Disclaimer:The usual routine here - I don't own the Power Rangers
or any aspect of the Power Ranger universe, Saban does. I don't have permission
to write about them, nor do I get paid to do so.
Notes and Timeline: Zeo Period, Jason is the Gold Ranger, Billy hasn't gone to Aquitar, and for the purposes of this story I am ignoring continuity from this point forward. Though set in the Zeo period, this is not part of my series the "Zeo Chronicles" as it does not fit into the continuity of that series as I have envisioned it.
Warning: This story contains references to non-consensual sex. Though it is not described in graphic detail, if this is something that upsets you in any way, don't read this story.
Billy staggered to his feet with a groan of pain, looking around. To his surprise he found himself in his own backyard, and judging from the position of the sun it was mid morning. That would mean it had been almost exactly 24 hours from the time he and Jason were kidnapped from Angel Grove Park.
Trying to ignore the myriad messages of pain his body was sending out, he staggered to the door leading into the coolness of the garage. A quick search of his workbench turned up the small device he needed. Grabbing it, he carefully made his way upstairs into the morning quiet house.
"Anybody home?" he called out into the stillness. He was not surprised when he received no answer; in fact, he was relieved. Regardless, he checked his father's bedroom before heading toward his own.
He found a clean set of sweats in his closet, and took them with him to the bathroom. Slowly stripping off his clothing, he checked himself out in the full-length mirror hanging on the back of the bathroom door. Grimacing at the assortment of bruises and abrasions that decorated his body, he activated the small device he had brought with him and began to treat his injuries.
Twenty minutes later he was finished, and the pain - the physical pain, at least - had been reduced to a memory. Setting the device aside he stepped into the shower, turning the temperature as hot as he could stand it. He meticulously scrubbed his body, washing off the dirt and grime accumulated during the last day, leaving his skin flushed and cleansed.
If only he could slough off the memories as easily.
Leaning wearily against the shower wall he felt his control waver, then fail. Tears came then, more scalding than the water still beating down on his body.
Jason looked around his backyard in confusion, wondering what exactly he was doing there. He had the strangest feeling that time had passed; quite a bit of time at that. Worried, he thought back to the last thing he remembered. The memory that surfaced was that of meeting the other Rangers in Angel Grove Park for a Sunday Brunch picnic. The idea had been Kat's, who thought it would be a clever way to celebrate Tanya's birthday. He recalled sitting with Tommy and Billy quietly discussing an upcoming karate tournament.
Then nothing. Nothing until finding himself in his own backyard.
Gathering his somewhat scattered wits, he entered the empty house and headed toward his bedroom. He didn't bother to check if his parents were at home, he knew they wouldn't be. They were on a rare vacation, spending two weeks traveling up the coast with another couple with whom they had been friends for fifteen years. They had left just the Friday before the ill-fated brunch in the park.
Sitting down on the edge of his bed he stared at his phone, thinking, summarizing what he knew. He had already discovered his communicator and morpher were missing. He was a bit dirty and disheveled, but uninjured. He realized he was quite hungry, as well as thirsty, but not particularly tired. He picked up the watch on his bedside and pressed the button that showed the date. It was Monday, so only one day had passed. More and more puzzled, he reached for the phone to call Tommy.
He had just picked up the receiver when he heard the doorbell ring. Setting it down he went to see who was at the door.
It was Tommy.
The Zeo Rangers had been unable to prevent the kidnapping of Jason and Billy on Sunday morning. The attack had come seemingly out of nowhere, and ended almost before it had started. The orange clad humanoids had grabbed the Gold and former Blue Rangers and promptly disappeared, leaving behind two communicators and a morpher. Teleporting to the Power Chamber immediately, the team was told they had been traced to an anomaly in space just beyond the moon, which had suddenly appeared only minutes before the attack. Attempts to penetrate the force field surrounding it had failed, and Zordon had been unable to identify the beings that had grabbed the two teens.
Forced into a wait-and-see position, the five Zeo Rangers had spent a frustrating day monitoring the shielded sector where their two missing friends were being held. There was no sign of activity, nothing at all. They each arranged to spend the night at the Power Chamber, and had covered for Billy with his dad. They worked in shifts throughout the night, monitoring the situation.
Then, mid morning, Mondo sent down a monster. Nothing special, nothing unusual, definitely one of Mondo's mechanical monsters. Better shielded than most, it took the team a while to defeat it. However, after a protracted and fierce battle, defeat it they did.
They returned to the Power Chamber to find the anomaly gone, and the two missing Rangers back at their respective homes. They had been back about thirty minutes according to Alpha's estimate, he had been busy monitoring the battle against the monster and had not noticed the bleep that sounded when the two teens were returned.
"And they're in their own homes now?" Tommy asked.
"Yes, Tommy. Neither is moving, but both are inside. Do you want me to teleport them here?"
"No. Maybe it would be best if we go to them," Tommy decided. "I'll go to see how Jason is, and Adam you go check on Billy. The rest of you see if you can trace that ship or whatever it was where they were being held. Just in case."
With assorted replies in the affirmative the teenagers set out to do their assigned tasks.
Adam had pounded on the Cranston front door without receiving any reply. Frustrated, he touched his communicator, opening communications between him and the Power Chamber.
"Alpha, are you sure he's here?"
"Yes, Adam, he's there. Perhaps he can't hear you?"
"Okay. I'll go on inside. Thanks."
Sighing, Adam reached up to find the spare key Billy kept hidden above the porch light. Unlocking the front door and replacing the key, Adam stepped inside and listened. He could hear water running upstairs and felt a sense of relief. Billy was in the shower. No wonder he hadn't heard Adam at the front door.
The Asian teen made his way up the stairs toward the bathroom. Standing outside the door all he could hear was the running water; there were no other signs of life. Wanting to let Billy know he was there, he knocked briskly on the door then shouted without opening it.
"Hey, Billy. It's Adam. I'll wait for you in your room, okay?" Without waiting for a reply, Adam went to the tidy room and settled down on the desk chair to wait.
Billy had been badly startled by Adam's knocking and shout. Choking back the sobs that still wanted to come, he rallied himself and managed to stop crying. There was no way he would let any of his teammates, even Adam, with whom he shared a special closeness, see how shaken he was. They must never learn what had happened during the last 24 hours. Never.
Taking his time to allow his eyes to lose some of their redness, and for his control to strengthen, Billy dressed in the sweats he had laid out, then went into the bedroom to greet his guest.
"Sorry, Adam, but I was so filthy, I had to take a shower. I didn't have a way to contact you guys right away," he explained hastily. "Is Jason back at his house as well?"
"Yeah, he is. Are you okay? What did they do with you guys? We couldn't get through their force field to rescue you, it was so frustrating," Adam said quickly, almost sounding anxious.
"It was weird. They just kept us in this big room. Jason was given something that seemed to affect his memory, I think. But outside that they didn't do anything to us. We tried to escape through a vent, which is when I got so dirty, but they caught us and put us back in the room. Then out of the blue, they just came in and said they were sending us back home. I guess they meant that literally, since I ended up in my backyard."
"That's weird. You should come with me to the Power Chamber, let Katherine examine you just to be on the safe side."
"Well, okay, I know the rule. But, really, I'm fine."
"Tommy. Hi. Uh, what brings you here?" Jason greeted his friend.
"You bring me here. Are you okay? What happened to you out there? Why did they release you? Is Billy okay?" Tommy's worry found its voice in the rapid-fire questions.
"Well, I'm pretty sure I'm okay. At least I hope so. But...uh...I don't know where I was for the last day or so. I remember being in the park with all you guys, then I was in my backyard. I don't know what happened in between," Jason explained, his expression one of worry and confusion.
"It's okay, Bro. You were taken to a sort of a space station, I guess. But, don't worry about that right now. Let's get you to the Power Chamber and have Kat examine you. You don't hurt anywhere, do you?"
"No, I feel fine. Why'd you ask about Billy? Was he taken too?"
"Yeah, he was. But the sensors indicated he's at his house. Adam's over there right now, checking on him. He'll probably be at the Power Chamber when we get there," Tommy replied easily.
"Okay. Sounds good, I guess. I'd really like some answers, though."
"You and me both, Bro."
Katherine ran thorough scans on both Jason and Billy, including one to determine if they were clones. That test had become fairly standard since clones had infiltrated the team several times already.
Her tests showed that Jason had the residue of some unknown chemical in his bloodstream, but was otherwise healthy. Billy's scan showed no injuries, but did turn up traces of a foreign substance in his intestinal tract. Billy seemed unconcerned, telling Kat it might be a trace of some infection left over from the flu he had had the week before. So Kat was pleased to be able to report that both were fine, and Alpha would be testing the chemical found in Jason to try to determine what it was.
While Jason was being scanned, Tommy and the rest of the team questioned Billy about what had happened during their captivity. With Jason lying quietly on the scanbed, Billy did his own
"Really, guys, it was weird. When we were first taken, we were rendered unconscious, maybe from some sort of drug since I couldn't find any injuries that would indicate they hit us. When I woke up I found we were in this big room, it was completely barren. Jason was lying beside me, still unconscious. I guess they must have injected Jason with whatever it was while we were out of it, because when he came to he was pretty confused. Didn't know who I was, didn't know what had happened, nothing. Basically we just sat around. It was incredibly boring, actually. We did try to escape using a vent, but got caught as soon as we were tried to get out of the shaft. They blindfolded us and took us back to that room, where we stayed until they sent us back here. I was a little disoriented when I first arrived in my backyard, but that was all," he shrugged, looking a little uncomfortable with everyone watching him.
"You have no idea why they took you guys?" Tommy asked.
"No. No one threatened us, we didn't see anyone except when they recaptured us, and right before they sent us back here. Both times it looked like the same guys who grabbed us at the park. Sorry, I really don't have any idea what they hoped to accomplish with this act."
"That's weird. But, Zordon's trying to find out who they are, so maybe that'll clear it up. Anyway, I'm glad you two are okay. That's the most important thing."
A chorus of 'yeahs' accompanied his comment.
Jason sat up as Kat deactivated the scanbed. "Well, at least it doesn't sound like I missed much," he quipped.
"Hey, ready to help with the class this afternoon?" Rocky asked.
"Sure, unless there's some reason I shouldn't," he replied with a look at Katherine.
"You're fine. Go ahead. It will take quite a while to identify that substance. But, if you start to feel bad or anything, let us know. Okay?" Katherine replied with a stern look.
"Yes, ma'am," he grinned back, hopping off the bed and walking over to Rocky. "Ready to go, guys?"
"Yep," Rocky responded. At his nod, he, Jason, Adam, and Tanya all teleported out of the Med Room.
"If you're finished with me as well, I need to get some work done in the main chamber," Billy said.
"Go on. Same applies to you, though. If you start to feel bad, let us know."
"Okay," the former Blue Ranger replied as he headed toward the main chamber.
Kat turned to Tommy to invite him to join her for lunch at the Youth Center, but was stopped by the expression she saw on his face.
"What's wrong, Tommy," she asked.
"I just can't shake this feeling," he replied, still looking at the door Billy had disappeared through moments before.
"That he's lying."
Forty minutes later, sitting in the Youth Center enjoying chicken sandwiches, Katherine could not get Tommy's comment out of her mind. Checking around to be sure that no one could overhear, she leaned a bit closer to the team leader.
"What makes you think Billy was lying?"
Tommy looked thoughtful as he chewed his bite of sandwich. Swallowing, he replied, "I'm not really sure. It's not something I can really explain, but I feel like he's hiding something from us. Darned if I know what it is, or why, though. Didn't you feel it?"
She looked down at her half eaten lunch, then back up at Tommy with an expression that clearly indicated that she did not like what she was about to say. "Yeah, I did. I didn't want to, but I did. Why would he lie?"
"I just don't know. You want to know something funny? I don't think Jason's lying. I really don't think he remembers a thing that happened while they were gone. But Billy sure does."
"Do you think he's being forced to lie to us?" Kat asked.
"I don't know. Maybe. Blackmailed somehow? You checked to be sure he isn't a clone, right?"
"Yes. And he's the real Billy. Should we confront him about this?"
"Not right now. But we should keep a close eye on him, just in case." Tommy sighed. "I hate this. Wondering if something is wrong."
"Hey guys, why the long faces?" Rocky smiled as he sat down beside his two teammates.
"Just thinking about what happened with Jason and Billy. How'd Jason do with the karate class? Did he seem okay?" Tommy asked.
"Yeah. Perfectly normal."
"What's good?" was Adam's question as he and Tanya joined the group.
"It's good that Jason is okay," Kat said easily, then gave a warning look as the Gold Ranger approached.
"Hey, great class, man!" Rocky enthused. He and Jason were working together, teaching a karate class for underprivileged kids.
"Yeah, it was. These kids seem to appreciate the lessons," Jason smiled.
"So, you feeling okay?" Tommy couldn't help but ask.
"Yes, Mother, I feel fine. Still don't remember anything, but I feel okay, so that's all I care about right now. I figure the memories will come back in time."
About that he was absolutely correct.
The ship that had appeared so suddenly beyond Earth's moon, then disappeared just as quickly, was now heading at the speed of light back to its home planet, Keron. Content they had arranged the destruction of the human currently holding the Gold Powers, the ship set a nonstop course straight home. They had no further business on Earth.
As Jason prepared for bed Wednesday night, he paused to look thoughtfully out his bedroom window at the peaceful street below. With his parents still out of town, the house was oddly quiet. He finally turned toward his bed with an unconscious look of dismay. He didn't want to go to sleep. He didn't want the dreams to start.
The last two nights he had been plagued by almost non stop dreams. Some were the usual, run-of-the-mill sorts of dreams he had always had. But the others...they were the ones that made him reluctant to go to sleep, regardless of how tired he was. That day he had purposely exhausted himself, hoping he would be able to avoid the dreams. But, deep inside, he knew they would still come. The dreams of darkness, and screams, and pleas for mercy, and the horrible feeling when he woke up that something he valued had been destroyed forever. The dreams resulted in Jason constantly feeling an unfocused sense of dread, the vague and unpleasant feeling that something was very wrong in his world, but he didn't know what. The dreams and their aftermath left him craving comfort-comfort that was not readily available when he was alone. He would not have admitted it to even his closest friend, but the truth was pretty simple.
He wanted his mother. Desperately.
He sighed and slowly slid between the sheets, his body tense and his mind anxious. It took a long time for him to relax, but eventually he did. Shortly thereafter his eyes began to move rapidly behind their closed lids as the dreams came, as he had known they would.
And when he awoke with a cry of despair in the middle of the night, there was no one there to hear it.
Tommy teleported to the Power Chamber with the intention of dragging Billy out of there, bodily if he had to, and to the park to join the rest of the team. Since he and Jason had been returned Monday, the former Blue Ranger had kept a distance from the rest of the team, never finding time to join in their off duty activities. With it being summer vacation, the teens had plenty of free time and had been filling the long days with a variety of activities. Billy had suddenly started spending literally all day in the Power Chamber, and Tommy was determined to change that.
Zordon told him that Billy was working on some of the equipment in the Med Room, so Tommy headed there to confront the team's genius. Entering the open Med Room door, he found the light haired teen bent over a console with his back to him.
"So here's where you've been hiding. You can't...." he trailed off in surprise at Billy's reaction. At the sound of Tommy's voice Billy had straightened abruptly, turning around to face Tommy, his face suddenly bloodless and his blue eyes wide and terrified. Seeing that it was Tommy, Billy relaxed, but his breathing was harsh and jagged, and his color slow to return.
"Dammit Tommy! You nearly gave me a heart attack!" he gasped angrily.
Tommy looked at his friend worriedly. Because Billy worked alone most of the time, and had a tendency to get extremely involved in what he was doing, every member of the team had startled him at least once by coming in a room unannounced and speaking suddenly. But he had never seen Billy react so strongly. The blond teen was still unnaturally pale, and Tommy could see his hands were shaking.
"I...I'm sorry, man. I didn't mean to startle you. I just wanted to invite you to join us at the park for a picnic. Are you okay?"
"Fine," Billy mumbled, turning back to the console.
"What's wrong with you, Billy. I've never seen you so jumpy. You aren't hanging out with us at all. You're grumpy. It's not like you, man. What's going on? Maybe we can help."
"Nothing's going on. I'm fine. I was just really concentrating there, you know. You startled me, that's all."
"Billy, that was more than startled. You looked like you thought I was going to kill you. Please, what's going on with you?"
"Nothing, Tommy, really. I...I've been having some bad dreams, and I guess they're lingering more than I want them to. You know how it is. I guess I'm a little sleep deprived, and that makes me more jumpy, and with the dreams and all..." the former Ranger looked quite embarrassed by his confession.
"Yeah, I do know how it goes. What are the dreams about?"
"That's the worst part-I can't remember exactly. But I wake up trying to scream, sweating, my heart racing and I know it's the dream that causing it. But even as I try to hold on to the memory of what I was dreaming of, it slips away. It's frustrating"
"Ah, man, I hate those kinds of dreams. No wonder you're jumpy. Look, I'm sorry I startled you. But I did come here for a reason-I wanted to know if you'd like to join us at the park. Kat and Tanya fixed a picnic lunch, and if you get there before Rocky gets his hands on it you could find yourself with an excellent meal," Tommy offered, never even considering what had happened the last time Billy had joined the team for a picnic in the park.
"Thanks for the offer, Tommy, but I really want to get this finished. I'm recalibrating the diagnostic bed and the 'table', and I have to get them done as soon as possible. I would hate for someone to get hurt and to not have the right equipment available."
Tommy sighed. He really wanted to get Billy out of there, but if he had the most critical medical equipment they possessed inoperable, then it was imperative he finish getting them back on line as quickly as possible.
"Well, okay. But if you finish early, the invitation still stands, okay?"
"If I finish early enough, I'll be there."
Tommy knew he wouldn't see Billy at the park that afternoon.
Jason had decided to try something different after yet another sleepless night. He worked out for a couple of hours that morning then mowed all the lawns surrounding his house. He did some weeding and raking, and washed all three family vehicles, waxing his father's car as well. Barely able to stand, he took a quick shower and collapsed on the bed, falling instantly asleep.
Despite his exhaustion, he awoke barely an hour later with a strangled cry. The dream was getting stronger, the images clearer. He was in a large room with someone. He was intent on hurting the other person, though he had no idea why he wanted to. And hurt the other person is exactly what he did. Though his actions were not yet clear, the cries of pain and the broken voice begging for mercy were. Jason jerked awake feeling revulsion and horror at what he had done.
And the feeling of self-loathing the dream left him with was intensified when he discovered he was also very aroused.
Wallace Cranston wandered half asleep down the hall, making the return trip to his bedroom from the bathroom on autopilot. More asleep than awake, he almost missed the soft moans and whimpers from his son's room. Pausing, hearing the sounds but unable to identify them at first, he stood in the hallway with his head tilted, an oddly unfocused look of concentration on his face. Finally recognizing the source of the sounds, he made his decision and quietly opened the door to Billy's bedroom.
The teen was lying on his side with his back toward the door, making small sounds of distress, his body twitching. Wallace walked softly over to the far side of the bed and very gently shook his son's shoulder.
"Billy. Billy, wake up, son. You're having a bad dream," he said in a gentle tone.
The effect was explosive. Billy jerked awake wildly, wrenching away from his father's touch and making a panicked attempt to escape.
"No, no, please, don't hurt me anymore," he whimpered as he tried to escape the perceived attack. He ended up curled against the headboard on the far side of the bed, teetering in the edge. His bed mussed hair and sleep-swollen eyes made him look even younger than his eighteen years. Wallace's heart constricted as he recalled the nights, so many years before, when he would hear his son crying out in his sleep, and he'd have to come in to awaken the child from dreams in which his mother died in a car accident over and over again.
"Billy, it's okay. It's me son. Dad. Come on, wake up now," he soothed, heartened when he saw that Billy was finally awake.
"Dad?" Oh, how young that voice sounded in the deepest part of the night.
"Yeah, son. Come on and settle back down. You were having a bad dream, quite a doozy from the sounds of it," while still speaking gently, he encouraged Billy to lie back down in the bed.
"Sorry I woke you up," Billy said softly, lying down and trying to relax.
"I just happened to be passing by," Wallace replied easily. "Do you remember the dream? You were obviously upset."
Billy couldn't meet his father's eyes. "No, I don't. Just a vague unpleasant feeling," he lied.
Wallace, knowing it was a lie, but believing Billy lied out of embarrassment, didn't press him.
"Well, no matter. It's over now. Try to go back to sleep."
Billy then did something his father could not remember the boy doing in close to five years. He reached out to his father and hugged him tightly. Wallace returned the embrace gladly, wondering if maybe Billy had dreamed of his mother again, after all these years. He couldn't think of anything else that could have happened that would affect his son so. Ever since Billy had become a teenager, he had eschewed most physical expressions of affection from his father. But here, in the deepest ditch of night, in the darkened bedroom, the sometimes stiff-necked pride of his teenage offspring seemed out of place, and Wallace had the impression that for this brief moment he had his little boy back again.
So he held his son close, until he felt the strong young body relax into sleep, then gently eased him down in the bed, hoping he would sleep peacefully for the rest of the night. Looking at the face of his sleeping son, Wallace did something he could not remember doing for years-he leaned down and gently kissed his son's cheek, before quietly turning and going back to his own room.
And when Billy cried out in his sleep again two hours later, Wallace himself was asleep and didn't awaken.
Tommy was getting increasingly worried about his two closest friends. Jason was starting to look like death warmed over. He was unnaturally pale, with deepening dark circles under both eyes. He no longer hung around with the team at all, but spent more and more time alone working out, doing odd jobs around his yard, or simply withdrawing into his house and refusing to be lured outside.
Billy was no better. He spent all his time at the Power Chamber or in his lab. If one of the team sought him out with an invitation, he deftly avoided having to go, claiming he needed to finish some critical job in case of an attack by Mondo.
As for Mondo and his group, they were attacking about every other day. The monsters were neither particularly easy nor difficult. The attacks required all six Rangers, and pushed them near, but not quite to, their limits. They had managed to avoid destroying any of their zords, but Kat's and Rocky's were both damaged, and would eventually need minor overhauls to restore them to maximum ability. For the time being, Billy and Alpha had jury-rigged them to bypass the damaged systems so they could be taken into battle at a moment's notice.
Tommy was considering all these things as he sat on the edge of a cliff in the desert outside Angel Grove, his favorite spot to retire to when he needed time alone to think. He had tried, gently, to get Jason and Billy to talk to him with no luck. He had asked Adam to try to find out what was going on with the former Blue Ranger, but Adam had met with the same passive resistance Tommy had.
It had been over a week since the two had been kidnapped. Thinking back, Tommy realized that was when his friends' behavior had begun to change. He felt a twinge of guilt as he realized he had almost forgotten about the incident in the face of the increased activity by Mondo. Now, reflecting on the past week, he felt the suspicion he had experienced right after their return reappear. The feeling that Billy was not telling them the whole truth about their experiences in that room he had described. Shaking his head in disgust with himself, he resolved to get to the bottom of whatever was bothering the Gold and former Blue Rangers. In the name of friendship it was the least he could do.
But, before Tommy could even begin to formulate a plan of action, his communicator beeped.
"Tommy, report to the Power Chamber immediately. Mondo has sent down another monster."
Mondo's latest creation was a mechanized bipedal lizard-like creation Rocky dubbed the Lounge Lizard. It could shoot paralyzing darts from the tips of all six fingers, the venom rendering the victim paralyzed for from ten minutes to three hours, depending on the depth of penetration. To add to the fun, their suits would not repel the darts.
"Rangers, use extreme caution in dealing with Lounge Lizard."
"Rocky, did you have to give it such a stupid name?" Adam asked in exasperation.
"How was I to know Zordon would accept that as a name? He usually comes up with the names, not me," Rocky shrugged, still trying not to laugh at the sound of Zordon's deep, commanding voice calling that creature a Lounge Lizard.
"Well, next time just keep quiet until he's named it," Adam shot back, fighting not to laugh himself. It really was pretty funny.
"Come on guys, time to get to work. It's morphing time!"
Soon the six teens were in Angel Grove Park, dodging poisonous darts and trying with no success to bring down the monster before someone got injured.
"Let's try the Zeo Cannon," Tommy called out to the others. "Jason, try to keep its attention for a minute. Okay, Bro?"
"You got it," Jason replied without his usual heartiness.
Tommy shot a quick look at the Gold Ranger, briefly wondering if Jason was up to a battle, then dismissed the thought as he and the other Zeo Rangers powered up the cannon. They hit Lounge Lizard dead center, but the cannon had no effect at all.
"Billy, the cannon didn't work! Can you try to discover its weakness? And hurry, this one's strong," Tommy shouted into his communicator as he and Tanya narrowly avoided a barrage of darts.
"I'm working on it Tommy! Try to stay slightly to its left, that appears to be its weaker side. I'm trying to discover a way to use that weakness. I'll let you know soon as I find something."
Jason was only peripherally aware of the surrounding struggle. Without warning he found himself almost graying out, reality slowly slipping into the background. He found the fight, his teammates, and the monster all seemed distant, unimportant. Scenes from the dream he kept having filled his mind, blotting out the outside world. To his horror, it became clear for the first time, and Jason realized just what he had done, and to whom he had done it. And worse yet, this didn't feel like a dream, he knew now it never really had. It felt like a memory.
Paralyzed by his internal struggle, he didn't notice the Lounge Lizard turn its attention on him. He didn't hear his teammates' shouts, and barely felt it when Rocky plowed into him at the last second, knocking him out of the line of fire. He began to reconnect to reality as he realized that Rocky was not getting off of him, but was lying on top of him in a boneless heap. As Tanya and Adam distracted Lounge Lizard, Tommy and Katherine hurried over to help the Blue and Gold Rangers.
"Billy! Rocky's been hit! Get him out of here!"
"Got him. I'll set up Zeo Zord Three to be operable on remote in case it's needed."
With a look of mixed worry and anger at the Gold Ranger, Tommy spoke crisply. "We need to try to distract him while Tanya and Adam launch an attack at the lizard's left side. Come on, let's get this done."
Despite his despair, Jason joined his teammates in the battle. They were growing desperate when Billy's voice issued from Tommy's communicator.
"Tommy! I'm sending down the Zeo Cannon again, I modified it to penetrate Lounge Lizard's shielding. Sending it now!"
The modifications worked, and when the four remaining Zeo Rangers shot Lounge Lizard with the modified cannon it exploded in a most satisfying fashion, not leaving enough for Mondo to try to rebuild it.
Back in the Power Chamber, Tommy turned to Billy with a worried expression.
"He's going to be fine, Tommy. The darts mostly grazed him, he should be back on his feet within a half hour," Billy reported. "He's in the Med Room if you want to see him."
"I do, in a minute. What I really want to know is what happened out there," he declared, turning his suddenly angry expression to the Gold Ranger. "Why didn't you get out of the way, Jason? Rocky got hurt because of you. What were you doing?"
Jason looked at Tommy with an expression that melted the Red Ranger's anger instantly. If Rocky had died he didn't think Jason would look any worse.
"I...I...kind of, blanked out. I haven't been sleeping much. I...I dream all the time. The dream came back, but I think it's a memory. I hope it isn't, but I think it may be," Jason said, his words tumbling over each other, making little sense, his composure obviously shaken.
Tommy reached out and placed his hand on Jason's shoulder, steadying him and offering what comfort he could.
"What is it, Jason? What's this dream about, that has you so rattled?"
Jason looked around with that haunted expression, seeing all five of his friends looking at him worriedly. His mouth moved, but no sound emerged as he finally sought out his oldest friend's gaze. He took a deep breath, thinking he would rather face a dozen of Mondo's worst monsters than do this, but the need to know the truth overwhelmed him. He asked what he needed to in a nearly inaudible voice. Soft as the question was asked, it effect was devastating.
"Did I rape you?"
Billy didn't reply. He didn't need to. The truth was there for them all to see. The pain, the shame, the fear. Then, suddenly, startling them all, Billy was gone, teleporting away without a word.
Jason's eyes closed as he absorbed this new pain. "Oh, God, no. I wanted it to be a dream. Oh, God, I wanted it to be just a bad dream," he murmured in a broken whisper.
"Jason," Tommy started, then stopped, realizing he didn't know what he could say. That it would be okay? Tommy didn't know if it would be. That they understood? They didn't, at least not yet. That they would be there for him? Yes, that they could do, he realized. "We'll help you, man. Any way we can, we'll be there for you."
He looked around at the other Rangers for their support. The girls looked shocked, saddened. But Adam surprised Tommy with the anger he saw in the dark eyes. Without a word the Asian teen turned and headed toward the Med Room to check on Rocky. Jason did not miss the implications of the Green Ranger's actions.
"I need to go home, Tommy," Jason said softly. "Please tell Rocky I'm sorry. Tell Adam, too, okay?" He didn't wait for a reply, teleporting out in a golden flash.
Tommy stood still for a moment, raising his hands to cover his face. He let out a deep sigh and turned to his two female teammates who were watching him with worried expressions.
"What the hell are we going to do?" he muttered, more to himself than to Tanya and Katherine. "What a mess. Why didn't the scan turn this up?" he asked Kat suddenly.
"I don't know, Tommy. I did a full scan. There was nothing. Not a bruise. He didn't even have a hangnail. Nothing....except that residue," she stopped suddenly, sickened as she realized what that must have been. "Oh, God. It was right there and I missed it."
"Missed what?" Tommy asked, his despair making him impatient.
"There was something in Billy's intestinal tract. He said it was probably from the flu he had the week before..." her soft voice trailed off as she saw the dawning comprehension on the others' faces.
Tommy put a comforting arm around the Pink Ranger. "Don't worry about it. It wouldn't change anything if we had found it last week. The bottom line is, it happened. We have to find a way to help them get over it. Both of them," he added pointedly, seeing Adam standing in the doorway.
"I know, Tommy. I shouldn't have done that to Jason, but when I think of what he did to Billy..." his voice trailed off helplessly.
"They are both victims here. Jason would never hurt Billy intentionally. He wouldn't do it. He'd probably hurt one of us first. Remember when they first came back from captivity, Kat? We discussed the fact we thought Billy wasn't telling the truth, but that Jason was. They must have given him something to suppress his normal personality, and his memory. Something to make him do what he did."
"Well, that would explain Jason keeping quiet for all this time. What about Billy? Why was there no physical evidence? Why didn't he seek our help?" Tanya asked.
"He wouldn't tell because he's a guy. I did a report on sexual assault last year for a special assignment in that sociology class I took. Most of the resources didn't mention male rape, but those that did indicated the victims were far less likely to report the assault than a woman would be. And darn few female victims report their assaults. And even in cases where the man did report the crime, it was often not treated as seriously as assaults where the victim's a woman. Another of the socially dictated differences between men and women," Adam said a little bitterly. "Add to that the fact the assault was done by a close friend, a guy he thinks of as a brother, and it's no wonder Billy tried to hide it. He's probably been denying it even to himself."
"Still, there should've been some evidence when they got back," Tanya insisted.
"Billy was in the shower when I got there. I know for a fact he has a nifty little gizmo from the Aquitians in his lab. Kind of a hand held derma-regenerator. He was modifying it for our use, and I think he was about done. He may have used that to treat himself. Or their captors fixed him up before returning him," Adam shrugged. "Even if Jason was so careful as to not leave a bruise or harm him in any way, it was still rape. Still something Billy obviously did not want to happen. That is the important thing."
Tommy nodded unhappily at that. "Something Jason didn't want, either."
"Agreed," Adam replied back, letting his leader know he understood the situation. "And the most important question is: what do we do now?"
"I'm going to go talk to Jason. Then Billy. See if I can convince them we can work this through. You guys stay here until Rocky comes to, then fill him in. I'll contact you later about how they're doing. Zordon, do you have any suggestions?" he asked, turning to their mentor, who had remained silent during the whole confrontation.
"I have no experience dealing with this sort of situation. I am deeply saddened by what has transpired, and I am still trying to find out who was responsible for the kidnapping. Otherwise, there is nothing I can do for them," Zordon reported solemnly.
"Okay. Well, you guys take care of Rocky. I'll meet you back here."
With that the Red Zeo Ranger teleported out in a beam of scarlet.
Jason was sitting in the den of his house, with the blinds pulled, staring at nothing. Some instinct, some need deep inside him led him to this room, where he had spent a great deal of his childhood playing with his friends. In particular with Zack and Billy. He could almost hear the echoes of their boyish voices laughing, shouting, arguing, plotting, planning, joking. This was the room where they watched hundreds of hours of movies, where they built forts and villages, where they rescued fair maidens (Kimberly and Trini most often), and defeated fierce dragons (his dog Smokey). Before he and Zack and Trini had left for Switzerland, the three of them had spent a long night in this room with Kim and Billy, reminiscing, planning their futures. It was the last time that the five of them had gotten together without someone else in the group, and even then the only reason Tommy hadn't been there was because he had some sort of family commitment that night. He remembered feeling a little guilty about leaving the Power Rangers, leaving Kim and Billy alone with the new team. But the two of them had convinced their friends they would be okay, and that their example would give them the courage to give up the powers when it came time to chase their own dreams. And so Kimberly had, leaving to pursue her gymnastics. Then only Billy remained from the first five, finally giving up his powers, but not his contributions to the team. Jason knew from his own experience how much that had hurt the former Blue Ranger. The first few weeks in Switzerland had been hell, he had wanted to return to Angel Grove and reclaim his powers at least a dozen times each day. But the three of them supported each other, and somehow it got better. He could not imagine how Billy got through those first few weeks after he gave up his powers, alone and exposed daily to that which he could no longer have. But then, Billy had always been much stronger than anyone had suspected.
Jason had been thrilled at the chance to take the Gold Powers. He had jumped at the opportunity to be part of the team again, to feel the charge the powers provided. The only downside had been knowing his friend could not accept the powers, that his hopes had been raised only to be dashed in the cruelest manner. And again Billy had rallied, seeming content in his role in the Power Chamber. The two of them had picked their friendship back up as if the time apart had never happened, and that had done much to alleviate Jason's guilty feelings every time he morphed in front of the former Ranger. Billy didn't seem to hold him responsible in any way for his not being able to accept the Gold Powers. And Jason's respect for his childhood friend had increased yet again.
Now this nightmare.
Jason could not wrest his thoughts away form the memories that had resurfaced that afternoon. He wanted to deny them, wanted to find a way to again believe they were just part of a very bad dream. But he knew better now. He had really done that. He made a small sound of despair as he considered all he had done under the influence of the alien's chemicals. He knew he had been drugged, that was among the memories that had returned. The memory blocking affects of the drug were gone completely, he remembered everything that was done to him, and everything he did. All the things he would have given anything not to remember.
He closed his eyes against the memories, but they would not be denied. Interspersed were memories from their childhood, taunting Jason with the realization of how much the smaller boy had looked up to him. Jason found himself remembering the time he had stopped two bullies who were beating Billy up behind the school, how the blue eyes had turned to him with such shining gratitude and faith. But no surprise. It was as if somehow he had known his friend would be there for him, would keep him from being too badly hurt. And now Jason had done the hurting, inflicting more damage than any of the bullies he had ever encountered had done. And thinking of how much his friend's faith had to have been destroyed was the most painful thing of all. Jason curled up in a corner of the old couch, moaning with a pain beyond tears.
That was how Tommy found him.
Adam sat on the floor in a corner of the Med Room, knees drawn to his chest, studying the tile between his feet. Rocky had regained consciousness and had been apprised of the situation. He was now lying back down on the bed, eyes closed, trying to assimilate this upsetting news. Katherine and Tanya were quietly talking in the main chamber.
Adam found himself in an internal struggle. He had told Tommy that he realized that Jason was a victim of the aliens as much as Billy was, and that was true. Intellectually, at least. But his heart was still sending out a different message. He was glad Jason wasn't around at the moment, he was afraid he would try to do something to the older teen in retaliation to what was done to Billy. It was illogical, ridiculous even, but that was how Adam felt. He experienced this tremendous swell of anger whenever he considered what Billy had endured.
Sighing, Adam looked over at Rocky to see how his friend was doing. Rocky's eyes were still closed, and Adam hoped he had slipped into sleep. He needed rest to recover from the poison those darts had delivered into his system. Darts that hit Rocky because of Jason's mental blackout in the middle of a battle, no less. Rage bubbled up anew, and Adam felt a helpless despair. He didn't like feeling this way, he had never experienced this type of anger before. His was normally a very forgiving nature, but his two closest friends had been hurt because of the Gold Ranger, and he couldn't seem to keep his emotions reined in.
Taking a deep breath, Adam sought control again. He forced his thoughts elsewhere, anywhere but on the current situation. His eyes caught sight of the small basin that contained the contents of Rocky's pockets. Katherine always removed all the stuff from their pockets before doing any kind of scan. He saw his best friend's wallet, watch, and assorted small change. And a bright purple disk, a little smaller than a quarter. An almost unwilling smile crossed the Asian teen's face when he saw that. He and Rocky had been twelve years old, and had known each other only a few weeks, when they went to the fair in Stone Canyon. Rocky had won two disks, a purple one and an orange one. He was supposed to trade them in for some sort of small plastic novelty, but instead the spontaneous youth had kept the tokens. He placed them both in his right hand and told Adam to put his hand over top. Adam had done so, adding his left hand after Rocky had placed his on top of Adam's right hand. Standing there in a quiet corner of the fairgrounds Rocky had intoned with a seriousness only a twelve year old could muster:
"As long as we hold these sacred disks, we will continue to be friends."
Adam had been almost awed by the gesture when Rocky handed him the orange disk. He was a sensitive boy, easily touched, and Rocky was the first really close friend he had ever had. What surprised him was that apparently Rocky had treated it with the same solemnity. Both of them still carried the colorful disks, and neither of them ever spoke of it.
Adam was smiling very slightly while considering his long-standing friendship with Rocky when a thought crossed his mind.
What if it had been a case of Rocky raping you?
The though staggered the Green Ranger. His first instinctive reaction was Rocky would never do that! But hadn't Billy probably thought the same thing about Jason? Adam was sure he would have. They had been friends even longer than Adam and Rocky. Hating himself for even entertaining such a thought, Adam could not let it go.
It definitely gave him a new perspective.
Tommy was appalled when he found Jason in the den of the Scott house. His best friend, normally so sure and confident, was huddled in a corner of the large, comfortable couch, making a soft moaning sound.
"Jason? Jase, it's me, Tommy," he said quietly as he approached the shaking figure.
"Go away, Tommy. Just leave me be," the quiet voice, leaden with despair, was more upsetting than a shout would have been.
"I can't do that. That's not what friends do, you know that," the tall teen replied calmly.
"Yeah, and friends don't rape friends, but apparently I do," Jason replied with heavy self-loathing.
"You were drugged, right? You weren't in control. You couldn't help yourself." Tommy replied, channeling all his belief in his friend into his voice. "Believe me, Bro. I know what it's like to do horrible things while under a spell. I nearly killed you all, thanks to Rita."
"Maybe so, but you didn't know us then. And what I did to Billy...that's totally different. I'm supposed to protect my friends...protect him. I've always protected him, not been the one to hurt him. God, did you see the look on his face? I hurt him so bad...what I did to him was unforgivable."
"Jase, Billy has to know you were not in control. He's a pretty smart guy, he knows you wouldn't hurt him in your right mind.."
"You don't know what I did to him! You don't know how bad it was, how bad I made it. What I said, what I did, what I put him through. Even if he could ever forgive me, I can't."
"Go away, Tommy. Please. Just leave me alone for a while. Let me try to get this straight in my mind, then maybe I can talk about it."
Tommy was torn. He knew Jason shouldn't be alone right then, but somewhere Billy was alone too, and that wasn't good either. It didn't help that Jason's parents were still out of town, and Wallace Cranston had left that morning for a five-day business trip. He didn't feel any of the other Rangers could really help at this point. Maybe Adam would have been able to help Billy, but Tommy had seen the anger in the other boy's eyes and hadn't felt it would be wise to send someone who with that kind of anger to be with the former Ranger. Not at this point, anyway.
"Okay, I'll leave you alone. For a little while anyway. But, Jason, I'm coming back soon. This was not your fault, Bro. The rest of us recognize it even if you don't. You were a victim here, too. I'm not going to let you try to face this alone, so just remember that."
"Thanks, Tommy," was the soft reply.
Tommy took a long, considering look at the Gold Ranger, then reluctantly teleported to the Cranston residence.
Tommy found the team genius in his lab, sitting in front of the computer, but not seeming to look at it. The imperfect light from the monitor made Billy's face appear ancient, his hunched over position only added to the illusion.
"I wondered when you'd get here," the uninflected voice betrayed nothing of the teen's feelings.
"Billy, what happened? You need to talk about it, if we are to have any chance to help you or Jason," Tommy said gently, hating it when a pained expression flitted across the pale features across from him.
"I don't want to talk about it, Tommy. There is nothing to say. I just want to forget that day ever happened."
"I think you already know it doesn't work that way."
"It doesn't matter. You can't force me to talk, no one can."
"No, I suppose we can't," Tommy sighed, realizing again just how stubborn the former Blue Ranger could be. He cast about in his mind for a way to get the reticent young man to open up, but came up blank.
Billy had watched Tommy silently, then seemed to take pity on the team leader. "How's Rocky? Up and around yet?"
"Yeah," Tommy said, having checked in with Katherine before coming into the garage. "He's still resting, but he'll be okay. Thanks for the save, as usual."
"No problem. I wonder what's up with Mondo, why he's sending down new monsters almost daily. He must have some sort of plan."
"Un-hunh," Tommy muttered. So that was how Billy wanted to play it. "Look, Billy, you're right, I can't force you to talk about what happened. Even though I think you need to talk about it. But I do want you to answer one question for me, then I'll leave the subject alone. Will you do that much for me?"
"Depends on the question," Billy replied.
"Do you blame Jason for what happened?" Tommy decided to go for the heart of the matter.
Billy considered the question. He opened his mouth to say no, he didn't blame Jason, but as he started to speak what he heard his voice say was, "I don't know, I really don't know, Tommy. I know he wasn't in control, I know he couldn't help himself....but..." His voice faltered.
"But?" Tommy prompted gently, praying his friend would finish.
"But...he hurt me!"
Tommy flinched from the pain and betrayal conveyed in those three small words. Billy's expression crumbled, showing the hurt and despair behind the usual faade of control, then his expression hardened again.
"Billy..." Tommy started, unsure exactly what he meant to say, but wanting to say something, anything, to ease his friend's pain.
"Please go now, Tommy. I have work to do, and I don't feel like talking."
Tommy knew he would get nothing else from Billy then. Maybe later he could try again, but not that day.
"Okay, I'll go. But, Billy, anytime you want to talk, or if you just want someone around, call me. Anytime. Day or night, I'll be there."
"Thanks, Tommy. I'll do that."
Tommy knew Billy would never call.
Tommy returned to the Power Chamber more disheartened than ever. His inability to get either of his friends to open up bothered him greatly, but he was determined to find a way to help them both through this.
His spirits did get a lift from the sight of Rocky wandering around the main chamber, obviously feeling okay.
"Hey, Rocko, good to see you up and around again," he greeted the Blue Ranger.
"Thanks. Wish I hadn't awakened to this kind of news, though. How are they?"
"Not good. Where's Adam?" Tommy asked as Katherine and Tanya approached.
"He went home to get some information. He asked that we wait here, he should be back soon," Tanya told him.
Tommy raised his communicator to his mouth, pressing the button to activate it. "Hey, Adam, you there?"
"Yeah, Tommy. What's up?"
"Instead of meeting us here, meet us in the park. Okay?"
"Got it. I'll be there in fifteen minutes or so."
"Thanks." Tommy signed off and turned to the rest of the team. "Let's get out of here for a while."
A moment later they were gone.
Adam looked around the park, scanning for the rest of the team. He almost didn't see them sitting at the base of one of the largest trees, but Tanya waved, catching his attention.
"Hey, guys," he greeted them, seating himself so they formed a circle. "How are Billy and Jason?" he asked Tommy.
"Not very good, neither one will talk to me. Jason's wallowing in guilt, he's sure Billy will never forgive him, that what he did was unforgivable. He didn't go into any detail, but what he said indicated that what happened between them was pretty violent." Tommy looked, and felt, a bit sick at the idea.
"Billy has closed himself off from it, is trying to pretend it never happened. Refuses to talk about it. I asked him if he blamed Jason, and he said he didn't know. That was the only time I saw any indication of how he felt, and that was that he was hurting badly. Not physically, but emotionally. You know, because it was Jason who did that to him." Tommy ran his hands through his hair. "They can both be so damn stubborn."
"Actually, it sounds like they are both reacting fairly normally," Adam pointed out in his quiet way.
"Excuse me? There is a 'normal' for these circumstances?" Rocky asked in amazement.
"Yes, sort of. That's what I went home to find. The reference papers I had for the report I did last year. First of all, I thought about what you said, Tommy, and you're right. They are both victims. Both are rape victims, actually. Think about it-rape is defined as 'forcing a person into sexual intercourse'. They were both forced, one physically, one chemically."
The other teens nodded unhappily. They could all see that point.
"Okay, so they were both in effect raped. So what do we do now?" Tanya asked practically.
"I don't know, exactly. But I thought it might help to know how they might react. I remembered learning about Rape Trauma Syndrome, and had found some information specific to male victims. Here it is," Adam said, looking closely at the paper in his hand and reading out loud for his companions. "...first phase denial and disbelief...amnesia, partial or total...sense of stigma...heterosexual male survivors typically show enormous anxiety and confusion regarding issues of masculine identity...serious depression is likely and suicide may result...victims rage may explode under unpredictable circumstances...other manifestations include sense of heightened vulnerability, anxiety, powerlessness, helplessness, nightmares, paranoia, sleep disturbances, fixation on the incident, inability to concentrate, dependency, fear of intimacy, chaotic relationships, multiple personality development, drug and alcohol abuse, and revictimization." Adam glanced up and blanched when he saw the expressions on the other teens' faces.
"You can stop now, Adam. I think I'm depressed enough," Tanya murmured.
"Does it have any information on what can be done to help the victim?" Rocky asked, a note of desperation in his usually cheerful voice.
"Um, that's kind of the bad news," Adam said softly.
"The stuff you just told us was the good news?" Kat asked in disbelief.
"No. Actually, there is no good news." Adam sighed. "This says that there are very few counselors qualified to deal with a male rape victim. The best bet is to contact a rape crisis center, but those are often run by feminists, who may not have the resources available to help the male victim. However, this article does use information that is pretty dated. That may have changed. I have a list of all the organizations and groups geared toward assisting rape victims, in both Angel Grove and Stone Canyon. I could call around and see what's available for male victims. Guys, this isn't something we can take care of ourselves in any case. They're going to need some serious help to get them through this."
There was silence as the five teens considered what they had just learned.
"Okay, so the first thing we will have to do is get them to admit they need help?" Tanya asked at last.
"That sounds about right," Tommy agreed with a weary look. "But that's much easier said than done, considering neither one of them will talk about what's going on."
"We need to give them some time," Adam suggested. "After all, Jason just found out what happened."
"But Billy's known for over a week," Kat pointed out.
"Yeah, but now he knows we know, and that changes things. I hope," Tommy said. "I don't think it's a good idea to leave the both of them alone right now. Their parents are all out of town. I was thinking I'd spend the night with Jason, and, Adam, maybe you could invite yourself over to Billy's?"
"Sure thing, Tommy. He won't like it, but he won't be mean about it, either. I hope."
"What about the rest of us?" Tanya asked.
"You could check out these places, see if any of them deal with male rape victims. That would be a great help, if we could offer them someone to help."
"Got it. Come on Tanya, Rocky. We'll start making calls."
"I don't know what is more frustrating. When he won't talk, or when he will," Tommy sighed, looking around at the rest of the Zeo Rangers gathered in the Power Chamber. It had been two days since the startling revelation of what had really happened to the two oldest members of the team. Since that time Tommy had remained almost glued to Jason's side, while Adam did the same to Billy. The two long time friends had not seen each other in the interim.
"At least he talks. I get grunts. The worrisome thing is, they're starting to make sense to me," Adam added, discouragement clear in his expression.
"He isn't opening up at all?" Kat asked with a frown.
"Nope. But I'm not really surprised. He's pretty stubborn. For the most part he ignores me, rather pointedly in fact."
"Maybe we need to get someone to force him to open up. Maybe I should have a talk with him. Who knows, maybe he'd do better with someone who doesn't know him quite as well," Tanya suggested.
Adam shrugged. "Maybe. All I know is he isn't talking to me about it. Is Jason really talking about what happened?"
"Sort of. No details, but a lot about how he was so horrible, how he can't forgive himself, how Billy will never forgive him. I just keep telling him that isn't true, but the real problem is I don't know that for a fact. I mean I sure hope Billy eventually forgives him, but I don't know he will. Any luck on the treatment centers?" Tommy asked suddenly. It had turned out to be a lot harder to contact some of them, and some were reluctant to release information.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you! We found one in Stone Canyon with a counselor who specializes in male victims. He works with guys who are victims of all sorts of crimes, rape included. Guarantees confidentiality, works with the client on fees, very flexible scheduling."
"Zordon, if we can convince them to go see this guy, they may end up revealing their identities as Power Rangers. Will this be a problem? Therapists are sworn to maintain patient confidentiality, but, though it would be very rare, things sometimes happen." The team turned to face their mentor.
"It is always imperative you keep you identities hidden from the public. However, in a case such as this, the ultimate health of Jason and Billy overrides the need for secrecy. There will be no problem. Rangers, we did find out the identity of the beings that kidnapped Jason and Billy. They are from the planet Keron, and have been the sworn enemies of Triforia for the last five centuries or more. It is believed that the Keronites hoped to deprive Triforia of the Gold Powers, destroying them by destroying Jason. Keronites are telepathic, they most likely sensed Jason's desire to protect his powerless friend, and grabbed Billy to use against him. The method they used would have determined from their thoughts and fears."
Tommy looked stricken. "This happened because someone wanted to destroy Triforian powers? Jason was an innocent pawn in their war?"
"They both were," Zordon said sadly.
Tanya entered the Cranston garage feeling a little out of place. Certainly she had been there before, but always with the group, never alone. She rarely spent any time alone with the quiet former Ranger, their off-duty lifestyles didn't really mesh that well. But, Billy was the first one of the Rangers she met, and she'd always appreciated his warm smile and welcoming words. But more than that, she felt she owed him for giving up his place on the team for her. She was still awed and touched by that action. She was determined to do everything within her power to help him deal with what had happened.
Adam had spent most of the day with Billy, but needed a break. Tanya had decided to do just what she'd suggested that morning, and see if she could get the quiet young man to open up.
She saw him sitting at his computer, busily punching in information, muttering softly. He heard her approach and glanced up.
"Adam get tired of babysitting me?" he asked shortly.
Tanya flinched at the cold tone and words. Adam had indicated Billy was not in a very pleasant mood, but she hadn't expected it to be that bad. Even when he had been so frustrated right after giving up the powers, he had been civil. She forced herself to remember what he was going through and managed a patient smile.
"I wanted to see how you were doing. We are all concerned about both you and Jason. Besides, I figured by now you were tired of Adam," she grinned. Billy regarded her expressionlessly.
"If you want to hang around here, fine. Just don't bother me." He turned back to what he was doing, effectively dismissing Tanya's presence.
Tanya felt her own temper flare. Sympathetic she might be, but no way would she let anybody treat her that way. She wondered briefly if that is what Adam had put up with for the last two days. Well, she wasn't going to put up with it. She strode over to where Billy was seated and reached over and turned off the monitor, getting his undivided attention in a hurry.
"Listen, Billy, I know you are hurting, but that doesn't give you the right to be abusive to the rest of us. You don't want to talk? Fine. I guess we can't make you, but you will not treat me, or anyone else, that way! The only reason we're here is because we care. And if you ask me, it's pretty stupid to turn away from those who want to help you. But if you enjoy feeling this way, then just keep acting like a jerk. I guess it's easier to wallow in self pity than to face up to things and find a way to work it out." She stopped abruptly, seeing the pain and misery clearly reflected on the face of the young man before her.
"I...I...I'm sorry, Tanya. You're right. I have not right to take my feelings out on you or Adam, or anyone else..."
Tanya reached out and placed a gentle hand on his forearm. "Billy, please, you have to get some help. Look at yourself! You look like death. When was the last time you ate a decent meal? Or slept through the night? This is tearing you up inside. Look, we checked around, and there is a guy in Stone Canyon, at a counseling center, that specializes in helping guys who are victims of crimes. Of all sorts of crimes, including sexual assault. He could help you, I'm sure of it," she said a bit desperately, seeing his expression start to close down again.
"I'm not ready to see, or talk to, anyone about what happened," he said sharply, his expression having closed up again at the use of the term 'sexual assault'.
"Then talk to him about something else! Billy, just start talking to him, to someone! Don't keep yourself closed off from everyone, it isn't good for you. You'll never feel any better this way," Tanya declared. "You need to work this out, for yourself, and for Jason."
"How do you know what I need? Has something like this happened to you? Do you have any idea what it is like to be held down and hurt by someone you've trusted...respected...thought of as a...a brother? To have someone like that ignore your pleading, to just keep on hurting and hurting and hurting you until you wish you'd just pass out so you wouldn't be there anymore? So you wouldn't hurt anymore. Do you know what that is like? Do you?" Billy's formerly pale face was flushed with emotion, his blue eyes flashing with anger while shimmering with unshed tears. "You guys just don't get it, do you? I don't want to talk about this! What good does it do to keep talking about it, remembering it? Why would I want to remember how Jason laughed when I screamed in pain? What good does it do to remember that? Dammit, I just want to forget! Leave me the hell alone!" The last was fairly shouted as Tanya, tears streaming down her face, reached out to Billy. She recoiled as he stormed past her and up the stairs into the house.
"Well," she said shakily to the now empty lab. "At least I got him to talk."
Tommy sat watching TV with Jason, neither of them really enjoying the action movie that played out on the small screen, a brainless piece of violent fluff starring Don Johnson and Micky Rourke. The Red Zeo Ranger was lost in his chaotic thoughts, feeling more helpless than usual about the situation between his two closest friends. Tanya, distraught, had arrived back in the Power Chamber shortly before Tommy left. Her report of what Billy said had left Tommy shaken. He knew what happened had been bad, but what she told him sounded even worse than he had thought.
"Tommy, you don't have to stay here," Jason said at length, having noted Tommy's unusual quiet.
"I know I don't have to, I want to."
"Right," Jason sighed. He was well aware of what Tommy was doing, and as much as he appreciated the display of friendship, he was starting to feel just a bit smothered.
The Ranger leader heard the sigh and bit back one of his own. He knew they couldn't continue on this way much longer, that Jason's depression was worsening. He had been toying with the idea of either contacting Jason's parents, despite Jason's orders to the contrary, or one, or more, of the other original Rangers. Tommy knew there was a special bond between the first five, a bond he wasn't exactly excluded from, but that encompassed a number of years when they were all children. Perhaps one of those older friends could cut through the emotional walls surrounding the two troubled young men and get them both to seek help.
Tommy was jolted out of his thoughts by the beeping of his communicator.
"What is it, Zordon?" he asked tersely.
"Please teleport to the Power Chamber immediately, Mondo has unleashed another monster," Zordon's requested.
"Gotta go, Bro," Tommy started to say, then stopped seeing Jason reach for his communicator as well.
Both young men disappeared in beams of Red and Gold.
The Power Chamber was filled with the sounds of the alarms, and the chatter of the arriving Rangers. The rest of the team had gotten there just before Jason and Tommy, and stood by anxiously. Billy and Alpha were working frantically at the various consoles, gathering data for the upcoming battle.
"Rangers, behold the Viewing Globe," Zordon ordered.
They saw a seven-foot tall mechanical monster with a basically human looking body and a buzz saw blade for a head. As they watched the head activated and within seconds has cut down a large tree in Angel Grove Park.
"Hey! That tree was perfectly healthy," Rocky exclaimed, aghast.
"That is Saw Head. In addition to the cutting capabilities of its head, it can also shoot jagged saw blades from the devices mounted on its shoulders. It is shielded from attack by a pulsating force field, making it difficult to find a weapon that will penetrate it. We will be working on that problem. In the meantime, your job will be to slow it down and prevent further damage. Use extreme caution Rangers, and may the Power protect you."
"You heard him, guys. It's morphin' time!"
Jason had been only marginally aware of Zordon's report. His attention was instead riveted on the former Blue Ranger. Billy would not turn around and face the Rangers standing behind him. Usually he had something to add to Zordon's reports, but this time he was oddly silent. The chill of dread and guilt deep inside Jason deepened at this behavior, which seemed to Jason to be an expression of anger, as if his old friend couldn't even bear to look at him. Not that Jason could fault him for feeling that way. He could barely stand to look at himself.
When Tommy made his call into action, Jason called on the Gold Powers automatically, but his heart wasn't in it. He couldn't stop thinking about Billy, and what he had done to him.
"Jason! Watch out!" Tommy's shout penetrated Jason's mental haze finally, and he looked up to see the monster bearing down on him, saw head whirling with deadly intent. A quick tuck and roll to the side kept him from being killed as the other Rangers fired their weapons to distract Saw Head.
Anger swept through Jason as he realized that for the second time he had mentally blanked out during a battle, putting himself and his teammates in potential danger.
"I'm sorry guys, I'm no help to you here," his despair was evident in his voice. Before anyone could respond, he teleported.
Billy and Alpha had quickly determined what they could do to penetrate the pulsating shielding this new monster used. By utilizing a special reception chip, they could 'tune in' to the varying frequencies. Billy's idea was to incorporate that chip into a weapon that would use the data from the chip to modify its own frequency to match the shield's. That would allow it to penetrate the shield and disable it, giving the Rangers a chance to defeat it with their usual arsenal.
Rather than try to build the special blaster in the main chamber, Billy retired to his workshop; a cramped, cluttered room he used for working on the smaller weapons and devices. So he was not in the main chamber when Jason teleported in.
"Ay-yi-yi! Jason, that was a close call. Were you injured?" Alpha asked.
"I wasn't hit, Alpha. But I shouldn't be there. I'm a liability to the team. I'm sorry Zordon, but I can't do this. If someone else gets hurt because of me..." his voice trailed off, choked by emotion.
He took his morpher and communicator and laid them on the counter. Then he quickly refocused the Gold Powers back into the staff, then placed it back in the special repository where its powers could be contained for a short while.
"Jason, this is not necessary. We can find a way to help you," Zordon said.
"Somehow I doubt that. But thank you for all you have done for me," the teen said quietly as he punched some information into the teleportation console. He disappeared in a stream of white.
In his quiet workshop, Billy was unaware of Jason's departure. He was also having an uncharacteristically hard time concentrating on the project at hand. Tanya's lecture had hit home much harder than he cared to admit. He had told her he didn't want to remember, and that was the truth. But now it seemed he had no choice. She had broken past some critical barricade inside him, and he couldn't keep the memories or emotions at bay.
The device was almost completed, he just needed to run a quick diagnostic, and then he could send it out to the Rangers. While the last test ran, Billy idly reached out and started putting his tools away. He was sifting through some of his less frequently used items when he found one that stopped him cold. Picking it up, he felt other memories flood his mind.
The small device was about the size of a wrench, but with a round attachment on the end that could be whirled around by simply running it over something. Almost like the kind of spinning tops small children play with. Billy had no idea what it would be used for, if anything, but it was not in his nature to discard something just because he didn't know its purpose.
His thoughts went back to a time when he was still the Blue Ranger, shortly after the first team had gotten their powers. Billy had been trying to make a device that would enable them to work at least one of the zords by remote if necessary. The work had hit a standstill, and he was getting more and more frustrated. Jason had come in to find his usually even-tempered friend pounding a piece of scrap metal angrily with a hammer. Asking Billy what was wrong caused the Blue Ranger to vent his frustration, telling Jason what he had been doing and how it wasn't working. Jason, having experienced Billy's rare bouts of temper before, listened patiently, the reached out and picked up the odd tool with the spinning top.
"Obviously you forgot to use the left handed spinner on it. Just run this over the thing and all will be well!" Jason had declared seriously, making a loud humming noise while running the tool up and down the malfunctioning device.
The combination of nonsensical action with Jason's mock serious declaration cut through Billy's frustration, making the teen laugh despite himself. Hearing that, Jason started 'running' the tool over the Blue Ranger, eliciting more laughter.
"There's where the problem is! Not the device, the inventor!"
Billy had given up then, and still chuckling had gone with Jason for a smoothie at the Juice Bar, forgetting about the problems he had encountered with his invention.
Now standing there in the quiet room, Billy found himself remembering the other times Jason had been there for him over the years, so often knowing just what to say or do to cut through whatever was bothering Billy, and somehow make it better. Billy had always known he could depend on Jason, could go to him whenever something was wrong, and his friend would be there.
Except this time.
Because this time Jason was the problem.
That thought shook Billy to the core. Jason had always been part of the solution, never part of the problem. Suddenly, it became clear why he was having so much trouble even admitting there was a problem, why he was trying to keep everything inside. He needed his friend. He needed Jason.
He had known all along, in his heart of hearts, that Jason had not wanted to do what he did, that he had had no control over his actions and reactions. But Billy had been so hurt, so shamed by what had happened, he had found it impossible to get beyond that, to see Jason's side of the situation. Now his defenses were down, and he saw with greater clarity exactly how the two of them had been used, and anger flared briefly in his soul.
With the anger came a determination not to let the Keronites win this one. He knew how much he valued Jason's friendship, and swore there had to be a way to undo what had been done, to restore that friendship to its previous strength.
Jason was too important to lose.
Carrying the modified blaster, Billy hurried into the main chamber. The first thing that caught his eye was the Gold Staff.
"Where's Jason? What happened?" he demanded, turning to Zordon with a worried expression.
"Jason felt he was a detriment to the team. He gave back the powers and teleported out of here," Zordon replied, sadness evident in his voice.
Billy noticed Jason's communicator lying near the staff, and quickly crossed to the teleportation console. He checked the last settings and let out a moan.
"Oh, shit. What do you think you are doing, Jase?" he muttered. Turning to Zordon and Alpha he spoke with quiet authority. "The device to disable Saw Head's shields is ready for use. I'm going after Jason."
With that he touched his communicator and disappeared in a flash of purest white.
Jason sat on a rock overlooking Harper's Gorge and remembered his childhood. The very first time he, Zack, Billy, Kimberly and Trini did anything together, it was a day hike to this area. That had ended in near disaster when they were caught in a forest fire and had to take refuge in a small lake to escape the flames. From that admittedly rocky beginning had sprung friendships that Jason had expected to last a lifetime.
Instead he had betrayed one of those friends in the most horrendous way imaginable.
He didn't blame Billy for hating him. He hated himself. Since his memories of the day they spent in the custody of the Keronites had resurfaced, he could hardly bear to look at any of his teammates. Former teammates, he reminded himself grimly. He didn't deserve to be a Power Ranger. Someone who could brutalize a friend the way he had did not deserve to even be called a human being.
As the thoughts of self-recrimination and self loathing filled his mind, his gaze fell on the new bridge across the gorge. The old one had been a simple plank type bridge, in reality very dangerous. It was destroyed in the fire, and in the aftermath the forestry department decided to replace it with a metal and chain link concoction. A wide metal walkway was enclosed in a dome of chain link that hung down beyond the bottom six feet on each side, and had wide metal planks soldered along the length to it to keep it straight and rigid.
Looking at that bridge, an idea bloomed to life in Jason's mind. He walked purposefully over to the bridge, but instead of stepping out on the walkway, he eased around to the outside and lowered himself to the base plank and began to edge his way out, facing toward the bridge and clinging to the chain link.
Intent on what he was doing, he didn't hear the soft whoosh of teleportation. The first he was aware that he was not alone was when he heard Billy's voice call out to him.
"Jason! Jase, come back here, please," Billy called, his voice loud enough to carry, but calm enough not to startle.
"Go away, Billy. I know what I'm doing. Believe me, it's better this way. I'm sorry, so sorry for what I did to you. I know I can never make it up to you, but please know I am sorry for it," Jason said, his voice strangely calm.
"Ah, dammit, Jase," Billy muttered, making his way down to the same pole Jason was working his way along. Moving with a grace and speed born of desperation, he started out toward his friend.
"What do you think you're doing? Get away from me. Get back or I'll let go!" Jason shouted, looking desperately at the other teen.
"Okay! I'll stop. But, please, talk to me Jase. Please. Don't do this. Don't let them win," he said pleadingly.
"Why do you care after what I did to you?"
"Jase, it wasn't your fault."
"Yes it was," Jason said stubbornly.
"How do you figure that? Did you go to them and say 'hey, I want to hurt my friend there in the most humiliating, painful, degrading way possible'? Did you?" He forced himself to be as harsh as possible, trying to get Jason's attention, to keep him talking.
"Of course not! But I should have been able to stop it from happening."
"How? Jason, we've all been under spells from time to time. Tommy almost killed us all, remember? Kat tried to kill Kimberly. Hell, I almost got all our parents killed. I know what it's like to be under a spell, and I know there's nothing you can do if it's strong enough. You didn't hurt me, they did. They hurt you as well. In fact, it's more my fault than yours, I should have fought back harder."
"It wouldn't have changed anything, I still would've done what I did. You would not have been able to stop it, and would've ended up hurt worse."
"Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence," Billy returned. He was taking advantage of Jason's distraction to work his way closer. When Jason looked away for a moment, Billy made his move, reaching beyond Jason with one arm, placing one of his feet between Jason's, and moving about half his body behind his friend, in effect pinning the larger teen between him and the chain link while still in a position where he could look at him face to face.
"What are you doing?" Jason asked angrily.
"Making sure you don't do something stupid. If you try to go, you'll take me with you. And somehow I just have faith you don't want to do that."
"Billy..." Jason's voice broke. "Billy, why do you care? How can you care after what I did?"
"Because you're my friend," Billy replied with honest conviction.
Jason's midnight eyes, damp with unshed tears and reflecting a misery that should never be experienced by someone so young, searched Billy's light ones.
"You really believe that," he said at last, with some wonder.
"Isn't it true? I've thought so for a lot of years, and I'll be pretty damn disappointed if I've believed a lie for that long."
"I always thought it was true. That's what made it so hard when I realized what I'd done. I've never, ever wanted to hurt you."
"I know that, Jason. And the only thing you could do that would really hurt me is to take your life over what they did to us. I've always admired your strength, both physically and emotionally. I believe you, and I, can get beyond this. But I know I can't do it alone, I'm going to need you around for a while."
"I'm going to need you too, Bro." Jason sighed as if picking up a heavy burden. "You really think we can get through this?"
"Yes. I do." Jason heard the quiet conviction in the soft voice.
"Then we will."
"Good. I guess the first step is to get back to level ground, huh?" Billy replied.
"Might be a good place to start. After you."
They carefully made their way back toward the side they had started from. What they had done with ease while emotionally distraught was much harder now. They reached the edge, then Billy discovered he could not find the strength needed to climb back up. Physically and emotionally drained, he had no reserves left to make the tricky climb.
"I don't believe this," he muttered, looking at Jason in disbelief.
"Where's your communicator?" Jason asked, looking completely drained himself.
"Must have fallen off at some point. I keep forgetting to fix the band," was the distracted reply.
"I can't believe we are stuck unable to climb up less than six feet," Jason groaned.
"Reach up and I'll give you a hand."
At the unexpected voice both teens looked up to see Tommy reaching down to them, a worried expression on his face. Exchanging exhausted grins, they peered up at the Ranger leader.
"What are you doing here?" Jason asked as the Red Zeo Ranger hauled Billy up to safety.
"Oh, just came by to be sure you two weren't doing something stupid," Tommy replied, grunting with effort as he helped Jason up. They joined Billy lying on a small patch of grass well away from the bridge.
"Whatever would give you the idea we would do something stupid?" Billy asked ironically.
"Just a wild guess," Tommy responded. He looked from one to the other, sensing a peace that had not been evident in either of his friends for far too long. "Are you two okay?"
"No," Jason said bluntly. "But we are going to do everything we can to get okay."
Tommy looked at them with a warm expression.
"Good. And you have a lot of friends to help you along the way."
"We'll need them."
Two years passed.
The two friends went through the slow and often agonizing process of coping with what they did, what was done to them. In the beginning they were seeing the therapist three times a week, then twice a week, then once weekly. After nearly a year they finally tapered down to every other week, then monthly. Nineteen months after they were kidnapped, they terminated therapy completely. During that year and a half they ended up revealing to their therapist their pasts as Power Rangers, and he treated that information with complete confidentiality. In individual therapy, and in sessions with each other, they dealt with their pasts and built a foundation for their futures. Through it all, they clung to their friendship as a lifeline to get them through the worst of times.
The hardest part had been finding a way to explain the therapy to their respective parents. Both the Scotts and Wallace Cranston had been struck by the changes they saw in their sons when they returned home. Concerned, they had questioned both teens thoroughly, but finally had to accept Jason and Billy's word that they would be okay, and that they really couldn't tell them any details about what had happened. They were not pleased about that, but they accepted it. Their main concern, after all, was their children's health and future.
And after that day at Harper's Ridge, neither of them ever held powers again.
Now they were both college students; Billy on a fast track toward a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, Jason working on an Associate degree in business. He planned to buy the Youth Center and run it with his soon-to-be wife, Emily.
On the day that Jason was to wed Emily, he found himself alone in a quiet room of the church where the wedding was being held. He was fussing with his tie and cummerbund, excited and anxious for the ceremony to begin. A figure strode past the open door, then returned, and a familiar face peeked around the corner.
"So, here's where you're hiding. You okay?" Billy's blue eyes sparkled with amusement.
"Yeah. I think so. Do I look alright?" Jason asked, displaying a rare case of self-consciousness.
"Well, you've always been pretty darn ugly, but other than that you look fine," Billy replied with dry humor.
"Oh, you're a lot of help! I thought the Best Man was supposed to be supportive of the groom."
"Maybe you're right. In that case-you look so darn good I'd marry you myself. Any better?" he asked, managing a comical leer.
Jason burst into laughter, leaning against a small table along the wall.
"Thanks. That was very reassuring," he gasped out at last, wiping at his eyes.
Billy just grinned at him, pleased to see his friend so happy.
Jason's dad poked his head in the door. "I was asked to tell you that you need to be out there in five minutes. Everything okay here?"
"Fine, Dad, thanks. I'll be right out."
Jason turned again to his friend. "I guess this is it."
The two looked at each other solemnly. They had been places in their friendship few others ever had to go. Jason felt tears in his eyes as he contemplated his childhood friend.
"You don't know how glad I am that you're here with me today," he said at last, reaching out to draw Billy into his embrace.
"And you don't know how glad I am to be here," Billy replied softly, returning the embrace willingly.
They stayed that way for a long moment, savoring the fact that the Keronites had not won, after all. Then it was time for Jason to take his place at the altar, to wait for the woman he loved, with whom he would meet his future.
A future that would include a friendship that once aliens had thought to destroy, only to find it could withstand even the cruelest attack.
Not all the Power Rangers' powers came from morphers and crystals after all.
Author's notes: Thanks, as usual, to Dagmar who provided suggestions, comments, and most importantly encouragement when I was sure I had screwed the whole thing up.