Title: A Terminator’s Vacation
Author: Carla Mayumi
Rating: I suck at writing smut, so probably PG-13.
Fandom: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Pairing: Sarah/Cameron forever!
Summary: An attempt at vacation.
Spoilers: Probably none.
Disclaimer: TSCC is not mine, and I blame my illicit use of it on Summer Glau for being so addictive.
Archiving/Distribution: Just let me know.
Feedback: Posting makes me extremely embarrassed, so if I ruin the fandom for you with my complete OOC-ness, I beg for your forgiveness in advance and ask you to please keep flames to a minimum. Constructive criticism is always welcome, since this hasn’t been beta-ed and I’m not a native speaker.
Dedication: To Zennie and InspectorBoxer. I have your wonderful stories saved to my HD just in case my connection goes out - I’m half-way to knowing them by heart...backwards! Also, to my girlfriend (who’s not into the fandom...yet), whom I strapped to the chair for her much valued input.
Author's Note I: If you haven’t ordered the DVDs, you’re seriously missing out. Best. Purchase. Ever. Cool extras. Pity they didn’t keep the pencil scene in the gag reel. I’m even considering buying another set just in case I wear the discs out (and I will).
Author's Note II: Pardon me for pimping, but if you haven’t read Inspector Boxer’s “More Than A Mission” or Zennie’s “Mixed Emotions”, “Teach Me” and really, every other story she has written, you’re also missing out! I wish we could watch “Gambit” on TV. Let me get my hands on Josh Friedman’s number...
“This is not a priority,” the terminator stated, eyebrows slightly furrowed in consternation. “It does not relate to the mission. I don’t understand.”
Sarah arched her eyebrows, masking her aggravation with indifference. “What else is new?”
Glancing wearily from his mother to his protector, who were currently engaged in a staring match, John explained in a strained tone, “It’s vacation, Cam. Not being mission related is kinda the whole purpose of it. Some humans need to have fun every several years or so.” His mother glared at him, not amused by his sarcasm, and he flashed her an innocent look before sheepishly averting his eyes.
Cameron seemed confused as she processed his words. Both John and Sarah knew that it wouldn’t be long before the terminator started with a string of questions, and she didn’t disappoint. “So for two weeks we will pretend that Judgment Day does not happen in four years?” she asked, failing to see the logic in John’s reasoning. “And that will be fun?”
The future savior of mankind frowned at her, but instead of replying, he simply rolled his eyes and sulked his way out of the room with a suitcase in hand.
“I still don’t understand why that thing has to come with us,” Derek mumbled, coming back from a trip to the car for another suitcase.
“Because she can protect my son better than either of us,” Sarah snapped, fed up with having her every decision challenged by one or all of the house occupants.
John came back and stared at them. “Look, the whole point of this vacation is to relax, right? Can you just try and get along for two weeks?” he asked with an impatient sigh.
Sarah’s gaze softened and she pulled his head down and kissed the top of it affectionately. “You’re right.”
Cameron observed the interaction skeptically. Their inefficiency annoyed her, but she knew better than arguing with the older Connor once Sarah had made up her mind about their impromptu vacation. Even if she were certain that nothing remotely useful would come of it.
“Well,” Derek interjected, crossing his arms defiantly, “I’m not sharing a room with that thing.”
John took a deep, calming breath. “It’s all right, I’ll share with her.”
“What?” Sarah scoffed. “I’m not sharing with him!” she said, nodding towards Derek, who scowled at her. “I’ll share with the Tin Man.”
“Fine! I don’t care!” John retorted hotly. “God, can we leave before I kill myself?”
“I hate that station.”
“Well, I hate that station.”
“You call this music?”
“This is so boring.”
“Argh!” John snapped at his mother and uncle, pushing himself off the back seat and in between Cameron and his mother to turn off the radio. “There, no music! Who the hell turned this thing on anyway?”
“Language,” his mother warned.
“You did,” Cameron promptly supplied, eyes fixed on the road as she drove. “Your exact words were-”
“Never mind, Cam!” John scowled, moping.
Sarah was unable to suppress a smirk, so she turned to the window to hide it.
She wasn’t really looking forward to spending time around the terminator. Cameron made her uneasy, and she just didn’t seem to behave normally around the girl.
After a tense yet quiet four hour drive, Cameron pulled into a long dirt road surrounded by trees. Sarah had found a good deal in a resort in the middle of nowhere, which was isolated enough to be safe and would give them more options for activities. The fact that not a lot of people would be there, as in opposed to a crowded beach where John originally wanted to go to, appealed to her as well. John didn’t seem to mind the change of location as long as they went somewhere.
Almost another half hour of dirt road, they made it to the hotel proper. Cameron parked the car and both John and Derek immediately got out of the jeep and got two suitcases each from the back. When she opened the door to follow, she felt Sarah’s hand on her arm and looked at it before facing the older woman.
“Here’s the deal, Tin Man,” Sarah said in a serious tone, “Since your infiltration abilities are a bit subpar, avoid interacting with people altogether. I’m not here to babysit you.”
The terminator seemed affronted. “I am perfectly able to blend in. I don’t make an effort around you because I don’t need to.”
Sarah snorted. “Yeah, whatever,” she replied dismissively. “Just stay away from people. Got it?” She shot Cameron a look and got out without waiting for an answer, following the men.
Cameron stared at the steering wheel for a few moments before getting out of the jeep, then made her way to the reception while observing her surroundings curiously. She had never been that close to nature before, and while she felt slightly out of place, she still admired the beauty of it. The different scent in the air and the cooler temperature were not lost on her as she glanced at the many flowers surrounding the property and the shade cast by imposing trees.
“Enjoying yourself already?” John asked in a friendly tone, more relaxed now that he wasn’t stuck in a tiny space with people who seemed to be in constant conflict.
She smiled warmly at him. “Yes. It’s a beautiful place.”
He seemed puzzled by her reaction, then returned the smile. “Well, mom’s getting the keys, so we should go unpack before anything else,” he said, sticking his hands in his pockets.
“Ok,” the terminator replied, following him inside.
The room was decorated with simplicity, but was still comfortable. Cameron looked at the king-size bed in the center, then at Sarah, who was already busy unpacking.
“It was the last available room,” Sarah explained without looking up. “For some reason, men have a rule where they cannot share a bed, so we will.”
“I don’t sleep.”
“Neither do I with someone looming over me, so you’re going to lie down and close your eyes all the same,” Sarah replied, arching an eyebrow at the terminator as if challenging her to refuse.
The terminator nodded her acceptance. “Ok.”
“I saw you looking around earlier,” the older brunette remarked off-handedly, her attention back to her suitcase. “Do you think we’re safe here?”
Cameron walked towards the window sill and sat down on it, looking outside at the expanse of green surrounding them. “Yes. They would not look for us in such a random place; you are safer here than at home.”
Sarah bit back a snide remark about a terminator’s concept of ‘home’ and just finished unpacking in silence, aware of curious brown eyes watching her but not bothered enough discuss it. As soon as she was done, she told Cameron she was going to see the boys and left her alone in the room.
Cameron watched her leave, and with a small sigh, opened her suitcase and began emptying its contents into a big drawer. She didn’t understand what was so fun about vacations; she hadn’t even been allowed to bring her guns to the room.
It wasn’t long before Sarah stalked her way back into the bedroom, her expression a mix of hurt and anger. Cameron decided not to ask, having learned to pick on Sarah’s moods since things didn’t go so well for her when the volatile woman was upset.
Sarah paced around the room like a caged tiger. “They’re not in their room!” she suddenly spat. “They went out together and didn’t even see fit to let me know where they were going.”
Cameron paused her task, acknowledged her with a brief glance, then resumed unpacking wordlessly.
“What?” Sarah inquired, crossing her arms and turning her ire towards the terminator.
“I didn’t say anything,” Cameron replied quietly. At Sarah’s continued glare, she looked up at her and asked, “Are you upset because they did not tell you they were leaving or because they didn’t invite you along?”
Sarah turned away from her and walked towards the window. “I guess both,” she finally admitted, after Cameron thought she was not going to answer. In a softer tone, she added, more to herself than the terminator, “I understand though. John needs a father figure in his life, although Derek is not exactly a model of...anything, really.”
Cameron waited for her to go on. Sarah often opened up to her; it was usually a few words here and there, random and fleeting, but enough to give her some insight. “It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt,” she replied softly when Sarah didn’t say anything else, folding a shirt that had got untidy before placing it in the drawer.
“No,” Sarah smiled ruefully, a hint of surprise in her voice at Cameron’s words. “It doesn’t.”
She sat down on the window sill much like Cameron had done a little while before, her stance no longer aggressive as she regarded the terminator. Cameron flashed her a small smile and stood up to put her suitcase out of the way.
“So,” Sarah said casually, “I guess it’s going to be mostly you and me. Boys will be boys. What do you say we go for a walk, get to know the sights and all that?”
Cameron mulled over the question for a few seconds; she had brought books to read, and spending time with the mother of all destiny sometimes proved to be detrimental to her health. Besides, she distinctively remembered Sarah telling her she wasn’t there in a babysitter capacity; but then, if Cameron knew anything about Sarah Connor, it was that the woman was full of contradictions and next to impossible to figure out. “Ok,” she acquiesced finally, since Sarah seemed to be in a slightly better mood than usual.
They headed to the reception and Sarah got a little map of the area. There were horses, boat rides, rafting, pools, a game room, fishing, hiking, a trail into the woods and several other options listed. She considered her company and decided the safest choice would be a walk. She just hoped she wouldn’t have to defend herself from some wild animal that went berserk in the presence of the terminator.
She stuck the leaflet into her back pocket and headed to the trail with a wide-eyed Cameron right beside her. A smirk teased her lips at the sight. “You don’t like the woods?”
“I have never seen so many trees before,” the girl remarked, an element of awe in her voice as she looked around. “They smell good.”
Sarah arched her eyebrows. “These do. It depends on the tree, really,” she said, remembering some smells in the jungle she had trained in that weren’t nearly as pleasant.
They walked in silence for a while, and Sarah quietly marveled at the beauty of the sunlight filtered through the leaves of the trees surrounding them. She glanced at Cameron and realized that the terminator had stopped by a huge tree a couple of feet behind, and was tentatively brushing her hand along the rough bark.
“The sign says this tree is over three hundred years old,” she observed, studying it critically as if the trunk would give her the answers she was looking for. “How can they tell?”
“I think there are some rings or something inside it that are equivalent to its age,” Sarah replied, slightly amused by her interest.
“Oh.” A beat, and then, “In the future, there were no trees. The war between human and machine left the world a barren waste.”
The older brunette wondered at the regretful tone in the terminator’s voice. She didn’t really know what to say to that, however, so she patted Cameron’s shoulder and urged softly, “Let’s keep going, shall we?”
They ventured further into the woods for almost two hours, taking in the scenery, until they found a fallen tree by the side of the trail. Sarah sat down on it, twisting open the bottle of water she had brought and took a long drink.
“Look,” Cameron pointed a little ways to Sarah’s left. “Wildlife.”
“Hmm?” Sarah followed the terminator’s gesture with her eyes and saw a coral snake barely a foot away. “Poisonous!” she yelped, jumping away from it and splashing water all over herself in the process.
Cameron remained impassive, turning her head slightly to glance at Sarah as the older woman cowered behind her. “I didn’t know. Should I kill it?”
They both stared at the colorful snake for a moment as its forked tongue slid out of its mouth.
“No,” Sarah decided. “But if you can take it away from the path, it will probably be best.”
“Ok,” Cameron nodded, picking it up and walking away unperturbed as the snake tried to bite her.
Sarah sighed in relief, feeling the tension leave her body. She smiled when she saw Cameron place it carefully on the ground several feet away before making her way back to where Sarah was still standing.
“You’re wet,” she stated. “You should take that off.”
The older woman scoffed. “I can’t exactly go back wearing just a bra, Tin Miss.”
“Here,” Cameron said, pulling off the shirt she had over her top, “Wear this.”
Sarah was surprised at her thoughtfulness. “We’re alone here, right?” she asked, looking around them.
Cameron did a quick scan of their surroundings and replied, “Yes.”
She watched intently as Sarah pulled off her soaked top, then furrowed her eyebrows, reaching out to let her fingertips brush the length of a scar across Sarah’s stomach.
“Stab wound,” Sarah explained quietly.
Cameron was mystified by the way Sarah’s muscles tensed under her touch, and goose bumps followed the trail of her fingertips. She quickly retrieved her hand when she heard Sarah clearing her throat. “Sorry.”
Sarah smiled wryly, putting Cameron’s shirt on. She caught a whiff of the terminator’s scent and was oddly pleased by it.
“I have many scars too,” the girl remarked quietly, inspecting Sarah’s soaked top.
Again, Sarah didn’t know what to say, so they made their way back in introspective silence. It was surprisingly easy, Sarah realized, to walk alongside the terminator as if they were just two friends strolling through the woods, enjoying nature and each other’s company.
She cast a curious glance at Cameron. She was a pretty girl, soft-spoken, with a serene stance and delicate features. Being around Cameron, at least when the terminator was silent, felt comfortable. Sarah knew that terminators were built with subterfuge in mind, and as infiltrators they needed to make people comfortable; however, Cameron was the first terminator to ever instill that feeling in her, and even then, in short periods of time.
Sarah remembered how careful Cameron had been with her when she got shot, when they first met. The terminator had been almost tender, her brown gaze attentive to the slightest flinch as she stitched Sarah’s shoulder. Such deadly hands, yet so gentle. Sarah’s eyes lowered to Cameron’s hand reflexively, and the woman frowned at the sight of a bite mark there.
“Cameron, you got bit,” she said, sliding her hand into the terminator’s and bringing it up for closer examination with a pained look on her face.
Cameron, as was usual whenever someone touched her, immediately turned to stare wide-eyed at the unexpected contact. “I know. It doesn’t hurt much, but it burns a little. It must be the venom.”
“You can feel those things?” Sarah asked, surprised.
“I am covered in living tissue,” she replied as if it should have been obvious.
“God, I’m sorry,” the woman said guiltily. “I...I had no idea.”
Cameron studied her for a moment, clearly taken off guard by the display of concern. Then, with a small smile, she attempted to put the mother of all destiny at ease. “I feel pain in a less intense way than you do, Sarah. All my wounds are only skin deep.”
“We’ll get you patched up as soon as we get there,” Sarah said, still sounding upset as she cast one last look at Cameron’s injury before letting go of her hand. “Let’s pick up the pace.”
Ultimately, she knew that Cameron could take whatever damage was thrown her way, as she had been sent for that exact reason; but at the same time, all the occasions Sarah had put Cameron in harm’s way needlessly, sometimes even attempting to do the damage herself, suddenly flooded her mind.
As soon as they made it back to their room, Sarah pulled the first aid kit from her suitcase, glad she always carried it around. She had Cameron sit down on the bed.
“I do not require assistance,” Cameron chose to inform her.
“Well, you’re getting it anyway,” Sarah replied with a look that brooked no argument. “This is what you need to do,” she instructed, “I want you to suck at the bite mark on your hand. That’s how we take the poison out. Do it.”
Cameron seemed unconvinced, but brought her hand to her mouth and sucked, giving Sarah a wary look.
Sarah held up an empty glass. “To spit whatever you get out,” she elaborated, eyes scrutinizing the terminator’s work.
After Cameron had done it a few times, Sarah put the glass away and pulled out some antiseptic from the small box. She held Cameron’s hand in her own and applied it with care. She was painfully aware of the terminator’s unwavering gaze, and was unwilling to make eye-contact, staring at the wound instead. She wondered if it would be too much to apply some ointment to expedite the healing process, then did it anyway before covering it with gauze and bandaging the injury.
“Thank you,” Cameron spoke softly, her eyes clearly conveying her wonder.
Sarah shifted uneasily beside her, then stood, her hands fiddling with the pockets of her jeans. “You’re welcome. I, uh, I’m going to go for a bath. Then we can meet the boys for dinner.”
And she was gone.
Cameron hadn’t moved since Sarah’s hasty departure. She wondered why Sarah had got increasingly nervous, and why her own systems had behaved in such an incomprehensible manner under Sarah’s ministrations earlier.
The cell phone rang and she moved to answer it. “Hello?” She paused for a moment, a small smile tugging at her lips when she identified John on the other end. “She’s taking a bath. She is looking forward to having dinner with you. Oh. Let me give her the phone so you can tell her. Oh. Ok. I’ll tell her. Yes. Bye, John.”
She mulled over what to tell Sarah, then knocked on the bathroom door before simply walking in. Sarah sat naked in the bathtub, staring at her with a stunned look on her face.
“John called,” Cameron said tentatively, her eyes never straying from Sarah’s. “He and Derek were visiting a waterfall with a few other guests and they are staying in a cabin by the river. They intend to fish, and will be back in a few days.”
Sarah didn’t try to prevent her disappointment from showing. Her expression fell and she was silent for a few moments. “Room service it is,” she finally said.
“If you want to go to the restaurant, I will eat with you,” the terminator offered sympathetically.
Sarah let out a small smile. “Thanks, girlie, but room service is fine.”
“Ok. Would you like me to order for you?” Cameron asked on her way out.
“Yeah, make it a cheese burger and fries. I haven’t had that in a while,” the woman replied quietly. “Oh. And get me something with a lot of chocolate in it for dessert.”
Cameron nodded and left her to her privacy.
By the time Sarah finally came out of the bathroom, her order had already arrived and she sat down on the bed in her robe to eat it.
Cameron studied her silently, taking in her dejected demeanor. She couldn’t understand why Sarah would feel so sad simply because John was spending some time away, but the terminator felt strangely affected by it; perhaps because Sarah was the strongest human being she had ever met, and yet was showing her a measure of vulnerability she didn’t show anyone else.
Cameron realized she would much rather see Sarah angry than sad. At least, when Sarah was angry, the terminator could annoy her even further with questions, and Sarah would sometimes take it out on her and feel better; sadness, however, Cameron was unsure how to handle. She didn’t know what to say or do to make things right.
“Tin Man, I’m fine. You don’t need to keep looking at me like that,” Sarah muttered without looking up.
Cameron sheepishly turned away. “John loves you,” she stated.
“I know,” was the sullen answer.
“More than anyone or anything else,” the terminator added with certainty.
Sarah sighed impatiently. “Cameron, just...just drop it.”
With a small frown, Cameron wordlessly nodded and rummaged through her suitcase. Then, she pulled out one of her books and perched on the window sill to read it while the heavy silence filled the room. Sarah stared at her wearily for a moment before resuming her meal.
The silence stretched until Sarah was done with her dinner. When she looked at the empty tray and didn’t find her dessert, she was slightly disappointed. Cameron didn’t forget anything, so maybe they were out of chocolate, she reasoned.
As if responding to her thoughts, the terminator put down her book, walked to the mini-fridge and pulled out a plate with a beautiful piece of chocolate cake on it, handing it to Sarah with a tentative smile before reclaiming her spot on the window.
Sarah licked her lips at the sight. She could see the bits of strawberry amidst the chocolate filling, and eagerly brought a forkful to her mouth. A satisfied moan erupted from her throat at the exquisite flavor and texture of such wicked indulgence, and she closed her eyes in delight.
Cameron peeked curiously at her from over her book, an unfamiliar and strangely pleasant ache in her lower abdomen at the little noise Sarah had made.
Aware of the veiled interest of her roommate, Sarah smirked, her spirits lifting a bit. “Want to try it?”
The girl tilted her head for a moment, then nodded, eyebrows slightly furrowed as she regarded the piece of cake, not understanding what was so special about it. Sarah fed her a piece, which for some reason pleased her immensely, and then she understood, her eyes widening at the discovery.
“It’s good, isn’t it?” Sarah grinned, taking in the look of utter disbelief on the terminator’s face.
“Want to share?”
They made short work of the cake, and Sarah chuckled lightly at the uncharacteristic giddy grin adorning Cameron’s lips. She added the empty plate to the tray her dinner had been served in and got up to put everything outside.
Locking the door out of habit more than necessity, she nearly jumped out of her skin when she found Cameron standing right behind her, big brown eyes seeming to swallow her whole. Before she had a chance to be upset at the cyborg for startling her, however, Cameron spoke.
“I read that there have been studies comparing the ingestion of chocolate to a need of affection,” she stated in a blank tone, tilting her head to the right as she regarded the older woman. “These studies claim that the area of the brain that is stimulated when a person eats chocolate is the same as the one utilized when a person receives affection. When monitoring the intensity in reaction, scientists found that eating a bonbon is equivalent to receiving a hug in the way it affects the human brain. That is why people derive comfort from eating chocolate.”
Sarah arched her eyebrows. “Why are you telling me this?”
Cameron just looked at her for a moment, then leaned forward and enveloped Sarah in her arms, molding their bodies together. She felt Sarah tense first at the unexpected contact. Then, seconds later and without meaning to, Sarah relaxed into the embrace.
The terminator smiled when Sarah gave in and returned the affection. “I am telling you this because you don’t need chocolate...unless it’s for the flavor.”
Without any malice, Sarah asked teasingly even as she laid her head on Cameron’s shoulder, “And just how do you know it wasn’t about the flavor in the first place?”
“Because your disposition has improved since you ate,” the girl replied evenly, then added, “There were a lot of hugs in that cake.”
Sarah chuckled again before letting go. “Yeah, I guess there were. And you even gave me another one.”
“I will give you hugs anytime.”
Sarah’s thoughts seemed to involuntarily drift towards the terminator in the other room. Cameron was in the shower, and Sarah found herself overwhelmed by conflicting feelings brought to life at the sound of the running water and the image of it cascading down the girl’s body. She shuddered at the place her thoughts had taken her, finally understanding the exact nature of her conflict where the terminator was concerned. Her restlessness in Cameron’s presence suddenly made perfect sense, except for the fact that it didn’t make sense at all; Cameron was, after all, a machine – her sworn enemy, the very thing that had been relentlessly seeking to destroy all she held dear.
She heard the water stop and stiffened. After her little epiphany, it occurred to her that she had no idea how to behave around Cameron anymore. She quickly changed into her sleeping attire, an old, oversized T-shirt. Then, she got under the covers and turned on the TV, schooling her features into apathy.
Her heart skipped a beat when the bathroom door creaked open. Sarah was suddenly engulfed by the sweet smell of Cameron’s shower gel and shampoo, her head swimming in it. It was as if her senses had heightened and been attuned to the terminator upon the realization of her attraction. When Cameron stepped out of the misty bathroom in a skimpy tank top and boy shorts that left nothing to the imagination, Sarah forgot to breathe.
She blamed it on her lonely lifestyle, on the fact that she hadn’t even kissed anyone in what felt like a small eternity, on all the pent-up energy; she even blamed it on the sound of the water. Whatever the reason, it was irrelevant. She needed to quell that feeling and do it quick. Getting sidetracked at this point in her life was unacceptable, especially by something so wrong. Besides, she doubted Cameron would want anything to do with her, being above such human needs.
Their eyes met and Cameron smiled warmly at Sarah, causing the woman to swallow, her expressive eyes tortured even as she attempted to casually smile back. Then, Cameron bent down to pull a bottle out of her suitcase, and Sarah got a generous glimpse of the shapely backside, and legs that were surprisingly long for such a petite looking girl.
Sarah’s pain was far from over. Cameron, as unselfconscious as ever, began to moisturize. Green eyes keenly followed the terminator’s small hands as they slid over the toned body.
“What are you watching?”
It took Sarah a moment to realize she was being talked to. “What? What do you mean?” she asked defensively. “I’m not watching anything!”
Cameron paused what she was doing to cast Sarah a perplexed look. “The TV is on.”
“Oh, right.” Flustered and hoping she wasn’t blushing as hard as she thought she was, Sarah attempted to clarify, “I just turned it on, so...” she trailed off. “How’s your hand?”
Cameron’s eyes focused on her injury. “It will not require further attention.” With a small smile, she added, “Thank you for asking.”
When she was done moisturizing, seemingly oblivious to her bedmate being tied up in knots, she got into bed and opened her book. Sarah was finally able to summon the strength to roll onto her side with her back turned to the terminator. She turned off the TV and the light on her side, snuggling quietly into her pillow.
“Goodnight, Sarah,” Cameron said softly.
Several chapters into the book, Cameron felt the mattress shift as Sarah scooted closer to her. She glanced at the older woman; her eyes were closed, her respiration was slow and even, indicative of slumber. However, when their skins came into contact, she realized that Sarah’s heartbeat was racing. She considered this for a few moments.
Sarah knew Cameron would be able to tell she was awake; she had called it a ‘skin trick’ before - the terminator’s ability to read stress level, heartbeat, salinity, just through touch. This was as close as she would get to asking for something she desperately needed without voicing it. And she wouldn’t, couldn’t voice it.
Cameron understood this. She understood Sarah felt she needed to be strong for her son, for mankind; she also understood that Sarah didn’t think she could ever allow herself to be vulnerable because that would make her weak. But attempting to explain to Sarah that she didn’t have to be strong for her, Cameron, would likely disrupt the inch of trust Sarah had just given her.
So Cameron chose to put down her book, turn off the light and, in the darkness, she slowly shifted to spoon Sarah, her arm protectively resting around the woman’s waist. And then, Sarah finally succumbed to sleep.
Sarah woke up to the sound of the door. She stretched lazily, and after a long yawn, she opened her eyes to find Cameron walking towards the bed with breakfast on a tray. She couldn’t help but smile at the terminator as she placed the tray down before her like an offering.
“Good morning, Sarah,” she greeted with a smile of her own.
“Hey,” Sarah replied groggily, her voice husky from sleep. “Wow. Breakfast in bed. Marry me,” she joked, and before she could regret her careless words, Cameron chuckled, and Sarah loved the sound.
“Ok,” the girl replied, still smiling, and Sarah thought to herself that that had been the longest she had ever seen Cameron smile.
Then it hit her that Cameron had actually answered her, and a smirk formed on her lips even if she had no idea how to respond to the terminator’s acquiescence. “So,” she changed the subject, buttering a bagel, “How about we hit the pool today? Seems like a nice day outside.”
“I cannot swim,” the girl said in an almost apologetic tone.
“I’m sure they have shallow pools, ones you can stand and keep your head out of water,” Sarah insisted. “And if they don’t, you can still sunbathe.”
“Yeah. Get a tan, you know?”
“Oh. I do have a bikini,” Cameron stated. “But...”
“But what?” Sarah replied nervously, wondering if inviting Cameron to the pool was a subconscious means to getting her half-naked.
“I have many scars. That might generate questions,” the terminator reasoned.
“Bad car accident,” Sarah explained easily.
Sarah was elated to find that they were the first ones there. But then, she figured people probably didn’t wake up that early while on vacation. She shed her towel and started applying sunscreen on herself, careful to do so evenly and not to miss any spots.
“Here,” the terminator said, reaching for the bottle of sunscreen, “Let me apply it on your back for you.”
Sarah shivered slightly, but complied, turning her back and closing her eyes in nervous anticipation. She heard the little squirt of cream and then Cameron’s right hand was on her skin, soothing like a caress. The irony that the deadliest hands she knew held also the gentlest touch was not lost on Sarah. She didn’t know when it was that the bottle of sunscreen had returned to her own hand and when Cameron had started to work out the knots in her shoulders in a slow massage, but she was perfectly content to let it happen for several minutes.
“We should get you done,” she eventually said, and before Cameron could utter a word she took it upon herself to apply the sunscreen all over the terminator.
Cameron offered no resistance. She seemed slightly puzzled by Sarah’s behavior, but took it in stride. She wasn’t touched often, except in fights or when John was patching her up, and it felt nice to be cared for in such different manner, especially by Sarah, who was normally ten feet away from everyone else.
“All done, girlie.”
Cameron smiled at her. “Thank you.”
Sarah placed her things by one of the lounge chairs and decided to go for a swim. Spending some energy would be great, lest she did something she would regret later. Being near Cameron seemed to be clouding her good judgment for the past hours, and the cold water would surely snap her out of it.
Cameron watched captivated as Sarah did laps back and forth, muscles gleaming in the sunlight, sprinkles of water landing on her skin as she sat by the edge of the pool. Swimming was beautiful, she decided, wishing she could partake. Unfortunately, while she was lighter than previous terminator models, her endoskeleton would still make it impossible for her to ever swim. She moved her feet in the water, tried to imagine the feel of her whole body gliding in it, but failed.
Sarah, who had stopped for a moment after catching a glimpse of the terminator sitting by the water, took in the frown in Cameron’s features, the slight pout on her lips, and wondered if Cameron was even aware of the expression on her face. She pushed herself off towards her and came to a stop beside Cameron’s legs.
“What’s wrong?” she inquired curiously.
Cameron seemed surprised to find her there, and Sarah wondered if she had just caught the terminator daydreaming. “Nothing’s wrong.”
Sarah snorted. “Come on, Tin Man. You’re pouting at the water. What’s wrong?”
Cameron frowned at her insistence, but indulged her. “I can’t swim.”
“So? You can do everything else,” the woman pointed out. “A lot of people don’t know how to swim.”
“No. I can’t. I would sink if I tried to learn,” Cameron clarified, some of her frustration carrying in her voice.
Sarah smirked. “Hop in.”
The terminator frowned at her. “You don’t understand...”
“Hop in,” Sarah insisted, swimming away from the edge to give her more room.
With a resigned sigh, Cameron obeyed. She stood slightly nervous, looking down at the water that went as far up as her breasts. She tentatively moved her arms around, but unlike Sarah, nothing happened.
“I’m too heavy.”
“Well, I lifted you once before,” Sarah stated nonchalantly. “Granted, John helped that time, but now we’re in the water. Besides, do you think I work out for nothing? Lean back.”
Warily, Cameron did. She felt Sarah’s right hand supporting her neck, and then the left one on the small of her back. With some effort, Sarah did lift her.
“See? That’s what floating feels like,” the woman grinned. She saw Cameron’s eyes move nervously from side to side. “I won’t let go. Just relax.”
Cameron felt her body cutting through the water with Sarah’s aid. Sarah was pulling her around, and slowly, she closed her eyes, allowing the water to move her arms and legs as they went. She focused on the way her skin felt, how the water flowed around her. But mostly, how warm Sarah’s hands were on her skin. She opened her eyes again and smiled up at the mother of all destiny.
Sarah’s breath caught as she looked down into brown eyes that, lit by sunlight, were almost the color of whiskey. There was a difference there, she noted. Eyes that had seemed empty before were now full of life and meaning. She wondered if Cameron had turned something on in order to blend in or if somehow her own views about the terminator had changed.
Attraction was one thing, and really, who wouldn’t be fascinated by Cameron? The girl was beautiful. But there was something else, something Sarah couldn’t identify. Something that was more than her simply being desperate for some release, more than Cameron being gorgeous in appearance. More than desiring the forbidden.
There was trust, Sarah could admit as much, at least to herself. She did, after all, trust Cameron with her son’s life and the future of humanity. She trusted Cameron to listen whenever she needed to vent or reminisce. She even trusted Cameron not to harm her when her temper got the best of her, and knew now that the terminator had felt at least some amount of pain in the few times her anger had flared uncontrollably. And still, Cameron had taken her abuse gracefully. She trusted Cameron like she hadn’t been able to trust Charlie, and like she definitely didn’t trust Derek Reese.
But it was more than that. More than trust, more than gratitude. More than the loneliness she felt at her son slowly distancing himself from her to become the leader of mankind. As Sarah pondered on her feelings for the terminator, the object of her thoughts studied her with unbridled curiosity.
It was the first time the female Connor had looked at her like that, with open fondness. She wondered if Sarah realized she was doing it. Slowly, she brought up her hand to tuck a few strands of hair behind Sarah’s ear. She watched that ear turn pink and her gaze found green eyes that were questioning, but surprisingly soft as they regarded her.
Unfortunately, the moment was interrupted by screeches of approaching children, and Cameron found herself back on her feet. She watched with unveiled contempt as the pool was invaded by what seemed to be an army of little monsters. She felt a shoulder bumping into hers and turned to find Sarah smirking knowingly at her.
“Come on,” Sarah said, ushering her out of the pool. “We’ll come back some other time if you want.”
“Whoa,” a teenage boy exclaimed when Cameron stepped out of the pool. “Leaving so soon?”
The terminator wanted to snub him, but decided against it. “We’ve been here a while,” she replied with a smile that, Sarah thought with amusement, was obviously nowhere near genuine.
“You can always sunbathe if you’re tired,” he suggested eagerly, barely keeping his eyes above her shoulders. Not that Sarah blamed him.
Cameron arched her eyebrows at his insistence. “I’m not tired,” she said haughtily. “I’m just not interested. No offense, but you’re not my type.”
Sarah muffled a laugh and hurried to drag the terminator away before the boy could pick up his wounded pride and react. Cameron’s eyes stayed on their connected hands as Sarah pulled her along. The strange feeling she had been experiencing around Sarah returned tenfold.
“I still can’t believe you did that!” Sarah laughed as they walked into their room. “It will take the poor thing quite a while to recover from that kind of rejection.”
Cameron didn’t know whether to apologize or laugh, given the contradiction between Sarah’s words and her attitude. She decided to just smile and shrug. “I really wasn’t interested. His persistence was annoying me.”
“So you were aware of his interest?” Sarah asked, slightly surprised that Cameron would have any inkling about what a romantic pursuit would be like. If she could call the boy’s attempt romantic.
Cameron’s answer surprised her even more. “Could he have been any more obvious?”
She snorted, amused. “Why did it annoy you? Most girls would be flattered by that kind of attention. He was cute,” she remarked slyly.
Cameron frowned slightly. “It annoyed me because...because they...” She struggled with the words, seeming confused by her own behavior, “They interrupted...”
Sarah’s smile remained, but lost the teasing element. She took in the frustration in the terminator’s voice and could sympathize with her bewilderment. “I understand,” she said, trying to reassure the forlorn girl.
“You do?” Cameron asked, her voice hopeful.
“Yes. You’re not the only one who’s confused, girlie,” Sarah admitted in a murmur.
Cameron tilted her head to the side, studying the older woman intently. Sarah was picking at her towel and seemed quite abashed. She stopped Sarah’s hand by covering it with her own. Sarah looked up at her, her green eyes expressive and pained, as if she were fighting a great struggle she couldn’t possibly win.
“Would you like to shower first?” the terminator offered gently, not really knowing what else to say.
Sarah sucked in a huge breath. “Yeah, sure. Thanks.”
Cameron stared at the spot Sarah had been previously occupying. She wanted nothing more than to remain in Sarah’s presence, and nothing in her programming explained why she felt that way. Maybe Sarah could help, but what if her question was inappropriate? They had been getting along, and Cameron was unwilling to jeopardize it. But then, if there was something wrong with her systems, Sarah would get mad at her for not telling. Nervously, she paced in front of the door for a few minutes. Then she walked in.
Sarah poked her head from behind the shower curtain and seemed taken aback. “I’m not done yet,” she said, unsure, and Cameron thought she sounded oddly nervous.
“We need to talk,” the terminator stated. “Actually, I need to talk to you.”
“And this couldn’t possibly wait five more minutes?” Sarah asked incredulously, arching an eyebrow at the girl before disappearing behind the curtain again.
“No,” Cameron replied firmly, poking her head around the curtain herself, feeling the need to face Sarah.
“Cameron!” Sarah hissed, half embarrassed by the intrusion, half something else she refused to acknowledge. As she met Cameron’s adamant gaze, she got over herself and sighed. “All right. Talk to me.”
“I think there’s something wrong with me,” the terminator said softly.
Sarah felt her blood run cold, but willed herself to continue her shower. “Wrong how?” she asked carefully.
Cameron sensed her fear and frowned. “No, it’s not what you’re thinking. Sarah, I wouldn’t ever hurt you, or John,” she hurried to say, her eyes pleading for Sarah to believe her.
Sarah relaxed again. “Ok. Then what do you think is wrong?” She paused, then smiled, “Look, since you’re here anyway, just come in. You might as well shower.”
The terminator nodded and quickly got rid of her articles of clothing before stepping fully into the shower area. Sarah’s breath hitched, but she willed herself to focus on the conversation.
“Since we arrived here, I have felt different,” Cameron started cautiously. “About you,” she elaborated, eyes fixed on Sarah’s, looking for a reaction. Much for her frustration, Sarah’s expression remained neutral. “I am unable to understand why. It is distressing not to understand myself.”
Sarah swallowed, suspecting the route the conversation was taking. “Go on.”
“When the resistance erased all my memory, they left some subroutines out of my reprogramming, things I would not need in order to serve,” Cameron explained. “My body has functions I am no longer able to identify and understand. I thought that, perhaps if I talked to you, you would clarify them for me, since you are the reason for most of these responses.”
Sarah braced herself. “I’ll try.”
“When you’re near, like this,” the terminator spoke softly, taking a small step closer to Sarah, who let out a shaky breath, “I feel like I’m...overheating, but my systems do not accuse this abnormality. When you leave the room, it’s almost as if I can feel your absence, like you take something from me when you go. And, when you touch me, there is this...ache. I cannot make sense of these responses. Can you?”
Sarah swallowed, then licked her lips as she considered her next actions very carefully. “I know where they come from, if it helps,” she smiled ruefully. “But I can’t in good conscience tell you that they make sense to me either. I would know, because I have been trying to figure this out for a while.”
“Where do they come from, then?” Cameron asked curiously, still trying to understand what Sarah was talking about.
The terminator widened her eyes slightly when Sarah rested a hand on her cheek, then brushed it gently before moving it to tangle into Cameron’s long hair. Sarah closed the distance between them, and Cameron’s eyes shut as their bodies came into full contact, only to fly back open when she felt Sarah’s lips on hers. Sarah paused and their eyes met briefly before she leaned in to claim soft lips once again.
Cameron tilted her head and responded timidly. She brushed her fingertips across Sarah’s hips, wanting more contact but afraid of ruining the moment. She felt Sarah’s hands hold her own and press them more firmly against her skin. She didn’t need further encouragement, wrapping her inhumanly strong arms around Sarah and holding her to herself. An utterly human moan escaped her throat and died in Sarah’s mouth when Sarah started a more thorough exploration of her mouth, and she felt Sarah’s hands on her face, neck and shoulders. It was as if Sarah was trying to convince herself that she was actually there.
For some reason, her programmers had not made her aware of this possibility, of being with a woman instead of with a man. But now she understood. She didn’t even needs scripts, subroutines, programs. Sarah was teaching her, and Cameron was a very quick study.
Sarah pulled back, gasping for air. “This is so very, very wrong...”
Cameron frowned. “Why?”
Sarah chuckled at her naiveté. “You’re a terminator, in the body of a minor, posing as my daughter. There is nothing remotely right about this, Cameron. It’s like the ultimate recipe for disaster!”
“It will be our secret,” Cameron urged, her big brown eyes fixed on Sarah’s green ones. “I won’t tell anyone. I’ll be discreet. I promise.”
Sarah ducked her head, smiling. “You think you can handle me, girlie?”
“It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve made it this far,” the terminator replied with a little smirk of her own.
Sarah laughed at her candor, and Cameron secretly wished she would do so more often. “Well, shower’s all yours,” the woman finally said, bouts of laughter still escaping her.
The displeased look on Cameron’s face amused her, and she found she enjoyed teasing the terminator. She wasn’t expecting Cameron to grab her as soon as she turned her back. Her eyes drifted shut at the sensations awakening in her body, and she shuddered when Cameron’s hands, the very same hands she had covertly watched before, flattened against her stomach and stroked her skin with nothing short of adoration.
Cameron’s fascination of Sarah made up for her inexperience, and two hours went by before Sarah was allowed to step out of the shower, on unsteady legs but utterly satisfied.
“I had no idea,” was Cameron’s overwhelmed remark.
Sarah chuckled, her eyes momentarily following her fingertips, which were tracing lazy patterns on the terminator’s flat stomach. She had patiently waited for Cameron to step out of the shower in order to return the favor, and took her time showing Cameron exactly what she had felt like.
They lay in comfortable silence for long moments, simply gazing into each other’s eyes.
“Charley Dixon is a fool,” Cameron suddenly said.
Sarah furrowed her eyebrows. She wasn’t sure whether to be offended or curious as to what had brought that up. She chose the latter. “Why? What makes you say that?”
“You have very expressive eyes,” the terminator explained calmly. “It is possible to read a lot in them. They sparkle with intelligence, and a lot of times anger or frustration. Your gaze softens when you look at John, and it’s beautiful to watch the change in them; it’s as if a storm that had been brewing slowly dissipates, and your eyes smile. It is plain to see.”
Sarah blushed lightly at the description. “What does any of that have to do with Charley?”
“Your eyes are also usually tortured. You are beset by nightmares that do not fade when you wake in the morning. There is a fierceness in your eyes, a strength that would not be there unless you had faced much and survived. Charley Dixon did not realize any of this. He was overwhelmed when he learned of the battles you have faced. He is a fool,” Cameron concluded.
Sarah smiled ruefully. “Charley is a good man,” she said sadly. “It was more what he represented: all the things I couldn’t have, the things I will never have,” she explained, gently stroking Cameron’s jaw line. “The things I miss about being human. Normalcy. Acceptance. Love. He gave me that. I have given up much in this life. I fight because someone has to, and I will never question it... I just wish it wasn’t alone. And, for a little while, I wasn’t.”
“You are not alone. I am here to fight with you, and for you,” Cameron protested softly. “And Charley Dixon couldn’t possibly have offered you acceptance. He did not know anything about you. How could he have accepted someone he never knew?”
“You’re right,” Sarah whispered, conceding to the terminator’s rationale even if it hurt her to do so. “Like I said,” she continued with some effort, “He represented things I will never have.”
“You can have them with me,” Cameron murmured, her eyes searching Sarah’s for the same acceptance she so unconditionally offered, hoping Sarah would acknowledge her feelings if not reciprocate them.
But the mother of all destiny averted her gaze for the briefest of moments before focusing back on the terminator’s face. “Cameron, what is normal about any of this? You’re a machine. Do you think we will ever be able to lie on the couch on a lazy Sunday and watch a movie? Go out for ice cream hand in hand in the park? You don’t eat. You don’t sleep. You seem to care about John and me, but it doesn’t bother you that people are dying all around us. Tell me, how can I have normalcy with you?”
There was no hiding the hurt look on the terminator’s face. “If normalcy to you is living with someone who looks in your eyes and sees only what he wants to see, I cannot give you a satisfactory answer. When you were with him, was your life normal? Did you have better dreams? Did you feel safe?” she asked, slightly agitated. “If Skynet were gone,” she continued, “If I were gone... Would you simply forget all you have seen and live just like any other oblivious human being?”
Sarah smiled bitterly as she saw Cameron’s point. “I will never have normalcy.”
Cameron’s gaze softened. “You can have everything else. If you want it.”
Sarah rolled on her back and stared at the ceiling. She knew Cameron was right. But at the same time, the thought of having something more than just sex with the terminator scared her to no end. She liked Cameron, she admitted it freely to herself, but having a relationship with her seemed a bit too much. She was, after all, a machine, bound to be limited in her ability to feel and connect.
There was a shift in the bed and Sarah glanced at Cameron, who had sit up and had her back turned to Sarah. Sarah reached out to touch her, but the terminator got up before the contact was established. Sarah wrapped the sheet around herself and sat up, leaning against the headboard with a frown.
“You want more than I can offer you.” The statement held no question. “But you take less than I want to give.” She looked at Sarah, and while she was obviously hurt, her eyes were devoid of judgment. “I don’t understand, Sarah,” she shook her head sadly, “But I will adjust.”
Sarah patted the bed, and Cameron obediently reclaimed her spot, sitting beside the older woman even as she wished she could be somewhere else just then. Sarah kissed her. It was painful, and demanding, but Cameron could take it. Sarah pushed the sheet off and straddled her, set on making the terminator forget, at least for a while. Forget that, once again, she had thrown Cameron’s kindness right back in her face.
Sarah woke up close to midnight, and was somehow disappointed to realize she was alone in bed. “Cameron?” she called out hoarsely, but there was no answer. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and sat up. “Great,” she drawled, and put on some clothes before heading downstairs to look for the terminator.
After checking a few other places, she found Cameron sitting by the pool, her feet dangling in the water and her gaze fixed at some imaginary spot in the bottom. She didn’t look up when Sarah approached. Sarah crossed her arms and huddled up in her jacket when a cool breeze blew past them. Cameron’s long hair danced in it, and the sight brought a small smile to Sarah’s lips. She looked around for a few moments; the place was deserted, as far as she could tell. The outside was dimly lit, but the lights inside the pool cast a pretty, almost magical glow on the surroundings.
“It’s beautiful out here at night,” she remarked, standing beside the terminator.
It took Cameron a few moments to acknowledge her. “It is,” she replied evenly.
“How long have you been here?” Sarah asked casually.
The mother of all destiny looked around again. “May I sit with you?”
Sarah took off her slippers, and when she touched the terminator’s shoulder to sit down, she stopped. “Cameron, you’re cold,” she observed, the mother in her rubbing the girl’s arms in an attempt to warm her up.
This time, Cameron turned her head slightly, offering her a smile. “I’m ok.”
Sarah wasn’t reassured, and sat with her legs astride Cameron instead. She wrapped her arms around the girl’s small frame, almost protectively, enveloping Cameron in her warmth. It wasn’t long before the terminator leaned comfortably into her.
“The wind is a bit chilly,” Cameron conceded, and Sarah chuckled.
“And yet here you are, in shorts and a tank top,” the woman said, teasing.
“Were I in appropriate clothing, you wouldn’t be all wrapped around me,” the terminator observed softly.
Sarah snorted. “Unbelievable,” she grinned, nuzzling the slender neck and gently squeezing Cameron. She felt delicate hands stroking her own, and allowed the girl to intertwine their fingers. Sarah rested her chin on Cameron’s shoulder, her eyes fixed nowhere in particular. “Are we...are you ok?” she asked softly.
“Yes,” Cameron replied just as softly. “I wish to apologize for before. For the things I said. Sometimes,” she paused, seeming to carefully choose her words, “Sometimes, when I’m with you, I forget.”
“Forget...?” Sarah echoed, unsure of her meaning.
“My place,” Cameron clarified, her voice gentle and devoid of resentment.
Sarah felt stricken, and let out a shaky breath.
Cameron mistook her reaction. “You’re getting cold. We should go back to the room. I don’t want you to be sick,” she said with a hint of disapproval in her tone.
“Fine, mom,” the older woman teased, quickly pulling herself together. “Let’s go.”
Sarah closed the door with a soft click, then locked it before turning to watch Cameron, who was making her way towards the window. Sarah discarded her jacket carelessly onto the dresser and stood by Cameron, her fingers involuntarily combing through the silky dark tresses. She was surprised when Cameron stilled her hand and claimed her lips, not roughly, but certainly not tenderly.
She made short work of Sarah’s remaining clothes and didn’t bother getting rid of her own as she walked Sarah backwards towards the bed, her kisses growing demanding and urgent as well as her touch. Sarah didn’t have the time to think, let alone speak, lost in the way her body reacted to the terminator.
It was arousing, at first, being taken with such force. She could feel the power coiled in those limbs in every touch, and not once she forgot what was beneath the smooth skin. However, when a couple of hours went by and Cameron hadn’t softened her touch, hadn’t been as gentle and tender as she had been before, Sarah wanted to stop her. At least, she meant to, but her body gave under the intensity of Cameron’s relentless attentions, until Sarah blacked out from pure exhaustion.
Sarah woke up sore in all the right places, but for some reason, she didn’t feel nearly as good as she had before. There was an ill feeling she couldn’t place, and this time, when Cameron walked in with breakfast, gone was the warmth, replaced by pretense.
“Good morning, Sarah,” the terminator greeted with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Good morning,” Sarah replied, and she couldn’t help but feel that things were wrong, so wrong.
Cameron sat beside her and opened her book, which had been forgotten for the past days, and she read while Sarah ate.
Sarah considered this for a few moments. It was impersonal, she realized. It was exactly what she had claimed to want from Cameron. She hadn’t expected to feel like this. Cold. Empty. She pushed her food around for a bit, her hunger suddenly subsiding.
Cameron’s eyes never strayed from her book. “Are you not hungry?”
Sarah didn’t reply. Instead, she decided to try something else. She turned to face the terminator and gently caressed her face. As she had predicted, Cameron shied away from the affection and started to pull off her top. Sarah felt sick.
“Stop,” she said firmly, and at Cameron’s confused look, she shook her head dismissively, her eyes back on her food. Her breakfast seemed to mock her, and she pushed the tray away from her before she could throw it across the room.
She leaned heavily against the headboard, running her fingers through her hair. She was aware of the terminator’s eyes on her, but before she could snap at Cameron for no reason at all, the phone rang.
“Hello?” the girl answered, eyeing Sarah warily. “Hi. Yes.” She handed the receiver to the sullen woman, hoping it would cheer her up. “It’s John.”
While Sarah talked to her son, Cameron got up, picked the tray and took it outside. Then, she went into the bathroom for a quick shower, giving Sarah some privacy.
Sarah watched her, her eyes haunted even as she teased John about his fishing skills. She eventually told him that she was a bit tired from being out late, and that she’d meet him at the restaurant for lunch. Refusing to leave things like that, she undressed and barged into the bathroom, and then the shower.
Cameron simply smiled at her, but when the terminator reached out to touch her, Sarah held her by the wrists. “I don’t understand,” she said, confused.
“Well, then let me explain,” Sarah replied sharply. “I’m in control. I set the pace. I do the touching. Got it?”
Cameron stared at her for a moment, her brown eyes guarded. “Yes,” she finally acquiesced.
As soon as the terminator complied, Sarah’s gaze softened and she let her hands wander over Cameron’s body in gentle strokes. Then, she pulled closer, and slowly trailed kisses along Cameron’s jaw, then down her neck and shoulder. She wrapped her fingers around Cameron’s hand and brought it up to kiss her knuckles, palm, then the inside of her wrist. Cameron remained perfectly still, her eyes the only thing following Sarah’s touch.
Sarah made love to her in the shower. It was slow and tender...and bittersweet.
John smiled sheepishly at his mother when he saw he approach. She sat across from him, painfully aware of the shift in their relationship. “Hey. You look great.”
She smirked. “Sleeping does wonders. Did you have a good time?” she asked casually, glad Derek wasn’t there for once.
“Yeah, it was awesome,” John replied excitedly, and related the whole camping and fishing experience in more detail than he had over the phone. “How are you? Was everything ok? I mean, you know...with Cameron, and all.”
“It was all right. I spent most of it in bed,” she smiled. “Cameron is in one piece if that’s what you’re asking. She’s probably wandering all over creation right now.”
John chuckled. “Come on, mom. This place is huge, and you stayed in your room this whole time?”
“I have plenty of excitement in my daily life, thank you,” Sarah scoffed. “Besides, vacations are about doing things you don’t get to do any other time, right? That would be staying in bed.”
“That’s so boring and lame!” he teased. “I think you’re getting old.”
“Hey, I’m still your mother,” she gave him a playful warning look.
Lunch proceeded with amicable talk. John was having trouble looking his mother in the eyes, however, feeling guilty about leaving her behind. Sarah knew this, but didn’t confront him. She never did. She always waited, hoping he would realize eventually that he could talk to her, that he could tell her the truth, or in this case, just talk openly and face whatever he felt he had done wrong. So far, that hadn’t happened; John did things behind her back, like most teenagers, and even if he was attuned enough to his mother’s emotions and had an inkling that she knew more than she let on, he had never been able to just talk to her.
They left the restaurant and were taking a barefoot walk on the grass when John stopped in the shade.
“Mom...?” he said with an intake of breath, his eyes searching hers.
Sarah met his gaze expectantly.
“I’m sorry I left without telling you,” he admitted sheepishly. “Were you really ok?”
She smiled, immensely proud of him. “It hurt,” she disclosed honestly. “But yes, I was ok.”
“I missed you,” he said with a small smile of his own. “I’m really sorry.”
“I forgive you,” she replied, cupping his cheek affectionately.
He leaned in for a hug, which she gladly accepted. When they parted, he smiled at her like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.
“I even took Cameron for a walk in the woods,” Sarah commented, moving on to a lighter subject and letting him off the hook.
He was surprised at first, then grinned at her. “How did that work out?”
Sarah told him about it, and about the snake, and they shared a laugh. They strolled around for a while, then it became too hot, and they went back to their respective rooms, scheduling a horse ride for later.
John had a sneaking suspicion there was more going on than his mother had let on. There was something different about her, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
“Hey,” Sarah smiled tentatively as she walked into the room and saw Cameron sitting on what had become her spot on the window sill. “I thought you had gone for a walk.”
“I did,” Cameron replied quietly, smiling just as unsure.
Sarah studied her for a moment. She cupped the terminator’s jaw and tilted her head up, her free hand pushing back the hair from the girl’s face. She wanted to tell Cameron she was beautiful; that she wanted more, too; that she had been wrong. But what came out was, “We’re going horse-riding in a couple of hours. Would you like to come?”
“Animals are scared of me. I would cause an accident,” Cameron replied, gently extricating herself from Sarah’s grip and averting her eyes for a moment. “And I still haven’t finished my book.” As an afterthought, she added, “But thank you for inviting me.”
Sarah rested her hand on the girl’s shoulder for a moment, then walked over to the mini-fridge for a bottle of water. She felt so lost. If she were being honest to herself, she would have to admit that spending time with Cameron had been great and thoroughly enjoyable. But she was terrified of the possibilities. She plopped down on the bed with a frustrated huff.
“How much do you care?” Sarah asked, and while the question sounded awfully strange to her as soon as the words left her mouth, they seemed to make perfect sense to Cameron.
“I would give my life for you,” she replied with certainty. “How much do you care?”
Sarah became guarded. “That’s different.”
“Yes. Because I’m expendable,” the terminator nodded. “I’m a machine. I can be replaced.”
“That’s not...” It sounded horrible when Cameron said it like that.
“Why do you ask me these questions?” Cameron asked, and while she kept her voice even, she was noticeably irritated. “My answers do not suffice. My actions do not suffice. And yet, you keep asking.”
Sarah looked at her. She felt raw and confused, and it showed in her eyes. She noticed the terminator softened her gaze in response. “I’m sorry,” she murmured, contrite. She stood up. “I’m going for a walk. I...I need to think. If John calls, tell him I’ll meet him at the stables. Please.”
The phone rang obnoxiously for several seconds before Cameron could be bothered to get up and answer it. “Hello?” she answered in a monotone. “Sarah will meet you at the stables. She went for a walk,” she informed before hanging up.
She looked down at the messy sheets and sat on the bed, staring at the wrinkles in the fabric, the crumpled pillows. She touched the sheet, then brushed her hand over it with reverence. She stopped when her hand found Sarah’s pillow, and she brought it to her face, inhaling deeply, feeling an ache inside she couldn’t comprehend. Her eyes stung, and she brought her fingertips to her face, surprised when she pulled them back and saw the wetness of tears on them. She hadn’t been made aware of that function. A tear rolled down her cheek, quickly followed by another. She willed her eyes to stop, but found she had no control over it. She did the only thing she could: she buried her face in Sarah’s pillow and let them flow freely.
Almost half an hour later, there was a knock on the door. Cameron carefully arranged Sarah’s pillow back before going to answer it.
“Hey,” John greeted, but his smile faded as soon as he saw her. “Are you crying?”
The terminator smiled. “I just finished one of my books,” she lied easily.
He gave her a strange look, that soon turned into disbelief. “You’re crying because of a book?”
“It’s a sad story,” Cameron replied, impassive.
John stared at her for a few moments, and she met his gaze blankly. “Anyway. Have you noticed anything different with my mom?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Has something happened while I was away?” he clarified. “She’s acting a little different. She even looks different. I thought maybe you’d know about it.”
“Different how?” she asked, tilting her head to the side.
“I don’t know. But she is,” he frowned. “I can tell.”
She stared expressionlessly at him, acting deliberately obtuse.
John sighed. “Never mind.”
Sarah waited at the entrance to the stables, while Derek was inside. She was unwilling to be in his presence any more than necessary. She smiled when she saw her son walking towards her, but her smile faded as soon as she caught the dazed look on his face.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, concerned.
“I was just talking to Cameron,” he replied.
Sarah felt queasy. It took her a moment, but she asked almost too casually, “And?”
He furrowed his eyebrows, still too disturbed by the conversation with his protector to pick on his mother’s uneasiness. “She was crying.”
The news troubled her as well, but for entirely different reasons. “Crying? I didn’t know she did that.”
“Neither did I,” he shook his head. “And by the look on her face, neither did she.”
“Did she tell you why?” Sarah forced herself to ask, unsure whether she really wanted to hear the answer.
“Yeah,” he arched his eyebrows, “A book. Apparently it was a sad story.”
Sarah frowned. She considered this for a few seconds. If she told her son to go on ahead without her, he would be suspicious, but at the same time, it pulled at her heartstrings to picture Cameron crying, alone. Crying because of her. Yes, Cameron was a machine, but what would it say about her, Sarah, as a human being, if she could simply ignore the terminator knowing she was in pain? She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Hey,” she said with a small smile, “Do you mind if I take a rain check? I think my butt still hasn’t recovered from my last ride.” Painfully aware of how obvious she was, she decided to acknowledge it. “And I want to make sure Cameron is not going haywire.”
“Mom,” he frowned, “She’s fine.”
“I just want to make sure,” Sarah reassured him. “Have fun. I’ll meet you at dinner around eight.”
“Promise me you’re going to try and be nice,” he insisted.
“I promise,” Sarah replied.
As he watched his mother walk away with barely restrained haste, he knew something was definitely going on. Deciding that sooner or later he’d find out, he headed into the stables to meet his uncle.
Cameron was a mix of surprise, displeasure and fear when Sarah walked into the room. She was still sitting on the bed, and kept facing forward, wide-eyed, even as Sarah sat beside her. “John was looking for you. I told him you would meet him at the stables.”
Sarah smiled wryly at the terminator’s expectation that she would leave. “I know. I just talked to him,” she replied, her tone neutral.
Sarah studied the girl’s profile, then shifted to sit across from her. Cameron reluctantly faced her. When she did, Sarah captured a small hand in her own and said, “I haven’t been fair to you.”
Cameron’s eyes went to their connected hands, and she was unsure how to react.
Sarah looked down as well. “I know I have made things very hard for you to understand with my idiosyncrasies and contradictions.” She looked back into Cameron’s eyes, which were now staring intently at her. “I’m scared.”
“I know,” was the soft reply.
“Do you know why?”
“Because of what I am,” Cameron answered sadly.
“No. At least, not anymore,” Sarah said sincerely with a shake of her head. She turned Cameron’s palm upwards and started to idly stroke it with a fingertip. She smiled lightly when the terminator stretched her fingers, enjoying the contact. “The truth is, what you are, who you are...the combination of these two things makes you...you. Cameron. And whether I wanted to or not, I like you.”
Cameron rested her free hand on Sarah’s cheek, like Sarah had done to her several times. Sarah allowed herself to lean against it, closing her eyes for a brief moment.
“I am scared of my feelings for you. Of where they will lead,” she admitted wearily. “But I can’t change the way I feel. Running away doesn’t help. Pushing you away makes it worse. I don’t know what to do.”
“Perhaps you should try acceptance,” Cameron suggested softly when Sarah’s shoulders sagged in defeat. “I thought humans only feared the unknown. You have acknowledged your feelings, and mine, and they are essentially the same. Fighting seems illogical.”
“You’re right,” Sarah considered, “But humans have this pesky little habit of worrying about what ifs.”
“But the possibilities are endless. Attempting to identify and analyze each and every possible outcome will only serve the purpose of stressing you out,” Cameron replied, trying to understand Sarah’s need to make everything so difficult.
“Boy, do I know that,” Sarah snorted. “I know all of this. But I can’t help it.”
Cameron placed her hand on Sarah’s thigh and smiled meaningfully at her. “Perhaps I can. Will you allow me to try?” she asked expectantly.
Sarah bit her bottom lip. “I think I need you to.”
“Sarah?” Cameron whispered, placing a tender kiss just below the sleeping woman’s ear. When Sarah smiled lazily in response, the terminator continued, “You asked me to wake you at seven thirty.” With a smirk, she added, “It’s been five minutes since the last five minutes you requested, so it is now seven forty.”
Sarah yawned, then nuzzled the crook of Cameron’s neck. “I don’t want to leave...” she admitted.
“But you have to,” Cameron finished for her. “John will be suspicious otherwise.”
“I know,” the older woman frowned. She stroked the expanse of skin under her, barely suppressing a moan at how soft Cameron was, then asked, “Take a quick shower with me?”
Cameron kissed her sweetly, and Sarah gladly responded. When they pulled apart, Cameron replied, “I can’t.”
“Why not?” Sarah asked, baffled.
“Because then it wouldn’t be quick,” the terminator replied slyly.
Sarah grinned. “We could compromise...”
“Ok, ok...I’m going,” Sarah said with a sigh.
She took the fastest shower in history, threw some clothes on and gave Cameron a lengthy kiss before hurrying out of the room at seven fifty-eight.
“Someone’s in a good mood,” John whistled teasingly when his mother sat down at the table.
She blinked, then smiled innocently. “Just wondering where your uncle is, and relieved that, wherever that is, it’s not here.”
John ducked his head and attempted to hide a smirk. “Mom, c’mon...”
She grinned and picked up the menu. “So how was the ride?”
“It was nice. It was really hot out today though,” he replied, then gave her a curious look. “How was your afternoon?”
“It was fine,” she said distractedly.
“And Cameron?” he insisted.
Sarah lowered the menu to meet his eyes. “She’s still in one piece.” One very fine, beautiful, naked piece, she thought to herself barely managing to suppress a smile.
John stared at his mother for several moments. “Has she stayed in all this time? People might notice.”
“Nope. She’s kept me company,” Sarah admitted nonchalantly. “At the pool, mostly.” Then, hoping to quell his suspicions and lighten the tone of the conversation, she added, “Somewhere around here there is a boy still nursing his wounded pride.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, a hint of a grin tugging at his lips.
Sarah sighed inwardly. Crisis averted. “He was all over her.”
Chuckling, he asked, “And?”
“She turned him down in that direct way of hers.”
They placed their orders, and continued with casual conversation until the waiter returned with their food. Sarah arched her eyebrows as she appraised it, starving after her intense afternoon with Cameron.
“Wow,” he remarked, taking in her order with interest. “I haven’t seen you look this hungry since...ever.”
“Maybe when I have someone to cook for me,” she shrugged, brushing off his speculation. “Not that there’s anything wrong with my cooking.”
John chuckled, then realized she was looking at him and pulled a straight face. “Of course not. I love your pancakes, and...and everything else.”
She arched an eyebrow at him, then comically narrowed her eyes. They burst out laughing. “Ok, so it leaves something to be desired,” she conceded, ducking her head.
“You can’t be good at everything,” he offered, smiling. “Hey, maybe we can get Cameron to cook.”
Sarah snorted. “I doubt she’d do house chores.”
“You never know. We could ask nicely,” he shrugged.
“You think Derek would eat anything she made?” she asked with a smirk. “He’d die of starvation.” A beat, and then, “Yeah, you should ask her.”
John laughed. “Mom!”
The meal went on with levity, for which Sarah was immensely grateful. She knew, however, that her son was suspicious, and that it would be only a matter of time until he found out what was really going on between Cameron and her. She dreaded that day, but had made her choice and would stand by it. She could only hope that, when the day came, he would not begrudge her her happiness.
“Well,” Sarah spoke as soon as she walked into the room, “Tomorrow we’re all going to the woods. Derek included. John knows something is up, and I’m sure Derek will too.”
“The terrain is appropriate, I could make sure no one would find him,” Cameron offered, sounding exceptionally hopeful.
Sarah laughed as she locked the door. “We can’t do that, but thank you for the lovely image.” She stepped further into the room and looked at the terminator, then furrowed her eyebrows. “Showered and dressed...and you made the bed. Do I want to know?” she smirked, turning to the dresser and taking off her clothes absent-mindedly.
“I went out of a walk,” was the innocent answer. “I didn’t want to risk John coming with you and seeing the bed as it was.”
“How thoughtful,” Sarah smiled, putting on her nightshirt before joining Cameron in bed. “Are you going to remain dressed?” she teased.
“No,” the terminator shook her head. She bent over the edge of the bed and poured Sarah a glass of wine. “Here, I found this for you.”
Sarah stared at her. “You found it,” she repeated, accepting the gift nonetheless. “You were walking around and just happened across a bottle of wine conveniently chilling in a bucket of ice.”
Sarah laughed. “How lucky.”
The walk into the woods was mostly quiet. Cameron walked ahead of everyone, carrying a bag with water and chips; Sarah walked behind her with John and Derek at her side. They had been walking for a while, and Sarah kept having to remind herself that she wasn’t alone and that, while Cameron’s pants really complimented her...form, that wasn’t the appropriate time to appreciate it. The problem was that, every time she reminded herself, her eyes automatically found their prize. Adding to the fact that she couldn’t find it in herself to be frosty towards the terminator and kept smiling warmly at her, she was pretty sure that she was doing less than a great job in keeping her feelings concealed. She was also painfully aware of the dangerous looks she was getting from John’s uncle. Fortunately, he seemed to either chalk it up to something else or keep to himself.
“It’s nice here,” John remarked, breaking the silence.
“Yeah,” his mother agreed with a smile.
“Hard to believe it will all be gone because of the damn machines,” Derek commented sourly.
“Humans had been harming nature long before machines ever did,” Cameron observed flatly.
“No one asked for your opinion,” he vociferated.
“No one asked for yours,” she replied calmly.
Derek fumed, but before he could say or do anything, Sarah decided to put a stop to it.
“That’s enough,” she said in a freezing tone.
And the via crucis continued in silence until they reached a small clearing.
“Cameron, any signs of...wildlife?” Sarah asked with a grin.
Cameron wanted to smile, but schooled her expression into a blank stare, aware of Derek watching them like a hawk. “None that we need to worry about.”
“All right, I guess this is the spot then,” John smiled, and made himself comfortable on the grass.
Cameron handed him a bottle of water, then Sarah. Derek took Sarah’s bottle, ignoring the glower Sarah cast his way, and Sarah got a new one from the terminator.
“How adolescent,” Sarah muttered under her breath.
Derek shrugged indifferently. “I didn’t think you’d mind,” he remarked snidely.
Shit. Sarah stared at him and braced herself for the inevitable.
“You know, there really isn’t any point to doing these things together if all you’re going to do is argue about everything,” John complained, exasperated.
“You never know,” Derek supplied, and before anyone had a chance to be surprised, he sneered, “Sarah seems to be getting along just fine with that thing. Better than when we left, anyway.”
Cameron’s offer from the night before started to seem awfully reasonable, Sarah thought as she regarded him with unveiled contempt. The terminator remained quiet, while John looked from his mother to his uncle wondering what exactly was going on.
“She’s an asset to the team,” Sarah said tersely, “Which is more than I can say about you.”
“Oh, I’m sure it is an asset...to you more than the team,” he drawled, arching his eyebrows in scorn.
Sarah wanted to strangle him. “If you have anything to say, either spit it out or shut up about it!”
John knew his mother all too well, so he also knew Derek was about to have his ass handed to him. “Whoa! Let’s...let’s cool off. Mom. Mom!”
Sarah managed to look away from Derek and face her son. “I’ll see you later,” she murmured, and walked away before she did something hideous.
John frowned at his uncle, then jumped to his feet and tried to catch up with his mother, leaving Derek and Cameron alone in the clearing. Derek smirked at the scene, until he saw the terminator looking at him like she was considering tearing him apart limb by limb and loving the idea. He paled.
Cameron grabbed the front of his shirt and lifted him effortlessly off the ground. “You are not safe around me,” she informed him in a frighteningly casual tone. “The people whose lives you disrupt are the only reason you will walk out of here today. Should you become a liability to them,” she smiled viciously, her eyes flashing blue, “I will deal with you. They would never find out.”
She flung him easily away from her, and stood eerily motionless as he pushed himself off the ground and ran away from her in panic. Once he was gone, she picked the bottles up and put them in the bag before starting the walk back alone.
“Pack your bags,” Sarah said tiredly when Cameron made it back to the room. “We’re going home first thing in the morning.”
Cameron closed the door and knelt by Sarah, who looked like she had cried. “Are you ok?” she asked softly.
“No, not really,” Sarah sighed as she shoved everything into her suitcase carelessly.
The terminator gently stopped her, pulling her towards the bed. “Lie down. Let me do this for you.”
Sarah did as she was told, for once. “I told John. I didn’t want him to find out from his uncle, that would have been...it would have been even worse.” She swatted at the tears that stubbornly pooled in her eyes.
Cameron was efficiently folding and rearranging all of her clothes after emptying the messy suitcase. She didn’t look at Sarah. “What did he say?”
“He’s mad at me,” Sarah replied miserably. “He made me promise I’d end it. He threatened to leave me.”
Cameron’s hands stopped their diligent work for a moment, a flash of pure hurt crossing her features before she wordlessly continued her task.
“I had no choice,” Sarah whispered, more to herself than the terminator. “You...you understand?”
“No,” Cameron answered quietly. “But I will respect your decision.”
Things had been very quiet in the Connor household since their return to the city.
Whenever Cameron was around Sarah, normally on her way to or from school, so was John, his disapproving eyes a painful reminder of a happiness that was at the same time within reach and unattainable. Dichotomy. She hated it.
He didn’t need to bother, Sarah thought sadly to herself. Cameron had avoided her from the moment they had set foot in the house from their vacation. The terminator would remain in her room at all times except for her watch at night, and had hardly said a word to her or anyone else except when in a mission.
Derek Reese was making himself scarce. He took John to the park some days and went to the occasional mission with Sarah (never with Cameron), and then he would be surprisingly quiet. Sarah had a sneaking suspicion that Cameron’s finger was in it, but wasn’t sure. She was just grateful.
John acted like nothing had happened. It was no easy feat, considering that his mother stalked around the house with a cloud of misery over her head, his protector no longer talked to him and his uncle seemed to be in a constant state of discomfort.
Cameron opened her door after a few knocks and stared blankly at her charge standing there.
“Hey,” he smiled.
“Yes?” she replied flatly, turning her back on him and making her way back to her desk.
“You’re doing homework?” he asked, following her inside.
“Want to do mine?”
He frowned. “Aren’t you supposed to be nice to me?”
She gave him an uninterested look. “My mission is to keep you alive. And you are.”
John snorted. “All of this because you want to get into my mom’s pants?” he asked derisively.
“I am three centimeters taller than Sarah, and we have different builds; her pants would not be an adequate fit,” Cameron replied flatly. “And no. All of this because I want to make Sarah happy. Maybe you should too.”
“You’re a machine,” he said, upset. “You don’t know anything about happiness.”
“You’re human, and apparently, neither do you. If you do not have need of me, I must go back to my homework,” she said evenly, turning her attention back to her books.
“You’re kicking me out?” John asked, shocked.
“No. I am politely insinuating that you should leave,” she said distractedly, writing down numbers in her notebook as if he weren’t even in the room.
He walked out of her room and slammed her door resentfully. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his mother standing at the end of the hall. Their eyes met for a brief moment before she averted hers and disappeared into her own bedroom, closing the door with a soft click.
With a sigh, he went looking for his uncle, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found. What he found was a takeout box on the kitchen table, with what appeared to be his dinner in it. They’ll get over it, he told himself, retrieving a fork from the drawer and digging into his food.
“So what have you been up to?” John asked casually as they sat in the park watching the young Reese brothers playing.
Derek shrugged, smiling. “Just wandering around. Avoiding your mother, mostly.”
John smirked. “Yeah, she’s been something lately, huh?”
“You’d think she’d be happier,” Derek remarked lightly, and at John’s questioning look, he elaborated, “Since she got to stick around and all.”
John furrowed his eyebrows. “What do you mean?”
“Your mother died a couple of years ago, if I’m not mistaken,” Derek said nonchalantly. “Or she would have, if you hadn’t jumped through time. I think that was one of the reasons you sent that thing back.”
Cameron didn’t look up from her book when her protégé barged into her bedroom.
“My mom died?” he asked, keeping his voice down so that his mother wouldn’t hear it. “How could you not tell me this?”
“You didn’t ask.”
“Oh, my God,” he seethed. “I can’t believe you. Do you not...you don’t...”
Cameron looked at him from over her book. “What difference would it have made? Do you love her more now that you know?”
He stared at her wordlessly, stumped.
“Or perhaps you think you shouldn’t have taken her for granted,” she reasoned, as if talking to herself, which annoyed him greatly. “She’s still going to die someday, you know. She’s human.”
“Cameron, that’s enough,” Sarah said quietly, and Cameron docilely complied.
John turned to the doorway to find his mother standing there. “You knew? Why didn’t you...mom...”
“It’s not important,” Sarah interjected. “Your uncle tell you this?”
“He didn’t know I didn’t know,” John replied, “And that’s not the point.”
“What is the point?”
John shook his head, dumbfounded. He didn’t know what the point was. Maybe Cameron was right. “How did it happen?” he asked softly.
Sarah sighed, shaking her head. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Cameron,” he asked his protector. “How did it happen?”
Much for his aggravation, Cameron ignored him, her eyes back on her book.
“Leave it alone, John,” his mother said quietly before nodding her appreciation at Cameron and walking away.
He stared at the spot she had been occupying and swallowed, tears brimming in his eyes.
The future savior of mankind lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that he would have been without his mother for two years. He wondered how he would have dealt with it, the hardships he would have gone through without her protection and foresight. He didn’t feel like much of a hero, and she was fighting once again, sacrificing so much as she had all those years, so that he wouldn’t have to be.
Cameron was right, he realized. He had taken her for granted. But she was still alive, which meant he could still make things right, or at least, allow her some minor comfort while she took his fate upon her shoulders.
He pushed himself off his bed and headed to his mother’s room, needing to hear her voice. It took him a few seconds to summon the courage to knock on her door.
“What is it?” came the muffled reply.
“Mom, it’s me,” he said quietly. “Can I come in? Please?”
She opened the door and ushered him inside. “Always.”
He let out a small smile at that, and sat down on her bed, looking around at the room before finally facing her. She was watching him, a mix of curiosity and puzzlement at his antics. He looked down again, absent-mindedly touching the blueprints and photos and lists scattered all over the mattress.
“Mom, talk to me,” he urged softly.
She sat down beside him. “About what?”
He sighed. “How did you know...about...you know...”
“Cameron,” Sarah supplied with a small frown at the subject he’d brought up.
He felt some bitterness that the terminator had talked to his mother but not him. He had sent her back for himself, and yet she apparently hadn’t deemed him responsible enough, or capable of dealing with the news. But she had told his mother.
Sarah seemed to sense his thoughts. “I had her against a wall. Literally. It wasn’t pretty.”
They stared at each other for a few moments.
“Why her, mom?” he asked in a murmur.
Sarah sighed, running her hands along her thighs as she shifted uncomfortably on the bed. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “When I first started realizing this, I thought...I don’t know, after so long on the run...I just wanted something, anything. I get lonely too.” She stared at her hands for a moment, unwilling to face her son after what was, for her, an embarrassing confession. “Sometimes I forget I’m a woman. Sometimes I forget I’m human. And Cameron...she’s there.”
He seemed disturbed by this, but before he could say anything, his mother went on.
“But then, as we worked together, I realized that I needed her.” She paused, mulling over her words. “She is the only one who can share my burden, and she doesn’t shy away from it. She does with without a flinch. I don’t have to worry about getting her killed, because I know of her abilities. She can stand beside me where no one else could.”
Reluctantly, he nodded.
“I grew to trust her. I noticed the effort she’s put into learning more about us, and I watched her attempts to take care of you, and even me, in a way that is beside her programming.” Sarah sighed at this, a regretful smile on her lips as the memory of a broken pencil sprung to mind. “I found out she feels pain, and that in her own way and whether she shows them or not, she has emotions. I got to know her.”
“Mom, she’s a machine.” His own argument seemed empty to his own ears.
“I am aware,” Sarah replied quietly. “Did you think I would forget?”
“It doesn’t bother you,” he stated more than asked.
“Why should it? She can’t change it any more than I can change my bones. She may have limits to her emotions, but then when you think about it, I’m far from being emotionally available.” Her lips curled into a wistful smile. “But she makes me feel so much, and so many things... No one has ever... She’s...” Her voice failed her then, and she lapsed into silence with a shake of her head.
John frowned, stood up and made his way to the door. “I’m sorry, mom.”
“So am I,” she whispered before he left.
He closed her door and stood in the hall for a minute. Then, with a deep intake of air, he strode purposefully into Cameron’s room.
“I’ve been an idiot,” he admitted with a dry smile, not expecting his protector to acknowledge him. “I can’t believe how selfish I’ve acted.”
Cameron arched her eyebrows, her eyes looking up from on of her books as she regarded him. “You forgot hypocritical.”
John looked at her, not really expecting input. “Do you even know what that means?”
“It means you should not be angry at Sarah for getting in my pants when you would have done the same if I had given you the opportunity,” she replied pointedly. Offhandedly, she added, “It will never happen.”
Ouch. He looked away, blushing. “I don’t know how to fix it.”
“Do you want to?”
He faced her. “I want her to be happy.”
Cameron’s gaze softened, and her lips parted in a light smile. “I’ll help you.”
A few days later on a Friday afternoon, after protector and protégé were ready to put their plan in action. Sarah and Derek were unknowingly doing surveillance on an empty warehouse the terminator had found, leaving the run of the house to John and Cameron.
John had been sitting on the couch waiting to hear the jeep pulling over in the driveway. He had invited his uncle to go fishing on the weekend and had everything packed. When he heard the sound of the gravel being crunched, he got everything ready and headed outside.
He suppressed a snicker at the sour expression on his mother and uncle’s faces after a whole day of watching absolutely nothing. “Let’s go!” he said, quickly putting everything in the trunk.
Derek arched his eyebrows, a hint of amusement breaking through his dour disposition. “Mind if I stretch my legs for five seconds?”
“You have the whole weekend to stretch your legs,” John insisted, and his uncle got into the driver’s seat and started the car without argument.
Sarah smiled. As much as she didn’t like him, he seemed to have a soft spot for her son. “You take care,” she told John, returning the hug he gave her.
“You too,” he smiled. “I’ll call.”
“You do that,” she nodded.
She watched them drive away before making her way into the house. She made a beeline to Cameron’s room, ready to give her a piece of her mind about the terminator’s ‘intelligence’ and how off it had been. When she stormed in, however, she found the room empty.
Bristling, she decided to take a shower before confronting the girl and possibly dismantling her for the huge waste of time and for making her sit next to Derek Reese for a whole hot day in that jeep.
When she walked into the bathroom, however, her irritation gave place to perplexity. There was a bubble bath apparently waiting for her. She touched the water; it was perfect. She breathed in the sweet scent and relaxed involuntarily.
With a chuckle, she undressed and stepped in, allowing her muscles to soak in the heat as she leaned her head against the board and closed her eyes.
“I’m still mad at you for letting me sit in that jeep next to Derek Reese for a whole day, you know,” she smirked when she heard light footsteps approach.
“I have every intention of making it up to you,” Cameron replied with a grin. “John left this for you,” she said, handing Sarah a note with her son’s handwriting.
I love you, mom.
Have a great weekend!
Sarah felt this irresistible urge to laugh, so she did, out of sheer happiness. “Cameron, you have about two seconds to join me before I pull you in clothes and all.”
The terminator arched an eyebrow, her lips parting in a sly, sexy smile. “I thought patience was a virtue,” she teased, even as she obediently undressed.
“Patience is overrated,” Sarah replied distractedly, her eyes eagerly following Cameron’s hands as they uncovered perfection.
Cameron cooked dinner for her, and afterwards, surprised the older woman with a full body massage. It eventually developed into something else, as such things tended to, and several hours later, Sarah lay in comfortably nestled in Cameron’s arms, her last thoughts before she drifted into a peaceful slumber filled with hope, and love.
Cameron closed her eyes as she snuggled against Sarah, thinking to herself that she had been right all along: nothing remotely useful resulted from vacations. She couldn’t wait for the next one.
Near a lake miles from the house, John stargazed and couldn’t help feeling happy for his mother, and for some reason, for Cameron too.
As for Derek Reese...
Derek Reese was basically still a prick.
At least when Cameron was not around.