TITLE: The End is the Beginning is the End
CHARACTERS: Sarah, Derek, John, Cameron
WARNINGS: Spoilers for the first season
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Don't know who does.
TIMELINE: set directly after the season finale.
SUMMARY: He'd rather be a psycho than a pawn.
"Just. Go. Away," John snapped, shooing at Sarah. "I'll do it myself. You're not helping."
Sarah looked down at John in irritation, then over to Derek. Rolling her eyes, she left John to the gruesome task of trying to stitch together what remained of Cameron's original flesh with the skin she scavenged from Vick's endoskeleton. Sarah hadn't known Cameron kept the skin. She acknowledged the practicality of the action, but it still turned her stomach. It turned her stomach more to watch John trying to reassemble the Tin Man.
Sighing, she left the claustrophobically cluttered garage. Derek was a pain in the ass, but he definitely had perks. He was damn good at recon. Sarah never would have known this garage was here, tucked in a run-down residential area. It looked like it hadn't been used in a long time. It was an ideal location for this hideous task. As soon as they got Cameron stitched back together, they were going to have to find a new place to stay, one Sarkissian didn't know about. Hopefully Derek had leads on that too.
A couple meters from the garage door, Derek was sitting on what remained of a crumbling cinderblock wall, half-empty beer bottle dangling from his fingertips. Sarah found his beverage oddly fitting considering they'd just had a barbeque. As she approached him, she held her palm up. "Spare me," she said. "I know. But she's no good to us if she can't pass for human."
"We should get rid of it," he said, but it lacked passion. He already knew he was never going to win this argument.
Taking a seat next to Derek, Sarah said, "I know. But we need it. For now."
They were silent for a long time, watching John crouch over Cameron's supine form, delicately stitching together the pieces, listening as Cameron guided him in the task.
"We have to find Sarkissian," Derek said.
"And the Turk," Sarah added.
Silence descended again and it wasn't comfortable. It was far too eerie watching the scene playing out in the garage.
"What's he like?" Sarah asked quietly.
Derek turned to look at her.
Sarah nodded toward the garage. "John. What's he like in the future?"
Shaking his head, Derek looked away. "He's the one that destroys Skynet and saves us all."
Sarah watched his profile for several long moments. She had no trouble hearing the bitterness in Derek's pat assessment of her son's future self. "You don't like John Connor."
Derek frowned, looking at her. "I like John," he said firmly.
"I don't mean John," Sarah said, shaking her head. "I mean John Connor. Your general. You two aren't friends."
Derek shrugged. He lifted the beer bottle to his lips and drained the rest of it. He tossed the empty bottle in his hand twice and then lobbed it at a rusting old car, watching it shatter. "John Connor doesn't have friends."
Sarah cocked her head to the side and watched Derek. "None?"
Derek met her gaze uncomfortably and shifted his weight on the wall. He nodded toward the garage. "He has those things."
Sarah cocked an eyebrow.
Obviously disturbed, Sarah turned back to watch John and the machine. That really didn't help. Hopping off the wall, Sarah stood and turned her back to the garage, facing Derek.
Sighing, Derek elaborated. "It's not that people don't like John Connor. They love him. He's a hero. But he's isolated." Following Sarah's lead, Derek hopped off the wall and slowly made his way deeper into the junk clogged abandoned lot, away from John and Cameron. "His lieutenants protect him. They insulate him. They encourage the myth of John Connor."
"To protect people from the truth?" Sarah asked acidly, deeply disturbed both by John and for John.
Derek shrugged. "Mostly to protect John Connor, I think." He turned and looked at Sarah. "I know why you hate the metal. I hate it too. But I think maybe for John it's different."
"I always thought he was a great leader," Derek said. "But meeting with John Connor face to face before he sent me back … and then being here, seeing John with that thing. I think maybe the secret to his success wasn't his way with people so much as it was his way with the metal."
Sarah looked aghast.
Pointing to the garage, Derek said, "He understands them. It's creepy as hell, but that insight is invaluable intel on the enemy." He paces a few steps, staring at the ground, kicking at pieces of junk. "I had a buddy, Hubbs, who was a Chip Tech."
"He took their brains apart," Derek explained. "Any piece of metal we could bring down in salvageable condition, we pulled the chips and gave them to the Chip Techs to try and figure them out. Hubbs always said he'd been doing it for years and John Connor was miles ahead of the best team members. John Connor could look at a first generation chip from a brand new model and understand its architecture."
Sarah turned, looking back to the garage. The sound of John and Cameron's voices was barely audible from the distance. "So knowing that one of these things will one day be the death of him, I'm supposed to do this?" Sarah demanded in a harsh whisper. "I'm supposed to let him cozy up to that thing?"
"How else is he going to learn?" Derek asked bluntly, sounding rather defeated.
Sarah groaned, scrubbing her face with her hands. Sighing, she dropped her hands back to her sides.
Derek shrugged. "Fuck it. I don't even know what I'm talking about. This time theory stuff is way over my head. I'm just here to blow shit up."
She looked at him carefully. "Do you really believe that?"
He shifted uncomfortably under the weight of her stare. Derek didn't scare easily and personal boundaries meant little, if anything, to him. But this. He didn't want to talk about this. It had been nagging him all day. Since his talk in the park with John. For months Derek convinced himself that his reason for coming across time was to divert Judgment Day, save Kyle. But now … he just didn't know. He'd never believed any of that bullshit about destiny and fate. He refused to believe that something larger than himself – or worse, the megalomaniac John Connor - was designing his actions.
But the more Derek thought about his conversation with John, the more he wasn't certain. The more he felt like just another of John Connor's pawns. "I don't know," he admitted. He paced another couple of steps, trying vainly to escape Sarah's intent gaze. "I don't know why I'm here."
Sarah followed, invading his personal space. "You're lying."
He turned around, meeting her gaze from mere inches away. "Maybe," he admitted.
Sarah backed up, knowing invading Derek's space was a useless ploy. He probably hadn't even noticed. "What? What's going on in that head of yours?"
He shrugged again. "I told John today that I knew you'd never killed anyone." He looked at her intently.
Sarah frowned, shifting uneasily. "Maybe not. Why do you care? I get the job done."
Derek shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at the quickly darkening night sky. "He has to learn it somewhere," he said bluntly.
Turning, Derek met her gaze, holding it. "To kill."
Uncomfortably, Sarah looked away, glancing at the garage where John pieced together the machine. "Killing machines is different."
"I'm not talking about killing machines," Derek countered. "John Connor sent hundreds of soldiers to their deaths. He sent Kyle to his death. That detachment, disregard for human life, he has to learn it somewhere."
Sarah stared at him, comprehension dawning. "And you think that's why you're here."
He shrugged. "Maybe." He turned away. "Maybe I'm just another human shield."
"John wouldn't do that."
"John Connor would do that in a heartbeat," Derek snapped.
He sighed, running his hand through his hair. "John flinched."
"When I killed the guy we thought was Sarkissian."
Sarah snorted. "The guy was holding a gun to his head. Of course he flinched."
Derek shook his head. "John Connor won't. And like I said, he has to learn that somewhere."
Sarah kicked the ground, prodding an old bolt with her shoe. "Derek, there's more to you than that."
He smiled mirthlessly. "Ya think?" He laughed to himself. "I knew Andy Goode."
Sarah's expression darkened at the mention of Andy.
Derek stepped closer to her. "Well, not really Andy. I knew Billy Wisher. Andy changed his name after he helped Skynet destroy the world. I knew Billy Wisher for years. I couldn't begin to tell you how many nights we spent in foxholes. We were buddies." He stared intently into Sarah's eyes. "And I used what I knew about him to track him down and murder him."
Sarah swallowed audibly.
"I watched you and Andy that night at his house."
Sarah shifted, lifting her chin. "Are you trying to convince me you're a psycho or yourself?"
He looked away. "Both. I prefer psycho to pawn."
"It isn't like that, Derek," Sarah said. "The future isn't set. We can change it."
"Do you really believe that?" he asked.
"Yes," she said firmly. "I have to." Turning, she looked at the garage. "John are you almost done? We have to get out of here."
"Yeah, just give me a few more minutes."
She turned back to face Derek. "You know of another place?"
He nodded. "Yeah, I can find something."
"It's all we can do," Sarah said quietly.