Disclaimer: I don't own the Power Rangers.
Author's Notes: I needed practice writing serious!Zhane and practice writing Andros/Zhane. Because I am lazy, I combined the two, which worked really well for me and I hope it works for you, too. :) Except that it's not really Andros/Zhane, but I promise there will be much Andros/Zhane and Andros/Ashley/Zhane in the future. Updates to my two fics in progress are also forthcoming.
The title was relevant when I started writing this. Not so much anymore, but I like it, so it stays. :)
I've never written this before, so any feedback you feel inclined to leave is much appreciated.
Of everyone who might have cause and means to betray him one day, Andros hadn't been at the top of the list. He hadn't even been at the bottom. Come to think of it, Zhane wasn't entirely sure that there had ever been a list but it didn't matter now.
The person he'd trusted above all others had been the one to hurt him the most. And the worst part was that he couldn't even be angry about it.
Well, he could. But that would only hurt Andros more--Andros, who from childhood onward carried more guilt than anyone deserved in a lifetime and had only added to it.
He settled for hurt instead. It was only too easy.
"Dammit." He swore softly under his breath, letting loose a string of colorful curses in every language he knew. It alleviated his frustration just enough that he could take another few bites from his mostly untouched food.
Lowering his fork, he closed his eyes. Andros hadn't meant to do this. For two years he'd been totally alone with no one even to talk to save for Deca. For two years he'd had no one. Two years was a long time to go without someone to care for you.
Zhane hadn't meant for it to happen, either. It wasn't what he'd wanted for Andros when he had taken that hit for him. He hadn't wanted Andros to wander lonely and hurting, full of guilt. He'd wanted him to be happy again, and now he finally was.
With someone who wasn't him.
He didn't hate Ashley. He found himself rather liking her, even, and that made him not angry faster. She was beautiful and she was sweet and she could make anyone smile. As of--he paused to ask Deca for the time--three hours ago, she was also Andros's girlfriend.
He hadn't even known that Andros liked girls. To be fair, Andros had never shown any interest in boys, either. There had only been him, and that was why he couldn't tell himself now that Andros had never been serious about them.
Footsteps sounded in the corridor, and Zhane glanced up just in time to see Andros freeze cold in the doorway. "I... didn't think you'd be here."
"Obviously." Zhane let out a deep breath. "So, how was your date?"
"It was... good." Andros's voice was small, his eyes everywhere but on Zhane. "I--I should--"
"You shouldn't." Zhane pointed to the stool across from him. "Sit."
"I..." Torn, Andros hesitated.
"We need to talk," Zhane said stiffly. "You know we need to, if I'm still a part of this team."
"Zhane..." Distress was painfully clear in his voice as Andros edged closer. "I--I can explain."
"Don't." Zhane ran a hand through his hair. "Because when you explain, everything's your fault even when it isn't and it might have been two years for you but it feels like two weeks to me, and that's not long enough for it to not be annoying."
"Oh." Andros dropped his eyes, then shook his head firmly. "I--I need to. I want you to know."
"Well, I don't!" He caught himself too late; Andros flinched at the sharpness of his voice, and Zhane berated himself silently. "Andros, I--I... I don't need to hear it, all right? I don't--I don't hate you."
His breath hitched in his throat, and Zhane ground his teeth together. Andros shot him a look that said Zhane hadn't fooled him. Against his better judgement, Zhane relented. "Fine," he muttered. "Let's hear it."
"I..." Andros looked away again. "Two years, Zhane."
"I know." He did know, and he hoped he sounded at least halfway understanding. "Life goes on. I get that."
"No!" Andros shook his head vehemently from side to side. "I didn't just... forget about you. That's not what happened."
It all came to the same end, but Zhane didn't say that. He didn't say anything at all, and just waited while Andros worked out what he was supposed to do now.
He couldn't help hoping that Andros would never find the right words. He didn't want to hear any of it. The more Andros said, the more Zhane wanted to be angry with him and the less he found himself able to be, as he was reminded of Andros's own pain. He felt it along with his own.
"I never stopped waiting for you," Andros said quietly. "I wanted to be there when you woke up. You never heard me talking to you, did you?"
The question caught him so off-guard that Zhane almost answered honestly. "I'm sure I did," he said, frowning. "Everything was sort of dreamlike and far away... hazy... like I was aware of it, but at the same time not really, you know?"
"Liar," Andros accused him softly. "You were completely out. Deca told me."
He didn't know how to respond to that. Andros was silent, sitting quietly on his stool as he stared off into space. Zhane just watched him, hit again with the two years he had lost. How could it be years, when it was only few days ago that he would have been able to wipe that anguish off of Andros's face?
Again he felt the annoyance. He wasn't the one who needed to fix this. Andros had been the one to move on.
"You--you're still my best friend," Andros blurted out. "If... if that's still what you want."
Somehow that was what he had needed to hear. Maybe not all that he wanted to hear, but it was a start. His answer was slower coming than it had ever been before, but it hadn't changed. Andros was his best friend. It just killed him that he wouldn't ever again be anything more.
"And you're mine."