DISCLAIMER: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its characters are the propert of James Cameron and Fox. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: Season 1, and a few episodes into season 2.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Anklebones


"The great writer Victor Hugo, in his French novel Les Misérables, said that there is' nothing like a dream to create the future.' If that's true, then how do you move forward, when you don't have any dreams left?"

It was 3am, and Sarah's bed was empty, again. If she slept at all tonight, it would be on the couch, with the friendly light of the rising sun on her eyelids to keep her company. Until then she wandered the hallways, finding herself, as she always did, standing in the doorway of John's room and watching him sleep.

It wasn't the nightmares driving Sarah from her bed. Those had disappeared, along with the future she thought she knew, the instant she emptied a 9mm clip into the black and chrome faceplate of the Turk.

Three weeks.

For three weeks the nightmares, and the future, had been gone. At first, their retreat had been a blessing, a long needed reprieve from terror. Sarah had caught up on her sleep, begun to feel human again. She had waited, anticipated, longed for, the return of the dreams she barely remembered. Dreams that didn't send her lunging for the gun under her pillow, the gun that wasn't there anymore. Dreams of flying, of half-formed fantasies, and the simple, random dreams of a woman who wasn't the mother of a boy who would save humanity.

They never came.

Night after night, there was nothing. Nothing but blackness when she closed her eyes. Sarah's nights had become as empty of purpose as her days. Somewhere along the way, it had been one bullet too many, one step too far from what remained of her humanity, and her soul had simply given up, leaving her to fight on alone. If it had said goodbye as it fled, Sarah had been too busy to notice.

Now she was afraid to sleep, dreading that barren void more than she had ever feared the nightmares. Nightmares were human. The oblivion that waited for her every night had nothing of humanity about it. Laying alone in the dark, fighting a battle without a winner, between exhaustion and fear, Sarah had begun to understand what it meant when Cameron said she did not sleep.

There was a time when Sarah had envied her that. Before she knew what it was like to see every hour pass, day after day. Even when she finally fell into the empty space between awareness and true sleep, she could feel time passing, slower than the weary beating of her heart.

John rolled over in his bed, grunting softly to himself. The light from the hallway fell in a bright yellow band across his face and his eyelids flickered. Unwilling to wake him, Sarah eased back, pulling the door closed after her. John didn't know about her nightly routine, and she wanted to keep it that way. Sarah would not drag her son down into apathy with her. Everything she had done up until now had been for John. She was willing to die for him. If there was nothing else left to protect him from, then she would protect him from this.

The house was silent and impersonal around her as Sarah left John's room and walked down the hallway to the stairs. She paused by the couch in the living room, but the thought of sitting still was intolerable. A faint wash of fresh air from an open window beckoned her outside, and she let herself out the front door with a sigh of relief.

Without walls around her, Sarah could feel the darkness in her head recede, swallowed up by the night. The porch groaned beneath her feet, sighing contentedly like an old swaybacked mare, a small homey sound that was joined by the rhythmic squeaking of the swing set as it was tugged and jostled by the breeze. Crickets chirped in the grass, and midges buzzed and fluttered in suicidal ecstasy against the porch lights. In the distance, the hum and roar of the highway provided the bass line of the night's symphony, and Sarah let all of it fill her up.

Unused to this stillness, Sarah's fingers itched for the trigger of a gun, her muscles, stiff with disuse, cried out for the workouts that had for so long been an essential part of her daily routine. She ignored them. The guns were gone and there was no more reason for Sarah to push herself to the limit of human endurance. That life was over.

Maybe she should get another job… Sarah tried to imagine herself waitressing again. Closing her eyes, she could almost see the diner, smell the clinging heat of French fries and hear the familiar babble of happy customers, but she couldn't see herself there. The last vestiges of the waitress in her had died when she left Charley.

Below her, the light in the garage winked on. Sarah frowned, watching as a shadow moved back and forth behind the tiny window. Cameron. The terminator had become something of a ghost in their lives. Always present, a still and silent observer, but never fully there. More annoyed than curious, Sarah left the porch and took the stairs down to the driveway.

The side door of the garage was unlatched, and she pushed it open, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the unfiltered light of the naked bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Cameron glanced up when Sarah entered, her hands stilling briefly in her task before continuing without a word, to pour thermite into the cinderblock crematorium.

"What are you doing?" Sarah's question was meaningless, but she asked it anyway. She knew exactly what Cameron was doing. And Cameron knew that she knew, but there wasn't anything else to say, and it seemed wrong just to walk away.

"It all has to be destroyed." Cameron's tone gave no indication one way or the other how she felt about what she was saying. "Every last bolt." There was no trace of hesitation, no regret or fear in those wide brown eyes as she prepared her own pyre.

They were the first words Cameron had spoken to Sarah in days. And Sarah should have said them herself weeks ago, when they had burned everything else. At the time, Sarah had still half-expected that Cameron would simply vanish, an unavoidable casualty of the shifting timeline, a bloodless murder.

But apparently, it didn't work that way. Having traveled to their time, Cameron, it seemed, was now a part of it, even if the future that had created her would never come to pass. There would be no easy answer to the question of the terminator's continued existence.

"Why now?" Sarah couldn't seem to stop herself, and she didn't know why. The death of a machine shouldn't require a running commentary.

"You and John have your new identification, you will be moving soon. I should not go with you."

It was true. Sarah had picked up the papers this afternoon. Cameron had gone with her, her silent, but ever present, metal shadow. There had been no new ID for the terminator, and neither of them had said anything about it. Sarah realized now, that this was the signal Cameron had been waiting for.

"You're not going to say goodbye to John?" Sarah asked quietly.

Cameron gave her a look. It was the one she seemed to reserve for Sarah alone, and it conveyed her deep and abiding frustration with the consistent inefficiency and stupidity of humans, Sarah in particular. "He will not understand."

"No," Sarah agreed. "He won't." Somehow the words came out as a reproof, and she saw Cameron jerk slightly, a mechanical flinch.

"It will be better," Cameron insisted. "If I am gone before he wakes up."

Unable to disagree, even if something about the terminator's reasoning seemed off, Sarah nodded without a word, watching as the last of the thermite fell from the bag, creating truncated loops and swirls in the bottom of the cinderblock oven. Cameron carefully folded the plastic and laid it on the workbench, aligning the creased edge squarely with the wooden surface. Like everything else she did, even in this the machine would be precise.

If Cameron had been human, Sarah would have felt the need to turn away when the girl caught the bottom hem of her tank top and pulled it over her head. But Cameron wasn't, so Sarah bore witness as the terminator undressed and folded her discarded clothing alongside the empty bag, as neatly as if she would be wearing it again.

Nude, Cameron should have seemed vulnerable, human. Instead, she looked even more like a machine. Cameron had always taken a great deal of care with her appearance, displaying an unexpected and personal sense of style in her choice of clothing and accessories. Camouflaged by a teenaged wardrobe, sparkly eye shadow and pink nail polish, she had almost been a person. Stripped of all of that, clad in nothing but the skin she had stolen, Cameron was just a robot again.

"I will need your assistance…" Still blank, Cameron lifted a flare from the shelf and held it out to Sarah. "I cannot self-terminate."

Sarah nodded again, accepting the flare from Cameron's fingers, and closing her own around its smooth sides. A part of her was relieved that Cameron had taken this decision away from her. She should have expected that it would be the terminator who didn't shrink from necessity. Cameron had always been the one willing to do what needed to be done. Just as she had accepted that humans needed to die to keep John safe, so she also understood the need for her own destruction, to ensure that there was nothing left of Skynet in this world.

As Cameron climbed with awkward grace over the edge of the cinderblocks, and lay down, Sarah waited to feel something in reaction to what was about to happen. She expected guilt, perhaps a small measure of regret. She had grown accustomed enough to the girl's presence in their life that even a little grief would not have been out of place.

Looking down at the metal girl lying in a bed of thermite, Sarah didn't feel any of those things. The only emotion she uncovered, digging deeply into her subconscious while Cameron arranged her long, white limbs, was anger.

Cameron had an out.

The terminator had done her job. She had saved John, and helped to bring about the destruction of her creator. Her work here was finished, and now she would sacrifice herself for the greater good. It was disgustingly selfless.

That should have made sense. A computer had no self, no soul, so how could they be anything but selfless? Sarah shouldn't be resenting a terminator for being able to make this last grand gesture and leave the world behind with a clear conscience. Cameron had no concept of escape, no ambitions of martyrdom. She was just doing what she'd been programmed to do.

And yet… was that a hint of relief in the serene expression on Cameron's face as she closed her eyes? If Sarah had not imagined the terminator's brief, almost guilty, reaction when she had mentioned John, then there must be a part of Cameron that understood she was running away. And that meant there was a part of Cameron that was human enough to care, and to fear.

"No," Sarah set the flare down on top of the cinderblocks.

"No?" Cameron opened her eyes and sat up, the barest taste of panic in that single word.

"No," Sarah confirmed, drawing her hand away from the temptation of the flare and curling it into a fist at her side.

Cameron's wide brown eyes followed the path of Sarah's hand disbelievingly. "But I am a threat to John's safety. My endoskeleton and chip could be used to create Skynet."

"I won't let that happen." Sarah paused and then amended that statement. " We won't let that happen."

"It happened before," Cameron insisted stubbornly.

"Things change," Sarah said, realizing the truth of it even as the words left her mouth. "We're in a different time now."

They stared at each other. Coated in a fine layer of thermite, sitting naked in the middle of a pile of bricks, Cameron suddenly looked as vulnerable as Sarah had expected her to be earlier. The machine was still there, but so was the girl. Brown eyes dipped, and Cameron looked away.

"I have no purpose here," she admitted. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do."

"You can start by putting some clothes on." Sarah circled around the crematorium and pulled Cameron's carefully folded clothing off the workbench, aware that the girl was watching every move that she made. "Here…" Sarah tossed the clothes to Cameron who caught them automatically, her blank expression unchanging. "Come inside when you're dressed, and in the morning, we'll get you some ID."

Sarah felt Cameron's eyes still following her as she went to the door. Pausing in the threshold, she looked back over her shoulder.

"I don't know what my purpose is anymore either," Sarah admitted, needing to explain at least that much of her reasoning. "But if I have to live with that, then so do you."

Cameron nodded once, slowly. Satisfied, Sarah left her there, and the terminator pulled her favourite purple tank top over her head.

That night Sarah dreamed. Not of flying, but of the future, and a girl with wide brown eyes, standing solidly by her side.

"Hugo didn't have the whole story. Our dreams may create our future, but we cannot sit back and wait for dreams to be sprinkled over us like so many handfuls of sand. Our Dreams, like our future, are ours to shape." ~From the Chronicles of Sarah Connor

The End

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