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.
AN: Big thank-you to inspectorboxer for finding the snags in this chapter so that I could fix them, and for making a couple of really astute suggestions.
AN#2: Chapter 4 may be a little while in coming...I have my best friends wedding in a week...so that's pretty much front and center right now. I am putting together something for International Femslash day though, so there's that on the way.
Chapter one / Chapter two
“You can’t be serious!” Derek protested over a plate of runny scrambled eggs and burnt toast.
“And yet I am.” Sarah responded, pushing her own breakfast around on her plate, and doing her best to remain calm."
“You want us to risk John’s life by taking in a bunch of stray kids, and somehow keep them all safe while we’re fighting to bring down Skynet?” He shoved his plate away with a scrape of porcelain against wood and stood up, “You’re insane!”
“He’s right. It’s crazy.” Cameron offered thoughtfully, her eyes fixed on the fuming soldier as she deliberately put a forkful of eggs into her mouth, chewed and swallowed.
Sarah watched the exchange tensely while striving to appear indifferent. Cameron was doing brilliantly. Nothing made Derek crazier than watching the machine pretend to be human, and for some reason seeing her eat had always driven him particularly wild.
He snorted…caught between siding with the terminator and acceding to Sarah’s admittedly risky proposition. Beaten, he sat back down and picked up his fork.
“So how are you planning on finding them?”
Sarah breathed a silent sigh of relief. It was working. “John. He’s already pulling up the files on every social assistance program for single mothers in LA. Lauren must be supporting them some how, and she’ll have a lot easier time keeping custody of her sister posing as her mother.”
John had been disbelievingly ecstatic when she told him they were going after Sydney and Lauren…and he’d been on the computer ever since, not even giving Riley more than a cursory wave when she left with Jesse to meet up with her foster parents. The two of them had some kind of plan to facilitate Riley’s disappearance with minimal fuss…Sarah hadn’t asked for details.
That was another thing Derek had fumed about…he refused to understand why Sarah wanted to keep Riley with them now that Cameron had been neutralized…only giving in grudgingly when Sarah snapped that he could either accept it, or tell Jesse to go with her. One extra person was as much of a security risk as another…and at least Riley could be trusted to follow orders…Jesse hadn’t protested. Either she understood the reasons or she was trying to keep a low profile, Sarah really didn’t care.
“Huh…seems like you’ve thought it through….” He indicated the now silent Cameron with a jab of his fork. “Is that thing going to go along with it?”
Preoccupied with Derek, Sarah almost missed the nearly imperceptible narrowing of Cameron’s eyes, or the girl’s sudden death grip on her untouched glass of orange juice. For a heartbeat, no longer, the terminator focused on the soldier, and her expression was murderous.
It stopped Sarah cold. She knew Cameron was ruthless. The terminator was implacable in the pursuit of her mission, but it had always been a cold, impersonal obsession…Conversely, the way she’d just looked at Derek was very, very personal, and taken aback, Sarah could only try to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible, and like so many other things, worry about it later.
“She’ll do what she’s told.” Sarah dismissed Derek’s concern as if there was no question of Cameron’s compliance, and rose from the table, scraping uneaten breakfast into the garbage and dropping her dishes in the sink.
“Fine.” Derek followed suit, obviously pleased to see the machine put in her place. “So what do you need me to do?”
“Start looking for a new house…” Sarah glanced around, something suspiciously like fondness gripping her as she took in the place that had been their home for almost a year. “We’re going to need more room…and we should get away from the social services in this area…thanks to Jesse, they’ve shown a little too much interest in John and Riley.”
“New aliases?” Derek asked, following Sarah out of the kitchen.
“Not if we can help it, but we may have to come up with something for Riley. How would you like to be a daddy?” Sarah took a sadistic pleasure in the pole-axed expression on Derek’s face before grabbing the keys to the jeep off the rack and preceding him outside. “See if Jesse wants to play step mom, it will explain the tension between them until they get over it, or at least learn to conceal it.”
She halted beside the jeep, and turned to face him, this was a defining moment. If he let her resume authority over their operation now, after his near mutiny with Jesse, it would set the tone for the future.
Derek nodded absently, either unaware of the significance of the decision…or simply distracted by the idea of pseudo parenthood, as she’d intended him to be. “So where are you going now?”
Relieved, Sarah answered as she was pulling herself up into the jeep. “I have an errand to run. Keep an eye on John and make sure those houses you’re looking at have some space around them…If we’re going to be baby-sitting kids, they’re going to have to learn how to shoot.”
Sarah waited until Derek had gone back into the house before she allowed herself to relax, resting her forehead on the steering wheel for a few breaths as the tension eased out of her shoulders. That had gone better than she’d hoped. For all his bluster Derek was at heart a follower, so long as he felt the person he was following had their priorities in order. And so far, in his eyes at least, she did.
Her brief moment of calm was interrupted by the opening of the passenger door and she raised her head from the wheel in time to watch Cameron slide into the next seat. The terminator buckled her seatbelt, apparently intent on coming with her.
“Aren’t you even going to ask where we’re going?” Sarah expected the sarcasm was lost on the girl, but she couldn’t help herself.
“I overheard you on the phone this morning. You made a doctors appointment. We are going to the hospital.”
“We,” Sarah felt the need to emphasize this, “are not going anywhere. You are staying here to protect John.”
“Derek will take care of John…Someone needs to go with you to your doctor…you may need to be admitted. If the news is sufficiently worrying you may need someone to drive you home.”
“That’s thinking positively…” Sarah muttered under her breath, but she put the key into the ignition and started the car. “Just so we’re clear I’m only taking you with me so that you don’t kill Derek while I’m gone.”
Cameron tilted her head, acknowledging the possibility. “We’re clear.”
Somehow that wasn’t as comforting as it should have been.
Cameron didn’t think it was necessary to tell Sarah just how much of a possibility killing Derek might have been. She had waited until both of the humans had left the kitchen before using her right hand to pry the recalcitrant fingers of her left off of the juice glass she’d almost shattered. Control of the limb had returned as abruptly as it left, but if a cyborg could be shaken…
She was almost certain that neither Derek nor Sarah had noticed the lapse, or if they had, that they’d assumed it was voluntary. Cameron deliberately chose not to consider the unavoidable consequences should anyone realize she was malfunctioning...Instead she rolled down the window and let her hand trail out into the breeze, focusing all of her synapses on savoring the sensation of wind blowing through her fingers…
Cameron didn’t like the hospital. Under a mask of lemon scented disinfectant she could smell the blood, urine and the sweat of fear, and she compared it to her memories of the infirmaries of the future, where there was no citrus façade, but the helplessness…that was the same. Human’s were so fragile…susceptible to injury, disease and age…any of which could take their lives without warning, and there was nothing they could do about it. There was nothing Cameron could do about it.
Sarah hadn’t spoken a word to her since they walked through the front doors, and looking over at her rigid profile, Cameron wondered if her thoughts were running along the same lines. Sarah was a fighter…this was not where she belonged.
Locked into their respective silences, Sarah because she chose not to speak, and Cameron because she didn’t know what to say, they took an elevator up to the clinic’s reception area on the 8th floor, and followed the signs down the hall and into the waiting room.
There at least, the atmosphere lightened a little. The viceral smell and rush of the rest of the hospital was replaced by flowery air fresheners, ugly paintings, padded chairs and fake plants. There were exactly 23 people of varying ages in the room when they walked in, twenty-one patients and two nurses but that number fluctuated constantly as people flowed through between the hospital and the exam rooms.
Cameron waited patiently while Sarah signed in at the desk, speaking quietly to the receptionist as she gave her name and appointment time.
“It shouldn’t be long Ms Baum, why don’t you take a seat.”
“Thank-you.” Sarah led the way to an empty group of chairs across from the doors and sat with her back to the wall.
Strategically Cameron approved of the choice. The exit was a straight shot in front of them, and their position gave them a clear view of the entire room including anyone coming in or going out. Farther down their wall was a second set of swinging doors leading into the exam rooms, and Cameron chose the seat to Sarah’s left so that she could keep an eye on the steady passage of nurses and patients.
Ignoring her completely, Sarah picked up a magazine and flipped idly through the pages. Apparently having acceded, rather grudgingly, to the Terminator’s presence the older woman felt no further need to make conversation. Cameron tilted her head to read the date on the magazine’s spine…April 2001. Irrelevant.
While they waited, she occupied herself by keeping an ongoing count of the people in the room, including approximate ages, weight and height. An out of uniform police officer entered with two children. An analysis of their facial structure indicated that they were his, and Cameron watched him long enough to be certain that he had no interest in them before returning her attention to room as a whole.
Eventually, Sarah seemed to notice the funny looks being shot at them from the nurses who’d been through a couple of times, and the nervous shifting of patients cracking under the unwavering attention of a teenage girl.
Lowering her magazine she picked up a pamphlet on breast cancer and tossed it into Cameron’s lap, speaking to her for the first time since they’d parked the car. “You’re scaring people.” She murmured quietly. “Please, at least try to blend in.”
Cameron picked up the folded paper, examining the cover intently. She glanced over at Sarah who had abandoned the magazine in favour of leaning back against the wall, eyes closed and hands hanging loosely over the armrests. Cameron looked back down at the pamphlet, then over at the woman beside her again.
Sarah’s vital signs indicated acute stress and exhaustion. The terminator had long ago given up on attempting to asses the woman’s mood using her facial expression recognition software, but ongoing association allowed her to perceive that despite apparent calm, Sarah was extremely unhappy.
Cameron wasn’t sure why, but she didn’t want Sarah to be unhappy…It felt like touching something slightly too hot or too cold…or like pressure from an invisible source. It pushed at her. Cameron’s first impulse was to push back, but not knowing how, she could only register frustration at the impasse. It would be better if Sarah wasn’t ignoring her. Talking to her seemed to ease the discomfort, but Cameron didn’t know how to make Sarah talk to her…she knew how to make her angry…but that wasn’t exactly an improvement.
What had Sarah said…blend in? Cameron re-examined the pamphlet in her hand…she could do that.
Lost in thought, and trying her damndest to pretend she was anywhere but in a hospital, Sarah had almost forgotten about the terminator sitting so quietly beside her. She heard the rustle of paper and assumed Cameron was doing as she’d been told, so she was focusing on filtering out the sounds of the hospital and completely unprepared when a long fingered hand slipped softly into her own, tugging it gently off of the armrest to rest on a warm thigh.
“Cameron…” Sarah growled quietly, green eyes widening in disbelief. Jerking back in her seat as discretely as possible, she made a futile effort to free her fingers. “What the hell are you doing?”
The very picture of wide eyed innocence, Cameron picked up the pamphlet Sarah had given her with her free hand and held it out to show her the cover; a mother and daughter leaning on one another’s shoulders, their hands clasped.
“I’m blending in.” She answered softly, maintaining her grip on Sarah’s hand with no visible effort. “You looked upset. I’m supposed to be your daughter. I should be comforting you.”
“That’s not exactly what I meant...” Sarah gave up abruptly, leaning back limply in her chair. Fighting about it now was only going to land them with an unwelcome audience. She’d give the metal girl a lecture on personal boundaries later, preferably making her point with the business end of a shotgun.
As if sensing that Sarah had surrendered, Cameron adjusted her grip, lacing their fingers together more comfortably, and earning a silent glare in the process. The terminator ignored her pseudo mother’s irritation in favour of leafing through the pamphlet that had inspired her, a tiny smile on her face.
If anything that smile just ticked Sarah off even more. She had a sneaking suspicion that somehow, despite how implausible it might be, Cameron was laughing at her.
“Sarah Baum?” The receptionists voice pierced the restless din of the waiting room with the ease of long practice, and Sarah jerked awkwardly to her feet, forgetting for a moment that her hand was still being held hostage. Frowning, she pulled Cameron up next to her, twisting her fingers free once the girl was on her feet. Under the eyes of the briskly efficient orderlies behind the desk, Cameron released her with just a hint of reluctance colouring her usual neutral mask.
Sarah registered the slightly sulky expression, but she didn’t waste time wondering about it. If the terminator wanted to mess with her, than there wasn’t a hell of a lot she could do but ignore it and hope Cameron got bored, or figured out whatever the hell it was she trying to learn about becoming a personal cybernetic pain in the ass. The only other, and infinitely more attractive, option was shooting her…not exactly the optimal solution in the middle of a hospital full of doctors who would be just a little curious about a girl who could take a bullet to the head and keep walking. So not really an option at all…no matter how tempting it might be.
“Wait here.” Sarah ordered under her breath as a nurse came out from behind the desk to lead her through the swinging doors to the exam rooms.
“No.” Cameron followed doggedly, keeping her voice modulated in deference to their escort. “It would appear strange if I did not accompany you.”
“I don’t care how it looks! I don’t need a babysitter!”
“You should care. It is important that we appear normal.”
“You wouldn’t be able to strangle me…I do not require oxygen.”
Sarah sighed. “Please shut up.”
Patently incurious about the whispered exchange, their nurse ushered them into a small green room smelling strongly of antiseptic and stale grape suckers, hanging Sarah’s admittance chart on the door. “Doctor Friedman should be with you shortly. Make yourselves comfortable.”
Sarah ignored the paper swathed gurney in favor of a chair, dropping woodenly into the stingily cushioned seat and crossing her arms against the chill she’d come to associate with hospital rooms.
“You’re afraid.” Cameron took the chair next to her, sitting as precisely as she always did, her hands resting lightly on her knees.
Sarah didn’t bother to deny the accusation. She would have snapped at Derek if he’d suggested it, or reassured a worried John. They had expectations of her that left no room for a weakness like fear.
Cameron didn’t have any expectations, only observations. It was…oddly restful. Even on the first day they’d met, with a bullet wound to the shoulder, bleeding and in shock, Sarah had spilled out her fears to the terminator, and in that confession had experienced relief. Even now, when she wanted to toss the girl out the nearest window, she craved that peace.
“Yes.” Sarah admitted simply.
“I understand.” Cameron replied. “You are worried that if there is something wrong with you, then you might not be able to fulfill your mission.”
Sarah snorted. “From infuriating to sympathetic in less than thirty seconds, that’s some fancy footwork you’re doing over there girlie.”
Cameron shrugged mechanically. “I am also damaged.”
Apprehension began gnawing toothily on Sarah’s guts at the terminator’s confession… She had almost managed to forget a similar conversation between them a few months ago, after the disaster the Serrano Point nuclear power plant. ‘Am I some kind of time bomb just waiting to go off?’ she’d demanded of the terminator. ‘Am I?’ Cameron had rejoined.
“John fixed you.” Sarah said it firmly, as if believing it would make it true.
“Did he?” Cameron asked, holding Sarah’s gaze. “There may still be damage to my chip.”
Cromartie had believed the same thing Sarah remembered, feeling her chest constrict unpleasantly. She really didn’t even want to think about the possibility of Cameron’s overrides failing again. She was already losing sleep over the knowledge that somewhere behind those wide brown eyes lurked a program that still wanted to kill her son. “We don’t know that!”
“It is a strong possibility. John did not know what he was doing, and I have experienced inconsistencies in my performance that I cannot explain.”
“Are you trying to give me a heart attack here?” Sarah found herself leaning as far back from the terminator as her chair would allow.
The terminator hesitated. “You…shared your fears with me. I am sharing mine with you.”
“You’re a machine, you don’t understand fear.” Sarah went with her immediate gut reaction, denial. She didn’t want to know what could frighten a solid metal killing machine; she didn’t want to believe that they could fear. It made them too human.
“Fear; apprehension, consternation, dismay, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation…”
Sarah raised a hand, bringing the recitation to a halt. “Knowing what it is doesn’t mean you understand it. Your heart doesn’t pound, your pulse doesn’t race, you don’t hyperventilate or get sweaty palms…you don’t feel!”
“No.” Cameron responded thoughtfully. “I do not feel fear in the same way that you do. This body is programmed to simulate the correct physical reaction to implied threat, but it is not an involuntary response-”
“So you can fake fear.” Sarah cut her off.
“Yes…” Cameron admittedly reluctantly. “Advanced infiltration models are capable of displaying many emotional responses in order to appear more human.”
“Is that what you’re doing? Trying to get closer to me by pretending to share my fears?”
“No.” Cameron’s denial was absolute.
“Then what are you doing?”
“I don’t know how to answer that.”
“Tell me the truth.”
“You don’t want to hear the truth.” Cameron crossed her arms and slouched down in her chair, a typical teenaged reaction that she’d undoubtedly learned from John.
Sarah sighed, reassured somehow by the very un-terminator like body language. She was being an ass and she knew it. What did it really matter if Cameron could actually experience fear or if she only thought she could?
“Fair enough.” Sarah allowed. “Tell me anyway.”
Cameron looked up and some of the sulkiness eased out of her shoulders. “I am damaged.” She repeated. “I am having difficulty assigning mission priorities and… making decisions.”
“The nuclear plant...and Riley.” Sarah spoke slowly and evenly, a little surprised at how calmly she was taking this.
“Yes.” Cameron nodded. “She was a danger to John, I should have killed her.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.” Sarah said feelingly.
Cameron hesitated. “But I did the wrong thing.”
“Sometimes…” Sarah wondered fleetingly how this had turned around to her reassuring the terminator. “Sometimes the right choice isn’t the most logical or efficient choice.”
“How do I know when that is?”
Sarah sighed, “You don’t. You just do your best and hope that it’s enough.”
“What if it isn’t?”
“Then you ask for help.”
Cameron paused. Uncrossing her arms she pressed her palms down onto denim clad thighs and examined the backs of her hands, flexing long fingers thoughtfully. Seeming to come to a decision she glanced back up at Sarah. “May I ask you for help?”
Looking across into those big brown eyes Sarah reluctantly admitted that she couldn’t deny or ignore the fear she saw in them. Simulated or genuine, there was no question that the possibility of damage to her chip was causing Cameron a great deal of concern.
Big surprise, the idea of living with an unpredictable killing machine wasn’t exactly giving her a warm and fuzzy feeling herself.
“Tell you what Tin Miss, you take care of the heavy lifting, and I’ll worry about making the decisions.” Sarah managed a wry smile. As a joke it was weak, but she figured they’d both had enough of this conversation for now.
Cameron tilted her head, smiling in that way that was almost expressionless, but somehow more sincere than the lightshow she put on for strangers. “We’ll be a team.”
A team…Sarah pondered that, reflecting on the neat way they’d handled Derek’s obstinacy and how Cameron had known before she had, the significance of Sydney Fields. She could do worse…a lot worse, but…
“Something like that.” She prevaricated, looking away quickly as the exam room door swung open to admit the anticipated Dr. Friedman.
Cameron watched the examination carefully, taking note of Sarah’s symptoms as she listed them, and keeping a suspicious eye on the doctor while he checked her vitals and drew a blood sample.
There were a lot of questions too, and mostly Cameron listened quietly, speaking only when she felt it was necessary to correct Sarah’s answers.
“Are you eating regularly, as in three meals a day?” was one of the doctor’s first inquires when Sarah, now perched on the gurney, listed weight loss as a symptom.
“I eat enough.”
“No you don’t.” Cameron ignored Sarah’s glare. “She doesn’t. She puts food on her plate, so John will think she’s eating, but then she throws most of it out.”
“John is your son?” The doctor interjected into the tense standoff.
“Yes.” Sarah ground out.
“And you don’t want him to worry?”
“No. He…has enough on his plate.”
“Hmm…but you’re including your daughter in your health concerns?”
“She’s stronger…and more persistent.” Sarah admitted wryly.
“I see.” The doctor paused. “Sarah, I can’t help you if you aren’t completely honest with me. I need you to answer these questions as truthfully as you can, so that I have some idea of what we’re dealing with.”
And so it went on.
“How much sleep are you getting on average every night?”
“I don’t know, maybe five or six hours…”
“Three, maybe Four.” They both turned to look at Cameron, Sarah with mounting irritation and the doctor speculatively.
“She’s been averaging no more than three to four hours of sleep per twenty-four hour period, for the last five weeks.” Cameron spoke almost defensively. “She has nightmares.”
“Hmmm…” The doctor repeated thoughtfully, and continued.
For a few minutes Cameron just listened.
“And would you say that you experience a great deal of stress in your daily life?”
“No more than any single mother of two teenagers…” Sarah tried to make it a joke, realizing she’d failed miserably when the doctor was looking to Cameron before she’d even finished speaking.
Cameron gave Sarah a look that could have been generously interpreted as apologetic before answering the doctor’s silent question.
“She doesn’t have a job…Our uncle is staying with us to help out, but they fight a lot, and our house is overcrowded.” Cameron smoothly substituted a situation that the doctor would understand in place of reality. “We were in a car crash, a bad one, John and I haven’t gone back to school.”
The doctor’s eyebrows were almost lost in his hairline and Sarah’s expression promised murder. Cameron thought that was just a little unfair…after all, she hadn’t told him the real reasons behind Sarah’s stress levels.
“I don’t think its cancer.” Doctor Friedman concluded carefully after a few more questions that Cameron wisely stayed out of. “All of your symptoms; weight loss, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, these are all commonly associated with Chronic stress, complicated by poor nutrition and insufficient sleep.” He continued gently, sincerity writ large on his florid face. “I am a little concerned that you may be anemic, and I’m going to test the blood I’ve drawn to confirm that, but I don’t see any reason to order extensive testing and scans.”
“I want the tests.” Sarah insisted, bristling beneath that kind gaze.
“Hmm…Sarah, has it occurred to you that you might want this to be cancer?”
“Excuse me?” Sarah’s voice was dangerous, and Cameron began to be a little worried for the earnest doctor.
“I’ve seen it before, in cases like yours. You have dismissed every other possible cause for your symptoms, even the obvious ones. You’re unemployed, and feeling overwhelmed by your home and family concerns. You’ve reached the end of your rope, and a cancer diagnosis is a way out.”
“You’re saying that I want to die?”
“No. I’m saying that you might be looking for a way to avoid dealing with your troubles that isn’t your fault, or even your decision.”
Sarah held the doctors gaze for a heartbeat, fury written in every line of her body, before relenting. She looked down, gripping the edge of the gurney hard with both hands, the paper crackling beneath her fingers.
“So what do I do?”
“First,” The doctor replied briskly. “You need to start eating and sleeping.” He held up a hand to still her protests. “I know. Insomnia and lack of appetite tend to be cyclical. I’m going to write you a prescription for sleeping pills, gentle ones, non addictive, and you’re just going to have to force yourself to eat.”
Taking up his clipboard he began to write. “I’m also going to give you the name and number of a well respected family psychiatrist, but whether or not you choose to use it is up to you.” He continued scribbling purposefully. “I understand that a traumatic event like a car crash can have lasting physical and emotional effects, sometimes severe, but a return to a regular routine would probably be best for both you and your children.” He paused, looking over the rim of the clip board to pin Sarah with stern blue eyes. “They should go back to school.”
Unable to argue the point, Sarah nodded grimly. “And the tests?”
Doctor Friedman sighed, putting his clipboard down on the desk. “I’ll have the anemia results in a few days, and if necessary I’d like you to start on an Iron supplement at that point. Other than that, I’ll schedule another appointment for you in three weeks. If you’ve followed my instructions and there’s no improvement in your symptoms then we’ll talk about ordering some more tests.”
“So that’s it then?” To Cameron’s ears Sarah sounded defeated.
“For now.” He handed her the finished prescriptions. “Go home and talk to your family. Le them know how you’re feeling. There’s nothing wrong with letting someone else take care of you for a change.”
Cameron endured 9 minutes and 37 seconds of the car ride home in silence. She was driving; Sarah had handed over the keys mutely as they left the hospital. Cameron suspected she wanted to be left alone to think…but the uncomfortable feeling that she’d begun to associate with Sarah’s unhappiness was pressing on her again, and as they neared the ten minute mark she broke the silence.
“Are you angry with me?”
The look Sarah shot her across the jeep before pointing her eyes forward again was patently disgusted, which was answer enough.
“He’s a doctor, he required accurate information.”
Sarah ignored her, staring out the front windshield.
“It was necessary.”
Cameron was used to being ignored by Sarah. It happened a lot. She knew that in the older woman’s opinion Cameron was a tool to be used, sometimes a dangerous tool, but still definitely not a person. She usually didn’t take it personally. What she wasn’t used to was being pointedly ignored by Sarah. You didn’t ignore a tool to make a point; you just left it on the bench. Cameron considered the possibility that this was actually a step forward in her relationship with Sarah. The idea eased some of the irritatingly indefinable force that was goading her…which was even more confusing.
Cameron set one of her minor processors to work on that problem while she drove.
Sarah stirred finally when they turned off of the road into a drugstore parking lot. Cameron slipped the keys out of the ignition, and waited expectantly.
Sarah gritted her teeth, realizing that it was either speak or sit there being stared at. “Why are we here?” she asked grudgingly.
“Your prescription.” Cameron answered. We need to fill it.
“I’m not taking sleeping pills.”
“The doctor said-“
“Cameron!” Sarah snapped. “This is not a discussion. Either take me home or give me the keys.”
The terminator leaned back in her seat and crossed her arms, the hand with the keys tucked firmly into her elbow. “No.”
“No. Of course not, that would be too easy.” Sarah pressed the heels of her hands to her forehead, resting her elbows on the dashboard. She really, really just wanted to go home. Between dealing with Derek, having a way too scary conversation with Cameron, and being accused of wanting to run away from it all by an over zealous doctor…it had been…a day. The last thing she needed was a fight.
“Please…” Even to herself she sounded plaintive. “I can’t do this right now.” She heard the rasp of denim on leather as Cameron shifted on the seat next to her, and then a tentative hand came to rest on her shoulder. Sarah tensed, but she didn’t shake it off…she was too damned tired.
“Why won’t you let me help you?” The terminator sounded…hurt?
“I don’t want your help.” Sarah intoned wearily.
“You won’t let John or Derek help you either. Charley wanted to help but you sent him away.” Cameron continued implacably…as relentless in her determination to break through Sarah’s boundaries as any other terminator was to kill.
“They have their own priorities.” Sarah whispered, allowing, just for a moment, the pain of that truth to wash over her. John had made his feelings abundantly clear when he hadn’t trusted her with the truth about Riley until it was almost too late. Derek had lied to them both, hiding Jessie and her self imposed mission, even though it might have put them all in danger. Charley…Charley had had a wife, until she’d been taken from him by a terminator…because he’d tried to help. Now he wanted nothing to do with any of them, and it was better that way.
“They do.” Cameron agreed easily, and Sarah raised her eyes to meet the terminators. She saw understanding there…and the belligerence of ten teenagers.
“Fine.” She opened the door and slid out of the jeep. “We’ll get the pills…and I’ll even take the goddamn things.” She looked back to see Cameron following her. “But if you breathe one word of this to anyone, we’re done.”
Perplexed Cameron drew even with Sarah as the entered the store, “Done what?”
Sarah snorted, “you figure it out girlie.”
John came rushing out to meet them as the jeep pulled into the driveway. He held a piece of paper over his head, waving it excitedly as they left the car and headed towards the house.
“Mom!” he crowed, too caught up to notice as Cameron slid a pharmaceutical bag out of sight into her purse. “I found them!”
Sarah pressed a hand to his shoulder, willing him to settle down as he passed her the printed article. It was a news story about a halfway house. There was a picture and she easily picked Lauren’s face out of the crowd. The girl looked a little frantic, probably worried about being photographed. She was carrying a baby.
“Hang on,” Sarah whispered to the picture of a girl that could have been her, sixteen years ago. “We’re coming.”