Author's Notes: All right my friends, I meant to post this before I went on vacation and I completely forgot. I guess that's what happens when your brain checks out, isn't it? This was written on a whim-I'm not completely sure where it came from, aside from a desire to further explore the intriguing relationship between Jason and Zack. There isn't a lot of fic that takes place during their time in Geneva, either, so I wanted to kind of fill the void. That tends to be my doing: when I can't find what I'm looking for, I write it, myself. So, please, leave a review and let me know what you think. I've posted this elsewhere and have received positive feedback overall. Opinions are always welcome :)
Jason Lee Scott didn't like to admit when he was afraid. His entire life had been about teaching others to face fear—to look it right in the eyes and stand your ground. In reality, it seemed so counter-intuitive, so against every moral fiber within him to feel scared of something. And even worse, to run away.
But with this? He was surprised he hadn't headed for the hills already.
In a normal situation he would talk with his best friend Zack, but that was impossible this time. How could he admit he was afraid to the very person he was afraid of?
It had all started the moment they had arrived in Geneva. Jason didn't quite understand it—the strange lethargy he felt when being away from his friend for any length of time. Even a period as short as two or three hours left him feeling distracted, confused, even a little slow. Sometimes it felt like his mind was clouded. At first he'd chalked it up to the time change and the hectic lifestyle. After all, they were hours ahead of the time zone he'd grown up in, and most days he barely had a free minute to himself. It only made sense to feel dazed and confused.
But with Zack around, with him just nearby, all bets were off. It was like Jason was hit with a second wind, suddenly alive and kicking at full mental capacity. His spirits would rise, and to him, anything suddenly seemed possible.
It wasn't until their good friend Trini brought it to his attention that Jason even conceptualized the idea that something might not be entirely right.
"Something's off," she'd told him. "Ever since we've come to Geneva, you seem more dependent on Zack than ever before. I can't explain it. It's like you've won the lottery when he's around you, and then when he's not, you shut down."
Of course, Jason had shrugged it off at first, but the thought had been planted in his head, which led him to analyzing his own behavior. And sure enough, Jason caught on rather quick.
The first thing he had tried to do was rationalize it. How could he act so differently when in the presence of someone so close to him? And why only Zack? Why not Trini, too?
When he'd asked Trini for an explanation of her observations, her reply was simple: "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you've developed feelings for him. But since I do know better, and know you, I don't know what the answer is. It doesn't make any sense."
Jason couldn't believe that. He didn't like Zack—not in the way Trini had described. But it nonetheless caused him to review how he behaved when in and out of the other's presence. While it seemed incredibly farfetched for him to like Zack, the strange fluctuation of his moods and energy unfortunately begged to differ. He knew from experience with his friends—Kimberly and Tommy, especially—that certain things happened when you were around people who you liked. Your body reacted differently. It was just a fact.
And that was when Jason started feeling scared.
He tried for well over a year to quell any and all ideas that what he felt was romantic in any way, shape or form. This was Zack—the Zackman, his best friend and confidant for life. The kid he had gone to kindergarten with. The guy he secretly danced to hip-hop with in their garages. This was his once second-in-command ranger who always had his back. While there was undoubtedly admiration and love inside of him for Zack, Jason couldn't bring himself to believe it was romantic at all.
At one point he'd somehow convinced himself the feelings would go away over time if he ignored them. That did nothing. In an even more radical attempt, he had tried to distance himself from Zack, which caused far more harm than good. Jason didn't like to recall those few weeks, primarily because he couldn't—not without significant effort.
In a last ditch attempt to rid himself of these feelings, when his time at the Peace Conference came to a close, he chose not to continue on with the movement. He did such hoping that maybe, just maybe, by distancing himself significantly from Zack, he would be able to regain control and understanding of himself and his life as a whole. It was a crazy idea, fueled by desperation for understanding and freedom. Though he'd come to the decision completely on his own, on some level he had wanted to confer with his two closest friends. It upset him that he couldn't, given his situation.
It wasn't until the day of his departing flight that Jason told Trini. She was upset; upset that he'd waited so long to tell her; that he hadn't come to her and talked about it. But most of all, she was angry that something was clearly bothering him, and yet he refused to talk about it.
"For all the effort you put into telling people to be truthful with themselves and others, you sure are a hypocrite," she said.
Jason didn't retaliate. How could he? She was completely right.
Angry though she was with him, Trini enveloped him in a tight, loving hug, wishing him all the best and a safe trip back home. Jason apologized to her, and knew that when she said she accepted, she truly meant it.
Maybe someday he could come back. Maybe in the future, when his mind was able to tear itself away from this longing, from this need for Zack.
Jason didn't like feeling helpless. But how could he fight against something he'd buried so deeply inside him?
He arrived at the airport three hours before takeoff. International flights always put you through so many more loops than traveling within the country, and he wanted to make sure he was prepared. With his luggage in hand he wandered aimlessly through the terminal until he found the counter for his airline. He got into line behind at least two dozen other people. This would take some time.
He took in a deep breath, looking around the terminal. Geneva had been wonderful—perfect, almost, if he didn't factor in the inner turmoil he'd suffered over his time here. What frustrated him the most was how difficult it was for him to figure everything out. Jason was a smart kid; he knew how to piece things together. Whatever this was going on, it was beyond his purview. It baffled him, and in effect, only served to make him feel worse.
As he rolled his luggage deeper into the line, he heard an all-too-familiar voice call out, "Jase!"
Jason's heart skyrocketed into his throat.
He turned around. Sure enough, coming up beside the line was Zack, expression surprised and irate at the same time. Jason had specifically avoided telling him he was leaving. He knew the other would talk him out of it, somehow, and that was just the opposite of what Jason needed. It was inexplicable—he felt drawn to agreeing with him, almost as if he had no free will. He knew that was impossible, but that didn't make it any less possible, strange though it sounded.
Zack asked, "Were you ever gonna tell me you were leaving, bro? I mean, really? Come on."
Jason looked away, clearing his throat. "I was embarrassed," he offered.
"Embarrassed about what?"
He needed a lie. Quick.
"Can't afford to stay here."
"What do you mean, you can't afford to stay here? The embassy was offering all kinds of grants. Trini and I both got one. Not for much, but come on. That's a crock of shit."
As Jason moved forward in the line, Zack moved right alongside him. He made explicit effort not to let his glance travel in his direction. Just being near Zack was doing things to him. What upset Jason most was that it was doing all of the wrong things. Why did he feel so at peace with Zack around? He'd just lied to him; he should have felt sick, not comfortable.
Worst of all, no matter how hard he tried, his eyes almost felt magnetized to the other. Finally Jason gave in. Zack was staring at him hard.
"Come on, Jase, what's bothering you? You've been acting weird for weeks. Did I do something? Huh?"
This was it. There was no escaping it now. Zack had pulled him in, and despite it all, Jason couldn't bring himself to feel angry about it. He couldn't explain why.
"You didn't do anything, man. I just didn't apply for the grants. I'm ready to go home. Geneva's been great, but I need to go back to Angel Grove."
"It's just…time for me to go home, Zack."
Pressure began to build within Jason's chest. Each and every passing moment added to it, until it felt like he might burst open at the seams. Zack's confused expression only made it worse. Jason could tell he was trying desperately to understand, but, much like he himself, coming up with a viable explanation was impossible.
"You're really leaving?" Zack asked, hope clinging to his voice in such a way that it screamed don't go.
Jason swallowed hard. "Yeah, man, I gotta. I'm sorry."
He had never found a problem he couldn't face head on, not until now. Never before had he run away. But now, more than ever before, he knew that if he didn't, he wouldn't be able to accept the outcome.
Jason waited for Zack's reaction. Surprisingly, all he got was a firm nod of the head and an, "Okay." Seconds later, Zack turned around, and without so much as a word, started to walk off.
"Zack, wait!" Jason called.
But he didn't stop. It took him a minute to realize that Zack was doing precisely what Jason was: leaving without saying goodbye. As upset as he wanted to be by it, he knew he couldn't be. What he was doing wasn't right, and he deserved such a response.
He hoped, however, that somewhere down the road, Zack could forgive him.
God willing, he could forgive him.