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Gossip Rangers

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Justin took the offered smoothie with a thankful smile and a sip. Ah the smoothie, a drink he'd given up in favor of coffee and tea as soon as he'd crossed the Atlantic and gotten fully into his college career (and as far away from his Ranger family as he'd been allowed—though, in retrospect, it probably was Kat who'd stopped the evolution into energy drinks and that distance wasn't quite as far as he'd thought) but a welcome reminder of days spent at the Youth Center in the past.

How fitting, then, that he'd be drinking it when he was digging up those very same memories.

"S'good," he murmured around his straw.

"One of the many reasons why everyone hangs out here," Conner grinned as his arm swept across the landscape of Hayley's Cyberspace.

"I hear the flattery, Conner, and I'm still not buying it!" came the voice of the place's namesake from somewhere behind the counter. "Not until you pay me back from the mistletoe incident!"

Conner, who had been coolly reclining on a seat, yelped and nearly lost his balance. "That totally wasn't my fault!"

"I saw what I saw!"

Justin hid a smile in his cup and turned toward his fellow Blue. All it took was a raised eyebrow before Ethan fell into badly-muffled snickers.

"Oh no, you don't—" Conner nearly leapt across the table to cover Ethan's mouth before it could even open. Ethan broke into outright laughter as he dodged away, Conner hot on his heels. "You swore that it wouldn't leave this room!"

Kira swatted Conner as he lapped past her. "And we're still in this room!" She turned to Justin and began the story. "It was last year—" She yelped when Conner suddenly slapped his hand over her mouth, and he only just managed to dodge her retaliatory jab.

Justin raised an eyebrow at the last remaining Ranger, and Trent gave an answering grin.

"For honor!" Trent cried as he tackled Conner, incidentally bringing Kira down with them both in a tangle of limbs.

Ethan, meanwhile, came to a stop just behind Justin's seat. Justin turned until he matched eyes with him, and both grinned.

"I never had a team around my age," Justin said softly.

"We're adopting you," Ethan informed him solemnly. He grinned as Justin began to take a drink of his smoothie again. "We never did have a Pink Ranger."

Justin did a glorious spit-take. It went everywhere...

Or would have, if Ethan had not been directly in the line of fire.

It caused the mini-brawl (which Kira currently dominated by virtue of her raw brawn and pointy, pointy nails) to stop in favor of pure laughter.

Justin blushed. "Er, sorry—"

"You'll pay," Ethan said flatly. Justin grinned sheepishly and did a mental tally of how long he'd be in Reefside.

Too long to avoid Ethan. Damn.

"Don't forget why we're here," Justin desperately said. "Remember? If you kill me, you don't get any of the dirt! I know the chili story!"

There was a loud crash from behind the counter. Hayley popped her head up with wide eyes. "You know the chili story? Tommy's going to—"

"Remember what he did to me during the last party?" Justin shot back in a dry tone.

Hayley did the mental replay, winced, and ducked back to continue working without another word.

"So, what's this chili story?" Ethan asked once all four of the former Dino Thunder Rangers were settled in. "I mean, given the way Hayley talks about it..."

Justin smirked. "It was something that happened back when Tommy was in college. See, I was visiting him because I was on break, and so we were going to eat out at this restaurant he knew. There were these really rowdy kids there though. You know, running around all over the place."

Ethan's eyes widened as he began to grin with diabolical glee. Ah, Justin knew his fellow Blue would see where this was going.

"Well, we just managed to get a seat, right, when a waiter was passing by carrying a tray chili bowls. These two kids got up and ran around, and the one of them slammed into the waiter."

"Dude," Conner said, but Justin shook his head, his grin widening.

"That wasn't the thing though. He kept his balance, but then one of the toy cars the kids were playing with slipped behind him, and he stepped on it, and—" Justin flung his arms to the side as his grin finally reached manic proportions. "The chili splattered all over Tommy! You won't believe how covered he was, and he was wearing white that day." The table broke down into laughter, but Justin continued over the noise. "The thing is though, the waiter landed right on top of Tommy as well. And, the thing was—the guy started hitting on Tommy once he got past his embarrassment."

Trent's jaw dropped, quite a feat since he was still laughing. "No. No way."

"And you should've seen Tommy try to let him down gently but it didn't quite work, and he slipped Tommy his number when we were leaving!"

"Did he call back?" Kira asked, humor coloring her voice.

"Nah, but the next time we went there," Justin trailed off as the Dino Thunder teens leaned in. "Well, let's just say that the waiter was more than a little heartbroken and Tommy was pretty flustered."

For a moment, Justin relished in the lingering laughter. Ah, while this didn't quite make up for what Tommy did to him, it was a start.

Especially since he had one more trick up his sleeve.

"I have pictures too."

Justin sort of expected them to freeze in silence. What he didn't expect was for Hayley to suddenly materialize at his side saying, "I want to see them now."

"Holy crap, are you a ninja or something?" Justin gasped as he fumbled his phone.

"Look, I'm letting you use my cafe for the express purpose of humiliating Tommy. I get a cut of the goods. Beside," and here Hayley looked off to the side, "you remember the thing with the fire extinguisher, right?"

Justin's lips twitched in half-remembered emotion, and he nodded, not trusting himself to not burst out laughing.

"That was Tommy's fault. I want payback."

"Dude, you have to let us see!" Conner exclaimed as he led all four of the former Rangers around him.

"I was keeping these pictures for safe-keeping—" Justin explained as he pulled up the first one.

"What. Pictures."

The room became deathly quiet. Justin, one finger still on his phone, twisted around with a carefully schooled expression of disinterest.

Tommy stood at the door, fingers gripped tightly around the door handle. His expression was cold and thunderous, with a vague hint of his leader tone still echoing in the air. The four teens around him had frozen in fear, but Justin had had too many years listening to this voice to be so visibly affected.

"Justin?" Tommy asked slowly, drawing out each syllable.

"I'm just teaching them that actions have consequences," Justin said loftily. He held up his phone, where an image of a chili-splattered Tommy with a man on top of him was displayed for all the world to see.

Tommy's eyes widened. "You little brat! You never told me—"

"—payback for the last party," Justin cut him off. A lazy smirk crossed his lips as he taunted, "You understand, right?"

"Give it to me," Tommy ground out in a low growl.

"No," Justin said shortly and began to swipe his finger to the next one.

He saw Tommy's weight shift and tossed the phone to Hayley, calling, "Look through them!" just as Tommy launched himself in a flying tackle.

Hearing Hayley's cackle was enough for him as he wrestled Tommy to the ground, years and puberty adding height and muscle to finally handle it. As the Dino Thunder teens crossed over and began laughing as well, Justin smiled even as he fought with a snarling Tommy.

Yeah, mission complete.