DISCLAIMER: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its characters are the propert of James Cameron and Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to zennie as always with this one. Your patience knows no bounds. ;-)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
More Than A Mission
By Inspector Boxer
"We should leave."
Sarah sighed and leaned her dark head back against the car seat. It was starting to rain, fat, heavy drops splattering on the windshield and chasing after one another toward the hood. She looked past them at the small, nondescript building at the end of the street. The same building she and Cameron had been watching for the last three hours. "Five more minutes."
She could feel the gaze like it was a palpable thing. Turning her head, Sarah found her companion watching her with a blank, doe-eyed look. It always struck Sarah how Cameron managed to convey what she was thinking even while expressionless. It was usually unnerving. This time was no different. "What?" she asked in a testy voice.
"You said that twenty minutes ago. Then fifteen. Then " Cameron stopped when Sarah held up a hand.
"I just don't want to miss the guy, especially if Derek is right. Why are you so raring to leave? It will be night soon and as you've pointed out on occasion you don't sleep."
Cameron looked away. "Fine."
Sarah tilted her head, mildly surprised at the note of irritation she detected in Cameron's reply. She really could mimic human behavior to a disturbingly accurate degree. "What?" Sarah asked again.
"Just because I don't sleep doesn't mean I like wasting my time staring at empty buildings."
A dark eyebrow elevated. Was Cameron telling her she was bored? Sarah found that hard to believe. Terminators were nothing if not singularly focused on the mission at hand and this was definitely a mission.
But then again Cameron wasn't most terminators.
Sarah shook off the thought and studied her surveillance partner. Cameron was sitting in the passenger seat, her brown eyes staring blankly ahead. Her arms were crossed over her light blue tank top and leather jacket and if Sarah didn't know any better she would swear the terminator was pouting.
"You pace the house and look out on an empty street all night. I would think this would be better," Sarah finally spoke. "At least you have someone to talk to," she added, wishing she could say the same for herself.
"I am protecting you and John at night. That's different."
Sarah failed to see the distinction. She shook her head and looked back at the brick building. "Surveillance is boring. I admit it. But we need to find this guy. He could lead us to the Turk."
Something flashed through Sarah. She wasn't sure if it was irritation or amusement. "Sulky teenager," she muttered. The thought brought a tiny smile to her lips. The ludicrous notion that a machine could actually feel the emotion that would cause a pout struck her as oddly funny.
Cameron watched Sarah smile. "I'm not a teenager."
"Sulky robot," Sarah amended.
"I'm a cybernetic organism," Cameron almost sniffed. "And I am not a teenager. Please stop treating me like one."
Her attention now completely diverted, Sarah shifted in the seat until she was facing Cameron fully. That was the problem with the damn girl. She was always saying things doing things that kept Sarah off-balance and more than a little nervous. She was sitting next to a complex computer with the brawn to literally take her a part piece by piece. It was a reality Sarah somehow often forgot and she would find herself speaking to the machine like a wayward child. Worse she'd fly off the handle in anger, taking her rage out on Cameron even when the terminator wasn't the reason for it. Sarah often wondered after those moments, especially on the occasion where she'd physically struck the machine, if she didn't have some sort of death wish.
"What is with you today?" Sarah demanded.
Cameron looked at her hands. "I don't know. I've been feeling off."
A chill slithered down Sarah's spine. The conversation was no longer amusing. "Like something is malfunctioning in your programming?"
Cameron shook her head, ignoring the sharp edge of fear in Sarah's voice. "No. Yes. I don't know."
Unconsciously Sarah reached out and ran her hand through Cameron's hair, gently brushing it back so she could see the terminator's features better. "What?"
"I'm I want to do things," Cameron whispered.
The chill was back only twenty degrees colder. "What kind of things?"
Cameron lifted her gaze and met Sarah's eyes. "Things that run counter to my mission."
"Like now. I know we should be here. That we should watch the building. But I don't want to."
Sarah shifted again, unsure where the conversation was going but feeling some of the tightness in her chest ease. Hell, she needed to be here doing what they were doing, but she didn't much like it, either. "Where do you want to be?"
"I don't know. I just want to be doing something else. All we ever do together is this and fight."
Sarah blinked. Now Cameron actually sounded depressed. "That's not true." As soon as the words left her mouth she realized they were a lie. It was all they did. Her defenses came up and dragged resentment along for the ride. What the hell else would they be doing together? Cameron was a machine. She didn't have feelings. She mimicked them. Why should she feel guilty about the way she was treating her? "I'm not your mother," Sarah barked harshly.
The look that Cameron gave her next made Sarah realize just how aware of that fact Cameron was.
"No. You're not," Cameron said softly.
The chills were gone, replaced by a sudden and unexpected wash of heat. Sarah leaned back, realizing her hand had been resting on Cameron's shoulder the entire time. When had she gotten comfortable enough to touch her like that?
A rap on the driver side window made Sarah jump so hard she banged her head on the roof of the Jeep. With a curse she turned to see an unfamiliar man standing next to the vehicle. His pale skin was covered in tattoos that ran up the lengths of his bare arms, disappearing under his white t-shirt then reappearing to climb up his throat. He was soaked through, revealing even more ink though the clinging fabric. "Great," she muttered.
Cameron glanced around. Her sensors picked up more figures approaching. She looked over her shoulder and saw two more men headed their way. The shape of guns was clear under their wet t-shirts. She opened the door and stepped out.
"Where are you going pretty thing?" a raspy voice called.
"Where are you?" Cameron asked blankly.
Sarah turned her head back toward Cameron just as the door closed. Out of her peripheral vision she saw two more men sauntering up to the girl. "Shit." Gang bangers. Her hand closed around the hilt of her Glock tucked safely away under the seat between her knees. Then something thudded hard against the back of the Jeep, making the whole vehicle rock. Cameron was doing her thing.
Flinging her door open hard, Sarah caught the banger on her side in surprise. He yelped as the metal made impact and sent him sprawling. A shot rang out and Sarah pivoted, bringing her weapon up in time to see Cameron send one man flying before taking a second bullet to her chest. The terminator jerked backward then straightened with purpose and moved deliberately toward her attacker.
"Cameron!" Sarah shouted in warning. The last thing they needed was a fucking police report. "Get in the "
Another crack of gunfire cut Sarah off. She didn't realize she was moving until her back hit the Jeep. She blinked in confusion as her suddenly muddled mind tried to process what was happening. Giddy warmth flowed through her that was almost, almost pleasant. Then cold, leaden pain chased the heat, making her knees buckle.
Sarah slid helplessly to the soaked ground. She could smell blood, as pungent as the wet tire she was up against. Her head came up as a gun entered her line of sight. The man she'd knocked down was now unfortunately upright. He pulled back the hammer as rain pelted her face with stinging drops.
"Bitch," was all he said.
The second shot missed the first by inches. The tire blew behind her as the bullet punched through flesh and bone. Sarah heard the explosion. The ricochet of the bullet pinging off the pavement. Her ears rung as she heard a blood curdling scream which followed her down, down as oblivion welled up and cascaded over her.
She surrendered to it with relief.
Eyelids that felt as heavy as anvils finally fluttered open. Sarah fuzzily looked up into the face of her son, seeing terror ease fractionally from his features. She licked her lips, her tongue feeling thick and dry. "What " She coughed as her dry throat protested its use.
Pain bloomed hot and hard through her left shoulder. She cried out in anguish, unable to deny the agony a voice. Hands gripped her, held her, until the feeling subsided.
"Drink," a soft voice instructed.
Sarah sucked down an aching breath as she noticed the glass of water, straw hanging out invitingly, before her. The glass came closer and Sarah greedily took of the offering, whimpering a little when it was pulled away.
"Not too much too fast," the voice said, warm breath blowing against Sarah's ear.
Cameron, Sarah realized as the girl set the water on the nightstand. Sarah looked down, realizing that the terminator was behind her on the bed as her strong, thin arms settled back around her waist. "What are you doing?" Sarah demanded, her voice slightly slurred even to her own ears.
"She's been with you the whole time," John said quietly. "Since she brought you in bleeding all over the place." He was standing next to the bed now, his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. "She wouldn't even turn you loose for surgery."
"Surgery?" Sarah continued to stare in medicated fascination at the linked hands over her stomach. The blunt nails were painted a pretty shade of pink, the hands dainty and small. It was hard to believe they could crush her without effort. Harder to believe they weren't human.
"Charley," was all John needed to say. "He's out in the kitchen. Do you want to see him?"
"Eventually," Sarah murmured. Another wounded exclamation of pain escaped her as she tried to sit up.
"Don't," Cameron stated firmly, her grip tightening. "You received two bullet wounds to your shoulder. There was a lot of damage. You need to lie still."
"And I'm supposed to do that with you holding on to me?" Sarah snapped.
"Actually," John interrupted. "You've been out for two days."
Sarah felt shock ripple through her. "Two days?" Slowly she turned her head, finding Cameron's familiar features watching her carefully. "You've held on to me for two days?"
"I " Cameron blinked as if processing what the tiny word actually meant and meant to her. "I was afraid if I let go " Her gaze dropped.
There was no need to mimic emotion here, Sarah realized. Cameron had actually been worried.
What the hell was she supposed to do with that information? "Guess I should have listened to you and left when we had the chance," Sarah drawled when she could think of nothing else to say.
Cameron laid her forehead against Sarah's right shoulder. Sarah gasped softly at the contact, puzzled by the motivation behind it. If she didn't know better she would think Cameron was exhausted. Relieved, perhaps. But as Cameron often pointed out she didn't need sleep. That took exhaustion out of the equation. What it left her with she wasn't sure.
John leaned over them both and gave his mother a quick kiss on the head. "Thanks for sticking around."
Her attention now back on her son, Sarah grimaced as she reached out and caught John's hand before he could move away. "You aren't going to get rid of me that easily."
He smiled before squeezing her hand. "Let me get Charley."
Sarah nodded as she watched him go. A warm, soft hand came up to her left cheek and gently urged her back. Not having the strength to fight and not really wanting to, Sarah yielded and soon felt the heat of Cameron's skin as her head came to rest on the young woman's left shoulder. Sarah tipped her head back, seeing the lines of Cameron's long neck in her immediate view. As she watched, she could see what passed for a pulse pounding out a steady rhythm. Oddly entranced, and considerably drugged, Sarah reached up with her good hand and brushed her fingers across the surface.
The pulse jumped under her touch.
Sarah's gaze darted to Cameron's face when she heard the girl swallow hard. Cameron didn't look at her, though. She kept her wide brown eyes on the door, waiting for Charley to enter.
Sarah licked suddenly dry lips, not sure what to think, or feel, at the moment. The only thing that made sense was that Cameron's skin was so soft. Almost reverently she ran the pad of her thumb along the other side of her neck, watching the girl swallow again and hearing a slight hitch in her breathing. She wondered if the sound was real or some strange drug induced hallucination. "What did you want to do?" Sarah asked groggily.
Cameron, her eyes conveying confusion, looked down at her. "Do?"
"In the Jeep. You said you wanted to do something else instead of the mission."
"Oh." Cameron was silent a moment as Sarah's thumb continued to stroke her skin. "I don't know."
"You didn't have anything in mind?"
Sarah's eyebrows rose almost to her hairline. "A picnic? You want to go on a picnic?" She smiled as sleep began its siren's song again. "You don't eat."
"I eat," Cameron answered readily. "Your pancakes are quite good."
Sarah's grin broadened. "Liar."
Cameron's features relaxed into a tiny smile. "John says your potato salad is slammin'."
Sarah almost laughed. None of this could be real. The drugs had to be messing with her mind. No way was she really lying in bed with Cameron's arms around her, stroking the terminator's skin and talking about potato salad. She decided to play along for the fun of it. "Tell you what. When I'm back on my feet, we'll all go on a picnic."
The doe-eyes got impossibly wider and Sarah was struck dumb as she watched joy enter the gaze looking down on her.
"Looks like our patient is awake," Charley happily declared as he entered the room.
Guiltily Sarah let her hand drop. She heard a tiny sound of protest come from the back of Cameron's throat. Her gaze leapt back to the terminator's face. Cameron looked as blank as usual but there was something in her eyes. Something
The word came to Sarah and she shivered at the truth of it. Cameron's arms tightened around her protectively and Sarah realized how oddly safe she felt.
Sarah had told John, drilled it into him, that they were never, ever safe. Safety was an illusion. The minute you felt safe was the minute they got you.
Sarah smirked at herself. She hadn't been wrong. She finally felt safe. And one of them had definitely gotten her if the thumb idly stroking the surface of her stomach through her t-shirt was any indication.
Sarah managed a weak smile for Charley as he knelt on the edge of the bed and began to change the bandages over her wounds. Her gaze drifted to the dresser and met Cameron's eyes in the reflection of the mirror.
At the moment very little made sense, Sarah realized, but she knew one unequivocal truth.
Everything had changed.
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