Disclaimer: Power Rangers in Space is owned by Buena Vista Entertainment.
Timeframe/Universe: There isn't a specified universe, but it is an AU.
Characters: Zhane, Andros
Author's Notes: This is a hurt/comfort/angst fic I've been wanting to write for a few years. The story is intended to be ambiguous. Before you start reading, understand that this is not a cut and dry story. The characters don't exactly know what happened – and, so, neither will the reader. If you don't like those kind of stories, then don't read this. It explores a deeper characterization more than anything else – and, like I said above, this is an alternate universe.
December 15, 2002
Finished: January 3, 2003
by Silver Galaxy
His breaths were heavy, his eyes shut tightly, and his body tensed and shaking. Even through the darkness, he could see the puffy redness lining the dry area around his eyes. When they had been open, the normal blue hue of his irises had become a glossy emerald.
Andros suspected that the lack of tears and screams was a matter of pride more than anything else. However, if the half-suppressed groans served as any indication, then Zhane was a hair's inch away from losing what was left of that composure.
Taking a deep breath, Andros put a hand around Zhane's shoulder, gently easing the Ranger towards his own body. "C'mon, Zhane. We're in this together," the Red Ranger cajoled, aware of how empty those words must have sounded coming from him. Remarkably, the Silver Ranger didn't protest Andros' pull.
"You're..." Zhane stopped, grimacing. "You're n-not one to talk."
Andros slightly smiled at the lackluster retort. He almost expected his friend to tag on a "God, this sucks," but, once more, Zhane defied his expectancies. He wrapped an arm around his friend's overly slender waist, suddenly urged to recall the last time he had seen the older Ranger actually put food into his mouth.
When he wanted to be, the Silver Ranger was a flawless liar. He always had food in his hand at just the right time, but it was only for show. However, obvious evidence against his suspicions was a factor that couldn't be ignored: Zhane didn't look anorexic. He looked absolutely healthy.
Andros would never admit that he was glad Zhane allowed someone to hold him. Normally, the Red Ranger wouldn't consider leaning against someone "holding," yet he did now. It was consoling. He didn't know what had happened to the up-close-and-physical person his friend had once been, but he did know that it had been a long while since he had witnessed Zhane allow anyone close - in any sense - to his distant world.
Zhane was just as crazy and light-hearted as he had always been, though a subtle change had occurred in him. Somehow, someway, he had become reserved. His craziness seemed genuine (sometimes, he thought, too genuine), but his happy-go-lucky façade was markedly forced. Andros refused to believe that his friend had "just grown up." Something happened to him, and he hadn't told a single soul. It wasn't a question of "did" any longer - it was a question of "what."
The Red Ranger suddenly thought himself to be pathetic. It shouldn't have taken the torture of his best friend for him to realize that Zhane had changed immensely over the years. No wonder he had been pulling away from his closest friends; those closest friends had turned unseeing eyes upon him.
Something was pulling at the right side of the bottom of his shirt. Perplexed, he visually investigated. He found a white-knuckled fist gripping the cloth as if it were holding on for dear life.
Expletives filled his thoughts.
"Make it stop."
Here he was, the leader of the team, the one charged with the unconditional protection of his teammates, allowing their captors to torture his best friend into making him betray the others.
He could make the pain stop, but he knew that Zhane would never forgive him. Yes, he asked, but he didn't mean it. Zhane was too selfless, or maybe he thought he deserved this for whatever ludicrous reason his mind supplied him with, but he would never hurt his friends in attempt to save himself.
"It has to... God, it has to."
Even as they exchanged words, he could feel the body pressing against him lose its rigid tension, and he knew that the pain was easing away. Languidly, the Ranger's body became flaccidly relaxed, yielding to what had to be both physical and mental exhaustion. Was it an ironic miracle or an arranged act? He wanted to believe the latter, but common sense told him that to believe that would be to mistakenly believe.
He didn't know what their abductors had done to inflict such a methodical torment, but the small scars, made noticeable only by their freshness, on the Silver Ranger's arms and neck provided a clear explanation. Their captors controlled every aspect of the situation, and, apparently, that included the torture, as well. They could do whatever they so pleased without setting a foot into the spacious cell.
He tangled his fingers in his friend's short, thinned, pliant hair. Through the years, that hair had changed too many times to follow. A minute smile found its way to his lips as a fond memory wiggled into his thoughts.
For years, Zhane had thrown skunk comment after skunk comment at him, aimed at his blonde and brown striped hair. Once the Silver Ranger's own hair had completely succumbed to the slightly mutated Kerovian genes most of their planet's population had inherited, the wisecracks had come to an gradual halt as the random mix of dark brown and white-blonde had just as sequentially completed itself. The team had a great time throwing Zhane's own words back at him. Times had been at their best then.
No one could sleep restfully with their head laying atop a hard shoulder. Andros gently and discreetly moved Zhane lower, although he felt impossibility overwhelm him. There was no way he was going to succeed without waking him, and that was the last thing he wanted to do.
He was caught in mid-sigh when the Silver Ranger muttered something unintelligible, and his breath caught in his throat. Leave it to Zhane to cause him to choke on air.
He was altogether relieved when the Silver Ranger shifted in cadence with him, allowing them both to find snug arrangements. Zhane quickly came to rest atop the soft spot of Andros' abdomen, his legs curling towards his own middle (yet stopping far from their destination), one arm slumping over his own head and the Red Rangers' midsection, and his other arm buried somewhere underneath his side.
"Are you okay?" Andros asked, unknowing as to expect an answer or not. If he were Zhane, he would have been out the moment he hit anything firm and solid.
It was delayed, but the reply eventually came as a quiet, "Yeah."
Andros couldn't resist affectionately stroking his fellow Ranger's face. He instinctively avoided the large abrasion covering his upper cheek bone. Zhane was a lover more than a fighter, but it would be a gross misjudgment to think that he couldn't fight - he could and he certainly would. He was going to fight this. "We'll make it through this. We won't die like this."
He didn't expect an answer. The slow, steady rise and fall of Zhane's chest and the accompanying silence confirmed his expectations.
(c) Silver Galaxy, 2003