CHARACTERS: Derek Reese, John Connor
WARNINGS: Spoilers for season 1.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Don't know who does.
TIMELINE: February 26, 2015
"You're gonna thank me," the kid yelled through the chainlink mesh that served as a cell. "Everyone is going to know the name of Derek Reese. I'm gonna be a fucking hero."
The battle-scarred sergeant sat in the folding chair across the room, glaring at the kid. John watched them both through the open door, waiting impatiently in the hallway for the intel he needed.
"None of you had the guts," Derek continued ranting, "but I did and this is how you thank me by locking me up in here. When people find out they're gonna – "
Carson finally bounded up, handing John the memory stick. Before Carson could offer some nervous, bumbling explanation, John turned and walked toward the small room
"They're gonna tear you to pieces you fucking idiot!" the sergeant roared at Derek, springing out of the chair, cutting the teenager's tirade short. "Do you have any idea what you did you – "
"Enough," John said with a wave of his hand.
The sergeant immediately snapped to attention, saluting as John Connor entered the room. Even Derek's bravado waned considerably as he watched the man who led the human resistance. John and Derek had never been in close quarters and undoubtedly Derek was confused as to why John was there.
"Leave," John said to the sergeant. "Close the door."
The man did as commanded. John waited until the door swung shut to sink into the folding chair. He pulled the computer out of his pocket and inserted the memory card, scanning through the data with a frown. Shit. He'd known, of course, but he'd known a lot of things in his lifetime and he rarely found that advanced knowledge made it any easier to accept.
He looked up at Derek who seemed to shrink under the weight of his general's stare. John had that effect on people. His age was largely irrelevant. He commanded respect from his subordinates. A lifetime spent preparing for this inevitability gave him the gravitas to lead.
John stared at Derek's younger self for several heartbeats. John had known. All of his life, he'd known what the future held. People and machines from his future manifesting in his present was commonplace enough. But this was the first time he'd literally come face to face with his past. It was shocking to stare into the face of a teenage boy and see glimmers of the man he would one day become. This boy would grow into he battle-hardened soldier who killed to save John's life, who died to protect him. So far John had avoided the sweet horror of having to meet an adolescent version of his own father. But if Derek was here now, then that next piece would soon enough fall into place.
"You left your post," John said, doing an admirable job of suppressing the emotions clawing at his insides.
Derek swallowed thickly and then nodded. He seemed to regain his composure and squared his shoulders. "Yeah," he said boldly. "I did. I took James and Kondry and we snuck into one of Skynet's sub-stations and blew the fucker to hell."
John shook his head wearily. "You were supposed to stay at your post. You had explicit orders to stay at your post."
In the cell, Derek moved restlessly, starting to pace from side to side. "We weren't going to get another opportunity like that," he said vehemently. "Those patrols had been picking us off one by one for weeks. We went in and we took them out. We took the fight to them, for once." The last bit was said with a great deal of venom and he glared at John in challenge.
John forced himself not to smile. He knew Derek was a pain in the ass, he just wasn't aware it manifested quite so early. But that was okay. It was better this way. This was how it had to be. Though for one horrible second he missed his uncle so completely that the pain stole his breath. He coughed, burying the emotion like so many others.
Sighing, John slipped the computer back in one pocket and pulled a flask out of the other. He took a long gulp, relishing the way it burned down his throat. This wasn't moonshine. This was the real stuff, taken from his private stash. Johnnie Walker black label. Damn good. The flask was half-empty. John had been working on it for about an hour. Maybe if he drank enough things wouldn't turn out the way he knew they needed to turn out.
Derek, not appreciating the dismissive treatment, demanded, "Do you know what today is? It - "
"Of course I know what today is," John interjected dryly.
Derek looked at him for a moment, not having expected to have his rhetorical tantrum interrupted.
"It's my birthday," John continued, unprompted. Fuck. Celebrate. That's what Derek had said years ago. You kidding? I celebrated your thirtieth with you. Jesus, Derek had a dry sense of humor, but this was pushing it.
Derek's brow furrowed and he clearly did not know what to do with that information. "Today's the day we took the fight to them," Derek finished, with considerably less gusto than he started.
John rolled his eyes and took another drink. "Yeah. Whatever."
Trying valiantly to regroup, Derek said, "We run like we're fucking rats. We need to hit them and hit them hard. We need to –"
"You were supposed to stay at your goddamn post!" John roared, bolting out of the chair.
In the cell, Derek took a step back.
Shaking his head, John turned away, massaging the back of his neck with his hand, suppressing the emotions that threatened to overtake him. He stared at the wall, sighing. "What happened to you? How'd you get picked up?"
"I fucked up my knee running for cover. Patrol found us and when they brought us back to base, that jackass Murphy threw me in here."
"Ah," John said, nodding. He took another drink. "That explains why you don't know yet."
"Don't know?" Derek repeated quietly. His brow furrowed and he cocked his head to the side, staring at John who was still staring at the wall. "What the fuck are you talking about, man? Are you drunk?"
John turned back to Derek and it took him a moment to focus. "Drunk as a skunk," John said dryly. "It's my thirtieth birthday."
Derek frowned, bewildered by the entire exchange. "You don't look thirty," he said lamely.
John shrugged. "I skipped eight birthdays."
Derek had no reply for that impossible bit of information.
"Skynet sweeps found the camp," John said abruptly.
Derek stared at him. "Huh?"
"Your camp," John repeated. "While you and James and Kondry were busy taking the fight to them for once, Skynet found it. They killed five, took the rest to Century Work Camp."
Jaw hanging open, Derek stared at his general. Snapping his mouth shut, he swallowed thickly. "The five ..."
"Your brother was taken prisoner."
Derek shook his head reflexively, both relieved and in denial. "No. You don't know Kyle. He's a hell of a kid. The machines grabbed him once in the tunnels. Kyle managed to get away. He - "
"He didn't get away," John said firmly.
"How do you know?" Derek demanded, eyes glassy with unshed tears.
"I know," John replied with finality.
The door swung open and McManuss, a weathered middle-aged man who was one of John's most trusted lieutenants, strode inside. "Century. Just like you said."
John accepted McManuss's scrutiny. John was accustomed to people questioning exactly how it was he knew what he knew. He never enlightened them, of course. He couldn't. He could trust no one. His uncle taught him that lesson well.
"Attempting a rescue is suicide," McManuss said.
John shrugged. "Maybe."
McManuss narrowed his eyes at John, knowing his general knew far more than he was saying, but also knowing John would never admit to anything.
"You're going to get them?" Derek asked, grabbing the chainlink. "You've got to let me go with you."
"You're damn lucky we don't shoot you right now, boy," McManuss snapped. "You're not going anywhere."
McManuss shot a sidelong glance at John, waiting to see if he was going to be overruled. It frustrated the hell out of John's lieutenants that the general operated on his own set of parameters to which they were not privy.
John turned and looked at Derek. "Let him cool off for a couple of days."
"You, fuck," Derek snarled, incensed. "You've got to let me go with you."
John strode from the room and McManuss followed.