Notes: Originally written and posted for Yuletide 2012.
Salutations, he wrote, in careful, measured script. His handwriting was not normally so tidy, except for times such as now when it mattered. Billy smoothed the paper beneath his hands as he hesitated over his next words. He'd already scrubbed out Dear Jason with an eraser, and he pressed deeply to cover those words. Rationally, he knew that it was paranoia, that Jason wouldn't read beyond the surface of those words, but it was a strong enough paranoia that he retreated into the more stilted lexicon he'd mostly outgrown.
I hope this letter finds you well. I received your postcard in good condition earlier this afternoon. I do hope that you prolonged your visit to CERN beyond the time necessary to procure a postcard from the gift shop. The research they do there is quite fascinating, and I am envious of the opportunity you have to tour them.
I feel it would be prudent to caution you against referring to our old friends so openly, however. Your handwriting is not so strenuous to decipher, and it passed through numerous countries and postal employees on its way to Angel Grove. Anyone could have read it, though it appears that none have. Regardless, you should exercise more caution in the future.
Z and A are well, however, and much unchanged since you, Trini, and Zack left us.
As for me, I've begun to consider the advantages of working towards an early graduation, though I have not yet ascertained whether or not I have the time to devote to the necessary coursework. In some ways, your departure was the impetus I needed. I always planned on leaving Angel Grove to attend college, but it hadn't fully occurred to me that I could leave so soon, or that I could leave our formerly shared responsibility as easily as you did. I'm unsure if I'm ready to give it up just yet. I find it gives me purpose.
Our new friends are adjusting remarkably to their new roles. We make a morphinominal team, if I do say so myself, though of course nothing will replace the three of you as our friends and we are lesser for your absence in our lives. Your karate classes, for example, are greatly missed.
He paused there, because the memory of Jason's karate classes reminded him that he should have known. Somewhere in his deeply logical, astute mind, he should have at least suspected. After he had become a Ranger, there was a practical benefit to the lessons—they taught him the skills that he practiced and sustained in battle. But before he had become a Ranger, while the idea of an activity that combined physical exercise and mental discipline had been attractive to him, the bulk of his interest had rested in his deep and abiding appreciation of Jason's physique.
In particular, his arms.
At the time, he hadn't spared a thought to wonder why it was that he admired Jason differently than Zack, or Trini, or Kim.
And then, after—Jason had been an excellent teacher, and the one-on-one attention he had offered made Billy feel odd somewhere in the pit of his stomach, but he hadn't paid it much thought, not even when Jason had offered him private lessons in the Youth Center at nights (after Ernie had closed the place down, where it would have been just the two of them) and he had eagerly accepted before Jason had hardly finished asking him the question.
But no, his feelings about Jason remained nebulous until after he had departed for Switzerland and the Peace Conference.
Then, it was simple as the sudden realization that he missed Jason differently than he missed Trini and Zack, and found himself looking forward to his phone calls more.
We are glad that the three of you have acclimated so well to your new environment that you are considering an extended stay in Switzerland, he wrote. It is an opportunity that you should take full advantage of.
He couldn't in good conscience add, but I wish you would come home. Not only would he have felt guilty for asking them to pass up a chance that would look excellent on a college application (this was one of his few regrets about not being chosen himself for the Peace Conference—even with his grades, he was expecting a fierce competition for admittance into CalTech or MIT when the time came and it would have been a nice addition to his résumé), but it was a purely selfish desire when he was fully expecting that Jason was both unaware of his feelings and incapable of returning them.
He hesitated again over the closing—was Love, Billy too sentimental and unlike him? Sincerely was too stilted, too formal. Billy debated between the merits of Regards and Truly before finishing the letter off.
I do hope that, if you decide to stay, you'll find time for a visit home sometime.
May the Power protect you all.
Always your friend,
He read it over twice. Satisfied that he communicated his friendly affection for Jason without letting any of his other feelings creep in, he folded the letter and slid it into an envelope. He would mail it on his way to school the next morning.
A reply came two weeks later. It came in an envelope this time; a real letter, not a beaten-up postcard. And while certainly he cared more for the content than the medium, it was still—nice. A smile tugged at his lips as he opened the envelope, careful not to tear it.
How've you been?
You're right about being more careful what I write when other people can see it. Trini told me that was a boneheaded move. It sounded nicer when she said it.
I miss teaching those karate classes. I hope Ernie found someone else to take over teaching them. It'd be a shame if they ended. Tommy would be a good guy for it. He's got the moves. Or one of our new friends.
Speaking of karate, I hope you're still practicing even though I'm gone. You showed a lot of improvement, and you have the potential to be really great. Remember those private lessons I gave you? I did it because I knew you had it in you. I believe in you. You're incredible.
I definitely think you should try to graduate early! You've always had the smarts for it. Honestly, we always wondered what you were doing at Angel Grove High in the first place. You probably could have skipped all of high school and half of college, if they'd have let you do that. But I (and Trini and Zack) think you should go for it. Any school would be lucky to have you. You're bound to do great things someday, more than you have already.
I gotta run now, but I'll talk to you soon. If I make it home any time soon, we'll have to find the time to hang out.
Billy's smile lingered long after he folded the letter back up with sweaty palms. His face felt warm and his heart seemed to beat faster than usual.
Perhaps he was reading too much into it, but it seemed—he thought—maybe—
He chose to believe it was full of promise.
He began to compose his reply.