DISCLAIMER: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its characters are the propert of James Cameron and Fox. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Season 1.
Cameron's voice, coming unexpectedly from about two inches behind him, sent John leaping half out of his chair as he scrambled to slam the lid of his laptop shut on the browser's somewhat questionable content. He was more or less used to Cameron's lack of concern for privacy by now, but he really wished she could get the idea of knocking through her metal skull.
"What now?" he growled, yanking off his headphones and tossing them onto the desk before spinning the chair around to face her. "Are we under attack, is the house on fire, has someone been shot, is Skynet on the loose? Is there some other kind of emergency that has yet again preempted the need to knock before walking into my bedroom?"
"No." Cameron ignored his surliness, she usually did. John hadn't figured out yet if that was because she didn't notice, didn't care, or if she was subtly chastising him for acting like a child. Probably a combination of the three. He sighed as Cameron sat down on his bed without further invitation, crossing her legs neatly underneath her. Not going to be a short conversation then.
"It's December 21st." Cameron said. "Christmas is in four days."
"I can count," John reminded her. "What about Christmas?"
"In North America, Christmas is traditionally a time for the giving and exchanging of gifts, particularly between friends and family members," Cameron recited patiently, as if that explained everything.
John snorted. "Have you been reading the dictionary again?"
"No," Cameron told him, "Wikipedia."
"Right " John pressed his hands to either side of his head and squeezed it was going to be one of those conversations. "Gift giving, what do you need to know about it?"
"I understand the custom," Cameron explained. "I have already found and purchased your present. I am wondering what to get for Sarah. She doesn't want any more books."
Yeah, his mom had made that point rather firmly, John recalled with a wince. Before the cancer she'd never had time to read; now she was sick of it. Kacey had been trying to teach her to knit, but that was going about as well as could be expected with a woman who was more comfortable using a rifle than a needle.
John had been agonizing over what to get for her himself. With the fight against Skynet effectively curtailed by her illness, they were actually going to have a proper Christmas this year, tree and all. They'd even decorated it. Derek had promised not to be a dick, and Kacey would be coming over with the baby for Christmas dinner. It should be nice. It hadn't occurred to him to wonder what Cameron's perspective would be on all of this, or whether or not she'd feel obligated to buy presents. Apparently, she did.
"I don't know " John shrugged. "If you ask her, she'll just say the same thing she does every year."
"What's that?" Cameron was all curious innocence.
John frowned bitterly. "What do you think? She wants to see me grown up, alive and happy, Skynet dead and gone. Nothing I can actually promise her."
"No," Cameron agreed, looking thoughtful. "You can't promise her that." Seeming to come to some kind of decision, she stood abruptly and crossed to the door, pausing with her hand on the knob. "Thank you for explaining," she said over her shoulder before slipping out the way she had come.
John shook his head. Christmas morning was going to be interesting.
Two days later, and this time Cameron remembered to knock. Expecting Derek, or his mother, John was a little surprised to open his door and find a nervous looking terminator waiting for him instead. She glanced quickly down the hall, and back.
"May I come in?"
"Sure " Still confused, John stepped back to let her in, closing the door behind her. "What is it?"
"I've decided," Cameron announced.
"Decided what?" John moved past her to drop back down onto the bed, picking up the music player he'd been listening to and putting it safely on the side table.
"I've decided what to get Sarah for Christmas," Cameron explained as if it was perfectly normal to pick up a conversation after two days with no preamble.
"Well that makes one of us." John leaned back against the pillows and looked up at her, curious despite himself. "What is it?"
"I can't tell you."
John rolled his eyes. "Then why are you here?"
"Because," Cameron reached into her pocket and pulled out a little switchblade, flicking the knife open with a snap of her wrist. "I need your help."
Christmas eve, eleven-o-clock, and John was just tucking the last present under the tree. The lights were on and they gave the living room a festive multi-colored glow. The smell of hot cider and pine filled the air, and John took a moment to revel in the unexpected gift of this Christmas out of time.
It was the silver lining to the cloud of his mother's illness, and while he would have given it all up in a second to have her well again, John wasn't going to let the specter of cancer ruin the holiday. Even if he hadn't been so determined, Sarah herself had insisted that they celebrate. Unspoken was the possibility that this might be her last Christmas. John found he simply couldn't wrap his mind around the idea of his mother's death. She was immortal in his eyes. Sarah Connor, slayer of machines, couldn't be defeated by something as common as cancer. Fate wouldn't be so cruel.
"It's beautiful." Wrapped in a quilt that Kacey had knitted for her, and propped up with pillows, Sarah watched John from the couch. It hadn't been one of her better days, and she'd spent most of it right there, a restless spectator as John and Derek finished the last of the decorating and preparations for the big day.
"So are you, mom" John leaned down and kissed her forehead. "Do you want some help getting up to bed?"
"Not yet," Sarah said when he straightened again. "I think I'm going to enjoy the tree a little longer."
John resisted the urge to nag. "Suit yourself," he agreed reluctantly, "but let Cameron carry you upstairs when you're ready."
Sarah made a face. John suspected she liked relying on the terminator even less than she liked relying on him, but she nodded. "I will. Where is she anyway? I haven't seen her around much the last couple of days "
John forced a casual shrug. "She's been here and there. I think this Christmas stuff wigs her out a little." He checked his watch. "She said she'd be in tonight though, so she'll be here if you need her."
Sarah smirked. "I doubt holiday programming is included in the basic terminator package."
John laughed softly. "Goodnight, Mom."
"Goodnight." Still smiling, Sarah settled down into the pillows, her eyes drifting back to the Christmas tree.
His heart aching a little for the pain she was in and how well she was handling it, John left her there and headed for his room. He hoped that whatever Cameron had planned, it would help, even if only a little.
Sarah wasn't sure how much time had passed before she heard the front door open and close. The soft pillows and warm quilt were working with the holiday ambiance to lull her into something very close to contentment. She couldn't forget about the cancer, or what it was doing inside of her, even for a second, but there were moments when she came close, and this was one of them.
The light came on in the kitchen, Sarah heard water running and the clink of glasses. After a minute the light snapped off again and Cameron came into the living room with a tray, two glasses of water, a little plastic cup of pills, and a plate of cookies.
"You playing nurse now, girlie?" Sarah drawled, sitting up a little as Cameron set the tray down on the table beside her and sat down on the edge of the couch, mindful of Sarah's legs.
"You forgot to take your medications," Cameron answered, handing Sarah the plastic cup and one of the glasses.
Sarah took the pills in one rough swallow and drained the glass. "I didn't forget," she argued. "I just hadn't gotten around to it yet."
Cameron frowned. "The doctor said it's better if you take them at the same time every night."
"I know," Sarah muttered into her cup, "but the kitchen was a little far to get to on my own tonight."
"You should have asked John." Cameron took the empty glass and put it back on the tray, handing Sarah a cookie instead. Kacey had made them. Looking for some way to contribute, Cameron had made an attempt at baking but she couldn't seem to grasp the concept of recipes as flexible. If the directions said thirty minutes, the cookies were staying in the oven for exactly thirty minutes, whether they came out still doughy in the middle or burned to a crisp. This little handicap was not helped by a temperamental oven that liked to interpret 350 degrees in its own creative fashion. The second time the fire alarm had gone off Sarah had banned Cameron from the kitchen.
"I don't like to remind John of all of this," Sarah admitted, gesturing with her cookie at the tray, the stack of unread books and herself, trapped on a couch.
"He never forgets," Cameron reminded her. "You should let him help more."
"Funny, he says the same thing about you," Sarah mused. She took a bite of her cookie because it was in her hand, and because Cameron had brought it for her. She felt oddly guilty that her illness was turning a terminator into a nurse. Cameron had been sent to fight, not to carry trays and sort pills. "But this isn't what either of you should be doing."
"There is more than one way to fight," Cameron said cryptically, picking up the tray and transferring the second cup of water to the table before taking it back to the kitchen. Sarah missed the companionable warmth against her legs almost immediately. She didn't know exactly what to make of these rare moments with Cameron. There was something building between them, something she should have rejected out of hand, but watching your life slip away through your fingers could make a lot of other things seem trivial.
She looked up when Cameron came back, knowing that the terminator would offer to carry her up to bed, and that she'd make a fuss, but eventually agree, because that was why she had turned down John's offer. As wrong as it was, Sarah took a secret guilty pleasure in being cradled in Cameron's arms, even, or maybe especially, if it was only for a few minutes.
But Cameron didn't stick to their well rehearsed script. This time when she stopped by the couch, there was a precisely wrapped package in her hands, and a rather uncharacteristic look of hesitation on her delicate features.
"What's that for?" Sarah asked when Cameron just stood there looking at her.
"You," Cameron blurted, holding the present out awkwardly.
"I thought we were doing presents tomorrow morning " Sarah protested, but she took the gift anyway, settling it in her lap over the quilt, and drawing her legs up to give Cameron somewhere to sit. "John will have a fit if he knows I got to open one before he did."
"I know," Cameron agreed, taking the offered spot on the couch and drawing her legs up underneath her. "But I wanted to give it to you alone."
Touched, Sarah ran her hands over the shiny paper. Once Cameron was settled, she slid her legs forward again, tucking her feet under the girl's warm thigh. Cameron didn't seem to notice, or if she did, she didn't say anything.
Curious to see what Cameron had picked out for her, Sarah didn't waste any time unwrapping what felt like a large book. Slipping her fingers under the paper and tearing it away, she found a tooled, leather binding, and opened that up to see
"John " her voice was soft, wondering, and her heart squeezed painfully as she turned the laminated pages to find picture after picture that she'd thought she lost forever. John as a baby, John in the years she'd been locked in the institution, the years she'd missed. Further along she found John as he was now, in pictures she hadn't taken, they didn't take pictures anymore, but at the very back lay the biggest surprise, she stopped dead and ran her fingers over a face she had never seen. Five years, ten, twenty? How long had it taken for those lines to appear, for the soft innocence of boyhood to give way to a man's experience? Her son, the leader of humanity, a man she wouldn't live to see, different, but unmistakably him.
"How did you do this?" she whispered harshly, not taking her eyes off the windows into the future. Another page, and in these ones someone had spray-painted a Christmas tree onto one of the cracked, grey walls, and John was smiling.
"The hospital kept everything you brought with you when you were admitted in storage, and the FBI had the photographs of John that his foster family took before they were killed," Cameron explained quietly. "It wasn't difficult to acquire them."
"And these ?" Sarah tapped the open page in front of her.
"I have a complete visual memory of everything that I see... in here." Cameron brushed her fingers across the hair over her chip. "John plugged my chip into his computer and I downloaded the images."
"Does he " Sarah swallowed. "Did you show him?"
"No," Cameron answered immediately. "I encrypted the files and unlocked them privately. He doesn't know what it was for."
Sarah nodded. She wasn't sure how John would have handled a glimpse into his own future. Closing the album, she pressed it up against her chest and looked up at Cameron for the first time since she had opened it. "Why?"
Cameron tilted her head quizzically, "Christmas is traditionally a time for the giving and exchanging of-"
"No," Sarah cut her off gently. "Why this? Why go to all that trouble?"
There was a long pause, Cameron looked away then down at her lap. "I don't know," she answered finally. "Your gift needed to be right, perfect. I wanted to give you something no one else could." Her eyes flicked up briefly, gauging Sarah's reaction before she continued. "John said that all you wanted was to see him grow up and be happy." She frowned, her brow furrowing. "I couldn't make you better, but I could show you John."
"That boy talks too much," Sarah said wryly, some of the shock wearing off, replaced by what? Something that made her reach out and tip Cameron's chin up, her fingers reveling in the softness of the girl's skin. "Thank you," she said seriously. "This " She closed her eyes briefly, letting the grief and regret wash over her. "This means more than you know."
Cameron turned her head, and Sarah's fingers slid along her cheek to the corner of her jaw. She should have taken them away, but she didn't really want to, and Cameron didn't seem to mind, so she left them there.
"You're welcome," Cameron answered automatically, and her eyes, wide and filled with an intensity that made Sarah's breath catch, conveyed a lot more than that simple phrase. A little overwhelmed, and a lot confused, Sarah took a deep breath and pulled her hand back. Laying the album down in her lap, she took a gulp of water from the glass beside her, and tried to regroup.
"I guess this means you should get an early present too " As a deflection it was awkward and obvious, but Cameron let her get away with it.
"It does?" Cameron looked over at the tree, as if amazed that there could be anything under there for her.
Amused, Sarah nodded. "There should be an envelope with your name on it on the left there," she pointed, "On top of that box."
Cameron slipped off the couch to retrieve the envelope, and Sarah took the opportunity to sit up and pull the quilt aside, so that when Cameron settled back beside her she was leaning against the back of the couch instead of the pillows, and she was able to throw the blanket over both of them. Cameron eyed her questioningly, but Sarah just shrugged and smiled. She wanted to see Cameron's reaction to her present. It had taken her a long time to decide on what to buy a terminator, this terminator, for Christmas, but she hoped she'd gotten it right.
Cameron opened the envelope tentatively, taking great care not to rip the paper, but rather gently ease it free. Sarah huffed impatiently, but she let Cameron do it her way. This might very well be the first present anyone had ever given her, and Sarah didn't want to spoil it.
When the flap was finally folded back, Cameron pulled out two slips of stiff paper, her head tilting as she read the tiny type.
"They're tickets," Sarah clarified. "To the Ballet " She looked down briefly, feeling her cheeks heat. "You dance I thought you might like to go "
Cameron didn't move, didn't speak, and Sarah looked up again to see her staring down at the tickets, her expression unreadable. Sarah nudged her with a foot. "You still in there, Tin Miss?" she asked a little nervously.
"You gave John a Kevlar vest for his birthday," Cameron said glancing up, "This is different?"
"Yeah," Sarah admitted, "This is different."
Cameron nodded, still giving no indication of how she felt about the present. "There are two tickets," she pointed out.
Sarah took a deep breath, hating what she was about to do and hating the ache of jealousy she couldn't deny, though she did her best to ignore it. "You could take John," she suggested casually, picking at the quilt over her knees.
"I thought you didn't like the way he responds to me," Cameron reminded her, sounding confused.
Sarah shrugged. "He cares about you," she hedged, "and if I someone needs to " She stopped, unable to finish that thought, but Cameron seemed to understand. This time it was the machine's fingers lifting her own chin, but Sarah kept her eyes trained on the blanket.
"No matter what happens to you, I will always protect John," Cameron said firmly. "But I do not want to go to the ballet with him."
"No?" Surprise at the almost instant brush off of the permission she'd been working herself up to give them for weeks, brought Sarah's eyes up sharply to meet Cameron's. Her heart jumped, the girl was very close, and there was nothing uncertain about her now.
"No," Cameron confirmed.
"Then who ?" Sarah trailed off as Cameron fixed her with a look that answered her question before the words were out of her mouth. "I can't," she whispered, furious with herself for wishing it wasn't true, and with Cameron for making her want something she couldn't have.
"Then you owe me another present," Cameron said seriously.
"Damn you, girlie," Sarah swore, closing her eyes and trying to rein in her reaction to that simple statement. "You don't know what-"
Her protest was cut off by soft lips and a curious tongue as Cameron did her best to prove that she knew exactly what she was doing. It wasn't the best kiss Sarah had ever had, but it was probably the most honest, and her touch-starved body leapt into the contact as if it were the finest ambrosia. It was wrong, twisted, and probably a sign that she'd finally lost the last of her sanity, but Sarah was dying, and she just didn't care. She would take what was offered, and the rest of the world could go to hell.
So when Cameron pulled back, Sarah tangled her fingers in the hair at the base of the girl's neck and held her there. "Don't stop," she whispered into Cameron's ear, taking Cameron's free hand in her own and bringing it to the buttons at the neck of her pajama top.
For a machine, Cameron was a quick study. She only fumbled a little before getting the shirt undone and sliding her hand over Sarah's skin. The quilt dropped to the floor forgotten as Sarah drew Cameron up and over top of her, falling back against the pillows and trapping the terminator between her knees.
Cameron braced herself against the arm of the couch, using her other hand to tentatively explore Sarah's breasts and belly, randomly at first, but then with more focus as she figured out what made Sarah gasp.
Biting her lip, Sarah fought to keep quiet, but Cameron's inexperienced touch was surprisingly arousing, and she squirmed under those searching fingers, hissing through her teeth whenever they hit a sensitive spot. When Cameron's thumb found her nipple and brushed over it, Sarah shuddered and whimpered in the back of her throat.
"Are you hurt?" Cameron asked worriedly, her fingers stilling. "Is this right?"
Sarah laughed breathlessly. "Nothing about this is right."
Cameron frowned. "Do you want me to stop?"
"No," Sarah whispered, dragging Cameron's head down, and pressing their lips together again. Cameron responded eagerly, if not expertly, and Sarah coached her by example, ignoring for now any question of the machine's sexual abilities. It was enough just to be in the moment, forgetting everything else but the heat and need that crackled and snapped between them.
Cameron's caresses slowly gained confidence as they kissed. By the time she trailed her hand down to the waistband of Sarah's flannel pants, Sarah was ready to lift her hips and let the terminator slide them off. Cameron followed, kissing her way along Sarah's torso as she eased backwards off the couch, ending up beside it on her knees, her hands poised on Sarah's thighs.
Cameron's questioning tone barely penetrated through the haze of pleasure that was making it increasingly difficult for Sarah to think. "Mmhm?" was all she could manage.
"Do you want-"
"Yes," Sarah growled, curling against the back of the couch and hooking a hand behind the girl's neck to urge her down and forward.
The first hesitant touch of Cameron's mouth was like the shock from a live wire, and when she started experimenting with lips and tongue, Sarah found it almost impossible not to cry out. Groaning low in her chest, she ran her fingers fitfully through Cameron's hair.
It was fast. Sarah turned her face into the couch cushions to muffle her cries as the orgasm rocked through her and Cameron didn't stop. The second wave stole her voice completely.
When she could breathe again, Sarah urged Cameron up, leaning down to meet her halfway and capturing the girl's mouth with her own. The taste of herself on Cameron's tongue made her shiver, and she tugged helplessly on the girl's shoulders cursing the illness that had stolen the strength from her body.
"Come here," Sarah begged, her voice rasping with pain and pleasure, and Cameron obliged, easing back up onto the couch and laying her tenderly against the pillows. Comfortably trapped, Sarah ran her hands over Cameron's ribs, and the girl felt deliciously soft and supple under her fingers. The tiny part of Sarah's brain that still remembered that this was a machine hovering above her, noted, and was surprised by that observation, but the rest of her just enjoyed it.
She skimmed her hands back up, stroking Cameron's breasts lightly through the thin fabric of her tank top, thrilled when Cameron's arched into her, and the girl's breath quickened against her mouth.
"Shh "Sarah whispered, kissing her gently. "I still owe you a present."
"But I like the tickets," Cameron admitted, propping herself up on her elbows so that she could look down at Sarah. "I want to see the dancing."
"You'll like this too." Sarah reassured her, feeling a smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth as she busied herself with Cameron's belt buckle. "And we'll go and see the dancing together."
"Promise?" Cameron gasped, raising herself a little higher as Sarah got her belt out of the way and made short work of the buttons on her jeans, sliding her hand underneath the tight denim.
"Promise," Sarah said stroking Cameron through the silk of her underwear, and meaning it despite her earlier protestations. She would take Cameron to the ballet, even if she had to go in a wheelchair.
"Okay." Gripping the arm of the couch beneath Sarah's pillows, Cameron held herself up shakily while Sarah teased her. They were beyond questions of capabilities and programming, and anything Sarah might have asked was answered comprehensively by Cameron's all-too-human reaction as she slid her fingers under the arousal-soaked silk and buried them inside the machine.
They kissed hungrily, frantically, consuming each other as Sarah brought Cameron to the edge and then pushed her over it, swallowing her moan of release as she shuddered and stilled.
The musky scent of sex mingled with pine and cider as they both came back to themselves. Sarah murmured an exhausted protest when Cameron pulled away, but the terminator's warmth returned almost immediately. She helped Sarah back into her pajama's, doing up the buttons of her shirt with exacting tenderness and pressing soft kisses against Sarah's skin as she went.
Her eyes drooping closed, Sarah was almost asleep when Cameron reversed their positions, reclining back on the couch and cradling Sarah against her chest.
It felt like coming home.
Sarah sighed contentedly, resting her cheek on the bare skin over Cameron's collar bones and wrapping her arms around the girl's narrow ribs. Their legs tangled pleasantly as Cameron reached down to retrieve the forgotten quilt and lay it over them.
Sliding into sleep, Sarah wasn't sure if she imagined the soft kiss on the top of her head, but she definitely heard Cameron's last words, whispered huskily into her ear; "Merry Christmas Sarah."
John didn't know what woke him at three a.m. on Christmas morning, but once he was awake he couldn't get back to sleep. He tossed restlessly for a few minutes, succeeding only in getting himself tangled in his sheets and waking up the rest of the way.
"Screw it," he cursed and got up. Maybe a glass of water and a walk would settle him back down.
The Christmas lights were still on downstairs, and John was glad of their glow as he padded down the stairs. One benefit to having a metal sister wandering around at all hours, no chance of a fire from untended tree lights.
The couch lay in shadow, and absorbed in his own thoughts John was on the last step before he noticed the pair nestled together there. He might not have seen them at all if Cameron hadn't jerked her head up sharply as he came into the light.
They stared at each other for a moment as John took in the sight of his mother curled up in the arms of a terminator. It should have shocked him, or at least surprised him, but something about the scene looked right, somehow.
Sarah stirred and Cameron broke eye contact to sooth her, stroking a hand softly down over her hair. By the time she looked up again John was already retreating back up the stairs. He gave her a crooked smile and a jerk of the head, and she nodded back, her expression softening.
It seemed they understood one another.
John went back to bed, and sleep was there waiting for him. He chuckled to himself as he dropped off. Christmas morning was definitely going to be interesting.
Elsewhere in the city, the second part of Sarah's Christmas present was taking effect. A computer virus, designed and built for a single purpose, was slowly infiltrating the National Marrow Donor Program's computer network. Just as the sun slipped over the LA horizon on Christmas morning, the name "Sarah Baum" moved to the top of the transplant list, and the future shifted course.
Return to The Sarah Connor Chronicles Fiction
Return to Main Page