A Failed Attempt at Game Night
"No," Andros said. "Absolutely not."
That was the answer she'd expected, but Ashley had to lean her head into his shoulder to hide her smile.
"I think it sounds fun," Zhane said brightly. "We'll have to play it sometime."
Cassie didn't bother to even try not to laugh. "Not Twister, then," she said, setting the box to her right with all the others they'd rejected. "Monopoly? Come on," she said, after another round of no. "All that's left is checkers, and you can't play that with seven people."
"We could play in teams," Carlos suggested around a mouthful of popcorn.
"Because checkers is really a team sport—and there'd better be some of that left when I get back to my spot."
"Better hurry, then," TJ said. He pushed himself sitting just long enough to grab the bowl from where it sat next to Carlos, and lowered his head again as he pulled it close to his sleeping bag. "It's tasty."
Ashley giggled as she moved to lie down across her sleeping bag. She caught hold of Andros's hand as she stretched out until she was comfortable, pillowing her head on her arms and closing her eyes. It was a long ride back to Earth from KO-35, and three rounds of Uno had put her half to sleep.
Andros sat with his back against the wall, one knee drawn up into his chest and his other arm around his sister's shoulders.
Ashley was close enough to hear Karone murmur, "Are they always like this?"
"Usually worse," he whispered back. "You should see movie night."
"Movie night?" she repeated.
"It's fun," Ashley said, raising her head. "We tried cooking night a couple of times, but—"
"Zhane nearly killed us all?" Cassie pushed the pile of games outside the circle of sleeping bags. "Teej made good pancakes, though."
"Oh." Karone paused before she drew her eyebrows together and looked at Andros. "Pancakes?"
"We'll make some for breakfast, if you want," TJ offered. He was sitting up now, the popcorn bowl cradled protectively in his lap as Carlos and Cassie inched closer.
"Yeah," Carlos said, stealing a handful. "We'll need a good breakfast before we get back to Earth."
Cassie grabbed up the entire bowl while TJ was batting Carlos's hands away. "Thanks for the reminder," she said, and sighed. "How many reporters do you think there'll be?"
"A lot." Ashley didn't need to look up at Andros to know he was frowning. "They've been wondering for years who the Power Rangers are. Now they know."
"But it wasn't us," Cassie said, words muffled by a mouthful of popcorn.
"They don't know that." Yeah, he was definitely frowning.
"Should we tell them?"
"It... it's up to you," he said. "Do you know what the other Rangers would want?"
"I think we should tell them," TJ said. "We shouldn't name the others—they can do that themselves if they want to later—but I don't want to take credit for everything they did."
Carlos nodded. "Neither do I."
Ashley tilted her head back to watch Andros. "What will they ask?"
"They'll want to know how you got your powers, first of all," he said, touching her cheek. "How long you've had them, who knew about it, why you kept it secret, and—"
"And what kind of pajamas you wear, your favorite ice cream flavor, and whether or not you're all having sex with each other," Zhane finished.
Ashley heard Carlos muffle a snort of laughter, but Andros didn't smile. "You should expect questions that have nothing to do with being a Ranger."
"They'll want to know about me," Karone said quietly. "Who I am."
"We won't tell them a thing," Ashley promised.
She shrugged. "You don't have to lie."
"No," Cassie said. "That's not our story to tell."
Andros smiled faintly at that. "You don't owe them anything."
"I tried to destroy their world," she said. "I think they would like to know why."
"That wasn't your fault. Dark Specter brainwashed you."
"Chocolate," Zhane said, when Karone opened her mouth to argue. "That's what I always said my favorite ice cream flavor was."
Ashley squeezed Andros's fingers. He sighed, but let it go. "Your favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla."
"I thought chocolate made me sound more interesting." Zhane shrugged. "If the questions get annoying, just have Andros glare them down for you. He's scary."
"Terrifying," Ashley agreed, kissing his fingers. She might take him up on that, though—it wasn't that she minded the questions, exactly, because she knew she would be curious, too, but she'd rather talk to her family first, and she definitely didn't want to answer anything personal.
"I don't like interviews," was all Andros said.
"You? Don't like interviews?" Cassie swallowed the last of the popcorn. "Now there's a shock."
"He's popular with the reporters, though." Zhane snickered when Andros glared at them both. "They like to write about him. A lot."
"What'd you do to make yourself so interesting?" Ashley craned her neck backwards again.
For a second she thought he might actually answer. He didn't, but she thought the way he pressed his lips together was meant to hide a smirk.
"I'm not allowed to tell you," Zhane said, when she looked at him next. "Sworn to secrecy."
Andros muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, "You'd better be," which did nothing to diminish her curiosity.
"I never needed to worry about interviews." Karone sounded the teensiest bit smug. It faded when she added, "That was the one good thing about everyone being afraid of me."
"That's what you get for becoming one of the good guys," TJ teased, grinning at her from across the circle. "Now you have to suffer with the rest of us."
"Is it too late to change my mind?" She stuck her tongue out at him, and Andros actually laughed.
Ashley's smile widened as the idea struck her. "Everyone sit up," she said. "Get into a circle."
Andros's look said clearly, "I'm not going to like this, am I?" but he scooted forward with the rest of them until they were within reach of each other.
"Okay," she said. "Now we lie down on our backs, with our head on the stomach of the person to our right.
"You don't have to," she added, when Andros and Karone gave her equally skeptical looks, "but it's fun, I promise."
"I'll... try." Karone still sounded dubious, but she leaned forward and poked Andros in the shoulder. "Come on."
It didn't take long once they were settled. Ashley was never good at not laughing, and once she started giggling there was no hope for the rest of them.
By the time she caught her breath again, she was weak from laughter and her ribs ached from it, but nothing would wipe the smile off of her face.
They stayed that way for awhile, quiet except for the occasional gasp for breath until Carlos said, "We're going to need some more popcorn."
It was almost a full second before Ashley started laughing again.