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 sheets next to her were cool to the touch.
Sarah frowned as she balled them up under her right hand, not sure why the lack of heat on them and waking up alone felt wrong. Then she remembered.
Sarah lifted her head and her frown deepened when she saw muted grey light beyond the blinds. The terminator was nowhere to be seen. She could hear rain pelting against the window pane, thunder muttering miles away. "Cameron?" she called uncertainly. Silence answered her.
Sarah closed her eyes and let her head drop as she listened to the spring storm bathe the yard outside and the house settled around her. Nothing seemed out of place, but it was too damn quiet.
Gingerly, she rolled over and sat upright. Such a simple, usually routine, action made her feel like she'd just run a marathon. Short of breath, she took a moment to let the pain abate to a manageable level. It took far longer than she would have liked, but finally the throbbing eased back enough to let her breathe. Clutching her left arm close to her chest she cautiously stood. She nodded once in relief when she didn't pass out.
The door suddenly opened and she turned, unsurprised to see her son. John, however, seemed quite surprised to see her.
"Are you stupid?" he blurted.
Sarah elevated an eyebrow at him.
"I mean," John hastily corrected. "You shouldn't be out of bed."
"Nature calls," Sarah answered drolly and watched him blush adorably. She shuffled closer to him and kissed him on the forehead. "Where is everyone?" She turned and headed for the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
"Um Derek is out looking for leads on the Turk."
"On the porch."
"It's raining," Sarah muttered as the toilet flushed. The sink came on.
"She says she likes it." John put his hands in his pockets. "Did you sleep okay last night?"
The sink shut off and Sarah emerged wiping her hands on a towel. She was uncharacteristically pale and swayed a little on her feet but her steely gaze was firmly in evidence. She tossed the towel onto the bed. "I guess so."
John smiled a little.
"What?" Sarah asked, sensing he was keeping something from her.
"She stayed with you again last night."
"The whole night?" Sarah asked already knowing the answer.
"Stupid girl." Sarah shook her head. "She's like a puppy. Are you hungry?"
"I already ate. And it's not stupid," John said, obviously feeling a need to defend Cameron who had watched over his mother even in her dreams. "She's messed up a little over what happened to you."
Sarah paused, remembering. "They scar. Did you know that?" Sarah unexpectedly asked him.
He paused, trying to track the abrupt change in conversation. "The terminators?"
Sarah nodded, remembering the marks on Cameron's body.
Sarah sighed. "Never even crossed my mind." She walked carefully toward the door, accepting John's help more for the chance to hold her son than because she actually needed it. "Have I missed anything these past few days?"
John shook his head as they eased down the hall. "Nope. School has been quiet. I told them that Cameron had to have her appendix removed. I figured that would explain why she's been absent."
It was a damn good excuse and Sarah was impressed by it. Of course, she didn't want to know who forged the note John would have been required to hand in. Some things were best left unknown. "She goes back with you tomorrow, though. She's supposed to be protecting you, not me."
John remained silent.
"Derek can give me a hand," Sarah continued, unaware.
"You told Cameron that yet?" John asked casually.
"What's to tell? She should know that already."
"Hmm," was all John said.
Sarah looked at him, sensing something was up. "What?"
"Nothing," he replied too innocently.
She didn't have the strength or the mental fortitude to play his games at the moment. It didn't help that her thoughts seem to be preoccupied by a certain absent terminator this morning. Sarah was disturbed to realize she'd actually missed waking up with Cameron nearby. She would never confess it to anyone but having Cameron so close kept some of the demons away. Sarah found that an odd contradiction since Cameron should be, by all rights, one of the very demons that terrified her.
"Did she really hold me for two days?" She asked abruptly.
John stopped walking and turned his mom to face him. "Mom, I know you think she doesn't feel but she does. You didn't see the look on her face when she brought you in. I saw her hands shake when she was trying to stop you from bleeding to death. Seeing how scared she was I thought you were going to die for sure."
Sarah processed the news with interest. "Her hands shook? Why would a machine's hands shake?" Skepticism was clear in her tone.
"Because she's more than a machine. And you're more to her than a mission."
Sarah's green eyes searched her son's face as she felt some odd emotion flutter against her sternum. She was opening her mouth to refute John's statement when the porch door swung open, carrying the scent of rain and wet dirt.
Cameron stopped in the doorway and regarded them. She was completely soaked, rain running in rivulets down her face and bare arms. She made both a pathetic and alluring sight and Sarah started toward her without conscious thought.
"What are you doing? You're gonna catch " Sarah faltered when she realized what she was thinking and the improbability of it. She shook her head. "You're dripping," she finished feeling petty.
Cameron glanced at the floor, noting the growing puddle. "I'll clean it up."
Sarah shook her head. "Never mind. Just get dried off."
Sarah stood still as Cameron walked past her and John. The terminator cast a quick glance at her as she passed, and Sarah found she couldn't quite meet the girl's eyes. She felt irritated with Cameron this morning and for the life of her she couldn't figure out why.
Because she left you to wake up alone? Some traitorous part of her subconscious happily suggested.
Don't go there, the rest of her brain angrily retorted.
Snorting at her internal monologue she started back down the hall again and was relieved when John once more came to her aid. Her legs felt as weak as reeds and just as likely to topple over in a stiff breeze. She hated feeling this vulnerable. She wanted to be out there looking for the damn Turk, not needing help to walk from her bed to the hallway.
Sarah closed her eyes. She knew John was picking up on her dark mood. He was intuitive that way. Or maybe he'd just spent too damn much time around his mother. "Kitchen," she directed.
He led her there, easing her down into a chair. "What can I get you?"
"A new shoulder?" Sarah asked. "Maybe a new brain to go along with it since the one I have doesn't seem to be working all that well."
John smiled as he sank into a crouch next to her. "How about a Pop Tart?"
Her lips twitched. She reached out with her right hand and eased her fingers through his disordered bangs. "That's a start."
His grin broadened as he turned and went to the pantry.
"Where is Derek exactly?"
"Out. God only knows where."
Sarah sighed. John's uncle was a bit too much of a maverick for her tastes.
Cameron reappeared in the kitchen. She'd changed clothes, wearing a burgundy tank top that revealed a bare midriff exposed above her low slung jeans. A light blue towel was draped around her neck. Sarah noted that the girl smelled like rain. She watched as Cameron picked up the box of Pop Tarts and studied the ingredients on the back.
"You need something more substantial," Cameron said to Sarah as John popped the breakfast treat into the toaster.
Sitting upright was taking every ounce of Sarah's energy. She put her right elbow on the table then turned her head to look up at Cameron. "Unless you're going to learn to cook, girlie, a Pop Tart is about the best game in town this morning."
Cameron tilted her head as if she were considering something.
John went to the fridge and fetched a gallon of milk. He poured his mother a glass then set it in front of her. "Have you taken your meds?"
Sarah sneered. "No more pain meds. I hate how they make me feel."
Cameron set down three bottles in front of her. "Charley Dixon insisted you take these. I left the pain medications in your room," she explained, having suspected Sarah would resist the latter for as long as possible.
Sarah noted the tops were already off the bottles, a thoughtful gesture given her rather useless left arm at the moment. She read each of the labels then slipped the required number of pill into her palm before downing them all in one rough, dry swallow.
"Charley Dixon will return at noon to change your bandages," Cameron informed her.
Sarah nodded, not looking forward to Charley's visit in the least. John set her chocolate Pop Tart on the table in front of her and she gave it a few moments to cool before taking a bite.
"Sprinkles," Cameron remarked when she saw it.
For some reason, that struck Sarah as funny. She laughed then clutched her shoulder when it throbbed in angry reaction. Sarah saw stars. When the brilliant twinkles of light faded from her vision she realized she was doubled over at the table. John was crouched next to her. And Cameron
Cameron's arms were around her, holding her steady through the pain.
"I'm sorry," Cameron said her breath a hot whisper of air next to Sarah's neck.
"It's okay," Sarah replied weakly. "My own stupid fault."
"I made you laugh." Cameron sounded both remorseful and wondering.
"Yeah. Whoever said laughter is the best medicine was obviously never shot twice in the shoulder." Sarah glanced down and realized her right hand was clutching one of Cameron's wrists. The grip would have been painful to a human, but Cameron endured it wordlessly. Sarah released her hold and was upset to see the marks from her fingers that would no doubt leave very lurid bruises on Cameron's pale skin.
She started to ease back in her chair, unsurprised but mildly disappointed when Cameron let her go. "I hate this," she confessed in a moment of brutal honesty.
"I know." John patted her on the knee. "You're doing great, though. Charley thought you'd be bedridden for at least another three days."
"Sarah never does what you think she will," Cameron announced.
Sarah took that as a compliment although she'd heard a slight tone of recrimination in there. Her breakfast looked more nauseating than appealing at this point, but Sarah nibbled on it unenthusiastically. She needed to get her strength back and food was a means to that end.
John sat down at the table and watched his mother carefully. "Love you," he said into the quiet. His voice sounded sad, remorseful.
Sarah's green eyes lifted. A light seemed to sparkle in them. "Love you, too," she said in a tone that seemed to suggest she knew everything going on in his head.
Cameron watched them for a quiet moment then without saying a word she turned and left mother and son alone.
Sarah watched her go, frowning. Then she looked back at John. "Do you really think she feels emotions?"
That she was asking meant Cameron had managed to put a chink in his mother's armor. "I think she feels," John said. "I just don't know if it "feels" the way feelings do to us. Does that make sense?"
Sarah smiled as she swallowed another bite. "Actually, yes."
"I know she felt scared for you. She didn't need to fake that with me. She could have just brought you in and laid you down on the table. But I heard her when the Jeep pulled up. She kept yelling my name. I knew something was wrong."
Sarah listened quietly. "She likes sprinkles," she finally said.
"That's what made me laugh. When Charley brought donuts yesterday I let her try one. She liked the sprinkles."
John smiled. "Sprinkles, huh?"
"I don't know why I was surprised. She likes that sparkly nail polish. And that eye shadow figures she'd find something like that appealing." A tiny smile graced Sarah's features when she thought about it.
"Yeah," John agreed. "Cameron is a sprinkles kind of girl."
They shared a knowing smile.
"It's hard to see her sometimes as anything but a girl," Sarah confessed.
John tilted his head. Obviously his mother was doing a little soul-searching where Cameron was concerned. "Until she puts her fist through a brick wall or something," he added.
Sarah nodded a wry expression on her face. "I can't believe she held me for two days."
"You held her last night."
Sarah's head came up. "What?"
"You were having nightmares. Cameron pulled you closer, trying to help stop them. You were sleeping pretty much on top of her when I came to check on you before bed."
"No, I wasn't," Sarah replied quickly. Not that she could remember, of course, but she was pretty damn sure she'd never feel comfortable enough to share that kind of closeness with a terminator.
John merely hiked his eyebrows and stared at her blankly.
"John Connor if you're pulling my leg "
He held up his hands. "I swear."
I'll keep you safe. I swear. The softly whispered words Sarah had heard in her dream came back to her. She'd believed that voice, believed Cameron who had led her from the death and destruction in her nightmares.
"I was on drugs," she grumbled.
John smiled again. "It doesn't really matter. You slept through the night. That's all that's important." He got up from the table and kissed her on the forehead. "Maybe you should sleep with her every night if you get that kind of rest. Finish your breakfast. I'll be right back."
Sarah listened to his fading footsteps. She stared down at her breakfast, noticing the sprinkles Cameron seemed so fond of now. Curious, she plucked one off and tasted it. The flavor barely registered but there was something about savoring the tiny slivers that oddly appealed to her, a simple way to stop and be in the moment for a change.
Sarah shook her head at her musings. "Philosophy and Pop Tarts," she snorted. "I really need to get off the drugs."
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