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Give Me Strength

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“Stop!”

Trini skids to a halt, arms flaring to keep balance as her sneakers dig into the dirt and gravel, kicking up a cloud of debris as she slides to a stop just inches from the edge of a cliff. Her teeth clench, jaw tensing as she stands there and weighs her options, casting a sidelong glance at the girl behind her. It’s just her luck to be chased up a mountain by none other than Kimberly fucking Hart, Angel Grove’s former golden girl, and by the thundering of footsteps approaching, she knows the boys aren’t that far behind.

“Just… just talk to me,” Kim breathes, and Trini can hear - more than see - when the others arrive, slipping along the rocky terrain as they finally catch up to the two. “You have a coin. We have a coin. We should just talk about this. I mean, we don’t know what this-”

She decides then and there that she isn’t here for this - whatever this is - and vaults across the gorge without second thought, barely able to repress the laugh of sheer amazement as the wind plucks and tears at her clothes. She can hear a faint, “What is wrong with you?” as she lands safely onto the other side, stumbling into the grass before regaining her footing and standing up. So caught up in the hype, Trini turns around to stare at the other teens, a thinly veiled challenge hidden beneath the smug smirk toying at her lips.

There’s four of them and one of her, but Trini notes the chasm between them - finally realizes just how far she’d leapt - and she sincerely hopes none of them are desperate enough to make chase. There’s at least a hundred yards between them, and in spite of herself, she finds herself taking the time to look each one in the face. It’s one thing when she does it - because face it, she’s a no-name nobody, and she doesn’t particularly care what happens to herself - but that doesn’t mean Trini wants others to do the same. After all, these kids probably have families that actually care .

“Oh, you’re crazy!” train boy shouts, voice carrying across the canyon. “But so am I!”

Okay, so maybe they aren’t desperate enough, but they sure are stupid , and Trini is so stunned by the declaration, she can do nothing else but watch as he pushes the others aside to create a runway and hurdles full speed towards the ledge. He leaps just as he reaches the end, kicking powerfully against the rock as he launches twenty feet into the air, his long legs pumping as he flies across to the other side. The sun catches her eye as she watches him approach, blinding her to the incoming danger just as he lands on top of her, knocking them both into the ground.

“Hey!” she growls, scrambling to her feet. “Get off of me!”

“I got her!” he groans, weakly grabbing her leg, which she kicks off. “Jump over!” he waves tiredly.

Trini shuffles away, her earlier mood soured after being tackled into the dirt, and plops herself onto an outcrop of boulders to wait for the others. She’s not entirely sure why she stays. Zack isn’t even looking at her anymore, too busy watching Kim and Jason Scott (another household name in Angel Grove) psych themselves up to make the leap, and she could just as easily slip away without notice. She chalks it up to general curiosity, ignoring the tug of worry in her chest as the two make their jump, and doesn’t bother to hide her smile at Jason’s belly flop of a landing. Kimberly helps him up, grabbing him at the elbow and pulling him to his feet, before the two walk towards the edge and shout for Billy to come over.

Trini immediately likens them to a couple of overzealous parents, encouraging their son to take his first steps, beckoning him closer with eager waves. Only, Billy isn’t actually their son (that’d be weird), he can already walk, and Jason and Kim are trying to get him to jump across a football field’s length of nothing when it’s quite obvious he clearly does not want to. Trini knows a thing or two about being forced into things against her will, and just when she decides to speak up and tell them to back off the poor boy, he throws caution to the wind and flings himself off the cliff.

She’s up and on her feet in an instant, fists clenched and muscles coiled, watching intently as Billy flails through the air towards them. He’s moving too much, creating drag that slows his approach, and she knows he’s pretty much screwing up his chances of making it across. Trini tenses, feet slowly sliding into a wider stance, as if she’s somehow gearing up to dash forward and tackle him mid-air. And then what? Hope she hits him with enough force to carry them both back across to the other side?

She feels the strange coin heat up in her front pocket, warm but not uncomfortably so, vibrating gently as if egging her on. She doesn’t know what the hell it wants, and she doesn’t care; an innocent boy is likely leaping to his death, and all Trini can do is wait to see if he falls. Thankfully, he makes it  - just barely - and dances a little jig that is so rhythmically challenged, Trini can’t help but laugh out loud, high off adrenaline and relief. But then he slips, freezing in a half-wiggle as his foot slips off the edge, and Trini has to look away.

Super strength - check. Increased speed and endurance - check, and check. The ability to fly - no check. Apparently, flight isn’t one of their superpowers, and Billy doesn’t fall so much as he… plummets .

Trini’s hand flies to her head as they all rush towards the edge, Jason crying out for the other boy, chanting an anguished mantra of, “No, no, no, no-”.

“Did we just kill that dude?” asks Zack, as he and Jason trade worried glances.

“What do we do?” Kim demands, a clear hint of panic in her voice.

Trini peeks over the edge, just ducking her head over the side of the ledge to catch a glimpse, but pulls back when she realizes she does not want to see a dead body. Instead, she paces, attempting to make sense of what’s just happened. ‘This is my fault,’ she thinks, heart clenching painfully as the scene plays out in her head. If she hadn’t run, the others wouldn’t have followed, and if they hadn't followed, then this never would have happened.

“This is my fault,” she repeats again, this time beneath her breath.

Suddenly, a familiar voice echoes up through the walls of the cliff, “Hey, guys! You gotta come down here! It’s water! You gotta see this!”

The other three share a relieved stare, and Trini, knowing they’re all safe, decides it’s finally time for her to make an exit. She’s just about to bow out, to walk away while they’re still distracted, but then Zack says he’ll meet them down there, pointing at her as he goes, and makes a comment about someone bringing her down.

“Come on you guys, let’s go!” Jason shouts, motioning for them to follow before whooping in excitement and leaping after the other boy.

Trini grins, watching them jump, but then Kim turns around and her face instinctively falls into its usual scowl. Now that it’s just them, she figures it’s best to leave, since there’s no way Kimberly is gonna chase after her alone, especially when it’s a choice between Trini and the guys. She doesn’t take any offense to it. She’s never been anyone’s first choice in her entire life, and she uses it to her advantage, turning on the heel of her shoe and marching away.

Before she can get far, Kim calls after her in a shaky, uncertain tone. “Uh, hey… could I get a sip of your water? I’m dying.”

Trini is a loner, not an asshole, and so she stops, digging the insulated bottle from her bag before stomping over and handing it to her. “Just don’t finish it,” she warns, briskly.

“Thanks,” Kim replies, eying her apologetically as she adds, “And I’m really sorry.”

Her gaze sharpens, heart skipping a beat. “Sorry for what?” The words are barely past her lips when Kim surges forwards, throws her arms around Trini’s neck, and drags them both over the edge.

She notes two things as they fall: (1) they definitely cannot fly, and (2) she fucking hates Kimberly Hart.

 


 

So, they’re superheroes.

Or rather, they’re Power Rangers. At least, according to the disembodied floating head on the wall, that’s what they’re called. And it’s their job to protect the Zeo Crystal, a mystical and ancient artifact that is the source of all life on Earth. They’ve been given eleven days to prepare to defend against their first threat, and none of them have a single clue as to what they’re doing.

But no pressure, right?

Trini sighs as she pays for her lunch the day after their first training session, turning to search the cafeteria for an empty table. As usual, it’s a madhouse, students packed in like sardines on their benches, elbow to elbow as they chat and gossip. She spots Billy, Jason, and Kim huddled together in the farthest corner of the room, and wonders briefly if she should join them. She dismisses the thought almost as soon as she thinks it, shaking the idea out of her head as she slowly makes her way towards the exit, fully intent on hiding out beneath the bleachers as she often likes to do.

Just because they’re forced into being a team, that doesn’t automatically make them friends, and Trini doesn’t have many expectations - if any at all - about her relationship to them. She’s become a bit of an expert at keeping her distance, and she fully believes in her own ability to still work effectively as a part of their unit, remaining standoffish but civil during their forced interactions. She’s two steps away from the door, tray balanced on one hand as the other reaches out to push past the double doors, when over the cacophony of teenage chaos, a voice shouts her name.

“Trini!”

She freezes on instinct, shoulders snapping back and her spine going rigid as she straightens up, staring at the wooden door with wide, confused eyes. Her ears twitch, searching out the point of origin, and she’s about tell herself that she’s just imagining things when it happens again.

“Trini!” they call a second time, and this time she recognizes it as Billy. “Trini, hi! Where are you going? Come sit with us! There’s plenty of room!”

She closes her eyes and counts backwards from ten, steeling herself against the headache she knows is already forming at the base of her skull. Double checking just to see that he isn’t talking to anyone else (what? Trini isn’t a common name, but it isn’t entirely uncommon either), she finally turns around and faces their direction, easily spotting the three as the Blue Ranger excitedly flags her down. Offering a weak, fidgety grin, she swallows the miniscule lump of discomfort in her throat, and carefully sets her stuff down on the side of the table just opposite to him.

“Hi, Billy,” she greets, softly, and nods at Jason and Kim in acknowledgement. There’s an odd sort of silence now that she’s here, and Trini has half a mind to make up some excuse to leave, but Billy seems genuinely happy to be in her presence, and she stays if only for him.

“Do you want my cookies?” he asks, as soon as she sits down. He offers her a baggie of chocolate chip, and continues, “I only eat the ones with an even amount of chocolate chips, but I don’t want these to go to waste if I can help it.”

“Oh, uh…” Trini blinks at the bag before reaching out and hesitantly taking them from him. She’s not overly fond of sweets, but she has two younger brothers at home that practically live off the stuff, and she takes any opportunity that she can get to spoil them. “Thank you, I’ll save them for later… they, um… they look really good.”

He beams at her, practically blinding her with his smile, and Trini can only return it with a tight lipped grin of her own. Her eyes flicker towards Jason and Kim, the two remaining silent during the entire exchange, and wonders if they’re only tolerating her presence for Billy’s sake. Breaking eye contact, she focuses instead on her food, tearing into a chicken nugget as she stares at anything else but them. It’s not like she really cares what they think of her, but she’s only human, and awkward silence is still awkward silence.

A few minutes later, a cleared throat catches her attention, and Trini can’t help but look over to see who had done it. Jason’s fist lowers from his mouth, indicating that he had been the one to make the noise, and she raises a single brow in question. His face flushes and he seems flustered, like he isn’t really sure what to say, or how to handle her. Eventually, he manages out a, “So… I didn’t think you’d come yesterday…”

Trini stares at him blankly.

“Uh, what I mean to say,” he goes on, wincing gently as Kim rolls her eyes and nudges him in the ribs, “I had hoped that you would show up, that all of you would show up, that is…  but I guess you were kind of the wild card since it seemed like you didn’t really want anything to do with us, or with the whole… Rita thing…?”

“Is there a question in there, or are you just talking for the sake of talking?” Trini asks boredly, dusting bread crumbs from her fingers.

“Oh, right! No, there’s… there’s definitely a question,” he replies, tripping over his words in his supposed uncertainty. “I guess, um… I was just wondering what made you change your mind?”

Trini shrugs and responds in a nonchalant tone, “I wanted to piss off my mom.” Honestly, she’d had zero intention of returning to the ship after learning the things that were expected of them, but then her mom had slammed the urine cup in front of her during dinner that night. And if you don’t think she’s not above fighting as part of an ancient galactic war just to spite her mother, then you don’t really know her at all.

The other three stare silently in bewilderment, obviously awaiting further explanation, but Trini doesn’t care to elaborate. She pops the last chicken nugget into her mouth, wiping away the greasy breading stuck to her fingertips, and throws the napkin down onto her tray. Gathering her things, Trini slings her backpack over her shoulder and slides off the bench with ease, taking her trash as she stands.

“I gotta grab my books,” she says in way of parting, flashing Billy a gentler smile as she adds, “Thanks again for the cookies.”

Trini is halfway down the hall when she becomes aware of the sound of footsteps trailing behind her, pausing to throw an inquisitive glance over her shoulder just as Kim catches up to her. She throws her defenses up on reflex alone, standing as tall as her five-feet-one-inch will allow, and regards the other girl with a cautious but curious stare.

“Did you need something?” she asks, tugging unconsciously on one of her backpack’s straps, just to have something to do with her hands.

Kim grins, a little shy as she says, “You said we have Bio together, right?”

“Chapter 5, all definitions and terms, plus review questions 1-12,” Trini replies automatically, “But you can find the answers to all the even numbered questions in the back of the book.”

The former cheerleader gapes. “I… I don’t even… I mean, I’m sorry. What now?”

“...the homework?” Trini supplies, brows furrowing as she shoots Kim a skeptical glare. “We still have like ten minutes left until the bell, so if you write fast, you can probably get it done in time.”

“I know what the homework is,” Kim insists, her own face scrunching in a mixture of confusion and disbelief. “I finished it in class before we even let out.”

“Oh, okay?”

“Wait, is that seriously what you think I wanted?” she asks, head quirked in curiosity.

Trini offers a noncommittal shrug. “It’s the only reason anyone ever really talks to me, so… yeah, kinda?”

Kim thinks that’s probably one of the saddest things she’s ever heard, but Trini doesn’t look too put off by it, and it’s not really her place to comment. “Um, no…” she begins, somewhat anxiously, “Like I said, I already did the homework, but thanks for the thoughtful advice. I was actually thinking we could walk to class together since we both have it next.”

“I still have to go to my locker,” Trini answers, nodding her head towards the end of the hallway.

“Oh, that’s fine,” Kim assures, motioning for her to lead the way. “We still have plenty of time, and I’m not really in any rush. I just thought that, y’know, since we’re sort of stuck together in this whole Power Ranger business, it’d be nice to get to spend some time with one another outside of training.”

“Um… sure?” Trini murmurs, having neither positive nor negative thoughts on the suggestion. “If that’s what you want.”

“I mean, if you don't want to, that's perfectly fine,” says Kim, following after Trini as she continues on with her original journey to her locker. “I know I sort of dragged you over that cliff the other day, but I'm not gonna drag you into this if it’s something that you don’t want to do.”

The shorter girl screeches to a halt at the statement, and Kim has to step around her in order to avoid collision. “No,” she huffs, shaking her head as she points an accusatory finger at the other Ranger. “You didn’t just ‘sort of’ drag me off a cliff… that’s not something you just ‘sort of ’ do. You fully committed to that shit.”

Kim has enough decency to at least look ashamed. “I… take it you’re still mad about that?”

“You threw your arms around my neck, and then you threw us both off a two hundred foot precipice. What do you think?” Trini shoots back, eyes narrowed sharply. Truthfully, she’d forgiven her almost as soon as they’d hit the water, the thrill alone enough to make up for the deceit. Regardless, Kim deserves to sweat for it just a little bit longer.

“Let me make it up to you then,” she pleads, hands clasped in the typical gesture for begging. “I’ll do anything!”

“Why does it even matter?” Trini retorts, walking just slightly ahead so that Kimberly has to rush and keep up.

“Because I want us to be friends, duh!” she answers, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and maybe to her it is. But Trini can’t comprehend it.

So she doesn’t reply.

She stops as she gets to her locker, pausing just long enough to dial in the combination, before wrenching it open with an ear shattering squeal (she should probably ask maintenance to fix that). Trini flashes Kim an apologetic look for the noise, busying herself with books and folders as she swaps material from her backpack. The other girl waits patiently, if not apprehensively with the way she shifts from foot to foot, not entirely certain where they stand with all this silence.

Hefting her bag over her shoulder, Trini jerks her head in the direction of their class, indicating that they should get walking. Kim follows, shoulders hunched under the heavy weight of unspoken words, feeling self conscious over Trini’s lack of response to her declaration of friendship. She’s just about given up on the endeavor when, just as they reach the classroom door, she holds her hand out in front of Kim, effectively stopping her from entering.

“Look,” she sighs, exhaling in what Kim thinks must be frustration, “We’re stuck with each other for the next two weeks, and probably longer than that if we survive. I’m not opposed to being friendly with one another, but as a general policy, I don’t do friendship. I’m an Army brat. I don’t stick around long enough to make friends, and the ones I do make… well, they don’t tend to last when your dad gets stationed halfway across the country, let alone the other side of the world. So… yeah, if you wanna hang and talk, I’m cool with it. Just… don’t get your hopes up is all I’m saying.”

Trini fully expects Kim to retract her offer, to maybe mumble something about just seeing each other during training instead, but when she looks up - when she really looks up and sees her - there’s a sadness in her eyes that she can’t quite explain.

“That sounds awfully lonely,” is all she murmurs, and Trini doesn’t bother to correct her.

Because yeah, even though she’ll never admit it out loud… it kinda is .

 


 

They're on day three out of eleven when Trini finds herself at the mall, bored and looking for something to do.

It's a Saturday, meaning half the team is in detention until twelve, and training isn't scheduled until later that afternoon. She has the day to herself, her parents taking her brothers to their soccer tournament two cities over, and she doesn't feel like spending her free time alone and at home. In a small town like Angel Grove, there aren’t many options for entertainment, and she half considers heading over to the mines to get some solo training in, but Zordon is sort of an enigmatic asshole, and Alpha-5 creeps her out.

So the mall it is.

Trini arrives sometime around ten, when the shops have been open just long enough for the employees to get into their usual swing, and the lunchtime patrons are yet to appear. There's a decent crowd, mostly consisting of young mothers pushing babies in strollers, and elderly making their rounds for exercise, but it's not overwhelming in the least bit; just the way she likes.

She’s not really in the mood to look at clothes, so she skips over the department stores and instead heads for the sporting goods. Trini makes a beeline for their scuba and outdoor gear, deciding it’s time she invest in a waterproof bag to take along for trips to the ship, having quickly grown tired of wet shirts and soggy shoes. She finds one large enough to hold a towel and several spare outfits, and she purchases that alongside a new water bottle, having to replace the one Kim had lost the first time they jumped the cliff.

The next hour and a half is spent traversing the rest of the mall, Trini pausing every now and then to check out a shop or one of the kiosks. She lingers in the bookstore a good forty-five minutes, browsing books and magazines, even reading up on a few new fighting techniques in those cheesy self-taught martial arts guides. By the time noon rolls around, her stomach is gnawing with hunger, and she takes the escalator up to the second floor food court to grab some lunch.

“Hi, welcome to Hot Dog on a Stick, what can I-... oh, shoot. Crazy Girl, hi…”

Trini nearly recoils in her own surprise, blinking through the haze of shock and confusion as Zack offers a timid grin, looking ridiculously out of place in his brightly striped uniform and hat. Her head swivels in either direction, as if checking to see whether or not she’s in the right place, but the man behind her clears his throat impatiently, so she spits out her order and pays.

Neither Ranger can seem to look at one another after that.

A short while later, he calls, “Order number five, two dogs and a lemonade!”

“Thanks,” Trini nods, shuffling forward to grab her tray.

“Ketchup and mustard on the side,” Zack replies, before turning back around to prepare the next meal.

She watches him for a moment, taking in his more reserved demeanor, a stark contrast to the boisterous confidence she’s grown so accustomed to. It doesn’t really surprise her that Zack has a job (plenty of teenagers work at the mall); it’s more or less the fact that someone with such a larger-than-life personality can settle for something so mundane as Hot Dog on a Stick, and it just doesn’t fit the image of him that Trini has built up inside her head.

But then again, what does she know? She barely knows the guy outside of their newly appointed Ranger duties, and before that, he had just been some random kid hanging out on a train car. Taking her food, she finds an empty table and settles down to eat, nibbling at her corn dog as she flicks through the photos her mother sent of her brothers playing.

So preoccupied with her phone, Trini doesn’t even notice when a second tray slides onto the table a few minutes later, and a quiet voice asks, “Mind if I sit here?”

She’s just about to tell the guy to take a hike when the familiarity behind his tone hits her like a truck, and her eyes shoot up from her screen out of their own accord. Zack stands before her, shy and uncertain, looking every bit as small as she often feels. She doesn’t respond - at least, not verbally - instead waving at the chair beside him, as if to say, ‘it’s yours.’

“Thanks.”

A heavy silence falls upon the table, awkward but not entirely uncomfortable. Contrary to Trini’s initial belief, Zack doesn’t seem interested in conversation so much as he is her company, apparently content to eat his fries and sip his drink as she continues to flick through photos. He only looks up when she snorts at a picture of her youngest brother, Alex, face-planting into the grass, eyes shining with confusion and the barest hint of worry as she chokes around a mouthful of food.

“You okay?” he asks, hesitating briefly before reaching across the table and thumping her in the back.

“No, yeah… I’m good,” she coughs, chugging her lemonade before turning the phone around for him to see. “Just my little brother being a clumsy doofus.”

Zack inspects the photo, a gentle grin tugging at his lips as he replies, “Cute kid.”

Trini scoffs, rolling her eyes in mock exasperation as she sets her phone on the table. “You wouldn’t say that if you actually knew him,” she grunts. “You put him and my other brother together, and it’s a recipe for total disaster.”

“Noted,” he laughs, “Got any other siblings I should worry about?”

“Nah, just me and the Terrible Two,” she answers, shaking her head. “... you?”

Zack almost seems to deflate at the question, and Trini sincerely worries she's crossed some sort of invisible line, but then he lights up and replies, “Nope, just me and my mom.”

It's only six words, but he speaks with such fondness that Trini finds herself momentarily incapable of speech. Her own relationship with her mother is strained at best and non-existent at worst, so to hear someone mention their mother with such tender reverence is almost a foreign concept to the girl. A twinge of jealousy lances through her chest, striking her heart where it’s most vulnerable, but the feeling is short lived, and Trini can't find it within herself to begrudge him over something so trivial.

She doesn't say anything, only giving him an understanding nod and a tiny grin, but that's more than enough for him. They lapse into silence once more, light-hearted and easy - comfortable, even - and when Zack gets up to return to work, they don't need words to speak.

Later that day, the two pair up to spar, and it's the most exhilarating fight thus far. She and Zack seem to flow as one, trading blows in what feels more like a dance than battle. Everything about it feels right, feels natural , and Trini doesn't have to think about moves or counter-moves, merely allowing her body to react.

There's a smile on her face the entire time.

It's only when Jason steps in and forces them to rest that Trini realizes how long they've fought, and just how tired she really is. The exhaustion hits her in waves, her legs like jelly, and she trips on her way to grab some water.

Zack is by her side in an instant, helping her stand with the same gentleness she had seen in him earlier that day. His eyes glint mischievously as he aids her to her feet, teasing softly, “So that's where your brother learnt it from.”

And Trini should feel insulted, but she only laughs instead, a warmth in her chest that burns with something akin to affection.

 


 

The next day, Trini finds herself in the last place she’d ever expect (alien spaceships notwithstanding), in none other than Billy Cranston’s basement.

“Hand me the soldering iron?”

She hands him the device, careful not to allow their fingers to brush, and watches as he meticulously welds a cap over a copper pipe. Trini is ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent sure they’re building a bomb, and she’s one-hundred percent certain that this is both highly illegal and dangerous, but if she has a soft spot for anyone on this team, it’s without a doubt Billy.

“There, all done!” he exclaims, setting the tool aside as he admires his workmanship.

“It looks… good,” Trini concurs, though she’s still not entirely sure what she’s looking at.

“Yeah, this should definitely knock out a good chunk of hillside,” he grins, throwing out whatever little hope she’d held that this was nothing more than just a super fancy alarm clock.

She can practically feel the color drain from her face, a cold shiver racing down her spine, but she does her best to tamper down the spike of anxiety by helping him clean up the mess. She gives the device a wide berth as she sweeps, keeping her eyes trained on it with a hawk like gaze, surreptitiously placing herself between it and Billy as he puts away his tools, seemingly - and blissfully - unaware of the potential danger.

Thankfully, they avoid getting blown up, and it’s with a tidal wave of relief that Trini allows herself to be led out of the dark and musty basement and into the light of the Cranston’s kitchen. They take turns washing up in the sink, scrubbing grease and dirt from beneath their fingertips, and she finds that she doesn't mind it when Billy accidentally flicks her with water.

“I’m sorry,” he says, wiping his hands dry. “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

“It's cool,” she assures, making sure to verbalize that she isn't upset. She's quickly learnt that sometimes smiling isn't enough for him to understand, so she adds, “It's just water.”

Billy nods gratefully, setting about as he gathers bowls and spoons, asking Trini if she can grab flour and sugar from the pantry. He lines up each ingredient in order of addition, and after triple checking that they have all the necessary items, they finally set about making the cookies he had originally invited her over to make. Of course, leave it to Billy Cranston to invite someone over to bake cookies, and somehow rope them into helping him build a homemade IED first, but Trini isn’t in any rush to get home, and she enjoys the calm presence he provides in her otherwise chaotic life.

“Wait, don’t add that yet,” she says, stopping him from pouring the bag of chocolate chips into the otherwise finished dough.

“But it’s the next step,” he insists, clearly confused. “It says it right there in the instructions.”

“I know,” Trini replies, gently taking the bag away and setting it off to the side. “But you said you only eat cookies with an even amount of chips, and if you just pour them into the bowl like that, you’ll have to count them out later. We can scoop the dough individually, and roll the chocolate into them before we set them on the baking tray. That way you can count them evenly now instead of picking through them later, and know that each cookie is okay to eat no matter which one you choose.”

Billy seems genuinely surprised she’d remember something like that about him, even more so that she’d be thoughtful enough to think ahead and figure out a way to make things easier on him. “Y-you don’t have to do that,” he says, staring at Trini with wide eyes and wonder. “That seems like a lot of extra work just for me…”

Encouragement isn’t exactly Trini’s forte, so she merely shrugs and says, “Too bad, I’m already doing it.” Dusting a generous amount of flour onto her hands, she spoons out a clump of dough roughly the size of a tablespoon and sets Billy to counting chocolate and separating them into piles of ten. Incorporating the chocolate chips into the dough, she works it into a ball before plopping it onto the tray and moving onto the next one.

They work silently and in tandem, like two cogs in a well oiled machine. It’s only when they’re on their second batch that Trini realizes Billy is humming softly beneath his breath, and it takes a moment for her to catch on to what it is. “Is that Achy Breaky Heart?” she asks, handing off another tray of dough.

Billy freezes beneath the curious stare, cheeks darkening with what must be embarrassment. He doesn’t normally hum unless he’s fully relaxed, but working with Trini - both in the basement, and here now in the kitchen - came with such a natural ease, he must have started singing without notice.

“Uhm… sorry,” he apologizes, offering a sheepish grin. “Sometimes I just start doing it. I can stop.”

“No, it's fine,” she promises, but he seems reluctant and self conscious now that he's been called out, and Trini’s stomach churns with guilt for making him feel uncomfortable. Deciding she has nothing to lose (except maybe her pride), she licks her lips in preparation and awkwardly croons lyrics to the chorus.

“But don't tell my heart,” she begins, flashing him a grin that was half-cringe, “My achy breaky heart, I just don't think he'd understand…”

Billy blinks at her, failing to catch on.

Exhaling in a groan, Trini motions for him to join along, singing a little more loudly despite her reluctance. “... and if you tell my heart, my achy breaky heart, he might just blow up and kill this man…”

She thinks he’s finally starting to get it, bobbing his head a little in time to the song, and Trini figures she may as well commit. Holding the wooden spoon to her lips as a pseudo microphone, she places one hand on her hip and does her worst imitation of a line dancer, belting out the lyrics as she two-steps in place.

“So don't tell my heart! My achy breaky heart! I just don't think he’d understand!”

Billy finally chimes in, “And if you tell my heart! My achy breaky heart! He might just blow up and kill this man!”

Trini can feel laughter bubbling up her throat, and she hands the spoon off to him, letting him take the solo as they dance around one another. The kitchen is small and cramped, and Trini bumps her hip into the counter one too many times to count, but it's the most free she's felt in a long time.

They end up burning the cookies, but Billy’s smile is infectious and sincere, and it's sweeter than any treat Trini could ever hope to make.