DISCLAIMER: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its characters are the propert of James Cameron and Fox. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Anklebones


"So as through a glass and darkly, the age long strife I see, where I fought in many guises, many names, but always me." —General George S. Patton


"Is that her?" The speaker was a woman, a lawyer, blond, tall and bony like a long legged racehorse driven so neurotic by the demand for speed that even in its sleep it would weave, shake and sweat the calories off. She stared avidly through the one way glass at a dark haired girl slouched over a tattered copy of The Wizard of Oz, her voice and expression that of a car crash voyeur, shameless, and eager for blood.

Behind her, seated at a utilitarian table that, along with two equally plain chairs, was the only furniture in the small observation room, was a second woman. She was as different from the first as it was possible to be and still belong to the same species, short and round with an air about her of great tranquility that was only slightly spoiled by the dark circles under her eyes. Those eyes, when she lifted them from the papers spread out on the table in front of her to follow the other woman's gaze through the glass, were small, and brown and tired, but full of kindness. Her name was Mary Howard, she was a social worker, and if she could be said to hate anyone, those anyone would be lawyers.

"That's her," Mary confirmed, her very casualness a mild rebuke as she looked back down at the girl's file. Detailed histories of nine foster homes, a stack of police reports including vandalism, theft, and two assault charges, both dropped, and a separate folder for notes and records on a series of psych evaluations.

Mary wasn't surprised to see that the delinquent behavior had accelerated sharply in the last three years, starting after death of the girl's grandfather and the lurid circus that had been made by the media over the exposure of his identity, and that of his infamous mother, the girl's great-grandmother. It must have been a shock for her to discover not only that she had family, but that said family had a few really terrible secrets. Far more curious than the police records, were the dates on the psych reports. They went farther back, a lot farther, almost as long as the child had been in care.

"I read the file," the lawyer, one Ms. Anna Fellows if Mary's memory could be trusted, continued. "She has the same symptoms as her grandmother; paranoid delusions about the end of the world and killer machines wearing human skin." Her voice lingered over the word 'machines.' The pursuit and development of artificial intelligence had been illegal for the last twenty-five years, but that only made the idea more thrilling. "It was all over the news when that business about her family and the will came to light."

"Great grandmother," Mary corrected her briskly, "and they're not delusions, they're night terrors. She's been having them since she was three."

"Still," Ms. Fellows pressed. "The child is clearly disturbed."

That, Mary couldn't argue with, though she would have liked to, if only to deprive the lawyer of the satisfaction of being right. There was no doubt that Sarah Connor, age seventeen, the orphaned great granddaughter of Sarah Connor Senior, a convicted murderer, terrorist, paranoid schizophrenic and wanted criminal until the day she died, needed help. Mary just didn't think that the solution was throwing her into an institution. It hadn't worked for her predecessor, and it probably wouldn't work for her. If the suits in the upstairs offices wanted to sweep Sarah, her family and the money they had left her under the rug, and they thought they could intimidate Mary into signing the papers by sending down a lawyer with a taste for scandal to intimidate her, they were going to be disappointed.

But Sarah was almost eighteen, her last foster home had barely kept her a week, and her family might have left her a fortune but chances were good that she would have grey hair before the courts decided whether that money belong to her, or if it was the ill gotten gains of a psychotic murderer, and should be tuned over to the police. If a more permanent arrangement wasn't found for her in the next few months, she'd have her personal belongings tossed into garbage bags, and the system would turn her loose. Mary didn't doubt that the bets would be flying at the office on how long it would take for the girl to wind up in a jail cell. Would an institution be any worse?

It was a hard truth, but one Mary had to face, that Sarah's chances out in the world alone were slim. Her therapist had recommended, and Mary's superiors supported the idea, that she spend some time in a facility for mentally ill youth, both for own safety and that of others. Her personal social worker, and the woman who should have been representing Sarah's best interests, had requested to be removed from the case rather than make that decision.

Mary couldn't find it in herself to blame her. She'd spent a little time with Sarah, and the girl was… very odd. It wasn't just the psychotic breaks, the night terrors, the criminal behavior, or the aggression. It wasn't even her family history. Over twenty years in social services had taught Mary not to judge the kids she worked with by their parents. No, it was something else, something in those bright green eyes… eyes that had seen things no one else could understand, things that even Sarah herself didn't understand.

There was a recording that Mary had been shown when they'd asked her to take this case, of thirteen-year-old Sarah waking up from one of her nightmares. The terror and fury she'd seen in that child, terror that had increased when a sweep of her hand under the pillow came up empty, still haunted her. The nurse who had stepped into the monitored room to try and sooth Sarah had gotten a black eye and a broken nose for her trouble. When the girl had come out of it enough to see what she'd done, she'd burst into tears, and the clip had ended.

It was those tears that had prompted Mary to take on this impossible situation. Even at seventeen instead of thirteen, she didn't think that Sarah was the lost cause the system had labeled her. Fancy lawyer's opinion to the contrary, Mary was determined to find a better outcome for Sarah than institutionalization or jail.

A knock on the door jerked her attention away from the girl behind the glass and back into the dreary little observation room. The Lawyer was still waiting hungrily for a decision, and Mary was glad for the interruption. "Yes?" she called.

Rebecca, a wiry little woman with dark curls that characterized the tightly wound energy the secretary applied to everything that she did, poked her head through the door. "Sorry to disturb you, but there's a woman here I think you should talk to. She says she's come for Sarah."

The lawyer frowned, shifting restlessly on her pointed heels, a starving snake temporarily thwarted, but Mary ignored her, ready to grasp at any thread.

"Send her in."

The room was cold and grey and the chairs were uncomfortable. Sarah supposed that was the point. This wasn't the kind of place they put people they felt all warm and fuzzy about. She pointedly ignored the laughably conspicuous mirror taking up the entire upper half of the wall to her right. There had been a time, when the hurt was fresh and new, that she would have raged and screamed at the people behind that glass. Even a year ago she would have felt the need to make sure they knew how little she cared about them and their opinions. Now… now Sarah honestly didn't care, and they could think what they liked.

The book in her hands was an old friend, quite possibly the only one she had, and Sarah wasn't so much reading, as visiting. The worn, dog-eared pages were rough and familiar under her fingers. She knew the shape of the type on the pages like individual faces, and the story unfurled itself behind her eyes without the need for anything so formal as actually reading the words.

When she'd been younger, raw to the vagaries of puberty and rebellious with it, The Wizard of Oz had been a deliciously scandalous book. With the new laws about the limitation of technology having passed into their second decade, the idea of a Tin Man who could walk and talk had sent the conservative parents in her school board into a frenzy. They'd nearly had the book banned from the library, which inevitably made every semi-literate teen determined to read it. Even those who couldn't be bothered to rebel so far as to actually use the brain between their ears, claimed to be reading it.

For a few blissful weeks, Sarah had been part of a group. She had garnered some status from not only reading the obscure and forbidden book, but actually owning her own copy. Sarah had never told them where the book had come from, or of her own hazy and soft edged recollection of having the story of Dorothy and Oz read to her when she was very small.

That was a treasured and hoarded memory, being tucked up warm and safe against a broad chest, her ear pressed so close that she could hear that deep, beloved voice rumble up from the depths before it floated over her like a blanket of caring and protection. She didn't remember who the man was, but she thought now that it might have been her grandfather. The grandfather who hadn't come for Sarah when her mother had abandoned her and disappeared, turning up years later in a river with a bullet in her brain. The grandfather who had left her a fortune she would probably never see. Sarah wanted to hate him, but that memory, one of the few good ones she had, wouldn't let her.

The popularity hadn't lasted. She had gone out of fashion along with the novel when the school board told the parents to take a hike, and the furor had died down. The other students had remembered then that she wasn't like them, that she was a foster kid and a head case. She had never really been one of them anyway. The sphere of their lives had simply shifted to overlap hers for a short time, and then moved on again. By the time the news about her grandfather, and then his mother, had hit the media, they'd long forgotten that brief sharing.

And then, for a long time, no one had talked to her at all.

Her infamous family should have made her a celebrity, and they might have, if it weren't for the dreams. They got worse after that, and they'd been bad before. But at least they had been dreams, or night terrors as the shrinks called them. They hadn't invaded her waking world. She spent weeks wondering if she was going as crazy as her great-grandmother had been, and a desperate plea to a school counselor had ended in her first trip to the loony ward.

Now, Sarah didn't tell anyone about what she dreamt, saw, remembered, or imagined… she hardly knew the difference anymore anyway.

Reading helped. Books were solid, reliable, they told the same story every time, and they were someone else's world. Sarah would have liked to go to one of those other worlds. This one didn't seem to like her very much.

When fantasy wasn't enough, or when well-meaning adults and foster families tried to make her cope with what they called reality, she lashed out. She found a rough acceptance among the other rejects, and they followed her. Sarah discovered that she liked control. When one foster home couldn't handle her anymore, they passed her on to someone else. She didn't care. All the schools were the same, and there were always a few kids drawn to her scathing tongue and complete indifference to the rules. It wasn't friendship, but it was enough. Or at least she told herself it was.

Then there had been a home that was different. They had really tried, found her a therapist, and made her go, checked her homework and given her a curfew. Things had been better for a little while, and then they had gotten worse, much worse. She'd had one of her dreams, the bad ones. The ones where when she woke up, she didn't wake all the way up, and the dream blurred and mixed with reality. She'd ranted and stumbled, taken the father's gun out of his desk and tried to drive the terrified family into the basement where they would be safe from the machines.

They'd called the police, and the older son had tried to restrain her. Sarah hadn't shot him, but that was only because the gun hadn't been loaded. She had broken his arm and his jaw, and used the knife he'd pulled on her to punch a hole in his ribs before the cops arrived. He lived… and they didn't press charges, calling it a psychotic break instead of assault, but that was the end of families that cared.

She had a lawyer now apparently, or at least there was a lawyer involved in her case, and a new social worker. They were trying to figure out what to do with her. Sarah could have told them not to bother, that it didn't matter where she went. Medication didn't work, therapy hadn't worked. Madness was reaching up to her with gaping jaws, and there were moments, becoming more frequent every day, when she was tempted just to let it take her.

The door opened.

Sarah looked up, but she didn't let go of her book. A woman came into the room, slim, brunette, with wide brown eyes and a gait that looked like she was stepping out for a show. She looked familiar…

Mary, the social worker, bustled in behind her, a round little pony trotting gamely after a sleek thoroughbred. This must be the rumored lawyer then. Sarah felt an unexpected twinge of disappointment, and slumped back into her seat, looking down at her gap-soled sneakers. There had been an instant, gone almost before she could label it, an uncanny idea that this woman was there for her. But a lawyer wouldn't be there for her… Lawyers were there for themselves, or their firms. They were there to win.

"Sarah," Mary's voice was firm but warm. "This is…" There was a pause. "Well, maybe I'd better let her introduce herself and tell you why she's here, and then you can make your decision."

Her decision? Sarah wondered. Since when did she get decisions? The laces in her left shoe were untied and she studied the ragged ends where they lay limply against the floor. Mary didn't sigh, but Sarah heard the absence of a sigh. They didn't get that, adults, that even when they pretended not to be frustrated, to understand and be patient, you could tell. Still, she felt a little guilty about Mary. Mary tried. A lot of them didn't even bother to do that any more. She didn't feel guilty enough to say anything though, and after a moment, Mary left, the soft click of the door latch a signal that Sarah was alone with this familiar stranger.

"Sarah," her name was spoken a second time, and that voice jerked her chin up as if she was wearing a collar and the woman had just given the end of the leash a yank. Their eyes met and Sarah felt her own widen out of their customary half-lidded sulk. She knew this woman. She didn't know how, but she did. And she could see in that deep brown stare that the woman knew her.

"Who are you?" she demanded, frightened and angry at having her shields ripped away so swiftly and efficiently. She felt naked and vulnerable, a child again, alone, with a pink My Little Pony backpack over her shoulders and her stuffed dog clenched tightly in fingers sticky with the chocolate her mother had given her as a bribe to stay put, just for a minute, while she went into the store. Sarah had never seen her mother again, or anyone else who had been a part of her tiny, three-year-old world. That's when the dreams had started.

The stranger canted her head slightly, as if studying Sarah from a new angle. There was a stiffness to the way she stood perfectly still, an otherness. It was all at once both foreign and wretchedly familiar.

"Where did you get the book?" She asked instead of answering, her eyes dropping to the ragged novel in Sarah's hands.

"I stole it," Sarah lied.

"You're lying." The observation was swift and absolute. "There's a note."

Sarah clenched her hands reflexively around her book, the only thing that had been in that backpack when her mother left her. Both the bag and the dog were long fallen apart and gone, Oz was all she had. But the woman was right; there was a note. It was written on the inside of the front cover, in the most precise cursive Sarah had ever seen. "For Sarah, the heart of the Tin Man."

"It's mine," Sarah insisted fiercely, clutching the book hard against her chest.

"It is," the woman agreed. "Now."

Sarah had the strangest feeling that she was talking about more than the book, and it made her nervous. "What do you want from me?"

That seemed to take the woman aback. She paused, blinked once. "In the story, Dorothy chooses to return to Kansas," she said, avoiding the question again. "Would you?"

It was Sarah's turn to be startled. The question made no sense, and yet it made more sense than anything anyone had ever asked her. She was going crazy in Kansas, maybe her sanity lay over the rainbow…

"I think I would have stayed in Oz," Sarah whispered, not sure exactly what she was agreeing to.

"I can take you there," the woman said, stepping forward almost… eagerly? She held out her hand, and Sarah eyed it warily, doubt and hope warring in her chest.

"Who are you?" she asked again, but without it being a conscious decision, she found herself reaching out and taking the offered hand, her fingers at home immediately in that sure grip. Warmth suffused her, something she hadn't felt in fourteen years, but recognized immediately. It was trust. Why she should trust this stranger when she hadn't trusted anyone in so long, Sarah didn't know. It should have alarmed her, but right here and now she didn't care.

This time, the woman answered. "My name is Cameron," she said, a smile just touching the corners of her mouth as she pulled Sarah to her feet. "I knew your great-grandmother."

The End

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