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swing my heart across the line (hold me tight or don't)

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Oh, hush, my dear, it's been a difficult year

And terrors don’t prey on innocent victims

I'm a man of three fears

Integrity, faith and crocodile tears

Trust me, darlin', trust me, darlin'

So look me in the eyes, tell me what you see

Perfect paradise, tearin' at the seams

I wish I could escape, I don't wanna fake it

Wish I could erase it, make your heart believe

-Bad Liar, Imagine Dragons 

 

Ziggy knows that he shouldn’t be doing this. He shouldn’t be kissing Dillon, not when Ziggy has three confirmed Soulmates out there in the Garage, not when he has a dead Soulmate, not when there are a million unspoken promises and half-crafted thoughts about Soulmarks unspoken between them.

But Dillon doesn’t say a word about the red, yellow, and blue Marks on Ziggy’s arm when they’re making out, and thus Ziggy never asks Dillon about his own Soulmate. They don’t need to think about that, after all, not when they have their lips and hands on each others’ skin.

So they get to keep making out and dating and Ziggy gets to continue pretending as if Scott, Flynn, and Summer aren’t his, that they never rejected him, that he’s just a guy with a dead Soulmate (like half of Corinth, who exist with dead Soulbonds trailing behind them) who likes kissing the guy in front of him. 

-

Summer remembers the day Ziggy died. She dreams about it, sometimes, the ghost of Ziggy’s last words haunting her dreams no matter how many months have passed.

She remembers the world falling apart, ending up in Corinth, becoming the Yellow Ranger, Jack’s Soulmarks disappearing, meeting Flynn and Scott. She remembers not really having time to properly deal with Jack’s Soulmarks disappearing in the midst of training and fighting and dealing with Andrews’ death. By the time things had calmed down enough to process Jack’s death, she had already pretty much accepted his death. She'd gotten used to a life without black ink on her arm, to only having red, blue, and green ink alongside her yellow.

And speaking of green- Ziggy, who had never been entirely honest, had spent the months after that occasionally writing at odd times with odd stories. He’d write to them sometimes after battles, offering praise or sympathy, or wait days to tell them some small story about a pizza place he had tried a new topping at or working with some kids at an unspecified orphanage.

Nothing he wrote was incredibly personal, or made logical sense. He never mentioned his job or the names of any friends of his. Sometimes he would double back on his stories, telling them the name of one pizza place when it had been a different one he'd mentioned the day before, leaving Scott, Summer, and Flynn questioning the tales told in green ink on their skin. 

Summer had prayed every night that his Marks would continue to be there, despite their contradictions, despite his distance. She didn’t think she could bear it if his Soulmarks disappeared like Jack’s did, when the world fell apart.

Then one day, the message had come. They’d been eating a midnight snack after a late battle when a message in green ink had appeared on their wrists.

I’m sorry, Ziggy wrote, handwriting shaky, But I’m leaving Corinth.

“Nae, nae, bloody fucking nae,” Flynn protested as Scott grabbed a pen lying on the counter- a blue pen, and in any other minute it would feel like a severe violation of the bond to use another's color but right now they were about to lose another Soulmate and Summer couldn’t bring herself to care.

Don’t leave Corinth, Scott wrote, You’ll die. You can’t die on us, Ziggy.

And they waited with bated breath- for minutes, for hours, until they collapsed onto the sofa and into a nightmare-laden sleep- for a response.

But Ziggy didn’t write back. Not in that moment, not the next day, not for weeks or months afterward.

It was at the month mark that Flynn looked down at his arm as they changed to go to bed and then looked up at them, lips pursed but eyes wet. “There are only three of us left, now,” he said, and Scott curled his arms around his chest in a defensive motion. Summer just stared at their arms, with no green or black Marks left, and her body shook with all the tears she wasn't crying.

That night, Flynn cried himself to sleep in their arms. Summer woke up from nightmares of a faceless man being torn apart by Grinders, and Scott slept in the middle of the bed, both of them pulled in close in a gesture equally communicating protection for them and reassurance for himself.

And now, they're about to go to the prison and interrogate a candidate for the Black Ranger. Things are about to change severely, as they're going to have to welcome some stranger into the Garage that should have been theirs and Ziggy's, and Summer's not sure if she's ready for it.

Well, she wasn't ready for the end of the world, either, so she guesses she's just going to have to get used to having change foisted upon her, regardless of her state of readiness.

-

When Dillon makes his one condition to becoming a Ranger known, Scott’s breath leaves his lungs. His facial expression doesn’t change, too accustomed to maintaining a blank expression when dealing with his father to show his true surprise, but goddammit. There's no way their Soulmate is alive. 

Dillon’s Ziggy can’t be our Ziggy, Scott thinks, but then his next thought is, Of course he has to be, how many Ziggy Grovers can there possibly be in Corinth?

Then they go into the prison to get Ziggy out to bring him to the Garage, and Scott gets a look at the man who could be their Soulmate. It's the guy they met just briefly yesterday, the one who managed to claim loyalty to Dillon and disavow him within the same breath.

He’s scrawny, with a wild mess of curls that doesn’t seem tamable and a thin face. Ziggy is not exactly what Scott pictured in a Soulmate, when he imagined him- actually, Scott's not entirely sure what he thought Ziggy was going to look like. They never got enough of an impression of him before his disappearance, and now, looking him straight in the eye, Scott's not entirely sure if Ziggy's appearance is a surprise or not. His personality, still that of the eternal jokester, isn't much of a surprise, for the Soulmate that disappeared on them.

But Ziggy himself, the fact that he's alive- that most definitely is a surprise. They'd thought him dead for months- after all, he told them that he ended up outside of the wall and hadn't responded for months. Everyone in Corinth knows that that's a death sentence.

Ziggy doesn’t mention the Soulmarks, but his gaze does linger on Scott, Flynn, and Summer in training as much as he watches Dillon. And Scott's not going to deny that he stares at Ziggy more than he should, trying to figure out how to talk to the man he thought was dead, how to ask him what happened.

But he has time to figure it out. Ziggy's practically on house arrest in the Garage for some unspecified backstory with the cartels, and he's going to be safe in the Garage for as long as Scott, Summer, and Flynn need to sort out how to handle this conversation.

But then Ziggy becomes the Green Ranger and Scott, Flynn, and Summer have no idea what to do. They’d thought Ziggy dead, and then thought him safe in a civilian role in the Garage, and from what they know about him- pitifully little, considering the number of times he told them tall tales and contradicting stories as children and teenagers- he doesn’t seem to have any of the training they do. He’s scrawny and loud and his best talent is running away from people.

And then there's the bigger fact that Scott knows that Ziggy never wanted to be a Ranger, never wanted to have anything to do with their lives. Ziggy, when still in Corinth, mentioned their battles and praised them for their work, but never gave any indication that he himself wanted to help. After all, no matter how much he wrote, he never told them where he worked or where he was or asked them to meet. Scott's pretty sure he would have done that if he wanted in any way to be a Ranger.

But the Green Morpher bond is a permanent one, so they're gonna have to get used to having a Soulmate they barely know, who lied through their Marks and lacks all basic training, on the team.

Well, fuck. 

-

When they find out about Ziggy’s true past, Flynn can barely speak through his fury. How could Ziggy have done this to them? What kind of greedy bastard would you have to be to let your Soulmates grieve for months after your death just for some money? What kind of monster throws jokes at his Soulmates knowing that he put them through emotional hell for months?

“You let us think you were dead because of your bloody greed?” Flynn spits at Ziggy in the interrogation cell, and Ziggy doesn’t flinch. He just stares at Flynn, gaze steady, and it almost makes Flynn more mad. “What kind of compassion must a man lack to do that to his Soulmates?”

“And right after Jack died?” Scott says, and something creases in Ziggy's brow but Flynn must have imagined it because he blinks and Ziggy's face is just as impassive. "That's twice as monstrous."

Even Summer, eternally sympathetic, has nothing but bitterness for Ziggy. “I believed in you,” she says, “But you obviously didn’t deserve it.”

Scott holds out his hand. “Hand over your Morpher,” he says, “No man who steals five million dollars for himself from the cartels deserves to be the Green Ranger. You've been suspended indefinitely from Project Ranger, by order of Dr. K and by me."

Ziggy slides the Morpher off of his wrist with only the barest hint of hesitation and holds up the Morpher to Scott. "Who's gonna be the Green Ranger now?" he asks, tone emotionless, and Scott's expression is nothing but contempt as he takes the Green Morpher.

"You don't get to know," Scott says, "You never trusted us with any information- why should we tell you, some criminal, about what's going to happen to a government program next?"

Ziggy sits back in his chair and something flickers across his gaze, too quick for Flynn to read. Is it anger? Frustration? Fear? He can't tell, and he doesn't much care to, not after what Ziggy has done.

Flynn can't believe fate paired him up with such a greedy, uncaring person. He's glad that he has Summer and Scott, that he isn't just stuck with someone like Ziggy for the rest of his life.

Dillon comms in, telling them they need to come to the battlefield, and they leave Ziggy sitting in the cell without a backwards glance.

-

Then the three of them find out the truth about Ziggy's background, told to them by Dr. K in a matter-of-fact manner, and they know they’ve fucked up.

They'd said such horrible things to their Soulmate, accused him of greed and untrustworthiness, and then they'd left the prison without a backwards glance. Ziggy had been captured by cartel members while in prison and, if it hadn't been for Dr. K, would have been murdered in the cartel offices. Flynn, Scott, and Summer wouldn't have found out the truth. Ziggy would have died thinking that his Soulmates hated him, and he wouldn't have been wrong.

So the three of them have no idea how to fix things, when they've fucked them up so badly.

Despite continuing to make jokes and generally just being himself, Ziggy rarely looks any of them save Dillon in the eye anymore. He doesn't go within four feet of any of the Trio and certainly never writes on his arms.

And Summer can’t blame him. 

-

Ziggy and Dillon start their makeout sessions the next week, and start going on dates once or twice a week from then on.

Scott catches the two of them in a back hallway, and something in his heart cracks a bit when he sees them. Ziggy’s their Soulmate and Dillon is a friend, yeah, but he’s not theirs. And Ziggy has rejected them for his best friend, now his boyfriend.

However much he may want to, though, Scott can’t resent Ziggy for turning his back on them. After what they said to him in that interrogation cell, after what the future they left him to in the prison, the death that Dr. K saved him from- he can’t see a way that Ziggy could forgive them, no matter how justified they may have felt at the time.

How could everything have fallen to shit so quickly?

-

Then Summer's parents show up, and the team finds out that she's promised them she'll get married.

And Ziggy's still pissed off, but he doesn't think that Summer deserves to get forced into marrying some random guy just because her parents want her to. No matter what she's said to him, no matter how much she's broken his heart, no one deserves having to give up the relationship they want, with people that they love, just to appease some authority figure. Ziggy may not have any experience dealing with parents, but he does have experience with bad authority figures, and he does have some sympathy for Summer having to deal with them.

And besides, he can see the absolutely wrecked looks on Scott and Flynn's faces when Summer admits to what her parents want her to do. Their relationship with her has lasted for over a year, and he knows firsthand that they've been bonding since he was just a little kid. To pull them apart, to make Summer marry Chaz- that would ruin the bond they've created.

But then Summer turns around to face her parents. "Mom, Dad," Summer says, "You know that I've found my Soulmates, right?"

"You know our family and our ways, Summer," her mother says with a smile that Ziggy kind of wants to punch. "Soulmates don't matter unless they coincide with the family interests."

Ziggy can see the fury in Summer's expression. "Scott and Flynn matter far more to me than any money you could throw at me."

Okay, Ziggy can't deny that despite his acceptance of the Trio's rejection, he can't pretend that Summer not mentioning his name doesn't throw more salt on the wound.

"Summer, sweetie, just listen to us-" Mr. Landsdown starts, but then the alarms go off and the five of them have to take off to fight Grinders.

-

When Summer's parents put the announcement in the paper and then follow her back to the Garage as she tries to explain why she's not giving up her Soulmates and her duties as a Ranger just to marry some fuck she's never had any interest in, she's about ready to throw something. Even after they explain that they're broke, she's still not too sympathetic. She's seen a world where money is the least important thing about, where all that matters is trying to protect the last city on Earth.

The world she used to live in has shattered, been blown up and ruined by Venjix. Her desire for money and partying died with Andrews and Jack, somewhere twenty miles from Corinth on a dusty road.

But then her parents tell her that she can't get the diamond without the wedding, and she has a choice to make. She can refuse on principle, or she can find a way to make this work for her means.

So she'll go along with this stupid ceremony only as long as she can get to the diamond, and then she's bouncing. There's no way she's going to marry Chaz, not when she has Scott and Flynn (and Ziggy, but she's trying not to dwell on that particular fuck-up), but if she's got no other choice, she can use this to help save the world.

-

So the wedding goes on, with each of the Rangers being informed on how much of a charade it is. As they're helping set up the Garage, listening to Summer's parents ramble on about weddings and money and social standing, they know everything for exactly what it is: a complete sham.

Knowing that this is all for a party that won't happen doesn't discount, though, the fact that Ziggy gets to see Dillon in a suit- which is absolutely wonderful. Dillon's always gorgeous, but he's particularly so in a suit. Ziggy kind of wants to drag him off into a back hallway and make out with him for hours rather than participate in this farce of a ceremony, but duty calls, after all.

(Ziggy ignores how beautiful Summer looks in her dress, how dashing Scott looks in his suit, and how hot Flynn is in a kilt. Because they broke his heart, and he has no interest in them anymore, no matter how good-looking they are.) 

Then Tenaya and the Grinders attack in the middle of the ceremony, and the team is quick to fight. It's a rather interesting experience, battling Grinders in suits, a kilt, and a wedding dress, but they get it done before having to Morph and fight the downloaded form of the camera bot.

Then, when the battle is over, Summer's parents walk up to her. Ziggy can't help but feel a bit relieved for Summer (despite the fact that he still resents her, Scott, and Flynn because of how they acted in that prison cell) when her parents finally see her side and allow her to call off the wedding, telling her to keep the diamond after the battle and giving her a hug, accepting her decisions to stay with her Soulmates.

After that conversation is done, Summer pulls Scott and Flynn in to either of her sides, landing kisses on both of their cheeks. While she, Scott, and Flynn exchange a few words, Dillon takes Ziggy's hand in his and leans over slightly to kiss Ziggy's cheek.

"I hate them so much for what they did to you," Dillon says into Ziggy's ear, and Ziggy can't help but agree. What they said to him, about being greedy and untrustworthy and a monster, still stings to this day. He doesn't think he'll ever get entirely over it.

(And why would he expect himself to? Ziggy doesn't think his heart has ever broken so badly, other then maybe by Jack's death. Having his Soulmates stand over him, nothing but hatred in their eyes, spitting insults and calling him the worst of people- that shattered the hope he spent three months trying to hold onto.)

But he has other things to focus on. For example, there's the fact that Dillon's currently in a suit, which is hot as fuck, and Ziggy wants to make out with his gorgeous boyfriend.

"You up for some making out?" Ziggy asks, and Dillon smiles crookedly.

"Always."

So Ziggy tugs Dillon off from the main action and back to Dillon's room, where they spend the next two hours just making out and ignoring the world.

-

So one night they’re all sitting down for dinner and they haven’t had an alarm go off that day. The five of them are getting along pretty well, having just played a pretty good game of pool (won by Summer), and the tension isn't as thick as it usually is.

“So,” Summer says, her finger tightening slightly around her fork, “Dillon. You and Ziggy- you’re together?”

And there’s just enough innocence left in her voice and tone, balanced with the right amount of steadiness in her gaze, that she gets away with asking it. She doesn’t flinch when Dillon stares at her for a moment before saying, “Yeah. What of it?”

She shrugs and offers up a smile (and she’s specifically not thinking about the green words that lined her arm as a kid, the way her heart broke when she thought Ziggy had died, the fact that she still hasn’t forgiven herself for what she said to Ziggy in prison). “I’m happy for you two, that’s all.” She nudges Flynn and Scott with each of her elbows as she glances to Ziggy, whose fork has paused halfway between his mouth and his plate. “Right, boys?”

Scott and Flynn both nod, though she catches the sorrow streak across Scott’s face and recognizes the way Flynn's lips are pursed.

Ziggy, however, doesn't seem to notice their expressions, as he just smiles at them. "Cool."

No one mentions the Soulmarks, and that's that.

-

So for awhile, this is how they work. Ziggy's dating Dillon while Scott, Flynn, and Summer continue to date each other like they have for the last year and a half.

Life continues on, a constant tension between Ziggy and the Trio, and Flynn starts to wonder if he should just resign himself to this inevitability. Maybe the rest of their lives will be spent with the consequences of the one moment of bad judgement, with their one fuck-up. Maybe it will always be three on one side and two on the other. Maybe there is no way to fix things. 

And maybe Flynn will just have to learn to accept that ending. All he wants in life is to make people, especially his Soulmates, happy. And if Ziggy is happy with Dillon, then he'll learn to be okay with that.

It's the honorable thing to do.

-

And then they find out about Dillon’s blind little sister and suddenly their worlds are turned upside down yet again, and Ziggy can’t stop looking at Dillon’s arm and everything is straining fit to burst and-

“Tell me what the fuck is going on with you, Ziggy,” Dillon says when the two of them are lying in bed after a very intense make-out session, and Ziggy’s gaze jerks up from Dillon’s naked torso and arms. Dillon’s voice isn’t cruel- in fact, it’s rather soft and sympathetic- but Ziggy dreads telling the truth. He’d made his peace with his relationship with Dillon, thinking him just his best friend and a guy who has consistently made the often inconceivable decision to help Ziggy out and protect him, but this revelation has knocked the world off of its axis. Dillon isn’t the guy he happened to fall in love with, he’s the guy who’s probably been his Soulmate all along.

“Your Soulmarks,” Ziggy says with a swallow. “I think…” And for once, the man with the motormouth has no words. His voice stutters out, and he tries to figure out how to explain the conclusion he's reached over the past few days since finding out about Dillon's sister.

Dillon lays a comforting hand on Ziggy's shoulder, expression reassuring, and the lump in Ziggy's throat dissolves a little, giving him the strength to carry on. So he explains: “I had a Soulmate whose Soulmarks disappeared from my skin a year and a half ago." 

“I thought that Summer, Scott, and Flynn were your Soulmates,” Dillon says, arching an eyebrow, and they’re finally talking about it all. “Not many people have red, blue, and yellow Soulmarks, after all.”

“I had- have- four Soulmates,” Ziggy says. “Summer, Scott, and Flynn, yeah, before they said all that shit regarding the cartels and they took away my Morpher. But before I left Corinth, right when Venjix first attacked- we had another Soulmate." Ziggy braces himself for Dillon's reaction. "His name was Jack Matthew Jackson, and his Marks disappeared when Venjix attacked so I thought he was dead, but I think you're him. You’re my missing Soulmate. Our missing Soulmate.”

Dillon instantly sits up, his face closing off. “And you’ve known that and you haven’t mentioned it to me?”

A chill goes down Ziggy’s spine at the change in Dillon’s tone, the edge it currently holds. “Dillon, I-"

But it's not enough. Ziggy's never been enough, something he knows all too well.

“You lied to me,” Dillon orders, tone shooting bullets into Ziggy's heart. “Leave.”

The backs of Ziggy’s eyes are burning with tears as he grabs a shirt from the floor, slips it on, and leaves the room. Four out of four- he’s been rejected by every Soulmate, even the one he was convinced would never break his heart like that.

“Ziggy?” A familiar voice asks from the kitchen, and Ziggy blinks back the tears gathering in his eyes. He wipes his shirt sleeve over his eyes to get rid of any evidence of tears and schools his expression as he turns to find Scott standing at the counter, a half-eaten apple in his hand.

“Yeah, Scott?” he asks, attempting a casual attitude but failing horribly. His voice is cracking, and when Scott’s eyebrow shoots up he knows he’s failed at keeping a level tone.

“You okay, man?” Scott says, and it feels like there are a million things unspoken between them.

“Yeah, just fine,” Ziggy says, but he can hear the pain in his own voice.

Scott sets the apple down on the counter and steps forward. “You need to talk?” he offers.

"No, I don't need to talk," Ziggy says, but his protest is weak to his own ears. He's so tired of being alone, of the feeling of rejection. He misses Dillon already, and he's really dreading going back to being entirely by himself.

Scott sighs. “Stop the bullshit, Ziggy. You just came out of Dillon’s room and you’re clearly not okay.”

“Since when do you care?” comes out before Ziggy can stop it, but he can’t quite bring himself to regret his words. He’s just so fucking tired and drained and he never wanted to be a Ranger but he did it. He'd never thought anyone would care about him when his Soulmates were obviously doing fine without him, and then they'd rejected him after he'd spent months trying to get return to them. He’d thought that he’d finally found love with Dillon, but now Fate has fucked him over and he has no one left on his side.

Scott’s expression is shocked. “Of course I care, Ziggy, we’re Soul-” and then his words halt as he’s obviously realized what he’s said, but he’s done it. He’s finally said the thing none of them have mentioned.

And Ziggy’s had enough of this, the tip-toeing around the subject.

“You knew enough about it to reject me and tell me I’m not trustworthy enough to be a Ranger,” Ziggy says, staring Scott directly in the eye.

“That was before we knew the truth-” Scott tries to protest, but it’s not enough.

“What the fuck does that matter?” Because yes, he gets that everything looked bad, that he purposefully wasn’t disclosing what was going on to protect the orphanage and thus five million dollars in stolen supplies definitely gives a man a bad rep. But God, Ziggy’s human. He wanted his Soulmates to believe in him, to fight for him, not to just call him greedy and then take away his Morpher. “I’m your Soulmate- shouldn’t you have trusted me? At least a little bit.”

“You lied to us for years, Ziggy, and then you just up and disappeared on us without warning,” Scott says, and his tone turns blistering in its frustration. “Do you know that Flynn cried himself to sleep that night, that Summer’s had nightmares about you dying for a year and a half now?"

Ziggy cares, he really does. He knows he spent months desperately searching for a way to somehow get a message back to them, to somehow find one blasted pen after he realized that he hadn’t grabbed one to take with him into the Wastes.

He knows that there were a number of nights he spent out in the Wastes silently crying, trying not to attract Venjix, hoping and praying that his nightmares wouldn't end with him waking up caught by Venjix, one errant scream having alerted Grinders to his position. There were some nights that he tied a piece of fabric over his own mouth before sleeping just to prevent as much noise as possible. Ziggy spent months trying to stay as silent as possible until he found some way back into Corinth, barely speaking for over three months. (When he had made it to the city, the noise had been almost overpowering, and his own voice was something that he absolutely craved hearing again.)

Ziggy knows what it is like to make terror your bedfellow, to spend every moment trying to make your peace with fear. He knows it, he does, and he has some sympathy for Scott, Summer, and Flynn for their worry.

But he's human, and sympathy only goes so far against the bitterness that has clogged his heart since his Soulmates all looked at him with absolute disgust in their eyes.

"I get the circumstances, I really do," Ziggy says, "But all I wanted was some faith in me. All I needed was a chance to explain what I did somewhere that was outside of the prison, where prison guards and cartel members alike could have heard about what I did with the supplies and gone after the kids, and you guys didn't give me that. You believed Fresno Bob without question, put more faith in what he said than in me, and then you called me names and took my Morpher. I mean, it's not exactly the most reassuring thing in the world to hear your Soulmates call you "greedy" and "monstrous" and tell you that you lack compassion."

Scott looks kind of like he's been socked in the gut with the expression he's making right now, and to be honest Ziggy doesn't have much sympathy for him. He understands where Scott, Summer, and Flynn's judgments had come from, yeah, but the way they'd talked to him, the way they'd practically spat insults and everything they'd called him- that had hurt. And seeing Scott feel guilty about it is the least Ziggy would expect from any decent human being.

"Ziggy, I-" Scott says, stuttering over his words for the first time since Ziggy met him in person, months ago, but he's interrupted by new arrivals.

“Scott?” an unmistakable Scottish brogue asks, and Ziggy turns to find Flynn and Summer standing at the base of the stairs. Flynn raises an eyebrow at Ziggy’s appearance, at his pajama pants and the black t-shirt he’s pretty sure he accidentally stole from Dillon. “And Ziggy? What are you two doing up this late?”

Summer, on the other hand, looks between them and sighs. “So now we’re talking about it, aren’t we?” Summer asks, always too perceptive, and Ziggy doesn’t flinch, but it’s a near thing. They’re all here, the three people who begged him to stay in Corinth and then rejected him when he came back after finally finding a way back to them, and there’s no Dillon to hide behind. (Not that Dillon would let him hide behind him now, after everything.)

Scott nods. “We’ve got a lot of things we’ve been ignoring,” he says, voice sliding into leader-mode.

“Nae shite,” Flynn snorts as he crosses the room to sit at the counter. Summer follows with a roll of the eyes, though she elects to just lean against the counter rather than sit in a stool. Scott stands in his same position, beside the counter.

And Ziggy is left standing by himself, a few feet away, facing the Trio that defended Corinth for a year before Dillon and he entered the city. They’re legends in their own rights, beyond he and Dillon as Black and Green Rangers, and there were a number of reasons why he never asked them to meet two years ago. He folds his arms across his chest, trying to create some sort of defense against them in this conversation.

"Ziggy was just telling me about how he felt when we took away his Morpher," Scott says, and there's a note of frustration in his voice but Ziggy doesn't think it's aimed at him. Ziggy glances to Summer and Flynn and sees them with expressions of regret on their faces. Good- that's how they should feel, the fuckers.

"You know, you guys really ruined the legends of the Rangers for me, you know," Ziggy says, and his tone is bitter and dark but he doesn't much care. "You know, I looked up to you three so much, was ashamed of you finding out about me being in the cartel, but how you acted in that prison cell?" He shakes his head. "Totally dissuaded me of any hero worship I had. Showed me that the Series Operators were definitely capable of being cruel."

He knows he's coming right out of the gate swinging at Flynn and Summer, but Scott's gotten him too frustrated. After getting rejected four times over, Ziggy is fucking tired of pulling his punches.

"Ziggy, we were angry," Flynn starts to explain, but Ziggy's close to done. No, fuck that, he is done. He's hit the end of his rope.

"You know what, Flynn? Fuck that. Yeah, I lied to you, but what do you expect of a kid who grew up in an orphanage, who had been helping the cartels since age thirteen because he saw no other way out? Do you expect him to be proud of what he did to survive? I was fucking ashamed of what I was, what I had done, because look what I had to compare it to. Scott- you loved your brother. Flynn- your relationship with your dad was one I could only dream of. Summer- you described your life as one of absolute luxury. And Jack- he loved his sister and their parents like nothing else. Do you think that a kid like me thought he had any chance of you understanding him, of liking him if he revealed just what he did to survive?

So yeah, I lied, but fuck it, you didn't even give me a chance to explain somewhere that wasn't surrounded by members of the cartels I stole from. You never even tried to hear my side of the story somewhere that my throat wouldn't be slit with one wrong word."

In another lifetime, Ziggy is pretty sure that he'd be faced with gobsmacked expressions. The only one of them that was a soldier before the end of the world was Scott, and even he wasn't really exposed to the ways of the cartels. Flynn was an idealistic one-time policeman, a volunteer, and a mechanic, and Summer was a sheltered socialite. None of them had any first hand experience with the seedy underside of the world, with what someone might have to do if they see no other way out of things.

Now, though, there is in only mild shock behind their set jaws. The apocalypse has taken a point-blank shot at innocence and ripped it a hole in the gut.

"It was a definite error on our part, I admit," Scott says.

"We're sorry, Ziggy," Summer says, and there is something so sincere in her voice that it almost hurts. But apologies won't cut it- I'm sorry is a sentiment that means nothing unless it has actions to back it up.

"Ziggy, we made a mistake in the heat of the moment," Scott says, "I'll admit it straight up. We had spent months thinking you were dead and mourning you. To hear that you had caused all of that pain because of some cash reward broke my heart, not just for my own pain but for these two as well. I know how much your death impacted all of us, and to hear that all of it was for nothing made me mad as all hell. And I know that I let my emotions get the best of me. I made some bad calls with my emotions taking precedence over my logic, and I've regretted it every day since. Knowing that what we said that day could have permanently destroyed our relationship- that haunts me. Listening to Fresno Bob and not trusting you was the biggest mistake I've ever made."

Well, shit. That's not entirely what Ziggy wanted, but it's certainly a hell of a lot better than the rejection he got in that prison cell. It's certainly a step in the right direction, an explanation that shows regret far more than just a basic apology does.

There's no good way to respond, not when he feels like he needs more. 'Thank you' doesn't explain all the reservations he still has, but he also doesn't want to full-on reject their apologies, either.

"Alright," Ziggy ends up saying, "I can work with that."

And Summer and Flynn smile at him.

“Alright, then. Back to the beginning of this conversation- what happened with Dillon, Ziggy?” Scott asks, and Flynn and Summer's eyebrows shoot up at the same time that Ziggy's kind of okay mood crashes back to the floor. Oh god, Dillon- making up with the Trio means nearly nothing if he's lost Dillon completely.

"Something happened with Dillon?" Flynn asks.

"Ziggy came out of his room crying about half an hour ago," Scott informs them, and thanks, Scott, for spilling that information. Way to ruin that great moment that they just had going on. "That's what started this whole conversation."

"You were crying?" Summer asks, eyes widening.

"What the bloody fuck did he do to you?" Flynn asks, tone turning a bit angry, and for a moment Ziggy puzzles over the fact that his Soulmates seem a bit...protective over him, somehow. Alright, that's an interesting development. He could have sworn that Dillon was the only person who felt that way.

But back to the important part of the conversation: “I told him about Jack,” Ziggy says, and their eyes go wide.

“You did what?” Summer asks, shock clear, and Ziggy curls in on himself just a little bit.

“You don’t think that’s something we should have done as a team?” Scott asks. "Jack's all of ours-"

“You think he’s Jack too, don’t you?” Flynn asks, just a little more sympathetic than Summer and Scott, and Ziggy nods.

“But that fucked everything up,” Ziggy says, “He was supposed to be different. I thought I’d found someone who liked me for me, who wouldn’t be resentful because of fuck-ups I made or didn’t make years ago. But I guess I was wrong.” 

And the frustration drains out of Scott and Summer’s faces. “Ziggy, I’m sorry,” Summer says, and her apology seems sincere. “We didn’t mean to judge you like that."

"But you did," Ziggy says, and yeah, some headway has been made in this conversation, but it still hurts.

"That's why you picked him, innit?" Flynn asks, and he doesn’t sound resentful, just curious. "Because of us?"

"Kind of," Ziggy says, shoulders slumping. "But mostly because I love him." Then he shakes his head a little bit. “But beyond that? Because he’s funny, and kind, and he’s a good kisser, and he is willing to trust me when no one else is… and to be honest, you're right. It was because I thought he wasn’t my Soulmate. He never rejected me, and he didn’t have any kind of long-standing judgments against me."

"Yeah, we fucked up," Summer mutters, and Ziggy nods.

"Yeah, you did," he says, because there's no point in lying when everyone in the room agrees.

"Is there any way that we could fix this?" Flynn asks.

"You've kinda started, tonight, but going forward...I don't know how to regain trust. I'm sure you'll figure it out, though," Ziggy says.

Then there's a small chime from up in the corner of the wall and Ziggy glances up at the clock. Well, shit. It's 3 o'clock in the morning, and training starts at 7:30 on the dot- Dr. K doesn't allow for anything less than absolute punctuality. 

"Well, looks like I'm going to bed," Ziggy says.

"In your own room?" Summer asks, raising an eyebrow, and Ziggy is nearly as confused as she is. After all, he hasn't slept in his own room for months now, since he and Dillon started their relationship. Fuck, Ziggy's not going to sleep well tonight.

He manages to at least fake a casual tone. "Yeah, in my room. Where else?" The question isn't a question at all, and they all know it- the only two other beds in the Garage are the Trio's and Dillon's, and there's no way Ziggy's sleeping in either.

"Well, sleep well," Flynn says, and Ziggy nods.

"You too," he says, and his tone is not as frustrated as it might have been on another occasion. Something has shifted between them tonight, now that they've finally talked, and he's not as resentful of them as he used to be.

Progress, right? 

-

Flynn is in the middle of preparing smoothies the next morning when Ziggy comes down the stairs.

"G'morning, mate," Flynn says, and Ziggy nods, though he doesn't speak. Flynn doesn't expect him to- everyone on the team knows that Ziggy takes a couple of minutes to wake up. (Especially given the dark circles under Ziggy's eyes that Flynn notes. Ziggy didn't sleep well last night, sleeping alone.)

Ziggy heads to the counter and quickly scarfs down a granola bar before he starts preparing the actually cooked side of breakfast- which today seems to consist of a quiche, good choice.

Summer and Scott make their way down the stairs about fifteen minutes later, Summer pulling up her hair while she walks downstairs and Scott busy writing something down in his planning notebook. They make their way to the counter where they sit and wait patiently for breakfast to be finished.

Ziggy's dishing out slices of quiche when the final team member makes his way down the stairs. Ziggy stops and looks up, catching Dillon's glowering expression. It's beyond even his usual gruff look that Flynn's used to- he looks to be actively pissed.

Flynn swallows. He doesn't have a good feeling about this. 

"So," Dillon says, "You all are my Soulmates." His tone isn't happy, though- he sounds deeply annoyed by the fact, and even a bit perturbed. This is explained just a second later. "You three are dicks because of how you treated Ziggy," he says to Summer, Scott, and Flynn, and Flynn can't argue with the assessment that they themselves have made plenty of time. Then he turns to Ziggy, who meets his stare with the same cool steadiness that he faced the three of them with when they accused him of greed and being untrustworthy. "And Ziggy, you're a dick because you lied to me for months when you knew that I was your Soulmate."

"I didn't lie to you for months," Ziggy says, tone steady, and this time he's standing up for himself like he didn't do in the prison cell.

Dillon's expression is dark. "But you knew we were Soulmates-"

Ziggy shakes his head, and his steady gaze starts to melt away, replaced by uncertainty, and Flynn has to wonder what it is about Dillon accusing him of things that is causing a break where Summer, Scott, and Flynn saying similar things did nothing to break his composure. "I didn't even figure out Jack was you until a few days ago, when we found out you had a sister, and even then I wasn't certain. But I didn't care if you were my Soulmate or not." The tension between them is palpable, and Ziggy's voice practically shakes as he speaks to Dillon. Dillon's expression doesn't really change as Ziggy speaks, though, just staring at Ziggy with that inscrutable look. "All I knew was that I really, really liked you, and not because of some Marks on my wrist but because I like you, your sense of humor and your bravery and your attitude and a number of other things. I didn't ask you out because of Soulmates, and I didn't lie to you."

When Ziggy finishes his tangent and Dillon stares at him for a few infinitely long moments, Flynn isn't sure how Dillon's going to react. Flynn doesn't know Dillon like Ziggy or even Scott does (because being handcuffed to a guy, even voluntarily, certainly brings you closer). He mostly just knows him as Ziggy's boyfriend, the Black Ranger, the hybrid who may someday try to kill Flynn and his Soulmates when under the influence of the virus. Dillon's been so notoriously closed off, it's been hard to get to know him in any meaningful way.

But Dillon has been an indispensable member of this team, and a decent friend. Whether it be races with the team, acting as the Black Ranger, repairing cars, or even just playing a game of pool- Flynn's had a decent time of things with him.

Flynn remembers Jack, a teenager three years younger than Flynn, a year younger than Scott, the same age as Summer, and a year older than Ziggy. He remembers that the guy who'd loved music and cars almost as much as he loved his sister, the guy who was not as closed off as Dillon is now but was still pretty gruff about certain things. He remembers how much Flynn had loved him, just as much as he'd loved his other three Soulmates, and how devastated Flynn had been when he died.

The possibility of not just having Ziggy back, but also Jack- Dillon, if he prefers to be called that? Flynn can barely wrap his head around the idea.

"Okay, then," Dillon says eventually, "Ziggy, you're not a dick. But the other three of you- you're still on my list." 

And though Flynn resents the implication, the way Ziggy's face lights up at the not-quite-compliment makes him feel a little better.

"So we're good?" Ziggy asks, voice earnest, and Dillon gives him that sideways smile of his.

"Yeah, we're good," Dillon says, and Ziggy pulls him into a kiss, leaning upward slightly on his toes to get to Dillon's face. Dillon's lips twitch into a small smile as his hands drift to Ziggy's hips and he reciprocates, pulling Ziggy in a little in return.

Something releases in Flynn's chest at the sight. Seeing Dillon and Ziggy at odds is not exactly something that feels right with the world- Dillon&Ziggy is one of those few things that can be counted on after the end of the world, like gravity or Scott and Summer being at Flynn's side or Dr. K not understanding human emotion.

Then they separate and Ziggy pulls away a bit, stepping over to the counter to pick up the last plate of food. 

"So," Ziggy offers to Dillon, "Quiche?"

Dillon nods, taking the plate Ziggy's offering, and things are finally back to normal, or even a better version of normal, where Ziggy, Flynn, Scott, and Summer have at least somewhat talked their issues out.

-

So life goes on, and they all work on working things out. They don't fall into a relationship with the five of them all at once. There is too much bad history between them for that to happen, after all, and not enough build up. But things do start to change, though admittedly slowly. 

Summer starts to pull Ziggy into more hugs. Dillon's remarks about Scott's car are less biting, while Ziggy and Scott start doing weekly grocery runs together. Ziggy and Flynn bond over their mutual love for cooking, and eventually Summer gets in on the cooking, as it turns out she really knows how to mix a good drink and wants to learn how to cook other things as well. Dillon, in turn, works with Flynn and Scott on some mechanical things regarding the cars and Dillon and Summer often end up partnering together on missions that aren't straight-up battles. And all five of them, of course, get in their turns at the pool table honing their skills against each other.

It's not romantic, not yet. Dillon and Ziggy still have their thing going, while Summer, Scott, and Flynn still share their bed as the Trio. But things are definitely moving in a direction vaguely resembling a group relationship, one less burdened by past resentments and rejections.

One evening finds Flynn, Scott, and Dillon working on the cars while Ziggy shows Summer how to cook. Flynn looks up at one point, sees Scott and Dillon arguing in that strangely teasing, almost-flirting way of theirs, and beyond them he can hear Ziggy's excited voice explaining how to make what sounds like an empanada. Summer's bright voice follows after his, asking questions, and Flynn smiles so wide he thinks his face might break.

Flynn's heart squeezes. He wishes for the day where he and the other four could be in a relationship, where he could kiss Ziggy or Dillon just as easily as he does Scott or Summer.

Because dammit, he wants that now. He wants to cook with Ziggy, hands brushing casually and the occasional kiss on the cheek as they work, just as much as he wants to pull Dillon in for a kiss after a day working on cars and not care about the oil on their hands. He wants that just like he wants cuddles with Summer or Scott, wants all five of them to love each other and build something beyond the team they currently occupy. He wants the walls to fall, barriers to crumble, until it feels as natural to reach out to Dillon or Ziggy as it is to reach out for Summer or Scott.

And he has some hope for that, now, a hope he didn't have before that late-night conversation.

-

There's yet another interview with yet another elementary school class, and the questions are mostly to be expected. How do the suits work, how to they train, any advice for school, how Flynn's accent is so "pretty," etc. Summer's gotten used to the craziness of small children, and honestly kind of welcomes the reprieve from training.

Then a little girl in a yellow hoodie and green-and-black flannel skirt steps up to ask a question. "Have any of you met your Soulmates?" she asks, expression guileless, and Summer blinks. She notices the teacher shaking her head, obviously realizing the intimacy of the question, but the bell can't be unrung. The question's been asked, and they have to figure out some way to answer the incredibly awkward question.

Despite the awkwardness, though, Summer recognizes the importance of the question. Rangers are symbols of hope and to know that any Rangers have found their Soulmates is a definite way to boost morale. No one on the outside, especially not some fourth grader, could possibly have guessed just how complicated and sensitive a topic Soulmates are to their team.

To Summer's utter shock, though, Ziggy is the one to step forward to answer the question. "Some of us have, yes," he says, and he doesn't look back any of them. She can't see his expression, can't read his face. "Though I've gotta plead the fifth on who they are."

Summer hopes her expression isn't betraying the strange mix of confusion and hope she's feeling right now, but all she sees is the little girl's bright grin. "Thank you, Ranger Green," the little girl says, and Ziggy nods before stepping back to the rest of the team.

-

The tension between them all builds until it feels like one wrong breath could set off the powder keg, and Scott just waits for the move that will spark the bomb.

Then comes the night the virus takes over and hell itself descends on the Garage.

Scott's in the kitchen, eating dinner with Ziggy and Summer while Flynn and Dillon are training with Dr. K, when the alarms go off. Scott, Ziggy, and Summer rush to the main lab, where Dillon is in the process of pulling out wires from the console. Flynn is doing his best to stop him, but Dillon kicks out with his hybrid-enhanced legs and Scott hears a sickening crack when Dillon's foot connects with Flynn's knee. It doesn't stop Flynn from fighting, but Scott doesn't want to imagine the bruise that will be on his leg later.

Scott, Ziggy, and Summer rush forward to try and get Dillon away from the console. For a few moments they manage to get his arms down and away from Flynn, Dr. K, and all of the wires, and as they fight Scott gets a good look at Dillon's face.

Dillon's eyes are glowing red, the irises and whites of his eyes completely obscured by the glow. There are strange, circuit-like patterns forming around his temple and cheek, glowing silver and red in the flickering lights of the half-wrecked lab. They curve around his facial features, turning a normally all-too-human face into that of an attack-bot's, cold and mechanical.

For a moment, Scott hesitates. He gets distracted by how emotionless Dillon's expression is. This is a battle, but it's not the kind they normally fight, with their Ranger uniforms and a clearly defined, clearly evil enemy who's intent on taking over the world. This is Dillon, their teammate, whose face is uncovered by armor and looks all too human and familiar in a way that even Tenaya's has never quite been. 

"Dillon," Ziggy says, trying to cajole his boyfriend with hand movements and not protecting himself from Venjix-controlled Dillon. "C'mon, man, stop, you know me. You like me, I know-"

And in that moment that Scott is distracted, Dillon's hand punches out twice with sickening cracks each time, and a moment later the right side of Ziggy's face is a mess of bruises and blood. Ziggy drops to the ground like puppet with its strings cut, hands going up to cradle his face even as he continues to plea with Dillon. "This isn't you, Dillon," he croaks in some feeble attempt at continuing to try and connect to some human part of Dillon's brain, and all Scott can see is his Soulmate on the ground, blood covering his face.

Scott rushes at Dillon at the same time that Summer does, and for a moment they have the element of surprise, which allows them to pull him far away enough from Ziggy that Flynn can make his way over to Ziggy and try to help him somehow. Scott can't afford to underestimate Dillon and lose his focus again, though, so he just focuses everything he can on taking out Dillon.

And for a few precious moments, as Dr. K is shouting something about a base code, Summer and Scott manage to take on Dillon. They've been working as team for a year longer than Dillon's even been in Corinth. He may be stronger due to his implants, but they've got teamwork on their side. They're not going to win any sort of long-term battle against Dillon, but they're going to damn well protect Ziggy and Flynn for as long as they possibly can, as long as it takes Dr. K to figure out how to take down the virus in Dillon in its current form. They won't let him hurt anyone else.

Dillon strikes out and Scott ducks under his arm to turn and pin his arm behind his back, which only lasts a couple of seconds before Dillon manages to pull out. In that time, though, Summer has managed to grab his other side and pin that arm down.

For a couple of harrowing moments, it's a game of cat and mouse, with Dillon as a giant, hulking, super-powered cat and Summer and Scott as tiny, nimble mice. The lights in the room keep flickering, Dillon's eyes are glowing, and all Scott can think is Please let none of us die. 

Then Dillon suddenly collapses to the ground and Scott looks up to find Dr. K at the computer, fingers on the keyboard. She's somehow stopped the virus, even though she just said that she needed the base Venjix code to slow it down and there's no way she could have figured it out that quickly.

Scott's thoughts are distracted quickly, though, by Dillon shifting under his hold. Scott glances back at him to see a look of annoyance on his face.

"Why the fuck are Scott and Summer hugging me?" Dillon asks, a note of humor to his voice, but then his gaze falls to Ziggy and the mess of his face and expression instantly changes. Scott lets go of Dillon and so does Summer, and Dillon takes a small step toward Ziggy.

"Shit, what the fuck happened to you?" Dillon asks, nothing but concern in his voice, and the words dry up in Scott's throat. How the hell can he tell Dillon what the virus made him do to Ziggy? Scott's not a monster- he's got plenty of sympathy for Dillon now that he's not caught up in the moment of Ziggy's face breaking. He knows that Dillon can't control his body when the virus has taken over. He knows that no matter what he says, though, Dillon's gonna blame himself for whatever damage the virus did using his body.

But Dr. K has little to no emotional tact. "You did," she says, gaze guileless, "And I stopped you using the base Venjix code."

"You had the base Venjix code?" Flynn asks, shock clear, even as he helps Ziggy up off the ground and Dillon's face collapses. He stares at his boyfriend, some measure of horror crawling through his expression.

"I did that?" Dillon asks, and for the first time since Scott met him in that prison, he has lost his easy confidence. His voice is weak and disbelieving as he says, "Ziggy, I-"

"It wasn't your fault," Ziggy says, but his voice is wrecked and so is his face. Summer is busy dialing a message to the paramedics that are sure to show up soon, probably detailing just how bad the damage is to Ziggy. "It was Venjix."

"My hands did that," Dillon says, and Scott realizes that he has looked down at his hands, where Ziggy's blood is splattered over top of his knuckles. Fuck- Dillon literally has Ziggy's blood on his hands. "Ziggy, you can't ignore that. I nearly killed you."

But then Scott looks back at Ziggy, and he is done looking at Dillon. He can't help but stare at the damage made to Ziggy's face by Dillon's super-humanly powerful fists. Ziggy's cheek has caved in slightly, a bruise already forming down his cheek and the side of his eye, and his nose is at an incredibly unnatural, nauseating angle.

The area around his eye is not something Scott thinks he could bear to look at if he didn't live in such a broken world. There is something glistening- whether from blood or bone, Scott can't tell, but whatever it is is definitely something that should be inside of Ziggy's face, not hanging dangerously around the outside- and the damage doesn't look reparable.

"Your only crime is having a bit of robot in your body and a virus in your brain," Ziggy says, and Scott doesn't know where he's summoning this strength from. "You can't exactly blame Flynn for his accent or Summer for getting sick from the flu that one time or me for my charmingly handsome good looks. None of that was our fault. You didn't ask to be turned into a hybrid, to get infected with a virus that turned your body against you. You, my fine man, are not allowed to blame yourself. My orders."

Dillon looks like he wants to protest, but he can't tear his eyes away from the right side of Ziggy's face and so he nods. Scott is pretty sure Dillon would agree with anything that Ziggy says in this moment, due to guilt over what happened to Ziggy's face. Or maybe guilt's not even it- Scott is pretty sure he would bend to whatever Ziggy tells him, when he has to look at the destruction of his face.

"Good," Ziggy says, but now that he's not running on adrenaline and high emotions he's sagging a bit. Flynn is trying to help but his knee's taken a hit and Scott doesn't think he can take it. Scott rushes over to help hold him up, and he can feel how much weight Ziggy's putting on him. Ziggy's a lightweight guy, but right now he can barely summon the strength to hold himself up. Scott can't imagine the amount of pain that he must be in.

The doorbell rings, and Summer glances up at what's left of Dr. K's screens. "The paramedics are here," she says, "We'll get them to look at Ziggy's face and Flynn's knee." She rolls her eyes when Flynn raises an eyebrow. "Yes, your knee- you probably have a nasty bruise forming there."

Scott recognizes the attempt of humor for what it is, but he can't make the lump in his throat dissolve. The Garage was supposed to be safe, or at least safer. They were not supposed to get hurt in the Garage, in their safe place. And yet Venjix found a way to attack them from the inside, to hurt one of Scott's teammates in a way the virus never quite managed in the field. It's hard to let any humor alleviate that dread that has now entered their most inner world.

A paramedic comes in- a woman that Scott's pretty is named Karen- followed by a man carrying a small bag of supplies. Karen takes one look at the team and zeroes in on Ziggy leaning against Scott. "You, Ranger Green, I'll take you. Anyone else need any medical assistance?"

Flynn raises his hand. "Aye, I've got a bruise on my knee that I should probably get looked at."

The paramedic nods. "My partner will take you." The male paramedic- who Scott doesn't think he's met before, so he doesn't remember his name- escorts Flynn out, while Scott helps Karen get Ziggy to the ambulance. 

Once Ziggy's set up on the bench inside of the ambulance, Karen turns to Scott. "You can go back inside, Ranger Red," Karen explains, "I'll take good care of your teammate."

"Yeah, don't worry," Ziggy says, "I'll be fine," even though he is most clearly not fine Scott's ever seen anyone who's not already dead.

"You sure you'll be good?"

"Yeah, I'm sure," Ziggy says.

"Listen to your teammate, Ranger Red," Karen says as she starts digging medical instruments out, and Scott nods.

"I'll see you inside in a few," Scott says, determined to keep his tone optimistic, for Ziggy's sake, even if he feels anything but.

"See you then," Ziggy says, and Scott heads back into the Garage.

-

Flynn's been back from the ambulance- he'd just been given some low-level painkillers and orders to take it easy for a day or two, before the Power took care of the rest of the healing- for about an hour before the door opens and Ziggy returns.

Ziggy's face, to Summer's relief, looks somewhat better. His eye is covered by a patch, but his nose is at a mostly-right angle and the blood has been cleaned off of his face. The bruises are still there and his face is definitely not going to look anything remotely normal for days, if not weeks, but he looks more like a human than a corpse in a horror movie now.

"I'm going to the hospital for surgery on the eye this weekend," Ziggy says with a jokester's smile, "And everything else is okay. Back to being Mighty Green by Sunday, the doc says."

"Ziggy, you nearly died," Dillon says, and Summer couldn't agree more.

"Nah," he says, waving dismissively, "Just a scratch. Soon enough I'll be back to being my usual, gorgeous self, don't worry."

"Are you high?" Flynn asks.

"Maybe," Ziggy says, which Summer translates to mean yes, definitely, and knowing that somehow alleviates some of the tension. She's never seen Ziggy high before- never seen any of the Rangers even remotely drunk or high- so this is certain to be interesting. (And, knowing Ziggy, probably somewhat amusing as well.)

"What kind of drugs did they give you in the ambulance?" Dillon asks.

"I've been high before," Ziggy says, shrugging as if it's no big deal. "This is nothing."

"You've been high before?" Scott asks, and Ziggy nods vigorously, then stumbles forward.

"Okay, shouldn't do that," Ziggy mutters as Scott and Dillon catch him. "Bad, bad idea." Then he looks up slightly, glances between Scott and Dillon, and says, "You know, you're both really pretty. Has anyone told you that?"

Despite the horror of what just happened an hour ago, Summer can't help but smile. Ziggy is so carefree here in this moment, his flirting with Scott and Dillon kind of adorable. His smile is light, his stance loose.

(As she watches Ziggy, she realizes that she's never seen the line of his shoulders that relaxed before. He's always been a bit tensed, a bit hunched, a bit strained. How had she never noticed that?)

"But I was in a cartel for seven years, of course I got high," Ziggy says, answering Scott's question. "Though to be honest, not always entirely voluntarily." He leans against Scott a little bit. "Wanna kiss?" Ziggy asks, and they all stare at him.

"I'm not Dillon," Scott says with a raised eyebrow. "You know, your boyfriend."

"We're all Soulmates here," Ziggy says, seemingly confused by Scott's point. His brow furrows in a way that shouldn't be cute, but is despite all rational thought. "You're pretty, I'm gorgeous, I'm sure Dillon won't mind." He turns his head slightly to look at his boyfriend. "Honey, you mind if I kiss Scott?"

A million emotions are flitting across Dillon's face. Frustration, confusion, self-loathing, amusement- every emotion in the catalog. (And Summer understands- he washed the blood off his hands while Ziggy was in the ambulance, but he's probably never gonna forget what it was like to wake up with his boyfriend's blood on his fists.) "You should probably ask his girlfriend and his boyfriend first, don't you think?"

Ziggy shoots his boyfriend a grin and then turns to Summer and Flynn. "Hey Summer, Flynn, do you mind if I kiss Scott? I'll kiss both of you too, afterwards, promise."

By this point, Summer is having a hard time holding back a laugh as Flynn shrugs. "If Scott and Dillon are okay with it."

"Dillon!" Ziggy says, grin effervescent. "You've got a good point, Flynn!" Ziggy raises his head from Scott's shoulder, reaches over to Dillon, and tugs on his boyfriend's arm. "Sit down with me, boyfriend," he says, and Dillon, as always, is helpless to his boyfriend's requests as he isn't to anyone else's. Once they're sitting down, Ziggy lays his head down on Dillon's shoulder. "You're comfy and I love you, you know that, right?" he asks, and within seconds he's out like a light.

Summer looks at Flynn, Scott, and Dillon's faces, and see that they look just as bewildered as her, like Ziggy is a hurricane that just blew through and left them hovering in a state of confusion.

"Did that just happen?" Flynn asks. 

"You mean Ziggy being high, the disaster in the lab, the fact that Dr. K somehow has the base code, or Ziggy asking Scott if he could kiss him?" Summer asks, and Flynn just nods.

"All of the above," he says.

"Yeah, it did," Dillon answers, and he seems a bit shell-shocked by everything, but that's kind of to be expected considering everything that's happened in the past few hours.

"Well, damn," Summer says.

"That's about right, aye," Flynn agrees as Dillon shifts Ziggy just slightly, so that he's in a little bit more comfortable of a position. Summer watches as Dillon takes hands that just an hour ago destroyed Ziggy's face and Dr. K's consoles and uses them for such an intimate, helpful activity. She watches as Dillon gives Ziggy's head a small smile.

Though Summer will never be able to forget his glowing red eyes, the sound of his hand cracking against Ziggy's face- this is the Dillon she knows, the Dillon Ziggy loves, the Dillon she must admit she finds herself somewhat attracted to. This is the Dillon she wants to remember, the one she knows is standing behind the Black Ranger uniform and protecting Corinth. This Dillon is a good man, for as good as a man can be after the world has ended.

"So we still have to talk to Dr. K about that base code and how she has it," Scott says, "But we'll do that tomorrow. For now...we can just relax, and let Ziggy rest for as long as possible. Then deal with all of the real world shit."

Summer snorts. "The real world? We haven't lived in that for a long time."

"You've got a point there, love," Flynn says as he looks at Ziggy, curled up against Dillon with his good cheek on Dillon's shoulder and his bad one carefully angled into the air. Summer catches something fond in his gaze, something she's sure she has too when she's looking at them.

Then Dillon looks up at the three of them. "Some time in the next few days, we should talk about all of this," he says. "All of...us."

"We will, trust me," Scott says, "I promise."

Dillon nods. "Then hand me a blanket, if you don't mind? I want him to be as comfortable as possible."

Flynn nods and opens the trunk serving as their coffee table. He grabs a blanket from the pile inside and carefully drapes it over Ziggy's shoulders and body.

"Speaking of which," Scott says, "We should probably all get some sleep. It's getting pretty late."

The three of them look to Dillon. "I'm gonna sit here for a little while," he says, looking down at Ziggy's head. "I don't need much sleep."

He doesn't mention the why, but Summer understands all too well why he wouldn't. After all, the reason why he doesn't need much sleep or much food is the same reason why Ziggy's currently sitting with a battlefield on his face.

"Good night, then," she says, grabbing for Scott and Flynn's hands. "See you in the morning."

Dillon nods and the Trio heads up the stairs to their room. At the top of the stairs, Summer looks back and gets one last look at Dillon and Ziggy. Dillon's looking down at Ziggy's head with the most desolate possible look on his face, and if Summer didn't know any better she'd think that he was going to cry. Then Dillon leans over slightly and presses a quick kiss into Ziggy's curls.

"Shite," Flynn mutters next to her, and Scott nods.

"That's gonna be a lot of damage to work through," Scott agrees.

"I feel so sorry for them," Summer says, "That's gonna really fuck with their relationship if they're not careful, and for what?"

Flynn tugs a little on Summer's hand, and when she looks at her she sees apology on his face. "Let's give them some privacy, aye?"

She and Scott nod, and then they turn back around and head to their room.

-

Ziggy wakes up to excruciating pain shooting through the side of his face, and he's not ashamed to admit that he screams.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, someone get me some drugs," Ziggy says, not caring how much he sounds like he's whining. He can't describe the explosion that's currently happening in his skull, the dozens of knives stabbing down the right side of his face at once. 

Someone giggles, and Ziggy doesn't get how his pain is funny, but a second later there's a needle pressing into Ziggy's arm and there's a calming rush through his veins. He blinks his one operable eye and sees that it's Summer carefully extracting the needle from his arm. "Thanks," he rasps, cheeks heating from embarrassment. "Sorry for the screaming."

"Not your fault," Summer says, "You're in an insane amount of pain right now." 

That's an understatement, Ziggy thinks as he looks around the room. He's on the couch, covered by a blanket someone draped over him last night. Dillon is sitting on a low stool next to Ziggy's legs, Scott and Flynn are standing behind the coffee table, watching everything, and Summer is sitting on another stool by Ziggy's head. It's kinda nice, seeing all of them a bit concerned about him. Makes him feel not so alone- a feeling that is always appreciated. 

"And there's not a lot of the morphine left in our stores, but when you're able to Morph the biofield will help with your healing process and prevent a large amount of pain," Flynn says, "Or at least, that's what Dr. K said when I asked her this morning."

"Did you ask her about the base code?" Scott asks, and Flynn shakes his head, looking to Ziggy.

"I had greater priorities at the moment," Flynn says, "And besides, I thought that we should all talk to her about that together."

Memories start filtering into Ziggy's brain about yesterday. Most of the memories are vague and jumbled, due to head trauma and drugs, but he vaguely remembers a fight with Dillon and...flirting? With someone other than Dillon? Possibly Scott, possibly Flynn, he can't quite figure it out?

"Did I kiss Scott last night?" Ziggy asks, and in any other situation he would raise an eyebrow but the very idea of moving his face is painful. 

"That's the first question you ask?" Dillon asks, arching an eyebrow.

"Well, I'm not really on board with cheating on my boyfriend, no matter how complicated things get, so yeah, that'd be the first question." He also doesn't really feel like talking about the injuries on his face and how he got them- he's sure Dillon feels plenty of guilt over something that wasn't his fault, and Ziggy doesn't want to exacerbate that feeling.

"Nae, you didn't kiss Scott," Flynn says with a smile, "But you did flirt with him plenty."

"You also asked if you could kiss Summer and Flynn, too," Dillon says, and though Ziggy detects something wrong in his boyfriend's tone, he doesn't seem too angry about the whole flirting-with-other-people thing.

"And did I?" Ziggy asks, not only to test out his boyfriend's reactions but also because he's genuinely curious. Months ago he wouldn't have dreamed of such a thing, but after how much they've grown in the weeks since that particular late-night conversation, kissing one of his not-Dillon Soulmates doesn't ring as something too strange or off-putting.

"No, you fell asleep before doing anything too embarrassing," Summer reassures him, and Dillon nods, an amused smile flickering across his face before disappearing into his usual gruff expression.

"So no kissing anyone other than Dillon?"

"Nope," Scott answers, though he seems far too smug that Ziggy actually flirted with him last night. That's something Ziggy's gonna note down for later.

"But about everything else that happened last night," Dillon says, and Ziggy's heart plummets. Despite the awkwardness that accompanies any discussion of Soulmates, this conversation about the virus and what happened to Ziggy's face is something he wants to steer as far away from as possible.

"I'm guessing my face is no longer as gorgeous as it once was?" Ziggy asks, trying to summon some sense of levity, but from the way his teammates all give him varying looks of disbelief mingled with frustration or regret shows that he hasn't succeeded.

"Okay, I have to admit that not fighting Venjix-Dillon and trying to talk him down was probably not one of the best possible ideas I've ever had," Ziggy admits, and Flynn snorts.

"You can say that again," Flynn mutters.

"-But it's all good now, right? Doc K slowed down the virus, we're all back to normal, I may have flirted with Scott, but hey, everything else is back to how things used to be."

"And you look like roadkill," Dillon says, and Ziggy creaks a frown.

"You really know how to flatter a guy, honey."

Dillon's expression softens a little as he reaches out, and for the first time since Ziggy awoke, touches him. Dillon places a hand over Ziggy's and some weight lifts from Ziggy's chest. Thank god not everything has been ruined. "Not your fault, Zig. You're usually the best-looking guy in the room." Dillon smirks as he says, "Including all present company."

Flynn and Scott let out indignant huffs and if the motion didn't send pain shooting through his body, even with a decent amount of morphine, Ziggy would laugh. "Glad to hear it," he says with the barest of smiles in an effort not to jostle his face.

"Usually I'd have to protest," Summer says with a crooked smile Ziggy hadn't thought her capable of, "But you are pretty good-looking, Ziggy."

"You guys do realize that you are just inflating Operator Series Green's ego, correct?" a familiar voice asks, and Ziggy can't crane his neck to look but he could recognize Dr. K.'s voice from a mile away.

"We need to talk, Dr. K," Flynn says, and Ziggy can see his expression, the way it shifts so quickly from jovial to almost-furious. The rest of Ziggy's teammates' faces go through a similar transformation, and he tries to remember what happened yesterday that could possibly cause that kind of reaction. "You said that the virus could only be slowed down using the Venjix base code. How the bloody hell did you get it so quickly?"

"I knew the base code because I'm the one who created the Venjix virus," Dr. K says, but that can't be right. The team's tiny doctor, with her passion for violin and her insane brilliance and her small frame that trembles at the very idea of the outside, can't have possibly created the monster that destroyed the world. There's just no possible way that that's true.

"I think my head injury's worse than I thought," Ziggy says with a half-attempt at a chuckle. "Because I think I just hallucinated Dr. K telling us that she's the one who created Venjix."

"You're not imagining things," Summer says, and her words are probably supposed to be a reassurance but all Ziggy can hear is the bitter edge to her voice. "Dr. K created Venjix."

Ziggy's first instinct was disbelief, and his second is anger. Dr. K destroyed the world. She created Venjix, the virus that killed Scott's brother and Andrews and billions of people, enslaved Lia, and turned Dillon into a machine that just tore open Ziggy's face last night. She broke the world apart and started the apocalypse.

But here's the thing that Ziggy can't ignore- Dr. K can't be a day over six or seventeen, and the apocalypse was two years ago. She couldn't have been more than fifteen when she created Venjix. What in the world could possibly move a fifteen-year-old to try and end the world?

"Why did you create something that destroyed everything?" Ziggy says, trying to keep his voice calm despite the utter disbelief and anger he feels.

"It was an accident," Dr. K says, "I just wanted to go outside."

"Go outside?" Flynn asks, tone not exactly sympathetic but not quite angry either.

"I was kept in the Alphabet Soup testing compound since I was a little kid. The entire time I was told I was allergic to sunlight, and thus I never got to go outside. I could barely remember what the sun looked like when I created Venjix in an attempt to cripple their security systems so I could go outside.

I built a firewall to prevent the program from spreading too quickly, but I never got the chance to install it properly, so quickly enough Venjix made its way beyond the walls of Alphabet Soup and into the world at large."

Every ounce of anger is gone from Ziggy, replaced by sympathy. He understands what it's like to scrape to build anything you can, to do anything possible to escape the hell you're brought up in. He joined the cartel to get out- Dr. K built a virus she thought would allow her to escape.

"I'm sorry," Ziggy says, and she raises an eyebrow.

"What do you have to be sorry for, Operator Series Green?"

"That you had to go through all that when you were a kid," Ziggy says, "No one deserves that."

"You had no influence on the cicrumstances of my childhood, Operator Series Green, and it is laughable that you would suppose yourself to think that you could have made things any different."

Out of the corner of his eye, Ziggy sees a couple of his teammates flinching forward to defend him, but he doesn't need them. "Well, as someone who had a shitty childhood himself, I can kinda empathize with your desire to escape. And as someone who has had to deal with the consequences of Venjix, I'm certain I'm in a position to forgive you for what role you had in creating it."

Ziggy still can't see the good doctor from his position lying on the couch so he can't see her response, but then she moves forward until she is within his range of vision. She nods at him. "Thank you, Operator Series Green," she says, and her face isn't very emotional but her words do mean a lot.

"No problem, Doc," he says, and she immediately frowns.

"What did we say about calling me Doc?" she says, tone as disapproving as it's ever been.

"He's got a concussion, I'm sure you could forgive him for that," Dillon says with a smirk, and it seems like things haven't changed too much.

-

Things are still moving slowly, but they're moving in a more romantic direction. Turns out that pouring your heart out to someone can make that happen, or flirting with them when high- as is finding out that your mentor was an abused child who created the apocalypse in an attempt to escape. Certain things in life are bound to bring people closer.

It comes as little surprise to any of them that the first bridging of the gap between the Trio and the couple is Ziggy kissing Scott. (Okay, so it is a little surprising, considering that Ziggy's been building a decent friendship with Summer and Flynn over cooking while he hasn't really been building a similar relationship with Scott, but considering the way that he was flirting with Scott while high...well, not so surprising.)

Scott and Ziggy are out grocery shopping when two cartel members come in and threaten the cashier. They don't even have to exchange a look before Ziggy is walking up to the cashier, whipped cream in hand. He distracts the cartel members away from the cashier by drawing their attention to him, and then they attack him. Scott joins in the fight, and unlike in Ziggy's days with the cartel, he's on the stronger fighting side. His training and definitely Scott's training and experience has them taking out the cartel members pretty easily, though Scott's sure Ziggy's face is gonna hurt like a bitch after what happened last week. 

So they take out the two cartel members with a little creativity, plenty of fighting skill, and some whipped cream, and then the two of them regroup in the back of the store after the cashier thanks them for their help.

"Charging into battle was rather stupid, considering your face," Scott says, and Ziggy shrugs. 

"The Zigmeister does whatever it takes to take down evil, even if that evil is just two ex-members of the Yo-Yo Brothers."

And logically speaking, that shouldn't be attractive, but somehow Scott finds himself staring at Ziggy's smile and returning one of his own. Then he steps forward, leans in, and kisses the left corner of Ziggy's lips, careful not to jostle Ziggy's face. Ziggy's cheek may be only a little yellowed, the bruise mostly healed, but Scott does care about Ziggy's health. 

When Scott steps back, he finds Ziggy grinning at him. "Nice move, man."

Then Ziggy leans back in and this time he's kissing Scott, his fingers curling around the back of Scott's neck and into his hair. Though Scott is wary of messing up Ziggy's face healing, he can't deny that he very much enjoys the way Ziggy pulls him in. Ziggy's a pretty good kisser- probably from experience with Dillon- and he knows just the right angle to work at.

When they part, Ziggy says with a smirk, "But I can do better."

"That's debatable," Scott says, though there is something pulling at his heart that definitely agrees with Ziggy. 

"Want to test out that idea?" Ziggy asks.

"You sure Dillon would be okay with that?" Scott asks.

"We've talked about it since that night," Ziggy says. "About the possibility of... more."

Good. So Scott's not causing anyone to cheat on anyone...though is it cheating, if you're all Soulmates? If they all haven't talked about the specifics yet, how does everything work? Where are they all? What kind of relationship does Scott even want?

"You wanna finish grabbing the groceries?" Scott ends up asking, instead of any of the real questions bouncing around his mind.

Ziggy shrugs. "Sure. Don't want the good doctor to get cranky if we don't get her sweets."

"Or your boyfriend if he doesn't get his lollipops."

"Or your boyfriend if he doesn't get the ingredients for his smoothies," Ziggy volleys back with a smirk, and Scott grins.

"Looks like we've got a grocery run to finish, then. For the health of the team and all."

-

Scott goes back to his room that night, where he finds Summer and Flynn already in the room, Summer sitting on the bed reading one of her adventure novels and Flynn tinkering on some project.

"So," Scott says with a smile as he flops down on the bed, and for a moment it almost feels like they're just teenagers again, giggling about kisses and Soulmates without the apocalypse hanging over their shoulders. "Ziggy and I kissed. At the grocery store."

"Really?" Summer asks, setting down her book on her lap. "Who kissed who? Tell us everything."

"I kissed him, but then he kissed me back."

"Is he a good kisser?" Flynn asks, continuing to tinker with whatever project he's been working on with.

"He's good, but I'm better," Scott says with a smile, and Summer rolls her eyes.

"Flynn is the best kisser, though," she says, poking at Scott a little, and when Scott pouts a little Flynn turns around in his chair to kiss her cheek.

"Thanks, love," he says with a small smirk.

"But don't go getting an ego because of it," Summer says, "I'm sure Ziggy or Dillon is a better kisser than you."

"What does that make me, chopped liver?" Scott asks from the comforter.

"No, it makes you the best cuddler, and the most romantic," Summer informs him.

Scott shrugs. "Alright, I'll take it."

"I'm the one who made you pizza last week," Flynn protests, and Summer raises a challenging eyebrow.

"Ziggy was the one who made pizza- you made dessert, which yes, was romantic and all, but wasn't pizza."

"I can't even beat the guy who's not in the relationship yet," Flynn mutters, turning his chair back to face his desk.

"And, of course, I'm the fastest," Summer says, and Scott practically shoots up from the bed. He ignores the satisfaction on her face and the fact that by defending his honor he's just playing into her hands.

"Excuse you? I'm the fastest. I have a car."

"And I have a motorcycle. I don't have to deal with all of that added weight." 

"She's got a point," Flynn says, "She doesn't have the power of your car, but with the severe decrease in weight and increase in maneuverability, she's got you beat."

"Way to be on my side," Scott says.

"I'm on the winning side, love," Flynn says, though sliding his chair across the floor in order to drop a kiss onto Scott's forehead somewhat belies his statement. "My side."

"Now that's debatable," Summer says, and Flynn rolls his eyes. 

-

Gem and Gemma show up, and they're folded into the team like they've always been there. After all, when the team has seen the way Dr. K cried meeting them, the way she smiles so much more nowadays, the way she calls the twins "her best friends" with utter reverence in her voice. How can they push away anyone who makes Dr. K so happy?

Then they find out that Gemma is Dr. K's Soulmate, and that's a bit of a surprise. The little doctor is not exactly someone Scott has ever pictured inclined towards romance, but Gem and Gemma like to doodle on their arms and it takes about three days to hear Dr. K's small yelp of surprise. Scott runs into the lab to find her staring down at her arm, which is covered in rainbows and cartoon puppies.

"Gem or Gemma?" he asks, and she breathes in sharply.

"Gemma," she answers, "She puts black in her rainbows while Gem uses pink." Then Dr. K looks up at him and there are tears in her eyes. "I have a Soulmate?"

And his heart cracks a little for her. She's so young, so small, and she's been so broken by the world. She's so fucking smart, but sometimes she says things and Scott kind of just wants to hug her and let her know that not everyone is horrible, that it's okay to let herself be vulnerable with the people that love her.

"You should tell her," he says instead, hoping that she'll understand everything comforting he wants to say.

She purses her lips and nods. "Perhaps, Ranger Red," she says, and he nods back at her and leaves the room to return to more casual training.

Scott sees Dr. K a few hours later, walking into dinner with her hand held in Gemma's and a small smile on her lips, and his heart soars. Things are getting better.

So life goes on. Flynn and Gemma become really good friends and Flynn actually gets to work on helping create a new Zord. When it works in battle, Dillon kisses Flynn on the cheek and utters a proclamation of "Good job" that leaves Flynn's cheeks red.

Dr. K starts to open up to them all, starting to refer to some of them by their first names, and it's rather nice to see her actually smiling more often.

Everything's progressing pretty nicely, all things considered.

-

Things go haywire (as they have a tendency to do when it comes to the team) when they all find out about Tenaya, about the real reason she whistles "The Farmer and the Dell," about the missing part to Dillon's key.

At first, the team has no clue. Dillon disappears for the day without telling any of them- even Ziggy- where he's going, and then when he gets back he's uncharacteristically silent.

Ziggy puts a hand on Dillon's shoulder through the open window of his car. "You know," Ziggy says, nothing but concern. "If you talked to me, I could help you."

"I wish you could," Dillon says, "But you can't."

Ziggy sighs. "Cut the bullshit, Dillon," he says, "I know you too well. And you know me. You know I can help."

Dillon glances up at Ziggy. "I'll tell you later, I promise."

"I'll hold you to that," Ziggy says, leaning into the car slightly to give Dillon a kiss on the cheek.

-

Things start to get answered for Dillon's team in the later battle with Tenaya.

"It's the hybrid I've come for," Tenaya announces at the beginning of the battle, and at once all four of Dillon's Soulmates step in front of him.

"You want one of us," Flynn spits, "You're gonna have to go through all of us."

"Gladly," she snarls, summoning an army of Venjix, and quickly enough Dillon gets separated from the rest of the team. 

Dillon and Tenaya fight and they should be even, due to their implants and her higher upgrades and his Black Ranger suit, but they're not because Dillon can't bring himself to hurt her. 

He can't hurt Tenaya. She's a human and he can't hurt humans, he won't hurt humans, and more importantly, she's his only family, his only link to his past.

She ends up forcing him out of his Morph and to his knees quickly enough, landing blow after blow that he only half-heartedly fends off. Then she's about to strike the death blow, and he knows he can't fight back, not when it's his sister, not after he's spent so long trying to find her. 

Then, from behind him, he hears the Trio about to fire up their blaster, and he can't let them hit her. He jumps up to protect her, but the blast just ends up catching them both instead, sending her flying to the railing and him to the pavement.

He runs to help her. "Take my hand!" he shouts, but she won't do it so he tries again. Take my hand, please!" She can't fall.

And for a moment, she hesitates, gaze momentarily going distant. Then Dillon can hear the desperation in her voice as she reaches out a hand and pleas, "Don't let go!"

And he won't, not again. He helps pull her up onto the bridge, and soon enough, she's standing facing him.

Then, seconds later, his team- his Soulmates, for whatever that's worth- arrive at the bridge, worry plain in their eyes. And he gets that what he just did must look insane to them.

"Dillon, what the fuck are you doing?" Scott asks, "Why would you protect her?"

Dillon looks back at Tenaya, at her all-too-human expression of fear and worry, and then back at his team. He focuses on Ziggy, whose face, though slightly worried, is more just curious, waiting for an answer from Dillon.

Dillon remembers when he first found out that he had a sister and his first thoughts at the time, which had been wondering about introducing her to Ziggy. That night had quickly been overtaken by other problems, other revelations- Dillon's Soulmate status, for one- that he'd barely had time to think about it, but he does remember those original dreams of his sister and Ziggy meeting and the hopes that they'd like each other.

And now, months later- now that he knows who she is, he has three more people to introduce her to, a mess of a relationship to explain and a world he's not sure if he calls home.

But he's not afraid of whatever's going to happen, because he finally has his sister back (even if just minutes ago she was trying to kill him). This may be the most awkward meet-the-family ever constructed, but he doesn't care. He finally has his sister back, and he's going to make this work.

"'Cause she's my sister," he says, and all four of his Soulmates freeze, eyes going wide, and he realizes that they might know more information about his sister than he does, if he wrote to them before the hybrid implants.

"But your sister's..." Gemma says, tone confused.

"...Blind," Gem finishes, and Dillon remembers the revelation the two of them revealed at dinner one night, about them having been kept in the same factory the original five Rangers had discovered on that one trip.

"She's...she's a hybrid," Flynn says, stuttering his way through an explanation. "They must be robotic eyes."

"But...you're Lia?" Ziggy asks, gaze wide.

"Lia?" Tenaya asks, brow furrowed, and Dillon's similarly confused.

"Lia Jackson," Summer explains, unable to tear her gaze away from Tenaya, "That's Dillon's sister's name."

Dillon rolls it around on his tongue. Lia. It's different than "Tenaya," and he's not sure whether it fits her better or not.

"Lia," Tenaya says with a small smile. "I think I like it."

Scott lets out a small, disbelieving laugh. "Good thing," he says, "Because it is your name."

"Nice to meet you, Miss Jackson," Ziggy says, "I'm Ziggy, and your brother probably would have mentioned me if we'd met sooner and all, but-"

Then there's a crash and they look up to see that the heatbot's been downloaded.

"We can finish introductions later," Scott says, "I'm sorry, Dillon, but we've gotta go take care of that."

Dillon turns to Lia, sympathy in his eyes. "I'll be right back, I promise. I'm not letting go again."

She nods as he runs off, but he's not sure if she believes him.

-

Then, right as the team is about to get back to her on that bridge, an attack-bot comes barreling out of the woodwork. It shoots a glowing beam of light at her that ties her up, and Dillon starts to run, the team at his side, but they're not fast enough. Lia is taken by a Venjix attack-bot and Dillon's world comes crashing down around him again.

When he gets up off the ground, Dillon is ready to punch something, to go running up to the Venjix base itself and suicide rush it in an attempt to save his sister.

But Ziggy puts his hand against Dillon's chest and stops him. "You can't go rushing in there," Ziggy says, "You'll die."

Dillon's hand goes to Ziggy's, fingers wrapping around his. "I'm going after her, and you can't stop me."

Dillon's never seen Ziggy's eyes go that dark, that sharp before. "You'll have to go through me first," Ziggy says, voice impossibly brave, "I'm not letting you kill yourself to save her."

Dillon's fingers tighten slightly around Ziggy's. He knows he could do it- his implants make him far stronger than Ziggy could ever be, and Ziggy's already the most breakable one of the team. It would be so easy to just push Ziggy out of the way, to charge back into battle. It would only take one small flick of the wrist, one clenching of Dillon's fingers, and Ziggy's wrist bones would snap. It would be so physically easy for Dillon to incapacitate Ziggy, and they both know it- he's done it before. "I could destroy you."

Ziggy doesn't even flinch, instead just meeting Dillon's gaze head on, and Dillon wonders how Ziggy does it, how he just stares death right in the face and doesn't flinch. He knows that Dillon could kill him with just one movement, could cripple him- he's been on the receiving end of Dillon's fists before. And yet, he doesn't move. "I know you won't do it."

For just a moment Dillon stares at Ziggy before he lets out a small sigh. He won't do it- he can't do it. He still has nightmares every night of Ziggy's face after what the virus made Dillon's body do to him- he could never let anything like that happen to Ziggy again. He would never do that to any human, especially the man he loves. He's not Venjix.

Dillon lets go of Ziggy's hand, letting his own hand drop to his side, and Ziggy wraps his arms around Dillon as far as they'll go, pulling him into a hug. "We'll save her, I promise," Ziggy swears, "We'll get her back from Venjix."

"Ziggy's right," Summer says, and Dillon looks up to see the Trio standing there, looking at him with sympathy on their faces. "We'll get your sister back, we promise. We'll all help you rescue her. We're your team- we're not letting you do this alone."

If Dillon could cry, he thinks he might be doing that. But he can't, he can't even remember what it's like to cry, and so he doesn't.

"Thank you," he whispers into Ziggy's hair instead.

"No problem, big guy," Ziggy says into Dillon's chest.

-

Then they're about to rescue Tenaya, but then Scott gets shot with a mind-control device and things go to hell when he attacks the team. This time he's not as powerful as the implants make Dillon, so there's less damage, but he still ends up with his mind ripped from him and his body turned into a weapon for the enemy. His team gets him back to normal, but he's severely shaken by the end of the battle.

That night he ends up pulling Dillon over to the stairs to sit down and have a talk. Ziggy's off in his and Dillon's room, taking care of something, while Flynn's making himself a late night smoothie and Summer's reading an old adventure novel in their room. They have some privacy tonight to talk about...everything.

"I can't pretend to know how you feel," Scott starts off, "Constantly living in fear of your body betraying you like that. But I think I understand just a little better, now."

Dillon nods. "Wouldn't wish that on anyone, but yeah," he says. "It absolutely hurts to know that your body can just be taken over like that, can be made into a weapon to hurt the people you love."

Scott sucks in a sharp breath. "I could have hurt one of you," he says, because his old nightmares of his brother and Summer and Flynn dying in battle have recently been replaced by nightmares of Ziggy's face and the way it was utterly destroyed by Dillon's fists. He's honestly afraid of going to sleep tonight, of dreaming of himself being the one to do such damage to his Soulmates. "That...that's my worst nightmare."

Dillon nods. "Definitely not an experience I ever want to repeat," he says, and his voice is much quieter than Scott's ever heard it before.

"I swear to you that we're going to do everything possible to stop the Venjix virus and get you your mind back," Scott says, conviction in his tone as he offers his hand to Dillon, setting it palm-up on Dillon's knee. Dillon takes it with a nod, entangling their fingers together.

"Thanks," Dillon says, short and sweet, and Scott's gotten to know him well enough that he can tell just how much the promise means to Dillon.

"Of course, man," Scott says.

Then Dillon leans in and soon enough they're kissing on the stairs, and it's cramped, but it's pretty nice.

-

Then comes the gas attack that sends all the boys to sleep. Gemma, Ziggy, Dr. K, and Summer are all in the lab when the reports come in from throughout the city.

"It's chromosomal in nature," Dr. K says from her analysis of the toxin, "Which means it only affects males." Her gaze flicks to the screens that show the inside of the Garage. Summer hears distant thumps as the boys on the screens go down around the pool table.

Wait a moment. If it's a gas that affects males- Summer runs over to the doors to the room and slams the button that sends them shut and locking the room in.

"What are you doing, Summer?" Gemma asks, curious.

"If this affects the guys, shouldn't Ziggy stay in here? Then the gas would take longer to get to him?"

Dr. K stares at Summer as if she's grown a second head. "Actually, yes, Ranger Yellow, that would be correct."

"Well, she is brilliant," Ziggy says, offering up Summer a high-five. She takes it with a roll of the eyes. "What can I do to help, Dr. K, without going outside?"

Dr. K's lips curl a little as she looks at him. "There isn't much, actually, unless..." Her and Gemma lock eyes.

"He Morphs!" they shout at the same time, grinning at each other, and Ziggy and Summer exchange a knowing look.

"You'll have to conserve the energy of the suit," Dr. K says, "But I can airlock your suit much more efficiently than I can this room, and hopefully allow you to stay awake long enough to combat the gas and any attacks long enough to get the antidote developed."

Ziggy salutes. "Whatever you say, Doc." He then activates his Morph, and Summer's left looking at the Green Ranger.

"I will airlock your suit and begin developing a serum while Ranger Yellow and Gemma go and check on the other Rangers," Dr. K says.

"You sure you don't want help?" Ziggy asks them.

Summer raises an eyebrow. "We can handle ourselves, Ziggy

"I wasn't saying you couldn't, I swear-" Ziggy babbles, waving his hands frantically in a defensive way.

Summer smiles. "I know, I know. But since your suit isn't guaranteed to be airlocked yet, we can't risk it."

Ziggy nods. "Got it."

When Summer and Gemma enter the pool room to check on the rest of the boys, they find that Scott and Dillon have collapsed hand-in-hand. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Summer can't help but grin.

"Aw," she says, "Look at them."

Gemma smiles. "You really love them. They make your heart go boom, right?"

Summer nods, smiling at the description. "Does Dr. K do that to you?"

Gemma nods vigorously. "She makes my heart explode all the time. She's so pretty and smart and such a good friend."

"I'm glad for you," Summer says.

"I'm happy for you too, Summer!" Gemma shouts, pulling Summer into a hug. Summer smiles and reciprocates before Gemma pulls away and says, "Now let's go help Dr. K get the antidote done so we can get Ziggy out of his suit, wake up the boys, and make the robots explode!"

-

The first attempt at an antidote causes Flynn to jerk up, compliment Summer's hair and Ziggy's butt, and then collapse back into unconsciousness.

Ziggy laughs. "I'm totally blackmailing him with that later."

Summer nods. "Not the time for jokes, but I'm in total agreement."

But to their eternal bad luck, the alarms go off before they can test another antidote.

"You Rangers need to go fight the Grinders," Dr. K instructs, "The airlock on Operator Series Green's suit should hold for long enough to develop an antidote that will wake up the rest of the team."

Summer glances up at the energy level readings, and Ziggy's has already been depleting a little even though he's done basically nothing but walk around inside. If they go into battle, how easy will it be for him to DeMorph and get the gas straight to the face?

"Are you sure?" Summer asks, and Dr. K stares at her.

"I'm certain, Ranger Yellow."

"Trust her," Gemma says, and Summer nods.

"Alright," she says, "We're heading into battle."

"And you're our field leader, Summer," Ziggy says. "You've got the longest field experience."

Gemma nods. "You were second-in-command."

Summer nods. "Alright. Let's do this, then." She turns and heads out the door, and Ziggy and Gemma follow right behind her.

They get to the vehicles and it only takes a moment for Summer to look at Dillon's car and go, "It's an emergency, right?"

Gemma nods. "Right."

"I call shotgun!" Ziggy says, and despite how harrowing it is to be half a team down, Summer can't help but grin. This is gonna be great.

-

"What happened?" Scott asks as soon as Dr. K's antidote wakes the four male Rangers up.

She sighs. "You were infected with a gender-specific airborne toxin that increased your levels of serotonin, rendering you useless. But there's no time to explain."

"Dr. K," comes Summer's voice over the comms, "Ziggy's down, and our suits are both getting ready to lose power as well. Is there any chance you've gotten the antidote working?"

"How did Ziggy get onto the field without collapsing?" Flynn asks.

"Airlock on his Ranger suit," Dr. K says as she runs over to her console and grabs the round Zord she and Gemma had been working on. "He must have gotten DeMorphed in battle and that caused him to fall unconscious."

"Ziggy's unconscious in the middle of a battle?" Dillon demands, and Scott understands the worry in his eyes.

Before Scott has a chance to react, she shoves the Road Attack Zord into his arms. "I calibrated you for the Road Attack Zord. You shouldn't have any more problems. I'll downmorph the coordinates in transit."

Then she hands over the spray bottle to Flynn. "Use this on Ranger Green when you get to the site- it's the antidote."

"Now get going!" she orders them all, and they don't need to be told twice.

-

"What'd I miss?" Ziggy asks when he wakes up on the pavement, DeMorphed with a battle going down around him.

Flynn, Morphed in full Blue Ranger gear, offers him a hand up. "Dr. K made us an antidote and I just sprayed you with it. Scott's downtown with the Road Attack Zord and everyone's fighting the Grinders and Tenaya right now. You good to Morph?"

"Let's sure hope so," Ziggy says, and brings up his Morpher. "RPM, get in gear!" he shouts, and sure enough he can Morph.

"Thank god," Flynn says, and Ziggy couldn't agree more. "Now let's fight."

"Sounds great to me."

And then they charge into battle.

-

Summer, Ziggy, and Scott fall asleep together on the sofa that night, and Flynn walks in to find Dillon draping a blanket over top of them.

Flynn smiles. "You really do care about them all, aye?"

"They're ours," Dillon says. "It's taken a lot of shit to get here, but I think we've worked most of it out."

"Amen, love," Flynn says as Dillon backs away from the sofa and heads over to stand by Flynn. Flynn leans in and gives Dillon a kiss on the cheek. "Well, I've gotta head to bed," Flynn says, "Need to sleep, myself. I'll see you in the morning?"

"See you in the morning," Dillon replies.

-

"We're gonna have to get a bigger bed," Summer says the next morning, when she wakes up with Ziggy's head on her shoulder and Scott's head on her lap. 

"We'll just take turns," Ziggy says with a yawn as he gestures to his boyfriend, who is sitting at the counter and sucking on one of his characteristic lollipops. "Dillon- you and I are cuddling with one of these guys next."

Dillon shrugs. "Whatever you say, Zig."

"How do you do that?" Scott asks Ziggy as he gets up and stretches.

"Do what?" Ziggy says, following him off the sofa. He turns and offers Summer a hand up while Scott grabs the blanket and starts to fold it.

"Get him to just agree with you that quickly?" Scott explains.

Ziggy grins. "It's all part of my charm, Truman- you should try it sometimes."

Scott looks to Summer. "I've got plenty of charm, right?"

"Of course you do," Summer says, "You're the perfect boy-next-door."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Scott asks, eyebrow raised in curiosity. He's not sure if he should be offended or not.

"That you're quite dashing," Flynn says with a smile as he walks in, takes the blanket from Scott's arm, and sticks it into the trunk-coffee-table.

Scott grins. "There you go- I've got at least one person on my side."

"Though obviously Summer's the most charming one of any of us," Flynn continues, and Scott shoots him a look of betrayal.

"I'll agree with that," Dillon says with a shrug, and suddenly Flynn's not the only boyfriend getting sent betrayed looks.

Summer, on the other hand, just smiles as she smooths back her sleep-mussed hair. "Why thank you, boys."

"I am offended," Ziggy tells Dillon, stepping forward to nudge his boyfriend in the arm.

"Don't worry, you're still the prettiest," Dillon says, and Ziggy grins, leaning up on his toes a bit to kiss Dillon's cheek.

"I'll take it."

-

Today's battle with the attack-bot is a bit rougher than usual, ending with the team regrouping in the middle of the parking lot covered in minor bruises and breathing harder than usual. They're all a big banged up after having been knocked out of their Morphs, but as Scott looks around at his team no one seems to be critically injured.

“Okay,” Scott says, “Is everyone all right?”

“Wait a minute,” Summer says, eyes wide, “Where the fuck is Ziggy?”

"Let's look around," Dillon says, and the slight concern in his voice shows just how worried he is.

They look around the parking lot and they can't find him. He's not unconscious in any of the surrounding alleys, not hanging from any random fire escapes, nowhere in sight.

"Sweet mother molasses," Flynn mutters, a note of fear entering his voice, and Scott can't help but agree. 

-

It's been half an hour and they can't find Ziggy, Tenaya, or the attack-bot. Scott's currently talking about their plans for the battle, and Dr. K's on a tangent about the Rail Saber. But the original four members of the team are still hung up on the disappearance of their Soulmate.

Dillon is the one to bring it up first. “Hang on a sec, what about Ziggy?"

"Operator Series Green is out of the equation," Dr. K says, "And his Morpher signal has gone dead."

“And we’re not worried about that?” Flynn asks, shock clear.

“What do you suggest, we go door to door?" Dr. K offers, and in any other person Summer would think that she has sarcasm thick in her tone. Because it's Dr. K, though, Summer's pretty sure that the question is genuine. She doesn't think that Dr. K even understands sarcasm at all.

“She’s as bad as the machines," Dillon spits, and though Summer wants to protest she can see the flicker of fear in his eyes, the same fear that's reflected in the rest of their faces. If Ziggy's Morpher is offline, then that can mean nothing good.

Ziggy isn't someone who just disappears on them. The last time he disappeared on them was with the very first use of the teleport, with him ending up in that bank vault when it misfired, and every battle after that has had him right by their sides.

If he'd had plans to leave, she believes that he would have told at least Dillon, if not Scott or one of them. She thought their relationship was progressing to the point where he would have trusted them on where he's going.

Scott sends Gem and Gemma back to work on the weapon with Dr. K, keeping the other three of him by his side. "We're gonna keep searching for the attack-bot and Ziggy, okay?" he says, "We're not giving up."

Summer gives him what she hopes is a reassuring smile and nod, and when she glances at Flynn and Dillon they look equally determined to find Ziggy as well as take down the attack-bot.

It looks like things are going as well as she'd thought.

-

When Ziggy and Gemma show up near the end of the battle to help form the Megazords, Summer breathes a sigh of relief that she's pretty sure she hears echoed through the comms.

"Miss me?" Ziggy jokes, and Summer is torn between the ideas of smacking him upside the head or kissing him as soon as she sees him in person outside of the Zords. Probably both, if she can manage it.

-

After the battle, as soon as they all DeMorph, Ziggy has about two seconds to try and speak before Summer walks over and yanks him into a kiss. Ziggy makes a small noise of surprise but gladly reciprocates, fingers scrabbling across the back of Summer's jacket. 

When they part, Summer offers up her hand to Ziggy, and Ziggy slips his fingers into hers with a smile.

"Don't worry us like that again," Summer says, and Ziggy shrugs.

"I can't really help it when I get kidnapped by a Venjix general," he says, then turns to Dillon. "Sorry Gemma and I couldn't stop her."

"As long as you're okay, that's all that matters right now," Dillon says, and Ziggy smiles at him.

"We'll save her, I promise," Ziggy says, and Dillon smiles right back.

"I can always count on you, Ziggy." 

Then Fresno Bob shows up at the Garage and tells Ziggy that he's forgiven Ziggy's crimes because Ziggy saved his life, and there's a load off of Ziggy's shoulders. Suddenly, that tension Summer noticed in Ziggy's shoulders months back is actually gone.

"Well, that's one less worry on the table, thank god," Ziggy says as he turns back to them after Fresno Bob leaves. "I can finally go outside without worrying about whether or not my head'll end up blown off my shoulders."

Summer hadn't realized just how terrified Ziggy had been on a regular basis, even considering his status as the Green Ranger, and when she looks around it seems as if a few of her teammates hadn't realized it either, considering the taken-aback looks on some of their faces.

Flynn, on the other hand, slings an arm around Ziggy's shoulders. "Good to hear that you're off the cartels' hit list. Makes life a lot easier."

Ziggy snorts. "You can say that again."

-

That night finds all five of them crashed in the living room, Summer, Ziggy, and Dillon on the sofa with Scott on the carpet. Flynn's finishing up making smoothies and then he'll end up on the carpet next to Scott once he gets back over here. Gemma and Dr. K are off in the lab, probably engaged in some experiment, and Gem is off somewhere outside of the Garage, still exploring Corinth after having been here for over a month.

"Pass the popcorn," Summer says to Dillon, who gives Ziggy a brief kiss as he hands over the bucket of popcorn. Ziggy passes it to Summer, who takes her opportunity to give him a kiss as well.

Scott looks around at his team, at his Soulmates, and he smiles. They've finally worked things out. He never would have imagined it months ago, when every interaction was tense and wary, but now, they've grown. They've made it through so much together.

Flynn makes his way into the living room, handing out smoothies to everyone before parking himself on the carpet next to Scott. "Cheers," Flynn says, holding up his cup to Scott's. Scott clinks glasses with him.

"What movie do y'all want to watch?" Scott asks, taking a sip of his smoothie.

"School of Rock," Ziggy says at the same time that Flynn says, "Harry Potter," and Summer says, "National Treasure."

Scott exchanges a look with Dillon as their other three Soulmates start heavily debating which movie to watch- Ziggy with his usual musical kick, Summer with her love for any adventure movie with a poly Soulmate story, and Flynn with anything from the United Kingdom with a justice or hero-esque message.

Summer and Ziggy end up teaming up against Flynn, and in the end, they agree on watching National Treasure and School of Rock, with a Harry Potter movie marathon saved for another day. Flynn grumbles, muttering about something about betrayal and smoothies under his breath, but Scott leans over and captures Flynn's lips in his, and that's enough to make Flynn smile and shut up.

The movie begins and Scott snuggles in close to Flynn, taking his blanket and draping it over his and Flynn's shoulders before the two of them lean their backs up against the sofa, Scott in front of Summer and Ziggy and Flynn in front of Dillon. Scott reaches up a hand, resting it palm-up on one of the laps behind him, and someone takes it. Their fingers curl together, and Scott smiles wide.

The old world may have ended, but here, in the last city on earth, Scott has found a life with the people he loves. It's a minor miracle, but it's a very welcome one. 

So maybe they still have a long way to go. They haven't defeated Venjix yet, haven't saved Lia, haven't stopped the virus in Dillon's head, but Scott knows they will. They'll get Lia back, save the city, and learn to live in whatever world they end up creating.

Because if there's one thing Scott's learned, it's that "happily-ever-after" isn't the important part- what's important is the part where you and the people you love live.

-

So at the end of the day, they save Lia and the rest of the city, stop Venjix, and save whatever's left of the rest of the world from the robot invasion. Not bad for a couple of years' work, right?

And Dillon finally gets to meet his sister. Not Tenaya with the virus still in her brain, not Tenaya with the foggy memories and questions: no, it's Lia Jackson, with memories of their past life together far more intact than Dillon's since she didn't run away before the upgrades were complete.

Lia heads back to the Garage with Dillon, where she ends up borrowing an old leather jacket of Ziggy's, a t-shirt of Gemma's, pants of Summer's, and a hairtie. When Dillon sees her after she's changed, he's a bit shocked by just how different she looks, just how natural and casual she seems in her new clothing and look. He's got to say that he likes it, though, knowing that his sister is out from under the control of the virus and now under control of her own agency.

"So," Dillon says to Lia as they walk down the stairs into the rest of the Garage, "I've got some people I'd like you to meet."

"I'd love to meet them all," Lia says with a soft smile, the kind Tenaya never had.

The team is all gathered in the main area, Dillon's Soulmates playing pool to pass the time they were waiting for Dillon and Lia. Summer is beating the boys, as usual, and there's a running banter kept up by Ziggy. Gemma, Gem, and Dr. K are all bent over a table with their heads together, discussing something or other, and it all feels so natural to Dillon.

As Dillon watches, he feels a sense of fondness rise in his chest that he never would have anticipated two years ago, when he woke up in the middle of a desert with only a vague memory of screams. Even a year ago, he wouldn't have thought of it, either, given the way that the Trio had treated the only friend he had made at the time (and, well, the guy he liked).

But now?

Now, though, he can't help but think about the future and smile, imagining a life with these four people whose ink finally appears on his skin now that the virus is gone. He imagines racing with Scott, working on cars with Flynn, cooking with Ziggy, playing pool with Summer, making out and cuddling and just hanging out with all of them. There will be no fear of Venjix, no dread of a virus taking over his body- it will be doing all the things he's learned to love, with the people he's learned to love. 

He clears his throat when he and Lia hit the bottom of the stairs, and his Soulmates all turn to look at them, smiles on their lips.

"Guys, this is my sister, Lia," Dillon says, gesturing between them all. "Lia, these four wonderful idiots are my Soulmates."

"Can I get some names?" Lia asks, looking so much more at ease with herself than Tenaya ever did.

"Well, first we've got Ziggy Grover, criminal extraordinaire and Ranger Green," Dillon starts.

Ziggy waves in that awkward, adorable way of his. "Hey, I'm the guy that got your brother into Corinth and ended up getting busted out of prison by."

"Nice to know," Lia says with raised eyebrows.

"Then there's Scott Truman, leader and Ranger Red."

Scott walks forward a few steps to actually shake Lia's hand, smile easy. "Nice to meet you- I have manners, unlike Ziggy over there."

"Excuse you," Ziggy protests, "I'm the one with charm, remember?"

Scott rolls his eyes as he steps back, and Lia actually giggles. In this moment, when Lia's so carefree, Dillon could honestly ignore the fact that just yesterday, she was a killing machine that took all five Rangers to take on.

"And Flynn McAllistair, resident mechanic and Ranger Blue."

Flynn grins. "'Ello, lil' lass. Nice to meet you now that we're not, ya know, fighting it out on the streets."

"Same to you, Flynn," Lia says with a small smirk. 

"Last but not least, Summer Landsdown, pool goddess and-"

"Ranger Yellow," Summer says, stepping forward to shake Lia's hand. "I believe we met at my wedding?"

Lia grins. "You tried to take my diamond," she teases.

"You technically tried to take mine, but same difference."

"I'd love to spend more time with you," Lia says. "Maybe catch up a bit. See if there are any more diamonds for us to steal."

As Summer nods, Dillon can hear Flynn mutter to Scott in the background, "Told you she was the most charming."

"So," Lia says, turning back slightly to Dillon, "Your teammates are your Soulmates?"

He nods, smiling proudly. "Yeah, they are," he says.

He doesn't explain the whole backstory on how they got here, the whole history of relationships and fuck-ups and arguments that got them to this stage. That's not important, right now- what's important is the new beginning he has here with these four wonderful, ridiculous people and his sister and, well, Dr. K and Gem and Gemma, the whole family he's made while living and working in the Garage.

Dr. K calls them over to the main area, where she's holding a case where their Morphers will end up resting now that they're all done.

Ziggy slips his hand into Dillon's as they head over to Dr. K. "You and me and these three are gonna make this world ours," Ziggy says, and Dillon can do nothing but smile. Despite the importance of the rest of his Soulmates, Ziggy's always gonna be his first. 

"Can't wait," Dillon says.

He catches Lia looking between them with a knowing smile, but she withholds any comments. Dillon hopes she'll find something like he has, whether that be her Soulmate or finding a relationship all on her own.

Then Dr. K opens her case, and Ziggy's the first to turn in his Morpher. He steps forward and slips it into Dr. K's case, where it lands with a small thunk. "Get in gear," he mutters under his breath before stepping back to the team. 

Then goes Flynn, then Scott, then Gem, then Gemma, then Summer, and then finally Dillon. Then he steps back to the line and takes Ziggy's hand again. 

With the final Morpher, Dr. K snaps the case shut and sets it on the table behind her. Then Gemma takes her hand, and the good doctor smiles up at her Soulmate.

Dillon's not entirely sure how he feels about it all.

Their days as Rangers are over with, and if Dillon is honest with himself he does feel a certain note of melancholy enter his heart. He's gonna miss being a Ranger, miss being a hero and a protector of the last city on earth. He's gonna miss fighting alongside his Soulmates, alongside his team.

Dillon looks around to see Scott slinging an arm around Ziggy's and Summer's shoulders, Flynn resting his head on Summer's shoulder.

Well, they might not be Rangers anymore, but they still have each other. They're not gonna abandon each other. They have the whole world ahead of them, and plenty of years to figure out how to live semi-normal lives together.

Maybe they'll fight. Maybe they'll have their issues- no, fuck that, they're definitely gonna have their issues. They're gloriously, wonderfully, fucked-up humans- of course they're gonna have their issues. And that'll be fantastic, because it'll mean that they're alive and together and themselves.

"No more Power Rangers," Summer says, a note of almost-melancholy to her voice. "What now?"

"Well," Scott says, "My dad's got openings in Eagle Squadron for whoever wants to join. Gem and Gemma have already accepted, and your boy here's gonna be commander."

"Congratulations!" Flynn shouts, accompanied by echoes from the rest of their team. Then Flynn continues: "And speaking of the future- my dad and I are going to be expanding our shop beyond just automotive mechanics. Now, we're gonna be working on the computers for the whole city."

"I'm gonna work at Jungle Karma Pizza as a chef," Ziggy says, smile proud, "Sent in my application a few days ago, and they said that whenever we save the world I'm welcome to start cooking."

Dillon can't contain his smile. He knows just how long Ziggy's been hoping for a legitimate job, and he's really excited that Ziggy's gonna get to do something he loves.

And Dillon? "I'm gonna work with Flynn and his Da at the shop," Dillon says, and Flynn grins.

"Da says he's a natural with cars," Flynn brags.

"And I'm not going anywhere near your computer programs for awhile," Dillon says.

"Aye, that's understandable," Flynn says

"Well, Dr. K and I are going to be starting a school for underprivileged kids and orphans," Summer says. "I'll teach about politics and economics and how to kick ass at pool, as well as deal with the administration of the school-"

"-And I will teach about physics and science and all of the other necessary life skills young people will learn," Dr. K finishes, though she gives Summer an approving smile that Summer's all too happy to return.

"That sounds great," Ziggy says with a brilliant smile, "Mind if I help out when I'm free from work? Maybe cook for the kids or something?"

"Not a problem," Summer says.

"You could teach them about shadow puppets," Dr. K says with a small, teasing smile, and Dillon didn't think she was capable of such humor. 

"And you, Lia?" Dillon asks, turning to his sister, "What do you want to do?"

Lia shrugs. "I want to live. What I'm gonna do beyond that, I don't know. Get to know you all, maybe find some way to keep doing science 'cause I loved it in school, maybe help out around the city, anything is up for grabs."

"As long as you're doing what you love," Ziggy says.

"I just got to figure out what that is first," Lia says, and Dillon smiles at her.

"I know you'll find it eventually," he says, "I know I did."

"And you can stay in the Garage for as long as you would like," Dr. K says, "As can the rest of the team."

"Gonna take turns with the rooms," Summer says with a smirk, referencing a long ago discussion. "We never did work out that schedule, after all."

Dillon rolls his eyes, but he can't help but smile anyway. He knows that someday they'll probably get an apartment of their own, just like most Soulmate relationships do, and they'll probably end up with a bed big enough to fit the five of them. But for now, the idea of living in the Garage, with a guarantee of the future that would allow for "scheduling" of sharing rooms and everything, makes him pretty happy. (Dillon doesn't like to think of himself as a sappy kind of guy, but these four people definitely make him reconsider that.)

"I call first night in the big bed," Ziggy says, breaking away from Dillon and Scott with a grin to turn and face the line. "And I'm already grabbing a spot for Scott."

Dillon raises an eyebrow at Scott's smirk. "Why Truman?"

"Yeah, why Scott?" Summer asks, and Scott scoffs, breaking away from her just like Ziggy did with the line.

"Because he's just as underappreciated as I am," Ziggy says, holding out his hand for a fist bump, and Scott returns it with a grin.

"He's our leader and the commander of Eagle Squadron, how can he be underappreciated?" Flynn asks.

"Because you said that Summer was more charming than me," Scott replies. "Which she obviously isn't."

Summer raises an eyebrow. "You want me to kick your ass at pool again?" 

"You can sure try," Scott says, already heading over to the pool table, hand-in-hand with Ziggy. Summer rolls her eyes and grabs Flynn's hand to drag him along to the pool table.

"Is this what life is always like here?" Lia asks Dillon as they watch his teammates start up a game.

"Yeah, pretty much," he says. "Sometimes there will be smoothies or pizza involved."

"I think I'm gonna love it."

"I already do."

"You coming, Dillon, honey?" Ziggy asks from the pool table, and Dillon grins.

"You up for a game, Lia?" he asks, and his sister smirks.

"Let's see if I still have those insane reflexes."

Dillon puts an arm around her shoulders and they head over to play their first game of pool this side of the end of the apocalypse.

 

Be brave.

You’ve got to be kind, you’ve got to fall in love, fall out of love, no matter how much it hurts because my god, it’s worth it. Don’t let the world turn you to stone; you’ve got to feel.

Courage isn’t measured by the number of people you’ve turned away or by the counts of the nights you’ve spent alone because you refuse to give someone the chance to love you.  Being alone is not poetic; you’ve got to let them in.

Let them peel back your skin and waltz into your bloodstream and love them, love them, love them.

-Emily Palermo, A Lesson In Entropy