It's below 30 degrees, but Ziggy is sitting outside when Dillon drives up, thin coat pulled tight around his middle. Chill wind whips through his curly hair, making it messier than usual. He looks small and very alone. Dillon clenches and unclenches his grip on the steering wheel, counts to ten in his head and tells himself very clearly that he has to make Ziggy safe before he can pound anyone's face in. When he feels more in control, he revs the engine to get Ziggy's attention, rolling down the window and saying, "Get in."

Ziggy follows Dillon's order carefully, uncurling from the sidewalk in shifts and slipping gingerly into the passenger seat. Ziggy doesn't say anything and Dillon stares at the bruises, the caked blood, Ziggy's shallow breaths. He sees the boy favoring his right foot, catalogues the tears in his clothes. Dillon might not have names and faces yet, but someone is going to pay in blood.

"Anything fatal?" he asks tightly.

Ziggy is bracing himself against the door while Dillon peels away from the curb, barely paying attention to the road. His voice is strained and exhausted when he replies, "No. Couple cracked ribs maybe. Sprained ankle." Ziggy closes his eyes, rolls his head onto the window. "Probably a broken wrist."

"Jesus, Ziggy!"

The boy winces, but doesn't move, doesn't open his eyes.

Breathe, Dillon. Count to ten, twenty, fifty. "We're going to the hospital."

"No!" shouts Ziggy, suddenly wild-eyed. "No. Not there."

"Ziggy-"

"Dillon, please," and Ziggy sounds panicked, terrified. "Please not there."

"You know anyone else that can patch up a broken bone?" spits Dillon and he's doing eighty in a fourty-five, driving recklessly, anger and fear and helplessness running rampant in his veins.

Ziggy has five long, thin fingers clenched tight around the door handle, almost as though in preparation to bail. Dillon wonders if he would, if the hospital scares Ziggy enough to justify him launching out of a high-speed automobile only hours after having the shit kicked out him. The Black Ranger wants to say no, wants to think his friend has more sense than that, but the tense line of Ziggy's body, the whites of his eyes and the firm set of his mouth tell a different story.

Dillon's fist connecting loudly with the window causes Ziggy to jump, but Dillon had to punch something. "Fine," he bites out. "Where are we going then?"

"I might know a guy," Ziggy tells him cautiously and then silence reigns, broken only by Ziggy's pained voice supplying directions.

.

Ziggy's 'guy' turns out to have a doctor for a wife. The man greets Ziggy with more surprise at seeing him in the city than seeing him covered in bruises, but he ushers them inside all the same. The wife is less friendly, eyeing them both with unconcealed suspicion.

"You should not be here, Grover. And you should not have brought another."

Ziggy shifts his eyes to Dillon quickly and away again; says, "He's family," all low and serious.

She sniffs disbelievingly, but lets it go. "It will cost you; standard is higher now that we have less supplies in the city."

"Dorothy—"

"No exceptions. If you cannot pay, I cannot help you."

Dillon doesn't know what the standard is and he likes this 'Dorothy' not at all, but Ziggy is just slightly leaning against Dillon for support, holding his wrist awkwardly, and Dillon says, "It'll be covered." He leaves no room for argument and Ziggy shoots him a startled glance. The Green Ranger recovers swiftly, though, nodding to Dorothy and allowing himself to be swept into back room.

Dillon waits tensely outside the door, listening to the bits of conversation that filter through. The husband, Ben, offers him a seat, but Dillon waves him off, too worked up to stay still.

"Family, huh?" Ben says at last, sounding doubtful.

Dillon glares at him.

"Calm down, son. Wouldn't be the first lie Ziggy's ever told." Almost to himself, Ben adds, "Never thought I'd see the little scamp again. Figured he was dead, or worse."

Dillon doesn't like the sound of that, doesn't like the casual way Ben speaks about Ziggy's life. He keeps quiet though, watches Ben closely. The man seems to take his silence as an invitation to keep talking.

"Ziggy used to get in all sorts of scrapes running with the Scorpions. Was always showing up at our door, looking like he just lost a fight with a baseball bat." Bens snorts. "Probably did, sometimes."

"What?" Dillon says sharply before he can stop himself.

"He hasn't told you? Ziggy's usually such a talkative guy, when his jaw isn't broken. Weren't too many guys that liked having him around. He set everyone's teeth on edge. So they used to use him as sort of… stress relief, you could say. Fresno Bob wouldn't have him killed, but he wasn't too bothered by anything else so long as Ziggy was still functional. Kid had such a trusting face. Came in useful."

It's all Dillon can do not to sink his fist right into Ben's stupid smirking face. The man doesn't even seem to notice how close to physical harm he has come. It's as though picturing Ziggy in various states of broken is amusing, like a fond memory. The hospital really must scare Ziggy if he would choose these people instead.

Ben looks like he might keep talking, but a muffled scream from beyond the door has Dillon whipping around, shoving inside. Ziggy's seated on an old duvet and biting his own fist while Dorothy wraps up his other wrist. They both jolt at Dillon's entrance, Dorothy with a disapproving glare.

"Ziggy?"

"I'm… fine…" he bites out. "Just setting my wrist. Hurts."

"You could have had some painkillers at the hospital, stupid."

"You are the stupid one," Dorothy says angrily. "If you think they would let Ziggy into the hospital."

Ziggy hisses as she finishes tightening the gauze. "Do not move it unnecessarily. You are lucky you're ribs weren't broken as well. And for god's sake don't tell anyone you were here. I will contact YOU for the payment."

And then they're being hurried out of the house, Ziggy limping and avoiding Dillon's demanding gaze.

.

The silence in the car is almost overwhelming. Dillon is so used to Ziggy's inane chattering that having the Green Ranger quiet makes him feel off-kilter, edgy.

"Who did this, Ziggy."

"You can't—"

"I can. And I will. You give me some names, or I'll just start at the top and work my way through the whole goddamned organization."

Ziggy snorts disbelievingly. "Yeah? You going to take out an entire crime syndicate just because they gave me a few bruises?"

The tires screech when Dillon hits the breaks and pulls over on the empty road. He rounds on Ziggy, furious. "A few bruises? Ziggy, you're a mess. You've never looked this bad after a grinder battle. And that Ben guy," Ziggy looked over sharply, "he made it sound like this— this was some sort regular thing before we met!"

"Ben has a big mouth," Ziggy says sullenly.

"So you deny it?"

Silence.

"Dammit, Ziggy! How am I supposed to protect you if you won't talk to me?"

"Why?" hisses Ziggy, abruptly desperate and upset. "Why do you want to protect me so much? What's in it for you?"

Oh. Oh. Another piece of the puzzle that is Ziggy Grover, shoved in Dillon's face, proving that Dillon really doesn't know the man very well at all. Ziggy always acts so friendly, so forward; it comes as a surprise that he doesn't trust anyone.

Dillon holds his gaze, says slowly, honestly, "Not seeing you like this ever again would be reward enough."

Ziggy blinks at him, breaks into a timid, uncertain expression that does something painful to Dillon's insides. "Why?" he whispers again, voice cracking on the word.

"It's like you said," Dillon tells him, reaching out to tug a curl gently. "You and I? We're family."

"Oh," Ziggy says. He looks lost. "I—don't. I don't have any family."

The Black Ranger has never wanted to hug someone so much in his entire life.

"Yeah, you do," Dillon says easily, cadence matter-of-fact. "It breaks down like this: Scott's the commanding father, always giving us chores; Summer's the nurturing mother, worrying and nagging about our health; Flynn's the quirky uncle, full of stories and always ready for a laugh; K's the awkward aunt who makes family gatherings uncomfortable, Gem and Gemma are the hyper-active cousins, and then… there's me."

Ziggy's smiling faintly now, soft and sweet. "And what are you, Dillon?"

Dillon grins in response, feels some of his anger and frustration and terror subside. Maybe he can't protect Ziggy from everything and maybe it's going to take a lot more time for the Green Ranger to start opening up, helping Dillon understand, but for now Dillon will find comfort in showing Ziggy that he's not alone anymore. This is a question Dillon can answer; this is something he knows deep down in his bones.

"Brothers, Ziggy. We're brothers."

.

(end)