Chapter 7:Hospital

Jason leaned against the wall of the elevator in silent contemplation. It seemed a lot of things could happen in a week. The doctors had admitted they had no idea why Amber wouldn't wake, and had tried to suggest pulling the plug. Tommy was barely able to hold him back as he screamed Chinese curses he hadn't even remembered he knew. Then a few days later, Tommy had offered him the chance to become a Ranger again.

He'd pounced on it. In retrospect, he wasn't so proud of his reasons, but they'd needed a replacement for Trey, and he had fit the bill. This time it wasn't about saving the world and helping the innocent that he'd become a Ranger. It was for a purely selfish reason; he wanted Mondo to pay for hurting his Amby.

He nodded to the nurse at the desk, who had come to believe that he and Tommy were both Amber's brothers, and was allowed through without comment. He pushed open the door to her room and started. Billy glanced up from his seat beside the bed. "So this is why you agreed."

Jason stared for a moment before coming in all the way and closing the door behind him. "What are you doing here? And what do you mean, why I agreed?"

Billy looked at him seriously. "I've known you since we were thirteen, Jason. I saw you first become a Ranger. It was different this time. You were eager, and not for the same reasons. So I tracked your movements, threatened Tommy into spilling what had happened, and came to visit Amber myself." He glanced at the bed. "She may not like me much, but I always did appreciate her protectiveness for what it was. As for why I'm here, I thought you could use a friend. Even one you never bothered to mention something so important to."

Jason winced, leaning back against the wall. "I'm sorry." His voice sounded small even to him. "I just..."

He wasn't even aware he'd broken down again until Billy's arms went around him, rubbing his back soothingly. "You're a mess, Jason." the other boy murmured.

Jason's only answer was another sob.

It was quite awhile before he'd calmed down again. Billy never let go, just holding him in silent comfort. He sniffled at last, and Billy offered a tissue. That got a faint smile as he pulled away to blow his nose and scrub at his eyes. "You're right." he said finally, his voice hoarse. "I am a mess."

Billy looked him up and down, then sighed. "You forgot to call me."

Jason winced again. "I'm sorry."

He waved a hand dismissively. "It's not your fault, Jason. You're obviously not in your right mind. Tommy and I will be exchanging words, however." he muttered in aside. "In the meantime, I thought it might be beneficial if I ran a few scans from the Power Chamber to see if I can find anything the doctors have missed."

Jason stared at him. "You'd do that for me?"

Billy shook his head with a smile. "Of course. You're my friend. Besides, Amber was injured in a Cog attack. It's entirely likely this coma has something to do with-" The rest of his sentence was choked off by Jason grabbing him in a bear hug and squeezing tight. "Air, Jason." he wheezed. "I can't help her if I can't breathe."

Jason back off immediately with an embarassed "Sorry."

Billy smiled in fond exasperation. "It's understandable."

Both boys looked up as a head poked into the room hesitantly, and were startled to see Rocky. He seemed just as startled to see them, his eyes drifting to the figure in the bed. His brow furrowed. "This isn't what I was expecting."

Jason and Billy exchanged glances. Billy gave his friend's shoulder a squeeze. "I'll do my best, Jason. I'll contact you as soon as I know anything."

"Thanks, Billy."

Billy brushed past Rocky, eyeing the other boy in amusement. Rocky looked at him in confusion, which shifted into nervousness as he turned back to Jason. "Uh..."

Jason smiled and shook his head. "You can come in, Rocky."

He entered hesitantly, watching Jason take a seat beside the bed. His predecessor's eyes were still bloodshot, and he looked terrible. "Who is she?"

"My sister."

Rocky flinched. "Aw, man. I'm sorry, Jason." His tone was filled with such sincere regret that Jason couldn't bring himself to be angry at the sympathy.

Jason rubbed his eyes tiredly. "She was hurt an a Cog attack at her work. Tommy said she was trying to fight them off."

Rocky's eyes widened in recognition. "You mean *she's* your sister? Wow."

Jason glanced up warily. "What?"

"Your sister's a lot tougher than she looks." Rocky told him honestly.

A faint smile flickered across his face. "Yeah. She takes after our mother that way."

Rocky hesitated for a moment. "Why aren't your parents here?" He regretted asking the moment Jason's shoulders tensed. "Sorry." he offered uncertainly. "It's just that...I never really got to know much about you."

"That's true." Jason murmured. He sighed, leaning back in the chair to stare at the ceiling. "My parents died in a car accident when I was thirteen. Amber was only eight months away from her eighteenth birthday, so the court decided she was old enough to take care of herself. She fought them to keep me with her instead of going to a foster home."

"Don't you have any grandparents?" Rocky interupted softly.

He shook his head. "My parents were an interracial couple. Neither of their parents approved. Not to mention Mama got pregnant with Amber when she was sixteen. She and Papa wanted to get married, but they weren't going to be able to until after the baby was born. When Mama refused to leave him or abort the child, their parents disowned them."

Rocky winced. "Ouch."

"Mama was young, but she loved being a mother. I was born a few years later." He sighed softly. "All we had was each other, and we were happy. Amber was my annoying big sister, Papa taught me about honor and sports, and Mama looked after us and helped us with our karate." His eyes closed for a moment. "They were driving to an awards dinner when a drunk driver ran them off the road. When Amber got custody of me, things weren't exactly perfect. She didn't know how to be a mom, and I couldn't think of her as being in charge of me."

His gaze shifted back to the still form in the bed. "She wouldn't give up, though. We learned to work things out, and work together to make sure we stayed together. She's been my guardian for just about three years now, since right before we moved to Angel Grove. We still fight a lot, but we always work it out in the end."

"If you're so close, why did you leave for the peace conference?" Rocky asked, puzzled.

"That was one of our bigger fights." he admitted. "I was late getting home from a monster attack, and I was supposed to have cleaned the house for the social worker the next day. She accused me of not being able to handle responsibility, and I said my friends took better care of me than she did. I'd just gotten an application for the conference at school that morning. I figured if she didn't want me around, I wouldn't be around. I never actually expected to be accepted, but by then it was too late."

"Double ouch."

"We worked it out after I got there. We missed each too much to stay mad." He laughed softly. "My Christmas present from the guys was to send her to Europe for a visit."

"So that's what they were all excited about!" Rocky exclaimed. "I wondered."

He smiled. "Even Amber had to give them credit for that one. She's never liked my friends much because she's always worried about them getting me hurt."

"We sort of do." Rocky pointed out. "Not on purpose, but she's gotta be pretty perceptive to notice you getting hurt at all."

"She has this way of knowing when I'm not telling her something, almost like a sixth sense. I can *never* get away with keeping secrets from her. The Power is only reason she doesn't know I'm a Ranger." Jason told him.

They fell silent for awhile. Jason took Amber's hand, watching her still face. "This isn't right." he whispered. "Amber doesn't even stay still when she sleeps. She's never so quiet."

Rocky put a hand on his shoulder, his gaze sympathetic. "I wish there was something I could do, Jason. None of my brothers or sisters have ever been in the hospital for this long, but I know it'd kill me if they were."

Finding nothing to say in response, Jason settled for reaching up to pat Rocky's hand appreciatively.