Title: Resistance (2/?)
Fandom: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Disclaimer: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is not mine...though since Fox appears to be dropping it, rightfully it should be up for grabs.
Summary: Slightly alternate time-line, Riley lives...Cameron's glitch continues to make itself known, and Sarah...well Sarah gets to learn what it's like to be in John's shoes...in more ways than one. I have no idea how long this may end up being...but here's part one.
Authors note: Thanks to everyone who commented on chapter one! Your encouragement on this first fic is really appreciated. And a big thank-you to inspectorboxer for the feedback on chapter two, it made a world of difference.
Sarah awoke uncharacteristically slowly, squinting against the flickering bands of afternoon sunlight darting in around the blinds over the western window. Slowly it registered that she was in bed in her room...but it took a few heartbeats to realize why that felt so wrong.
The last thing she remembered was waiting in the living room for John to finish with Cameron…John and Cameron! The events of the previous evening and early morning flooded back into her consciousness in an adrenalin pumping rush, sending her lunging out from under the blankets, only to slam back against the headboard, gun swept out from under the pillow and aimed point blank at the person sitting on the edge of her bed.
Sara quickly lowered the gun, cuffing her smirking son upside the head with the other hand. “You idiot! What are you doing in here?”
John ducked laughing but quickly raised his hands in surrender. “Sorry, but hey, now you know how it feels!”
“Hmm…” Sarah slid the gun back under her pillow, noticing as she did so that she was still wearing yesterday’s clothes, though someone had thoughtfully taken off her shoes. “How did I…?”
John sobered, taking in his mother’s obvious confusion. “Cameron. She carried you upstairs and tucked you in. I drew the line at letting her put you in your pyjamas though, I didn’t think you’d appreciate it.”
Sarah hoped her expression said it all. The idea of Cameron playing nursemaid…well it didn’t bear thinking about, though it brought strongly to mind a scene from one of their recent rescue missions; Cameron holding a young Martin Bedell three feet off the ground by the front of his shirt, and asking if he’d like a bedtime story.
“Thanks…I think.” She pushed past John and slid out of bed, crossing to her dresser to rummage for clean clothes. “Why didn’t you just wake me up?”
John was silent so long that Sarah stopped pushing clothes around and turned to look at him “What?”
“Mom…you fell asleep…on guard.” John was clearly uncomfortable making an issue out of it, dropping his gaze to study the carpet under his feet and rubbing fretfully at the back of his neck. “We thought…that is…Cameron says you’ve lost weight…and you almost never eat or sleep regularly, I was worried!”
Sarah closed her eyes on his earnest, concerned face and exhaled slowly, fighting the urge to snap out a denial. It would only make him sulky and she didn’t need the guilt. He was right. She had been refusing to think about the meaning behind being tucked in like a little girl…what it meant that it was even possible that she had slept through being carried up the stairs to bed by a terminator, even one that she tentatively trusted.
“I was just tired…It’s been a rough few weeks for all of us.”
“John!” He subsided reluctantly, his expression still mutinous. “I’m fine all right? I would tell you if there was anything wrong.” Which was a blatant lie and they both knew it, but John accepted it because there was no alternative.
“Now,” Sarah turned back to her clothing search, pulling out an outfit almost randomly. “Tell me how it went with Cameron this morning.”
John allowed himself to be distracted, probably sensing that there was no more ground to be gained right now in pursuing his mother’s physical well being. “Good.” He couldn’t contain a self satisfied grin. “She shouldn’t be following me around for any reason other than to keep me alive anymore.”
“Well thank goodness for that.” Satisfied that the immediate concerns had been dealt with, Sarah shoved the dresser drawers closed and turned to leave the room only to stop just short of running into the terminator herself, standing in the doorway and holding out a cup of coffee.
“I heard voices.” Cameron proffered the mug. “It’s just the way you like it.”
“Doesn’t anyone have anything better to do than baby-sit me today?” Sarah asked aggrievedly of the world at large, trapped between a worried son and her disturbingly solicitous, not to mention fictional, metal daughter. Plucking the steaming coffee out of Cameron’s hands on her way past, Sarah stalked down the hall. “I’ll be in the shower, try to remember that you’re supposed to be self absorbed teenagers by the time I get out.”
Immersing herself in the sensations of water pouring over her skin, soapy lather, and the rough chafing of a worn red towel, Sarah managed to push her worries aside for the duration of her shower. But like unpaid bills they were waiting for her when she came out, and seemed all the heavier for the temporary relief of a few minutes respite.
Denying the inevitable for a little longer, Sarah took the time in front of the full length bathroom mirror to do a swift catalogue of the various bumps, bruises lacerations and cuts in various stages of healing that decorated her body. Unlike the terminator who fought at her side and admittedly took the brunt of the punishment in their battle against Skynet, Sarah had no specialized healing processes. She had a thorough knowledge of first aid and stomach enough to do her own stitching and that was all. Fishing the antiseptic and medicated salve out of the medicine cabinet, Sarah began her daily routine of disinfecting and soothing.
She’d been worse. Today everything seemed to be more or less putting itself back together. There was one really nasty bruise that went all the way through to the muscle on her lower back, just left of her spine where she’d taken a backhand from a terminator tossing her aside in order to engage Cameron, and another on her upper arm from hitting the floor, but the edges were beginning to fade into a mottled yellow and green, and she could almost stretch her hands above her head without pain.
The cuts and lacerations were all superficial and thankfully, for the most part easily covered. In worn black jeans and a long sleeved shirt she looked almost normal. The knuckles of her right hand were slightly abraded, but nothing anyone was likely to comment on in a casual conversation. Outside of her strange little family the only conversations Sarah had with anyone anymore were either casual or life or death…so she was fairly confidant that there wouldn’t be any awkward questions to field.
And speaking of awkward…she’d delayed long enough, too long really. It was time to face the world again, a prospect that became less and less appealing every day.
In hindsight she should have known better than to walk straight into the living room without trying to make a little noise on the way down the stairs. Having your adolescence cut short at eighteen by being told your fate is to be ‘the mother of all destiny’ –really, who came up with that title?—may have meant she missed out on a few things, but she hadn’t completely forgotten what it was like to be a teenager…so she should have known better, but really, so should they.
Riley and John sprang apart at her entrance, hastily putting a few feet between them on the couch and studying their respective toes with all the guilty, but ultimately unrepentant, shame of a dog caught stealing chocolate out of the cupboard.
Sarah paused long enough to ascertain that their clothing was no more disarrayed than what could be accounted for by brief necking before pointing to them each in turn, her expression promising a future reckoning.
“You and you. In the kitchen, five minutes. Leave the hormones at the door.” Not waiting long enough to see their reactions, she continued through into the kitchen, poured a second cup of coffee and took it out into the front yard to locate the missing chaperone.
It didn’t take her long. Cameron was standing alone by the driveway on the very edge of the property, looking out into the street. The metal girl must have heard Sarah walking up behind her, but she gave no sign, all of her attention focused on a single daisy that she held delicately in one hand while she methodically pulled the petals off with the other.
“He loves you not.” Sarah came to a stop beside the terminator and leaned on the mailbox, sipping her coffee. “Which you would know if you were inside keeping an eye on them instead of out here killing my daisies.”
“John asked me to give them some space…” Cameron dropped the mutilated flower and looked across at Sarah. “This is as far as I could go without leaving the property.”
“You shouldn’t have left them alone together.”
“Why not?” She tilted her head, for all intents and purposes, genuinely confused. “Riley poses no physical threat…and I am no longer compelled to interfere with their relationship… That’s what you wanted.”
“What I want,” Sarah’s voice held the barest touch of a frustrated growl, “Is not to be a grandmother before I’m forty. So try not to leave them alone together all right?”
Cameron’s expression cleared. “I understand. You do not wish for them to copulate.”
Sarah almost choked on a mouthful of coffee. “Catch on quick, don’t you girlie.” She wiped the back of her hand across her mouth, coughing through a snatch of what could have otherwise been slightly hysterical laughter.
“You shouldn’t worry. John received excellent grades in sexual education, which included a unit on safe sex and contraception. He also has condoms in his dresser.” She continued, completely oblivious to the increasingly strangled look on Sarah’s face. “Due to lingering radiation in the future, Riley may also experience lowered fertility…It is extremely unlikely that they will become pregnant accidentally.”
Sarah just stared…there were so many levels if information there that she simply did not want to have access to…and she really didn’t want to know how Cameron had obtained any of it either.
“That’s not the point!” She managed to get out between clenched teeth.
“But you said that you didn’t want to be a grandmother…Why else would you object to the consummation of their relationship? I have learned that it is common in this time for young couples to engage in premarital sexual intercourse. They are both under eighteen so it would not be statu- ”
“Cameron!” Sarah actually caught the back of the terminators neck with one hand and pressed the other over her mouth. “Enough!” The mother in her was becomingly increasingly frantic to end the conversation. How even a socially awkward machine could fail to grasp…wait…she studied the girls carefully arranged expression, all innocence and curiosity around her pressing hand.
“You’re baiting me.” She said it flatly, releasing Cameron with a none too gentle shove and crossing her arms.
The terminator shrugged and looked back at the road, the faintest suggestion of a smile playing around the corners of her mouth before she schooled her expression once more. “You were upset about this morning. You needed a distraction.” She allowed herself a sideways glance to gauge Sarah’s mood…apparently relieved that she wasn’t homicidal yet…“It is also…interesting…to see how you will react when pressured.”
“Let me get this straight…” Sarah rubbed her temples, feeling the beginnings of a terminator induced headache. “You decided to distract me from worrying about my health by being deliberately exasperating, using my son’s sex life as a vehicle, and you find that amusing?”
Actually…she was beginning to see the funny side of it…so it must be a brain tumour…that or she was finally having a nervous breakdown. Anything but the strange and completely bizarre idea that she might actually be feeling better after having a verbal train wreck of a conversation with a machine who was apparently developing a uniquely sadistic sense of humour.
“I don’t think I’d make a very good Aunt…”
Somehow the image of the future John Connor Jr. receiving his first semi-automatic rifle from an over indulgent Aunty Cameron wasn’t nearly as frightening as it should have been.
Definitely a brain tumour.
Cameron and Sarah had claimed opposite ends of the kitchen table leaving Riley and John to sit together along one side. Cameron appreciated the symbolism. Their willingness to place themselves together, between her and Sarah indicated an acceptance of their status as subordinate members of the group. John may have been destined to lead mankind, but Cameron was all too aware of the gulf that still separated him from the John of the future.
They were waiting for Derek and Jesse. The couple had called just as Sarah and Cameron were coming in from the front yard, on their way over with something they thought Sarah needed to see.
Dinner simmered on the oven…Soup. Cameron suspected it would be overdone, but she said nothing. Sarah did not it when anyone called attention to her lack of cooking skills. They would probably end up ordering pizza…John preferred Chinese, but Sarah didn’t like the fortune cookies. The terminator wondered idly if Sarah’s pathological inability to cook was also related to her fear of anything to do with time, and the future. The idea seemed illogical enough to be human…Though as humans went, she found Sarah less illogical than most.
Riley jumped as the front door crashed open, and shifted her chair a little closer to Johns, quite obviously aware that she had no other real allies. Cameron could have told her that in this family, John was probably the best ally she could have…but she doubted Riley would have believed her. Unlike his mother John often did not understand the idea of acceptable losses, and while Sarah may have been nominally in charge, she would never do anything to deliberately hurt her son…so Riley was safe. For now.
Derek entered the kitchen somewhat warily…as if unsure of his welcome…or that of Jesse, who followed him far more casually, giving no indication of sharing his fears. She sniffed the air…”Is something burning?”
It broke the tension.
“Shit!” Sarah shoved her chair back and swept the pot off the burner, discarding it unemptied in the sink with no more than a cursory inspection. “Who wants pizza?”
Pizza boxes were laid open on the table, with the food itself having rapidly disappeared into hungry mouths before Derek finally brought up the reason he’d come over. He tossed a newspaper over the table to Sarah, taking a swig of his beer before explaining. “Third page in, halfway down.”
Sarah shoved her still full plate aside and scanned the paper, dark brows furrowed over her eyes in what Cameron knew as her ‘focused’ look. “Four year old girl caught in the middle of a shoot out….what does this have to do with us?”
“Check the name.”
Riley glanced around the suddenly silent table, clearly not catching on. “Who?”
“Sydney Fields, immune to a bioengineered virus released by Skynet in 2025, her blood was used to synthesize a cure. Skynet sent back a terminator to kill her mother.” Cameron supplied into the silence. “We stopped it. They must have sent another one back to finish the job.”
“But Sydney wouldn’t even be a year old yet…that girl was four.” John took the article from his mother, scanning it quickly. “Skynet must not know exactly where she is, it’s just going after everyone with that name.”
“Yes. That is a common Skynet strategy.” Cameron stared down the length of the table, waiting for Sarah’s reaction. She suspected she knew exactly what the woman was going to say.
Sarah raised her eyes to meet Cameron’s, seeing complete ruthlessness in their disturbingly realistic chocolate depths…and she hesitated.
“There’s nothing we can do.” The terminators voice was implacable.
“We have to find her.” Sarah snapped back, appalled by the complete indifference in Cameron’s voice.
“We have to fight Skynet…Protect John.”
“They’re the same thing.”
“No. They’re not.” Everyone else at the table held perfectly still, apparently unwilling to redirect any of the carefully restrained fury crackling between the two women, one flesh and one metal, both equally dangerous.
“Without that cure, future John could die.” Sarah forced the argument almost evenly through gritted teeth.
“Without John there will be no resistance left to need a cure.” Cameron rejoined, sitting perfectly still in a way that called to mind a stalking cat.
“This isn’t your decision!”
“And it isn’t our fight. We disabled the first terminator; it is now Lauren Fields’ mission to protect her sister. They will have different names; the terminator will almost certainly not find them. It’s not worth the risk. ”
“And all of the little girls with her name who are going to die? They don’t matter?”
“Only John matters.”
Cameron’s voice was flat, inflectionless, Sarah wanted to throw something at her, shoot her, anything to get a reaction. She settled for shoving the table hard enough that the terminator was forced to catch the edge. “Go to hell!”
Standing up so quickly that her chair clattered to the kitchen floor Sarah stalked out of the room. A moment later her door crashed shut loudly enough to be heard downstairs.
After Derek and Jesse had gone and Riley was watching television in the living room, John found Cameron standing outside his mothers closed door. Despite knowing it was impossible, John could have sworn he saw genuine concern in the wide brown eyes trained unswervingly on the unyielding wood.
“She knew you know… That we couldn’t go after the girl. She just didn’t want to face it.” John didn’t know why he was explaining this to her, except that she looked so damned unhappy.
John blinked, confused now. “Then why did you start a fight with her about it?”
“Because,” Cameron spoke quietly…seemingly more to herself than to him, “When she’s angry, she forgets to be afraid.”
John literally couldn’t find a single word to say as he watched the terminator turn away from the door and walk down the hall to her room. He was beginning to worry that he may have made a slight miscalculation…
Sarah was furious. Furious that she’d lost control, furious that everyone she most needed to be strong in front of had witnessed it, and mostly furious with a certain Tin Can going by the name of Cameron.
Also, she admitted once she’d calmed down enough to stop pacing and tossing pillows, she was furious with herself because logically, the metal girl was right…and something about that was bothering the hell out of her…Sarah threw herself down on her bed, lacing her fingers behind her head, and stared up at the ceiling. Wasn’t that usually her line ‘Only John matters’…?
Inexplicably she was thrown back to the fight from the night before, something Jesse had said. “A John Connor we can’t see might as well be a dead Connor. Nobody is going to fight for someone who doesn’t give a shit about them.”
Like a truck load of Coltan plummeting off a cliff, it hit her. Cameron wasn’t right…She hadn’t been right. Slowly, painfully and inexorably her brain ground through that idea. Last night she had realized what affect the life they were living was having, and would have, on her son. She had faced the idea that he would be emotionally scarred; unable or unwilling to risk forming attachments with people who might die or leave. He would cease to be the man the resistance needed him to be. Why? Because she had believed that only John mattered, and she had forced that idea on him until he believed it too.
But tonight she had been about to make the same mistake. She had been about to say that they couldn’t do anything for Sydney Fields, until Cameron had said it for her.
After that it had been instinctual to disagree with the machine. Looking back she realized that hearing that cold emotionless voice pronouncing a death sentence on countless children, and then dismissing Sydney as Lauren’s mission and not theirs…had been like looking into a mechanical mirror…and that scared the hell out of her.
She thought back to Johns face when she’d read out the name of the girl from the newspaper. He had known there was no way to save those little girls, and he had to have realized that there was a good chance that the terminator would find the real Sydney and kill her. He’d accepted it. Her loving, courageous son, who had refused to talk to her for days when Cameron had stopped him from helping a suicidal teen, had looked at that horrifying truth, and accepted it. What had she done to him? What had she done to herself?
Cameron’s words from this afternoon came back to her with dawning understanding. ‘It is also…interesting…to see how you will react when pressured.’ Was it possible that the metal bitch had done it on purpose? That she had known what Sarah was going to say and deliberately manoeuvred her into taking the opposite stance?
It made a sort of horrifying sense.
If Cameron hadn’t pre-empted her, Sarah would have made that impossible decision herself. Derek would have backed her and together they would have convinced John. She would have been racked with guilt, but she would have hardened her heart and moved forward, because it was always up to her to make the hard decisions. Cameron had taken that role away from her, freeing her up to be angry, to feel…and to think.
They would have to track down the girls…and maybe anyone else that Skynet might be after. She had done her best to convince John that his life was more important than anyone else’s, that no sacrifice was too great if it meant keeping him safe. Now, as much as it frightened her, she needed to teach him otherwise. John Connor, more than anyone, must relearn the value of human life.
A shiver ran down Sarah’s spine. Was it possible that a terminator, an emotionless cybernetic organism, had figured that out first? And if it was, what did that mean about who was really running things around here?
The house was asleep…or at least half of it was. Cameron made her third circuit of the night, checking in on both John and Riley to make sure that they slept safely. Mindful of Sarah’s concerns, she had kept an eye on them, offering her bed to Riley before John could even think of sharing his. The girl had been asleep by 1:17 am. John had sat up with his laptop another hour before succumbing to his own exhaustion at 2:23 am. From the vital signs she could read when she came to the last door in the hallway, Cameron knew that Sarah was still awake.
Concerned, the machine considered the possibility that she had miscalculated the correct amount of force to apply in order to push the older woman out of her usual behavioural patterns. She knew that Sarah was terrified to endanger John…and even more afraid that the spectre of cancer looming over her would descend like an implacable executioner; leaving him alone and defenceless. She was so focused on keeping him safe, and so obsessed with being strong for her son, that she couldn’t see how her fears were crippling both of them.
Freed from her directive to become John’s closest companion, and without a mother’s fears to blind her, Cameron saw the situation objectively. John needed to be allowed to be a hero...and Sarah needed someone else to be strong enough to share some of her responsibilities and fears.
Cameron could be strong …it’s what she had been built for.
The terminator snapped out of her reflective state, abruptly refocusing as Sarah’s door swung open in front of her, revealing the subject of her current musings looking not at all pleased to find the terminator standing outside her room in the middle of the night.
Cameron glanced down at Sarah’s hands before responding…no gun. She hadn’t pushed too far then. “Yes?”
Sarah pushed hair back out of her face fretfully, obviously uncomfortable. “What are you doing—“She stopped, obviously realizing that it was a pointless question to which the response would probably be some variation of ‘I don’t sleep’. “Never mind…We need to talk.”
Having been far more prepared for violence than conversation at this point, Cameron took a moment to process the situation. She studied Sarah thoughtfully; reading a slightly increased heart rate, blood pressure and skin temperature…and concluded that the older woman was possibly nervous, upset or, quite likely given past experience, angry.
“Cameron?” Sarah spoke a little more sharply, made uneasy by the dark eyed stare that seemed to pass straight through her.
The terminator blinked, ending her scrutiny. “I am sorry…Yes, we should talk.”
Sarah nodded, rubbing her hands up and down her arms, chilled by more than the air. “Downstairs then, I don’t want to wake anyone.”
Cameron followed Sarah placidly down the stairs and out onto the back porch, standing quietly while the other woman walked jerkily back and forth over the wooden planks, and waiting patiently for her to decide what she wanted to say.
After a minute, Sarah seemed to reach some kind of decision and halted abruptly, spinning to fix Cameron with accusing eyes.
“Did you play me?”
Cameron reviewed her options for a fraction of a second and decided on honesty. “Yes.”
Clearly wishing she had brought a gun after all, Sarah gritted her teeth and resisted the obvious urge for violence. “Why?”
“Because it was necessary…you would not have argued the way you did otherwise.”
“You can’t know what I would have done …I don’t even know what I would have done!”
They’d had this conversation before, Cameron took a step back, she really didn’t want Sarah to hit her again…She didn’t have a weapon this time; it would probably cause unnecessary damage to the woman’s hand.
“I could not take that chance.”
For the space of a few breaths it looked like Sarah was going to hit her…but then the tension simply drained out of the woman like water from a punctured bucket, and she stepped away, sinking down to sit on the porch steps. Leaning forwards, she rested her elbows on her knees cradling her head in her hands.
Cameron hesitated briefly, and then sat beside her, the narrowness of the stairs meaning that they were almost touching. In anyone else, Sarah’s apparent vulnerability at this time would have indicated a need for physical comfort. Cameron was certain however that this particular woman would not appreciate the sentiment, so she simply sat very still…close, but not intrusive.
“You could have just said…” Sarah spoke to the night, giving no indication that her words were for the terminator beside her save that she said them in her presence
“No…” Cameron refused to court the pretence of talking to the darkness beyond the porch. She turned her head to look directly at Sarah. “If we had agreed, Derek and Jesse would have fought...They look at me and they can only see a machine conspiracy. It would have become a battle between us and them. Now you can overrule me, and it’s human versus metal. They won’t resist.” Cameron waited a moment, but Sarah didn’t look at her. “I am a scary robot; I can be the bad guy.”
“So I don’t have to be…” Sarah breathed thoughtfully, only to furrow her brow in confusion. “But where is this coming from? Last week John had to explain to you that ‘dog-eat-dog’ had nothing to do with dogs. You’re a machine, you don’t understand human relationships.
“John likes to explain things to me…it…amuses him.” She paused to let the possibility sink in that she was not above playing dumb to further her objectives. “I think now that I am no longer programmed to study all human relations only as they relate to John, I am able to understand the ones that relate to you” This made sense to Cameron. Sarah was the dominant personality of the group, if she wanted to fulfill her mission to protect John and destroy Skynet she needed to focus on understanding and supporting her.
“I see…” And as swiftly as that, Sarah was unapproachable again. She stood up, brushed a smidge of dirt off of her jeans and turned to go into the house, pausing a moment on the threshold.
“Yes Sarah?” Cameron twisted around to look up at the other woman silhouetted in light of the doorway.
“Don’t you ever do that again! Or so help me I will tell John to deactivate you.”
“I swear…” Camerons soft response was heard only by the crickets and a few early rising birds. Sarah was gone.
Lying awake in bed as the sun started edging up over the horizon, alone, without defences or distractions, Sarah was finally unable to stop the cold clammy hand of panic from wrapping itself around her heart.
She was sick.
She’d been trying to ignore it for weeks, but there was no denying the evidence that was stacking up against her. Weight loss, exhaustion, lack of appetite and, most damning, the erosion of her focus, painted a grim picture.
It was unacceptable that she had allowed herself to fall asleep when she was supposed to be on guard…almost inconceivable…and yet it had happened. Worse, she hadn’t roused when carried to her room…by a terminator. Something was very, very wrong.
Sarah turned her thoughts towards her body…somewhere in there something insidious might be uncurling; sending runners out to latch onto her major organs and suck the life out of her…Nausea gripped her, and she wondered if it was a symptom or just a reaction to panic.
Forcing herself to calm down, Sarah deliberately closed her eyes and sought oblivion. Whether the cancer had finally caught up with her, or it was some other disease, or even just a combination of overwhelming fatigue and poor nutrition, there was nothing to be gained by terrifying herself stupid. Or anyone else for that matter she resolved, thinking of John. She would deal with it on her own…the way she always did.
As if that small decision was enough to tip the balance between worry and exhaustion, Sarah was finally able to let go of the waking world and fall into sleep…where her nightmares were waiting.