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
The world dissolved into focus again in the early hours of morning. Sarah took a slow, measured breath, pleased almost to the point of tears that it didn't hurt like holy hell. Her wounded shoulder felt tight and throbbed in tempo to the beats of her heart, but it was nothing compared to the burning agony of the night before.
She studied the bands of light sneaking between the closed blinds, bathing the mostly empty room in gauzy strips of pale gold. It was beautiful and beckoning and she longed to stand and stretch in its heat.
A touch across her belly had her drawing in another breath, this one short and startled. Her green eyes dipped down and noticed the small hands still holding her. They had been there when she'd succumbed to pain and pills the night before and apparently they had never left. Sarah turned her head and was only mildly surprised to see wide brown eyes looking back at her with concern.
"Should I get Charley Dixon?" Cameron asked softly.
Sarah licked her lips as she tried to formulate a response. "No," she answered in an equally hushed voice. "No more drugs."
"But you are in pain."
"I'll be fine. I need to get up." Sarah watched as Cameron's normally blank features contorted into a frown. She marshaled her arguments, ready to do verbal battle with the machine, but Cameron surprised her again. The warm, tight grip around her middle loosened then fell away. The cyborg shifted then gently eased Sarah upright.
Sarah swallowed as a wave of nausea rolled over her. She groaned faintly, feeling her body break out in a cold sweat.
"I'll get Charley Dixon."
"No," Sarah insisted with a little more force. She glanced down, realizing that she'd wrapped her right hand around Cameron's left wrist to keep her from leaving the bed. "Just give me a second."
"You're pale," Cameron said worriedly.
"I'll bet." Sarah felt her equilibrium return and her flopping stomach began to settle. She glanced back at Cameron, unsure what to feel about the machine's actions the last few days. John had said Cameron hadn't left her throughout the whole ordeal. For two days the girl had simply held her as if she could keep death itself at bay. An image of the grim reaper trying to get past a pissy teenage terminator made her smile.
Cameron tilted her head, obviously puzzled by Sarah's grin. "Can I help you stand?"
Sarah wanted to say no. She was vaguely uncomfortable with how much her body was craving a return to the heat of Cameron's body. But she was realistic enough to know standing on her own just wasn't possible. Not yet. With a bitter sigh she nodded.
The bed moved rather jarringly as Cameron got to her feet. Sarah was once again reminded of the metal beneath the girl's flesh several hundred pounds worth. It was a wonder the two of them together hadn't equaled enough weight to collapse the rickety old bed she slept on.
Cameron came around the bed stopping between Sarah's parted knees. "Would you like to go outside?"
Sarah glanced up in pleased surprise. The sunlight caught Cameron's hair, making her almost glow like an angel. "I could use some fresh air," she confessed gratefully. She noted the blood on Cameron's light blue tank top and wondered if it were her own or the terminator's.
"I could carry you."
A smirk flittered across Sarah's lips. "No doubt, girlie, but I'd rather walk." Then speech abruptly abandoned her when Cameron bent at the waist and leaned in close. For a startling moment, Sarah thought the terminator was going to kiss her.
"Put your right arm around my neck," Cameron instructed. She tilted her head when Sarah hesitated.
Sarah licked her lips and took a breath. Her heart rate kicked up slightly as she finally draped her arm across the terminator's shoulders. Even though she'd been in Cameron's arms for the last two days, this touch felt different. It was a willing display of trust Sarah wasn't sure she was ready to give.
She just didn't have a choice.
Cameron leaned in further, gently gathering Sarah's injured body close before hefting them both up into a standing position. She held Sarah steady as the other woman swayed on her feet, pulling her in hard and tight against her own frame.
Sarah swallowed as her curves met Cameron's. The terminator sure as hell didn't feel like a machine. For a dizzying moment she could only hold on as the world spun. When she finally leaned back Cameron studied her face with concern.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure," Sarah lied. She let her arm slip from Cameron's shoulder but Cameron was having none of her stubbornness. Sarah shot her a cross look when the girl's grip became more firm around her waist. "What are you doing?"
"Helping," Cameron responded instantly as if it were obvious. She began to guide Sarah toward the door.
"I agreed to the standing part. I don't need a walker."
"It would be unwise to allow you to maneuver upright on your own. You have lost a lot of blood."
"Hardly the first time," Sarah muttered. She came up short when she saw a pleading look in Cameron's eyes. Who had programmed that? Why? It didn't really seem to matter, Sarah decided, as some illogical part of her brain ceded to it with little or no protest. Besides, the damn hunk of tin was right. She could barely stand let alone walk. With a sigh she slung her arm back over Cameron's shoulders and was rewarded with a tiny, triumphant smile.
Sarah felt herself freeze. There was no reason for the machine to mimic that kind of response. The smile had been genuine. Probably not even a conscious command on Cameron's part. Not some clever imitation of human behavior in order to help her infiltrate anything. It had been Cameron that part of the machine Sarah never wanted to think about too closely that had grinned in victory.
"What's wrong?" Cameron sensed her hesitation.
"Why did you do that?"
Cameron seemed to rewind the last few moments in her head. "Do what?"
"Smile when I gave in and let you help me."
"I didn't smile because you gave in and let me help you."
"The hell you didn't. I saw you."
Cameron canted her features as she regarded Sarah. "I smiled because I like " Something made her pause then look away. When she looked back there was something in her eyes that looked remarkably vulnerable. "You were willingly touching me," Cameron explained.
Something twisted hard in Sarah's chest. An emotion that was almost as painful as it was confusing. She started to respond then realized she had no idea what to say. She'd never really talked to Cameron before. Ordered her around? Yes. Yelled at her? Definitely. But she'd never talked to the machine about what she was.
Who she was.
Who she had been.
Sarah had thought she'd known. Now she wasn't so sure. She wasn't sure about anything. Until now she hadn't cared.
Consciously she tightened her grip on Cameron's shoulder and felt the girl move in closer, supporting her weight with ease. They began a slow progression toward the door. "How much do you remember?" Sarah asked to fill the sudden uncomfortable silence.
"Remember?" Cameron opened the door then returned her hand to its hold on her companion.
"About your life before? How many years, days, months ?"
"I remember three years, four months, and seventeen days," Cameron stated as they moved into the hallway.
The house was shockingly quiet. Sarah did the math and realized it was Saturday morning. The floorboards squeaked under Cameron's weight but no one stirred. "I thought you said your memory was wiped."
"I don't know. Most terminators have their memories wiped."
"Are you saying you might not have?"
Cameron considered her answer. "I don't know," she said again. "I remember coming online in a bunker. The first thing I saw was John. He told me it would be all right." It was the truth. Just not all of it.
They shuffled into the living room. Sarah felt her energy starting to flag and was worried Cameron might have to carry her after all. The thought was mortifying enough to cause her to search and find her meager reserves. "Were you " Sarah thought carefully about her next word. "Scared?" she finally asked, accepting the notion that terminators had some sort of capacity to feel what, to them, were emotions. At least this one did.
Cameron's gaze fixed on Sarah in what passed for surprise on her features. "I don't know if it feels the same for you," Cameron replied, her voice a near whisper so as not to wake the others. "But yes, I was confused and frightened."
"What does it feel like for you?"
Cameron opened the backdoor, saying nothing until she had Sarah down the steps and settled into a swing. Unthinkingly she began to gently push the woman, allowing a pleasant breeze to stir Sarah's hair.
"It's paralyzing." Cameron finally began. "It makes my systems 'jump' for lack of a better term. My thought processes become confused. And the sensation it creates in the middle of my chest is most unwelcome."
Sarah carefully shifted in the swing and looked back at her. "Wait. You feel?"
Cameron seemed to understand that she was describing physical rather than emotional feeling. "Yes. Just as you do. It's how we know something is too hot or too cold for our skin. Too sharp "
"But you've been shot. Hit by a car. Thrown out a window." She didn't mention that she was the one who had done the latter. "You never said anything about it hurting," Sarah said faintly accusing.
"Would it have made a difference?" Cameron asked quietly.
Sarah looked away. "I don't know," she confessed. She looked back at her. "You never let on."
Cameron offered her a small smile. "I can turn off my pain receptors for battle or to perform repairs."
"But when your repairs are over when the fight is done " Sarah prompted with dawning horror.
"It can sting like a mother," Cameron replied blandly.
Sarah dragged her foot, bringing the swing to a stop. She faced Cameron. Reaching out with her uninjured arm she caught the girl's hand and pulled it toward her. Cameron blinked in mild surprise then stepped closer. "You feel this?" Sarah asked in an urgent whisper.
Cameron looked at their joined hands. "Yes. Your palm is rough from years of fighting. You're also running a low grade fever."
"And this?" Sarah breathed as she let go of Cameron's hand and eased her fingers up the girl's bare arm. She watched in fascination as gooseflesh rose in the wake of her touch.
Cameron blinked a few times.
"What does that make you feel?"
"Warm," Cameron replied.
Sarah turned her head and saw Charley standing on the back porch. He was watching the two of them with curious and disapproving eyes.
"Just getting some fresh air," she called, feeling oddly guilty. Sarah let her hand fall but carefully watched Cameron for a reaction. The girl was watching her as well, something that could almost pass for a soul looking out at her from deep inside those soft brown eyes.
The leaves crunched under foot as Charley stepped off the porch and came closer. He was in green sweats and a white t-shirt, his feet in faded and scuffed sneakers. His eyes stayed on Cameron as he walked to the front of the swing set. "You shouldn't be out of bed," he told Sarah with a voice still thick with sleep.
"I'm fine," Sarah told him and offered a small encouraging smile. "I just needed to be upright for a bit."
"Walking out here was a bad idea. You could have fallen and hurt yourself. Let me take you back inside." His gaze continued to dart between Sarah and the machine.
"Cameron will help me when I'm ready to go back inside," Sarah replied. She felt the girl's heat buffet her back as Cameron stepped protectively closer. Another smirk came to her lips.
"I will see to it that she returns to her room unharmed," Cameron declared. She put her hand on Sarah's uninjured shoulder as if laying claim.
Sarah's smirk faltered at the touch. Charley didn't notice. He was too busy staring uneasily at Cameron's hand where it rested on the pale grey of Sarah's shirt. He looked up and into intense brown eyes that watched him as if he were nothing more than an insect to step on.
"It's just " Charley began.
"I'm okay, Charley," Sarah promised him. She sensed his fear. His fear for her. A part of her loved him for it. The rest of her just felt sad. "Although I'm feeling a little hungry," she lied.
His gaze snapped to hers. "Really? That's a good sign. Can I make you something?"
Sarah remembered Charley's cooking and she gave him a genuine smile. "Why don't you make a donut run?"
"You need something better for you then that."
"It's the one thing I feel like eating."
Charley relented with a shake of his head. "Fine. But don't stay out here too long."
"I promise," Sarah said and meant it.
A moment later and they were alone again. "What's a donut?" Cameron predictably asked.
"I'll let you try one of mine," Sarah murmured. She heard the Jeep roar to life in the driveway. She winced as she tried to take a deep breath. As usual she had overdone it and was probably going to pay for it.
"Do you wish to go back inside?" Cameron asked, her touch squeezing gently Sarah's shoulder.
"I need to get a shower before I pass out," Sarah confessed.
"I'll help you," Cameron offered.
"You gonna stand in there with me, girlie?" Sarah teased as she started to ease herself out of the swing.
Sarah sat back down again and turned her head so she could see Cameron better. Why did the thought of them sharing a shower make her pulse jack hammer? "I appreciate the offer "
"You should not be left alone in your current state," Cameron stated pragmatically. "A shower requires standing which you are unable to do for any length of time. A bath might result in drowning should complications or fatigue arise. I will shower with you."
Sarah's eyes strayed to the blood stains on Cameron's shirt. Wasn't it the same one the girl had been wearing on the stakeout? No wonder Charley had looked at her like she was the devil herself. "Is that your blood or mine?"
Cameron looked down and frowned as if seeing it for the first time. "Probably both," she admitted. "Although more yours than mine from the surgery."
"Fine," Sarah relented wanting to be clean more than being worried about being naked in front of the terminator. She stood abruptly then instantly regretted it as the world tipped on its axis. A firm grip kept her from hitting the ground but a second later her feet left it as Cameron hoisted her into her arms with negligent ease.
"Put me down," Sarah ordered even as she struggled through the lingering daze of near unconsciousness.
"No," Cameron said flatly. She turned and started back for the house, smiling in triumph once more as Sarah's cheek came to rest on her shoulder.
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