Author: Alex Foster
Spoiler: Just slightly spoilerish for Dungeons & Dragons
Summary: Because she does not sleep, Cameron can only watch as the dreams of others play themselves out.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Fox. No money is being made and no infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: I was so happy to see a glimpse of John's future rebellion in last week's episode. Without that, I would have worried of going too AU with this one shot. Fortunately I only had to tweak a couple of lines to keep this current. Hope you all enjoy.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
She was lucky, John would one day tell her, that she never dreamed. In the spider holes the rebellion often retreated to during the evening hours, the sudden intakes of breath and muffled gasps of people waking from nightmares was a common sound. For a long time after she came to travel with them, they did not allow Cameron to hold sentry duty despite her not needing sleep.
Often John would keep the longest watch hours while the rest of the group slept. Very few in the rebellion trusted her, or any of her kind, but John would sometimes sit next to her and talk. Bad dreams, he explained, haunted them all. Sleep was not something many looked forward to anymore.
He would point to the bedrolls and tell her stories of the people within them. Of the people they lost, the pain they had witnessed. The older ones still remembered what the world had been like and dreamed of where they were when the world ended.
John somehow knew all of their stories and spoke of them as if they were his own. She was still years from understanding that this was part of the reason people followed him so zealously. He understood and cared in a world that no longer did either.
He was reprogramming her, teaching as he called it, and she knew that. Beside the hard and software changes, he was altering how her processors perceived new data. There were other models within his rebellion (Skynet knew this so she did as well) that did not behave within logical parameters. John had somehow changed this.
Later, when trust rose to the point of allowing her a weapon in a firefight, she asked John if she could one day dream.
"Why would you want to?"
For this she had no answer. To dream, she supposed, first she would have to sleep and machines did not require that. Next she would need something to desire. John Connor was alive, the rebellion secure (for the evening anyway), and her systems in full working order; she had no needs or wants.
Deep in the bowels of the bunker, while all but the sentries slept, she found him behind an old battered metal desk. Flickering candlelight lit his hardened and tired face. Bloodshot eyes glanced at her when she entered the room.
"You require sleep," she told him. "It is late."
He cut her off with a nod but let his eyes soften slightly. "Yeah, I know. You mentioned that."
"C Group came back," she said. "The depot was destroyed with minimal losses."
John took the news in with a satisfied nod. "How many is minimal?"
"Eight point four percent of the total strike force failed to leave the complex before the bomb detonated."
"Have you debriefed them yet?"
Cameron blinked. "No. They required sleep."
John Connor, leader and commander, saw only a select few of his soldiers now. Apart from the main group his fame and status only grew. Even Skynet could not combat the stories, true or not, that spread around the devastated world of his crusade. Of those few that could gain entrance to his private chambers, only a handful owned the privileged to what he now offered her: a full, tight lipped smile.
For a moment he looked younger, like the cell leader that sat up with her and told stories of the world that once was. "Of course they did." He regarded her for a long moment with an expression she could not identify. "You should try it yourself one day."
"That is not possible."
John pushed gingerly to his feet and circled the desk, walking toward her. "A lot of things are possible, Cameron."
Later, in a different place and a different when, Sarah Connor presented her with private quarters within their newly rented home. "We'll use it for show," the mother said. "Dress it up, make it look girly. Place of your own to plug in."
"I do not require direct or alternating current."
Sarah left her in the empty bedroom with a dry laugh and a head shake. She did not explain things or herself the way John once had. This world, the one of whispered campfire stories between soldiers, was different and beyond what she'd expected as well. There was a...familiarity of her own time that was absent here.
Her John would tell her that she was homesick, but that was not possible. She was a cybernetic organism and incapable of becoming sick.
One thing that remained the same was the sound of bad dreams in the middle of the night. As she walked a patrol throughout the darkened house every night, Cameron listened as the Connor family dealt with their personal struggles in their sleep. Often it was Sarah that twisted and turned on her mattress and woke with a strangled scream. Young John mostly slept well but he was not without peculiarities.
Like his older self, John kept late hours. He looked directly at her when he spoke and seemed much more accepting of a terminator's help than his mother. There were other, less obvious, differences between her two Johns than age and experience. Where the future John could only tell her about the wonders of a complete world, young John could actually show her.
It was not within her logical parameters, but there was a familiarity with this John and world that slowly developed inside her. She could not predict what John would say about that. He never taught her the variations of home sickness and home wellness.
Still, even though she now possessed working knowledge of both worlds, Cameron did not sleep or dream as the other members of the rebellion had. "Why would you want to?" a voice from the past-future asked. She had no answer beyond the simple wonder of what they all saw that she could not.
"One o'clock and all is well?" young John asked her one evening as she walked a patrol.
She stared at him. "It's twelve forty-eight."
"'Least I got the 'all is well' part right." She followed him to the darkened kitchen and watched as he retrieved a mug and poured orange juice into it. The open refrigerator cut a sharp wedge of light between them. He raised the cup to his lips, but paused when he saw her still watching him. John set the drink down, returned to the refrigerator, and filled a second glass. "Here," he said, handing it to her.
He half toasted her. "Even terminators need company, huh?"
They did not, but she let his comment stand uncorrected.
"So what are you thinking about tonight?"
She was analyzing the forty two possible ambush points within the house, committing the next day's American history lesson to immediate memory, cross comparing the Hickard AAM laser rifle with the standard round M-42, remembering her time with John in the future, and theorizing on Sarah Connor's subconscious fears.
He gave her a full, tight lipped smile. "Nothing."
From deeper inside the house came a muffled gasp as Sarah woke from another nightmare, rolled over, and went back to sleep.
"You know," John said, causing her to look at him, "you are lucky you don't dream."