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.
Shelter From The Storm
Sarah awoke as she often did body jolting, skin covered in a cold sweat, a scream choked in the back of her throat, her fingers gripped around the gun hidden beneath her pillow.
Her eyes darted about the room, scanning the corners hidden in shade, just in case it wasn't a nightmare. She allowed herself to relax, relaxed enough to lower her heart rate, but not enough to release the grip on her gun. A flash of bright light drew her eyes to the windows, where water drew drizzling silhouettes across the glass the light was followed quickly by a distant rumbling.
It was raining.
She rose from her bed, ignoring the cold against her bare feet as she padded quietly down the hallway.
The house was dark in that way only houses in the city could be with some form of light streaming in through every window. Sarah liked it this way. She wasn't fond of darkness or shadow which was ironic considering where she and John had to live their lives. But in their home, the place where they were supposed to feel safe, darkness and shadow were not welcome, even at night.
Subconsciously, by rote with gun in hand, she checked the second floor of the house. Checked the cracks and crevices of every room just in case.
Just in case.
Slowly, Sarah opened the door to John's bedroom. He slept the sleep of a typical teen-aged boy, soundly, as if he didn't have a care in the world. As if the weight of the world weren't pressing heavily down upon his shoulders.
John slept soundly. And still Sarah knew the whisper of his name on her lips would send him upright and ready to bolt towards the door. She would know, she trained him. In the beginning, John treated it like a game, like every child in the world learned how to clean a gun, defuse a bomb and hotwire a car all before the age of ten.
Instantly, she felt the guilt pressing down on her shoulders, squeezing her chest until she had to remind herself to breathe. She'd robbed him of so much, sacrificed so much for him, including the love of a mother, a real mother. She felt like it was too much, and not enough. That, in the end, she'd never be what John needed or wanted. She was the weight upon his shoulders and the albatross around his neck. All she could do now was keep him safe, keep him alive. And in the darkness of the night, knowing that death was coming for her, she wondered if it would ever be enough.
Just as slowly, Sarah closed the door to John's room before he became aware of her presence.
She made her way downstairs, checking the rooms as she always did. She walked passed the living room and a sleeping Derek on the couch. He was stranger, and he was family. Bound to John and Sarah by blood and memories. Yet, Sarah didn't trust him. There was something in his eyes, something in the way that he looked at John, at Sarah, even at Cameron. John looked at Derek and saw family. Sarah looked at Derek, looked into his eyes and expected to find Kyle - she found an uneasy darkness instead.
Before dinner, she'd slipped a sedative into his drink. She didn't like the way he walked around her house unattended. She didn't like the idea of him being awake while she was asleep. Even with Cameron in the house, Sarah didn't trust Derek.
Sarah stopped dead in her tracks. She mentally retraced her steps through the house and the rooms she'd already checked. Cameron hadn't been in any of them. When she typically made her post-nightmare rounds, she'd always found Cameron in some part of the house, either walking through the hallways making her rounds, sitting at the kitchen table doing her homework or some math equation John had given her to pass the time, Cameron was always there.
Her fingers tensed around the grip in her hand as her heart began to pound and the adrenaline coursing through her veins went from 0 to 160. Her first thought went to John. She made a beeline towards the stairs through the kitchen. Instantly, her feet skidded to a stop as something in the backyard caught her eye. Warily, stepping towards the window, not sure if she should give in to her curiosity, Sarah looked through the glass and out towards the back.
Cameron was standing in the backyard, standing in the rain.
Sarah made her way towards the back door, adrenaline and instinct maintaining the tight but loose grip on her gun. She stepped out onto the back porch, closing the door behind her to an inch wide crack.. just in case.
Cameron stood in the center of the yard wearing nothing more than panties and a t-shirt. Sarah wondered how long she'd been standing out there. Her hair was saturated, hanging from her face and clinging to her neck. She held her forearms perpendicular to her body, her hands up right as the rain bounced off her palms.
"Cameron?" Sarah whispered, afraid anything louder would wake John. The Terminator had the ears of an elephant and could hear a mouse pissing on cotton.
Cameron turned her head towards Sarah's voice, her eyes wide and expressionless. "It's raining," she stated flatly.
Sarah chuckled, raising an eyebrow. "Haven't you ever seen rain before?"
"No," Cameron answered turning her head back around.
The smile on Sarah's face turned to a pursed line, her eyebrows tightening. She remembered Derek doing something similar feeling the grass beneath his feet as if she'd never felt it before. It never occurred to her Cameron would have similar reactions to the world around her.
"Come back inside." Feeling chilled, Sarah folded her arms before heading towards the door. "Before you catch your death of cold."
Moments later, Cameron stepped through the back door. She paused in the entrance, tilting her head slight. "I am incapable of catching a cold."
"It's just a saying. Now," Sarah grumbled. "Take off your clothes."
"Because I will catch a cold?"
"No, because you're dripping all over the floor."
Cameron looked down at the growing puddle around her feet. The floor was old, but it was adequate, there was no danger in the water.
Sarah sighed as Cameron examined the floor. "I don't want you ruining the floor, or waking John up because you're too busy mopping."
"I understand," Cameron answered. "You think I'm making a mess."
"Yes," Sarah grabbed the hand towel slotted through the handle on the refrigerator and tossed it at Cameron's feet. "You're making a mess."
She didn't mean to watch. One second, her eyes were scanning about the kitchen looking for more towels, the next they were on Cameron watching her undress. Cameron was a machine, a titanium skeleton with a processing chip for a brain, wiring for veins, and a battery for a heart. All encased in a wetsuit made of skin.
Flesh molded into long lines, soft angles, and gentle curves. Sarah had been repulsed the first time she saw Cameron naked. Now, a dry tongue ran over drier lips as her free hand, the one not holding a gun instinctively ready to shoot Cameron at the slightest provocation, tightly gripped the counter behind her.
If the machines were mimicking humans, they were doing a damn good job of it.
Cameron's voice knocked Sarah from her thoughts. She blinked, almost shaking her head to clear it.
"What do you want me to do with these?" Cameron held up her wet clothes in both her hands.
Sarah swallowed. "Put them in the towel and follow me."
She didn't wait for Cameron, just made a beeline for the bathroom knowing Cameron would follow.
"Sit." Sarah pointed towards the closed toilet seat as she closed the bathroom door behind them. "And place your clothes in the bathtub."
As Cameron did as instructed, Sarah placed her gun on the edge of the sink then grabbed several large towels from the closet. She draped one over Cameron's lap, the other over her shoulders. With the last, Sarah placed it on Cameron's head and began patting the facsimile of a young woman's head dry.
"I'm capable of drying my own hair."
Her hands stopped and Sarah found herself looking down into soft, brown doe eyes. She sneered a chuckle, internally admonishing herself for doing it again - for treating Cameron like a human. Something she seemed to be doing more and more lately. No matter how hard she tried not to.
"I know." Sarah sat down on the edge of the bathtub. Her hands moved to the towel draped around Cameron's shoulders, patting along her arms. "One is good. Two is more efficient."
"Do you?" Sarah asked.
Cameron stared for a beat longer before blinking. "No."
"Yeah, well, neither do I." She ran the towel along Cameron's forearm. With astonishment, she watched the goose pimples rise on Cameron's skin, rippling across the surface. She wanted to ask 'why?'. Why this facade. Why machines so intent on killing humans would make exact replicas of them. Why they would choose a face with such beauty, innocence and naivety?
Feeling her heart drumming dully beneath her breast, Sarah was afraid she already knew the answer.
Sarah looked up to see Cameron gazing at the sink, at the gun resting on the edge.
"Did you have another nightmare?"
"What was it about?" Cameron returned her eyes to Sarah's face, examining her features in a way that always made Sarah uncomfortable, as if she could see beneath Sarah's mask and all the roiling, conflicted emotions churning just beneath the surface.
"It was about you." Sarah swallowed hard, grit her teeth, trying not to spit the words out. "You killed John.. and me."
It was Sarah's turn to move her eyes away. She couldn't look at Cameron, not with the images of her fading nightmare flickering in the back of her mind. The images of Cameron, her blank mask of a face, lips twisted into a feral and snarling grin.
"I would never hurt you or John."
"Yeah," Sarah snorted softly. "You say that now."
"Sarah," Cameron reached out, cupping the side of Sarah's face and turning Sarah towards her. "I would never hurt you."
Cameron's palm was warm against Sarah's face. Sarah wondered why they had to make them so warm. Cameron could crush her with just a hand, yet her touch was as soft and gentle as a hand stroking a baby's head.
"Do you believe me?" Cameron asked.
"No," Sarah replied flatly. She would never trust a machine. She would never stop believing they were all trying to kill her.
Sarah watched as Cameron's eyes danced across her face examining her features, the slight twitch in the muscles of her brow, the strain in her eyelids as she refused to blink. In that moment, Sarah felt as if Cameron really could see into her soul. Then, she felt the tip of Cameron's thumb, warm, soft and calloused, gently grazing across her lower lip.
Before Sarah could think of a reply, Cameron leaned forward and pressed their lips together. Sarah stiffened. Because that's what she was supposed to do. She was supposed to be repulsed, sickened, repelled. Except, Sarah didn't turn away. Didn't do what she was supposed to. Cameron was a thing, a machine. But she was soft and warm, the closest thing to a confidant, the closest thing to a friend, and Sarah hadn't been kissed in so long, hadn't been touched so softly.
Then, it was over.
Sarah jerked her head back, rising to her feet. She stepped out of Cameron's personal space, the back of her hand pressed to her mouth, wiping the taste of Cameron away.
"Why did you do that?"
"Kiss you?" Cameron stared up at her, confused. Sarah felt the visceral thrill at having finally evoked an emotion capable of eliciting an expression from the Terminator.
"Do you even know what a kiss is?" Sarah spat, angry at herself for giving in.
"To touch lightly or gently with the lips as an expression of love, or a greeting."
"Love? What do you know about love?"
"I.." Cameron paused. Looking at Sarah in that way where she's trying to formulate the correct response because she's run into that conflicting, muddy world known as humanity. She turned her eyes from Sarah's to the gun sitting on the sink. "I don't want to be in your nightmares anymore."
Sarah inhaled deeply. "I don't want you in my nightmares either."
Cameron's head turned towards Sarah. For the second time that night, Sarah witnessed another expression dawn on Cameron's face hope.
"What can I do to help?" She asked, her face expression with eyes slightly wider than normal, a poker player's tell if there ever was one.
Standing in the bathroom, Sarah felt naked and exposed. She glanced towards the gun resting on the sink, wanting desperately to feel the cold handle on her heated palm. She closed her eyes, shaking the thought from her head. A machine having hope wasn't what scared her, that she felt the need to give it to her did.
"Do what you say you're here to do." Sarah opened her eyes. She didn't want to look at Cameron, she did anyway. "Keep John safe."
"I'm also here to keep you safe."
"One task at a time."
"You don't trust me?"
"Trust is earned, not given."
Cameron nodded in recognition. She paused, formulating her response. "Will I ever earn your trust?"
"One day at a time, Cameron. Now," she tossed Cameron the robe hanging on the back of the door. "Go put some clothes on."
Sarah glued her eyes to the floor as Cameron rose, the towels draped around her body dropping to the floor as she pulled on the robe. Sarah opened the door, stepping back to allow Cameron to walk through first.
"When you trust me," she stated the words in a matter-of-fact flatness, as if Sarah trusting Cameron was an eventuality, an inevitability. She paused in the entrance, her eyes examining Sarah's face again. "Will you let me kiss you again?"
Sarah watched as Cameron's lips pulled into the slightest hint of a smile. "You're lying."
"Don't forget your wet clothes in the tub." She shouldered her way past Cameron, making her way back to her bedroom.
Sarah spent a half hour on her bed lying face up, hands tucked behind her head, fingertips grazing against the gun tucked underneath her pillow, doing nothing but staring at the ceiling and listening to the rain outside.
Her thoughts were random and chaotic as they often were. And even when they weren't, when she could concentrate on a single thought or idea, they always came back to Cameron. Heart would stutter, her chest would rise, and her lips would tingle before Sarah pushed the thoughts away.
She could hear Cameron in the house, her footsteps just below the sound of the rain, making her rounds. She was soft and quiet, Sarah ticked off her position by the creaks in the floorboards Cameron hadn't quite learned to avoid. Maybe that's why she couldn't sleep, Sarah thought to herself, she'd become accustomed to listening to Cameron walk about the house. She blinked softly, let her eyelids slide closed, letting the sticky tendrils of sleep wrap themselves around her brain and pull her under.
Cameron had stopped.
Sarah's eyes snapped open. She recognized the Cameron shaped silhouette standing by her bedroom window. It's why she hadn't plugged six holes into the robot's back. Sarah internally admonished herself. She hadn't even heard Cameron enter.
"What are you doing?" She hissed, rising onto her elbows.
"Earning your trust."
"I can't be in your nightmares if I'm here."
"Cam.." Sarah stopped herself. It was her own damn fault. She realized too late, with her own words, she'd given Cameron a task, a mission earn Sarah's trust. She could order Cameron to leave Sarah's room but she'd only be back the moment Sarah fell asleep. And Sarah was too tired to have a discussion at the moment. So, she flopped backwards onto the bed, tossing an arm over her face. "We'll talk about this in the morning."
For the first time in years, Sarah slept soundly, without the nightmare tapestry playing against the back of her eyelids that had become as familiar to her as the gun she kept under her pillow.
And that - terrified her more than anything.
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