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Cutscene: A Mother Worries

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9:25 AM

"Sweetie, are you sure you don't need anything?"

Greg blinked away the fuzziness of sleep from his eyes as he stared up at his mother, a perfect copy of his own blues looking down at him with a furrowed brow. Pursing his lips, he shrunk away from her hand as she brought it closer to his forehead. Trying to ignore her hurt expression as he avoided her touch, Greg spoke up.

"Mom," the whine in his voice was obvious to him, but he didn't care much right now, "I told you like five times. I'm not dying or anything. I just don't feel that great."

"Greg, you're burning up. Just let me-"

"Mom, just go to sleep. You just got back from work," Greg pleaded, desperate for her to just leave. "I'm fine."

Greg had been laying in bed, finally asleep after spending several hours awake once he got home. With his wounds still recovering, Greg had had no choice but to drop himself into the bathtub while in the buff, just spending time watching his blood go down the shower drain as he waited impatiently for his legs and torso to heal over.

Falling asleep in the bathtub hadn't been intentional. Really, he hadn't planned on staying in there any longer than he absolutely had to. After all, it was a cold, hard, piece of porcelain, one of the farthest things from his warm, comfortable bed. Thing is, he was tired and, Gamer's Body or not, he still needed sleep like everyone else. Waking up perfectly healed and in a bathtub stained with dried blood had been a shock, surprising Greg for a few moments. Another shock had been the additional three points he had gained to his VIT. Pulling his phone from his inventory and realizing that it was already a quarter to nine in the morning had been a third, yet much more powerful, shock to his system, the realization telling him two things.

One, he had missed school and two, his mom's night shift ended in fourteen minutes.

The rush of cleaning that followed would have been worthy of a montage. That is, if his life was a movie and not a video game. Using healthy amounts of bleach, Greg had scrubbed the bathtub free of any blood, as well as cleaning the minute trails he had left behind on the bathroom tile. With all that done, he finally crawled into his own bed, deciding he might as well go back to sleep anyway.

Less than thirty minutes after he had crawled into his bed and fallen asleep once more, his mom had rushed into his room, eyes wide. The sound of his door impacting the wall had been loud enough to jolt him from his sleep, Greg's eyes darting open suddenly to see his mom, still clad in her blue scrubs, as she made her way from the doorway to his bedside in a hurry. Questions flew from her in a rushed tone, asking him what was wrong, why he hadn't gone to school, and multiple times, "Are you sure you're okay, Greggie?"

"Mooom," the word left his mouth with a sigh, Greg draping an arm over his face. "I'm fine. You just got back from work, though. Go, sleep already."

"How can I sleep when you're burning up, Greg?" Above the covers, her hand found his, her fingers gripping on to him tightly before Greg could think to pull away. "You have a fever and your skin… it's so clammy. You need me."

One hand still over his face, Greg winced. Note to self; using powers to make myself sweat a little was a bad idea. After giving his mom the excuse that he hadn't gone to school because he was sick, that was exactly what Greg had done. With one hand under the covers, Greg had generated heat from one finger, not even enough to start a fire, and used a slight bit of aerokinesis to circulate the heated air around his body. In Greg's opinion, it was a genius idea when he came up with it.

"I'm just worried about you, Greg," Susan continued quietly.

"Worried?" Greg asked, echoing the statement into a question. He lifted his hand from his head and stared up at his mom. "About what?"

"Not for any specific reason." Susan blinked, shaking her head slightly. She pulled her hand away from his quickly, clutching her fingers to her chest as she worked her mouth for a second, saying nothing. "... Just… just worried. In general. You understand?"

Greg sat up wordlessly, pursing his lips slightly. "I guess. I just don't want you to stress too much. You already worked all night."

"Exactly." Susan pulled him into a hug, tightening her grip around him as she stroked his hair with one hand. "I spent all night taking care of sick people. What's one more at home?"

Greg let out a sigh, blowing several strands of his mom's hair out of his face as he did so. Pulling away from her, he looked into his mom's eyes, her concerned gaze forcing an undercurrent of guilt to rise in his stomach. Fine.

This was his fault anyway. He was the one who had the smart idea of pretending to be sick so as not to get in trouble for missing school. If his mom wanted to take care of him for a little bit before she decided to let herself rest, then he could live with that.

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9:55 AM


"So…"

Spoon inside his mouth, Greg gave his mom a short hum of acknowledgement and nodded. "It's… it's good, Mom." He nodded again, a little slower this time. "Your chicken soup is always good, you know."

"That's nice," Susan replied.

Greg gave a quick glance up at his mother, the blonde woman sitting at the foot of his bed still in her scrubs and wooly white button-up. One hand played with his comforter, making slight tents with her fingers in the cloth emblazoned with Eidolon's image while the fingers on the other hand tapped out an unsteady rhythm on his wooden bed post. Her gaze drifted around, almost as if she was studying his room like it was a puzzle.

His mom, as nice as she was, had a tendency to be clingy. In all fairness, Greg knew he could be the same way. Still, Greg knew enough to let her have some space on occasion. Problem was, his mom didn't seem to have that same courtesy for him.

Case in point, right now.

Quickly glancing down at his tray before she turned back to him, Greg gave a quiet sigh. Grabbing a peeled tangerine from the tray, he tossed a piece into his mouth and tried to think. His mom had brought him a tray full of "sick food" not too long ago; chicken soup, tangerines, hot tea with honey and lemon, etc. It was nice, yeah. It'd be even nicer if Mom didn't sit here while I ate.

"Did I buy that for you?"

Susan's voice caused Greg to pick his head up, letting the tangerine in his hand fall back onto the tray. "Hmm?"

Susan turned to face her son, Greg blinking at her pensive expression. "That? Did I buy it for you?" Greg blinked again, his gaze following the path of her outstretched arm as it pointed at the large decal over his computer desk, the image of Alexandria in a heroic pose staring down at the both of them. "I've seen them all the time in your room but I don't remember where they came from."

Greg blinked. "What?"

"The poster things, Greg."

"No… I know what you mean but…" Greg shook his head, as he gave a slight shrug, unsure of why his mom was asking this.

"Okay, look, you bought them, Mom. You did," Greg repeated as he caught Susan's confused glance. "For my twelfth birthday. You got me the Eidolon one too. It's by my bookcase." He gestured towards the life-like poster image of the green cloaked hero without even looking, his mother's eyes moving towards it in confusion.

Her lips pursed, Susan frowning in slight confusion the longer she stared. "I… I don't remember that."

Greg let out a soft sigh and moved the tray on his lap to his bedside table, giving his mom a weak smile as he did so. "Yeah, I… I didn't really have a party that year. You remembered but… it was kinda late already to do anything… or get anyone to come… so you bought me some more stuff. A lot more stuff, really," Greg added as an afterthought, his mind going back to the near-mountain of toys and stuff his mother had purchased for him that day.

"Oh, sweetheart," Susan shook her head and got up, moving over to Greg's side to draw her son into a hug. "I'm so sorry."

Greg laughed a little, shaking his head again. "Mom, you… you don't have to apologize. I got to pick out all my gifts that year. How many kids get to go shopping for their own presents?" He hugged his mom a little tighter, making sure to keep his grip loose enough so as not to hurt her. "It was fun."

Susan let out a slight whining sound, pulling away enough for Greg to see the slight tears in her eyes. "I remember that now. I was… not feeling my best that morning, sweetie. You woke up all happy for your birthday and there was just nothing downstairs except for me sleeping on the couch."

Greg nodded, clicking his tongue slightly. "Yeah." He very kindly chose not to mention that he knew that his mother was hung-over that morning, and that the only reason she was on the couch was because she couldn't manage to get herself to bed the night before. "You weren't… weren't really feeling your best that year, you know."

"I'm here now. Things are better." Susan stood up, smoothing Greg's hair back with one hand as she did so. Her other hand came up to give her son a gentle pat on the cheek as she held his gaze firmly. "I love you, sweetheart. You're my little boy and I will always be here for you. Anything you need to talk to me about, anything you're worried about, anything at all… you can come to me because I would do anything for you. No matter what… okay?" Her eyes seemed to bore into him, as if desperately pleading for him to say something back.

A weak smile grew on Greg's face, the feeling of guilt skyrocketing at his mom's words and the prolonged eye contact, the blond giving a slight wince as he leaned away from his mother's touch ever so slightly. "I, uh... I love you too, Mom."

Susan stared at her son for several seconds, the time for Greg seeming to stretch on far longer. "Alright, then." Greg blinked at his mom's tone, wondering why she suddenly sounded so different.

Her hand let go of his hair and Susan began to walk over to his open door, the smile on her face matching his in how frail it was. "I'm gonna get some rest, Greg."

"Kay. Bye, Mom."

Susan's hand gripped the doorknob as she smiled back at her son, nodding slowly. As the door closed behind her, leaving Greg alone in his cluttered mess of a room, the teenager was left wondering if he said something wrong.

– o – o – o – o – o – o – o –


9:59 AM

As she walked into her room and closed the double doors behind her, Susan Veder closed her tired eyes and let out a long, slow breath. Blinking the exhaustion out of her eyes, she rubbed her cheeks as she walked over to her vanity, staring at her exhausted face in the mirror.

A finger rose to touch her lower eyelid and the blonde woman let out a sigh as she poked at the skin. "... Five thousand for an eyelid lift and I'm making every cent count," she muttered to herself, shaking her head.

Dragging herself over to her bed, Susan sat down on the edge and stretched a hand out, opening the top drawer on her side table and pulling out a poorly folded brochure, the once glossy paper now a rather wrinkled and frayed mess. The original sharp creases of the folded paper were almost invisible among the many other folds and bends on the paper, rendering it's contents barely readable. Still, Susan didn't really mind. She almost knew it's contents by heart at this point.

She had picked it from the hospital weeks ago, around the same time she noticed Greg's growth spurt. She had walked past the collection of child-care brochures several times every day for the last couple of years, paying them no real attention because her specialty wasn't pediatrics. However, she couldn't help but pick it up one day, the title almost calling out to her.

Could Your Child Be A Parahuman?
10 Signs and Symptoms of a Super-Powered Youth.


That was a question Susan wasn't sure she wanted answered, if only because the truth might be a lot more that she could handle. Still, what else could it be? What else could have changed her little boy so much? It had been too much, far too much for her to ignore. She saw her son every single day and had taken care of him since the day she came home from the hospital. How could she not notice?

If it had just been a mild increase in height or weight, Susan might have brushed it off as just her son growing into his body, but it wasn't. It was all just so… sudden. Almost as if she left the house one day and her son was replaced by someone else with the same face, and voice, but with an entirely different body.

Not to mention the change in his behavior, the hours he spent exercising, his massive appetite and, the strangest thing, her son's sudden maturity. He whined far less, he actually seemed to listen when she spoke, he spent more time on his appearance, and he actually seemed to notice what she didn't say, on occasion. That was… a little unsettling, even compared to everything else.

Susan Veder knew her son. She knew his faults, his strengths, his favorites and his personality…

Most of all, she knew when he was hiding something.

The blonde sighed and flipped the brochure over, staring at the back for a few long moments. Can I go through with this? Her fingers tapped against her thigh as she pondered her options, wondering if she really needed to do this. Should I talk to him? Susan shook her head at the thought. She doubted Greg would tell her if she even tried asking him. He still assumed she didn't know about that girl he was with and he was barely even trying to hide that. Sighing, Susan pulled her phone from her pocket and pressed a single button, the one number she had on speed dial the last few days coming up immediately.

Raising the phone to her ear, she let out another deep sigh, closing her eyes. It's for the best.

"You've reached the PRT Hotline."

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zfighter18

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