Caldera Madre by jublke
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I never made it back to the apartment. Hell, I barely made it down the hall before the migraine hit, hammering my skull like a force of nature.  I tapped out a quick code on my wrist com and staggered to my Center Neptune dorm room before I fell down.

Jason arrived before I did with ice packs in hand, one for the crook of my neck, the other for the right side of my face.  I collapsed on my bed and he packed the ice around my head.  "Tough day at the office?" The words came with a smirk, but I saw genuine worry reflected in his eyes.  I had gone three months without a migraine, the longest span since my implant surgery, and we were both hoping that the headaches had finally gone away.  No such luck.  When it comes to our health, ever since Jason and I were hit with Dr. Glock's detransmutation ray, Lady Luck has eluded us.

I raised a heavy-lidded set of eyes to him.  "You have no idea."

He turned away from me abruptly to grab my desk chair.  After he had flipped it around so that he could sit backwards, he plopped down beside me.

"You can go now," I mumbled.

"No dice," Jason said. The tension in his voice caught me off-guard and I blinked up at him.  I wasn't prepared to be on the receiving end of one of Jason's tirades and he looked about to erupt.  "Now what the hell is going on?" my gunner demanded.  "First, you text me that you've got a whopper of a migraine and then the Chief grabs me in the hall and tells me that you're off-duty for a week and that he may be gone as well."  Jason's voice had risen in pitch, making him sound squeaky and petulant.  He must have realized the same thing, because he cleared his throat before adding, in a calmer tone, "I need to know what's going on, Mark."

I knew the truth would shock him silent. "My mother is dying," I explained. "I have to go and see her."

Jason's mouth opened, shut, and opened again.  "Your ... mother?"

Spikes of pain sliced across my head, crashing hard and fast into my cervical vertebrae.  I reached up with one hand to rub the bridge of my nose and massaged the base of my skull with the other before responding.  "Yes," I answered, with effort. "Can you shut off the light?" I grimaced and covered my face with my arm.

Blissfully, the light disappeared, but Jason seemed determined to pepper me with questions.  "You're going to see your mother?  Your mother is still alive?"

"Can't we talk about this later?" I mumbled, peeking out one eye from under my arm.

Jason shook his head.  "Unbelievable.  All this time, when Keyop and Princess and me would bitch and moan about not having any family ... you lied to us." He stood up, anger radiating from him in waves.  "I can't believe that you lied to us."

I grit my teeth and sat up.  "It's not that simple, Jason."

He paced around my dorm room, waving his arms.  "How's it not simple, Mark?  I've known you for what, thirteen years?  You don't think that once, in all that time, you could have mentioned this to me?  Why didn't you tell anyone?  Why haven't you gone to see her? For God's sake, Mark, she's your mother!"

I turned away from him and stared at the wall.  "Get out."

"Gladly," Jason spat back.  "For a guy who talks about loyalty and duty, you sure have a funny way of showing it."

He was halfway to the door when I spoke lowly, jaw clenched.  "You have no idea what you're talking about."

Jason whirled, arms folded, and regarded me with disdain.  "Enlighten me."

I was about to flip off a snide remark when another wave of pain racked me.  I shook my head and put a hand to my face.  It's so hard to concentrate with a migraine, why can't you see that?  It's so hard to live with her, with my memories of her.  She never wanted me.

Sometimes, I'd swear that Jason is telepathic.  He was back at my side in an instant.  "Come on, lie down.  I'll repack your head."

As he eased me back onto the bed, I whispered, "She didn't want me, Jason.  After Cronus left, she ..."

"Where's your medicine?" Jason interrupted.  I gestured at my desk drawer and he pulled out a small bottle, shook out a pill, and handed it to me, studying my face.  "She really messed you up, huh."

I swallowed the pill dry.  "Yeah.  Child protective services took me.  I was in foster care for months while they tracked down Cronus." I swallowed again, painfully, but whether it was from the bitter pill or the bitter memories, I wasn't certain.

Jason raised his eyebrows and walked into the adjoining bathroom.  He returned with a glass of water, half empty.  "Cronus came back?"  I took a sip and shook my head.  Jason frowned at me.  "Quit moving your head," he ordered, command-style, which I guess was appropriate since I clearly was in no shape to be in charge of anything.  "So Cronus didn't come back, played dead," Jason mused.  "How'd you wind up with the Chief? I always thought that Cronus handed you over for safe-keeping when he went undercover."

I started to shake my head again, caught Jason's somber gaze, and stopped.  "He's next of kin.  My mother is Chief Anderson's sister."

Chapter End Notes:
Minor edit on 3/9/13.
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