Chapter 2

Derek is sitting at the kitchen table, cleaning his gun.

"Getting ready to take out the new guy?" John teases.

Then he sees the look on Derek's face and realizes this might not be a joke. "Derek?"

"Yeah. How'd he find us, John?"

"Um..."

"Hasn't seen her in 16 years, and he just shows up one day? Do you really still believe there are coincidences?"

"Okay. So we should talk to him."

"Yeah. We should. He's not staying here."

"We have Cam..."

"She shouldn't be staying here either."

John sighs. "We're not talking about that either."

"He's right," a voice says. He turns, and there is Cameron, in the doorway. "About both of us."

"Excuse me?"

"We've talked about this already. You know you shouldn't have brought me back."

"We are NOT talking about this!"

"And there is something you should know about the visitor," Cameron says.

"All right, that, we can talk about."

Even Derek has put down the gun, and is listening.

"His nephew. The one called Migue. I recognize the name. He's on a list."

John frowns. "What kind of list?"

"I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know?" Derek asks.

"I have a lot of lists. Some of them are a little..."

"Scrambled?" Derek asks. "Like your chip?"

"Vague," she answers. "They are watch lists. People Skynet wants its operatives to keep an eye on."

"But you're not one of Skynet's operatives."

"Well, not anymore. But I was, before John reprogrammed me, and I saw the lists. I have a photographic memory."

"But you don't know why this guy was on the list?"

"No. He could be a friend of Skynet. Or he could be an enemy. There are a lot of lists."

"So you said. So, what do we do about this?"

"I don't know."

"Great. Thanks." Derek snorts. He turns back to John. "She's really helpful."

"She's right, though. Whatever he does to put himself on Skynet's radar, it could be years from now. And he's not even the one who's here!"

"Still," Derek says. "There are no coincidences. It bugs me that Uncle Carlos just showed up like this. And it bugs me that he knows about the machines."

"We can't do anything about that now," John says.

"Yeah. You seem to be saying that lot." He nods to the glass door leading to the yard. "Can you see what they're doing out there?"

John turns. They're still on the ground, but they're both sitting up now, cross-legged, upright and facing each other. And...

"They're talking," he says. "And he's pulled a bottle of something out of his pocket. They're trading shots of it."

"Great. That'll improve things."

"What, you would rather she do this with you?"

It's the right button to push. Derek has nothing else to say, and goes back to cleaning his gun.

--

The two of them come in from the yard some time later, and his mother looks calmer, but flushed. There are tracks on her cheeks, but her eyes are dry; she isn't crying anymore. In fact, she is oddly calm, considering, and the bottle of whatever it was is empty.

"We're going out," she says.

John glances at the clock, says nothing.

"We can go out," she says, a little defensively.

"Fine. Go out."

"Okay. You watch him," she says to Cameron.

Cameron acknowledges this with a curt nod. "No driving," she says.

"Excuse me?"

"Your blood alcohol level is elevated. You shouldn't drive."

"Cameron?"

"Yes?"

"Please don't monitor my blood alcohol level, or anything else about me for that matter, without permission."

Cameron shrugs. "Fine. But you shouldn't drive."

John goes to bed. Damned if he's going to stay up all night listening to this.

--

In the morning, the truck is gone, and the house is silent and sleeping. It's almost ten o'clock, and he's late. He doesn't think his mother's ever slept this long. He goes to find her. She's made it to bed at least, but she's still in clothes.

"Mom!"

She winces, raises a weak and shaky hand.

"Shhhhh."

He can't suppress a grin. "Late night?"

"I'm gonna die."

"I hope not," he says. Then, more seriously, "Don't joke about that."

"I'm seeing four of you right now. And you're glowing."

"Geez! How much did you have to drink?"

"Of alcohol? Or of that other stuff?"

He has zero patience for this. She's brought it on herself, hasn't she? And what is he supposed to do if anything happens today? SHE certainly is not any shape to defend him, or herself for that matter...

"I have school," he says. "Do I call Derek to stay with you, or should I leave Cam?"

"I'm fine." She's slurring words, but she's insistent. "I don't need Derek."

"The way you are now, I'm sure he isn't thrilled about it either. But, yeah. You do. So, I take Cam with me? And call Derek to stay with you?"

"John...I'm..."

"Yeah, don't say it. Look, sleep this off, okay? I'll be home later."

He can't reach Derek on his cell phone. But as he's heading out, he sees the truck pull up again. Well, fine. He's the one who did this to her. Let him stay with her, and bail her out if Cromartie shows up. Then maybe he'll realize just what it is he's gotten himself into.

--

He comes home, and Carlos is still there. He's keeping guard by the door, and he pounces on John as soon as he comes in.

"Quietly, hijo," Carlos says. "We're having a...situation..."

He looks---quietly---past the large, heavy shoulder that's blocking his way, and he sees his mother, as sickly and still as when he left her, spread limply on the couch, under a blanket. She's shivering, and her face is as pale as he has ever seen it, cheeks flushed with unhealthy streaks of red. Her breathing is laboured and her fisted hands are twitching at her side as she endures.

"Mom. Geez." To Carlos, he demands "What the hell is going on?"

"We...had something..."

"Yeah, I saw. And unless you were mainlining pure-grain alcohol at whatever dive you took her to when you went out last night, it shouldn't take this long to sleep off a hangover."

"It's not a hangover. It's an allergic reaction. The bottle we shared before our...outing...was not a thing you can buy in a store."

"You gave her DRUGS?"

"Hush now! Speak quietly, hijo, she is in pain. No, it wasn't drugs, it was moonshine. A family recipe. It involves a certain type of mushroom...she has had it before, back in the day, so I did not think..."

"What?"

"If one is not accustomed, one can react. It is not unheard of. It will pass."

"It will pass when, exactly? In case you haven't heard, we've been seeing a lot of action. She needs to be in fighting form, ASAP, or she'll get herself killed. And maybe the rest of us."

"I will take responsibility for defending her if such a situation should arise."

"If you're that talented at defending, you'll be more use to us if she's healthy and you can just fight!"

"Do not be angry, hijo. She needed the release."

"So you say. Are you going to answer my question? How long will she be like this?"

"A day. Two at most."

"Damn it!"

He sees that she's watching them, or trying to, anyway. And every time her eyes scrunch shut at the noise, they leak tears. He softens.

"Mom."

She tries to answer, shakes her head, then whimpers. Carlos comes up beside her and squeezes her hand.

"Rest, Sita. I can move you to the bed again."

She shakes her head, her face panicked and pleading. He squeezes her hand. "She is dreaming," Carlos quietly explains. "Off and on all day. When she shuts her eyes, she sees things."

Then his phone rings. She cries out, nearly falls off the couch, but Carlos catches her, holds her tight, looks tersely at John. "Dios mio, answer it already. Quietly."

It's Derek. He updates him on the situation, holds the phone away from his ear at the spew of curses.

"Do you need me to come over?" Derek asks.

He wonders if that will help things, and decides it wouldn't. There isn't much Derek can do to fix this, and the whole situation would probably disgust him.

"We got it," he says. "Check in tomorrow."

He sends Cameron out for pizza. His mother won't eat any. Her visitor doesn't either. The last he sees of them, before he gives up for the night, they are locked in her room together. He doesn't want to think about what, exactly, they're doing in there.

--

To be continued...