Title: Childhood
Summary: Young Kyle Reese grows up in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles under the guidance of the human resistance's charismatic leader.
Rating: T (violence, strong language)
Characters: Kyle Reese, John Connor
Disclaimer: It doesn't belong to me, duh.
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to my dear friend, beta reader, and supporter obaona. It was she who suggested I write this fic, giving me the prompts "Kyle/childhood." She was expecting a 2,000-word vignette, not the multi-chaptered fic this is turning out to be. I did a good deal of research on this fic about the future world of The Terminator. I found Christopher T. Shields' tech site (Terminator 2029) especially informative.
Authors Notes: This fic will end up being around 12 or so chapters. Thanks for reading, feedback is always appreciated, and have fun …

"We got a live one here!"

His head was throbbing violently, and the immense pain was focused mostly at his temples. He attempted to open his eyes, but immediately shut them again when his stomach offered a protest in the form of nausea.

He drew in a ragged breath, hoping that the motion would calm his raging insides, but the air was far from fresh – it reeked of smoke, fumes, blood, rotting flesh, and a number of other substances Kyle either wouldn't or couldn't identify. His lungs hurt as well: raw from the smoke, most likely, and his screams.

He felt the debris around him stir as a large weight came to rest near him. He could hear the motion as well as feel it, and was, therefore, not surprised when a warm hand – although still cooler than his own skin – found a way to his forehead.

Kyle opened his eyes, slowly this time, to see a man crouching before him. He was tall, but somewhat lanky, with dark hair and eyes, and the scars running down his face suggested factory labor rather than the ditches. Still, he had an odd familiarity to him, and it jogged a sense of recognition within Kyle.

"Dad?" Kyle asked uncertainly, testing the feeling the man inspired in him.

"Sorry, kid." The man's voice was naturally gruff, but, even in his state of confusion and pain, Kyle could tell that he was trying to be sympathetic. "We haven't found anybody else."

Kyle blinked a few times, trying to clear his head in light of the mistake; after all, the man looked nothing like his father and sounded even less so. The fog around his mind lifted momentarily, even if the pain did not decrease.

He attempted to sit up, to explore his surroundings, but the man placed a surprisingly gentle hand on his shoulder and pushed him back to the ground.

"Not the most comfortable place to lay, I know," the man admitted. "But you'd best stay still. The medics'll be here in a minute, and they'll check out your head."

Kyle swallowed roughly, antagonizing his already dry throat, and nodded slightly. He breathed deeply, despite the tightening in his lungs.

"Where am I?" he asked weakly, although he was already dreading the answer. "What happened?" The third most obvious question would be about his parents, but the man had already made it clear that he knew nothing about Kyle's father. His mother's location was also unlikely to be known.

"You're still at the camp," came the reply. "A few hundred feet or so from the barb." The man shifted his weight slightly, as if uncomfortable. "We received word that everybody here was undergoing termination. So we attacked."

"Are … are you with the resistance?" Kyle asked, barely able to retain his excitement. He had heard the rumors – who hadn't? – of a group of humans that were raiding the Skynet concentration camps, looking for people to join them in the fight against the machines. He attempted to rise, to offer whatever services he could, but the man's gentle grip on his shoulder hardened, as if reminding the boy to stay lying down.

"Yeah," the man said. "We weren't quick enough, though." He squeezed Kyle's shoulder lightly. "Sorry, son, but I'm afraid that most of the camp's gone. Looks like you're the only survivor. And we searched this whole place. You're lucky to be alive."

Well, 'lucky' was certainly a relative term. Most likely his parents were dead. His sisters, too. And perhaps everyone else he had ever known in his admittedly short life. The grief was a physical weight, baring hard onto his chest, crushing his lungs and shortening his breath. He bit his bottom lip to keep it from tumbling. Crying was a useless gesture; no amount of tears shed would ever bring anyone back or make the machines stop.

He sighed, releasing the emotions as best he could. He only hoped that his voice didn't shake when he spoke again.

"I'm really strong, sir, for my age, I mean," he said. "I'm fast, too. Real fast, even the foreman says so. I can fight. Let me fight, sir."

He looked into the man's eyes – not really dark, he noticed, but of some muted color – and waited for the expected rebuke. He was just a child, after all, and children weren't supposed to fight wars.

"You got spirit, kid. That's good," the man replied with something akin to a smile creeping onto his lips. "You'll need it, out here." The approval was there, but it wasn't a happy one, at least not for the man. He pushed his lips together into a thin line, dissolving the smile's hint. His face echoed some infinite sadness.

Instead of voicing his concern, however, he merely patted Kyle on the shoulder and rose to his feet. Kyle chanced a glance behind the man to see a few soldiers running towards them with a small stretcher.

Kyle returned his eyes back to the man, hoping to speak to him once more before he was carted off.

"You won't be disappointed in me, sir," he vowed. "I'll turn all those bastard machines back into the rubble they came from."

The man smiled, and it was almost genuine. "What's your name, kid?"

"Kyle!" Kyle responded energetically, so glad that someone wanted to know his name rather than his tracking number. "Ah, I mean Reese. Kyle Reese, sir." That was how adults introduced themselves, with a first and a last name. And he knew he was an adult now, since his parents were dead.

He expected the words to be met with a polite nod at best or vague disinterest at worst, but the man, in fact, gaped. His mouth hung slightly open and his eyes appeared to have widened.

The medics came and shuffled past the man, who was now utterly motionless, to help Kyle onto the stretcher. Kyle sat up, now that the man no longer had a grip on his shoulder, and awaited them. He winced as the ache formerly just centered around his head traced a path down his spine and radiated out towards his fingertips and toes.

"Careful there, boy, you've got a concussion," one of them advised while laying out the stretcher. Kyle nodded slightly as the other medic came around the side.

"One, two, three. Lift." He sucked in his breath as the medics placed him onto the stretcher. He was a light boy as it was, thin, he supposed, even in comparison to others at the camp, but he was unnerved by the ease at which the medics lifted him off the ground.

He fought the rolling of his stomach as he hazarded a glanced back at the man that had found him. The man was standing with his arms wrapped around his waist, looking almost … vulnerable … as he watched the proceedings.

"What's your name?" Kyle found himself asking as the medics began to walk back to the transport truck, which was little more than a loosely converted and armed Ford pickup.

"John." The word came out more as a mumble than a name and, if Kyle hadn't been listening so intently, he might have missed it. John looked down, distracted apparently, and avoided Kyle's gaze.

"This is it, General," one of the medics spoke. "We'll be headed back to basecamp once we load him up. Need a lift?"

To Kyle's disappointment, John shook his head. "No, there were rumors that there is a weapons cache here. We need to conduct further scans." He paused and looked straight up at Kyle. "Get some rest, kid."

"Sir," Kyle responded, secretly hoping John's command was the first of many future orders.

John Connor was not, by nature, a pacer. He tended to either sit and think or move in a meaningful manner towards any perceived problem or task. But here he paced, using up otherwise valuable energy. He couldn't help it, though; the boy lying before him had unwittingly seen to it that both John's mind and body received no rest today.

Reese – or could he call him Kyle? – was currently sleeping, curled up on a dirty pile of rags in the corner of their medical barrack. Despite his makeshift bed, the boy appeared comfortable enough, and the bandages wrapped around his head and arm, to John's relief, were new and clean.

"Checking up on our little survivor, sir?" the bunker doctor asked, pausing his nightly rounds. At John's nod, the old man smiled. "Rare to see such a young one left alive, no doubt. You'd figure the machines would've gotten him sooner rather than later. You found him in the camp, you said?"

"In the rubble," John replied.

The doctor – a man who had held his schooling before Judgment Day and was currently reaching the end of his years as it was – struggled to mend those under his care with such limited supplies and struggled even harder to teach new medics in his stead. He had a caring heart, a rarity these days, and a good head. He leaned over and gave the boy's bandages a quick once over.

"I was a pediatrician, you know," the doctor spoke causally. "I loved kids, always have. Don't see many his age anymore, though. We've either got the tots born to the resistance girls or the teenagers born before the …" He sighed and cocked his head to the side. "I ought to be stitching this boy's head up after he fell off his bike or something. Not from a concussion grenade. A kid this age shouldn't be …"

"How old is he?" John interrupted, not caring to reminisce at the moment.

"I'd say ten, give or take."

"That old?" John frowned in contemplation. Reese looked no older than eight.

"Malnourished, thin little thing," the doctor said by way of answer. "But he was fed when it counted. Keep his health up and he ought to beef up real quick. Boy told me he wants to be a soldier." The doctor shrugged. "Well, he has the reflexes for it, at least."

John guessed that the doctor was referring to an earlier physical examination.

"You should rest up some," the doctor continued after standing and leaving Reese to his slumber. "Busy day tomorrow."

"Busy day always," John replied darkly.

"Heh, yes, it is," the old man grunted as he walked over to the next set of beds.

John was alone with Reese once again, and his body thus urged him to continue his insistent pacing. He willed himself to calm.

This day was bound to come. He had known it. He was destined to send Kyle Reese back in time to 1984 to stop a T-800 terminator from assassinating his mother. And to do that, he knew that he would have to eventually meet Reese and, as his mother had explained it, be his commanding officer for some period of time before he sent him back. He had to give him his mother's picture, make him memorize that stupid speech about time and fate, and whatever other cockamamie bullshit to ensure the past – or the future? – remained intact.

He had just assumed that Reese would be a little older when they first met. That they'd only served a few years together before Reese left. That he'd meet his father when the man was at least an adult …

But not this.

Not a ten year-old who just lost his parents and had mistaken his son for his father.

How was he even supposed to deal with him? What was he supposed to tell him? Certainly not the truth.

He may have been foolish, but he had honestly thought he still had at least a half decade to figure out what he was going to do, how he was going to act like the stoic bastard of a man that sent his own father to die.

John groaned. Even with his extensive knowledge of children, John mused inwardly, the doctor himself wouldn't have advice to offer in this situation.

The boy turned in his sleep and let out a content sigh, making John smile halfheartedly.

He had his chin. So odd to think about.

Well, John's childhood dream was always to get to know his father …