AN: This is my first Terminator fic. I've been a fan of the Terminator for far too long (I watched the first one when I was in grade 6...that would make me about 11 or 12). I've never felt the need to add to it (really enjoyed the extended T2 however!) but I watched T3 the other night, and the ending just stuck with me. I hope you like...and review *pleading eyes*

Lonely Child

The explosion shook the ground under me – the bombs falling above, ending billions of lives in an instant. Dimly I feel Kate's hand clasp mine tighter as I steady myself against the desk, my injured leg causing me to wince in pain. That pain is only a faint sensation that my body sends to my brain, which is already overloaded with the mental anguish of the knowledge that my world has collapsed under me. I can still hardly believe that it's happened. Part of me wants to retreat into a comfortable denial of the truth, but I am not afforded the luxury. Mom was right; all these years, she was right.

The thought of my mother, so strong and independent, so sure of the future, causes any sense of my own strength to crumble like so much ash. What am I compared to what she was? Without her I am lost and alone...naked to the dangers of the world. Yet at the same time I am the protector, the great leader overshadowed by his equally great mother. My task is now clearly before me – to become the leader I was born to be. Kate needs me. Humanity needs me, this lonely child.

'Hi, my name is John Conner, the last best hope of humankind.'

Is that what I'll say to the Military when they come? Those words sound absurd in my mind. There are so many others...those who have spent their whole life training to command, to lead, and they will look to me for guidance and direction against the enemy? Who am I that I should lead these people? Who am I but a homeless orphan cowering in a shelter while the bombs fall?

'You are John Conner.'

The Great John Conner. The brilliant military strategist, savior of all people on earth, the perfect soldier rising from the ashes of battle to crush the evil machines beneath his heel in a blaze of glory. I'd been told the grandiose tales of my future deeds since I was able to speak, taught the Legend of John Conner since before I knew that was my name. That is not me, I am naught but a lonely child.

The tremors finally stop and I am able to stand straight again. I look up and my eyes meet Kate's. I see fear in them, fear and trust. She believes that I know what to do, the emotion in her eyes taken shape with an encouraging squeeze of her hand. I tighten my own fingers around hers and try desperately to smile. I have to be strong now, for her.

'John Conner's spouse, and second in command.'

We had both heard him. We both knew the destiny that would eventually unfold for both of us. There was never any stopping it. You can't fight fate - my mother and I learned this lesson the hard way. There is a fate besides what we make for ourselves. The fate I cannot escape – to be the leader, the husband, the father that I am meant to be. If we could not escape the war, how can we escape our role in it? I see the same thoughts reflected in her eyes, mingled with grief and pain for the loss of her old life that had been so violently torn from her. She should never have had to go through this. To loose her father and fiancée all in the same day. She will have a lot of healing to do before we could even speak the word 'marriage'.

The moment ends as she lets go of my hand, nervously pulling on her shirt and avoiding my gaze. It suddenly strikes me as an amazing thing, that in one moment we can give each other such strength and comfort, and the next make each other feel like mere teenagers.

' a young thirteen-year-old in a friend's basement...'

A night I barely remember, now I wish for even a glimpse of what had passed between us. How we had gotten together, the touch of her skin, the taste of her lips...the fact that I can't remember doing it causes a fierce anger in my heart. Anger at myself, at my lot, my destiny...for had it not been for him I would have remembered a great deal. Maybe enough to want to do it again.

''re the closest thing to a father I've ever had...'

Absurd that the closest connection I've felt in my life save for my mother was for a Terminator. My protector. He taught me as much as I'd taught him. He was there for me when no one else was. The ultimate loyal friend. How ironic that the very machine that had saved my life so many times eventually ends it.

'I killed you.'

Ever since those words I've found myself wondering how it happens. Will I be caught unawares and gunned down in cold blood, or will I know it when I see it – recognize my fate when it comes? Will the knowing how change the when? Can I avoid it all together? The last question prompts a strong 'no' in response. How could I ever see that face again without feeling trust? I have always known him as the protector...the father I never had. When the time comes will I be able to face that he is not? That he is a mere machine designed for the purpose of killing others? Will this lonely child ever come to terms with the fact that his 'father' is nothing more than metal and subroutines, easily programmable to suit its purpose? One day, perhaps.

'We'll meet again.'

Perhaps not.