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 room was dark save for the lone bulb that burned mutely in the bathroom. Cameron stared at it as she listened to the comforting sound of Sarah breathing beside her. The older woman was sleeping soundly after yielding to her body's (and Cameron's) demands to take her pain medication. Cameron found she was unsettled watching Sarah in pain so she'd driven the female half of the Connor household crazy with her persistent and pointed comments for Sarah to do the prudent thing and take the pills.
But Sarah rarely did what Cameron thought she should.
The terminator turned her head and watched the steady rise and fall of Sarah's chest. They were side by side on the bed, both propped up on an abundance of pillows. Sarah's right hand was less than an inch away from Cameron's left, but that was as close to touching as they came. Cameron studied that inch, wanting to eliminate it. There was no rational reason for wanting to touch Sarah Connor, yet her fingers seemed to act independently of her logic, almost twitching with an involuntary need to feel that warm skin.
Cameron frowned and clenched her hand into a fist.
The terminator looked away, believing that the strong, unexplainable compulsion to touch would be reduced without the visual stimulus. After a few minutes of watching the wall, however, her gaze drifted back as if it were programmed to do so.
Cameron shifted so she could see Sarah's features better. She felt the gun under her pillows shift with her. It was the 9mm Beretta she'd found when she first eased Sarah onto the bed days ago. She could smell the pungent tang of the gun oil, the sharp scent of gunpowder and the brass of bullets.
The discovery of the weapon had preoccupied her thoughts over the days that had followed as she'd held Sarah's limp body in her arms. It wasn't fair, she had decided after giving the situation serious thought. Sarah Connor had not asked for this life. But rather than give her son up rather than walk away and let mankind destroy itself she fought. Kept fighting.
Even in her dreams.
Even though Cameron suspected Sarah knew it was hopeless.
Sometimes she wondered what the point was. Would they ever truly be able to stop Judgment Day? There was every indication it was meant to happen, like the rising of the sun or the incoming tide... Some things were simply unstoppable.
But as long as Sarah and John fought she'd fight beside them.
Cameron glanced back toward the light and let her other senses expand. She could detect the breathing sounds of the other two men in the house. Derek was sleeping. John was catching up on homework in his room, his radio playing quietly. Charley Dixon had returned home at the end of the day. Cameron had been glad to see him go. She didn't like the way he looked at her. She liked the way he looked at Sarah even less.
Charley's eyes were always on Sarah. He watched her mouth when she spoke. Let his gaze drift familiarly over her body when she wasn't looking. Cameron would watch him watch Sarah, and the urge to tear his eyes out would come over her. Cameron knew the looks he gave Sarah were harmless, yet they felt almost like a threat to her. She could not explain the hot, angry emotion those stolen glances evoked in her.
She could kill him. Eliminate the threat. But she'd sworn to Sarah she would not hurt Charley Dixon. No matter how much the idea appealed to her.
Cameron knew Charley Dixon was still attracted to Sarah. She could read his physiological reactions with ease. She was also aware that Sarah was still attracted to him, although not as strongly. This knowledge made her dislike Charley Dixon even more.
And then there was the way Charley would watch her. Cameron could almost sense the looks like a cold touch. She would turn her head in time to see his gaze skitter away. Other times she watched him watch her through a reflection, seeing his cold hatred of her in his eyes. The disgust. The fear. Cameron did not understand what she had done to him to warrant his behavior. After considering his actions, she had come to the conclusion that he simply did not like her because of what she was.
Sarah had always known what she was, but she had never seemed afraid of her. Sarah's words and actions often suggested the opposite, that Cameron should be scared of Sarah.
Humans. They were so strange.
And yet she wanted to understand them. Desperately. One in particular.
Her nights were spent reviewing and analyzing every word, every inflection, every facial tick, especially what Cameron had come to classify as Sarah's smirks. She liked that expression on Sarah's face best. It did something to Sarah's eyes making them sparkle with some mischievous inner emotion.
John's mother often acted irrationally and emotionally, even though Sarah was often aware of her own illogical behavior, and oddly, proud of it. That made Sarah very alive in Cameron's eyes. She was reckless, impetuous, and completely unpredictable. For a machine bound by her programming, even as she evolved from it, Sarah's actions were fascinating. She captivated Cameron.
She wanted to understand why Sarah and John felt the way they did. Acted the way they did. She wanted to know what their feelings felt like. So often Sarah let her emotions rule her actions, as if whatever she was feeling was so powerful it obliterated all her rationality. Cameron could not grasp feeling something so strongly that she would act beyond logical parameters.
Detecting nothing out of the ordinary in the house or around it, Cameron returned her gaze to her sleeping companion. Sarah was still disturbingly pale but she appeared more at peace. Cameron filed the expression on Sarah's face away for later review. She could not recall a time when she had seen Sarah so relaxed, especially around her. In fact, Sarah would often tense when she walked into a room. Time spent in each other's company had eased the habit, but it had not eliminated it completely.
But Sarah had been more open with her since the shooting. A little more trusting. A lot more hands on. Cameron had spent the last seventy two hours touching Sarah in some way and it felt wrong not to be doing it now. She wanted to touch her, she realized, just as surely as she knew Sarah wouldn't want her to.
Cameron recalled the weight of the woman, how she had felt against her body. Cameron had liked the sensation, liked the pressure of Sarah's body on top of her own. She wanted to feel it again, wanted to feel Sarah's curves and heat on her skin. She had come to accept that she enjoyed the contact. It made her feel warm, accepted
What Cameron hadn't enjoyed was the surgery. Charley Dixon's hands had shaken as she watched him without blinking. Whether he was scared for Sarah or terrified of her she wasn't sure. In hindsight, however, telling him that she would kill him if Sarah died was probably not an approach Sarah would have appreciated.
There had been a lot of blood. It had seeped down Sarah's sides and pooled on Cameron's shirt and skin. The sight of it had made her feel useless. She couldn't stop the blood loss any more than she could stop the man who had caused it. Every drop that had fled from Sarah's body was a testament to her failure to protect the woman, so she had held Sarah in her arms, trying to keep death from snatching her away. Her sensors had monitored every breath, every beat of Sarah's heart, in case either should suddenly stop.
She wasn't sure what she would have done if they had.
Cameron noted her fist had relaxed without a conscious command to do so. Their hands were now once more side by side and nearly touching. That inch between their fingers seemed like a mile. Cameron had heard the saying before. Now she understood it.
The memory of Sarah being shot of watching the other woman crumple still played over and over in her mind. She issued command after command for the images to stop but they kept running, like a glitch in her program. She didn't even remember killing the men who had attacked them. Those moments were strangely absent, as if they had been deleted. She only knew that killing them had not been an act of efficiency or necessity. She'd killed them because they'd hurt Sarah.
It was not a logical reaction, she realized. Perhaps she understood something of strong emotion after all.
Bringing about their deaths had taken mere seconds. Then she'd loaded Sarah's bleeding body into the Jeep. The sound Sarah had made as she breathed tried to breathe had made Cameron's motions jerky with what she'd come to realize was panic.
Cameron never wanted to hear that sound again. It haunted her in the quiet. The sound of Sarah's life fleeing from her body. The terminator shut her eyes and recalled other images. The way Sarah had looked in the shower. The sight of her naked and vulnerable standing here in this room.
A soft, wounded sound captured Cameron's attention. She turned her head and watched as Sarah frowned in her sleep. The other woman's right hand twitched as if she were pulling an imaginary trigger. Before the nightmare could take Sarah any deeper Cameron finally crossed that inch and laid her hand over Sarah's.
"It's all right," Cameron whispered, wondering if her words would reach the other woman, wondering if the sound of her voice would only frighten Sarah more. "I'll keep you safe. I swear."
Sarah's hand rotated at the wrist and clasped Cameron's in a firm grip. Seconds later she settled back down into normal sleep.
Cameron stared at their linked hands. Would Sarah ever show her trust like this when she was awake? The thought made her frown. She wanted Sarah's trust. Her acceptance. And sometimes she wanted much, much more. She just didn't understand what "more" meant. Touching Sarah seemed to be a part of it. It seemed to ease the odd ache she would feel in her chest around the other woman. That she felt the ache at all was alarming.
She'd felt the first stirrings of it when Sarah had been shot by Cromartie. As she'd lifted Sarah up, placing her injured body on the workbench for better access, she'd been struck by the woman's courage. Even in pain, Sarah didn't back down, didn't shy away from what had to be done. Cameron was fascinated from that moment on.
The physical reaction in her chest as she'd tended to Sarah's wound had given her pause. It was a new sensation. One that was not easily quantifiable in her limited experience. It did not seem to match any warning of system failure nor was it an emotion her internal database was familiar with. It was simply an unexplainable ache, one that grew in intensity as she listened to the woman express more fear about losing John than her own life. Most perplexing was how the feeling was not pleasant and yet it was.
She wasn't supposed to feel things like that. She wasn't supposed to know emotion. Emulate it, yes. Experience it never. She had been an aberration. A malfunction. She would have been tossed into the trash heap had John not saved her.
It had taken time and considerable patience on future John's part to help her understand her "emotions." John had been intrigued by her and her potential, and she had become his pupil as he tried to teach her what was happening to her, why she was reacting to things the way she was.
He hadn't wanted to let her go when she had made the decision to leave. He didn't think she was ready to handle what she would be walking into. For a terminator, he'd said, she was still fragile.
But one trait Cameron knew she possessed in abundance was stubbornness. When her mind was set it was set. Nothing could change it.
And now here she was, protecting the one thing that meant more to John Connor than anything else. It had started as a way to somehow repay his kindness and had ended with a need to watch over his mother that she couldn't explain, no matter how many nights she sat up trying to figure it out. She wished future John was there so she could ask him. He would understand. He always understood.
Sarah whimpered again. The sound had Cameron moving automatically. She shifted down further onto the bed and gently collected Sarah in her arms. The older woman went with the motion, too drugged on pain meds to fathom what was happening or to care. Sarah came to rest with her upper body draped over Cameron's and sighed.
Cameron waited and hoped that the full body contact would be enough to soothe Sarah's troubled dreams. After a string of shaky breaths, Sarah quieted down, her form relaxing with abandon against the heat of Cameron's body. Cameron held her close, cherishing the chance to do so. She liked the way Sarah felt. All warm skin, firm muscle, and intriguing curves.
Outside, Cameron heard a rumble of thunder miles in the distance. A storm was coming. She hoped it wouldn't disturb the sleeping woman in her arms. Sarah needed her rest. If there was a way she could have stopped nature in its tracks she would have. Cameron reached up then hesitated, her right hand barely grazing the softness of Sarah's hair. Finally convinced the woman would not stir she let her fingers run through it, marveling at its texture and shine.
The door opened and John peered inside, blinking in surprise when he discovered his mother wrapped around the terminator. Cameron held a finger to her lips and he nodded, padding closer in his bare feet before sinking down into a crouch next to the bed. For a long moment he merely watched his mother sleep. Rarely had he seen her look so relaxed and the sight squeezed his heart and brought tears to his eyes.
"She was having nightmares," Cameron explained in a low voice.
"She always does," John answered softly. He reached up and brushed the bangs away from his mother's features. She didn't move. "Charley gave her some serious drugs."
John looked up at Cameron then. "Thank you for taking care of her. For getting her out of there."
Cameron frowned. "I wish " she started. "I should have been faster."
John smiled. "You were fast enough."
"She could have died."
John heard how unsteady Cameron's voice sounded. "She didn't. You got her here in time."
"What if I hadn't?"
John tilted his head to the right and studied her. "You're a machine, Cameron. You know there is no logic to worrying about what ifs," he told her with gentle honesty.
"Then why do I keep imagining it?"
John blinked in surprise again. "Do you?"
"I can't seem to stop. I hear the first shot and I see her fall. Then I'm trying to get to her, killing the two men in front of me, when I hear the second round. And somehow I know it was fatal. When I finally see her " Cameron looked at John, her features blank but her eyes stricken. "There is so much blood. She's not moving. I failed you."
John put his hand on her shoulder. "You didn't fail me. Mom's alive. Would it help if I ordered you to stop thinking like that?" he teased faintly.
"Maybe. Would you?"
John smiled. "Then I order you to stop thinking about what could have happened."
Cameron nodded but the little lost look did not fade from her eyes.
"I just came in to check on her but it looks like she's in good hands." John got to his feet.
"Is she what?"
"In good hands?"
"I think so," John said slowly and Cameron could tell her behavior was baffling him He watched her for a long moment.
"I didn't send you back to protect me, did I? I sent you back for her."
"I'm here for you both," she said. "And I came because I wanted to," Cameron added. "You gave me a choice."
John's shoulders slumped as if a weight had been lifted from them. "A choice?"
"Yes. I knew the dangers I faced in returning. I know what the end will be for me. I accept it as long as I do not fail in my mission."
"The mission I programmed you to do."
"You did not program me to do anything," Cameron told him. "It was my idea."
John went still, taking in the unexpected news. Finally he nodded. "Take care of her," he said his voice still a whisper.
"With everything I am," Cameron answered, not realizing how romantic that sounded. For her it was simply a fact. An absolute. She would die for Sarah Connor.
"Good enough for me," John said. He left them alone, closing the door just as another rumble of thunder sounded closer.
"With everything I am," Cameron said again as she watched Sarah sleep.
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