DISCLAIMER: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its characters are the propert of James Cameron and Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks so very much to zennie for her amazing insight and wonderful suggestions for this pairing. A very special thank you to Debbie for taking on the job of beta for this fic as well as the 22 others and especially for agreeing to write her specialty, Birds of Prey, as part of this 24 fandom series. Thanks, Deb, I truly do appreciate it.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Tin Woodman
A clock chimed softly, its twelve rings signaling the midnight hour. All the occupants of the house, save one, were fast asleep in their beds, exhausted from their day of poring over the various images the destroyed terminator's processor had to offer. In the den, a soft glow illuminated the figure who sat stiffly on the couch, her focus glued to the television screen as she watched the different characters gather around the young girl, insisting her story had all been a dream. Cameron kept her eyes on the hired hand, the man called Hickory, who'd spent most of the movie encased in metal. The fact that he'd been the one that lacked a heart caught her focus immediately and held it captive until the final scene. As the ending credits began to roll, Cameron efficiently used a minimalist amount of movement to rise from the couch, and after only a nanosecond of hesitation, she headed for the computer.
The sun had been up for at least an hour before Sarah shuffled into the kitchen and zeroed in on the coffeepot. Sitting at the table, John and Derek watched her progress, neither saying a word. Everyone in the household knew to stay clear of Sarah until she'd had her caffeine, even Cameron. After her first cup, it was Cameron whom Sarah asked about, not bothering to pause long enough to question exactly why it was that Cameron seldom left her thoughts.
"Where's Cameron?" Sarah poured a second cup and moved to take a seat next to John. She ignored Derek's grunt and glanced at her son for an answer. John shrugged his shoulders, not a hundred percent certain where Cameron had gone, although he had a good idea.
"I woke up around six and found her in front of the computer. I figured she was looking at more video, but she asked about the library instead."
"The school library?"
"We don't have school today, Mom. You do remember about the teachers' in-service training today, right?" John smiled teasingly. He knew his mother hadn't been paying attention last evening when he'd informed her of their holiday
"Oh, yeah, I remember." Sarah lied very unconvincingly, covering up by trying to move the conversation back to Cameron. "So, what did she ask?"
"She asked about the city's library."
"What about the library?" asked Sarah, placing her cup on the table and sparing a glance at Derek who suddenly seemed very interested in their conversation. Sarah knew he didn't trust anything Cameron said or did, but that certainly didn't stop her own paranoia from occasionally creeping in. Was Cameron keeping something from them?
"She asked how the books were arranged. I told her, she nodded, and then she got up to leave." John thought back to his conversation with Cameron. "I asked where she was going, and she gave me one of those looks you know the one like I'd just asked the stupidest question in the world. Anyway, she said she was going to the library."
"But it wouldn't be open yet."
"Exactly," said John. "I told her it probably didn't open until eight. She said she'd go on ahead and wait."
"God, I hope she doesn't break in." Sarah ran her hand through her hair. "She's not the most patient individual. We certainly don't need to call attention to ourselves."
Derek folded his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair. "She's not an individual at all she's a robot, a pile of metal and bolts."
Sarah glared across the table. "She may well be, but she's a part of our team." The two stared at each other until John became uncomfortable with both the silence and the staring match.
"How about whipping us up something for breakfast, Mom?" John pasted a smile on his face, ready to sacrifice his stomach for a better atmosphere. It seemed to work as Sarah grinned and pushed to her feet; she'd just wait and question Cameron about her motives when she returned from the library.
"How about some pancakes?"
Derek turned his glare on his nephew.
At ten, Sarah had had enough. Cameron hadn't come home, and she wasn't answering her cell. Sliding into her jacket, she stuck her head in John's room.
"I'm going to find Cameron."
"I say we leave her wherever she is." Derek had no use for the terminator. No matter what John and Sarah said, he'd never trust her.
Sarah ignored Derek and spoke directly to John. "Call me if you find anything." She gestured toward the computer for clarification.
"Okay, Mom. See you in a bit." John had already turned his focus back on the screen as he typed in a series of commands. Sarah nodded and turned to leave, her own focus centered solely on Cameron. The terminator rarely ventured off without explaining her reasoning, no matter how dangerous or trivial her purpose might be. She used the same expressionless voice inflection whether she planned to terminate someone for the good of the mission or was just going out to pick up a pizza. Sarah increased her stride. Cameron better have a damn good reason for ignoring her calls.
When she arrived at the library, Sarah briefly considered asking the man sitting at the information desk if he'd seen a young woman come into the building when they'd opened, but she wasn't quite sure how to describe Cameron. A little on the quiet side? Sarah snorted. Aloof was more like it. Perhaps, a physical description would be better. Dark doe-like eyes? Or maybe, beautiful, with the legs of a dancer? Sarah paused and frowned. Since when had she thought of Cameron as beautiful? Filing the confusing thoughts away for later, she concentrated on her current objective finding Cameron.
Nodding at the man, she stepped further into the library, her eyes scanning the nearby surroundings as she searched for Cameron. Coming up empty, she started for the stairs, having no idea what stacks of books she should be looking in. She eased up the steps and turned to the left when she'd reached the next level, planning to scour the entire floor until she found the terminator.
Ten minutes later, Sarah rounded a corner and stopped dead in her tracks. Cameron was sitting at a table in the far corner with books to her left and right. Tilting her head, Sarah squinted and focused on the titles; she frowned at what she read: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the Patchwork Girl from Oz, and The Hidden Valley of Oz. They were all children's books.
Sarah lifted her head and stared at Cameron. The terminator was flipping page after page, absorbing the words faster than Sarah could watch her turn the pages. Sarah focused on the title of the book that had captured Cameron's full attention The Tin Woodman of Oz.
"Cameron?" Sarah addressed the terminator before walking toward her. She knew better than to startle Cameron. Getting bodily thrown into shelves of books was not what she'd planned for the day.
"Sarah? What are you doing here?" Cameron lowered the book and stared at the other woman, a look of confusion coloring her usually stoic features. She seemed surprised as to why she'd been sought out.
Sarah moved closer. "What are you doing?"
Cameron looked around at the various books and then at the one in her hand. "Reading." She hesitated briefly before smiling. "Thank you for asking."
Sarah froze in place, clearly stunned at the ease in which Cameron had transformed from machine to human. Not only had her words sounded genuinely sincere, but Sarah had never seen a smile quite like the one Cameron had directed toward her her entire face had lit up. Sarah stepped next to the table.
"May I sit?" She gestured to an empty chair across from Cameron.
Lifting a nearby book, Sarah opened the front cover. She looked across at Cameron. "Do these books have anything to do with Skynet?"
The yes/no replies put Sarah at ease. They were more the type of response she'd always expected from Cameron.
"Then why the fascination with Oz?"
Cameron lowered her head, and if Sarah hadn't known better, she'd have sworn the terminator was embarrassed.
"It's not Oz."
Sarah quickly glanced back at the books every single one of them included Oz in the title. She looked back at Cameron and lowered her tone, unconsciously trying to make Cameron more comfortable. "Then what? What's so interesting to you?"
Cameron closed the book she held and stared unblinkingly down at its cover a young girl sat atop the locked arms of two tin men; one with an ax and one with a sword. They were both smiling at the girl. They looked happy.
"The tin man. He was a man once."
Sarah wasn't quite sure how to respond, how to explain to Cameron that the books were purely fiction. Surely she'd realized that, hadn't she?
"The Wicked Witch of the East cast a spell on his axe. It chopped his limbs off one by one, but he kept replacing the missing parts with tin, until finally that's all he was tin. The man that helped him forgot to replace his heart. A tin man without a heart." Cameron looked up at Sarah. "Like me."
Sarah sighed and rested her chin on her closed fist, recalling the times she'd referred to the terminator as 'Tin Man' or 'Tin Miss.' Had two simple nicknames been responsible for Cameron's impromptu trip to research children's fictional books?
"Cameron, these books aren't real. There was never a tin man. He was just a character created from someone's imagination."
"But I'm real, aren't I, Sarah?" Cameron reached across the table and ran her fingertips back and forth across Sarah's forearm in a gentle, stroking motion. "You can feel that, can't you?"
Sarah could most definitely feel Cameron's touch as a shiver ran down her spine and goose-bumps suddenly rose on her arms. She took Cameron's hand in hers; stilling the motion that was creating sensations she hadn't felt in quite some time.
"Yes Cameron, you are real. You're not at all like the tin man."
"Except that I'm metal and don't have a heart." Cameron stared down at the cover of her book, her gaze falling on the chest of the tin man standing to the right of the young girl. The illustrated, saw-dust filled, velvet heart hadn't been real, but the tin man looked pleased to have it nonetheless.
Sarah bit down on her lip, slightly amused but mostly saddened by Cameron's statement. She focused on what made her sad instead, deciding it was finally time to open up to Cameron, to show some faith.
"Every day, you learn more and more. You're evolving, and while you don't usually display emotions outwardly, I've seen you react in ways that go well beyond the scope of how other terminators act in the same situations." Sarah squeezed Cameron's hand, knowing full well that Cameron could crush hers should she so desire. "I trust you, Cameron. And let me tell you one thing people with hearts do the wrong thing all the time. I know that I can count on you to do the right thing at the right time."
Cameron's lips turned up in a smile, and Sarah reciprocated. Her belief in Cameron seemed to make all the difference in the world to the terminator, at least for the moment anyway.
"Can we go home now?"
"I think that's a good idea." Sarah nodded and waited for Cameron to make the first move.
With one last glance at the girl and the smiling tin men, Cameron stood and moved around the table, keeping hold of Sarah's hand like a lifeline.
Together, the pair started for the stairs, leaving the tin man and Oz behind.
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