Title: Human Contact
Fandom: Sarah Connor Chronicles
Characters: Derek, John, Cameron
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles do not belong to me. I make no money from this story. Please don't sue.
Summary: Derek is finding his place in this odd little family, whether he's comfortable with it or not.
Author's Note: Written for the 'Dreams' prompt at Taming the Muse.
He was a heavy sleeper as a child. He could sleep right through his infant brother's cries, drift off with the music turned up; stay up until midnight and then be dead to the world until noon the next day.
That all ended when he was fifteen. Now he only sleeps lightly, fitfully, always on the edge of awareness. He has no objections to sleeping on the couch. It's more comfortable than what he's used to anyway, and it allows him to better monitor everyone in the house. Everyone and every thing.
So when he wakes in the middle of the night, he trusts his instinct. He's upright before his eyes are open, standing before he's registered the intent.
The faint sounds are coming from the direction of John's room; there's movement near his doorway. Derek grabs the pistol that resides just past the couch leg and moves quickly, noiselessly, slipping into the hallway. The door to the boy's room has been pushed open, moonlight spilling through from his window.
It's her, it, the thing they call Cameron. It's standing there like a sentry, staring into the room. Dark eyes flicker to him, assessing in a second before refocusing.
He lets the pistol hang in one hand and point towards the ground. His grip is deceptively loose. "What's going on?"
"There is no threat. But he is distressed."
Derek steps closer, far closer than he's comfortable with, so he can see what it sees. John tosses, tangled in his sheets, a faint distressed sound escaping his lips. "He's having a nightmare."
"Yes. I should wake him."
"No." He steps forward, grasping it's shoulder to stop the movement. Those eyes track to his hand and back to his face in a very deliberate motion. His fingers itch at the contact, an instinctual drive to the violence that normally accompanies any touch to a metal. He pulls away as soon as he's maneuvered his body between it and John. "I'll get him."
His tone broaches no argument. Still the pretty head tilts, questioning. "Why?"
"Because things that don't sleep can't understand nightmares."
"You are not sleeping," Cameron points out matter-of-factly.
He smiles, a closed-lipped grin that contains no humor. "That's because I don't lack for nightmares."
He takes several steps backwards before he reluctantly turns his back on it. He wishes he'd shut the door in the too-perfect face.
He lays the pistol on the bedside table within easy reach. Then he gazes down at the bed. The kid looks so young, so innocent. John tosses his head and the moonlight reflects off fresh wetness on his cheeks. Something in Derek's chest clinches painfully.
Kyle used to have nightmares, horrible dreams that left him screaming more often than not. He'd toss and turn in much the same way. Nothing ever broke Derek's heart quite like the silent tears on his brother's cheeks and the terrified whimpers he would make in his sleep. Derek was always close, though soothing the nightmares away was not always an easy chore.
John is not Kyle; Derek is not confused about that. But this also isn't the John Connor he left behind, not yet. There's a protectiveness cropping up for this boy that surprises him. He doesn't particularly welcome it, but it's making itself known nevertheless.
And maybe this isn't his place, but it sure as hell isn't the machine's. That might be where John will take his comfort in the future; Derek's certainly never seen him take it anywhere else. But for now, for as long as possible, this kid is entitled to flesh and blood.
So he sits on the edge of the bed, pushing John over so he has room. The contact doesn't wake him, though it does seem to distress him further. Derek reaches for him, physically holding him still. "John," he calls firmly.
John comes awake with a gasp, automatically trying to surge up. Derek holds him to the mattress with a firm hand planted on his chest. He can feel the boy's heart thundering. John doesn't respond well to the restraint, twisting and clawing at Derek's hand, but he holds firm. "Easy. Wake up, kid."
John slowly stills at his voice. "Derek?"
"You back with me?"
Frantic eyes dart around, making sure of his surroundings. His breathing is still far too rapid; he's trembling. Finally he nods, inadvertently causing more tears to slip down his cheeks. He tries to turn away from Derek's scrutiny.
Derek learned long ago that comfort is a rare commodity, something you take wherever and whenever you can. But John's a teenage boy in a pre-Judgment Day world, trying to be self-sufficient.
Luckily, in addition to plenty of experience with nightmares, Derek also has virtually no concept of personal boundaries. He pulls him up and hauls him close before John's regained enough equilibrium to protest. He pushes John's head to his shoulder and places a hand firmly on his upper back to hold him there. "Breathe," he directs softly.
He can feel eyes on them. Without dislodging John, he turns to angle a dark look over his shoulder. Cameron hasn't moved and is still watching them, not with malicious intent—or any intent he can discern. Just observing.
John fists a hand in Derek's t-shirt, hanging on as he comes back to himself. The mechanical gaze takes in the gesture. Then Cameron finally steps back into the hallway, pulling the door until it is barely cracked and leaving them alone.
Derek releases a pent-up breath and turns his attention back to John. He tilts his head and takes in the scent of shampoo mixed with sweat and tears, and he tries not to let it evoke any memories. He doesn't speak. He just lets the boy take the time he needs.
A few silent moments later when John pushes away, Derek lets him go. "Steady now?"
Steady enough to be embarrassed, apparently. John's cheeks flush and he studies the sheets. "Sorry…"
Derek shakes his head. "Don't be." He pauses, looks John in the eye. "Tell me about the dream."
"I don't really—"
Derek cuts him off. "You can't keep this stuff in your head."
John takes in his resolute gaze and sighs heavily. "It didn't make a lot of sense. It was dark and loud, and cold."
John nods reluctantly. "My mom, Charley. Lots of screaming, some blood." His eyes dart up to catch Derek's and quickly skitter away. "And my father."
Bangs fall to hide his eyes as he ducks his head. The image bothers Derek. It takes him a long moment to realize that it's because the gestures are eerily reminiscent of Kyle. He tries to shrug it off. "It's just a dream."
"It won't be."
"Will if we stop it."
John glances up through that curtain of bangs. For just a moment there's something incredibly vulnerable and lost in his eyes. Then he nods, straightening slowly as if physically shouldering a great burden.
Derek watches and frowns. The John Connor he knows is an aloof leader, cold in his detachment, closer to the machines he's trying to destroy than the men who'd die for him. And this…this is how he got there. The weight of the world rests on too-thin shoulders.
He considers a moment before his next statement. "The nightmares are good for you."
It's John's turn to frown. He lets confusion and hurt creep into his expression.
Derek adds, "They remind you of what you're fighting for. Helps you keep going."
They stare at each other now, and Derek weathers the questioning gaze. He recognizes the moment when John gets it. Nothing he could dream up could compare to the stark reality. Derek knows what he's talking about; he's been there, but now he's here. And he has his own nightmares.
And John is not alone in this.
He stands, squeezing John's knee once before detaching completely. "Try to get some sleep."
John stares after him for a moment before he shifts, laying back down. "Yeah. You too." He watches Derek retrieve the gun and lets him get to the door before he calls softly, "Hey Derek? Thanks."
Derek pauses to look back at him. "Sure."
He steps out and pulls the door shut behind him. He's unsurprised to find Cameron still in the hallway. "He's fine," he states simply.
"You were good with him."
He doesn't need or want approval, and it rankles that the metal thinks otherwise. "He just needs some human contact," he fires back. A moment later he wonders why he's trying to hurt non-existent feelings. He must be more tired than he realized. He pushes past the petite body, heading for his couch without another word.
"That's good for him—human contact. As long as the human can be trusted."
He freezes in his steps, seriously considering firing the pistol just on principal. "I'd protect him with my life," he states, voice tight with anger.
"That's my job." Cameron steps up beside and then past him, heading for the other bedroom. "I guess that makes us partners."