“Tommy, stop this!” Jason shouted, side-stepping Gasket’s latest henchman to rush towards his best friend. “You don’t want to do this!”
“Oh, but I think I do,” Tommy chuckled, his voice oddly hollow. “You are my enemy.”
Even as the other teen was still speaking, Jason shook his head. “No, I’m not, bro. I’m your friend. Gasket’s your enemy.”
For a moment, Tommy seemed to hesitate. It lasted for only a few short seconds, though, not nearly enough for Jason to attempt to get his hopes up. With a decisive shake of his head, Tommy resumed his stiff posture and even through his helmet Jason could tell that his friend was glaring at him. It was on the top of his tongue to continue shouting at Tommy to make him see reason, but decided that it was useless. In the end, he did the only thing he could think of that would get through to Tommy.
“Gold Ranger, power down.”
As his suit dissolved around him, Jason hoped that he wasn’t making a huge mistake.
“Tommy, it’s me. Jason.”
“Stop calling me that!” Tommy cried, obviously distressed.
As much as Jason hated causing Tommy pain, it was necessary. He needed to get Tommy back before his friend did something horrible. It had taken months to get Tommy over what he’d done under Rita’s control and it would have gutted him to see Tommy go through that again.
There had been many nights those first few weeks that Jason had been woken to find Tommy knocking at his window. Each time he’d looked so lost and scared that Jason had automatically let him in. Tommy had never said why he was there, but Jason knew, and after a while had taken to sleeping with his window open. Even after Tommy had no longer needed to use his bed as a refuge, Jason had continued to leave his window open just in case.
“You’ve gotta snap out of this, bro,” Jason said as he moved closer to the platform where Tommy stood. “We’re on the same side. Please, Tommy—”
“My name’s not Tommy!” the current leader of the Power Rangers shouted, his grip tight on the rail. “My name’s.... My name.... Why can’t I remember my name?”
Gasket stepped between them, taking Tommy’s attention off him. “Do not listen to him, Sire. He is only trying to confuse you. It’s what the Power Rangers do best.”
“Your name’s Tommy Oliver,” Jason called, ignoring Gasket’s interruption. “You’re my best friend; my bro. Always have been.”
Even through his helmet, Tommy’s stare was intense, but Jason didn’t waver. He simply stared back, willing Tommy to remember. Gasket, however, seemed less than thrilled with this, glaring at the two of them.
“Sire, allow me to send another one of your creations to finish off the Gold Ranger once and for all.”
Jason clenched his fists, ready to call back his powers, but Tommy’s voice stopped him.
Gasket stared at him, aghast. “Sire?”
“I said no,” Tommy repeated, turning to the metallic prince at his side. “I want to be the one to destroy him.”
Jason staggered back a few steps, shaking his head in disbelief. Before he could find his voice to offer up a protest, Tommy was in the arena with him, adopting a battle stance. It was a position Jason refused to copy. He wasn’t going to fight Tommy. It would just feed into what Gasket was telling him. He would deflect whatever attacks Tommy used, defend himself only as much as necessary, because he wouldn’t add to the guilt Tommy would no doubt harbour once he was back in his right mind.
“I’m not gonna fight you,” Jason said, resolutely keeping his arms at his sides.
“Then I will kill you, Gold Ranger,” Tommy sneered.
Refusing to fight his best friend, Jason kept all of his moves defensive. He blocked punches and kicks to the best of his ability in his unmorphed state, the blows that did land sending him reeling somewhat. And even though he would have fared a lot better morphed, Jason resisted the urge to call back the Gold Ranger powers. Tommy was more likely to remember who he was if he could see his face.
A solid kick to his middle sent Jason stumbling backwards into the forcefield that surrounded the arena. The electricity jolted through him and though Jason tried to keep to his feet, he dropped to his knees with a grunt of pain.
“Not so tough now, are you, Gold Ranger,” Tommy chuckled as he stalked towards him, a menacing eloquence in every shift of muscle. “I could finish you off right now if I wanted to. End your pitiful existence once and for all. Then the Power Rangers would be leaderless and that much easier to destroy.”
Panting, Jason stared up at the helmeted face of his best friend. “That’s a title I gave up a long time ago. You’re their leader.”
“Liar!” Tommy shouted, his fist connecting with Jason’s temple before the other teen had a chance to react.
Jason’s vision went white as his head exploded in pain. He fell forward onto his hands and knees while he waited for his vision to clear. Tommy didn’t give him a chance to recover. He had his hand tight around Jason’s throat, hauling him up so that his feet barely touched the ground. Jason gripped Tommy’s wrist tight with both of his hands, trying to keep the other man from strangling him.
As Jason’s vision started to fade, he caught sight of a flash of colour just over Tommy’s shoulder.
Kat couldn’t contain a gasp at the sight that greeted them as they teleported into Gasket’s arena. It wasn’t the sheer number of robotic monsters that filled the stands that caught her off guard, but the two single combatants at its centre. Two people she had never expected to see in such a vicious battle because there was no mistaking the fact that Tommy was trying to kill Jason. And from the state Jason was in, he was coming close to succeeding.
“Tommy, stop it!” Kat shouted, rushing forward a few steps.
She was stopped short when Tommy’s head whirled around. Still keeping a firm grip on Jason’s throat, he turned towards them completely.
“I had a feeling you would show up,” Tommy growled, shoving Jason roughly to the ground so that he could stalk across the arena. “Come to rescue your poor, pathetic leader.”
“We’ve come for Jason, too,” Rocky spoke up.
His movements almost too quick to track, Tommy was suddenly right in front of them. “Do not insinuate that I have anything to do with any of you. You are my enemies and I will destroy you, Power Rangers.”
“We’re not your enemy,” Tanya insisted, her voice imploring Tommy to listen. “We’re your team mates. And Jason, he’s your best friend.”
For a brief moment, Tommy’s attention turned to where Jason was struggling up to his knees. Tommy’s visor obscured his sightlines, but it appeared as though they were staring directly at each other. It lasted for only a moment, though, before Tommy shook his head as though clearing it.
“Do not listen to them, Sire. They are only trying to confuse you,” Gasket shouted from the balcony that overlooked the arena. “The Power Rangers are evil and want nothing more than to destroy the Earth.”
“That’s what you want, Gasket.”
The entire arena focused its attention on the owner of the ragged voice. Jason was upright, wavering slightly, his eyes locked on Tommy. He was in obvious pain, his right arm wrapped tight about his middle, but his expression showed none of that. Kat had never seen Jason look so focused and found herself wondering, not for the first time, about the depth of Jason and Tommy’s friendship.
“You can’t seriously expect to defeat me, Gold Ranger,” Tommy growled as he slowly shifted towards Jason. “You’re not even morphed.”
“You’re right, I’m not,” Jason agreed before nodding towards the rest of the team. “But if you look over there, the other Rangers are. Notice anything familiar?”
Tommy’s entire posture stiffened as he took in the designs of their uniforms. Unlike Jason’s black armour, there was no shield to obscure the similarities between their armour and Tommy’s.
With a frustrated growl, Tommy turned his attention back to Jason. “You’re just trying to distract me.”
“No, Tommy, I’m trying to make you see the truth.”
“Enough of this!” Gasket shouted from the balcony, slamming the butt of his sword against the rail. “Sire, now is the time to defeat them! Kill the Gold Ranger!”
While Tommy’s attention was turned towards Gasket, Jason did something that none of them expected. He charged at Tommy, knocking his fellow Ranger to the ground with a football tackle. Tommy landed hard on his back with Jason on top of him, both of them momentarily winded from the fall. It was only a brief pause and then a scuffle as each one fought for dominance. Despite his injuries, for a moment Kat thought Jason might actually win.
“That was a mistake, Gold Ranger.”
With a deft move, Tommy flipped them over so he was kneeling astride Jason, one hand holding Jason’s wrists above his head. His laser pistol was jammed under Jason’s chin with his other hand.
All around her, Kat could hear the other Rangers shouting their protests. She could only stare at the two best friends in disbelief. That Tommy would be trying to kill Jason was unthinkable. And it wasn’t as thought Tommy was fighting the Gold Ranger. Jason was unmorphed. If Tommy was going to recognize any of them, Kat would have thought it would be Jason. Only there was nothing. Tommy didn’t seem to be reacting to Jason at all.
Kat was bringing up her arms to power down as well when a shift in Tommy’s posture made her pause.
Defeating the Gold Ranger was proving to be far easier than he would have thought. As fearsome as Gasket had made the Gold Ranger out to be, the human was rather pathetic in actuality. He couldn’t fathom why he had been unable to defeat the Power Rangers in the past with such a sorry excuse for a leader. It might have been more difficult if his enemy had remained morphed, but he wasn’t about to complain. His only concern was defeating the Power Rangers, a task that would be much easier without their worthless leader.
Kneeling over the weakling human, proximity forced him to meet the Gold Ranger’s eyes for the first time. He held that dark gaze for only a few seconds before forcing himself to look away. He had to. Something in that gaze winded him more than when the Gold Ranger had tackled him to the ground.
It took a moment for him to realize that he was the one who had spoken. The gun dropped from his fingers and he scrambled away from the Gold Ranger.
No, not the Gold Ranger.
Jason Lee Scott.
His best friend. His bro. His....
He shook his head fiercely, refusing to see the images playing behind his closed eyelids.
The two of them on a beach, shaking hands. Jason welcoming him to the team.
Fighting side by side, both in competition and against a long-necked zord. Each of them using their own strengths and the other’s weapons.
Hanging out on a beach and in a park.
Jason fighting to save his then-green powers.
A weekend, just the two of them, at his uncle’s cabin.
Their entire history stretched out forever in the blink of an eye. Proof that, rather than being an enemy, Jason was his friend and so much more. The Gold Ranger had been telling the truth from the start and he had nearly killed him for it. Would have gladly killed him for the glory of the Machine Empire and not felt a moment’s guilt about it.
“Destroy him, Sire! Destroy the Power Rangers!”
“Tommy, don’t! Please, it’s us!”
He could hear all of the shouting going on around him, but couldn’t take his eyes off the prone figure before him. Jason, who was staring up at him silently, no longer making any attempt to convince him of their shared history. Jason, who was at the center of so many of his resurfacing memories that it was nearly impossible to distinguish who he was without Jason.
Without looking away, he made his decision.
“Zeo 5, power down.”
“No! What are you doing?!”
Tommy didn’t even spare Gasket a glance, though his words came out in a snarl. “I’m leaving with my friends.”
Trusting the others to keep Gasket at bay, Tommy scrambled across the few feet that separated him from Jason. Only when he had his hand raised to slip under Jason’s shoulders and help him up did he hesitate. Everything in him was screaming to go to Jason and help him, but Tommy couldn’t move. He was afraid to touch him knowing that he was the cause of all Jason’s injuries. That the black eye, split lip and eyebrow, and all of the bruises he could see were his fault.
“That you, bro?”
Jason was slowly sitting himself up, the strain of the movement obvious in the quiet grunt he failed to hide, so Tommy immediately hurried to help him. The others, all still morphed, had formed a defensive circle around them, keeping Gasket and his robots away while he got Jason up, supporting most of his friend’s weight.
“Jase,” Tommy moaned helplessly as Jason sagged against him. Tommy lifted his arm that wasn’t already around his waist to cup his hand against Jason’s neck, squeezing briefly as their eyes locked.
There was a sudden explosion somewhere else in the complex, the force of it shaking the entire arena. The forcefield shimmered briefly then was gone. That seemed to enrage Gasket more, the metallic prince making his outrage known quite loudly. Tommy curled himself around Jason, his eyes scanning out any potential threat as the six of them teleported back to the Power Chamber.
The moment they rematerialized back on Earth, Jason slumped against him, unconscious. Tommy tightened his grip around Jason’s waist, his other arm wrapping around Jason’s shoulders, pulling him against his chest. Broader through the shoulders and more heavily muscled than him, Jason’s dead weight pulled them both down so that they were kneeling in the middle of the Power Chamber.
The others started to rush forward and Tommy found himself instantly clutching Jason tighter, glaring at their friends. It took Tommy only a moment to realize what he was doing, just long enough for Jason’s breath to puff hot against his collarbone, and while he relaxed his features, Tommy didn’t loosen his grip. If anything, he hitched Jason closer against him.
Rational thought won out, though, so at Zordon’s bidding, and with some assistance from Billy, Tommy got Jason onto one of the beds in the medbay. Despite the thoughts and emotions whirling in his mind, Tommy was acutely aware of what he was doing. He made sure not to jostle Jason overly much, not wanting to hurt him more than he already was.
It was only when Alpha handed him a pair of shears and instructed him to cut away Jason’s t-shirt that Tommy realized the full extent of what he had done to his best friend. Jason’s chest was a patchwork of darkening bruises, a particularly nasty one on the right side of his chest where Tommy could vaguely recall kicking the other teen more than once.
“Why didn’t you try to stop me?”
There was no response from Jason, but he hadn’t expected one.
The throbbing pain in his mid-section was the first thing he became aware of. It seemed to pulse in time with his heartbeat and the dull thumping between his temples. The second was fingers ghosting over his forehead. Jason was more than tempted to simply fade back to where it didn’t hurt while he waited for Alpha to give him the good drugs, but he could practically feel the guilt radiating off Tommy.
“This isn’t your fault,” he grunted, the words slightly muffled as his lower lip refused to fully cooperate. Jason probed it lightly with his tongue, shifting slightly to try and assess the damage to the rest of his body. A quick inventory assured him that nothing was broken, just extremely sore.
The fingers had pulled away the instant he spoke, though Jason could still feel Tommy’s presence looming beside him. He cracked an eye open, not fighting against the pressure he could feel swelling his right eye closed. It took a moment for his vision to focus, but when he did, the first thing he saw was Tommy staring down at him in disbelief.
“How can you say that? Look at what I did to you, Jase,” Tommy sputtered, looking everywhere but directly at him.
Exhausted, Jason fumbled for Tommy’s hand and was relieved when warm, callused fingers wound themselves between his own. Guilty as he may have felt then, Tommy still reacted instinctively to familiar gestures.
“I could have fought back,” Jason reminded him. “I could have stayed morphed. It might have taken longer to get through to you, but they were options. It was my choice not to fight offensively, even when I had the chance.”
“I should have recognized you, though. The instant you powered down, I should have known who you were,” Tommy insisted, staring down at their joined fingers. “Why didn’t you stop me?”
With that last question, Tommy finally looked up, meeting his eyes. The dark eyes were suspiciously shiny and filled with a pain Jason hadn’t seen since the day they’d freed Tommy from Rita’s spell. So, even though his body protested loudly, Jason forced himself to sit up. The strain of it must have shown on his face because Tommy instantly had an arm behind his shoulders, steadying him and taking the pressure of his screaming abdominals.
Once Jason was sure he wouldn’t topple forward, he turned so that his legs hung over the edge of the exam bed and drew Tommy between his spread knees. Tommy didn’t protest and even seemed to relax when Jason brought a hand up to squeeze a tense shoulder. Jason shifted his grip slightly so that he was cupping Tommy’s neck and lower jaw.
“I knew that if it came down to it, you wouldn’t be able to kill me. That something would hold you back.”
Tommy gaped at him. “What about the cracked ribs, concussion, and the fact that I almost strangled you?” He lifted a shaky right hand and lightly touched his fingertips to what Jason assumed was a rather impressive bruise just under his jaw. “I did this. Not Gasket or Altor or anyone else. Me.”
Leaning forward, Jason rested his forehead against Tommy’s. He could offer up all of the reassurances that he wanted, but convincing Tommy would be another thing entirely. Just because Jason believed it himself didn’t mean that Tommy would. The other man was frustratingly stubborn like that.
“If you had been in your right mind, would you have done any of those things?” Jason asked instead, his voice barely above a whisper.
Shuddering slightly, Tommy’s eyes fluttered shut. “No.”
Jason smiled and slipped an arm around Tommy’s waist, drawing the long-haired teen towards him. “How can I blame you for something that wasn’t even your fault?”
Jason shook his head, silencing Tommy’s protest. “It wasn’t your fault.”
Tommy’s fingers slid over his neck. “But it’s still my hands that did all of this.”
“I could leave some marks on you if that would make you feel better,” Jason suggested, grinning slightly despite himself.
As he’d hoped, it got an amused snort out of Tommy. The levity lasted for only a moment, though, before his sombre expression returned. “I still don’t understand how you can be so calm about things.”
Jason huffed out a tired sigh in lieu of the shrug he couldn’t muster the energy to make. “I’m not going to blame you for something that I know you wouldn’t have done if you’d been in control of your actions. It’d be like blaming you for it raining on a day we’d planned to go to the beach.”
The look Tommy gave him told Jason exactly what the other teen thought of his rationale.
“Okay, so that wasn’t the best example,” Jason conceded, leaning back to take some of the pressure off his battered ribs. He must have grimaced slightly because Tommy’s features drooped once again and his fingers fumbled helpless against Jason’s hips.
“Come on, let’s get you home,” Tommy said before Jason had a chance to make any excuses.
Jason had fallen asleep almost as soon as they’d gotten back to his house. Mr. and Mrs. Scott were away for the weekend, meaning that it was just him and Jason. It was a welcomed relief because Tommy had no idea how he’d explain Jason’s injuries to them. It would take a few days for whatever energies the Zeo Crystals used to help heal their injuries quicker than anything outside of a sci-fi movie and Tommy didn’t want to have to come up with excuses in the interim. There had been no monster attacks or anything that could be used as an excuse and Jason’s face alone was an indicator that he hadn’t been hurt sparring. If the Scotts even suspected he had something to do with their son’s injuries....
Tommy shuddered at the thought, disrupting Jason who was currently using his arm as a pillow. Jason had started off on his own pillow, propped nearly upright to take the pressure of his injured ribs, but during the course of the documentary he’d been watching, Jason had listed sideways until his head was resting against Tommy’s arm. Not wanting Jason to wake up, Tommy smoothed his fingers through Jason’s hair, soothing him.
The documentary was dull enough that Tommy should have drifted off himself, but despite the fact that he hadn’t focused on any of it, he was still wide awake. If Tommy had it his way, he’d never sleep again. Every time he’d closed his eyes all that he could see was what he had done to Jason. All of the vicious things he’d said, mocking Jason and everything he’d said they meant to each other. In control of himself once again, Tommy knew that everything Jason had said in the arena was the truth. Truths that he would have killed Jason to deny.
And Jason had forgiven him without a second thought.
Not surprising really. Jason was far too forgiving than was strictly healthy. He had been for as long as Tommy had known him. From that very first day on the beach, when Jason had every reason to simply take his Power Coin and cast him aside, he’d offered his hand in friendship instead. Not five minutes before, Tommy had been actively and gleefully trying to kill him, but Jason had ignored everything he’d done under Rita’s control. He hadn’t even hesitated, something Tommy would never be able to thank him enough for. Tommy didn’t know what he would’ve done without Jason those first weeks when the memories and nightmares threatened to swallow him whole. And blessed that he hadn’t had to find out.
It was a bit of a surprise to wake up alone when he’d distinctively remembered Tommy being in the bed with him when he’d fallen asleep. That accomplishment had been quite a feat as Tommy had protested long and hard about not wanting to accidentally jostle him and upset his ribs. Jason had won that argument by pointing out that Tommy would make a better buffer against Jason accidentally tilting too far to the side if he was sitting next to him rather than on the chair. Even still, Tommy had tried to put some distance between them so Jason had feigned sleep and leaned ever so slightly against Tommy’s side. At some point, though, the droning words of the documentary had lulled him to sleep only for Jason to wake up alone in his bed.
Turning his head towards the door, he was relieved to see a pair of battered red Converse tumbled alongside his boots. Tommy hadn’t left.
It took a bit more effort than he would have liked, but Jason managed to roll himself out of bed without straining anything or putting unnecessary pressure on his ribs. He stood still for a moment, making sure that he had his balance before padding barefoot across the room. Jason felt stiff as could be and was glad that he was already wearing a pair of black sweats because he knew he wouldn’t have been able to bend over to pull them on. He wasn’t looking forward to going down the stairs either, but his desire to find Tommy outweighed a few minor discomforts.
“Bro, you down here?” Jason called when he was about halfway down the stairs. He could have just kept silent since there was nowhere else Tommy could be, but he’d wanted to give him a bit of warning just in case. Tommy was jumpy on a good day let alone when he had time to brood over a situation.
Sure enough, when Tommy hurried out of the kitchen, his dark eyes were a bit too bright and his jaw too clenched.
“You shouldn’t be up,” Tommy chided as he met Jason at the bottom of the stairs. “Zordon said you needed to take it easy for a few days.”
Jason barely refrained from rolling his eyes, well aware of his own reputation for hovering if one of the team was injured.
“I just came downstairs. That’s hardly a strenuous workout.”
Still, despite his protests, Jason was grateful when Tommy slipped an arm around his waist and steered him in the direction of the couch. He leaned into Tommy only slightly, more for the contact than for the actual support.
“I wasn’t sure how long you’d be asleep so I ordered a pizza,” Tommy said once Jason was sitting on the couch. “Figured it’d keep warm longer than anything else.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jason sighed, leaning his head against the back of the couch, eyes closed. Even so, he could sense Tommy still hovering about in front of him and reached out to grab hold of his wrist. He latched on immediately and tugged Tommy down beside him. He swallowed down a pained grunt as Tommy’s weight caused him to bounce slightly and undo what he said next. “I promise I won’t break if you sit next to me.”
“I don’t wanna hurt you,” Tommy whispered, his free hand clasping Jason’s wrist, lighting stroking over the pulsepoint.
Blinking his eyes open, Jason turned his head towards Tommy and smiled faintly. His empty hand came up, sliding through Tommy’s long hair to cup the back of his skull. He guided Tommy’s head down, tilting his own chin up so that their lips met. Catching Tommy’s lower lip between both of his, Jason began the kiss lightly, only increasing the pressure when Tommy leaned closer. Jason couldn’t contain a relieved sigh when Tommy responded to the kiss.
“See, I didn’t break,” Jason murmured against Tommy’s lips when the kiss ended.
Tommy brought a hand up to cup Jason’s cheek, staring at him in awe. A few hours ago he would have happily killed the dark-eyed teen and Jason was acting a though it hadn’t happened. Tommy knew that, in part, Jason was doing it for his benefit—so that he wouldn’t feel guilt for what he’d done. Mostly, though, Jason had honestly forgiven him for what had happened and it was his way of moving on.
The doorbell rang then, surprising them both. Jason chuckled quietly, leaning back into the couch.
“Perfect timing as always,” Jason smirked, glancing at Tommy.
Tommy could only be grateful that it was just the delivery guy and not a swarm of concerned friends. Given what could have happened that afternoon, he wasn’t quite ready to share Jason with them. He wanted some time alone with Jason so that he could assure himself that his boyfriend was really all right. If he left it up to Jason, the other man would have simply pretended that he hadn’t been hurt despite his still-obvious injuries. More times than he cared to recall, Jason had been hurt during a battle and carried on as though nothing had happened. The first time Jason had collapsed after returning to the Command Center, Tommy had thought his heart would stop.
If he accomplished nothing else, Tommy was determined to make sure that Jason took care of himself.
When he returned to the living room with the pizza, though, Jason was nowhere to be seen. Leaving the pizza on the coffee table, Tommy headed towards the kitchen in hopes of finding him there. Instead he nearly crashed into Jason who was on his way back to the living room, a can of soda in each hand.
“I was thirsty and figured you must be, too,” Jason said by way of explanation before continuing on to the couch.
Nonchalant as Jason tried to be, Tommy was glad the other man didn’t protest Tommy holding a hand under his elbow to help lever him slowly back to the couch. Rationally, he knew that Jason was more than capable of taking care of himself, but the image of Jason slumping against him was proving to be a hard one to banish. It was one thing for Jason to be hurt by one of Zedd or Mondo’s creations, but to know that it was his hands that had caused his boyfriend’s injuries was infinitely worse. It was a guilt that not even Jason’s forgiveness could alleviate.
They ate in silence for the most part, watching a baseball game Jason had found on TV. Neither of them were particularly interested in it, but Tommy was glad to have something to drown out the silence. Strange as the thought was to him, Tommy felt a bit awkward around Jason. Everything they had done and the depth of their relationship, and Tommy couldn’t even find a way to start a conversation.
It was something of a surprise when he realized that Jason was leaning into him and that his own arm was wrapped around the other teen’s waist. Tommy honestly couldn’t remember how they’d gotten like that when there’d been at least half a cushion’s distance between them when they were eating, but couldn’t help but feel relieved that Jason was still so at ease around him.
“If our situation were reversed, would you hate me?”
Tommy tensed slightly, having thought that Jason was dozing. His eyes were closed and he looked so utterly relaxed that he’d just assumed Jason was resting. Given everything that had happened he wouldn’t have been surprised if Jason had fallen asleep. And guilty though it made him feel, he almost wished Jason was asleep.
“Tell me the truth, Tommy. If I had been the one under Gasket’s control and I’d attacked you, would you hold it against me?”
“Then what possible reason would I have to be angry at you?” Jason demanded, keeping his face turned forward and his eyes closed. “You had no control over what you were doing and I know that.”
“I should have known that it was you,” Tommy insisted, squeezing his eyes shut tight as he sought to erase the image of Jason lying under him with a gun pressed to his chin. He’d used so much force that he was surprised there wasn’t a bruise in the shape of the muzzle on the underside of Jason’s jaw.
Feeling Jason shifting around next to him, Tommy opened his eyes when Jason pulled away from him. However, Jason had only moved far enough so that he could turn and face him.
“Tommy, you were brainwashed. Gasket could’ve told you to run around that arena naked and you would’ve.”
The idea was so absurd that Tommy could only stare at him in disbelief. His brain temporarily ceased to function and he could only gap at Jason in shock.
“You’re not to blame for this, Tommy,” Jason insisted his tone much more serious. “It could have been any of us in your place. Rocky, Kat, Adam, Tanya. Even me. This isn’t your fault.”
And even though he still felt like protesting, he allowed himself to believe what Jason was telling him. There wasn’t an inkling of doubt in Jason’s expression, so he allowed himself to believe Jason rather than fight against assurances.
Of course, those words meant nothing when, at the end of the next battle, Jason collapsed, his armour fading without him actively powering down. Jason tried to insist that he was fine, but couldn’t even get up on his own. Tommy helped him, his hand lingering on Jason’s upper arm as he resisted the urge to pull his boyfriend into his arms. Instead they teleported back to the Power Chamber where Jason was put through a battery of tests by Alpha and Billy.
And while the tests were being carried out, Tommy paced. He’d watched Jason intently during the battle and couldn’t recall seeing him receive a hit that would have caused Jason to involuntarily power down. That took a lot of power and the robot Gasket had sent against them had been more of an annoyance than anything. It just didn’t make sense on its own and Tommy feared it had to do with what had happened in Gasket’s arena.
Never before had she seen Tommy so thoroughly dejected. He seemed about ready to wear a path in the floor with all of his pacing. Like the rest, she was concerned about Jason, but Tommy looked as though his world was crumbling down around him. Their leader was usually quite reserved in his reactions, but even Rocky and Adam were noticing that something wasn’t right.
“You don’t think he’s still feeling guilty about what happened before, do you?” Adam asked quietly, glancing around at the others.
“This is Tommy we’re talking about,” Rocky reminded him. “And after what happened in the arena....”
“Jason doesn’t blame him for it.”
Kat shrugged briefly in Tanya’s direction. “That doesn’t mean Tommy won’t blame himself. They’re best friends. Whether Jason blames him or not, Tommy’s gonna feel guilty.”
The four teens fell silent then, watching as Alpha and Billy ran all sorts of tests on Jason while Tommy hovered in the background. He would stop occasionally, and every time, his eyes would immediately seek out Jason’s. Looking pale and exhausted, Jason never failed to offer up a smile whenever he caught Tommy looking at him. At one point he even fumbled for Tommy’s hand, tugging the other man closer. If it had been anyone other than Tommy and Jason, Kat would have questioned such a gesture. Those two had always been affectionate with each other, neither one holding back from offering comfort. According to Billy, it had been like that right from the start.
When the tests were complete, Tommy helped Jason off the table, his arm remaining around Jason’s waist as they crossed the room.
“Any idea how long it’ll be till Billy and Alpha’ll get the results?” Kat asked, placing a hand on Jason’s arm as soon as he was standing next to her.
“Not too long,” Jason said quietly. He still looked a bit pale and wobbly, but even with Tommy’s supporting arm, he appeared to be standing on his own. “It’s really not a big deal. I know I should’ve taken it easy today and I didn’t. A few hours of sleep and I’ll be fine.”
None of them were entirely convinced by it, least of all Tommy, but the result of the tests seemed to confirm what Jason said. That he was still a little run-down from fighting Tommy unmorphed and that it had affected his powers as a result.
If anything, though, the news made Tommy’s expression fall even more. It confused Kat at first, but then the reality of the situation became clear: Tommy was ultimately the cause of Jason’s collapse. And while none of them held him responsible, their leader did. Jason’s thoughts appeared to mimic her own because he immediately turned Tommy’s face towards him. But rather than backing away so that he could better see Tommy’s face, Jason leaned forward, their foreheads touching.
“I told you before that you didn’t do this,” Jason said in a voice that Kat was coming to recognize as his “leader” voice.
“No,” Jason interrupted him, shaking his head once. “I don’t wanna hear it. You didn’t do this to me.”
Kat felt as though the rest of them were intruding on a private moment and a quick glance at the rest of the team showed they felt the same way. The Red and Gold Rangers didn’t seem to notice their presence at all. It was as though they weren’t even there.
An assumption proved quite thoroughly when Tommy’s lips pressed desperately against Jason’s. And hammered home when Jason leaned into the kiss rather than recoiling.
It took a moment for the surprised gasps to penetrate Jason’s mind. He realized, quite suddenly, that he was kissing Tommy. And even though he was sure that the rest of the team was shocked and confused, Jason didn’t end the kiss immediately. Instead, he drew back slowly, keeping his forehead against Tommy’s as the kiss ended. When Tommy slowly blinked his eyes, he looked a lot less panicked, something Jason was grateful for. Unfortunately, he knew that it wasn’t going to last.
“Secret’s out, bro,” he murmured, tilting his head in the direction of the other Rangers.
Realizing what he meant, Tommy’s eyes widened momentarily. To his credit, though, he showed no outward signs of distress at being found out beyond that. The kiss was hardly an ideal way to let their friends know that they were in a relationship, but it was too late to change it. They had never really worried about telling the others, but they certainly hadn’t planned on them finding out in such a way.
“Kinda glad now that Tommy had taken over as leader when I became the Red Ranger,” Rocky said in a very loud whisper. It was immediately followed by a grunt as Tanya elbowed him in the ribs.
The comment, though, had done wonders to relieve the tension in the room.
“Oh, come on, like you can’t see the similarities,” Rocky continued, undaunted. “Tommy was the sixth Ranger when Jason wore red and was the leader. Now things are reversed. Jason’s the sixth and Tommy’s our red-wearing leader.”
There was no point in denying what was obviously true. However, while there was a certain symmetry to their roles, they had nothing to do with his and Tommy’s relationship. That had been completely natural and something had hadn’t required any examination on either of their parts. It was simply an extension of what existed between them.
“So that wasn’t some.... spontaneous show of relief?”
Tommy sought his eyes out briefly before turning his attention to the Pink Ranger.
“No, Kat, it’s not,” Tommy said quietly, releasing Jason so that he could turn fully towards her. “Maybe the first time, but....”
“But that wasn’t the first time,” she completed for him.
In response to that, Tommy merely shook his head. The first time had been a long time ago; back when Tommy had just lost his green powers for the final time. Jason’s guilt at his perceived failure had been an almost physical thing. Jason couldn’t remember who’d initiated the kiss, only that it had helped relieve some of the burden. But then with Tommy becoming the White Ranger and him going to the Peace Conference, it had never been anything more than that one kiss.
Until he came back.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Billy asked, the hurt discernable in his voice.
Unlike with the others, Jason felt somewhat guilty about keeping Billy in the dark. After all, Billy was his oldest friend, the only one of the original five Rangers left. If anyone should have been told, it was Billy.
“It’s not exactly something you just bring up in conversation,” Jason shrugged, wishing he had a better answer. The truth of the matter was that they simply hadn’t wanted to tell anyone. Not even their parents knew that they were more than simply best friends and Jason honestly didn’t know when that was going to change.
“We wanted to keep it quiet for a bit,” Tommy added, taking a step back so that he was once again standing alongside Jason. “Have something that was just ours.”
That was something Jason hadn’t thought about. For his part, there had never been a conscious reason why they had never told the others. Just that they never had. Now that Tommy had mentioned it, though, Jason found himself agreeing with his boyfriend’s assessment. For a short time, there had been something that mattered only to the two of them. He wasn’t upset that the others knew because eventually they would have been told. It wasn’t something that was ever going to be a permanent secret. That was impossible given how he and Tommy reacted when the other was seriously injured. But he had thought they’d tell the team rather than give them an inadvertent demonstration.
“And you don’t think this is something we should have known about?” Billy pressed, leaning back against the edge of one of the consoles.
Jason raised his arms helplessly. “Did anyone actually notice a difference? If this hadn’t happened today would any of you have realized that our relationship had changed? I’m not saying that we were never going to tell you because that would be a lie, but not telling you didn’t really cause any harm. The only changes that happened happened to me and Tommy. We decided to take our time with things and tell you when we felt ready to share. It just hadn’t happened yet.”
Tommy couldn’t believe how calm and rational Jason was being about everything. His immediately response would have been to get defensive, but Jason was far more open than he would have been. But that was simply how Jason was. He would argue about something all day and never raise his voice. While that trait had frustrated Tommy on more than one occasion, right then he was grateful for Jason’s ability to remain calm under pressure.
Today would not be one of those days Jason argued himself breathless, though. Tommy could see the pinched expression in the corner of Jason’s eyes and knew that his boyfriend was exhausted and probably still a bit sore from his injuries. When he saw Jason’s posture weave slightly, Tommy immediately stepped up next to him and placed a hand on the small of his back.
“It’s getting late, guys, and I don’t think we’re gonna accomplish anything productive at the moment,” Tommy said, his tone making it clear that he wasn’t making a suggestion. He hoped, though, that they didn’t catch onto the fact that he only wanted to take Jason home so that the other man could rest. He didn’t want it to seem like he was favouring Jason. He would say the same thing if one of the others was in Jason’s place.
Kat and Billy both seemed like they wanted to protest, but Jason must have looked drained enough that they kept silent. The others all nodded in agreement and teleported out. Jason and Tommy remained behind in order to ensure that the tests really were all negative then they let as well. Tommy got the impression that there was more Zordon wanted to say, but for whatever reason the old Eltarian kept silent.
It was a relief to finally be back at Jason’s. As much as he loved their friends, Tommy couldn’t help but be glad that they were away from all the questions and prying stares.
Obviously exhausted, Jason still denied needing to rest, but let Tommy talk him into curling up on the couch to watch a movie. With luck, Jason would doze off before the film finished. He wanted Jason rested and back to fighting form. He knew Jason and knew that the black-clad Ranger would insist on joining the battle the next time Machine Empire attacked because Jason wouldn’t allow innocent civilians to be put at risk. Tommy just wished that he knew where Jason had gotten the idea that he was expendable.
“You don’t need to worry so much,” Jason murmured as he settled more comfortably into the sofa. “I’m fine. Or I will be as soon as I get some sleep. And I promise that next time I’ll take it easy.”
To be fair, Jason tried to do just that. However, Gasket and Archerina made it impossible, often making Jason the target of their attacks. Cogs would swarm around Jason and the robots would focus their fire pore on the Gold Ranger. Jason never complained, though. Even when he came back from a battle so stiff and bruised that he could barely stand, he simply leaned against Tommy for support as he stood in the shower, letting the hot water soothe his aching muscles.
Jason moaned in utter contentment as Tommy’s fingers slid over wet skin to knead the tense muscles at the base of his neck. Right then that was about the only place Tommy felt he could safely touch him since the rest of Jason’s back was covered in dark bruises. The worst of it would have faded by morning, but it made Tommy’s chest clench to see how much pain Jason was in.
“This’d probably work better if you were lying down,” Tommy murmured against his temple.
Jason’s large hands squeezed his hips briefly. “But then I’d fall asleep.”
“Something tells me you could use the rest, bro.”
A grunt was Jason’s only response.
It was during one of the rare night battles that things took a turn for the worse. With the cogs and the robot defeated, thankfully without having to resort to the zords, they regrouped at the Power Chamber only to discover one in their number missing. Red, green, blue, yellow, and pink were all accounted for, but Jason’s black and gold hadn’t reappeared. Tommy didn’t even hesitate. He immediately teleported back to where the fight had happened and began searching for Jason.
“Jase!” Tommy shouted, scanning the area for any sign of his best friend. “Jason!”
The battle had taken place in an open area with very few places to hide. And Jason was nowhere to be seen. Tommy was aware, only as an afterthought, of the others arriving to help search for their missing teammate. And, frightening as the thought was to even consider, Tommy prayed that they found Jason either injured or unconscious. At least that way Jason would be with them. He’d be safe. The longer Jason remained missing, though, the more those hopes dwindled.
Groaning, Jason slowly blinked his eyes open. The last thing he remembered was a brilliant flash of light obscuring his vision. Now he was somewhere cold and dark and utterly silent. Jason rolled onto his back, trying to make out any shape in the darkness, but not succeeding. That alone was proof enough that he was no longer morphed. Somehow the construction of their helmets made it easier to see in the dark. Billy had once equated it to a kind of night-vision film on their visors.
His entire body ached to varying degrees and all Jason really wanted to do was curl up and wait for unconsciousness to claim him once again. That wasn’t an option, though. He needed to figure out where he was and, more importantly, how to get back to the Power Chamber. Jason’s first instinct was to reach for his communicator, only it wasn’t there. His wrist was bare and Jason began to feel a small sliver of fear work its way into his mind. It had been a few years, but Jason hadn’t forgotten the fact that it was his communicator that had kept him from being killed when he’d faced both Goldar and a brainwashed Tommy in Rita’s dark dimension.
“This is your one chance, Gold Ranger. Give up your powers to me or I will strip them from you by force.”
After what Tommy had been through with the Green powers, Jason knew exactly what the threat entailed. Tommy hadn’t given up then and Jason had no intention of giving up either.
“Go to hell, Gasket.”
“No, Ranger, I don’t think so.”
More than a day had passed and they still hadn’t found Jason. Wherever it was that he was being held, Gasket was doing a much better job at keeping Jason hidden than he had Tommy. Jason’s abduction obviously wasn’t about gloating or trying to destroy their team as a whole. This was purely about Jason and the Gold Ranger powers. The fact that Jason himself would only be a secondary concern to Gasket terrified Kat that much more because she didn’t doubt that the robotic prince would kill Jason if it meant gaining his powers.
When it became apparent that it would take time to find Jason, Billy had put together a device that mimicked his voice that they used to call his parents, telling them that he was spending the night at Tommy’s. While Billy was making the call, Tommy had stood in the background, fingering Jason’s communicator. Rocky had found it near where they’d last seen Jason and Tommy had immediately snatched it out of the Blue Rangers hand. In fact, Kat didn’t think she’d seen Tommy put it down yet.
“I think I’ve almost figured out how to transport you guys back there,” Billy announced, instantly having the attention of everyone in the room. “The computers still have all the data from the last time you went to Gasket’s base, it’s just been trying to get past all of the shields so that I can transport you somewhere relatively safe.”
“So not in the center of the area,” Rocky chimed in.
“That’s the goal.”
Billy was still furiously typing in codes when Tommy pushed himself away from the console and went to stand in front of Zordon.
“I don’t want the whole team going,” he announced, looking at Zordon rather than the rest of them. “Just me.”
“Are you certain that is wise?” Zordon didn’t doubt all that surprised, but then neither did Kat. Both Tommy and Jason were infuriatingly self-sacrificing.
Still moving his thumb over the face of Jason’s communicator, Tommy shrugged briefly. “Not entirely. But I don’t want to risk the whole team in case we’re wrong about where Jason is. Better one person in danger than all of us.”
“Are you sure that you are the one who should go?”
“I’m the leader,” Tommy informed the ancient Eltarian. “It’s my job.”
None of them dared mention Tommy’s emotional involvement in the situation. Kat knew that Tommy would do the same for any of them, but with Jason it was different. Not only was there a deep emotional bond, but it was Tommy who’d drafted Jason back into service. Tommy was the one who’d asked Jason to be the temporary Gold Ranger while Trey recovered from his injuries. Anything that happened to Jason during his tenure as the Gold Ranger, Tommy would see as his fault.
“I’ve got it!” Billy shouted, a triumphant smile on his face. “Kat, take Tommy to the lake where you guys went through last time. Quick, before Gasket realizes we’ve got in.”
Morphing quickly, the two of them teleported to the lake. It had been a few weeks since Tommy’s disappearance, but Kat still knew exactly where to go. It was impossible to forget how desperate Jason had been to find Tommy that day.
“Okay, Billy, we’re here,” Tommy said into his communicator once Kat had led them ot the right spot. “I’m ready.”
There was a streak of red and then Tommy was gone.
“Good luck, Tommy.”
Now the only thing any of them could do was wait.
Jason grunted as he was shoved into his cell. He had no idea how long he’d been in Prince Gasket’s compound, but regardless of actual time, to Jason it was a lifetime. Even morphed, he was utterly exhausted. Time and again he was taken to the arena to fight whatever creation Gasket decided upon and, each time he defeated it, was brought back to his cell. And each time he morphed, it was proving harder and harder to maintain his armour.
Slumping down into the far corner of his cell, Jason allowed his powers to simply fade away once again and began sucking in deep lungfuls of air. Gasket had made it perfectly clear that he wanted the Gold Ranger powers and would do whatever was necessary to strip Jason of them. Rita had done the same thing to Tommy when she’d stolen his green powers. While she’d used magic to help her, Gasket was relying on brute force and Jason wasn’t sure how much longer he could maintain his hold on the gold powers.
A few minutes later, once he’d recovered his breath, Jason sluggishly heaved himself up to his feet. It took a few moments, but once he was sure that he had his balance back, Jason pushed away from the wall and staggered back towards the door. For the first time there were no guards and he was going to get out. If he could just get his communicator back, he could teleport to the Command Centre.
The first step was getting out.
Calling on every last ounce of strength that he possessed, Jason focused his energy and, a second later, had the Golden Power Staff in his right hand. He staggered back a few steps under the sudden weight of it. Once he had reaccustomed himself to its weight, Jason slammed the blade end of it down onto the feeble lock. It took two blows for the thing to shatter. Jason immediately released the energy, allowing the weapon to disappear. At the moment, Jason simply didn’t have the strength to maintain his powers over an extended period of time.
Glancing both ways, Jason stepped out into the corridor.
It took Tommy a moment to reorient himself when he materialized in Gasket’s compound. The last time he couldn’t recall being anywhere other than the arena so he had no idea of the layout or where to even begin searching for Jason. Worse still, there was no guarantee that Jason was even in Gasket’s compound. It was all purely guesswork on their part, but Tommy had hopes that they’d find Jason there. It was the most likely scenario since, at the moment, Zedd and Rita were little more than spectators and no one had seen Mondo for nearly as long as Jason had held the Gold Ranger powers.
“Hang on, Jase, I’m coming.”
The words were barely audible, but just saying them filled him with an sense of calm. In that moment Tommy was able to convince himself that he would find Jason and bring him home safely. It was his only goal. Tommy didn’t care if he had to search the entire compound from top to bottom, he wasn’t leaving without Jason.
Alternating between right and left turns, Tommy made his way through the maze of what he would have called sandstone corridors if they had been on Earth. Every wall looked exactly the same as the one before, making it difficult for Tommy to get his bearings. He found storage and other non-descript rooms in his search, but not the cells Bulk and Skull had mentioned in their own recounting of events. Tommy knew that if his best friend was anywhere, it’d be in the cells.
Except that he wasn’t. Tommy could hear a dull, muted roar somewhere ahead of him and to the right. Then, just as he was hurrying forward to investigate, he heard a familiar cry.
Running quickly, Tommy found himself in an open courtyard. At first, all Tommy could see was a swarm of Cogs on the far side of the courtyard, but, then they shifted, and there was Jason. He was morphed, but even as Tommy watched, his powers faded for a brief second before the black armour reappeared. The instant that he saw Jason stumble, Tommy shook himself out of the daze and rushed forward. He had no idea why Jason was in a back corridor, nor did he care. His only concern was to get to Jason and get him back to Earth.
Once the Cogs noticed his arrival, the group fighting Jason separated into two ranks. While he fought, Tommy maintained an awareness of Jason’s location, keeping him in his sights even as the advancing Cogs forced him to duck and weave. He kept up a forward momentum until he was able to reach Jason. Tommy blocked a punch that would have hit Jason in the small of the back then moulded himself against his back. Jason relaxed against him minutely, allowing Tommy to wrap an arm around his waist.
“Get us out of here, Billy,” Tommy shouted into his communicator and instantly felt the world disintegrate around him. Fighting Gasket would have to wait for another day. Tommy’s only concern at the moment was to escape and get Jason as far away as possible.
They landed back in the park, exactly where Tommy had teleported from. Jason’s armour had faded while they were teleporting and Tommy barely had time to search out tired, red-rimmed eyes before the helmet and shield were back in place. Jason staggered against him and the Gold Ranger powers seemingly evaporated for a third time.
Tommy didn’t have a chance to react because then they were being teleported back to the Power Chamber. When they arrived, Jason’s armour was back in place, but his boyfriend was slumped against him more heavily than he had been before. With the fourth disappearance of his armour, it was clear that the Gold Ranger was unconscious. Rocky helped him get Jason over to one of the exam beds while Billy and Alpha readied the diagnostic tools. Something was going on with Jason’s powers and had been since before Gasket took him. None of them knew the consequences of a human holding alien powers, but Tommy prayed that it wouldn’t cost Jason his life.
“How is he?” Tommy asked Billy as the other man continued to attach a number of diodes and scanners to Jason.
“Exhausted and dehydrated,” Billy answered automatically, typing in a sequence on a nearby keyboard. “But moreso than I’d expected given the amount of time he’s been gone.”
Tommy squeezed Jason’s wrist briefly. “He was fighting a whole group of Cogs in one of the back corridors. It looked like he was trying to escape.”
“The Machine Empire has made no secrets about wanting the Gold Ranger powers and if weakening Jason is a way for them to get them....”
Tommy desperately wanted to deny what Billy was suggesting, but given what had been happening over the past few weeks, he was unable to. Jason was obviously being made a target and the only reason Tommy could think of was that they were after his powers.
“Alpha, contact Trey and have him return to Earth immediately,” Zordon instructed, startling them all.
“Is it really that serious?” Tommy asked, tearing his gaze away from Jason for the first time.
The Eltarian’s face was incredibly sombre. “I’m afraid that it is. It appears that the strain of holding an alien power is sapping Jason of his lifeforce.”
It was utter silence after Zordon’s announcement. They’d all known that Jason’s condition was serious, but to find out that he could die.... There was always the possibility that one of them could be killed in battle, but it had always seemed so abstract. Even when one of them was seriously hurt, something that had happened to each of them at least once, no thought was ever given to dying because they had their powers to protect them. That was part of their purpose: to protect and heal them. Only now Jason’s were killing him.
A quiet argument broke Kat out of her thoughts and, as she turned her head, she noticed Jason struggling to rise. A few of the diodes were hanging uselessly from their machines, Jason having already pulled them off. Tommy’s hand was on his chest, keeping him still, though Kat doubted he’d have had the strength to get up even if Tommy hadn’t been there. Jason was stubborn enough to try, though.
“Let us take care of things for once,” Tommy ordered softly, running the fingers of his free hand through Jason’s hair.
Jason put up a token protest, but soon subsided onto the table. A few minutes later, he was asleep. It was a very deep sleep because even from where she stood, Kat couldn’t see any movement in him.
“Is he supposed to be lying so still?” Tommy asked nervously, voicing her observation.
“Remaining morphed for so long has taken a toll on Jason,” Zordon explained gently. “Combined with his earlier injuries, he will require a lot of rest in order to recover. Returning the Gold Ranger powers to Trey will benefit him greatly.”
What remained unsaid was that he’d die if they didn’t get the powers back to Trey. She had no doubt that such thoughts were first in Tommy’s mind, though. When Trey arrived, revealing that he’d been unable to reunite his three parts, Kat watched as Tommy visibly wilted. It seemed all too easy when Zordon offered them an alternative, but none of them wanted to question it. Once Jason was safe they could ask questions.
It was near sunset before Jason and Tommy were able to get some time alone. The Gold Powers had been transferred back to Trey, a suddenly-resurrected Mondo had been defeated, and Jason was no longer entirely sure where he fit into things. The last time he’d given up his powers, it had been his choice—a chance to do something good outside of fighting. While he’d known from the beginning that being the Gold Ranger was only temporary, now that he was once again a civilian, Jason felt at loose ends.
“I was wondering where you’d gone off to,” Tommy murmured as he sat down next to Jason on a hill overlooking his favourite section of the beach. “You just kinda disappeared when Trey left.”
Jason fingered his communicator, which would soon end up in a drawer alongside the one he’d used as the Red Ranger, and glanced over at Tommy. “Sorry. I needed to clear my head. Took the chance to escape.”
“You’re feeling all right, though?”
“Yeah, fine,” Jason answered immediately before Tommy’s guilt had a chance to start eating away at him again. “I just feel a bit sore. Like I had a really long workout. I’ll be fine.”
Tommy’s face went through a series of expressions before settling on bemused exasperation. “You almost died, Jason. That’s a lot more serious than just a long workout.”
“And even knowing how things turn out, I’d take on the powers again,” Jason told him, shifting slightly so that his shoulder rested against Tommy’s. “So whatever voice in your head is telling you that this is your fault, tell it to shut up. I chose to hold onto the powers for Trey. I knew there might be a risk, but I didn’t care. I still don’t. Keeping those powers out of Mondo’s hands was worth the risk.” He shrugged briefly, unable to keep the grin from his face. “Besides, it felt good to be fighting again.”
Tommy nudged Jason lightly with his elbow. “It was good to fight alongside you again. I’ll miss you.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Tommy chuckled, glancing over at Jason’s smiling face.
Standing up, Jason held a hand out to Tommy. “Come on. I feel like going for a swim.”
Tommy arched an eyebrow. “In your jeans?”
Jason shed his black t-shirt, tossing it on Tommy’s lap before loping down the hill towards the shore. Knowing Tommy as well as he did, Jason was confident that he wouldn’t be swimming alone.