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
Holy hell did it hurt. Sarah gritted her teeth as she eased her arm from the sling. It had been almost two weeks since she'd been shot and she'd had enough with feeling useless. She needed to be back out there trying to stop Skynet, trying to give her son a future instead of a sentence. She flung the contraption across the room then sat still on the edge of the bed, waiting for the pain to pass even though she was about to do something that would cause her even more.
"What are you doing?"
Sarah twitched but it was the only outward sign the terminator had startled her. "I thought that was my line," she drawled. She cursed mentally as Cameron's boots clunked across the floor as she came closer. Sarah had been doing her best to put some distance between them since they had confessed their mutual attraction, but she wasn't having too much luck. She still needed Cameron's help for too many things and as long as that remained the case they would be closer than she was comfortable with.
Sarah tipped her head back and looked up into Cameron's expressionless features. "Did you just get home from school?"
"Yes." Cameron regarded her then turned her gaze toward the sling crumpled up in the corner.
Sarah cleared her throat, sure that she was just chastised. "I need to start some sort of physical therapy on my shoulder."
Cameron's brown gaze tracked back to Sarah. "I will help."
"No," Sarah said instantly.
The terminator tilted her head to the right. "You require assistance."
"I can manage," Sarah's voice was tight and slightly breathless. She didn't want Cameron touching her. It was hard enough being so close to her every day; feeling Cameron's hands on her would just be tempting fate.
"Were you born this stubborn or do you work at it?"
Sarah's gaze snapped back up to Cameron's eyes. "What?"
"That's what the gym teacher always says when I refuse to play dodge ball."
Sarah opened her mouth to respond and realized she didn't have a clue what to say. "Dodge ball?"
"I do not want to inadvertently injure someone and I have an unfair advantage against the other students with my targeting abilities."
Sarah covered her eyes and almost laughed at the mental picture Cameron's words painted for her. "You could always pretend to be lousy at it. That's what terminators do, right? You infiltrate. You play the part."
"There are these jocks," Cameron explained. "They make fun of me. They also pick on John."
Sarah's amusement faded. "Jocks do that sometimes," she spoke slowly.
"So John says. However, I have found myself tempted to employ my targeting abilities on them along with my significantly greater strength. The ball is light but thrown with enough force it could do damage."
"Yeah." Sarah took a breath then bit her lip. "Maybe staying on the bench is a good idea."
"I think so. Speaking of good ideas " Cameron held out her hand. "It would be prudent to let me help you with your therapy."
Sarah eyed the perfectly painted nails like they were talons. "I really don't need "
"Just let her help," John's voice floated from the hallway as he walked by.
Cameron looked at Sarah until Sarah finally gave in and took the girl's warm hand. She was eased to her feet with more gentleness than she expected. Then Cameron was moving behind her and Sarah's senses shifted. Smell, touch and hearing all sharpened in the absence of Cameron from her line of sight.
"You need to straighten out your arm," Cameron murmured as she stepped closer.
Sarah closed her eyes when she felt Cameron's heat buffet her back. "This really isn't a good idea," she muttered.
"I promised," Cameron reminded her. Sarah turned her head and looked at her, startled that the terminator was reading where her unease was coming from.
Finally Sarah nodded. "Just getting the sling off might be all I can manage for today."
Cameron's hands started at Sarah's elbow and slowly slid upward, carefully feeling the muscles along the way. Sarah stood motionless, allowing the touch and trying not to feel anything in response to it. The warmth from Cameron's fingertips seemed almost hot against her skin and Sarah could feel gooseflesh rise in the wake of the terminator's clinical examination of her arm. She almost physically ached to touch her back.
"What's going on?"
Both women looked toward the doorway where Derek was watching them.
"Physical therapy," Cameron replied.
Derek took a swig of the bottle of beer in his hand. "How cozy."
Sarah didn't have the chance to tell him where to go. Without another word he left, leaving her with an uneasy feeling in the pit of her guts. She didn't need his approval to do a damn thing and she didn't much care for the look of judgment in his eyes.
Cameron ignored his departure as she came around to Sarah's left side, taking her elbow in one hand and her wrist in the other. "I'm going to straighten the arm now. This will hurt."
Her attention moved from the door to the terminator just as Cameron moved Sarah's arm an inch. Sarah hissed in pain but she closed her eyes and let Cameron continue. She had a sinking suspicion she was going to need the pain pills when this was over. "Keep going," she told the girl.
Cameron watched Sarah's face for cues. "I'm sorry this causes you pain."
"That makes two of us," Sarah agreed then grunted as her arm was extended another inch. The muscles were tight and painful from being held in a single position for so long and the healing bullet wounds in her shoulder protested every millimeter she moved.
They worked for another half hour until sweat was pouring off Sarah's face and her arm was shaking with the strain. "That's as far as I can go," Sarah said through clenched jaws.
"Another half inch," Cameron told her.
"Another half inch," Cameron said again undeterred. She applied careful pressure, easing Sarah's arm back just a bit further before she massaged the area gently and rotated the shoulder forward again.
"How do you know whether or not I can go another fucking half inch?" Sarah cursed.
Cameron held up her hand. "The sensor pads in my fingertips."
Sarah rolled her eyes.
"We can stop now," Cameron said. "You are tired."
"Your sensors tell you that?" Sarah spat.
"No. You're cranky."
Sarah closed her eyes. "Maybe I'm cranky because I'm in pain because you made me go that extra half inch." She opened her eyes and gave Cameron a challenging look.
Cameron merely regarded her blandly.
Sarah sighed and rubbed at her now aching arm. It throbbed angrily at being stretched beyond where it wanted to go.
Cameron turned and moved toward the bathroom.
"Where are you going?" Sarah asked in confusion. She watched as the terminator came back with a brown bottle of wintergreen liniment in her hands. "That's a pretty good idea, actually," Sarah murmured as she thought about how the heat would feel on her shoulder. She held out her hand for the bottle then elevated her eyebrows when Cameron didn't give it to her.
"Take off your shirt," Cameron instructed.
Oh hell. Sarah swallowed. "I "
"Cannot reach your back," Cameron pointed out before Sarah could say more.
Cameron looked at her for a silent moment. "Please," she finally spoke. "Let me help."
Reluctantly Sarah nodded. Cameron turned and closed the door as Sarah began to unbutton her shirt one handed. She had it halfway off by the time she sat down on the bed. Cameron joined her, setting the bottle on the nightstand then gently moving Sarah's hands away to finish undressing her.
Sarah watched her up close as the terminator peeled the shirt from Sarah's body, noting how Cameron's gaze seemed more focused than usual, as if the girl was doing her best not to stare. "No reading my physiological responses right now," Sarah told her with a light attempt at humor. Cameron glanced at her face then smiled a fraction before laying the shirt aside.
"You should lie down on your stomach if you're able."
Nodding once more, Sarah turned and stretched out face down on the bed. She was hyper aware of Cameron's nearness, of the sound of her breathing. She heard the clink of the bottle as Cameron retrieved and uncapped it. Then the bed moved and the scent of wintergreen pervaded the room a second before Sarah felt the initially cold liquid touch her skin along with the warmth of Cameron's fingers. Her eyes fluttered closed.
"It will get easier," Cameron said after a few quiet minutes.
Sarah took in a breath and let her eyes blink open. "Huh?" She wondered if she'd fallen asleep, the soothing massage and heat from the liniment lulling her senses.
"Right," Sarah mumbled against the pillows. "So tell me about these jocks." She noted the hands on her stilled for an instant before resuming.
"They are nothing I cannot handle."
"I'm sure," Sarah said. "You could drop kick them through the goal post if you wanted."
"They're basketball players."
Sarah frowned. "Fine. You could shoot free throws with their heads."
"Is it wrong that I like that image?"
Sarah laughed wincing only slightly as her shoulder protested. "It's not wrong to think it, but let's not make it a reality."
Sarah did so without thought. She was at least wearing a front clasp bra this time and didn't feel quite as exposed as she would have without one. "Are they that bad?"
"They call me a freak."
"Why?" Sarah asked softly as Cameron poured more liquid into her palms then rubbed them together to warm it before massaging it into Sarah's shoulder and neck. It felt heavenly and Sarah was very aware of how much she wanted Cameron to let those hands wander wherever they wanted.
"I am one."
"You're different," Sarah replied, her voice sharpening. "That doesn't make you a freak. Don't you believe otherwise."
"They pick on John and the other smart kids in school."
"John can take care of himself."
"Yes," Cameron agreed. "Still."
Sarah sighed. "Still," she agreed. "I know the feeling." Her thoughts paused as Cameron leaned over her and began massaging each side of her neck. She groaned and Cameron hesitated for the briefest moment. The terminator swallowed loud enough for Sarah to hear her and for just an instant Sarah wallowed in the energy she could feel flowing between them.
"Mom?" John's voice came from the other side of the door. "What's for dinner?"
Cameron and Sarah eyed each other for a frozen moment. "We will do this again tomorrow. Your therapy," Cameron hastily added then looked momentarily puzzled by her own behavior. She stood up and handed Sarah her shirt. "I will fix dinner."
Sarah slipped her shirt on just as Cameron opened the door and grabbed a surprised John by the collar. "You will help me grill," she instructed him.
"Hey!" John stumbled after her.
Sarah knew she should fight the urge to smile but she simply couldn't.
"I have a lead."
Sarah's head came up from where she was studying some research on John's laptop. She was propped up in her own bed, her long, bare legs exposed from the cut-off shorts she was wearing. Derek was in the doorway, his hands stuffed casually in his scruffy looking jeans. His red rimmed eyes belied exhaustion but he was practically hopping with energy. She wondered if that energy might have been chemically induced. "A lead?"
"On the Turk."
The Turk. Sarah raked a hand through her hair, wondering why she wasn't more pleased by this bit of news. She'd taken two bullets trying to find the damn thing after all, but something in her stomach actually soured at Derek's words. "Yeah? What did you learn?"
"Just a possible location a warehouse about twenty minutes from here. I can go check it out if you like."
Sarah set the laptop aside and gave him her full attention. "Alone?"
"You're not in a position to help," he answered with a smile designed to take the sting out of his words.
Sarah shifted, stung by the rebuke anyway and wary of the lack of sincerity she detected in his grin. She'd been working for three days with Cameron on her therapy and had seen some improvement, but her left shoulder was still painful and her arm almost useless. "Wait till John and Cameron get home. She can go with you," she instructed.
He pursed his lips in obvious distaste at the thought.
"You need muscle for back up."
"Muscle would be fine," he muttered. "Metal is another matter." His eyes ironically went steely. "You seem to be spending a lot of time with her these days."
Sarah's own gaze narrowed at the disapproval she could hear in his tone. She bristled. Her relationship with Cameron was strained given the circumstances, but they were still closer than they had been before the shooting. Sarah no longer took her anger and frustration out on the girl. "She played nursemaid to me for a week. We bonded," Sarah almost spat, affecting sarcasm she didn't feel and hoping the truth would sound like anything but.
"Fine." Derek pushed off the doorframe with his shoulder. "I'll wait for your pet machine to get home."
Sarah continued to stare at the empty doorway long after Derek was gone.
Four hours later, Cameron sat stiffly beside Derek Reese in the Jeep. He'd brusquely informed her when she had arrived home from school that they had a mission. Cameron had displeased him by not taking him at his word, choosing instead to get confirmation from Sarah. She had been puzzled by Sarah's obvious reluctance to let her go and annoyed with Derek Reese as he kept interrupting their conversation, insisting they leave.
The terminator glanced at Derek out of the corner of her eye, noting his increased respiration and heart rate. Both made her wary as she looked away and used all the available visual spectrums at her disposal to scan the warehouse in front of them.
It was the first thing he'd said to her since they left the house.
"Well what?" she asked blandly, trying to intentionally irritate him. She'd seen Sarah use the technique and it seemed to work for her now as well. His frown deepened and she watched with interest as his jaw pulsed.
"Do you read anything?" he asked in a low, angry tone.
"I read lots of things. I don't sleep." Cameron opened the door of the Jeep and stepped out. She heard Derek curse behind her before she shut the door. Apparently he did not appreciate an attempt at humor at this moment.
He came around the vehicle with little stealth. Cameron watched him as he approached. Why Sarah and John let him stay in their home was a mystery to her. She found him to be a liability, a threat to John and Sarah's survival. She had pointed this out to both Connors and neither had disagreed with her, but they had also stated they had their reasons.
Cameron knew whatever the reasons were they were not good enough in her calculated opinion.
"Did you scan any life signs?" Derek hissed when he drew even with her.
"One." Cameron pointed toward the east end of the warehouse. "There appears to be a single human occupant inside an office there."
"Alone, huh?" Derek smiled.
Cameron tilted her head as she regarded him curiously. Something wasn't right about the moment but her systems could not discern what that something was. She frowned, wishing once more that Sarah was there. Derek appeared to have no plan. Sarah always had a plan, and usually many others to back it up.
"What do you want to do?" she asked him.
Derek looked at her. "Fix a few things," he replied cryptically then headed for the warehouse, slipping a 9mm out from under his leather jacket.
Cameron had no choice but to follow, retrieving her own weapon from where it was tucked in the waistband of her jeans.
Sarah glanced at her son as he entered the kitchen. "Yeah?" She worried her thumbnail on her right hand between her teeth as she walked toward the refrigerator then back again toward the living room.
"Why are you pacing?"
Sarah pivoted and stopped. She hadn't realized she was until John had pointed it out. He leaned against the nearest counter, watching her with a concerned expression. "Just " She searched for a viable excuse. Telling him she was worrying about Cameron would open up a host of questions she wasn't ready to answer to John or herself. Not to mention she was being silly. Cameron was a damn terminator. She could take care of herself quite nicely.
"Are you worried about them?" John guessed. He looked at his watch. "They've only been gone for a few hours."
"I should have gone with them," Sarah muttered.
John elevated an eyebrow that conveyed everything he needed to say.
"Something just doesn't feel right to me about all this," she tried to explain. She sighed. "I thought you had a study group." She noticed his backpack for the first time.
"I do. I was about to head out. You want me to stay?"
Sarah managed a smile. "I want you to pass your test," she told him as she ruffled his hair playfully. "Go on. I'm just stewing because I'm bored. They'll be back soon."
He didn't look convinced.
"Go," Sarah insisted. She used her right hand to grab his shoulder and turn him before delivering a swift swat to his butt. "Get a move on, mister."
"Fine," John said with a playful put upon air. "Slave driver."
"Don't make me get out the whip," she called after him.
John chuckled as he left by the front door.
It was another half hour before Sarah heard the Jeep pull up outside. She released the breath it felt like she'd been holding since Cameron and Derek had left. Moments later John's uncle and the terminator stepped inside. Cameron's shirt was sporting two bloodstained bullet holes and if the presence of gunpowder was any indication she'd taken the rounds at close range.
More scars, Sarah thought but didn't vocalize. Her gaze went to Derek and she noted his face and chest were splattered with blood. "What in the hell happened to the two of you? Did you find the Turk?"
"Donald Erickson," Cameron said by way of explanation.
Sarah frowned. The name was one of the three employees that Cameron had given her. One of the three names the terminator had determined might have something to do with the creation of Skynet. "What?"
"Cameron killed him," Derek said before Cameron could say anything more. "I tried to talk to him to find out if he had the Turk, but she just walked up and executed him."
Sarah's gaze sharpened and she turned it with laser intensity on the terminator. Something in her stomach rolled when she saw the blank look Cameron was giving Derek. "Is that true?" she demanded.
Cameron started to speak then stopped.
"Of course it's true," Derek replied heatedly. "She knew he was one of the creators of Skynet. He got off a couple of rounds, obviously," Derek said as he waved a dismissive hand at Cameron's injuries. "I'm sure we'll hear about it on the news tonight. If she would have given me a second I could have found out where the Turk was. She fucked everything up. I knew I should have gone alone."
Cameron said nothing in her defense. Instead her gaze dropped to the floor and stayed there, her posture like that of an abused animal expecting to be struck again. Sarah's eyes narrowed in suspicion. She moved past Derek and walked over to the girl. Placing her fingers under Cameron's chin, she urged that beautiful face up to look at her. "Tell me."
Cameron's eyes widened in surprise. She looked to the incensed Derek before returning her gaze to Sarah's green eyes. "We walked into the warehouse and approached the office. Derek Reese kicked the door in. I moved in front of him when I realized Erickson had a weapon. He fired twice before stopping. I think I frightened him."
Sarah would imagine so. Erickson was in his late sixties with a bad leg as she recalled. He wouldn't have been able to run.
"Why are you asking her what happened?" Derek moved closer to them both. "You know she'll just lie."
Sarah didn't take her eyes off Cameron. "Then what happened?"
"Derek Reese approached the desk Erickson was standing behind. I thought he was going to take his gun away. I thought he was going to inquire about the Turk."
"And what did he do?"
"Sarah," Derek started angrily.
"He put his gun to Erickson's temple and pulled the trigger."
Sarah slowly turned and looked at John's uncle. His face was red with rage.
"You aren't going to believe her. She'll say anything to stay close to you. That's what they do until they murder you in your sleep."
"Cameron could have killed me plenty of times then if she wanted to," Sarah pointed out in a low, even voice. She felt anger coiling in her belly, both hot and oddly cold at the same time. She realized what Derek was up to and it made her sick. She grabbed his elbow and ushered him toward the hallway where they would have some privacy. "Excuse us a moment," Sarah tossed over her shoulder to Cameron.
As soon as they rounded the corner into the hallway Sarah stopped and spun Derek to face her. "What the hell are you trying to pull?"
Derek snorted bitterly. "You're going to believe her. A fucking terminator over flesh and blood."
Sarah took a breath, some part of her warring against the fact that she was about to do just that. Her paranoid side, one she had good reason to listen to, was telling her Derek was right. Choosing to believe a machine over a man went against everything she thought she believed. Everything she held sacred. "I'm going to believe the truth," she replied, her voice tight.
"I told you the truth."
"The hell you did. You murdered Erickson for the same reasons you murdered Andy Goode." She extended her hand. "Let me see your gun."
"Did you wipe it down good, Derek? Or does it still have some of Erickson's blood and brains on it?"
His temper snapped and he shoved her, smacking her into the wall. Pain lanced through Sarah's shoulder but she didn't show it, clenching her teeth and willing her features to remain impassive.
"What is the matter with you?" he almost screamed.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" she shot back.
"You and that machine. You think I'm blind? You think I don't see the way you look at her?"
Sarah took a breath, trying to rein in her swelling sense of panic and a tide of rage. "You don't know what the hell you're talking about."
"Does she go all night, Sarah? She doesn't have to sleep " The rest of Derek's words were cut off as Sarah slapped him hard enough to sending him reeling into opposite wall.
"Get out," she ordered through clenched teeth. "Get the fuck out of my home."
His glare was murderous. He took a threatening step toward her only to suddenly be slammed back against the wall with enough force to shock the air from his lungs.
"Don't touch her." Cameron's voice was low and malevolent and seemed to come out of nowhere. She stepped between Sarah and Derek and let the true nature of what she was shine through her eyes. Derek recoiled and tried to slide away but Cameron merely grabbed him and pressed him with negligent ease back against the wall.
"Cameron." Sarah caught the girl's elbow and tried to pull her touch away from Derek's throat, but Cameron's grip was iron tight. "Cameron, let him go."
"He was going to hurt you," the girl's tone was positively icy.
"But he didn't." Sarah suddenly felt so weary she could hardly stand. She looked at Derek, feeling a stirring of pity for him. Even more, she saw a glimpse of a future in him that could have been her own. His bitterness, his hatred, they both would have been waiting for her had she not relented and allowed herself to feel something toward Cameron other than fear and mistrust. "Let him go."
After a tense moment, Cameron finally released him, watching him slump to the floor and take in several heaving gulps of air. She turned and met Sarah's gaze, lingering for a string of heartbeats before pivoting and walking away.
Sarah watched her go before returning her gaze to the recovering Derek. "I won't forbid John to see you. He cares about you, but you are no longer welcome in this house."
Derek looked up at her. "You're in bed with the enemy," he spat, his voice raspy and raw. "Can't you see that?"
"I'm not in bed with anyone," Sarah replied evenly. "And trusting Cameron over you is less about me believing a machine over a person. It's about knowing the truth knowing what's right. You lied to me. You killed Erickson for your own gain and to force a wedge between me and Cameron, the one person who can protect my son."
"She's not a person!" Derek shouted at her. He scrambled to his feet and got in Sarah's face. "She's a terminator! She's a goddamn machine! She doesn't have a soul! She has systems and processors. Why can't you see that?"
"You assume I don't." Sarah's voice was hard. "I know what Cameron is better than you ever will."
"And what's that?" Derek snarled.
"She's Cameron," Sarah answered simply.
Derek shook his head and spit out a glob of blood where Sarah's slap had cut his cheek and lip. "You two deserve each other." He shoved past her then came up short when he discovered Cameron waiting just past the corner of the hallway. She looked up at him, her eyes seemingly filled with anger and hate. The look was enough to make him pause. There was something very human in it.
He shivered. Without a backwards glance, Derek brushed past her. A moment later the front door slammed and the house went eerily quiet.
Sarah let her head droop and she sighed. A sound from the end of the hallway made her turn her head and she smiled bitterly when she saw Cameron peering around the corner at her.
"I'm sorry," Cameron said sounding less than sincere.
"No you're not." Sarah chuffed out a breath of air then chuckled wearily. "I can't really say I am either." She closed her eyes as she heard Cameron's heavy tread coming toward her down the hallway. Warm arms unexpectedly slipped around her and pulled her in close and Sarah let it happen, turning her body into Cameron's and allowing the safety and comfort of the embrace to wash over her. "Fuck," she whispered as she laid her forehead in the curve of Cameron's throat.
"John will be upset," Cameron's voice was now soft, quiet.
"Yeah. He will," Sarah said sadly. "He'll understand, though."
"Yes. Is this okay?" Cameron asked after a moment.
"I'd have slapped you by now if it weren't," Sarah confessed with another low chuckle. She leaned back and looked into Cameron's doe-eyes, feeling the magnetic pull the girl had on her. She wanted to kiss her desperately but instead closed her eyes and willed the urge to fade.
"Hmm?" Sarah asked her eyes still closed.
"Thank you for believing me."
The simple words hit Sarah like a punch in the solar plexus. She opened her eyes again and met Cameron's open stare. "I believed in the truth," she replied even though she knew she was only speaking half of it at the moment.
Cameron nodded and her gaze fell. She released Sarah and turned, obviously intent on walking away.
Sarah couldn't let her go. Not yet. She reached out and caught Cameron's hand, spinning the girl back to look at her. "I " She took an unsteady breath, realizing that urge to kiss her was just as strong as ever. "I trust you more now," she finally managed.
Cameron's features lost some of their tension. "I will do what I can to keep your trust."
"I know." Unable to fight it all the way, Sarah curved her hand around Cameron's neck and pulled her close, placing her lips on the girl's forehead and breathing her in. It was supposed to be enough, but it wasn't, and before Sarah realized it she was bestowing the softest of kisses on Cameron's warm mouth.
It only took seconds to realize what she was doing and Sarah jerked backed as if burned. She licked her lips and watched, her stomach plunging to her knees as Cameron did the same. "I " Sarah searched desperately for words.
Cameron's eyes seem to soften and Sarah wondered if it was real or imagined. Cameron offered Sarah a shy, slightly confused smile then slowly turned and left Sarah alone in the hallway, giving her the reprieve she so desperately needed.
Sarah took in a shuddering breath and battled with everything she had not to follow the damn girl. She rubbed a trembling hand over her features. She had never wanted anyone like this and it was painful to deny her body what it seemed to need, to crave.
In a moment of blinding honesty she finally accepted a truth she didn't want to admit.
This was one fight she was going to lose.
It was only a matter of whether she would surrender or go down swinging.
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