DISCLAIMER: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its characters are the propert of James Cameron and Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to ncruuk for the assist, and double thanks to ralst for beta-ing.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: Second part of the Mixed Emotions series.

Killing Machine
By zennie


Cameron gets to use the shower first. It is only fair, considering the state she is in, although Sarah knows she should probably be worried that, when the building blew, Cameron's first thought had been to curl her body around Sarah's own and shield her from the flying debris. The act signaled a shift in their relationship that Sarah had yet to quantify.

Even more difficult to quantify are the images of soapy water sluicing over skin flooding her mind as Sarah listens to the sound of the shower.

Sarah shakes her head to clear it of the images that threatened her delicate equilibrium, returning to the issue of the shift in their relationship. Sure, Cameron had always tried, in her odd, uneven way, to take care of both John and Sarah, physically and even emotionally. And with some judicious editing, the night before could easily be considered yet another one of her attempts to take care of her charges. And yet…

Sarah remembers those first few seconds after the blast; in the sudden quiet, Cameron had held her in those inhumanly strong arms for much longer than was required, and it had taken Sarah's curt 'you can get off me now' to make the terminator release her. As she hauled Sarah to her feet, Cameron's characteristic direct stare had been focused squarely on the ground, and she had avoided eye contact with Sarah the entire drive home.

The sound of the water turning off brings Sarah back to the present, as she readies the surgical kit and herself for the emergence of the terminator. But she doesn't appear; Sarah can hear her moving around in the bathroom, so she raps on the door with her knuckles. "Cameron?" She finds it ironic that she is concerned about Cameron's privacy when Cameron has shown no concern for privacy herself. Sarah tries to moderate the concern in her voice with a shift to business. "I have the first-aid kit out here."

There is a second of silence before the door to the bathroom opens and the bright light clicks off, plunging the living room into semi-darkness. Sarah leads the way to the kitchen and her make-shift surgery, turning to find Cameron paused in the doorway, one hand wrapped protectively around the other. "I can perform the required maintenance myself. You do not need to help."

Sarah frowns; she has stitched the terminator up dozens of times and never faced any resistance before. "Your back took the brunt of the explosion. We can't afford for you to look like Frankenstein."

"I thought I was the tin man."

Sarah's eyebrow rises and she glances at the kitchen chair pointedly. Cameron sits without another word, and Sarah sizes up the deceptive slight frame, before reaching out to draw the obviously damaged hand down the table. Sarah gasps when her fingers make contact with chilled skin. "You're freezing."

"Cold water slows the bleeding."

Sarah's fingers wrap around Cameron's wrist, but she resists the pull. "I can…"

"Let me see," Sarah commands. The hand had been a gory mess earlier, but now, rinsed clean, Sarah can see the jagged edges of the cut, a severed ligament, and…

Sarah recoils as she spies the bright gleam of chrome nestled in the flesh. It is unreasonable, she knows; she's seen Cameron's endoskeleton numerous times before, but for a second, she sees those same fingers that were touching her so gently, so intimately, so softly, less than 24 hours before, turn into cold jointed metal. A wave of revulsion overtakes her as the full impact of the night before hits her in a rush; she gave herself to this, this thing that, with a minor change in programming, could be a merciless killing machine. A part of the enemy had touched her, and not only had she allowed it, she had wanted it, desired it, gave herself to it willingly.

Cameron withdraws her hand from the tabletop, covering the wound again. "I will repair it."

Sarah wants to accept the offer; she wants to be as far away from the object of her mistake for as long as humanly possible, but she notices that Cameron has fixed her gaze on the tabletop, once again avoiding her eyes, and Sarah wonders what emotions Cameron feels she has to hide. Lowering her chin, she sees a glimpse of hazel, and hopes against hope to find a blank, vacant, robotic stare.

Sarah is unsure how a simple film of flesh over burning robotic eyes manages to be expressive, but somehow, it does. Cameron's eyes are roiling with emotions, very human emotions. There is shame, fear, and Cameron's reluctance previously makes a certain kind of sense. She sits there, holding her hand, the very picture of dejection; she had not wanted to remind Sarah of what she is. Sarah wants to curse whoever created such a contradictory, complicated combination: a ruthless, remorseless killer and a vulnerable, emotionally fragile young woman, wrapped in the same package. After all, whoever thought to program a killing machine with a fear of rejection?

Sarah reaches out, almost without thinking, to run her fingers through the fine, still-damp hair, wrapping a hand around Cameron's neck. She pulls the dark head forehead toward her and kisses Cameron's forehead, feeling the skin warm beneath her lips.

She gives Cameron an uncertain half-smile as they straighten, and Cameron, her eyes now locked on Sarah's, nods imperceptibly as she lays her hand back on the table. Sarah loses herself in the task, turning off her mind with effort to focus on the repair of Cameron's hand, the stitches slowly drawing synthetic skin over chrome.

The End

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