DISCLAIMER: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its characters are the propert of James Cameron and Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: So a warning: this does not end well. If you are looking for a happy ending, go, re-read part 6, and consider the story done. And thanks, darandkerry, for the quick look. I really appreciate it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: Final part of the Mixed Emotions series.
It has the feel of a ritual, the way she shakes the thermite from the flowerpot into the cinder-block crematorium: a step, a shake, a step, a shake, a slow circle. This time, it has to be perfect. Like Sarah has said before, "Everything must be destroyed every last bolt." Even though her construction doesn't include anything as primitive as a bolta fact she had considered explaining to Sarah during their confrontation in the garagethe sentiment remains the same. She might not have been able to stop Judgment Day, but she won't be responsible for hastening its arrival.
She remembers the last of the gunfire echoing though the air as she turns off the ignition, and in her haste, she half-rips the door off of the Jeep. She doesn't register the tinny bell behind her, a mechanical reminder that the door is still open. What she hears is the heavier-than-human tread of another terminator a second before Cromartie steps through the back door. The look he gives her is one of recognition, of their opposite yet inescapably entangled fates, before he walks away into the night.
A wheezing, gasping breath leads her to the living room, to Sarah, lying on the floor, both of her hands clenching the gaping wound in her stomach.
"Sarah!" Cameron is beside her in an instant, reaching out to add all of her strength to Sarah's hands, to stop the bleeding. A gasp of pain from the woman on the floor reminds Cameron she is using her terminator strength in her panic, and she eases off carefully.
He's lying, just out of Sarah's line of sight, his sightless eyes looking skyward, half his head blown away.
"He's okay." Cameron says, staring into those green eyes slowly misting over. She strokes Sarah's hair back from her forehead. "You saved him."
Sarah reaches up and strokes Cameron's cheek, leaving a bloody trail across the pale skin. "So beautiful." She smiles. After a pause, she says, "And such a bad liar."
Cameron opens her mouth to apologize, since she had promised not to lie to Sarah again, but Sarah's smile is soft and forgiving, as though she understands the very real, very human emotions that prompted the lie. Cameron doesn't want to say the wrong thing, so she says nothing at all. Instead, she covers Sarah's hand on her cheek with her own, trapping it there.
Cameron has never had to comfort anyone before, but she knows how Sarah does it, so she hopes the soft way she brushes Sarah's hair back from her eyes and the feel of her thumb rubbing across the back of Sarah's hand is enough. It has to be; it's all she can do. Sarah's body is too damaged and already her skin is chilling and green eyes clouding. Cameron has strength, speed, and a wealth of technology embedded under her skin, but she's never felt as powerless as she does right now as pink bubbles grow and burst with Sarah's every breath.
Suddenly, after all her struggles with human language and emotions, she knows exactly what to say. "I love you," she says quietly, reverently.
Sarah's eyes close, and for a moment, Cameron thinks that she said it too late, that Sarah didn't hear, but then Sarah's eyes open, looking at her with a warmth that Cameron can almost feel. "I know," Sarah whispers, a spasm in her hand substituting for a caress. "In time, I think I would have "
Cameron nods her understanding as Sarah struggles to speak. She presses a finger against those lips she could never get enough of and quiets Sarah. Nothing else need be said. Turning her head, Cameron presses a kiss into Sarah's palm and then leans over to kiss those lips. When she sits up, she notices the lines of pain and fear are smoothed and Sarah is at peace. She is gone.
Gathering the slowly cooling body in her arms, Cameron wishes, just this once, for the human frailty that would allow her to cry. She understands, finally, why Sarah had looked so disgusted when she had described Barbara's body as 'bones and meat.' Sarah's body is not bones and meat; it is the physical reminder of all that Sarah was, her love, her passion, and her compassion, and of all that they shared, and because of this, it is sacred. She understands now why Sarah insisted they go look for the body and wishes she could tell Sarah; she thinks Sarah would be proud.
After what seems like hours, she closes Sarah's eyes and stands, swaying on exhausted legs that were built to never feel tired. The mind-body-emotion connection is a known fact, she knows, but the experience of her emotions sapping her almost inexhaustible power supply is new to Cameron, and she knows that she has never been more human than in that moment, the moment she must say goodbye to the woman who taught her about humanity.
Turning to go into Sarah's bedroom, she runs into Derek's body. It was his fault she hadn't been there; he had been complaining about her presence, again, and Sarah had sent her on an errand to calm him down. If she had been there, she might have saved them, at least delayed Cromartie long enough for them to escape. They might have lived, except for him. She kicks his body, hard, watching with satisfaction as it slams into the wall and falls in a shower of plaster.
Her ritual complete, Cameron's mind returns to the present. Satisfied that the thermite is evenly distributed, Cameron begins to strip off her clothes, tugging a little at the stiff fabric stuck to her skin. Terminators are not supposed to be able to self-terminate, the rational, programmed part of her says, but she cannot step back over that line again, become the emotionless killing machine she once was. She cannot become less than she is, now.
Cameron doesn't plan on having her flesh burn off to leave only her endoskeleton. The flesh is no longer simply a covering for the chrome underneath. Naked, she gazes down at her body and sees her history, her learning process, her love, from the bullet holes to the bite marks. Cameron can still feel Sarah's touch, the softness, the anger, the patterns of passion Sarah's fingers burned into her skin. She cannot imagine a world where the flesh is burned off but the memories remain. It would not be a stripping off of the covering to the elemental self at her core, but rather an amputation, a loss of self.
She can perform one last act, and she prepares for it in silence. The thermite is prepared, spread evenly in her crematorium. The flare burns white in her gaze and she stares at it for a long moment, waiting for her programming to kick in, to stop her, before she releases it from her grasp. The flare cuts through the air as it falls to ignite her bed of thermite. She can hear the plastique explode in the house, igniting a second funeral pyre, and she replays images of Sarah in her head until the white flame envelopes her whole.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Frankly, Iíve never written character death before, but thereís a certain kind of inevitability to this conclusion. I think as soon as I mentioned Romeo and Juliet, this was coming. This story achieved a certain kind of terminal velocity that required this ending, even though I didnít necessarily want to write it. Of course, people who live violently often die violently, so thereís a certain bit of justice to this as well. There will be an epilogue, of sorts, that might sweeten the pot. Anyway, thanks for reading.
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