually probably take those with food," Dillon said with unhappy hindsight.

Ziggy shook his head. He wasn't hungry. At all. He was probably still full of muffins.

"You okay?"

A nod. Ziggy would've trusted Ronin more than he trusted his voice right then.

"You're not gonna be sick, are you?"

Shook his head again. Stop being nice, Dillon. Please. It was much easier to be okay when everyone expected you to suck it up and keep your mouth shut. Easier to pretend when pretending was the only option you had.

"Okay. Say something so I know you're not choking on pills."

Well. He sort of was choking. Just not on pills. He did not want to say something and sound all broken and weepy. And besides, when words started going, sometimes they didn't stop, and more of them came out than were supposed to, and a lot of hurt and sadness and worry and aloneness would all come tumbling out, and that'd be a shame because he'd spent a lot of time saving all that up to lose it all now. So he kept his mouth shut. He was no fool.


He hated it when Dillon called him that. Hated it. Because he liked it too much.

There were hands on his shoulders, sort of frantic, and it hurt, and he was turned to face Dillon, and he didn't look up, but then there was a hand on his jaw, tilting his face up, and that he couldn't fight.

"Okay, I'm serious, Ziggy, if you're not dying, you gotta say something before I sound the alarm."

"'m okay, Dillon; stop," he begged, and he jerked his head away, and the motion freed one of those traitorous tears that had been building up in his eyes, and it slipped down his face, and he swiped it away quick, but Dillon had probably seen, and that was horrifying. He sat still, concentrating on the sound of his breathing and gathering himself together and planning all the ways he could be funny and inconsequential and forgettable for the next few days until Dillon couldn't remember he was kind of head case.

"Sorry," Dillon said quickly, and he didn't understand, and at least everyone else was still asleep.

"'s fine." Real convincing there. "Medicine makes me loopy."

"You're already sort of loopy."

Ziggy snorted accidentally, mostly because it was kind of funny that Dillon said the word 'loopy,' and that he probably really could blame on the drugs.

"Just lay down. Sleep it off."

Ziggy shook his head. He probably did need the sleep. But he didn't want to lay down. It was uncomfortable and he felt like he couldn't breathe right, and that may have been in his head, or it may have had something to do with his banged up ribs, he wasn't sure. "Jus' wanna sit for awhile."

"Fine," Dillon sighed, and he was probably being patronizing, and Ziggy couldn't imagine why. Dillon reached over and tugged the oversized sweat shirt, and Ziggy found himself leaning against a Ranger Black, head pillowed on the front of a shoulder, and it took pressure off his ribs, and it felt better, but it was leaning, and that wasn't allowed. "But you gotta get up before the others do. Summer's already planning bunk beds and Christmas cards." That didn't make sense, and Dillon must not realize that Ziggy had accidentally ended up leaning on him, and he tried to get up, and he forgot about slowly, and it hurt.

He hissed. Ow.

"Hey, stop moving. Was that your fault or mine?"

"Mine," Ziggy admitted through his teeth. "Sorry."

"Just quit moving around. You need something else?"

"No. 'm okay."

"Yeah. I'll probably never believe you again when you say that."


Big, Black Ranger sigh. But Ziggy was still leaning, and it seemed like Dillon's idea. And Dillon couldn't have known that's what Ziggy needed. People never just knew. People never just cared. Dillon was never just people. "You really feel okay now? You got close to not okay a whole lot of times recently."

That was true. And there was quiet worry somewhere in the words, and every time Ziggy had gotten close to not okay—to dead—Dillon was the one who showed up being furious. "Yeah. 's better now," he whispered. "Thanks."

There was a grunt that probably meant 'You're welcome.'

It was quiet for a minute, and Ziggy was actually comfortable, and gradually, he let tense, sore muscles relax, and Dillon didn't say anything. "Dillon?"

"You really can't go three minutes without saying something, can you?"

"Not counting sleep or unconsciousness, my record is forty-two minutes. Actually."

"You talk in your sleep."

"I do not."

Dillon shrugged, and Ziggy sure hoped he was lying. Ziggy did not want to talk in his sleep. He had too many nightmares he didn't want to give away. "What were you gonna say?" Dillon's voice brought him back to his original point.

"Nothing. Just…I don't think I could stay awake a whole lot longer."

"That's the general idea. Take a nap, psycho."

"What about you?"

"I don't sleep."

Ziggy rolled his eyes. "Yes you do." Maybe not as much as normal people, but he did sleep. And that wasn't what Ziggy was asking anyway. This might be comfortable for Ziggy, but he didn't see how it could be for Dillon, and if Ziggy fell asleep, he didn't want Dillon to feel like he couldn't move.

"I'm fine."

"If you want…"

"You got really close to not okay a lot of times recently," was all Dillon said. And the way he said it was like he was saying something. Ziggy's mouth clicked shut. It hadn't occurred to him, hadn't even begun to occur to him. That maybe Dillon being nice, staying close, wasn't just because he thought Ziggy needed it. Maybe Dillon was being nice, staying close, because he thought he needed it? Had it really bothered Dillon that much? Ziggy was mind-boggled. Positively. He'd never been irreplaceable. And yeah, so as the Green Ranger, what with the DNA-such-and-such bonding with the bio-yadda-yadda, technically, as an Operator, he was irreplaceable. But this wasn't about that. This was somebody who maybe would've missed him. Who'd been scared for him. That was…new.

And he could've been wrong, and maybe Dillon didn't mean it how it sounded. But Dillon was there. Giving him what he needed, not demanding something in return, not preying on his weakness. Just there. Just teammates. Just friends. Just family?

"You didn't let anything bad happen," Ziggy assured. Dillon snorted. "Well, okay, bad things happen. I'm kind of a magnet. Can't help that. But you didn't let anything...irreversible happen."

Dillon didn't say anything. Ziggy closed his eyes. Enjoyed the quiet for awhile. He could hear Summer and Scott and Flynn breathing, peaceful and near and already familiar. They were there because he was. Hadn't made it to their beds because he hadn't made it to his. And that was how teams worked, wasn't it? Fresno Bob always talked about the Scorpion cartel like they were a family, and once upon a time Ziggy thought that was what he wanted, but even that was never, never like this. When he'd bonded with the morpher, he wasn't thinking about consequences. It just seemed like the only option, the only way to keep it from Tenaya 7, and he'd fumbled, and it had activated on his wrist, and it was done. He hadn't wanted to be the Green Ranger. Not at all.

"Nothing irreversible." Ziggy barely heard the whispered words, he mostly felt them under his ear. He wasn't sure if Dillon was talking to him or just talking. It didn't seem like Dillon would just be talking. And the words were low and deeply serious. "Promise." He wondered if Dillon thought he was asleep because he didn't think he was supposed to hear that. But it made him feel warm and about a million times stronger and about a million times more invincible.

No, he hadn't wanted to be the Green Ranger at all. But then…he kind of did. Kind of more than anything. Even if it was kind of by accident.

A/N: Remember how this was supposed to be a nice short, little oneshot? Yeah, remember that? Well, this chapter was supposed to be the shortest of them all. ::Checks word count. Is longest.:: So no. No self control. Mmhm, feel free to mock. Anyway, to celebrate my first official completed story to decorate my profile (or more likely because apparently I don't have the ability to write oneshots), thought I'd let you know I'm planning a sequel to this. After all, why is Ziggy so paranoid about hospitals? And what happened to Ronin between now and "Ranger Green"? And this former-Blue Crew Vick character-he get picked up by the police or what? So this sequel is to answer such questions as that, mostly the first, less the second and third. Hope you enjoyed. I had ridiculous amounts of fun. Thanks ever so to those who reviewed. It does much to brighten the day. Oh, and merry Christmas!