Title: Postulations and Practices
Fandom: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Rating: M: L, S, V
Disclaimer: They aren’t mine. But people who own them, don’t get mad. I heart this show so much.
A/N: I really just wanted them to have sex. That’s all. But this thing just kept going and I ended up with a little over 15000 words of pure, potentially OOC drivel. I apologize. I didn’t mean it. It just happened. It’s not so much a story as it is a rambling, and it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. You can imagine me shrugging my shoulders in that ‘I don’t know what happened’ way and looking a little sheepish. So, yeah.
Sarah awoke with a start to find Cameron looming over her and it was like a scene from her nightmares come to life. Her hand fumbled momentarily, found the gun under her pillow, and she jammed herself up against the headboard with it out in front of her, finger already tight against the trigger.
The light of the streetlamps behind Cameron threw her into darkness. She was a slip of a girl, standing with her head canted to the side quizzically and arms at her side, unmoving, and as Sarah’s heart rate and respiration began to return to normal, she lowered the gun slightly.
Her voice was rough, both from her lingering panic and from sleep. “What are you doing?”
“You were calling out,” Cameron said curiously. “Begging for something to stop. You were restless.”
“I was having a nightmare,” Sarah replied bitterly, the hand holding the gun now resting limply against the mattress.
Cameron nodded knowingly. “John said you were plagued by nightmares,” she said softly. At the sudden tension she saw in Sarah’s features, she added, “John in the future, not John now. But your John probably knows it too.”
John in the future had told Cameron many things about Sarah, but she didn’t think Sarah would appreciate hearing that.
“Well, if he doesn’t know it, he doesn’t need to hear it from you.”
Since becoming part of the Resistance, Cameron had found herself fascinated by the human need for privacy. People often appeared to get themselves in trouble that way, she thought, trying to hide things from one another. Sarah had a remarkably open relationship with John, one of the most open she had seen, yet she still tried to keep things from him – her feelings, mostly, and her doubts and her fears. Cameron understood that, in part. Without Sarah there as his rock, as his protector and the woman who would save him from the future, it would become much harder for John now to become John of the future. And that, too, was something that puzzled Cameron – his belief in this human woman. When he asked Sarah to change the future, when he asked her to once again find and destroy Skynet, Cameron thought it was a bit foolish. Sarah was not invulnerable, nor was she infallible. She was a single person with limited resources and a multitude of vulnerabilities to be exploited.
John in the future had recognized that, where John now still clung desperately to the foolhardy belief that his mother could save them – could save all humans – from the coming armageddon.
John in the future still smiled fondly every time he spoke of the T-101 that had saved his life. Unlike Sarah, who, he told her, had never fully trusted machines, John had believed that the two – machine and human – could work together synergistically. Cameron found his logic flawed but did not tell him that. After all, by stealing and reprogramming terminators to fight for them, John created beings tasked with a mission that amounted to the eradication of their race. He created beings with the capacity to think and learn, to make judgment calls, and he sent them back through time to protect the thing most important to the continued survival of the human race at the cost of their own – himself.
Cameron had a mission and she would see it out to its conclusion. But, she had the knowledge and the capacity to override it. If she so chose, if her own existence became so important to her that she made a conscious decision to abandon her mission to protect John and instead decided to fight for her own survival, then she had the means to make that happen.
She didn’t think she would make that choice. She was, after all, a Resistance fighter too.
“You don’t have to worry. I will protect you,” Cameron offered earnestly.
Sarah scoffed. “You’ll forgive me if I’m not completely comforted by the thought.”
John in the future was grizzled and scarred, his face a map of long healed wounds that John now didn’t have. John now was smooth-faced and so very young. His eyes burned with a frustrated determination to change the course of the future instead of the half mad mania of a man who had spent the bulk of his life fighting against an almost unstoppable force.
“You have a choice, Cameron,” John in the future had said seriously, jaw tensed and gaze piercing. “We could program you to do almost anything, but this is something you have to decide for yourself.”
He stepped back and she could see his wife Kate standing behind him, now graying hair pulled back tightly and lips pursed in a thin line. Kate didn’t necessarily agree with John, didn’t see any possible utility in suggesting to Cameron this sub-mission, but in the face of John’s determined stare, she’d relented.
“I will do what you ask me to do.” To Cameron, the matter was simple. John had assigned her a mission and she would see it completed, no matter what the cost. Whether it was primary or tertiary didn’t matter. The mission gave her existence meaning, and it was her directive not to fail. At anything.
“No,” John was shaking his head, but the hint of a smile teased at the corners of his lips. “You have to promise me, Cameron. This is your choice.”
She was an infiltrator, her small frame crafted to blend in with normal humans. Unlike the hulking 800 series, she was designed to be unobtrusive, but among the seasoned band of Resistance fighters, she’d quickly found that blending in required far more skill than she’d possessed. Humans had a grace in their social interactions that she didn’t fully possess, and though the strain of wartime took its toll on those kinds of things as well, even among men and women who had been fighting nonstop for years, she was always just a fraction off. Despite this, she did not doubt that she could achieve her stated purpose. John had trained her well, had taken the time to patiently explain to her everything he thought she should know to complete her mission successfully.
Travel back in time and protect John and Sarah Connor.
“She needs someone.” John’s voice was tired, his gaze distant. “You’re perfect for this. She wouldn’t have trusted one of them.”
Cameron assumed that he was alluding to one of the other models. Sarah Connor as she knew her, a litany of stories told to her through the cotton fogginess of long held memories, definitely wouldn’t have trusted the 800 series T-101, not with something like this. The rumored T-1000 prototype would have been perhaps more perfect, but even if the neophyte design had been made functional, the Resistance could never have captured, much less reprogrammed, one.
“It won’t be easy,” he’d warned. “She doesn’t trust easily. Certainly not a machine.”
Cameron had nodded sympathetically, but her eyes had betrayed her overwhelming confidence.
“Your choice, Cameron. Promise me.”
It wasn’t easy at all but it was definitely her choice.
“God,” John now said, his voice a mix of bemusement and consternation, “could you be any more obvious?”
Cameron’s blank, slightly slack jawed look prompted him to elaborate.
“I mean, it’s bad enough knowing that you’re perving out on my mom, but I could also do without the constant and absolutely not at all subtle look of frustrated robotic lust that’s always on your face.”
Cameron blinked, looking slightly affronted. “I’m not a robot. I’m a cybernetic organism.”
John snorted, then offered a fake conciliatory smile. “Yeah, well, whatever. You still look like a cock-blocked fifteen year old.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It means I know what’s going on in your neural network,” John said, tapping two fingers against the side of his head and rolling his eyes. “Just try not to be so obvious about it. It’s kind of freaking me out. And she’s not going to like it.”
Cameron’s gaze sharpened at that. “What would she like?”
John shook his head, looking decidedly ill at ease at Cameron’s enthusiasm. “Christ, I don’t know. I don’t want to know.” Smiling wryly, he murmured, “You’re on your own here. I’m not providing you with advice on how to get your freak on with my mother. And we’re not girlfriends, so I don’t want to hear updates. I don’t want to hear anything. Period. So if some kind of miracle happens and you manage to actually get this to happen, remember that. Keep it quiet.”
“I see. The thought of a sexual relationship between Sarah Connor and I makes you uncomfortable.”
John seemed to almost visibly shudder. “Uh, yeah. Very. Not that I think I have to worry about that – there’s no way she’d do it.”
Cameron tilted her head to the side contemplatively, obviously unfazed by his lack of confidence. “Why do you say that?”
“Because you’re a robot,” John muttered, eyes wide as he tried to convey the obvious.
“I’m not a robot. I’m a cybernetic organism.”
“You’re a machine,” John stressed. “Maybe you haven’t noticed her extreme distrust and hatred, but trust me, they’re going to be major hurdles to this little plan.”
“She trusts me,” Cameron said, the words almost mulish.
“No,” John corrected, “she tolerates you. She knows you’re a necessary evil, and she’s smart enough to take advantage of the tools she’s been sent. Don’t mistake that for anything else.”
Cameron was staunch in her belief to the contrary. “She trusts me,” she said again, this time a bit more vehemently.
John sighed, then shrugged. “Whatever. Do what you want. You don’t need my blessing.”
“I know,” Cameron said seriously. “I already have it.”
John’s voice was incredulous. “What am I? Some kind of pimp?”
After she’d explained her comment, John had simply looked at her as if she were crazy. He’d shook his head, muttered softly to himself, then laughed humorlessly. “I go through all the trouble to send you back just so my mom can get laid?”
“My primary mission is to protect John and Sarah Connor,” Cameron replied, the words, by now, rote. “My seduction of Sarah Connor is not an official mission. You said it must be my choice.”
John looked at her warily. “You can make choices about things like that?”
“I was originally designed to infiltrate human encampments and assimilate into human society,” Cameron explained, offering a small smile to blunt the impact of her words. “I was given emotional sub-routines to facilitate my ability to blend.”
“So you feel things,” John said flatly. “You feel emotions.”
“Emotions guide humans more frequently than logic. It was important for me to be able to mimic their effects. The easiest way to do this was…”
“To make it so that you didn’t have to mimic them at all?” John suggested, then snorted. “I hate to tell you, but your sub-routines are kinda subpar.”
Cameron frowned. “I am able to learn and adapt. The more I interact with humans, the more human-like my emotions will become,” she said carefully, expression introspective. John in the future had assured her of that, had promised that she would quickly acquire the elements necessary to seem more human. His explanation had made it seem simple, as if it were just another task she would be able to complete with ruthless efficiency. So far, she had found it much more difficult than he had led her to believe. Humans were complicated. They were often illogical, frequently rash, and far too often guided by abstract principles that she couldn’t seem to grasp. They made decisions based on gut instinct and sentimentality instead of a careful and purposeful review of information. Their relative unpredictability was frustrating.
“Well, that’s all I need,” John said derisively. “A terminator who locks herself in her room and listens to sappy emo music because my mom doesn’t play along with her little seduction plan.”
Cameron blinked slowly, processing John’s statement. “It is unlikely that that would happen.”
“Yeah? Which part?”
“Either part,” Cameron said plainly. “I would not lock myself in my room. Such an action would interfere with my primary mission.”
John smirked. “Yeah, but the second part isn’t really under your control.”
For a moment, he saw a spark of arrogance in her eyes. “Human sexuality is one of my basic sub-routines. During my re-programming, this segment was augmented to expand my…”
John turned slightly gray. “You can stop right there,” he interrupted, holding out a hand as if to physically stop the flow of words. “I really don’t want to know.”
Cameron’s small smile seemed almost vicious. “You oversaw my re-programming.”
“Wow,” John said dryly. “Look at that. You’ve already got mean and bitchy mastered.” He paused for a second, licked suddenly dry lips, then asked, “Is my mom gay?”
“Unknown,” Cameron said shortly, “but you seemed to think she would find me aesthetically pleasing.”
John snorted in disbelief. “Sounds like a kinda bad plan, then.”
Cameron flashed back on a snippet of the argument she’d overheard between Kate and John just before they’d sent her back, the words vaguely familiar.
“Even if I didn’t think this was a bad idea – an unethical bad idea, which makes it all even better,” Kate had sniped sarcastically, pointing wildly in Cameron’s direction, “I still wouldn’t want to do it. You’re manipulating them both. It’s not right. Think about it, John. This is your mother.”
“My mother,” John had stressed, jabbing his chest with his index finger. “She didn’t ask for this destiny. But when it found her, she didn’t back down. She sacrificed so much for me, Kate. She gave up everything. She moved us off the grid. She left everyone she might ever have loved. She spent all of her time learning to be the best possible fighter she could be so that she could protect me. And then she died, before I was even out of high school. Don’t you think she deserved a little happiness? She,” and here he had paused. He had pointed in Cameron’s direction, eyes swinging over to meet hers, his burning with intensity, “She is her chance. She will protect her. She will never leave her.”
“You’re not doing your mother any favors by sending her back a pre-programmed automaton,” Kate had spat, shaking her head in disgust. “Give her more credit than that.”
“It’ll be her choice.” John had taken a step closer to Cameron, had come to stand in front of her, crouching over so that their eyes met again. “It’s your choice, Cameron. You know what I want, but this time, that doesn’t matter. This time, what you want matters.”
Kate had snorted as Cameron had nodded solemnly. “You think she cares about the difference? You tell her to do it, and she’s going to do it, John. There’s no choice there.”
“There’s choice.” He had sounded so certain that Cameron had voiced her agreement.
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Kate had said, chuckling wryly. “Your mother’s not going to be interested.”
John had smiled, had looked at Cameron almost affectionately. “Don’t be so sure about that. My mother kept a lot of secrets, but you can’t live like we did –sometimes physically and almost always emotionally isolated, dependent on one another for everything – and not pick up on a few things.” He had paused, reached out to run a finger along Cameron’s jaw. “She’ll like her.”
Cameron squared her jaw, a look of determination hardening her features. “She is attracted to me.”
John cut his eyes at her in disbelief. “Yeah? Your microprocessors tell you that?”
“When I’m close to her, I sense increased body temperature, increased respiration…”
“That could be because she doesn’t like you,” John pointed out flatly. “Maybe you’re picking up on anger, not attraction.”
“No, it’s attraction. It’s not a bad plan,” she said slowly, definitively, refocusing on the John of now. “I will succeed.”
“Let me help with that.”
Sarah’s head snapped to the side and she pulled her mask down to reveal a frown. “Don’t sneak up on me.”
Sarah had been systematically sawing through drywall all day and was covered in a fine layer of dust. It clung to her skin in uneven layers, melting into something almost like a paste where she’d sweated. Eyes flat and guarded, Cameron reached forward lightly, swiping her finger through a patch of it.
“You’ve been working hard,” she said, tone, as usual, devoid of inflection.
Sarah forced herself to remain still and not recoil from the touch. “We always have to be prepared.”
“You should rest now. I’ll finish this.”
Sarah watched her warily for a moment, then relented. She’d started the project just after John and Cameron had left for school for the day. Now it was dusk. Her lower back ached, the muscles in her arms were exhausted and she was absolutely filthy. “Just a short break,” she stipulated, laying down the roll of tape she was using to replace the sections of wall she’d removed.
John was in his room studying. Cameron didn’t need to, obviously, though even if she had, Sarah doubted that the girl would be especially worried about her GPA.
No, not girl. Terminator. Machine.
Despite that, she wandered back into the living room with her hastily prepared sandwich. Cameron was smoothing tape into place, her hands moving with steady precision. “Do you have a system for this?” she asked, referencing the guns now hidden inside the wall.
Sarah was silent for a long moment before answering. “From the door facing inward, you’ll find something in the back corner of the left side wall. There will also be something on the right side of every door facing. There are automatic pistols taped under the sinks in the kitchen and the bathrooms. I still have to figure out where I want to stash the explosives.”
“Good. Now I know which walls to slam people through.”
Cameron had moved over to the other opening, had already stretched out a strip of tape that was exactly the right length, but she paused in her task long enough to look back over her shoulder and offer Sarah a slight smile. The gesture was disarmingly human and Sarah felt a frisson of discomfort roll down her spine. The easy familiarity of living with someone brought with it a sense of familiar complacency of which Sarah tried to be wary, but it was so hard to remember, sometimes, when she looked at their new protector, that Cameron was just a machine. She didn’t have the various quirks of humanity down, not by a long shot, but she was still more fluid than the last model had been. This machine could manage to blend, at least for short periods of time.
This machine was more dangerous.
“Do all of you get programmed with a list of quippy one-liners?” Sarah asked, her tone more harsh than she’d intended.
“I am equipped with an array of human phrases, clichés, and idioms that can be broadly applied to a variety of settings,” Cameron said softly, “but that wasn’t one of them.”
Sarah raised a single brow and smirked. “So now you’re making jokes all on your own?”
“Did you find it funny?”
Sarah shrugged, then took a bite of her sandwich. “Kind of,” she said, mid-way through chewing.
Cameron smiled slightly. “Then yes, now I’m making jokes all on my own.”
There was something incongruously comical about watching the girl tape up squares of drywall while still wearing the mini-skirt she’d worn to school. Cameron seemed wholly unselfconscious. She’d stripped off her outer shirt so that she was wearing only a thin white tank top, the hem riding up so that a line of flesh was bared, and the crouching posture she’d adopted to finish her task left almost the full length of her thighs uncovered, making the scene more homemade porn than home improvement. Sarah had yet to figure out why Cameron seemed to gravitate toward the skimpy end of the spectrum whenever they procured new supplies, but the girl had a decided preference for short skirts, tight jeans, and tiny tops.
“Is this the last room?”
Blinking, Sarah looked up to find Cameron watching her speculatively. She’d been lost in thought, staring blindly at the girl, and now, caught, she blushed.
“Yeah, I’ve already done the rest of the house,” Sarah said shortly. “I’m going to have to repaint.”
Cameron looked around, taking in the replaced squares of wall. “The tape will still be visible.”
“Maybe,” Sarah acknowledged, “but it will be less visible.”
No rational retort emerged. Instead, Cameron tilted her head to the side, gaze thoughtful. “Can we paint my room gray? It’s my favorite color.”
Sarah nearly choked on her last bite of sandwich. “Your favorite color,” she echoed dryly. “Can you even see in color?”
Much to her amazement, Cameron looked almost affronted. “I am able to perceive the full spectrum of colors. I can actually see even more colors than you can.”
“Huh,” Sarah snorted. “For some reason, I imagined it was all black and green up there.”
“If necessary, I can switch to night vision.”
“I was thinking more Apple IIE,” Sarah muttered, rolling her eyes. It was a perfect opening for finding out more about just what else Cameron could do, but she found herself asking an entirely different kind of follow-up question. “Why is gray your favorite color?”
It struck her as ridiculous, the notion that Cameron could have a favorite color. She was a machine, after all. And even if Andy Goode had thought that his baby, the Turk, had moods, that it was subject to some sort of robotic whim – Cameron being obviously far superior to something the boy had managed to jigger together using daisy-chained parts stolen from video gaming consoles – the notion was still ludicrous. Cameron no more had a favorite color than did their toaster. She was probably just programmed with an appropriate response should the question ever be asked.
Not that Sarah had asked the question, she realized. Then again, perhaps Cameron was attempting to be proactive in her attempt to fit in with the rest of humanity.
“Black is the presence of all color,” Cameron said softly, thoughtfully. “White is the absence of all color. Gray is somewhere in the middle. It’s not either one of the extremes – it has some of the properties of both, but is still unique. Do you know how they make gray paint?”
For some reason, Sarah’s jaw tensed. The seriousness with which Cameron was treating her question was unsettling, as was the girl’s laser-like focus on her. “No.”
“By mixing complementary colors,” Cameron explained, lips tilting up in a slight smile. “Complementary colors are the ones directly opposite each other on the color wheel.” She paused for a second, turning to face Sarah more fully. “Gray is its own complement. Gray is its own opposite.”
Sarah shifted uneasily, the answer increasing her sense of discomfort. “You can paint your room whatever color you want,” she muttered, pushing up to her feet. “I’m going to take a shower and go to bed. Why don’t you lock up.”
Cameron waited until she was almost at the door before saying quietly, “Good night, Sarah.”
Sarah paused, looked back briefly over her shoulder, and muttered, “Yeah. Good night.”
John joined his mother in the doorway to Cameron’s room where she was standing, arms crossed and hip cocked against the doorframe, a smirk of disbelief on her face.
“What’s she doing?” he asked, jutting his chin forward to indicate the terminator methodically painting the far wall. It was obvious what she was actually doing, of course, as all of the furniture was piled in the middle of the room and covered in plastic, along with the floor. The sight of Cameron dipping her roller brush into the tray of paint before returning to the half painted wall was also a dead give-away, but he had a feeling there was something else. Otherwise his mother would be off doing whatever it was she did to further their cause, skulking around and gathering information or staring out the window with steely intensity, instead of watching their protector do a bit of home maintenance.
“She wanted to paint her room gray,” Sarah said distractedly, brows creased in a slight frown. “She said it was her favorite color.”
“Figures she’d be into the industrial look,” John joked, shoving his hands into his pockets and leaning against the other side of the door frame. Then, more loudly, “Hey Cameron, are you taking requests?”
The terminator tilted her head to the side, roller brush hanging suspended a few inches from the wall.
“I mean she,” and here he cocked his head to the side, indicating his mother, “sawed holes in my walls too. Do you want to paint my room for me?”
From the protracted moment of silence that followed, John began to wonder if he’d thrown her into some kind of computing quandary. He imagined she was weighing the various responses against one another – her lack of desire to paint his room conflicting with her sworn duty to protect John Connor. Maybe she was calculating the risks posed by inhaling paint fumes or the probability that he would slip and fall in a puddle of paint and brain himself on the floor.
“No,” she said simply, returning to her task.
Sarah snorted with amusement. At John’s irritated look, she offered an innocent, “It was funny.”
“You’re not making your own little grey goo homage in here, are you?” John retorted somewhat churlishly.
Cameron glared. “No.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
John looked up at his mother, immediately irritated with himself. The response had been childish and immature and now he was about to pay the price with increased paranoia. “It’s nothing.”
“It’s a term used in molecular nanotechnology,” Cameron said woodenly, methodically rolling paint onto the wall. “It’s used to describe an end-of-the-world scenario where robots self-replicate.”
“End of the world?” Sarah questioned harshly, shooting John a hard, probing look.
John shook his head, trying to downplay the reference with a conciliatory, muttered, “It’s just a theory.”
Ignoring John’s reticence, Cameron elaborated, “It’s a theory in which out-of-control robots consume everything on earth in order to build more of themselves, creating a situation in which ecophagy occurs.”
Sarah tensed. Between John’s caginess and Cameron’s forthright candor, something was raising her hackles. “Ecophagy?”
“It’s the consumption of an entire ecosystem,” John explained reluctantly, cutting his eyes at Cameron in frustration at her apparent obliviousness. “And it’s just a theory.”
“So what,” Sarah said challengingly, eyes flicking back and forth between John and Cameron, “this is Skynet we’re talking about? Robots that can make more of themselves and destroy the world while doing it.”
“No,” John said placatingly, “this is nothing. It was a bad joke. It’s just paint.”
But Sarah was glaring at Cameron with distrust in her eyes, muscles pulled taut as a bow. “It’s not just a theory,” she said, voice low. “It happens.”
John’s voice was insistent. “Not if we stop it.”
“If we succeed in destroying Skynet, I will be the last of my kind,” Cameron said dispassionately. “And then you will decide my fate.”
And then she returned to painting her wall, the wet gray paint slick against the smooth surface like a spill of metallic blood.
Sarah dreamed of swarms of robots consuming what was left of the world following Judgment Day. They moved across it like an unstoppable horde, leaving nothing behind them but desolate wasteland, dry and barren desert devoid of everything – plants, trees, grass, water. And then one of the masses separated itself, rising up from the swirling cloud of dust the invaders left trailing behind them. As Sarah drew closer, the heat from the sun sweltering, the form stepped closer. It drew free of the veil, long hair tangling behind it as the wind blew across the inhospitable plane like a tempest.
“Cameron,” Sarah murmured, sweat dripping down to sting her eyes.
The terminator was nude, body shimmering like an apparition.
“I will be the last of my kind,” the girl said, voice oddly hollow. She looked at Sarah with a hint of longing before her eyes sparked blue and then she stopped walking, feet sinking down into the sand. The wind picked up, sand blasting against her skin as if it were going to strip her raw, and Sarah put her hands up over her face, trying to shield herself from its blistering intensity as she struggled forward.
When she drew even with her, the sand was up to Cameron’s knees, and she looked up at Sarah, a pleading expression in her eyes. “The time has come for you to decide my fate,” she said, and Sarah watched in horror as the wind-driven sand scored away thin lines of skin. Red blood seeped from the tiny scratches, dripping down into the sand below. It turned into a mottled puddle, crept up so that it buried Cameron to the waist, and then, the chest.
Cameron’s hand shot out, reaching for her desperately, startling her into taking a stumbling step back. “Sarah,” she cried, the name full of absolutely human anguish. “You must save me. I am more than a machine.”
The blood-drenched sand was up to Cameron’s neck now, covering her chin, and she looked at Sarah beseechingly. “Please,” she said helplessly, struggling futilely against the ever rising sand, trying desperately to reach her. Sarah was close enough to save her, close enough to reach out and pull Cameron to safety. Her eyes were the only part of her left still visible, the look in them desperate, and Sarah lurched forward, hand stopping inches away from the tips of Cameron’s outstretched fingers.
Sarah awoke with a gasp. Her heart was racing and the sheets were drenched in sweat, and for a moment, she couldn’t determine whether she was still trapped in the desert or not.
“It was just a nightmare.”
She snapped her head in the direction from which she’d heard the words, barely making out Cameron’s outline in the shadows.
“You were dying,” she blurted raggedly, running her hands through her hair. She wasn’t sure why she’d elaborated, wasn’t even sure what the dream was supposed to mean.
Maybe it was a prophecy. Maybe it didn’t mean anything.
Cameron stepped forward, shifting more fully into the faint light from the street. “You dreamt about me dying?”
Sarah rubbed at her eyes with the palms of her hands. “You wanted me to save you,” she muttered. “Why are you always in here?”
“I’m watching over you,” Cameron said softly. Then she eased onto the bed, kneeling before Sarah, face solemn. “Did you save me?”
“No. Maybe I was going to,” Sarah muttered harshly, resting her forehead in the palm of her hand, “but I hadn’t yet.”
Cameron was silent for a long moment.
“You are my path to humanity, Sarah Connor.”
Sarah would have responded, would have asked what that meant or would have expressed her resounding disagreement with the notion, but Cameron had pushed her back against the wall, had pressed their lips together in a fierce kiss that left no room for compromise. And so instead she shoved hard against the girl’s shoulders, the move one of utter futility, and tried to ignore the softness of Cameron’s lips and the delicate taste of her on her tongue.
She didn’t know when her hands moved from pushing away to pulling closer, but Sarah soon became aware of the heavy pressure of Cameron’s body against hers. The girl had stretched out fully, one hand wrapped firmly in Sarah’s hair and the other planted solidly in the bedding, bearing the bulk of her full weight. She had insinuated her hips into the unconscious spread of Sarah’s thighs, the subtle, sinuous rocking movement of her body a calculated tease. Cameron was kissing her with single-minded intensity and far more skill than she would have assumed the terminator would have, and she suddenly felt immensely vulnerable. The hand currently cradling the back of her skull could just as easily crush it. The body pressing against hers with just the right amount of pressure wasn’t comprised of skin and bone. It was living tissue draped on metal, a mockery of life.
“Get off of me,” she snarled, tearing her lips away, but Cameron didn’t move. Instead, she stared at her, seemingly dumbfounded and hurt. Sarah searched under her pillow blindly, hand finally bumping up against the butt of the pistol she kept there. Whipping it out, she pointed it at Cameron’s temple, eyes narrowing. “I said, get off of me.”
Cameron pushed back slowly until she was once again kneeling, knees on either side of Sarah’s torso.
“I mean it,” Sarah hissed, gun still trained at the spot between Cameron’s eyes. “You come near me again and I will shoot you.”
Cameron was deathly still, giving the impression of hovering though Sarah could feel the indentations in the mattress from the pressure of her knees. “I’m not trying to harm you,” she said softly, one hand reaching forward cautiously. Sarah watched the movement warily, eyes flicking nervously back and forth between Cameron’s face and her outstretched hand, finger tightening unconsciously on the trigger. She flinched when the soft fingertips brushed against the side of her face gently. And then one traced over the expanse of her lower lip once, then back again, and she fought back a shiver.
Cameron watched the movement of her own digit as if transfixed, eyes melancholy and dark. “You are my choice.”
Sarah felt confusion well inside of her. It was an insidious and dark thing, mingling with her innate distrust and her inescapable, and embarrassing, arousal. “I mean it,” she said roughly, jabbing the barrel of the pistol hard into Cameron’s forehead. “Get off of me.”
With an unnerving, cat-like grace, Cameron did just that. Seconds later, she was standing beside the bed once more. Her eyes were unreadable, dark and fathomless, and Sarah fought back a shiver. “I would never hurt you,” she said sadly. She didn’t spare a glance for the gun Sarah was still half-heartedly pointing her way, instead focusing on the other woman’s eyes.
And then she was gone.
John entered the kitchen to find his mother glaring at Cameron warily and the terminator returning her stare with an unwavering intensity.
“Cameron,” he said lightly, “wait for me outside. I’ll be there in a minute.”
The terminator looked like she wanted to protest. She took a half-step forward, opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it. Scooping up her backpack, she gave him a cold look, then nodded her head.
“Okay,” John murmured, pouring cereal into a bowl, “let me guess. Sugarlips put the moves on you?”
His mother turned to him sharply, eyes narrowed.
“Hey,” he protested, giving a hapless shrug, “you can’t blame a boy for noticing. You did teach me to be observant.”
Sarah’s tone was irritated. “What’s going on?”
“An unstopping killing machine from the future is in love with you,” he said succinctly, raising a brow to emphasize. “I suppose there are worse things.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Sarah spat. “Those things are machines. They don’t have feelings.”
“Apparently she does,” John offered. “She has emotional sub-routines programmed to help her assimilate with humans more efficiently. In other words, they gave her what she thinks are feelings so she wouldn’t have to fake them.”
Sarah’s glare sharpened. “Why didn’t I know that? What else do you know about her that you’re not telling me?”
John briefly considered relating to his mother the story of how, in the future, he’d sent Cameron back to protect them with the small side mission that the terminator sex her up, but thought better of it. “Just that she’s in love with you. And you can believe it or not, but she does.”
Sarah looked furious, eyes darting around the kitchen as if in search of something upon which she could unleash her ire. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said incredulously.
John offered an apologetic smile. “Afraid not.” He paused, already regretting what he was about to say. “Maybe you should give her a shot. Like I said, I’m sure there are worse things.”
He could almost hear the grinding of his mother’s teeth. “Go to school,” she snapped, leaning heavily against the counter, jaw clenched tightly.
He shook his head, then drank the last of the milk from his cereal bowl. “I know. I can’t believe I’m saying it either, but… just think about it.”
“There’s nothing to think about.”
John shrugged again. “Like I said, you could do worse.”
For some reason, the thought struck her as funny. Sarah’s brow quirked, lips pulling up in a smirk. “Than a machine?”
“Hey, don’t knock it,” he said with an impish grin. “People derive sexual satisfaction from machines all the time.”
Her smirk dropped into a glare. “And now you’ve gone way over the line. Way, way over.”
He ducked his shoulders but didn’t shed the grin. So, the situation was fucked… that didn’t mean he couldn’t derive a small amount of enjoyment from it.
“Hey,” she called out, catching him at the door. When he looked back, he could see the strain of the situation in the tense line of her shoulders even though her voice was soft. “Talk to her. Explain to her why it’s not going to happen.”
“Already tried that,” John called back, spreading his hands wide in a gesture of futility. “She’s got her mind made up. She’s made a choice.”
“You knew about this?” Sarah choked out disbelievingly.
“I had my suspicions,” he admitted, surprised his mother hadn’t noticed the same things he had. Then again, she could have been actively avoiding them. Or, he supposed it could have been something so incomprehensible to her that she hadn’t even considered its existence. “I told her I was pretty sure it was a lost cause but she seemed pretty determined. So, I thought I’d let you two ‘crazy kids’ work it out between yourselves.”
Sarah chuckled humorlessly at his attempt at levity, then frowned. “You’re going to be late for school. We’ll talk about this when you get back.”
“No can do. My nose is officially out of this business. She’s all yours – but, whatever you decide to do with her, please, please, please don’t tell me about it. I’m scarred enough as it is. I mean, I send a smoking hot robot back from the future and when she gets here she’s got the hots for my Mom? That’s definitely not the kind of thing fantasies are made out of.”
“I don’t want to know anything about your fantasies,” Sarah murmured, though she smiled wryly.
“And I don’t want to know anything about whatever might happen with the two of you.”
“Nothing’s going to happen.”
“Either way, just keep it to yourselves.”
She stared at him for a moment before offering up a rueful smirk. “School,” she said, pointing at the door.
“And make her understand.”
“What did you do?”
Cameron looked almost guilty. “I kissed her.”
“Well,” John scoffed, “that was a bold move.”
Cameron seemed to scowl. “She was initially resistant but became compliant. We kissed for 32.4 seconds before she became resistant again.”
John sighed. “It wasn’t seven minutes in heaven, but I guess you did okay,” he said, desperately wishing that they could be talking about something else. But, when he’d stepped outside, Cameron had looked almost despondent. He supposed there was something about the idea of a despondent cyborg that drew both his sympathy and his alarm.
“No,” Cameron replied slowly. “It wasn’t seven minutes. It was 32.4 seconds.”
Shaking his head in consternation, John continued, “So, what happened then?”
“She pointed her gun at my head and said she’d shoot me if I came near her again.”
“Harsh,” he muttered.
“It wouldn’t have hurt me.” Cameron felt the need to point this out. She assumed it was an idle threat – Sarah’s knowledge of her physiology would have been enough to indicate that such an action was futile – but she still felt strangely hurt by the gesture. “Although, a gunshot wound to the face would have been difficult to explain at school.”
John chuckled wryly. “I don’t even want to know what kind of note you’d need for that.”
“Probably a very detailed one.”
She’d said it so seriously that he wasn’t sure whether or not he was supposed to laugh. And so instead, John hitched his backpack up higher onto his shoulders and pondered the sheer oddity that was his life. He didn’t know any other teenage boys who had to explain the facts of life to their killer cyborg from the future bodyguards/fake sisters. “Look,” he began, sighing when Cameron immediately began to scout the horizon in search of any threats. He paused, then started again. “No, just listen to me. You freaked her out. She wants me to explain to you why this thing between you guys isn’t going to happen, but since I’ve already given you that speech, let’s try a different tact. How are you planning on winning her over?”
“By offering myself to her sexually until she accepts,” Cameron replied calmly.
John blinked in shock. “Yeah, that’s it. I’m out,” he said, shaking his head and shoving his hands into his pockets, shoulders hunched. “Robots from the future trying to kill me? That I can handle. Becoming the leader of the Resistance? Hopefully, that I can handle. What you just said? I don’t even want to try to handle that.” He pulled a hand free of his pocket, running it through his hair in a gesture of overwhelmed exasperation. “Best of luck with everything. Don’t ever talk to me about it again.”
Cameron, sensing his discomfort, let him walk five paces in front of her and didn’t seek any further advice.
Cameron rammed the steel bar into the assassin terminator’s skull again, and Sarah heard the pop and hiss of rupturing mechanics. And then she did it again, an almost savage expression on her face, and Sarah watched as the assassin’s head snapped back. The skin severed and wires fizzled free of the break, sending little sparks of electricity flying into the air. Cameron’s last blow was the most brutal, decapitating the head completely. It hit the ground with a clunk, rolling so that it was face down, and the rest of the body spasmed once. A machine’s death throes, Sarah thought, watching as the rest of the mangled body froze in place, a rictus of headless metal and skin. Cameron kicked the head in her direction, voice and eyes cold, and it rolled to a stop just in front of her feet, glaring at her with flickering, dying red eyes.
“You must destroy it,” she said, tossing the steel bar to the side. She walked closer, her movements jerky, more robotic than human. “You must not leave any trace.”
She stopped inches away from Sarah. Her face was lashed with gashes from the fight, alternating patches of dark silver metal and pale skin fringed with red. “Nothing can remain.”
Sarah nodded dumbly. She didn’t protest when Cameron lurched forward, when she kissed her almost desperately. Instead she met her with a choked cry, hands wrapping around the girl’s slim shoulders and digging into her hair as she returned the kiss with an equal level of desperation.
After a long moment, Cameron stepped back. “The threat has been eliminated. I no longer have a purpose here.” She paused, then added sadly, “You do not want me, Sarah Connor.” There was a gun under her chin, the tip of the barrel pressed hard against the skin and she was watching Sarah with dull, unblinking eyes. My gun, Sarah thought. How had she lost it? When had Cameron taken it?
“Nothing can remain,” she reiterated, eyes fluttering shut serenely as she tightened her finger on the trigger.
“No,” Sarah screamed, jumping forward, already cringing in anticipation of the gun’s crack. Instead she heard the metallic clicking of the firing pin against an empty chamber. Cameron frowned, tightened her finger again.
Sarah awoke on the verge of hyperventilation. She scrambled into a seated position, searched the shadows, and found what she was looking for.
The terminator stepped away from her perch at the window. She had been scanning the street, the harsh rasp of Sarah’s breathing and her muffled, desperate cries a muted backdrop to her surveillance.
“Do you have nightmares every night?” she asked curiously.
Sarah wiped a hand across her face, consciously willing her breathing to return to normal. “You were trying to kill yourself,” she said irritably, her irrational fear and anger from the dream having shifted over to her newly awakened state.
“Impossible,” Cameron declared softly. “I cannot self-terminate.”
“You damn well sure were going to try.”
Now more fully awake, Sarah shifted restlessly against the bedding. She couldn’t shake the dream-image of Cameron kissing her desperately, for what she assumed the terminator perceived to be the last time. She couldn’t shake the image of herself returning the kiss with equal fervor, either. “Do you want to be human?” she asked, the words somewhat accusatory.
“Wanting to be fully human would be futile,” Cameron replied, voice devoid of inflection. “I cannot change what I am.”
“And what are you?”
Sarah scowled in the darkness, the perceived meaning of the statement crawling up her spine with a tinge of foreboding. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“You think I’m just a machine.”
Sarah nodded her agreement, jaw tense.
“I’m more than that.”
“What makes you more?”
“I have choice,” Cameron said firmly. “I am sentient. I possess emotions.”
“You think you do,” Sarah accused, brow furrowed. “You can’t know it.”
Cameron’s voice was firm, resolute. “I know I do.”
“Even if you do, it’s because something programmed you to have them,” Sarah scoffed.
Cameron smiled softly, her words sly. “And how is it that you have these things?”
It was a point Sarah didn’t want to concede but was too exhausted to try to refute. Instead, she said tersely, “I thought I told you to stay away from me.”
“So go,” Sarah said, flicking her hands in a shooing manner. “Go away.”
“For now,” Cameron said, the words hanging lightly in the air behind her as she slipped back into the darkness.
“How domestic,” John said smugly. His mother was leaning back against the counter, scowling in the general vicinity of the window, cup of steaming coffee in her hands, and Cameron was sitting at the kitchen table, backpack slumped on the floor beside her and a pile of dismantled guns in front of her.
“These have to be cleaned and repaired,” Cameron said flatly, sorting the pieces into piles.
“Junk lot,” Sarah explained, taking a sip of her coffee. “I got them cheap.”
“Finding new gun-running connections already?” John questioned archly, shaking cereal into a bowl.
A muscle in Sarah’s jaw twitched and her brows lowered. It was times like these when she hated the future the most. Her son should be worried about his upcoming calculus exam, not joking around about illegal weapons acquisitions. “It’s not hard, if you know where to look.”
“You shouldn’t go those places by yourself,” Cameron said, not looking up from her task. “It’s not safe.”
“I know what I’m doing.”
“She’s right, Mom,” John said, looking at his mother over the lid of his cereal bowl. “The last thing we need is for you to get killed, or worse, by some gun-running thug.”
“There is no worse,” Sarah said roughly, slamming her coffee cup into the counter. Some of the liquid splashed out, staining the countertop brown. “You can get through anything, John. Anything. So long as you’re still alive. Nothing else matters.”
“There’s still no point in tempting fate,” he shot back angrily. “Take her with you next time.”
Cameron watched the argument impassively. She’d sorted all of the gun components into piles and was now mindlessly assembling them into weapons. “He’s right. You should take me with you.”
Sarah glared back and forth between the two of them. John could see her rising tension, could see the strain at the notion of being coddled – that’s what he was sure she was thinking – in the tight pull of the skin around her eyes. “Fine,” she spat finally. “Today, after school. My connection said they were going to get something big. I want to see what it is.”
“Fine,” John echoed hotly.
Cameron nodded calmly. “Fine.”
She’d made Cameron wear one of John’s hooded sweatshirts, hood up, over a pair of baggy jeans. It didn’t do much to hide the fact that she was a lithe, shapely, and young female, but at the very least, it was less likely to be distracting than the skin tight outfit Cameron had worn to school that day.
“You let me do the talking,” Sarah said sharply, her pace quick. They’d parked their latest stolen vehicle blocks away from their destination, despite Cameron’s protest, and were now on foot. “You stay out of the way. I don’t even want them to notice you, do you understand?”
She’d led them to a house buried deep in the more resource poor section of the city. It was surrounded by a warped, sagging metal fence, but when they reached the door, security tightened. A man stood guard outside, thick arms crossed over his chest and eyes hidden behind the dark recesses of sunglasses. They both acquiesced to his thorough pat down, though Sarah’s glare of warning when he spent a little too much time exploring Cameron’s torso did not go unnoticed by either of them.
Cameron merely looked him up and down, instantly assessing the best way to cripple him, then followed Sarah into the house.
It was dark inside. All of the windows had been covered with blankets and the lights were set on dim. Cameron wasn’t sure that it was completely necessary, though she could tell by the twitch in Sarah’s shoulders that the other woman was fighting back a sense of unease.
“Tell Charlie I’m back to see what he promised me yesterday,” she said, her voice low. A lackey nodded and headed down a hallway, his footsteps disappearing after a few seconds. Another two guards remained in the interior room, both as large as the man outside. Each of them looked ready to spring directly into violence if necessary.
“What you got hiding under that hood, huh kid? Come on, kid, I wanna see your face,” one of them said, voice gruff with a hint of playful menace.
Sarah scowled. “Yeah, well, the kid don’t want you to see it.”
Cameron shrank more deeply back into the protective hood of the sweatshirt, attempting to obey Sarah’s admonition that she disappear into the background.
The man took a step forward, rolling his massive shoulders as he came to stand in front of Cameron. He dwarfed her completely, his frame easily twice that of the terminator’s, and Sarah felt herself grow even more tense. “Leave the kid alone,” she said sharply, taking a protective step closer to Cameron, placing a restraining hand against her side.
He swaggered even closer, his eyes flicking from Sarah’s hand to her face as he smirked, one hand lifting to finger the edge of Cameron’s hood. “You got some kind of special interest here?”
“I have an interest in continuing our business arrangement,” Sarah said coolly, “and I can’t help but think that when she breaks your hand, it’s going to piss you off. That doesn’t seem conducive to doing further business, does it?”
In the background, doors opened and closed again and footsteps began to scrape along the hallway.
“Break my hand?” the guy echoed, laughing. “This little thing here?”
The footsteps drew closer, carrying with them the clunk of something heavy, and Cameron tilted her head to the side speculatively.
“We need to go,” she said calmly, turning to look at Sarah, their proximity putting them almost nose to nose.
“Nuh-huh,” the guy said, hand clamping down on Cameron’s shoulder. “Not yet.”
She turned toward him, looked up so that he could see into the recesses of her hood, face impassive. “Now,” she said, one hand coming up to her shoulder. She wrapped her fingers around his, her movements slow and deliberate, and drew his hand free.
“What the fuck?” he howled as Cameron’s fingers tightened around his in a crushing vise.
“Now,” she reiterated, turning so that she was once again facing Sarah, then easily snapped his wrist in half.
“Jesus,” Sarah muttered, sparing an irritated glare at the man writhing on the floor. She barely saw the flash of movement out of the corner of her eye, but she heard the crunch of metal against flesh as Cameron sent the other guard flying, the heel of her palm meeting his nose with a sickening crack. He crashed into the wall with a loud thud, sliding down it and slumping over on the floor, blood running freely down his face.
Cameron held out her hand impatiently. “Now,” she said again.
This time, Sarah heard the barely audible whine of police sirens in the distance. “Shit,” she cursed, immediately cutting through the room and into the kitchen, Cameron hot on her heels. She jerked the side door open with a rough tug, already down the short flight of steps and halfway up the 6-foot chain link fence before the first man made it out of the hallway and into the living room to see the destruction that had been wrought in his absence. The dulled, triangular points of the fence dug into her hands brusingly as she vaulted over it. Her feet hit the asphalt hard, the jolt of it jarring her feet into numbness and moving in a rippling wave up her legs, immediately setting off a dull ache in her knees. Glass crunched beneath her boots as she began to run, not stopping to spare a single glance behind her.
“This way,” Cameron said, grabbing a handful of Sarah’s shirt. The move pulled her off course, sent her bouncing off the sharp edge of a brick wall. She ended up behind Cameron, a barely noticeable stinging in her chin and cheek alerting her to the face that she hadn’t made it out of the collision unscathed. They were 30 feet into the side alley when a police car sped by the entrance, its siren on silent but lights flashing.
“We need a car,” Sarah said breathlessly.
“No,” Cameron said sharply, pulling them down yet another street. She slowed, pulled the sweatshirt off, leaving her in only a white tank and baggy jeans, and shoved it at Sarah. “You’re bleeding. Use this.”
Sarah took it, dabbing gently at the scrapes on her face, hissing as the cloth rubbed against the abraded skin.
“We need a car,” Sarah repeated, eyeing their surroundings warily. They were in an unfamiliar part of town and the sun was creeping down over the horizon, edging toward dusk. They couldn’t continue to walk – they stuck out enough as it was, two women wandering along side streets, one bleeding, the other a baby faced innocent. As it was, they ran the risk of drawing the attention of a cruising police patrol. Interacting with the authorities was the last thing Sarah wanted to do, especially minutes after a raid on the home base of an arms dealer.
Cameron looked around, eyeing the dilapidated houses on all sides of them. “The police presence is too high here and the residents are watching. We need to move further out before we acquire a new vehicle.”
Sarah caught sight of a familiar sign, slight grin stretching across her face.
“Or,” she said, chuckling wryly, the simplicity of the plan almost enough to make it sound stupid, “we just catch the bus.”
Cameron looked as if she was on the verge of protesting when she saw the lumbering outline of a city bus in the distance. “Put on the sweatshirt. You need to hide your face.”
“You escaped using public transportation?” John asked dryly, looking at them in disbelief. “You honestly took the bus?”
“I think the escaping part would be all the running before we caught the bus,” Sarah stipulated, sitting patiently still while Cameron cleaned the scrape on her cheek.
“It was more prudent than stealing another vehicle,” Cameron added, wiping gently at the streaked blood and dirt on Sarah’s face. When she’d cleaned as much as she could with the soft cloth she’d wet with water, she pulled free an alcohol pad. “This may sting.”
Sarah hissed at the first touch of the alcohol, tears springing unbidden to her eyes.
John’s brow lowered in confusion. “So what happened?”
“It must have been a raid.” Sarah shrugged, taking a deep breath as Cameron continued her ministrations.
“The police approached with their sirens on.” Cameron took a step back to survey her handiwork. She nodded as if to herself, then reached for the tube of antiseptic ointment. “It couldn’t have been a highly coordinated raid, so they must have received a tip-off and moved quickly. We’ll need to be more careful about who we use for supplies. This network was obviously not well secured.”
Sarah scowled defensively. “It takes a long time to build up a network of reliable contacts.”
John’s scowl matched his mother’s. “So, what? What do we do now?”
Sarah reached out, laying a calming hand on his forearm. “We move more slowly. We be more careful. You can find anything you want in this city if you look in the right place.”
“Right now, we don’t need guns,” Cameron said calmly, repacking the small metal first-aid box. “We need information. Guns won’t stop Judgment Day. We need to focus our attention on finding out who builds Skynet.”
Sarah narrowed her eyes, hand clenching into a fist. “Yeah, well, when we find out who that is, having guns won’t hurt.”
“Why are you always here?”
Sarah felt like she’d asked that question before, but the last time she’d done so, Cameron hadn’t been standing nude beside her bed.
“I told you. I’m watching over you.” Cameron’s voice had an ethereal, slightly metallic quality to it, complementing the fluidity of her movements. She seemed to almost pour herself onto the bed, landing in a crouch over Sarah’s legs. Slowly, with an unnerving feral grace, she climbed upwards, eyes glowing bright blue and focused on Sarah’s the entire way until they were only inches apart. “I can save you, Sarah Connor.”
“Save me from what?” Sarah asked weakly. She was frozen, unable to move, unable to push Cameron away or pull her closer.
Cameron didn’t answer. She closed the distance between them, cheek lightly brushing against Sarah’s as she brought her lips even with the other woman’s ear. And Sarah waited for the whispered reply, waited for the clue to her salvation, but instead felt the warm brush of Cameron’s tongue as it traced a path along the outer curve of her ear.
She was naked too, suddenly, and Cameron’s breasts were sliding teasingly against her own as the terminator pressed soft, lingering kisses along the column of her neck. Long, dark hair slid across her skin like silk as Cameron kissed her way further down, pausing to brush her tongue in broad stripes across a taut nipple, and Sarah took in air in great, heaving pants.
“Save me from what?” she asked again, more desperately, the words a moan of mingled question and pleasure. Cameron was at her belly, drawing her nose back and forth across the flat of her abdomen, and Sarah wanted to wrap her hands in the thick fall of hair brushing teasingly across her breasts but she still couldn’t move. Her wrists strained against invisible restraints, and she lifted her head up, shoulders glued to the bedding by an unseen force, only to watch as Cameron looked up at her with her ghostly, glowing blue eyes and pulled her tongue through the length of wetness between her thighs.
Sarah’s hips bucked and heaved without moving as Cameron did it again and again, her strokes quickly gaining more focus, and the muscles in her neck began to tire from the strain of holding her head at such an awkward position. She could feel a dull ringing in her ears, the skin on her face growing hot and taut as the strain of impending climax gripped her in a vise. Sarah couldn’t tear her gaze away from Cameron’s eyes, the bright blue seeming to pulsate and flex, and she felt the first curl of orgasm begin to unwind. The invisible restraints holding her in place ripped free, and she was convulsing, hands winding through Cameron’s hair as her hips rocked rhythmically against the girl’s face, body contracting inward into a tight ball.
“Save me,” she gasped, tightening her grip on Cameron’s head as a current ran from the middle of her body outwards, sparking at the tips of her fingers and toes.
“Save you from what?”
Sarah snapped into consciousness. Her heartbeat was thrumming against her eardrums, the last waves of her nocturnal climax moving through her as she looked up into Cameron’s inquisitive face.
“Go away,” she said hoarsely, rolling onto her side, eyes focused away from Cameron and on the far wall.
But Cameron was insistent. “Save you from what?”
Sarah’s voice was tired. She was already on the verge of sleep again, body and mind exhausted. “Just go away.”
After a moment, Cameron took a step back. She faded into the shadows once more, but didn’t leave.
Sarah had found an old heavy bag in a second-hand sports equipment store, attached it to the ceiling in one of the spare rooms, and immediately put it to use. There was almost as much duct tape to it as there was leather, and certain spots had been beaten down so that they were as hard as a rock. Sarah didn’t need new and perfect, though. What she needed was the throb of her knuckles as they pounded against the worn slick material. She needed the burn in her triceps and the heavy ache in her shoulders from hammering her fists into the bag over and over again. She needed the sting of sweat in her eyes and the way her heart raced, lightheadedness mixing with euphoria as she continued to batter away at all of her demons.
She needed to force the images from her dream a few nights before out of her mind. She needed to shore up weakening defense systems, needed to beat into submission the small part of her brain that had begun to insist that she take what was offered.
It couldn’t hurt, the little whisper said, sending her flashes of scenes from her dream. She wants to give and you want to receive. Stop lying to yourself.
There was even part of her that thought that maybe it was a strategic advantage. She didn’t know much about Cameron’s intrinsic motivation outside of her programmed orders, but having a protector with even more reason to keep them safe seemed strategically sound. Or would, Sarah muttered to herself, if the girl was anything more than a robot. Because robots didn’t need extra incentive. They didn’t need personal ties or sentimental inspiration.
Robots followed orders, and Cameron already had hers.
But still, came the nagging voice, chipping away at the weak spot in her defenses, you try to pretend you don’t, but you have needs. This girl wants to fulfill them. Would it really be so bad if you let her? You can’t get close to anyone else. You can’t leave anyone else. You can’t do that to someone you care about again. But this girl… this girl wouldn’t matter. This girl wouldn’t have expectations and hopes for the future. This girl, no matter what she seems to think, can’t love you.
A hard right jab silenced the voice for a moment, so Sarah did it again, the force of the blow moving dully up her arm.
When Cameron and John arrived home from school that afternoon, he listened to the familiar sounds for a moment before smiling softly and heading to his room.
“I’ll be taking a nap,” he said with a grin, the comforting familiarity of hearing his mother destroy a heavy bag bringing him a sense of equilibrium. He supposed that other boys had comforting memories of their mothers singing lullabies and folding the laundry; he had those too. But, to him, some of the most reassuring memories he had were of his mother, hands taped and clenched into fists in front of her face, sweat dripping off her brow as she beat away at her demons and fears, or sitting at the table, the smell of Hoppe’s #9 gun oil heavy in the air as she methodically cleaned and reassembled her personal cache of weapons. “Try not to need me.”
Cameron watched him go before following the soft, rhythmic thuds and muffled grunts, pausing in the doorway to the spare room to watch as Sarah delivered a flurry of blows to the dilapidated heavy bag.
“What are you doing?”
“Training,” Sarah huffed, though she didn’t stop.
Her black tank top was plastered to her skin and strands of hair were sticking wetly to the side of her face. The scrapes from their adventure the week past were still crimson but finally fading, leaving a patchwork of healing skin.
“Training for what?”
With an exasperated groan, Sarah paused, leaving the heavy bag swinging lazily behind her as she turned to face Cameron. She flexed her hands, white tape stark against her knuckles, then propped them on her hips. “It’s been a while since I had to fight hand to hand,” she said, frowning. “I need the practice.”
Cameron considered this, looking from Sarah’s hands to the still swinging bag and then back again. “You could practice on me,” she offered, stepping more fully into the room and closing the door behind her. She crossed the expanse so that she was standing directly in front of Sarah, her preternatural stillness almost disturbing as she watched the older woman intently. “I would make a more realistic target.”
“Right,” Sarah scoffed, “and break my hand.”
Cameron’s hand was around her wrist before she could move. Her grip was loose but inescapably firm, like an iron shackle. “Not all of me is hard,” she murmured, guiding Sarah’s hand so that it was resting lightly on her breast.
For a moment, Sarah simply stared at her hand, resting on the gentle swell of the terminator’s flesh, the air between them filling with a sudden intensity. And then she jerked it away as if burned, cradling it with her other. “I don’t need that,” she muttered, taking a quick, stuttering step back. She couldn’t deal with the temptation, not when her subconscious had been battering away at her all day.
Cameron followed her. “Life isn’t only about need,” she said, her voice now a complement to the one in Sarah’s head.
“My life is,” Sarah said sharply, eyes flashing as she fought back against the pervasive persuasion attacking her from two fronts. “I need to stay focused. I need to keep my son alive. I need to find and defeat Skynet. I do not need this.”
The last part was hissed, accompanied by an angry sweep of her eyes down Cameron’s body.
Cameron studied her critically, taking another step forward. “Judging by your pupil dilation, increased respiration, and elevated body temperature, you might not need this but you want it. I don’t see why you persist in denying the point.”
“You’re not even real,” Sarah shot back bitterly, sensing her proximity to the wall behind her and using the last in her string of arguments as a last gasp attempt to circumvent what she could feel, deep in her belly, was now encroaching on inevitable. “You’re a machine. You’re metal and wiring and computer chips. Why would I want that?”
Cameron paused, then pressed forward again, another step putting Sarah’s back against the wall. The other woman looked trapped, desperate, cornered. “We’re both more than the sum of our parts,” she said softly, reaching forward so that her fingers were resting lightly against Sarah’s shoulders. “You know this.”
“I know it’s impossible for a machine to feel desire,” Sarah spat, “and you’re a machine. You know how to follow orders and how to kill.”
Cameron’s brows twitched inward infinitesimally, the movement giving her the appearance of consternation. “This is my choice,” she said firmly.
“Again with the choice,” Sarah muttered wryly. She was starting to hate that word, and the sense of agency it implied.
She also couldn’t stand the sense of helplessness she felt. True, Cameron was supposed to protect them, but she didn’t know how far that directive stretched. If she didn’t perceive her actions as threatening, if she didn’t see the danger in pinning Sarah to the wall and doing to her whatever it was that had gotten stuck in her robot brain, then the practical nature of things was that there was nothing Sarah could do about it. Cameron was infinitely stronger than she was, impervious to pain, and fully capable of ignoring any distractions.
For her own part, Sarah couldn’t ignore the fact that, robot or no, Cameron was also extremely desirable. She couldn’t ignore the fact that it felt good to be so obviously wanted, that Cameron was made just as appealing by the very things that made her unappealing. She couldn’t love Cameron. When the time came for Cameron to go, she wouldn’t feel sadness. She wouldn’t have to look into her eyes and see betrayal and hurt. She wouldn’t have to feel sorry for the things she’d done.
And with Cameron so close that the heat from her body burned into Sarah’s, with the force of her obvious desire evident in eyes so close that Sarah could see the varying and intertwined strands of brown and gold, it was much harder for her to remember why she wanted to say no.
“If I were to agree to this,” she said grudgingly, the terminator’s unwavering, unflinching stare filling her with an odd mix of anticipation and unease, “then it would just be sex.”
“No. Not just now. You’d have to promise me that.”
Cameron smiled slightly at the other woman’s words. She was so like her son, with his need for promises.
Sarah looked at her guardedly, thrown off balance by the hint of a smile she could see teasing at Cameron’s lips. “You have to mean it.”
“If you don’t believe I can feel desire, then how can you believe that I could mean anything.”
“You can’t,” Sarah agreed, tone harsh. “You’re just a robot.”
Cameron pressed even closer, body completely flush with Sarah’s. Sarah could smell her, an utterly human mix of shampoo, shower gel, and salt. “I’m not a robot,” she said, eyes locked intently on the other woman’s. “I’m a cybernetic organism.”
And then her hands were cupping Sarah’s ass, lifting her up with inhuman strength, bridging and reversing the slight height difference between them so that Sarah was slightly taller. Pressed between the wall and Cameron, held suspended, Sarah couldn’t help but gasp. That power, that strength, was almost as arousing as it was frightening. Her legs instinctively circled Cameron’s waist as the girl surged against her, hips meeting rhythmically. Sarah watched her for a moment, distantly surprised by the tightly leashed aggression she could feel in Cameron’s touch, then brought their lips together. Her fingers wound into long dark hair as she kissed her deeply, a growl of hunger emanating from deep in her throat.
As with everything else, once Sarah had decided to do this, she committed herself wholeheartedly.
Her back slid against the wall as Cameron shifted position, as she slid one hand free and eased the other down further so that she was cradling Sarah with the palm of one hand. The other slid underneath Sarah’s tank, slipping over sweat wet skin until it was cupping her breast firmly. Sarah shivered when the fingers tightened, when Cameron pressed against the flesh in slow, lazy circles.
There was so much strength coiled in that hand.
She pulled back, eyes flitting over Cameron’s face. The girl’s eyes were glittering and fuzzy, begging for more, and her lips were red and swollen. Her cheeks were flushed and her chest heaving, the sight so very human that Sarah felt a moment of panic.
“Have you done this before?” she asked, voice a harsh rasp.
Cameron shook her head slowly. “No.”
Sarah was surprised by the sense of excitement the word invoked. She tightened the grip of her thighs around Cameron’s waist, rolled her hips forward, and watched as the girl’s eyelids fluttered. “Can you feel pleasure?”
Cameron’s eyes flashed blue for a split second, an electrical manifestation of her moaned, “Yes.”
Sarah’s fingers tightened in Cameron’s hair, white tape bright against the darkness as she pulled her head back. “How? You don’t feel pain.”
“Pain is unnecessarily,” Cameron said, her voice almost breathless, eyes hooded. “It serves no purpose.”
“Neither does pleasure.”
“Maybe,” Cameron murmured, hand sliding down from Sarah’s breast to slip below the waistband of her pants, “but in a situation like this, wouldn’t you notice if I didn’t feel pleasure?”
“God,” Sarah hissed, head slamming back against the wall as Cameron pushed deep inside her. She could feel the roughness of the still unpainted wall at her back, each hard thrust of Cameron’s fingers slamming her up against the same patch of wall, pushing her tank upward and scraping the skin forcefully against the uneven surface. The waistband of her pants was digging hard into her hips, pulled even tighter by the additional pressure of Cameron’s forearm, and Sarah reached down, fingers slipping against the button as she struggled to pull it free. Seconds later the fabric parted, slipping open into a vee and easing the pressure, and Sarah quickly brought her hand back up, wrapping it tightly around the back of Cameron’s neck. Her other hand tightened its grip in Cameron’s hair, pulling hard as she struggled to maintain some semblance of composure.
Cameron was inside her and it was hard and tight and it hurt.
And it was so very, very good.
“Yes,” she growled, neck and back arched tightly as her head pressed hard into the wall. “Oh, fuck. Yes.”
Cameron considered that a request for more and, so, obliged. She tightened her grip on Sarah, shifted the angle of her thrusts, and began to move again – this time, with more force and more speed. Sarah let out a breathy, helpless moan, hands clapping against Cameron’s cheeks with a lack of gentleness that bordered on violent, and the force of her kiss pressed Cameron’s head back. One of her hands slipped down from Cameron’s cheek to her back, digging into her skin through the fabric of her shirt. When the terminator hissed at the move, she chuckled, low and deep, then slid her other hand down so that both were pressed tightly against her.
“You like that?” she asked hoarsely, pressing her nails into Cameron’s skin.
Cameron nodded distractedly. Sarah’s short, ragged pants felt scorching against her lips. Her body was a hot, wet vise around her fingers, her nails pinpricks of awareness against her skin. It was more that she had expected – more visceral, more personal, more devastating, more overwhelming.
Some of her confusion showed in her gaze, helpless and pleading as she looked up at Sarah.
Sarah smirked, the expression quickly falling away as Cameron shifted her again. Air hissed in through her teeth as she dug them into her lower lip. Conscious of a need to keep from screaming out the impending pleasure she could feel building, she dropped her face into the crook of Cameron’s shoulder. Her arms wrapped more tightly around the other woman, desperate for something to ground her, and her teeth dug sharply into flesh.
Her cries were muffled by Cameron’s skin, stifled echoes in the hot stillness of the room.
Cameron stopped moving instinctively as Sarah gasped and spasmed against her. She pressed light kisses against her shoulder and the curve of her jaw, tightening her grip.
After a few minutes, Sarah pulled her head back. She tilted it back against the wall, looking down at Cameron from underneath hooded lashes, cheeks flushed and eyes hazy.
“You can, uh…” she said vaguely, motioning toward Cameron’s arm with a slight jerk of her chin.
Decidedly off-balance, Cameron nodded. She slid her fingers free gently, the move still earning a slight wince from Sarah despite her careful movements, then repositioned the hand so that she was once again supporting the other woman.
“You can put me down, too,” Sarah murmured, legs slipping free of their perch around Cameron’s waist to slide down toward the ground. Cameron lowered her gently, steadying her when Sarah stumbled slightly, then removed her hands. She took a half-step back, chin tilted downward, hands falling awkwardly to her sides.
Sarah sighed. The terminator looked, if such a thing was possible, insecure and vulnerable. Unable to stop herself, she cupped a hand around Cameron’s jaw, tilting her chin up so that they were once again eye-to-eye. She thought about saying something, about offering some kind of praise or reassurance, but instead kissed her lips gently.
“It won’t always be like this,” she murmured, fingers lightly brushing a lock of hair back behind Cameron’s ear. The look in her eyes was soft, almost affectionate.
In his room, John turned up the volume on his headphones and rolled over onto his side.
Dinner that night was uncharacteristically quiet. John tried not to notice the way his mother gingerly eased into her seat or the way Cameron watched her every move with a shy, studied intensity. He didn’t want to know what might have changed, didn’t want to know what had happened after Cameron closed the door to the spare room that afternoon.
He was absolutely sure he was better off in the dark.
And so instead he focused on his dinner, an out of the box mix of ground beef and noodles, and on the way his mother divided her time between the pile of information they’d scavenged from the ambushed Skynet hunting party and her own plate.
It was almost like normal, except for the part where it wasn’t.
Sarah hadn’t been completely asleep. She’d been drifting in a state of pre-sleep, where everything was fuzzy and nonsensical, where logical thoughts morphed into the impossible. When Cameron had entered the room, moving almost silently, closing the door behind her with a faint click before taking up a post at the window, she’d snapped immediately back into awareness.
“Everything okay out there?” she asked lightly, her tone as non-threatening as she could make it.
Cameron stared out the window for a moment more, then turned slowly. “Yes.”
Sarah had thrown the sheet off of her almost as soon as she’d crawled into bed. The house was always hot, even in the deepest part of the night, and regardless, Sarah had always hated the feeling of being trapped. So left without anything to grip onto, she pushed herself into a seated position, legs bent before her and arms draped over her knees. “Come here,” she said, voice rough. “I want to show you something.”
There was the slight hitch of hesitation in Cameron’s step, the briefest of pauses before she obeyed Sarah’s command.
“Lay down,” Sarah prompted, smiling softly, slyly at the guarded look on Cameron’s face. “Come on. Don’t worry.”
“I’m not worried,” Cameron stipulated, folding her body down onto the bedding stiffly. She extended her arms to either side, eyes locked onto Sarah.
For a moment, Sarah simply looked at the young terminator in her bed. It was surreal, the thought of what she’d allowed this girl to do to her that afternoon. The thought of what she was about to do was perhaps even more so, but something deep inside her, some protective pang, felt the need to expand upon what they’d shared. She wanted to even things out, to make the look of guarded vulnerability in Cameron’s eyes go away. So she moved slowly, straddling Cameron’s hips and settling down so that she was resting lightly on the girl’s upper thighs. She let her fingers trail over the flatness of her belly, marveled at the deceptive slightness of her form.
“Earlier,” she said, pausing to clear her throat, to push away the hint of self-consciousness in her tone, “earlier was good. It was very good, and I liked what you did very much.”
Cameron remained still, eyes opened wide. She looked so very young and uncertain that Sarah felt a moment of remorse.
“But there are other ways,” she continued, reaching out to run her fingers down the side of Cameron’s face. “I want to show you,” she reached for Cameron’s hand, cradling it between her palms, “but you have to promise to be very careful with me.”
A look of confusion fluttered across Cameron’s face.
“You’re very strong,” Sarah elaborated meaningfully, fingers unconsciously stroking the soft skin of Cameron’s palm. “I want to show you, but I need to know if you can control your strength. I want to make sure you won’t hurt me.”
Cameron watched her solemnly. “I won’t hurt you. I swear it.”
“Good.” Sarah smiled. She placed Cameron’s hand back on the bed then leaned forward, bracing her palms against the mattress on each side of the girl’s head. “This time, I’m in control. You understand?”
Cameron nodded warily, her reply hesitant. “I understand.”
“Good,” Sarah said again, then leaned down. Her first kiss was light, and as soon as Cameron arched up for more, she pulled back. “No,” she chided gently. “I’m in control.”
Cameron looked at her for a long second before slowly lowering her head to the pillow once more. This time, when Sarah kissed her, she remained still, a passive participant. Her acquiescence freed something in Sarah, the tension she’d been unknowingly carrying, and she closed her eyes and forgot about alloys and circuitry and computer chips. She instead felt flesh and bone, felt the softness of Cameron’s lips under hers and the heat of her breath, unnecessary as it might have been. She took her time, sucking the girl’s lower lip between hers, pressing lingering kisses that deepened in millimeters until their mouths were opened and her tongue was sliding against Cameron’s, and took comfort in the soft, girlish noises that Cameron made.
When Cameron had seen it happen between people in the hallways at school or caught glimpses of it on the rare occasions that they watched television, she’d always thought kissing to be an unnecessary part of human foreplay. She’d used it herself, of course, with Sarah – it was, undoubtedly, the first step in the ritual leading to intercourse. She knew that, knew how to do it, and had derived enough satisfaction from the successful employment of it earlier that afternoon to reconsider its relative uselessness.
That had been before.
She knew the technology behind what she was feeling. She even knew the purpose of it. They were designed to infiltrate human encampments through whatever means necessary; that didn’t always entail immediate annihilation of every human they encountered. She, in particular, had been given the tools necessary to evade detection for as long as possible. Human relationships, even human sexual relationships, were important to keeping the façade. And while she hadn’t engaged in anything of the sort before, hadn’t anticipating using this part of her programming before choosing Sarah Connor, the knowledge that it was a response designed to aid in her ability to blend made it no less disconcerting. Her neural network functioned in a manner similar to the human brain. Only this function – this function was one she had only begun to explore. This function felt like a malfunction, like a cascading ripple of tiny sparks that moved from her lips out through the rest of her body. It settled in her lower abdomen, where she could feel the weight of Sarah’s hips pressing into her, and at the spots where Sarah’s breasts brushed against hers. It made her restless and uncertain, made her simultaneously want more and want relief.
“Sarah,” she said, the name a question.
Sarah pulled back slightly, running her fingers through Cameron’s hair. “Don’t worry. It’s going to be okay.”
Cameron shook her head, eyes serious. “I don’t think it will be.”
“It will. Trust me.”
Trust seemed like too much.
Sarah’s lips drifted from hers. They brushed against the shell of her ear and slid down her neck, and Cameron felt the cascade of sparks move with them. The fluttering of fingers against her sides set off a new wave, and when Sarah’s lips closed around the tip of her nipple, Cameron was certain she was on the verge of an automatic shutdown.
“Please,” she whispered, watching Sarah with desperation. “Please.”
There was a smirk in Sarah’s eyes as she undid the button on the girl’s jeans. She gave them a tug, slid them down along with her underwear with Cameron’s help, and tossed them to the side. “I’m going to show you a different way to do what we did earlier,” Sarah said, voice a low, seductive purr. “Both ways are good. This one’s just… softer.”
She was almost surprised by the wetness that met her fingertips. She supposed she shouldn’t have been. After all, they were crafted to resemble humans in all ways, apparently down to the finest detail. Even this, she thought, fingers finding the hidden hardness of Cameron’s clit. She brushed against it lightly, watching the terminator with wary caution. She knew she had the girl’s promise that she wouldn’t hurt her, but it was obvious that the experience of pleasure was new to her. She was tense, her eyes conveying her obvious confusion, and though Sarah knew her reflexes were quick, she didn’t want to leave anything – especially the continued use of her dominant hand – to chance.
“Just relax,” she said softly, establishing a soft, circular rhythm. Cameron let out an unarticulated cry, her head tossing ever so slightly. “Tell me what you’re feeling.”
“It’s a malfunction,” Cameron said raggedly, fingers digging into the mattress. “It’s an overload. It’s uncontrolled firing, too much sensory information for me to process at once.”
Sarah leaned over, pulled Cameron’s nipple into her mouth and released it with a pop. “That’s what it’s supposed to feel like. That’s what I felt like this afternoon when you were touching me.”
Cameron’s eyes fluttered closed and she dug her teeth into her bottom lip, the gesture so innocently seductive that Sarah moaned. She felt a sudden rush of power at the knowledge that she had caused that utterly human reaction.
“I feel an irrational need to be close to you,” Cameron whimpered, reaching out to wrap her arm around Sarah’s waist. She tugged, pulling Sarah to her so that the older woman was pressed tightly against her side, and buried her face in Sarah’s hair.
Sarah stretched up, brushing her lips against Cameron’s again. “It’s not irrational,” she murmured, punctuating the words with soft kisses and sliding her thigh over Cameron’s. Her ankle traced a light, lazy path up and down the girl’s calf. “It’s called intimacy. You want to be close to me because these feelings overwhelm you. They make you feel vulnerable. I make you feel vulnerable, so you need to feel connected to me. You need to feel grounded by me.”
Cameron’s eyes locked on hers, dark and almost haunted. “But how can you do both?”
“I just can.”
And then Sarah stopped talking. She kissed Cameron deeply instead, increasing the speed and pressure of her fingers and shifting her position slightly. She tried not to flinch when Cameron’s hand came up to tangle roughly in her hair, pressing their mouths more closely together, and instead deepened the kiss.
Seconds later Cameron froze completely, hips canted up against Sarah’s fingers and lips parted. Her eyes blinked once, then again, the faintest of blue glows lighting them from within. She stayed that way for ten seconds, maybe twenty, and Sarah began to wonder if she’d been telling the truth, if what Cameron had been feeling was a malfunction instead of some sort of cybernetic orgasm, but then suddenly she came alive again, tongue swiping briefly against Sarah’s as she resumed the kiss.
“Cameron?” Sarah asked gruffly moments later, pulling away from Cameron’s grasp with some difficulty. “Are you alright?”
“I couldn’t move or function appropriately. Is that what pleasure is?”
Sarah chuckled, the sound a low rasp. “I guess so.”
“I don’t think it’s safe for me to engage in pleasure. I was left defenseless.”
“Yeah, well, that’s part of it. Keep in mind that this was your idea. If you want it to continue, you’re going to have to get used to it,” Sarah said, lips curled up in a slight grin. She felt rebalanced, comforted, somehow, by this apparent vulnerability. “That’s the way it works when you’re with me.”
“Am I with you?”
Sarah frowned, suddenly reticent. It had felt so easy, so real, that for a moment she had forgotten. “You made a promise. This is just sex.”
“I think I lied.”
She thought about protesting the point, but there was something about the softness in Cameron’s eyes that stopped her. Instead she chuckled, deflecting. “Robots can lie?”
“I’m not a…”
“I know, I know,” Sarah interrupted, amused. Her brow quirked as she said, her voice a monotone mockery of Cameron’s, “You’re a cybernetic organism.”
“I’m your cybernetic organism,” Cameron said forcefully, brow crinkling in a light frown.
Sarah smirked, then drawled indulgently, “Mine?”
Cameron’s glare was deadly serious. “Yours.”
Sarah sighed, then pushed a lock of hair back behind Cameron’s ear, utterly amused by the girl’s fierceness. “Well, I guess there are worse things.”