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
Sarah woke again to the pale grey light of morning and the sound of rain tapping against her window panes. Disoriented, she took a moment to place her surroundings, her first deep breath reminding her of her injuries as the healing skin tightened and a sliver of pain wormed its way though the drug-induced stupor. The medication was wearing off, but she could feel the lingering traces of the fatigue it caused moving through her body like sludge.
She turned her head to the side, remembering that she hadn't been alone when she'd drifted off. Unconsciously Sarah frowned when she realized Cameron was missing. Even though she'd told the girl not to watch her sleep, waking up alone was still disappointing.
Steeling herself, she used her stomach muscles to leverage herself upright. Her shoulder protested but not nearly as badly as the day before. Sarah took a moment to battle through the pain, determined to push it down to a manageable level. Teeth clenched, she willed it to fade, vowing that she would not give in today. She was a liability like this. Sarah knew it. Hated it. The time for rest and recovery was over. She had a son to protect and a future to save.
A breath finally eased out as the pain obeyed and diminished. She got to her feet. A wry expression crossed her features when Sarah stepped into the bathroom and saw her disheveled appearance. "Some savior," she muttered.
Ten minutes later after she'd availed herself of the facilities, brushed her teeth and run a brush through her hair she emerged back into the bedroom. She came up short when she discovered Cameron standing there.
"Good morning," the terminator said flatly.
Sarah swallowed the nasty comment she felt like making. "Morning," she replied, failing to see what was really all that good about it. She hurt like hell. She was putting John and Derek at risk. And it was fucking raining again.
"How are you feeling?"
"Fine," Sarah responded in a clipped tone. Last night she'd given into a moment of weakness where Cameron was concerned and this morning she was determined to put a little necessary distance between them. "Where's John?" she asked blandly.
"Pop Tarts again? Great," Sarah muttered as she started toward the door and away from the terminator.
"I made French Toast."
Sarah's head swiveled so fast her neck popped. "What?"
"I figured you would want John to eat something more substantial."
Sarah wasn't sure if she should feel grateful or annoyed. "You cooked?" was what came out in a testy tone.
"You never said you could cook," Sarah's voice was faintly accusing.
"You never asked."
Sarah snorted. She looked at Cameron for a long moment, trying to decide what to feel about this bizarre development. With an exasperated sigh, Sarah strode out into the hall, her left arm held close to her body to minimize the movement of her shoulder. She heard the floorboards creak and realized Cameron was following.
"Charley Dixon left a sling for your arm."
A thread of relief washed through the older woman. "I'll get it in a minute."
"Are you hungry?" Cameron asked.
"You gonna cook for me, too?" Sarah tossed over her shoulder.
"What would you like?"
"A ham and cheese omelet." Sarah stopped when she saw the condition of the living room. Had it looked this bad the day before? "Jesus."
It was as if Cromartie had rampaged through the space but Sarah suspected it was more like her son and his uncle. Her nose wrinkled at the scent of stale beer and socks. "Men." She was barely aware of Cameron moving past her toward the kitchen.
Sarah picked up a pair of men's boxers that was slung over a lamp. She shook her head. "Back on your feet just in time," she grumbled. She tossed the light blue shorts aside then kicked a tall stack of pizza boxes out of her way. With another sigh she headed for the kitchen. She saw Derek and John laughing at the table as they ate breakfast. She took a moment to watch them, seeing the similarity in appearance if not in personality. Sarah still wasn't sure she liked having Derek in John's life but a part of her knew John needed him.
The scent of food reached her and her stomach growled in reaction, but it was the coffee in Derek's cup she coveted most. She moved forward, revealing herself to the kitchen's inhabitants at last.
Sarah turned as Cameron approached with a steaming mug. Sarah took it then watched in bemusement as Cameron walked away. It was like the girl read her mind sometimes. Sarah glanced down and noted the coffee was exactly how she liked it. Black. Someone had been paying attention to her preferences. She was privately pleased at the knowledge yet pissed at herself for feeling that way. Her lips twitched before she took a cautious sip.
It was even as strong as she like it.
"Look who's up," Derek drawled with a smile. "How you feeling?"
"Better now that I have coffee." Sarah glanced at the girl out of the corner of her eye. When she saw Cameron watching her for approval she lifted the mug and gave her a half-smile in thanks before taking another sip. Cameron nodded once in return before she returned her attention to the stove. "What are you eating?" Sarah asked the boys.
"French toast," John said happily as he forked another syrup heavy bite into his mouth. "Cameron made it."
"So I heard." Sarah glanced at their mostly empty plates. "I'm surprised you ate anything she made," she said to Derek.
"It smelled good," was his lame defense.
"You weren't worried she was going to poison you?"
"I wouldn't need to poison him," Cameron finally entered the conversation. "I would just snap him in half."
Derek noticeably paled and Sarah had to bite her lip in order not to laugh. "Well no one is snapping anyone in half this morning."
John stood and pulled out a chair for his mother, waiting for her to sink into it before gently easing her up to the table. She gave him a grateful smile. "That actually looks pretty good," Sarah confessed as she watched John return to his chair and take another bite.
"You want mine?" Derek asked. "For some reason I've lost my appetite."
Cameron appeared next to Sarah's right elbow. A plate with a still sizzling omelet appeared before her. Sarah blinked in surprise. She'd been joking but she realized belatedly that Cameron always took her literally. "I " she started to protest.
"Wow," John said.
"You need to get your strength back," Cameron stated but she gave Sarah a shy smile. "And while sprinkles taste good they have little nutritional value."
There was something cute about the fact that Cameron had cooked for her although Sarah desperately wished she didn't think so.
"Sprinkles?" Derek blurted. He looked at Sarah as if he thought Cameron had finally lost it.
Sarah watched as Cameron walked away. The girl was in threadbare shorts this morning with a grey t-shirt. She had long legs for such a petite body, Sarah noted with interest then she closed her eyes and looked away when she felt her body respond to the sight. When she opened them again she focused deliberately on her plate. Picking up her fork she sliced into the omelet and experimentally tried a bite, wondering what was in store for her when a machine was left to guess what her palette would find suitable. Half expecting to taste something closer to motor oil than eggs, her eyebrows hiked in surprise as the flavor hit her tongue. "You're making breakfast more often, girlie," Sarah told her as she quickly forked up another bite.
Cameron returned to the table with a pitcher of orange juice. She poured Sarah a tall glass then set it down, watching Sarah expectantly. Sarah gave her a sideways glance, and then pointedly took a swallow of her coffee. Cameron merely stared, silent and unblinking, until Sarah finally sighed and took a small sip of her juice. John chuckled at the terminator's tactics to get his mother to take care of herself. When Cameron looked at him curiously he winked.
"I'm sensing a conspiracy here," Sarah noted with dry humor. She glanced up and saw Cameron still watching her. With a sigh she picked up the glass again and drained its contents. "Happy?" she asked when she was done.
"Yes." Cameron took the glass away.
Derek watched their interaction with a frown.
Sarah shook her head but she felt warmth skitter through her at Cameron's concern. Her plan to put some distance between them this morning seemed to have already derailed. Apparently the old saying about the fastest way to a person's heart was through their stomach was true. She attacked the remainder of her breakfast like a starving wolf, polishing off every last bite and what remained of Derek's breakfast as well.
John watched her eat, obviously feeling relief at this small element of his life that had returned to normal. "Derek and I were going to go to the ballpark for a bit. Is that okay?"
"The ballpark? It's raining. Wait it's also Monday."
"Someone broke into the school last night a vandalized a lot of stuff. They canceled class to let the police get in there," John explained.
Sarah slowly turned her head and looked at Cameron.
The terminator looked back when the room went silent. Her features betrayed nothing. "What?"
Sarah decided she just didn't want to know.
"Anyway," John said as he watched the exchange between his mother and the terminator with amusement. "It's supposed to clear off."
Sarah nodded as she finished her coffee. She was getting marginally better about letting John have some semblance of a life now. Cameron and Derek made it easier to loosen her hold on her son enough so she didn't stifle him. "Just don't be out all day." She turned a pointed stare on Derek. "You have a house to clean up."
Derek rolled his eyes but he nodded once. Minutes later they were gone, the front door banging behind them.
Sarah sat at the table in silence for a string of heartbeats before she turned in her chair to look at the terminator. She wasn't in the least bit surprised to see Cameron already watching her. "Thank you for breakfast," Sarah said civilly.
"Did I prepare it correctly?"
"It was very good," Sarah confessed. "Where did you learn to cook like that?"
Cameron moved away from the stove and went into the living room. "I don't sleep."
"So you practice cooking then clean up the mess before we wake up?" Sarah teased.
Cameron returned with the sling and waited for Sarah to nod before she approached with it. "The Food Network," Cameron explained.
"Ah." Sarah winced as Cameron fitted her with the contraption but she sighed in relief as the pressure was taken off her shoulder. She wished she'd had the damn thing yesterday.
"Better?" Cameron asked.
"Yeah." Sarah looked up at her and found her gaze captured effortlessly by wide brown eyes. Her heart kicked against her ribs in reaction.
Cameron looked away first. She busied herself with the dishes, unaware of Sarah's gaze on her the entire time.
Sarah waged an internal war with herself. Cameron had saved her life and cared for her for almost a week. She deserved acknowledgement of that. Yet Sarah hesitated to give it to the girl, telling herself that Cameron was just a machine doing what she was programmed to do, one of the very types of machines trying to kill her and her son. Acknowledging what had happened between them these last few days felt like a dangerous line to cross. But her heart and head resisted lumping the girl in with the likes of Cromartie. If Sarah had learned anything the last several days it was that Cameron was more than a machine.
What more exactly she wasn't sure.
"Yes?" Cameron continued to wash the dishes, her back to the only person in the room.
Sarah frowned. Maybe she wasn't the only one who felt a little weirded out by the last several days spent in each other's company. She got to her feet and moved closer to the girl, waiting until Cameron put a rinsed plate on the rack to dry. She caught the terminator's wrist.
Cameron's gaze jerked to the touch then leapt up to Sarah's green eyes.
"I just," Sarah paused and licked her lips. "I just wanted to thank you. For what you've done for me these past few days."
Cameron blinked a few times as she processed words she probably never expected to hear. "You're welcome."
They stared at each other, the air charging between them. This time Sarah couldn't blame the drugs. The attraction she felt for Cameron reached up from her guts and wrapped her body in a stranglehold that made it suddenly hard to breathe. She wanted to jerk away from her, wanted to turn and run, but her feet stayed rooted to the spot, her eyes locked with Cameron's as the truth of what she was feeling finally hit home like a sucker punch.
Attraction to Cameron was only part of her problem.
There was something more serious underlying it, something more dangerous. The attraction was wrong, Sarah knew, but understandable. The girl was beautiful. She had no doubt she could take Cameron to bed and the terminator would do whatever Sarah wanted to have done to her. In her weakest moments she had fantasized about those strong hands touching her, taking her. The thoughts had always left her sick and shaken afterwards.
But now she wanted to know what it would be like to touch Cameron. Wanted to know how Cameron's skin would taste, what those fathomless doe eyes would look like as Sarah did things to that body that Cameron's programmers could never have imagined. What scared Sarah most was how much she wanted to believe Cameron would enjoy it, how much she wanted to believe it would mean something to the machine.
Reluctantly Sarah released her. "Thanks for breakfast," she said again, no longer able to make eye contact.
"You're welcome," Cameron said more slowly this time. "I'm pleased it was acceptable."
Sarah's eyebrows rose and fell. "That was more than acceptable," she said with a soft, nervous chuckle. "Who's the favorite chef?"
"Right." Sarah smirked, finding the whole moment almost ludicrous. A terminator who took cooking lessons from Rachel Ray. Toss in the mother of the supposed savior of mankind who was attracted to the damn machine and you had the makings of a screwball comedy.
She shook her head at her thoughts. "I'm going to go change these bandages and " Sarah lifted her right hand and flicked it toward the rest of the house. "Get started on cleaning up this mess."
"Derek Reese and John made the mess. They should clean it up."
"They should," Sarah agreed. "But I don't feel like waiting days for them to get around to it."
"I can clean it up," Cameron offered.
Irritation flickered through Sarah and she fought to stifle it. "You're not a slave." Some part of her subconscious reminded Sarah that she had often treated Cameron like she was worse. She treated her like she was a device that could be switched on and off. Something that could be shoved on a shelf and only taken out when needed.
Cameron's dark brown gaze caught and held Sarah's. "I know. But if you want the house clean you should let someone else do it. You need to recover."
"I've taken long enough to recover as it is," Sarah replied with a trace of bitterness.
"Your injury is not your fault."
"Isn't it?" Sarah asked with a little more heat. "I let that guy get the drop on me."
Cameron's gaze abruptly fell and she turned away.
Sarah frowned, not expecting that reaction. "What?"
"It was my fault."
Sarah hesitated, trying to track Cameron's logic. She was baffled that the girl kept blaming herself. It was a very human thing for her to do. "Why do you think that?" she asked in exasperation. "You carried me out of the there. I would have died otherwise."
"I was distracting you. You were preoccupied with me and didn't see the men coming."
Sarah paused. She supposed that was right, but it was her own damn fault.
"I should not have gotten out of the car." Cameron continued. "I was cocky. I put you at risk."
"I thought I would dispatch them quickly. Then you got out of the car." Her eyes met Sarah's. "Why did you have to get out of the car?"
Sarah went still, not knowing the answer.
Cameron continued her voice lifeless but her eyes anguished. "I heard you yell at me. I turned my head just as he shot you. Your whole body jerked. There was a spray of blood as the bullet exited your back. I could smell it. I could smell how it burned your muscle and bone. Then you hit the Jeep."
Sarah swallowed, remembering. Her gaze was riveted to Cameron's face. She could remember the rain pelting her clothes, the scent of it and the wet asphalt. The pain as the bullet had punched through followed by the metal of the Jeep against her back as she'd slid helplessly down the side of the vehicle.
"I don't recall what I did to those men," Cameron's voice grew quieter as if the knowledge frightened her. "I only know I killed them to get to you. But I wasn't fast enough. I came around the corner just as he shot you again. I "
" screamed," Sarah whispered, remembering. "You screamed." She had forgotten in the days since that haunting cry that had followed her down into oblivion. Only now did she understand it was Cameron's voice. The truth shook her.
"It was all I could do," the terminator said remorsefully as she looked away. "And it was nothing at all."
Sarah swallowed again and stepped closer to the girl. She reached out with her right hand and cupped Cameron's chin, gently turning her features so she could look into those haunting brown eyes when she spoke. "Listen to me," she said firmly. "I put myself in harm's way. You pulled me out of it."
"Not fast enough," Cameron answered and tried to look away again.
"Cameron," Sarah insisted as she held firm to the girl's jaw, knowing that Cameron would never do anything intentionally or unintentionally hurt her. And suddenly Sarah realized that she'd trusted Cameron from the beginning. All the times she'd slapped her, pushed her not once had she ever thought the terminator would retaliate. "I'm here. If anyone else had been in that car with me "
"If anyone else had been in that car with you then you wouldn't have been distracted. You would have seen them coming."
"Damn it, girlie " The rest of Sarah's words fled as Cameron mimicked her touch, gently cupping Sarah's cheek.
Cameron's thumb stroked Sarah's skin. "I can't forgive myself for letting him hurt you."
Was it a ploy? Some sort of clever manipulation of her emotions to draw her in deeper with this girl? Sarah wasn't sure but she knew it sure as hell was working. There was anguish in the girl's eyes and Sarah just wanted to make it go away. Before she could think about what she was doing she circled her hand around Cameron's neck and pulled her closer, wrapping her up in a one armed hug.
Sarah felt Cameron grip the back of her shirt in both hands but not even a shred of alarm tickled through her. "I forgive you," she whispered into the girl's sweet smelling hair, surprising herself with the words and even more with the knowledge she meant them.
The embrace lasted far longer than necessary, Sarah admitted, but it had felt too good to stop. With no lover in her life and John at the age where hugs from mom made him squirm she had been without human touch too long.
Cameron broke the spell first, stepping back and looking at Sarah. "That was " She searched for the right word. "Nice."
"The hug?" Sarah asked.
Cameron nodded. "No one has ever touched me like that before. I can see why humans enjoy it."
Sarah reached out and ran her hand through Cameron's soft hair, brushing it away from the girl's features. "Yeah," she said her voice husky. "It has the odd effect of making lots of things feel better."
"I should hug you more often."
Sarah smirked again. A week ago the thought of hugging Cameron and being hugged in return would have not only made her laugh it would have creeped her out. This morning it sounded damn appealing. "I guess that wouldn't be so bad," she joked faintly.
Cameron smiled then dropped her gaze as she started to walk past Sarah into the living room. Sarah started to turn to see where she was going when she was brought up short by a sudden, light press of warm lips on her cheek.
Breathing went right out the window.
Sarah stood rooted to the spot as Cameron moved away, leaving the female half of the Connor household flummoxed in her own kitchen.
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