Nine Weeks Later....
Sarah Scott walked briskly into Jason's room on Monday morning, and went
straight over and opened the curtains to let in the morning sunlight. She
then went to her son's bedside and, very gently, touched his shoulder.
"Wake up, sweetheart. It's time to get up." After a moment, Jason stirred
and opened his eyes. Sarah looked down anxiously for some sign that Jason
might have finally come out of the waking coma he'd been in for the past
nine weeks, but there was no change. It was the same, empty, frightening
She withheld the despair that ate away inside her and gently brought Jason
up and helped him to get out of bed.
"C'mon, honey. You can have breakfast, and then we'll get you ready for
* * *
In the kitchen, Donavon sat at the table along with Jenny, her husband
Bruce, and their two college aged children, Luke and Jaime. Jenny had
stayed with them, and had soon been joined by her own family, all of whom
had committed themselves to trying to bring Jason out of the waking trance
he was in.
"You slept better last night," Bruce commented to Jason as Sarah guided him
to the nearest chair. As they had come to expect, Jason didn't respond, but
rather stared ahead into space. Bruce, however, didn't give up. He walked
around the table, clapping the teen lightly on the shoulder. "No nightmares
Donavon smiled a little. "I think we all slept better last night." Sarah
frowned at her husband, half playfully, half not. The painful truth was
that the only time Jason made any sound was when he woke up screaming from
the horrific nightmares that had been plaguing him several times a night.
More often than not, they would go in to find him curled up in a tight ball
in one corner of his room, whimpering helplessly and rocking back and forth
It sometimes took over an hour to coax Jason out of the corner when that
happened, but then, as he calmed down, the emotionless expression would
take over once again, and he'd be back in the zombie like state.
Again, Sarah withheld a sigh as she placed a bowl of cereal in front of her
son. She immediately became aware of the sudden silence that fell in the
kitchen as everyone ceased what they were doing and watched as Jason slowly
but surely reached down, grasped the spoon and began to eat.
It had been something they'd discovered the hard way while Jason had still
been in hospital. During one visiting session, a nurse had come in and
tried to get Jason to eat something. He had refused to let her feed him,
and Jenny had offered to try. The nurse, seeing no harm in it, had handed
over the bowl and spoon.
Jenny went on to try and try Jason to eat, and when he had still paid no
heed, she had lost her temper and issued a light threat to her nephew.
Jason's reaction had been immediate, and violent. He had cried out loudly,
the only sound he'd consciously made for a long while, and lashed out
blindly. The bowl had gone flying clear across the room, and Jenny had
narrowly avoided getting a black eye.
Jason had gone into an hysterical fit, then, and it had taken five
orderlies to hold him down while the chief nurse sedated him. No one tried
to hand feed him again, and Jason eventually began to feed himself. It
turned out to be virtually the only thing he would do for himself.
Jason finished the cereal, and Luke stepped in, then. "C'mon, cuz. Let's
get you ready for school."
Luke led Jason from the room to get him dressed. Everyone watched them go,
and then Donavon shook his head.
"I honestly don't know what we'd do without you all."
Jenny smiled faintly. "Just trying to help, in any way we can."
Sarah reached over and gave her sister in law a warm hug. "Well, we appreciate it, and I'm sure
Jason does too,"
Jaime looked in the direction of Jason's room, then, sadness flickering
across her face. "You think he'll ever wake up?"
"I don't know," Donavon replied softly. "I hope so, Jaime."
* * *
Tommy was waiting at the school gate as had been prearranged the night
before. Ignoring the curious stares that were coming from many of his
fellow students, he went to meet his best friend.
"Hey, Jase," Tommy said quietly as he helped Jason get out of the car.
"Ready for school?"
There was a moment of silence, and then Donavon spoke from where he stood
on the other side of the car. "Tommy, are you sure you can manage? It isn't
going to be easy...."
Tommy nodded. "We'll manage. We'll see you in the Youth Centre after
school. C'mon, Jase."
Donavon watched until Tommy and Jason had disappeared into the school
building before getting back in the car and making himself drive away.
* * *
Zack was waiting at the lockers when Tommy approached with Jason. "Hey,
Jase, you made it!" Zack said enthusiastically as they made to the
Tommy smiled faintly. "Barely. If we don't hurry, we're gonna be late for
Zack nodded. "I know. I figured it'd be slow going, so I got Jason's books
out for him."
Tommy started to ask why, but stopped himself short. Any normal routine
might possibly jolt Jason back to reality; it was important to do
everything as they had always done it. He left Jason to stand by himself
for half a minute while he collected his own books, and then turned back to
his friends. "Okay. Let's go."
* * *
The entire class watched, either openly or secretly, as Tommy brought Jason
in and sat him down as close to the back as he could manage. Tommy could
feel his own face heating up under the stares of the other teenagers, and
he was glad that Jason registered none of it. It was a humiliation he did
not think his friend could have coped with.
Miss Appleby waited patiently until they were seated, and then started the
class. She pointedly avoided mentioning Jason's return to school, and the
class proceeded as normal as possible.
* * *
The class was nearly over, and the students were reading silently, when
Miss Appleby happened to glance up and see that Jason was writing something
on the notebook in front of him. A slight frown crossed her face. From what
she'd been told, and from what she'd already seen that morning, Jason was
virtually in a waking coma. He was totally unresponsive, and could do very
little for himself.
Surely, she thought, he wouldn't.... couldn't have been faking it....
Curiosity overcoming her, she got up and walked down to where Jason was
sitting. She came even with him and looked down at what he'd been
writing.... and saw that he hadn't been writing at all. Rather, he was
drawing a picture. Slowly, painfully, but surely. She was barely able to
stop herself from gasping in shock, and she leaned over to get a better
look at what he was doing.
It was a remarkably, almost disturbingly good picture. Especially since she
knew for a fact that prior to all this trouble, Jason had been on the verge
of failing art. He'd had as much skill for drawing as she had for martial
arts. But this.....
He seemed to be finished, and she reached down and picked up the notebook
to get a better look. He'd drawn a figure on the paper, a figure lying on
its side in a small, bare room. The figure was bound hand and foot, and
gagged, and was apparently unconscious.
She knew the significance instantly. Jason had drawn himself, as a prisoner
of the two men who had abducted him. Feeling a twinge of apprehension, she
put the notebook back in front of Jason and went back to her own desk. As
if the spell had been broken, though, Jason didn't move again for the rest
of the class.
* * *
Tommy, in a hurry to get himself and Jason to their next class on time,
picked up Jason's books, including the notebook, in one big pile. He never
saw the drawing, and was in too much of a rush to catch the anxious look
Miss Appleby was throwing in his direction.
It went on like that until lunch time, when the six friends gathered and
finally relaxed at a picnic table in the school grounds. Then, and only
then, did they discover the picture. "What's this...?" Zack pulled out the
notebook and put it down in the middle of the table where they could all
Kimberly frowned a little at Tommy. He was best artist in the group, and
she assumed he had drawn it. That's horrible, Tommy!"
Tommy shook his head defensively. "I didn't draw it! Miss Appleby came over
to look at something that Jason was doing during class this morning, but I
didn't take much notice. I thought he was just scribbling..."
"This is very good," Billy commented quietly. "Much better than Jason could
ever do before."
Tommy picked up the notebook, feeling the blood suddenly drain from his
face. "He's drawn himself...."
Zack peered at the drawing over Tommy's shoulder. "Maybe you should take it
to show Mrs. Grainger in art class next."
Tommy nodded. "I will, but I don't think she'll believe me when I tell her
Jason drew it."
* * *
The bell finally rang out, summoning the students back to class. Tommy got
to art with Jason, Trini and Billy, and they all sat together, protectively
around Jason. Once the class had got going, and the students fell into
their work, Tommy took the page out of Jason's notebook and ventured up to
the teacher's desk. "Excuse me, Mrs. Grainger?"
Emily Grainger looked up and smiled. "Yes, Tommy?"
"Uh.... I was wondering if you could take a look at something...?"
Tommy handed her the drawing, trying to keep his hands from trembling. Mrs.
Grainger looked it over carefully for a long moment, then looked back up at
him with a smile that was not quite so broad. "It's very good, Tommy.
You've got all the dimensions right. In fact, I'd have to say that this is
one of the best pictures you've done. I'm not sure I like the subject
Tommy looked distinctly uncomfortable. "I didn't draw it, Mrs. Grainger.
Jason drew it."
The teacher stared so hard at Tommy that he was starting to wish he hadn't
shown it to her. "Tommy, I hardly think that...."
"It's true, Mrs. Grainger," Tommy insisted. "Jason did it in one of our
classes this morning. Miss Appleby saw him."
Mrs. Grainger stood up, then. She could tell by the look on Tommy's face
that he was telling the truth. She doubted he would lie where it concerned
Jason, anyway. Taking a clean sheet of paper and a freshly sharpened pencil
from her desk drawer, she crossed the room to where Jason sat, still and
Without saying a word, she carefully set the sheet of paper in front of him
and placed the pencil in his right hand with equal care. She then deposited
both hand and pencil gently on the paper, stepped back and waited.
Barely a minute passed, and nothing happened. She was about to take the
pencil back when Jason blinked once, his gaze seemed to focus on the paper,
and his hand began to move slowly but surely across the paper.
Mrs. Grainger looked on expressionlessly. At first it looked simply like a
child's scribbles, but then the picture began to take shape, and she soon
realized what was being drawn. "Good God...."
Tommy glanced at Mrs. Grainger, then back to Jason, and the picture he was
drawing. He was still trying to figure out what it was.
Jason eventually finished, and Mrs. Grainger gently took the paper away
from the teen. She knew what it was, though she could hardly believe Jason
had drawn it. The picture had not been drawn as though through the eyes of
another person. It had been drawn as though seen through Jason's own eyes.
She picked out the door of the room he must have been kept in, legs
stretching out in the foreground of the picture.... She drew in a slow
breath. One leg, the left, had been clearly drawn to depict at least two
Jason either couldn't or wouldn't speak, but he was communicating through
the drawings. Communicating what he had suffered.... "Tommy," she said
softly, "please stay after class. I want to talk to you."
Tommy nodded silent compliance as he sank back into his seat.
* * *
Donavon was waiting at the Youth Centre when Tommy arrived. Concern
immediately flooded his face when the teen came in alone. "Where's
"He's back at school," Tommy told him. "He's okay. He's with Mrs. Grainger.
Can you come with me, Mr. Scott? There's something you have to see."
Donavon followed Tommy, confused but willing. Something in the teen's voice
dictated that he go without protest, which he did.
* * *
Mrs. Grainger was standing by Jason in the art room when Tommy came in with
Donavon. She smiled a little in their direction. "Hello, Mr. Scott."
"Tommy said you have something to show me...." he said quietly, but trailed
off as his gaze fell on Jason. "What's he doing?"
"Drawing," Mrs. Grainger replied. "It seems Jason has a hidden talent that
none of us knew about. Not even Jason. I think you should see these, Mr.
Donavon walked over and took the two drawings from her and, a moment later,
felt nausea flood his system. "My God...."
The teacher nodded. "Yes, that's what I thought. Mr. Scott, these pictures
are good enough to be entered for competition. I have no intention of doing
that, of course, but it's food for thought."
The nausea faded from Donavon's stomach, to be replaced by something else,
something hopeful. He fought back the tears that threatened. His son was
still there, buried somewhere beneath the hurt, the suffering, the
memories.... He was still there, and he was still fighting.
* * *
Donavon arrived home with Jason a short while later. Holding back a sigh,
trying to remember the drawings, he went around, opened the door and
unlatched his son's seat belt. "C'mon, Jason." He gently took Jason's arm
and helped him out of the car. "We're going inside now." They moved
slowly, with Donavon guiding Jason into the house. He took him into the
family room and sat him down in one of the recliner chairs. "You just watch
television for a while, Jason."
He turned and headed through into the kitchen, leaving Jason with Luke and
Jaime. Bruce, who had watched them come in, shook his head sadly. "He's
almost completely catatonic."
Donavon sat down with a thud and buried his face in his hands. "I know. Oh
God, I know it's wrong, but I started thinking that maybe that isn't Jason.
Maybe there's nothing of Jason left."
Jenny stepped forward, aware of Sarah's stricken expression. "You don't
mean that, Donavon."
Donavon stared dismally at the tabletop. "I hope I don't. It's a damned
horrible thing to think, but I can't help it. The only thing he's doing for
himself is feeding himself. We have to help him get dressed, walk from one
room to another... even to go to the bathroom, for crying out loud! I just
can't help thinking that Jason's gone, and there's nothing left." He
paused, then pulled the drawings from his jacket and put them on the table.
"At least, that's what I was thinking until this afternoon. Take a look at
Bruce moved closer and picked up one of the pictures. "Who did these?"
Sarah was startled and confused. "Jason can't draw, Donavon. He was failing
"I know that, but he drew them all the same. Emily Grainger saw him draw
two of them. As unbelievable as it sounds, Jason did actually draw
"He's still there, then," Bruce said softly.
Donavon nodded. "Right. He's fighting on the inside, and we have to keep
fighting for him on the outside. No matter how hard it gets. We have to
* * *
In the family room, Luke and Jaime glanced at one another and smiled a
little. A moment later, Jaime got up and went over to where Jason sat,
staring vacantly at the television. She sat down carefully on the arm of
the chair and put her arms around her cousin's shoulders.
"Do you know what's happening, Jason? Can you see the show?" He didn't
respond, as she knew he wouldn't, and she went on to describe the show to
him in as much detail as she could manage. Across the room, Luke half
watched the television, half watched his sister with Jason, and smiled to
* * *
Luke awoke in the early hours of the morning to strange sounds that were
coming from Jason's room. Sounds of distress.... Thinking Jason was having
a nightmare, he threw on his robe and hurried into his cousin's room.
Jason was sitting at his desk, hunched over a little. He was drawing
something, Luke guessed. "Jason...?"
Jason seemed to flinch a little at the sound of Luke's voice, but didn't
turn around. Luke ventured forward, finally coming close enough to see what
Jason was drawing. What he saw frightened him badly. "Jase...?" He put a
hand firmly on Jason's shoulder. Jason reacted instantly, twisting away so
fast that the chair crashed over onto its side. He slipped Luke's grasp,
and fell into the nearest corner, where he curled up into as tight a ball
as he could. Luke stood frozen for several seconds before turning and
fleeing the room.
"Dad! Uncle Donavon..."
All four adults emerged at the same time, dazed and confused. "What is it,
Luke?" Bruce asked, a hint of annoyance in his voice.
Luke ignored it, and motioned towards Jason's room. "He's flipping out, or
Donavon hurried into Jason's room, and over to where his son crouched in
the corner. "Jason...?" Jason gave a whimpering cry and shied away from
his father, sheer terror in her eyes. Donavon fell back, feeling the
earlier optimism over the drawings fading fast.
Bruce joined him. "C'mon, Jason. We're going to put you to bed." The two
men tried to bring Jason to his feet, but the teen struggled and began to
cry so pitifully that that they finally let him go. Jason immediately
curled up into a tight ball, refusing to be moved.
It was then that Sarah and Jenny moved forward, past the men, to crouch
down beside the stricken teenager. "Jason?" Jenny said softly. Jason
stared past her, up at the two men with an expression that was beyond the
Sarah looked back to them grimly. "The three of you, out. Quickly."
Bruce immediately grabbed Donavon and Luke's arms, and pulled the from the
room. Once they were gone, the two women turned their full attention back
"No one's going to hurt you, sweetheart," Sarah said gently, patiently.
"There's no one here to hurt you. You're safe."
Jason stared almost straight through her, but for the first time in more
than two months, the women saw something register in Jason's eyes.
Something more than the emptiness that had previously been there.
Encouraged, Sarah spoke again softly. "We're going to help you, honey, but
you have to let us help."
"That's right, Jason," Jenny added. "Let us help you." For a long moment,
it seemed as though Jason was trying to speak, but then the effort simply
became too much, and he buried his face in his arms, whimpering
* * *
Donavon and Bruce were waiting in the kitchen when Jenny came back in,
looking thoroughly exhausted. "He won't move from the corner. He's
Donavon glanced down at the picture he'd grabbed from Jason's desk. "I'm
not surprised. Look at this."
Jenny covered her mouth in shock. "Oh dear God...." A heavy sigh escaped
Donavon. "We can't keep this up. I thoughtthings were starting to getting
better when I saw those other pictures, but I was wrong. He isn't getting
better. He's just starting to remember things he doesn't want to remember,
and it's pushing him further away."
"What are you saying?" Bruce asked in growing concern.
"I'm saying," Donavon said softly, that I don't think we're doing Jason any
good by keeping him here. We can't give him the twenty-four hour support
that he needs, and it isn't fair to expect his friends to look after him
though the day."
"You want to send him away?" Jenny asked, horrified. "Donavon, you
"I don't want to," Donavon growled, "but we're just fooling ourselves here.
Jason is not getting any better. If anything, I'd say he's getting
Sarah came in the kitchen, then, pale and upset. "He just keeps pushing me
away. I can't move him."
Donavon regarded his wife unhappily. "We can't do it, Sarah. We can't keep
looking after him."
Sarah stared at him in silence for several seconds before sinking into a
chair. "Well, what are we supposed to do?"
"There's a very good hospital...." Donavon started to say.
"No!" Sarah cried out. "No, we aren't sending him away to any hospital! I
don't care how good it is. Jason's still our son, and I won't allow him to
be sent away from home."
Donavon came dangerously close to retorting that Jason wasn't their son at
all, but a mere shell of what he had once been, but he stopped himself
short. "Sarah, can either of us afford to give up our jobs to look after
Jason twenty-four hours of the day? Because that's what we're going to have
to do. You know it as well as I do."
Tears filled Sarah's eyes. "He's our son...." she protested.
Donavon stared at her with equal distress. "Do you think I want to send
him away? I don't want to anymore than you do, but I don't see that we have
a choice! I would rather see him everyday, being cared for properly in as
hospital, than have him here and constantly be worried about what might
Sarah looked away in defeat. As much as she hated to admit it, Donavon was
right. To keep him home was not only constant pressure on herself, Donavon
and Jason's friends, but also unfair to Jason.
Donavon nodded, seeing that she'd consented. "All right," he said softly.
"I'll see about making the arrangements tomorrow."
No one said anything else. There was nothing left to say.
* * *
Tommy, Kimberly and Trini were at the front gate when Sarah Scott pulled up
with Jason. She got out of the car and spoke quickly as Tommy started
forward. "Tommy, no! You'd better stay back a bit."
Confusion etched across Tommy's face, but he stopped. "What's wrong?"
Sarah looked grim as she came around and helped Jason out of the car. "I'm
afraid we took a very big leap backwards last night. Jason's panicking
every time a male even comes near him. It took his aunt and I all night to
coax him out of the corner of his room."
Trini moved forward then, carefully slipping her hand into Jason's. "C'mon,
Jase," she said softly. "We'll take you to class."
Kimberly smiled a little in Sarah's direction as Trini led Jason off
towards the school. "We'll take care of him, Mrs. Scott."
Sarah nodded, but couldn't help feel a twinge of unease. One, because
Jason's friends did not yet know of the plan to send Jason away to a
psychiatric hospital, and two, because she'd caught a glimpse of a
disturbing look on Tommy's face. She tried to ignore her worries as she
got back into the car. She had enough to deal with now, trying to come to
terms with the fact that in a matter of days, Jason would no longer be
* * *
Lunch time rolled slowly around, and the teens gathered at the bench, where
they had discovered the drawing only yesterday. The conversation was
moderately calm and normal, until Zack grew fed up with Tommy's silence.
"Okay, Tommy.What's wrong?"
Tommy regarded Zack dully. "What d'you mean?"
"You haven't spoke at all. What's up?"
Tommy looked past them, to Jason. "He's not there."
The others frowned, confused. "What are you talking about?" Kimberly
Tommy looked away, back to the tabletop. "That isn't Jason. Jason's gone.
There's nothing of Jason left."
Zack started up, suddenly angry. "No way! You aren't giving up on Jason.
I'm not gonna let you. Dammit, Tommy...."
"Jason isn't there anymore!" Tommy exploded, rising up to meet Zack at eye
level. "There's nothing left to give up on! Take a good look at him. It's
just... just a shell. That's all. Jason is gone!"
Billy spoke up then, his voice laced with sudden tension. "Uh, guys...?"
They both turned to glare at Billy, but Billy didn't notice, so busy was he
staring at Jason. "I think he heard you...."
They all looked at Jason abruptly. Jason's head had come up a little, and
he was staring directly at Tommy. Tears filled his eyes, and spilled over
down his cheeks. Tommy stood frozen, his heart beating in his throat.
Jason blinked once, and his mouth opened just a little, as though he was
trying to speak. His forehead creased with effort, and finally....
Tommy was at Jason's side in an instant. "C'mon, Jase, come back to us.
Jason flinched a little at the touch of Tommy's hand to his shoulder, but
he did not pull away.
Kimberly moved around and put an arm gently around his shoulders. "Talk to
us, Jase. You can do it. I know you can."
He stared up at them, desperation flooding his features. "Help...
please...." It was an extreme effort for Jason to speak. They all seemed
so far away to him... across an ocean while he strained to reach them from
the island.... "Help me...."
Zack looked back to Tommy as Jason shuddered and slumped over, the flicker
of light dying from his eyes. "You still think he's gone, Tommy?"
Tommy shook his head, staring into Jason's now empty gaze. "No. Not now."
Kimberly hugged Jason tightly. "He came back from wherever he is just long
enough to ask for help. We've gotta help him."
Billy put one hand lightly on Kim's shoulder. "We will help him. We're
going to bring him out of this."
Trini nodded. "No matter how long it takes."
* * *
Donavon arrived at the Youth Centre that afternoon, feeling sick with
apprehension. He had made the arrangements only hours ago. In two days'
time, Jason would go to the Kingston Institute, where he would stay
indefinitely. He withheld a sigh. Now he had to tell Jason's friends, and
it was not a task he was looking forward to.
Tommy came over to greet him, a broad grin on his face. "Hey, Mr. Scott.
We've got some good news!"
Donavon barely heard. "He shook his head and spoke tiredly. "Not now,
Tommy. I have to tell all of you something, and you're not going to like
The smile fell abruptly from Tommy's face. "What is it?"
Donavon walked with him to where the group of friends sat, and motioned for
Tommy to sit down. "After last night, Sarah and I made a decision. As much
as we want to, we can't look after Jason any longer. We don't have the time
or the money to give him the full time care that he needs."
Tommy looked disturbed. "What d'you mean? If you can't look after him, then
Donavon spoke softly, dreading their reactions. "I made some arrangements
today, with the Kingston Institute."
Tommy started up. "No...."
"Jason will be going there in a couple of days' time," Donavon finished
off. Tommy rose all the way up to meet him head on.
"No! You can't send him away! We can help look after him...."
Donavon shook his head slowly. "No, Tommy. Even if I thought you could, I
wouldn't allow it. It isn't your responsibility."
Trini spoke up, her voice trembling with emotion. "Please, Mr. Scott, don't take Jason away from
us. He needs to be here, not in some place that he doesn't know."
"I'm sorry, kids," Donavon said quietly. "The arrangements have already
been made. You'll still be able to see him regularly. The Kingston
Institute isn't a prison."
"It might as well be," Zack growled. "You're still sending him away from
his friends and his home."
"He never did anything wrong," Kimberly choked out, tears trickling down
her cheeks. "How come you're punishing him?"
Donavon looked way, unable to face them because that was how he felt. As
though he was punishing his son for being kidnapped and raped.... He sighed
inwardly, went around and gently brought Jason to his feet. "Let's go,
Throughout the entire exchange, Billy remained silent. _why aren't we
telling him that jason spoke to us...?_ He couldn't bring himself to say
the words, and merely sat there in helpless silence.
Tommy spoke, his voice cracking a little. "Will he be coming to school
Donavon hesitated, then nodded. "Yes, I think so."
They watched helplessly as Donavon led Jason out of the Youth Centre. Then,
finally, Tommy grabbed his bag and hurried out through the archway, leaving
his friends behind to sit in miserable silence.
* * *
"Dad, can I take the car to school?" Tommy asked his father the next
morning. "It looks like it's going to rain."
Mr. Oliver nodded. "All right. Just be sure to come straight home
afterwards. Your mother needs it to do the shopping."
Tommy nodded. "Okay." He grabbed his jacket and hurried out. There was no
need to tell his father that he had no intention of going to school that
* * *
Minute later, he pulled up outside Jason's house, just as Donavon was
slowly leading Jason to the car. Getting out, he hurried over to them.
"I'll take Jason this morning," Tommy told him. "I'll bring him home,
Donavon looked a little uneasy. "I'm not sure about that...."
Tommy stared straight at the adult. "If you're going to send Jason away,
then at least give us as much time with him now as we can get. Let us have
that, at least."
Donavon hesitated a second longer, then nodded. "All right. Take his bag.
I'll put him in the car."
Tommy did so, and waited patiently for Jason to get in and be buckled in.
"Okay," he murmured softly, "let's go."
* * *
Billy, Zack, Trini and Kimberly were just about to go into class that
morning when Mr. Caplan approached them, looking extremely worried.
"Kids, have any of you seen Tommy and Jason this morning?"
Zack shook his head. "No sir, not since yesterday afternoon. Is something
Mr. Caplan looked grim. "I hope not. I've just spoken to Tommy and Jason's
fathers. Tommy left home by car this morning and apparently picked Jason up
a short while later. Neither one of them have been seen here, and Tommy's
mother found a note a short while ago, saying Tommy was taking Jason away
so he couldn't be sent to Kingston."
The four friends gaped at one another in shock. Tommy had kidnapped
Jason...? Mr. Caplan went on quickly. "Do any of you have any idea where
Tommy might have taken Jason? It's important, kids. We want to avoid
bringing the police in on this, if possible."
They continued to stare at one another, not so sure if they cared to help
the adults find Tommy and Jason. After all, the sooner Jason was found, the
sooner he would be sent to that institute....
Finally, Billy spoke. "The only place we know of is his uncle's cabin,
Mr. Caplan nodded. "Thank you. Now you had all better get to class."
They waited until the principal was out of earshot, and then Zack elbowed
Billy in the side. "What did you tell him that for?"
"Because," Billy replied calmly, "it is the only place we know of, and it's
also the one place Tommy wouldn't go to. His parents know how much he likes
it up there, and it would be the first place they'd check."
Surprised silence fell as they realized that Billy was right. They
genuinely had no idea where Tommy would have taken Jason, unless it was to
the Command Centre. "C'mon," Zack said softly. "Let's get to class, and
we'll check at lunch time."
* * *
Later at the Command Centre, Alpha had no trouble locating the boys and
getting it in the viewing globe. "Where are they?" Trini asked.
"In the woods, on the outskirts of Angel Grove," Zordon replied. "I will
not teleport them here. You four must go there. Rangers, you must do all
you can to help Jason now. You are his last chance. If he is sent away
while in this state, he will never recover."
Zack nodded. "We're gonna do our best, Zordon." There were four flashes of
coloured light, and then they were gone.
* * *
Tommy glanced up as the other four rangers made their way into the clearing
and sat down slowly around the small fire he'd built. "Hey, guys," he said
softly. "Me and Jase were just looking at some photos."
After a long moment's silence, Zack spoke softly. "Everyone's in a panic,
Tommy. They think you kidnapped Jason."
Tommy smiled a little. "I guess I did. I left a note, though."
"That's why they're panicking," Billy put in.
Tommy regarded them with sudden suspicion. "I'm not going back until they
change their minds about sending Jason away, or Jason snaps out of it."
Kimberly shook her head quickly. "We're not here to try and force you to
take Jason back. Zordon sent us to try and help him."
Tommy relaxed. "That's okay, then." As he turned his attention back to the
photos, the others gathered round and joined in, looking at the photos and
remembering all the good times they'd had together.
* * *
Evening fell. "I don't think we're getting anywhere," Zack said gloomily.
Tommy looked equally unhappily. "I just don't know what to do. There has
to be some way to pull him out of this...."
Zack moved around and crouched down in front of Jason. "C'mon, man, snap
out of it! Jason, if you don't wake up, they're gonna send you away! Do you
want to be sent away to a hospital? Do you...?"
Trini put a hand on Zack's shoulder, then reached out to take the photo
album from Jason. "It's getting cold. Maybe we should...." She trailed
"What is it?" Kimberly asked wearily.
Trini stared at Jason with a mixture of confusion and hope. "He won't let
go of the album!"
Tommy looked over at Jason sharply. Sure enough, Jason had a tight hold on
the album, and wasn't letting go. Then, very slowly and with great effort,
Jason began to turn the pages himself. Tommy looked down, and saw a photo
of himself and Jason, after they had won the team ninja finals. He reached
out and touched his finger to the photo. "Do you remember that, Jase? No
one thought we were going to win, because we couldn't stop fighting each
other long enough to try and work together."
"I...." They all stared, holding their breath with anticipation as Jason
struggled to speak. "I remember...."
Tommy, his heart beating painfully in his chest, quickly found another
photo, this time of all six of them, standing by the Rad Bug. "And
here...? All of us together, Jase. Best friends...."
Tears began to trickle down Jason's face. "Don't stop...." he whispered
faintly. "Please... don't let go...."
Tommy felt his heart start to race. He didn't really understand what Jason
meant, but he had no intention of quitting now. He and the others, who had
quickly gathered round, began to point out photos, and the relevant
instances when the photos had been taken.
Nearly half an hour later, silence fell as they finally ran out of things
to talk about. It was dark now, and they were all exhausted. Trini moved
around, then, and crouched in front of Jason. "Jason, can you hear me?"
Jason blinked hard, and his gaze finally focused on her. He was shivering
uncontrollably, but he was awake.... "I hear...." he whispered.
Trini sobbed in relief and threw her arms around him in a tight hug.
"Jason, you're back...."
Jason shuddered. He was back. His friends, even though they didn't realize
it, had built a bridge and and pulled him off the island. The island which
had at first been refuge, but had rapidly changed into a prison, cutting
him off from everyone and everything.... His shivering eased a little as
Tommy draped a thick, lined jacket over his shoulder. His best friend then
came around and knelt on the ground beside him.
"Are you staying with us this time, Jason?"
Jason hesitated, the words taking a moment to register. He then managed a
weak nod. "Staying...."
A trembling sensation passed through Tommy, and he had to fight back the
tears. "Thank God...." The other teens gathered close in a tight huddle,
and within a few minutes, all of them were crying with relief.
* * *
Deciding not to wait until morning, the teenagers all piled into Tommy's
father's car and headed back into town. Jason, although shaky and weak, was
definitely awake now and taking in everything around him.
They pulled up outside the Scotts' residence to a flurry of activity. Not
only was there a police car in the drive, but so were all their respective
parents' cars. "Okay," Tommy said grimly as they all climbed out, "brace
Tommy's father was the first to reach them, and he was furious. "Tommy , I
hope you don't feel like going out for the next two months, because that's
how long you're going to be grounded for. How could you pull a stunt like
this? All of you! For God's sake, we thought you would all have had more
sense than this...."
Donavon Scott came through, then, and it was clear that he was terribly
shaken. "I don't know what you all thought you were doing, but you haven't
changed anything. Jason is still going to Kingston, and he's going
Tommy opened his mouth to protest, but Donavon shook his head and cut him
off sharply. "I'm sorry to say this, but I just don't think I can trust you
now." He reached past Tommy, putting a gentle hand on his son's shoulder.
"Dad, don't send me away."
Silence struck the group, covering it like a blanket. Donavon looked back
at Jason, shock rocking his system. "Jason...?"
Jason stared at him, his eyes shining with unshed tears. "Please... don't
send me away...."
Donavon turned fully to face his son. "You're awake... My boy...."
"They woke me up," Jason whispered, his voice trembling just a little.
"Don't be mad...."
Donavon pulled Jason to him in a tight hug, tears flooding his own eyes.
"My boy's awake...."
Mr. Oliver looked over at Tommy questioningly. Tommy merely shrugged in
reply. The truth was, they weren't sure how they'd brought Jason out of it,
but it didn't matter. The point was they'd done it.
Sarah Scott came through the crowd, then, shaken and upset. It was bad
enough that she would be losing her son tomorrow, without nearly losing him
Jason saw his mother over his father's shoulder, and he pulled back a
Sarah froze, staring at Jason in shock and disbelief. Then she realized he
was alert, and she moved forward, throwing her arms around him and sobbing
The five teens exchanged small smiles. They'd done it. They didn't care if
their parents did ground them for the next two months. They'd brought Jason
back from wherever he'd been trapped, and right then, it was all they cared
* * *
Donavon stood in the doorway of Jason's room for a long while, watching his
son sleep, before carefully shutting the door and heading down into the
family room. "I'll call the Kingston Institute first thing tomorrow
morning," he said softly as he sat down next to Sarah, "and cancel
everything. Well, everything except the sessions with Alex Carter."
Sarah leant against him, feeling the tears well up in her eyes again for
the umpteenth time. "We've got our boy back...."
Donavon looked serious. "It isn't over yet, Sarah. We still have a long way
to go. This is just the first step."
Bruce nodded, and spoke from where he sat with Jenny. "There's still going
to be a lot of heartache. Jason still has to deal with all that happened to
him. It's not going to be easy."
Sarah smiled faintly. "I know. We'll survive, though. Whatever happens now,
at least Jason has come back to us. We'll get past this in time."
Donavon returned the smile. "Everything will work itself out eventually,"
he agreed softly.
* * *
Tommy awoke the next morning to see rain spattering against the window, and
he moaned softly to himself. Despite the way things had worked out last
night, he had not dared ask his father to reconsider his punishment. His
father was not the kind of man to change his mind like that. It was
something he'd learnt from experience.
Sighing softly to himself, he quickly got dressed and, pulling his coat on
over the rest of his clothes, he grabbed his bag and headed out into the
kitchen. His parents were both there, drinking coffee and talking quietly
when Tommy came in, grabbing the last piece of toast as he headed for the
door. "I'll see you after school."
His father regarded him with a vaguely amused look. "Forgetting something,
Tommy looked surprised. "No... I don't think so...."
Mr. Oliver tossed his car keys to his son. "Punishment still stands, but
there's no point in you getting pneumonia." He paused, then added, "I
called Donavon Scott this morning. You can pick Jason up on your way to
Tommy was confused, but pleased. His father rose up to meet him. "You did a
stupid thing yesterday, Tommy. Don't get delusions that it wasn't. As it
turned out, though, it prevented what I think we all agree would have been
an even bigger mistake. Now Jason's come out of the coma, or whatever he
was in, and he can start getting better properly. But so help me, if you
ever pull a stunt like that again, you'll be grounded for the rest of your
teen years! You hear me?"
Tommy swallowed hard and nodded. "I won't do it again, Dad. I promise. We
just wanted to help Jason."
Mr. Oliver nodded. "I understand. Now get going, or you'll be late." The
teen hurried from the house.
* * *
As his father had said, Jason was waiting for him when he arrived, and had
to run for the car to avoid getting too wet.
"Ready for school?" Tommy asked as he revved the engine, then pulled back
into the street.
Jason nodded. "I guess so. I just...."
He trailed off, and Tommy glanced cautiously at him. "What is it?"
Jason looked straight at Tommy, then, and Tommy had to struggle not to
cringe at the deep pain and fear that he saw reflected in his friend's
eyes. "Promise you'll stay with me today, Tommy? Don't leave me alone...."
Tommy shook his head and spoke vehemently. "I won't leave you alone. Not
today, or any other day. I swear it."
Jason looked back out the window. "Tell me something honestly?"
"How long was I... out of it? Mum and Dad wouldn't tell me."
Tommy watched Jason warily out of the corner of his eye, not sure if he
should say. "It doesn't matter...."
"I want to know," Jason said in a voice that was just a little bit
strained. "Tommy, please...."
Tommy sighed inwardly. "Nearly eleven weeks."
Jason slumped down in the seat, shocked. Nearly three months. He'd been a
walking zombie for nearly three months.... "How long have I been back at
"You don't remember any of it?" Tommy asked.
Jason shook his head. "Not really. Just bits here and there. It's all pretty hazy."
"Well, you've been back at school for a bit over a week. Jase.... do you
remember anything about drawing some pictures?"
A frown creased Jason's forehead as he tried to remember. Finally he shook
his head. "No. You mean I was drawing stuff while I was out of it? What
sort of pictures?"
Tommy grimaced. "Better not think about it. I probably shouldn't have
brought it up."
Jason glanced wonderingly at his friend, but didn't push the issue. He was
far too tired and weak to be bothered. They pulled into the school car
park, and Jason glanced at the dashboard clock. "Nothing ever changes.
We're still late."
A laugh escaped Tommy. "I'll blame my dad. He insisted on giving me a
lecture on responsibility before I left this morning."
* * *
They reached their lockers, and Tommy grabbed what he needed, then looked
around to see that Jason was still fumbling with his combination lock. He
hesitated, then spoke quietly. "Need a hand with that?"
Jason swallowed hard, then stepped back. "Yeah," he admitted, embarrassed.
"My hands are shaking pretty badly."
Tommy quickly opened Jason's locker, pulled out what he needed, then shut
it quickly. "Can you manage?"
Jason nodded as he took his books from Tommy. "I'll manage. Thanks."
A faint smile flickered across Tommy's face. "C'mon. Let's get to class."
* * *
It was only as they entered the class, and Miss Appleby and the rest of the
group barely spared them a second glance, that Tommy realized that none of
them knew Jason had come out of the catatonia. He glanced at Jason,
wondering if the teen would dare say anything. He did. "Sorry we're late,
Miss Appleby," Jason said as they made their way to a couple of spare
Everyone in the class looked around and stared at Jason in shock and
disbelief. Even Miss Appleby took a moment to recover. "That.... That's
all right, Jason. Just take a seat. You didn't miss very much." Tommy
nodded encouragingly to Jason as they sat down. Jason smiled back, but it
was pale image of the real thing.
* * *
"You okay, Jase?" Zack asked in concern as the six friends sat around a
picnic bench at lunch time. Jason glanced briefly at Zack, then looked away
"Sure," he murmured in a voice that was barely his own. Tommy reached over
and put a hand on Jason's arm, and was taken aback when Jason stiffened
visibly under his touch. He removed his hand, confused.
Jason looked up at him, then, pale and shaken. "Sorry. I can't help it."
Tommy suddenly remembered what they had been told in the hospital so many
weeks ago. _jason was raped...._ He cursed himself angrily. "It's okay,
Jase. I understand."
Jason's eyes narrowed for just an instant. There was something in Tommy's
tone that suggested he knew certain things.... He couldn't keep up the eye
contact, and finally looked away, back to the tabletop. The other teens
exchanged glances over Jason's head, and all of them had the same
* * *
"Who's the Red Ranger now?" Jason asked softly when he was alone with Tommy
later on. Tommy looked a little uncomfortable.
"Zordon called Rocky in to sub for you, Jase. Just till you're back on your
feet." Jason looked away, out of the car window, and although he remained
silent, Tommy could guess what was going through his mind. "Everything's
gonna work out, Jase. You're going to be all right."
Jason shivered, despite the warmth of the car's interior. "Am I? I didn't
get much sleep last night, Tommy. Neither did my folks. I kept waking up
screaming from nightmares. Couldn't remember much about them, but it was
enough to keep me and them awake most of the night. There's still a lot of
things I don't remember, things that come back in the nightmares. The worst
things that happened.... I can't remember them now, but what's going to
happen when I do? Am I going to close up again, like I did before?"
Tommy looked worried. The same thought had crossed his mind as well. "Not
if I can help it, Jason. You're back from wherever you went to, and I'm not
going to let you go again."
Jason, however, just shook his head and slumped down gloomily in the seat.
* * *
Jason walked into the house to find an unfamiliar man sitting with his
parents. His father stood up and quickly introduced the stranger.
"Jason, this is Alex Carter. He's a psychiatrist from the Kingston
Panic flooded Jason's face. "You said you wouldn't send me away...."
Carter spoke up reassuringly. "You aren't going anywhere, Jason. We just
thought it might help you to talk to someone... detached from this
Discomfort flickered across Jason's face. "I woke up last night, and you
want me to talk to a shrink already?"
Donavon glanced apologetically at Carter, then spoke to his son in a quiet,
firm voice. "Jason, you've learnt enough about these situations from me to
know that the sooner you can talk about it, the sooner you're likely to get
Jason walked over and sat down with a thud in an armchair. "That's fine,
but the bottom line is that I can't remember that much of what happened.
I'm not sure I want to, either. All I know is that I can't stand having
anyone touch me, even if it's just a handshake or a tap on the shoulder. In
the space of one night I've had at least five major nightmares... and I was
too scared today to walk from one classroom to another without having
someone with me." Jason shuddered. "I really don't think I want to
Carter nodded slowly. "That's understandable, but it's unlikely the
memories are going to stay buried forever, Jason. Sooner or later you're
going to have to face this. It would be better for you if you try and face
them sooner, rather than later."
Jason looked around slowly at his parents, and at Carter. "Somehow I get
the feeling that you all know more of what happened to me than I remember.
It's the same with Tommy and the others. Every so often today I caught one
of them looking at me like... like... I don't know. I don't want to think
about it." He looked back to his father, grief stricken. "All I remember
for sure is that the guy who took me kept telling me that I was never going
to see you or Mum again, that I was going to... to die in that room. I... I
didn't know what to do at first. Then one night I started kicking the door.
He... he'd said his son was in the house, and didn't know I was there. I
didn't think it'd work, but I did it anyway, mainly to keep myself from
losing my mind. He... he came in really mad.... Started to hit me with a
belt buckle, or something...."
Jason trailed off, his breath catching in his throat. Donavon was at his
side in an instant, gently encouraging him to go on. The teenager continued
to speak in a trembling voice. "I... I don't know why I did it... but I
started kicking the door again the next morning.... I think it might have
been morning. I don't know for sure. He came in with... with an iron
bar.... Said some stuff that I don't remember...." He trailed off as his
shoulders started to shake with suppressed sobs, and it became a struggle
for him to speak. Carter came over and crouched in front of him.
"You're doing really well, Jason. Take your time." Jason looked up at him,
tears streaming down his cheeks. "That's.... that's when he broke my leg,"
he whispered. "He broke it the first time... but he just kept hitting
me.... I was screaming, but he kept hitting me...."
Jason broke down completely, collapsing against his father and sobbing
helplessly into his shoulder. Donavon braced his son tightly, protectively,
while Carter got up. "I think it's about time I headed back to the
Institute. I'll be back to talk to Jason again in a couple of days."
Donavon nodded silently, continuing to hold Jason to him as Sarah showed
Carter out. She came back half a minute later, walked over and joined the
embrace, hugging Jason tightly from the other side.
* * *
Sarah looked into Jason's room that night to find Donavon sitting there by
the side of the bed, watching silently as Jason slept. "Are you going to
stay here all night?" she asked softly. "Donavon...?"
"I'm staying with Jason tonight," he replied softly. "If tonight is like
last night was, I don't want to leave him alone."
Sarah hesitated, then nodded. "Okay. Goodnight." Donavon sat back, sighing
softly to himself. After the short session with Alex Carter, Jason had
cried into his shoulder for the better part of an hour, and Donavon
suspected he remembered more than he had shared. It hurt him badly to see
his son, once so self confident and out going, literally torn apart by the
deeds of one sadistic man. He dreaded Jason's reaction when he finally
remembered all that had happened to him.
* * *
Jason remained peaceful until nearly two 'clock in the morning, when he
woke up screaming. Donavon, who had long since fallen asleep in the chair
by the bed, was instantly at his son's side.
"It's okay, Jason. I'm right here, son...." Jason was shaking violently,
and silent sobs caught in his throat. He shuddered and fell against his
father, wanting desperately to feel safe. Then, as his shaking eased,
Donavon spoke to him softly. "Can you remember anything?"
The teen stared blankly ahead. Did he remember? Yes... he did.... A rush of
nausea hit Jason hard, and he threw himself to the other side of the bed,
vomiting over the side. Donavon hurried into the adjoining bathroom and
soaked a cloth in warm water, then went back into the bedroom. Jason lay on
his side, curled up in a ball and shivering helplessly. His father went
around and sat down beside him.
"Use this," he said quietly, and after a moment Jason pushed himself up
into a sitting position and took the cloth, wiping it over his face.
Donavon shook his head. "Don't be. The carpet can be cleaned. Think you can
talk about it?"
Jason shut his eyes for a moment as he gathered his wits. Finally he forced
himself to look up at his father. "Things... happened...."
"While you were in that room?"
"Yeah.... Dad, I still feel sick...."
"It's okay," Donavon told him gently. "You don't have to talk about it if
you're not ready. I don't want to force you into it...."
Tears filled Jason's eyes. "I... I have to tell you. Is.... Is Mum awake?"
Donavon shook his head. "No. Do you want me to get her?"
"No," Jason whispered, panicked. "No, please.... I don't want her to
Donavon watched his son in concern. "Tell me what happened, Jason. Let it
Jason drew in a slow, painful breath. "After he broke my leg, he said he
had to take his son to school, but he'd be back to... to deal with me. I
don't know how long he was gone. I was so scared, that all I could think of
was what he was going to do to me. When he came back, I thought he was
going to beat me up, or something.... I was terrified. But he didn't hit
me. He shut the door, like he was scared someone would come down and see
him.... Then he knelt in front of me... said some stuff...."
"Do you remember what he said?" Donavon asked. Jason looked away,
"Does... does it matter?"
"It might. Try not to leave anything out, Jason."
Jason struggled with the humiliation and the churning of his stomach.
"It's... It's embarrassing...."
Donavon nodded. "I know. It won't be any easier to tell the rest to me,
Jason. The best you can do for yourself is to tell me everything. Take your
time. There's no rush."
"Is that the shrink in you coming out?" Jason asked with nervous humour,
trying to distract his father.
Donavon smiled a little at the thinly veiled diversionary tactic. "Don't stall, Jason. You only
make it more difficult for yourself."
Jason's nervous smile faded. "He said I was a handsome kid, that he
reckoned I would've had a lot of girls chasing me. Then he touched my face,
made me look up at him...." Jason had gone tense, Donavon could feel it.
"Then he untied the ropes and took my clothes off. Told me to relax, and I
wouldn't get hurt."
"He untied you?" Donavon echoed softly.
Jason stared down at the blanket. His hands were locked into fists, and he
couldn't unclench them. "I couldn't fight him. I tried, Dad, I
"I believe you."
"Then he started to... to touch me...."
Donavon listened in heavy silence as Jason, over the next half hour,
described the extent of the sexual abuse and the rape. It was the hardest
thing Jason had ever done, and Donavon felt a rush of pride and love for
his son, that the teen had the courage to speak out and tell of the
demoralizing experience. When Jason finally finished, Donavon reached out
and pulled Jason to him in a close embrace.
"You're a brave boy, Jason. You didn't have to tell me all of that."
Jason shuddered, and sobbed into his father's shirt. "I... I didn't really
remember until now. I didn't want to remember... but you already knew,
Donavon nodded as he hugged Jason tightly. "Yes, I already knew. The doctor
at the hospital told your mother and I, and Aunt Jenny. They... they have
ways of telling when things like that have happened. We weren't going to
force it out of you, though."
"I don't want to tell Mum."
"You don't have to."
Jason fell silent for a long moment, then spoke up in a trembling voice as
a thought struck him. "Do... do Tommy and the others know?"
"Yes," Donavon admitted softly, reluctantly. "They know."
Jason shut his eyes against a fresh flood of tears. _they all knew...._
"I'll have to tell them...."
"Not until you're ready," Donavon reassured him. "Jason, you've just taken
a massive step. Don't push yourself any harder, or you'll only end up
Jason looked up at Donavon through his tears. "Dad, please don't leave
"I won't," Donavon told him vehemently. "I'm going to stay right here. I
promise. You go to sleep, and I'll be here when you wake up in the
Jason lay back down. He was trembling badly, and couldn't stop. "I was so
scared," he whispered. "I didn't think I was ever going to see you and Mum
again. I thought I was going to die in that room."
Donavon reached over and pulled the blanket up to cover his son's body.
"You're safe now, Jason. No one's going to hurt you again. I promise.
Jason shut his eyes against the hot tears. "Why did it happen, Dad? What
did I do to deserve it?"
Donavon felt his heart being wrenched in his chest. "You didn't do
anything, Jason. None of what happened was your fault. You have to believe
that. It wasn't anything you did."
Jason stared blindly up at the ceiling. He desperately wanted to believe
that, but a single doubt rang in his mind, one that he couldn't rid himself
of. After a long moment, he shut his eyes and willed himself to sleep, but
it was a long time before he did.
* * *
Jason woke up the next morning with a start. It took him a moment to
recover his thoughts, and then he remembered all that had happened through
the night. He swallowed hard and looked across to the window... and saw his
father sitting there, asleep in the chair.
A tired smile flickered across his face. He had kept his promise, and it
made Jason feel just that much better to wake up to the reassuring presence
of his father. He sat up slowly and climbed out of bed. It almost to move,
now, but the pain was not physical so much as emotional. His heart ached so
badly, and a deep fear was gradually stripping away what little he had left
of his dignity and determination.
He looked up towards the window as a stream of sunlight pierced the clouds
and set the room awash in a gentle glow. After a moment he turned his face
away, tears in his eyes. Would he ever be able to enjoy something as simple
as the warm sun again?
"Jason...?" Jason looked around at the sound of his mother's voice. She
walked into the room, glancing at the layer of baking soda that covered the
spot where Jason had been sick.
"What happened? Are you all right, sweetheart?"
The teen looked away, ashamed. "I was sick," he said softly. "I had a
nightmare, and it made me sick. I'm sorry..."
Sarah hurried over to his side. "It's all right, baby. It's okay. Why
didn't you wake me?"
"I didn't want to bother you."
Sarah glanced over at her sleeping husband, took in his exhausted
countenance, and guessed that Jason had shared more of his terrible
experience with his father last night. She hugged him warmly.
"It's okay, sweetheart. Do you want to stay home today?"
Jason swallowed hard. It would be so easy to say yes, and stay within the
protective confines of his home.... "No," he whispered. "I have to go to
Sarah nodded. "All right. Come and have breakfast, and then you can get
ready for school."
* * *
Jason reached his locker with Tommy and was relieved when he was able to
open the door himself. It had been humiliating yesterday, when he had been
unable to even open his combination lock.... A hand came down on Jason's
shoulder, and he spun around so fast that he very nearly lost balance.
Mr. Caplan stepped back, equally startled as Jason dropped all of his
books. "Jason, I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
Jason swallowed hard, and for a brief moment looked as though he was going
to be sick. "It's okay, sir," he mumbled.
Mr. Caplan crouched down and quickly gathered up the boy's books. "Here. I
just wanted to see you about a little bit of catch up work. Whenever you
think you're ready...."
The teenager was looking everywhere except directly at the principal. "I...
I might see you in a few days...."
Mr. Caplan nodded. "That's fine. There's no hurry. I'll see you around
Jason finally looked up as the principal headed back up the corridor. A
moment later, Tommy joined him.
"You feeling okay, Jase?"
"Sure," Jason replied numbly. "Let's get to class."
* * *
Lunch time came, and the teens sat on the cool grass together, enjoying the
warm sunshine. That was, all except Jason. He sat slightly apart from the
others, looking as though he wanted nothing more than to be home. His
friends made futile efforts at talking to him, for he gave only single word
answers, and either would not or could not bring himself to look at
Finally, Kimberly grew a little impatient and concerned, and moved over to
where Jason sat. "Jason, come over here and join us. Don't separate
yourself like this." Jason looked up at her tentatively. Kim smiled
reassuringly at him, then made the mistake of reaching out and touching her
hand gently to his face.
In an instant, Jason flashed back to the basement room, to Rick Daniels
before he began the horrendous acts of sexual molestation. Seeing not
Kimberly, but Rick Daniels, Jason wrenched away with a terrified cry and
threw himself to the ground against the trunk of a tree where he hunched
over, cowering in sheer panic.
Tommy moved quickly, sliding across the ground to where Jason literally
shook with fear. "Jason, snap out of it, bro. C'mon..."
Jason continued to stare at the ground, his eyes glazing over as he became
trapped in his memories. Tommy glanced skyward and asked for forgiveness
for what he was about to do. He then reached out, took hold of Jason's
shoulders and shook him hard. "Jason, wake up!"
Jason snapped out of it, and broke down a moment later, sobbing helplessly
as the fear and nausea rolled through his body. Tommy moved closer, pulling
Jason to him in a brotherly embrace. "It's okay, buddy. You're safe. No
one's gonna hurt you. We're looking after you now."
Jason sobbed into Tommy's shoulder, and spoke as the others slowly gathered
around. "I tried to fight him... but I couldn't... I couldn't fight him,
Tommy... I couldn't stop him...."
Tommy held Jason tightly, protectively, ignoring the curious stares that
were coming from nearby students. "What couldn't you stop him from doing,
Jason shut his eyes. He couldn't say it. How could he possibly say it...?
"You already know...." he choked out, his voice muffled by Tommy's
Tommy looked grim as he exchanged glances with the others. He hated himself
for doing this, but he believed Jason had to say it, out loud and to all of
them. He wanted him to say it, so they could all shoulder some of the pain
that Jason was suffering. "We know, Jase, but we want you to say it."
_i can't!_ Jason wanted to scream at Tommy, but he couldn't bring himself
to do so. Instead, he tried to pull away, but Tommy refused to let him go.
"Talk to us, Jason. C'mon, pal...."
With a shudder, Jason collapsed in Tommy's arms, overtaken by a fresh flood
of tears. "He raped me...." he choked out, and could feel his face burning
with utter humiliation and demoralization. "He... he...."
Tommy hugged Jason to him, wanting to guard him from further hurt. "It's
okay, Jase. You don't have to say anymore. Not another word."
Jason finally gave in to the full torrent of emotions inside him, and he
submitted himself completely to Tommy's protective embrace. A moment later,
the other teens gathered around, surrounding Jason in a sheltering
Donavon Scott arrived at the Youth Centre that afternoon, and was ambushed
by Tommy as he went inside. Jason, he could see, was down on the practise
mats with Zack and Billy, working out with one of the punching bags. The
look of sheer concentration on Jason's face hid the anguish everyone knew
he was suffering.
"What is it, Tommy?" He asked as the teen drew him aside.
"Jason kind of had a fit this afternoon," Tommy told him softly.
Donavon's face creased with concern. "How do you mean?"
"Well, it was at lunch time, and we were trying to get him more involved.
Kimberly asked him to join us, but she touched his face and he went into a
total panic. I... I kind of had to shake him out of it."
"It's okay," Donavon said. "What else happened?"
"He broke down, then, and started crying.... so I went over and just held
him... then he admitted something to us."
Donavon knew instantly what Tommy was going to say. "He said that Rick
Daniels raped him?"
Tommy nodded. "Yeah."
"I thought he might," Donavon said quietly. "He woke up screaming last
night, after a pretty horrific nightmare. He finally remembered everything
that happened to him, and it made him physically sick. He gave me a pretty
vivid description of what Daniels did to him. It took a lot of effort to
stay calm in front of him. How much did he tell you?"
"Only that Daniels raped him. He was really upset, so I didn't let him say
anymore. I didn't think he needed to. I kind of pushed him into saying that
Donavon nodded. "It's all right. He needed to admit it eventually, for his
own sake. He needed to admit that it really happened."
A dismal look flickered across Tommy's face. "I know, but I still feel bad.
I think he still wants to block it out, and I don't blame him."
Donavon watched in momentary silence as Jason finished working out and
collected his towel from the edge of the mat.
"Neither do I, Tommy. Neither do I."
A week later....
Jason sat by himself in the Youth Centre after school, waiting for his
friends to arrive. Tommy had walked with him to the Youth Centre, and had
seen him safely inside to a table, but had needed to go and take care of
business with the others. Now, he sat in silence, waiting for them to get
He thought of the incident a week ago at lunch as he waited. It had been a
week, but it still dominated his thoughts. None of them had made it to
their last classes. He had been so distraught that he had cried into
Tommy's shoulder for the duration of the two periods, and the others had
stayed as well.
At some point, Mr. Caplan had come looking for them, and had stayed for a
little while to try and offer some comfort and support. He'd then told them
not to worry about missing class, and had eventually gone back into the
Jason shivered. Of course, he had not told them everything, as he had told
his father. He could not have brought himself to say any of it, anyway. A
heavy sigh escaped him, and he slumped over a little in the seat. If he
could have possibly felt any worse than he did right then....
A shadow suddenly fell across the table, and Jason looked up to see a girl
that he didn't recognise standing there. The girl smiled tentatively, and
spoke with equal nervousness. "Hi, Jason."
Jason stared at her silently, a deeply wary look on his face. She glanced
at the empty chair, then back to Jason. "Mind if I sit down?" When Jason
didn't respond, the girl drew in a deep breath and sat down anyway. "I'm
Claire," she introduced herself with a nervous smile. "Claire Roberts.
Um.... You want a soda, or something...?" Still Jason remained silent,
merely glancing pointedly at the half full glass in front of him. Claire
smiled sheepishly. "I guess not."
"Did you want something?" He didn't intend to sound so cold, but over the
past week, one too many of his fellow students had come up and carelessly
asked him what it was like to be kidnapped. One student working on the
school newspaper had even asked him for an interview. He was half waiting
for someone to come up and ask him what it was like to be molested....
Claire gathered her courage and spoke. "Um, yeah.... Someone said you teach
karate classes. I was wondering if I could enroll. I've heard it's a good
way to boost self esteem. That's not something that I have that much of at
the moment. I was, um, hoping you could, maybe, help me out."
Jason stared blankly at Claire, barely able to believe what he was hearing.
Didn't she know what had happened to him...? He pulled his thoughts
together and spoke softly. "You're talking to the wrong person. You should
go and see Tommy Oliver."
Claire's expression altered a little. "No, Jason. You're the one I want to
talk to. I... I heard about what happened...." _along with everyone else
in the school_ she thought, kicking herself in the proverbial.
Jason's eyes narrowed. "Let me guess. You want to know what it's like to be
Claire returned his harsh stare easily, then. "No. I already know." The
anger fell away from Jason's face in an instant, only to be replaced by
suspicion. Claire went on softly. "Three and a half years ago, before me
and my folks moved here, I was on my way home from school when a man
stepped out from behind a tree, grabbed me, forced me into his car and
drove off. I was kept in a dirty little room for nearly two weeks before
the police finally found me. Does that sound familiar, Jason?"
Jason stared at her in tense silence, trying to decide whether she was
lying. He could tell by the look in her eyes, in the way she couldn't quite
bring herself to meet his gaze, that she was telling the truth. He let his
breath out in a rush, and the suspicion faded away. "You're asking me to
teach you karate?"
Claire smiled, this time more broadly. "Yes. Listen, Jason. My folks moved
us here almost straight after I was found, so I never had any friends to
help me get by each day. You're lucky that you do have that. Nobody in this
town knows what happened to me, except a few of the teachers. So, apart
from my folks, I'm totally alone."
Jason could feel his stomach churning. Claire had just got how he was
feeling in one. Only Tommy seemed to really understand how badly frightened
he was, and even then... But all of a sudden, here was someone who
genuinely understood. "Three and a half years?" he echoed softly.
"Yes." She offered him a crooked smile. "I still talk to a shrink every so
Jason stared down at the tabletop, tears filling his eyes. "No one really
understands. They try, but they can't possibly know...."
"I know," Claire said. "I've been waiting for a chance to talk to you,
Jason. You made the first step by coming back from wherever it was that
you'd gone. There's still a long way to go, though. Will you let me help
Jason stared wonderingly at the timid girl. "You want to help me...?"
Claire shrugged a little. "Maybe we can help each other. I don't have any
real friends. None that I can talk to, or tell all of this to. You're the
first person I've told. I'd like us to be friends, Jason. I think we could
help each other."
Jason stared at her for a long moment, then managed a faint, nervous smile.
"Do you still want karate lessons?"
Claire nodded eagerly. "Yes. I was serious about that. Do you think I could
Jason stood up. "Why wait? C'mon, we'll start now."
* * *
A short while later, Tommy, Zack and Billy entered the Youth Centre looking
for Jason. "Where is he?" Tommy muttered, looking around anxiously.
Zack nudged him lightly and motioned to the practise mats. "He's over
there, with that girl."
Tommy and Billy both looked around sharply, and spotted Jason a short
distance away on the practise mats. It seriously looked as though he was
teaching basic karate to the girl he was with. Tommy started forward, but
Zack caught his arm and held him back.
"Leave him be, Tommy. We'll wait over here for him." Tommy reluctantly
conceded, and followed his friends over to sit down at an empty table.
* * *
Forty minutes later, after Trini and Kimberly had arrived, Jason finally
came over and joined his friends, bringing the girl with him. "Hey, guys.
This is Claire." He went round the table, introducing his five best friends
who, in turn, greeted Claire warmly.
"You were looking pretty good out there," Tommy said with a smile.
Jason smiled back tiredly. The session had wiped him out, and they could
all see it. "No, I wasn't, but thanks anyway. I'll be back in a minute.
I'm walking Claire outside to her dad's car."
Jason led Claire from the Youth Centre, leaving his friends to stare after
him in surprise.
* * *
"Will I see you tomorrow?" Jason asked as they ventured outside. Claire
hesitated. Being in the other sophomore class, she had a different
schedule, and it was likely that they would not meet up. "I have lunch
from 12 to 1."
Jason looked gloomy. "I'm from 1 till 2."
Claire nodded. "Okay. We'll meet here after school, then. Thanks, Jason."
Surprise flickered across Jason's face. "What for? I should be thanking
"But you didn't have to listen to me." She smiled a little. "I'm just glad
we met." She trailed off as they locked gazes for just a second. In that
instant, a look of mutual understanding passed between them, that very
nearly flared into something else. Claire felt her face grow hot, and she
turned and jogged the short distance to her father's car.
Jason waited nervously until she was in the car, before turning and
hurrying back into the Youth Centre.
* * *
"Who was that?" Ted Roberts asked curiously as Claire settled into the
She watched as Jason disappeared back inside, then spoke quietly. "Jason
Ted blinked as he guided the car out of the Youth Centre's parking lot.
"You finally caught up with him, huh? How's he coping?"
Claire shrugged. "He seems okay on the outside. We talked a bit. I might see him again
tomorrow. I hope I do."
A faint smile flickered across her father's face. "You know you can tell
him he's welcome any time at the house."
Claire smiled more broadly, and felt her cheeks grow inexplicably again.
"Let's see how he reacts to me, first," she said. "I don't want to push him
too hard. I think he's finding it hard enough to get by now."
Ted sighed softly, the smile fading from his face. "Well, sweetheart, from
the way you described him, I'd say he's going to need all the help he can
Claire fell silent, knowing from personal experience that her father was
* * *
Jason headed to class the next morning, struggling to fight off a powerful
sensation of nausea. He'd had a particularly bad night, his sleep broken up
by horrific nightmares, and he'd been physically sick during the night.
He'd gotten very little sleep, and it was because he was only half aware of
everything that was happening around him that he'd made it to school. He
was a little more alert now, though, and the fear was taking hold
He rounded the corner with Tommy and Zack, and was both startled and
pleased when he ran into Claire outside his math class. "This must be Miss
Appleby's math class, huh?" she asked tentatively.
Jason nodded. "Yeah. Did you get a timetable change?"
"Uh huh. They said my results from the midterms were good enough to put me
in the higher class."
Jason pulled a twisted smile as they went inside. "Maybe you can help me,
then. If I'm not careful, they'll be dropping me back into the lower
class." They sat down next to each other, and then Jason realised
something. "This means we'll be having lunch at the same time!"
Claire's face lit up. "That's right!"
Jason sat back, a hint of a real smile on his face. Perhaps he would be
able to get through the day after all.
* * *
"Not too many people know about everything that happened," Jason said
softly as he sat under a tree with Claire at lunch time.
Claire nodded. "I just know what we heard from the teachers. That you had a
broken leg, and jaw, and that you were beaten up pretty badly."
Jason looked at her questioningly. "Only that...?"
She smiled a little. "Well, everyone knows you were a walking zombie for
nearly five weeks after leaving the hospital. In case you're wondering,
though, everyone's just been minding their own business."
Jason looked away. "Everyone except the ones who have the gall to come up
and ask me what it was like."
Claire watched him for a long moment before speaking. "How many people know
all the details?"
"So far, only my dad. I mean, aside from the doctors... and the police...
But I've only told my dad. It's bad enough that the others know
He trailed off, stumbling over the words. Claire encouraged him gently.
"Know about what?"
Jason shook his head, and Claire didn't push him. Instead, she related some
of her own ordeal to him. He listened silently, then spoke in a trembling
voice. "Did he.... Did he rape you?"
Claire hesitated for just a moment, then gave a quick nod, unable to look
straight at him. "Yes. He did. Not at first, though. To start with, he came
in and just stared at me. Then, he started to... do things. He started
touching me... Then, one day he came in and he raped me. That was the day
before the police found me. If they'd been just one day earlier...."
She paused, then, looking over at Jason in sudden concern as realisation
struck her. "Is that what happened to you? He... raped you?"
Jason didn't answer. Instead, he looked away, tears overflowing and
spilling down his cheeks. Claire felt a rush of understanding and sympathy
for the distressed teen. Then, after a moment's hesitation, she reached
over and slipped her hand into Jason's.
Jason looked back at her through his tears, a little disconcerted. Claire co
uldn't quite bring herself to smile, but she squeezed his hand gently,
reassuringly. He sat back against the tree, the silent, mutual
understanding giving him courage.
* * *
"Where's Jason?" Tommy asked in concern as he finally joined his friends.
Kimberly smiled. "He's with Claire, just around the corner."
Tommy frowned, and went to see for himself. He came back a moment later,
surprised. "He's with Claire...."
Kimberly rolled her eyes. "Duh.... Isn't that what I just said?"
Tommy sat down with a graceless thud between Kimberly and Billy. "I know. I
just didn't expect it. Something weird is going on. They're even holding
Zack nearly choked on his Pepsi. "What!?"
"Seriously," Tommy replied. "I couldn't quite hear, but I think he was
telling her about what happened to him."
"He only met her yesterday," Trini said, confused.
Tommy smiled grimly. "I know. That's why I'd like to know what's going on."
"We can't force him to talk to us," Billy put in quietly. "We just have to
wait until he's ready."
Tommy didn't reply, but simply stared thoughtfully at the grass.
* * *
"Do you still get bad nightmares?" Jason asked softly.
Claire stared up at the sky for a long moment before replying. "Every so
often I get bad ones. It isn't as bad as it used to be, though. A year and
a half ago I was on dream suppressants, the nightmares were so bad. Half
the time I felt like I was in the middle of Freddy Krueger movie."
"I have nightmares every night," Jason said. "Half the time they make me
sick. Sometimes I don't want to go to sleep, because I'm scared that I'll
dream about it."
"I know. It'll get better with time. Try not to let it beat you."
"I just wish I knew why," he said, sounding stricken. "Why did it happen?
What did I do wrong...?"
Claire held his hand tightly. "You didn't do anything wrong. Keep telling
yourself that, every minute of the day if you have to. It was just a freak
thing. It wasn't your fault, Jason. Don't blame yourself."
Jason swallowed hard and said nothing. The truth was that he could believe
that the kidnapping itself was not his fault, nor was the abuse that
followed. However, there was something that he couldn't get past. Why
hadn't his friends been able to rescue him...? They had told him all they
had tried to do, of course, but it didn't settle his doubts. Why had only
his morpher and his coin teleported, and not him?
There was only one reason that he could think of. Somehow, somewhere along
the line, he had done something wrong, and misused the power. Therefore,
when Zordon tried to teleport him, it had been unsuccessful. Maybe what had
happened was not his fault directly, but perhaps it had been some sort of
punishment for a previous wrongdoing.
Jason shut his eyes against the tears. If only he knew for certain....
* * *
Claire watched Jason out of the corner of her eye as they sat together.
Something was eating away at him, something that he either wouldn't or
couldn't share with her. She remained silent. It was not her place to force
him to tell her anything.
She glanced down at his hand in her own. They were both comfortable like
that, and she could sense it was the start of a what would be a close
friendship. She sighed inwardly and leant back fully against the tree.
Perhaps in time he would be able to share more with her. Until then, she
would just be there for him as much as she could.
* * *
Over the next several days, despite his meeting Claire, Jason's resolve
began to fail. The nightmares, already severe, seemed to gain in intensity,
and it steadily became more difficult for him to get by each day. He became
frightened to go to sleep at night, and it took his parents more effort to
get him to give in and go to sleep, and the small amount of comfort offered
by his friends did less to help him survive.
Eventually, it reached the point where, one night, Jason was unable to
sleep at all, so afraid was he of the nightmares that plagued his
unconscious mind. His mother came in to him the next morning and, after one
look, knew he hadn't slept at all.
"I want to stay home today," Jason whispered when Sarah came in. She walked
over and sat down next to him on the bed.
"You didn't sleep last night, did you?"
"No," he admitted, eyes downcast. "Just a few minutes here and there.
Please don't make me go to school today. I'm too tired. I can't cope."
Sarah felt a rush of concern. She and Donavon had been waiting for this.
Jason had been so steadfast in his determination to get through school each
day, and they'd had to stand by and watch as his will started to fail. Now,
she was afraid he was simply giving in and quitting altogether. "I'll talk
to your father," she said softly and, getting up, hurried from the
* * *
Donavon looked up from his coffee as Sarah came back into the room.
"In his room. Donavon, he asked to stay home today. I told him I'd talk to
Donavon put down his coffee mug and got to his feet. "How did he look?"
Sarah shook her head. "Not good. He's very tired. I don't think he got any
sleep at all last night. I'm worried that he's giving in...."
Without another word, Donavon strode from the room.
* * *
Jason looked around slowly as his father walked into his room. He had not
moved so much as an inch from where his mother had left him. He simply did
not have the strength to move. Donavon came around to stand in front of
him. One look, and he saw that Jason was losing his will to fight.
"I want to stay home," Jason said, able to look his father in the eye for
only a brief second.
Donavon hesitated before speaking. "I'll let you stay home today if you
can look me in the eye and tell me that you'll go tomorrow."
Jason shut his eyes. He could neither look his father in the eye, nor make
that promise even to convince himself. Donavon nodded.
"All right. Get up, Jason. You're going to get dressed and got to school,
and if you want to save yourself from being late, you'll move yourself
Jason looked up at his father then, distressed. "Please, Dad.... I didn't
get any sleep last night. I was too scared to sleep...."
"And now you're too scared to go outside," Donavon interrupted. "I'm not
going to let you give in, Jason. You're not going to shut yourself away.
Now get up."
Tears flooded Jason's eyes. "Can't you understand? I don't want to go...."
"Why not?" Donavon asked, crouching down in front of Jason. "Why don't you
want to go to school today? I told you, if you can look me in the eye and
tell me that you're just tired, and that you'll go tomorrow, then I'll let
you stay home. Otherwise, you're going to get up and get dressed, even if I
have to dress you myself."
Jason shuddered a little. "You wouldn't force me..."
"Yes, I would, Jason. Please don't make me fight with you on this. If you
don't go to school today, you might not make it back there at all. You know
it as well as I do. Don't let me down, son."
The tears flowed freely then, and Jason's voice trembled badly as he spoke.
"Why does everything I do have to be for someone else? You tell me not to
let you down... Everyone tells me to do it for them. I'm sick of it! I
don't want to do it anymore. I don't want to do anything anymore! I just
want to stay here, where I can feel safe!"
Donavon straightened up, walked over to a large chest-of-drawers and took
out a fresh set of clothes, black pants and a red shirt. "I'm going to get
you dressed, Jason. Please don't fight me."
Jason stared at his father with a mixture of grief and anger. "What will
you do if I fight you? Will you send me away?"
Donavon regarded Jason coolly. "I worked for six years in a psychiatric
hospital before you were born. I know how to dress people that don't want
to be dressed. Don't fight me, Jason."
Jason, however, could not help it. Panic overcoming reason at the prospect
of having to go outside, he fought his father hard. Donavon was prepared,
though, and he forcibly dressed his son in a matter of minutes.
By the time Donavon let Jason go, the teen was crying openly. Donavon
watched his son grimly. "Are you going to fight me all the way to the
"I hate you...." Jason whimpered, shying away from his father.
"I know, son. You're going to hate me even more if you don't get up now and
walk out to the car."
Jason got up slowly, but instead of walking out the door, he moved back
into the farthest corner of the room. "Don't make me go, Dad. Please, don't
make me go outside...."
Donavon walked over to stand in front of Jason. "You're going to fight me
all the way, aren't you? Jason, I'm giving you one last chance...."
Jason pressed back against the wall, terror building up inside him. The
images in front of him blurred and faded, and instead of his father, he saw
Rick Daniels... Carl Daniels.... both reaching out for him....
Hands closed firmly on his shoulders and pulled him forcibly towards the
bedroom door. Jason shut his eyes, fighting the fast growing panic and
struggling against his father as much as he could. It wasn't enough. He
was still weak and tired, even after two weeks of awareness, and could not
match his father's superior strength. He was dragged, fighting uselessly,
out of the house and to the waiting car.
Sarah watched in distress from the sidelines as Donavon pulled Jason from
the bedroom and forced him out to the family car. As much as it upset her,
she did not interfere. She did not want to see Jason shut himself away
anymore than her husband.
Walking out onto the porch, she watched as Donavon put Jason in the car and
hurried around to get in behind the wheel. Jason had sunk down in the seat,
and was staring down, refusing to look out. Donavon spared his wife a brief
look, then pulled out of the driveway and drove off up the street.
* * *
Jason looked up slowly to see that the car had pulled up outside the school
gate, but he didn't move. Donavon sighed inwardly before speaking.
"You know I'll take you in there myself if I have to. Don't make it
Jason finally flung the car door open and got out, his anger at his father
overriding his fear of being outside, and by himself.
"Don't bother coming for me this afternoon," he said in a bitter voice.
"I'll get a ride with someone."
Donavon returned Jason's angry stare angrily. "It's for your own good,
Jason. I can't let you quit now."
"How would you know whether I was quitting?" Jason snarled. "When you
dragged me out of the house this morning, all I could think of was Carl
Daniels grabbing me and trying to force me into the car. You made me relive
all that again, and I hate you for it! I hate you!" He turned and ran
through the school gate and into the building, not looking back.
* * *
Everyone looked up, startled, as Jason literally stormed into the
classroom, sitting down with a heavy thud in a seat in the back row. He
refused to meet anyone's gaze, including Claire's, and merely stared
desolately at the tabletop.
Miss Appleby pointedly avoided mentioning Jason's late, rather theatrical
entrance, and simply went on with the class. Tommy, in the seat next to
Jason, tried to catch his gaze, but Jason refused to look up. All Tommy
could see were the tears that spilt onto the other boy's books.
Tommy sat back with a thud. He would simply have to wait until lunch time,
and hope that Jason would have calmed down enough to talk to him
* * *
Claire was the first to catch up with Jason. She ambushed him between mid
morning classes and, before he had a chance to say or do anything, she
pushed him very firmly into the library, and into one of the study
"Okay. What happened?"
Jason sat down with a thud. "I didn't want to come this morning. Dad made
Claire pulled up a chair in front of him. "More nightmares?"
"Sort of. I was too scared to go to sleep last night, Claire. I was too
frightened of having nightmares. I just wanted to stay home today, but Dad
forced me to come...."
Claire was confused. "How could he force you to come to school?" Jason went
on to explain how his father had dressed him, and then literally dragged
him out to the car. Claire listened in grim silence before speaking softly.
"Would you really have been able to come tomorrow?"
"I couldn't even convince myself that I would," Jason admitted, tears
Claire reached out and gently lifted his face so that he was looking at
her. "Then you had to come. Don't give up now, Jason. You've gotta keep
Jason pulled away from her. "Why?" he asked , his voice laced with
bitterness. "For you?"
Claire was surprised, but not hurt by the callous remark. She knew, then,
what was upsetting him. "Of course not, stupid," she retorted. Jason stared
at her in astonishment, and she moved closer, putting her hands firmly on
his shoulders. "You have to keep fighting for yourself. Of course
everyone's going to be disappointed if you cave, but they don't count. Can
you look at me and tell me that you're honestly happy to give up and lock
yourself away for the rest of your life? 'Cause it can happen, Jason.
Everything you do, you do it for yourself. Every step you take, every
single day, it has to be for you, not for anyone else. When some tells you
to 'do it for them', or not to let them down, ignore it. If you give up,
you'll only really be letting yourself down. That's all you have to think
Jason stared at her, nearly blinded by his tears. "I can't keep it up,
Claire. It's too hard."
She nodded. "Because you're trying to do it alone. You need more help than
you want to admit."
Jason hung his head. He knew she was right. Claire took a chance and,
moving closer still, put her arms around him in a warm hug. "Don't give up
on yourself, Jason. Don't let the creep who took you win."
Before he really knew what he was doing, Jason put his arms around Claire
and buried his face in her shoulder. They stayed in each other's arms for a
* * *
"How're you holding up, Jase?" Tommy asked when Jason joined the group at
lunch. Jason shrugged a little.
"Tired. I didn't get much sleep last night."
There was a long pause, and then Zack spoke tentatively. "You looked pretty
upset this morning. Is everything okay?"
_no_ Jason wanted to scream at his friends. _no, everything is not okay..._
He looked away, biting back his anger. "Sure."
Tommy hesitated, then reached over and put one hand lightly on Jason's
shoulder. Jason flinched a little, but did not pull away. "If you need
someone to yell at, Jase, I'm right here."
Jason managed a weak smile. "Thanks, but I'd rather take it out on a
punching bag." _so i can get my strength up and fight my dad properly the
next time he tries to force me to go to school..._
"Saw you talking with Claire Roberts in the library," Kimberly commented in
what she hoped was a casual tone.
Jason stared uncomfortably at the ground. "We, uh... She just wanted to
know if I was okay." Kimberly nodded calmly. She wisely kept her mouth
shut, not repeating that she had seen the two in each other's arms. Jason
glanced up at her, then away again. "Claire understands.... a lot of what
happened. She's been... helping me get by."
Zack frowned a little. "Why do I get the feeling you're telling Claire more
than you're telling us?"
Discomfort flashed across Jason's face. "She... She understands...."
"And we don't?" Zack asked.
Tommy put a restraining hand on Zack's shoulder. "Take it easy, man. It's
okay, Jase. Look, if you can talk to Claire, then go for it. Just don't
forget we're all here, okay?"
Before Jason had a chance to reply, though, their communicators began to
beep loudly. Exchanging gloomy looks, Tommy spoke into his communicator
while the others looked around for prying eyes and ears. "What's up,
"There is an emergency," Zordon said, predictably. "You must all teleport
"Okay," Tommy replied. "The other's are coming. I'll just take Jason to the
"Don't worry about me, Tommy," Jason said in a disturbingly dull voice.
"I'll be okay."
Tommy stared at Jason for a long moment, then spoke quietly to his friends.
"You guys go ahead. I'll be there as soon as possible."
The four teens hurried off to find a deserted area to teleport from,
leaving Tommy with Jason. "C'mon, buddy. I'll take you to the Youth
Centre." Jason went without protest, but as they reached the building, he
turned suddenly and spoke in a strained voice. "If you have a chance, can
you ask Zordon something for me, Tommy?"
Tommy nodded. "Sure, Jase. What is it?"
Jason hesitated, then forced it out. "Can you ask him what I did wrong?"
Tommy froze. "What d'you mean?"
"Just ask him," Jason whispered. He turned and hurried into the Youth
Centre, leaving Tommy to wonder what was going on.