Chip closed the door to his room with a sigh. He probably had a good ten minutes before his cousins got brave enough, or curious enough, to come knock on the door. It was days like this that made him seriously consider taking Xander up on his offer of the second bedroom. Hearing Xander and his dates had to be better than the explosion of noise that began at about five thirty in the morning and didn't really quiet down until nine at night.
He pulled off his uniform shirt as he crossed his room, heading for his closet. The shirt was tossed on top of a pile of other pale green shirts, followed by the white shirt he'd been wearing under it. From the dresser in the back of his closet, Chip pulled out a yellow t-shirt that his aunt was always threatening to throw away and slipped it on. It was worn at the most perfect level, soft and perfect for sleeping in. As he pulled it on, the nagging ache in his back from being tossed into a tree lessened. He glanced at his arm, where a bruise from Koragg lingered, and it was fading, almost literally beneath his eyes. He grinned, at least there would be fewer questions about injuries now.
He took his morpher out of his pocket and changed into a pair of mustard yellow sweats. Tossing his jeans onto the dirty clothes pile, Chip headed back into his room carrying his morpher. He put it on his desk along with some other random action figure accessories and movie memorabilia where people wouldn't really notice it. Then he picked up his battered copy of The Hobbit and sat on his bed.
Right on cue, someone banged on his door, "Chip, make him stop!" Someone, Nicole most likely, whined.
"Door's open," Chip called, "come on in." The door opened to reveal Nicole, with her messy blond curls and pout, followed by Luke. Nicole ran over and climbed on his bed while Luke hug out in the door way. "What's going on then?" Chip asked.
"Luke took my make up kit," Nicole asked.
"Really?" Chip asked, looking at Luke.
"She took my markers," Luke replied. "And hid them so I can't find them."
"No I didn't!" Nicole protested.
"Yes you did," Luke shouted, "you're always taking my stuff."
"Luke," Chip said sternly. "Now, Nicole, did you take Luke's markers?"
"No," Nicole replied. "I didn't, honest Chip. Momma bought me new markers last week." She held up her right hand, "On my oath as a superhero."
Chip smiled, "All right, Luke. I'm not saying that someone didn't take your markers, but it wasn't Nicole, so you need to return Nicole's makeup kit. While you're getting that, Nicole and I will start looking for your markers, sound fair?"
Luke frowned, then nodded, "Ok." He turned and headed off.
Nicole pouted, "Why do I have to help?" She asked.
"Because you are Super Nicole," Chip told her, pulling her into his lap, "and you help people who need it. But first, you know what happens to superheroes when they pout, right?"
"No!" Nicole shrieked as he tickled her lightly. Chip let Nicole wiggle free after a moment. "Come on, Super Chip!" She said, striking a dramatic, and heroic pose, "Let's go find the markers!"
Chip stood up and laughed, "Let's start in Mandy's room," he said, snagging his cape from the door as he followed her out of the room. He swung the cape over his shoulders and bounced after his cousin.
"IF THE CEILING CAVES IN, YOU'VE ONLY YOURSELVES TO BLAME!" Aunt Andy hollered up the stairs.
"Sorry!" Chip called back before entering the room Mandy shared with Nicole.
"Uh oh," Nicole said.
Chip swallowed, because they'd found Luke's markers all right. The room, and the five year old inside, had become rather liberally decorated with the markers. "Ok," Chip said, "I'll distract Mandy and get her to the bath, you go down and get your mom." He turned and saw Luke coming down the hall, "Luke, Mandy found your markers."
"No!" Luke said and sprinted the last few feet to hang in the doorway. "My markers."
Chip closed his eyes for a moment. "Let's see if they're salvageable," he said, pressing his hand into Luke's shoulder lightly, cautiously. Then he stepped into the room and walked over to his cousin, "Hey Mandy-Pandy," he said.
"'Hip!" Mandy said, grinning with her missing tooth and Chip winced. Because her lips were lined with green. "I look purty."
"Yes you do," Chip reassured her. Then he picked her up, "Let's go show momma, hey?" Carrying his cousin, he slipped past Luke. "I'll be back," he told the younger boy, who was picking up the markers.
"What on earth?" Aunt Andy asked as she came up the stairs.
"Mandy found Luke's markers," Chip said. "She decided to redecorate the girls' room."
"Oh dear," Andy sighed. "Luke must be devastated."
They shared a commiserating look, having been a foster family for so long, they knew how important it was for the kids to have their own things. Especially something like Luke's markers, because he'd earned the money to buy them on his own. "Where do you want me?" Chip asked, hitching Mandy onto his hip.
"Go ask Kara and Bryan to come up here. Bryan can deal with Luke and Kara can get started on the walls. I will take Mandy." Andy said, moving into a position to grab her daughter.
Chip let his aunt take Mandy and hurried down the stairs to where the other adults where watching the news. "What happened?" Bryan asked.
"Mandy got a hold of Luke's markers," Chip said, "and tried to redecorate the girls' room. Aunt Andy wants you to talk to Luke and Kara to see what can be done for the walls. I'll help with that."
"Right," Bryan said, standing up.
"Can I help?" John asked.
"We've got it," Kara said, kissing her husband's cheek lightly, "If we need you, I'll call. Stay down here and keep an eye on Tammy."
"Yes dear," John replied.
Kara laughed and headed for the kitchen. Chip followed his uncle back upstairs and slipped into his bedroom. First, he dropped his cape on his bed and then he slipped into his closet and got down his art kit. Stepping back out into the hallway, he found Bryan guiding Luke out of the girls' room, markers in a plastic bag. "Hey Luke," he said, and held out the box. "Call it a loan, ok?"
Luke took the box and opened it. "Really, Chip?" He asked looking back up.
"Of course," Chip said, "I know that you'll take care of them."
"Thanks." Luke said quietly.
"Welcome," Chip replied in an equally soft voice.