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Babysitting

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The Monster of the Week - coined by Zack, despite Billy's protests that they're technically aliens - this time is a cross between an angler fish and a bear. Yes, yes, very strange, but Trini doesn't really have a say in what the creatures they fight look like. She has a feeling Rita chooses weird monsters just to annoy them.

Luckily, they caught the Angler Bear - again, Zack's idea - before it could get downtown. They morphed as soon as Alpha informed them of its presence and teleported them to its crash site just at the outskirts of the mines.

"Oof, that is one ugly fella," Kimberly says.

The creature stops looking around for a moment. It turns away from the cliff it was observing to level the pink ranger with a glare.

"I think you offended it," Zack whispers.

Trini steps closer to Kimberly. Just in case.

But the creature makes a move none of them expect. The bulb at the end of its antenna glows an eerie green before a beam of light zaps Kimberly, the force of the attack causing her to get thrown several feet away from them and onto a mountain face.

"Holy shit, Kim!" Zack exclaims.

Billy, always the one to hyperfocus on the enemy, is the first to pull out his lance and charge.

Jason is also quick to pull out his sword. "We got this! Trini, go check on Kim!"

"Already on it, Boss."

The impact caused some rocks to crumble off the mountain, covering Kimberly until she's unseen. The only reason Trini isn't having a heart attack at the moment is because she can feel that Kimberly is still alive through the morphing grid. Even rocks as big as these can never fatally injure their modified bodies anyway, especially not when in armor. Still, that lazer beam from earlier makes Trini's heart rate pick up a tad bit out of worry.

"Kim?" she calls out as she easily lifts the debris out of the way in her search. "Kimberly, are you okay? Answer me, Princess!"

An arm suddenly waves back a few paces away from her, its person still buried beneath the rocks. "Right here..."

Trini breathes a sigh of relief. "Oh, thank God. Did you get hurt by that lazer beam? 'Cause your voice sounds a little..."

Trini trails off, eyes wide as she stares at her friend. Kimberly stepped out of the rubble when Trini cleared enough of it out of the way.

Kimberly tilts her head with her hands propped on her hips. "What?" She twists to look at her own armor and stretches her arms to check on them. "Is my armor damaged or something?" Then she stiffens. "Why do I sound like that?"

Jason comes up from behind Trini before she could answer. "The Angler Bear got away. We'll have to return to the ship and find out where it -"

"OH MY GOD!" Zack's screech interjects. "Kimmy, you're tiny!"

Kimberly only stares back at him. Trini can imagine a dumbfounded expression behind her visor. Trini's wearing the same one.

"You're tinier than Trini," Billy says.

That, apparently, was the last straw that makes Kimberly snap and squeak out a panicked, "What!?"

Which. Rude.

Kimberly morphs out of her armor then, and the four other rangers gasp as they see Kimberly's new form.

Thank God Kimberly chose to wear a belt that day.

:::: :::: :::: ::::

"I'm gonna get that fugly son of a bitch!" Kimberly screeches as she paces back and forth in the ship.

"I don't know why you're so mad," Zack says, legs swinging from where he's seated beside Trini on the yellow ranger's pedestal. "Being ten again isn't so bad."

Kimberly stops pacing to glare at Zack. The action isn't as effective as it used to be when she was seventeen. "The one not dealing with this shit doesn't get to complain," she hisses with her very tiny voice.

Billy makes a face from where he's staring at the morphing grid, tracking where the Angler Bear alien might be. "It's kind of weird to hear you curse with that face and voice."

Kimberly groans, meaning she doesn't care but doesn't have the heart to snark at Billy to his face.

"Hey, at least you're still human," Zack says. "Rememer when I got turned into a frog a month ago?"

All five of them grimace. Including Zordon's disembodied head.

"I'm still offended none of you tried to kiss me to see if I could turn human again."

Billy becomes especially focused on the morphing grid and Trini avoids looking at Zack. Kimberly is still grumbling about her predicament so Zack focuses his woes on Jason.

Their leader sighs. "I told you, Zack. It was an alien that turned you, not a witch. It wouldn't have worked anyway!"

Trini rolls her eyes and jumps off her pedestal, ignoring her friends' bickering as she steps in front of Zordon.

"So why did the Angler Bear turn Kimberly back into a kid?" she asks him.

"That's not its -"

"I don't really care. All names are made up anyway. So why?"

Zordon scowls, but answers anyway, "They turn their enemies younger so that they can be easier to defeat. With smaller forms and less mature intelligence, their enemies can be much easier to overcome."

"'Less mature intelligence'?" Kimberly repeats. "But I'm still me. Aside from my body, I don't think anything's changed."

"It's a gradual process," Zordon explains. "First is a younger body. Then a younger state of mind. And then memories when you were older disappears. You start to believe that you really are only a child. Once that happens... that form becomes permanent."

"You get to grow up all over again!" Alpha pipes up from beside Billy. "Isn't that amazing?"

"No!" Kimberly shakes her head. "No, it's not! We just gotta defeat it before that happens, right? Okay. No problem."

"Uh, yes problem." Jason crosses his arms. "You're not fighting."

"What? Just because I'm small now? How about Trini?"

"Hey!"

"Actually, I want Trini to stay with you." Now two girls are glaring at Jason. "We'll defeat the enemy as fast as we can, but we don't know if we can do that before Kim starts really becoming ten. At least one of us should stay here and -"

"Babysit me?" Kimberly finishes flatly.

"Protectyou, actually."

Trini groans. "Why me?"

"Oh, please," Zack drawls as he drapes an arm around Trini's shoulders. "Would you really trust any of us to take care of your little princess?"

Kimberly squeaks. Trini's face reddens.

"She's not my-"

The chiming of Trini's phone cuts her off. She pulls it out instead of acknowledging Zack's snickering and looking at Kimberly's face. It was her mother - not a surprise, considering her only friends are right there with her - asking her to buy some things from the supermarket. Zack reads over the text, too, and laughs.

"No running from it, Crazy Girl. You have babysitting duty and errands."

Trini can only let out a resigned sigh. With the messages now marked as 'read', Trini has no choice but to comply. For once Trini is cursing their imrpoved ability to keep alien threats from being so dangerously known that they would cause public panic. Now, instead of doing her damn job she has to go shopping.

"Fine..."

"Found him!" Billy exclaims. "I just entered the coordinates. We can be teleported directly to it."

Jason grins and pats him on the back. "You're a genius."

Alpha raises a metallic finger. "I helped, too."

"Jason will kiss you later, Alpha," Zack quips. "Let's go nail this guy."

"Seeing you like this isn't all bad, Kim," Billy says as they step into the teleporter. "It reminds me of sixth grade."

Jason laughs, standing between Billy and Zack as they wait for the machine to work. "Remember when she kicked Damian between the legs for kissing her on the cheek?"

"It was brilliant," Zack gets to say before they're whisked away into battle.

"I don't want to be kissed," Alpha suddenly says.

Trini and Kimberly can only pout at each other.

:::: :::: :::: ::::

"Triniiiiii..." Kimberly whines as she lets herself sway from where she's hanging onto Trini's arm. "Come oooon... Just one? Pleeeaaaase??"

Kimberly is now dressed in Trini's spare pair of denim shorts and shirt they found stashed in her room in the ship. It frustrates Trini that her clothes aren't all that oversized for ten-year-old Kimberly. It aggravates her even more that younger Kimberly is only two inches shorter than her.

"Come on, Trin!" Kimberly whines some more, now clutching the other girl's shirt. "Just one bar of chocolate. I really, really want one."

"No."

"Pshh. You always used to do whatever I want. What's the difference now?"

Trini grabs a carton of milk and crosses that off of the list June sent her. She hopes the red in her face isn't as visible as it feels. "I have kid brothers. I know what those stuff do to kids. I'm not in the mood to deal with that shitstorm."

Kimberly gasps. "You said a mean word!" Trini raises a brow. Kimberly's hands fly up to cover her mouth. "Did I just..?" Her head droops down. "Oh my gosh..."

"You've been acting like a kid ever since we got here, actually."

Kimberly clings to Trini's arm like deadweight, letting herself be dragged. "Now I'm sad. Buy me chocolate and make me happy, Trini..."

Trini sighs. "I can't. The only chocolate they have left have nuts in them, Kim. And you're allergic."

Kimberly's face screws up in this really cute way. "I am? Bleh. That's lame."

Trini couldn't fight it anymore. After half an hour of being stuck with mini-Kimberly, she can no longer fight off the fond smile that has made it's way to her mouth. "How about... after I get these things to my house, we go get ice cream at the local parlor?"

Kimberly's face immediately lights up. She embraces Trini as she bounces on her feet. "Yes! This is why I love you, Trini!"

Trini laughs and ignores the flutter in her chest. Just the lighthearted proclamations of a child, she reminds herself. Regular Kimberly wouldn't mean anything more by it.

"Oh you're so cute!" the cashier and owner, Maria, says when they get to the counter. "Trinity, I didn't know you had a little sister."

"Oh, she's not," Trini says. "She's, um, my friend Kim's cousin."

"I'm Anne," Kimberly holds out a hand with a toothy grin. "Nice to meet you."

Maria laughs heartily and shakes "Anne's" hand. "Likewise. Kim, huh?" She fixes the position of the glasses on her nose. "Oh, now that I'm really looking at you, you do look a lot like her. Especially at that age. Except she always kept her hair long then. Oh, that little girl was so precious," the woman muses with a chuckle as she scans Trini's items.

Trini was keeping an eye on Kimberly until then, just in case the little girl wanders off. She holds her hand instead so she can look at Maria. "Really?"

Maria hums an affirmative. "Every day after school, she would go here with her friend Amanda to buy snacks. She would always talk my ear off, but it was always the highlight of my day." A nostalgic look washes over Maria, something Trini briefly noticed in Billy, Zack, and Jason when they saw little Kimberly. "Someday they just stopped. Kimberly is still friendly, don't get me wrong," she adds with a chuckle. "But sometimes you would miss the days when things were different, you know?"

No, she doesn't know. She's always the new girl. She doesn't get to know people or places long enough to notice the gradual changes. But she nods anyway to save herself from explaining.

Trini then notices that the hand in hers has stilled. She looks at Kimberly, her expression sad and as full of regret as a child's face could be.

"I'm really sorry," Kimberly says. "I'll tell Kim to talk your ear off again."

Maria smiles warmly before she winks. "I'll make sure my hearing aid is ready for it."

:::: :::: :::: ::::

They go straight to the ice cream parlor after dropping off the groceries to Trini's house. But even a cone of cookies and cream wasn't enough to bring back the smile to Kimberly's face. Trini is getting worried.

"Hey," Trini says softly. She lightly tugs on Kimberly's hand she's holding. "You still look a little down, Princess."

A small smile makes its way to Kimberly's face. "I really like it when you call me that. And.." She sighs. "Yeah, I'm a little sad."

That's not the kind of pout Trini likes seeing. She looks around and spots the local playground. "Hey, wanna go play on the swing?"

Kimberly crosses her arms defensively. "So what? Just because I'm ten again I'd be raring to go to the playground?" Trini doesn't answer, just waits for Kimberly to relent and sheepishly ask, "Will you push me?"

Trini rolls her eyes. "Duh."

Luckily, it's late enough for the playground to be empty. Kimberly had no competition when it came to the swing set. Kimberly pouts again when Trini forbids her from standing on it, but soon Trini hears her happily hum as she gets pushed.

"I didn't know you were that close with Maria when you were a kid," Trini says to cut the silence.

After a couple more swings, Kimberly responds, "I was a really hyper kid. I wanted to talk to everyone and ask them about their day or tell them about mine." She shrugs. "I guess when you're an only child, you try hard to look for someone to talk to."

"And I bet you got a lot of free stuff for kissing up to the owner."

Kimberly giggles and exclaims, "I got a lot of candy!" with her legs now pumping. "I feel really bad, though."

"For the free stuff?"

Kimberly shakes her head. "For changing. When I was this age, everything was simpler. Amanda and I actually were friends. Now I'm... a cruddy person."

Trini holds the chains of the swing to stop it when she hears Kimberly sniffle. She moves to kneel in front of the crying girl. Her heart just aches at the sight.

"Kim... no, I told you. All of us told you. You're not a... cruddy... person. You just did a really, really bad thing."

"Yeah..." Kimberly tries to wipe the tears away, but they only continue to trickle down. She points at her temple. "This knows." Then she points at her chest. "This one's a little harder to convince though."

"Well, I'm convinced. I didn't live here as long as you and the others did. And it's never bothered me as much as today because I really wish younger me met that little chatter box who made friends with everyone."

"Don't lie. You would've been annoyed."

Trini purses her lips. "Not for long. You would've grown on me. I'd pretend to not like you but really, like Maria said, you talking to me would have been the highlight of my day. Like it is now."

Big brown eyes stare at her. They're still shiny with tears, but none of them are falling. "Really?"

"Yeah. The kid you were then to the person you were when you hurt Amanda isn't the only change you went through. You may have forgotten, but I know the meanie you were a year ago when I transferred. And now you've changed again."

Kimberly looks up shyly from her lashes. "Am I awesome now?"

Trini grins. "Super awesome."

Kimberly beams, too. "Push me again! I want to swing!"

"And super bratty," Trini says under her breath but complies anyway.

"Hey, hey, Trini, does this mean you're jealous that you didn't know me as long as Jason, Zack, and Billy do?"

Trini gets distracted by the question, missing an opportunity to push Kimberly. "More like envious that I'm left out of all the inside jokes and nostalgia."

"Awe... Well you don't have to be jealous of how things were before. You moving here made things better than before."

Trini can't continue with this conversation. It's not good for her heart. "So, is that why you were so mad that you got turned into a kid? It made you remember those times?"

"What? No. I'm mad because this makes me so much younger than you."

Trini is no longer pushing Kimberly now. And the little girl has lost momentum and is now stationary on her swing. "Huh?"

Kimberly looks up from where she's seated so she can stare up at Trini upside down. "I can't date you if I'm ten. That'll just be wrong!"

"What?!"

Light suddenly surrounds Kimberly then until Trini has to close her eyes to keep herself from being blind. When she opens her them, it's regular Kimberly who blinks up at her. They stare blankly at each other for a moment, until realization dawns on Kimberly. Then horror.

Kimberly scrambles out of the swing's seat, pacing as she clutches her short locks and grumbles to herself.

Trini is so red in the face, because (1) her shorts are ridiculously small on regular Kimberly's long legs and (2) Kimberly just said she wanted to be - wants to be...

"Is it okay now?"

Kimberly abruptly stops her pacing, hands still in her hair when she looks at Trini with a flustered face. "Huh?"

"Is it okay for you to date me now?"

For a moment, Kimberly can only leave her mouth open. Then she snaps it shut, puts her hands down, and nods.

Trini smiles. Even when the boys appear out of nowhere to proclaim that they defeated the ridiculous Angler Bear, the moment isn't ruined.