Disclaimer: I don't own the Terminator universe. Way to much metal for me.
(Author's Note: Well, my first TSCC fic. It's a future-fic, and it's very John/Cameron centric. It deals with John as the leader being forced to sacrifice John the human. The lyrics for this fic are from Breathe Into Me by RED. Enjoy!)
And this is how I break apart when I finally hit the ground
John Connor ran his hands back through his hair, staring down into the smoking foxhole. The machines had long since moved on, but like a vapor trail their wake of destruction remained.
Another hundred lost, he thought. Another hundred more wounded or taken. He sighed and kicked away a sheet of blackened metal by his foot. The clang that emanated from it almost seemed too loud to be real amidst the piles of steaming and smoking rubble that surrounded him. The sound hung in his ears long after it had stopped; he almost imagined he could feel the vibrations against his eardrums, forcing themselves into his silent brain, purposefully disturbing the quiet in his head. For a moment he stared at the plate, wide-eyed and wary until the sound died. He took a deep breath. He needed to walk away. He didn't get skiddish. Not anymore.
He turned smoothly and saw one of his soldiers jogging up to him. Evans. John straightened and watched as the young man slowed to a stop, his eyes widening when he saw the hole in the ground.
John set his jaw. "Where's Parker?" he asked. The soldier didn't answer; his round brown eyes were glued unwavering to the foxhole.
"Evans!" John barked, making the soldier snap to attention. "Where's your captain?"
Evans fixed his gaze on his general and said hollowly, "He's farther back."
John nodded and walked in the direction the soldier had come from, but not before allowing himself to put a hand on Evans' shoulder for a moment. The young man didn't notice; his eyes had gone back to the smoking darkness before him. But John was shocked to find that he had let himself do such a thing, so he hurried on. He passed a few other men that paused and watched him go by, but he didn't acknowledge them. They were used to their General being cold, calculating, and that's what he intended to give them.
Never mind that that wasn't who he was.
A man walking toward him stopped and looked at him, then continued forward. His dark brown hair was flecked with gray, John noticed, but his green eyes were sharp as ever. He couldn't help but admire his uncle's determination to see the end of the machines.
"Damn it!" were the first words out Derek "Parker" Reese's mouth as he saw the smoke over his nephew's shoulder. His blazing eyes met John's. "What the hell happened?" he demanded.
"It was gone when I got here," John replied evenly. "I haven't been down yet, but I'd say it was a couple of hours ago."
Derek sighed heavily and shook his head. He was livid and John knew it, but that was typical Reese. He wouldn't let someone else's rage get to him.
"I need you to go down there and check it out," he continued. "How many men do you have?"
His uncle set his jaw, one of the few habits they shared. "Enough."
John nodded, understanding. He didn't want to send anyone in either, but it had to be done.
"I'll give you an hour to get ready, then I want you down there."
Reese nodded, and John walked around him and towards the open wasteland. Derek Reese watched over his shoulder, shaking his head. He'd known him ever since the world had ended, had been sent back in time to watch out for his younger self, and then had witnessed Judgment Day again by his side. He'd agreed to a new name so that his own younger self -- or Kyle, for that matter -- wouldn't ask questions. He'd known John Connor through two lifetimes -- had been through Hell and back -- and he still couldn't understand what went on in his head. Reese grit his teeth and continued after his men.
He'd die for the man, but sometimes he wondered why.
John carefully made his way down into the subway tunnel, easing into the darkness with a kind of catlike precision. He didn't need a flashlight; he'd been down there enough times to know every crack and crevice. He walked along with his hand against the wall -- twenty steps forward to the stairs. He went over it in his mind: fifteen stairs, then seven steps forward, turn right, forward thirty-eight…
He reached the edge of the platform a few minutes later. Below him, he knew, the tracks stretched on: to the left only a quarter of a mile; the right went further on, for about five miles. John crouched down and jumped into the tunnel and started to the right. It didn't take long before he came to a bend. His hand was still on the wall, and it found a break in the concrete. He let out a sigh and climbed up into the niche, following it back until it opened up into a well-sized chamber. A small shaft of light came through a crack in the ceiling, barely revealing a table and a beaten laptop. A mattress was in the corner, a rough blanket wadded at one end; there was a battery-powered light next to it, turned off to preserve energy.
His eyes fell shut at her voice and he let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. The light clicked on, and John followed the glow up her arm to her face.
His voice was a croak, a mere glimmer of what it had been in the outside world. But her dark brown eyes were soft and understanding, and she straightened and went to him.
"Who was lost?" she asked quietly as she came to stand in front of him. He absently noticed she was still wearing her jumpsuit, with the arms tied around her waist. He shook his head and shrugged.
"I don't know, the whole thing was burned to hell…" His voice ended in a whisper, and he drew his brows together. "I didn't get there soon enough. Again."
Cameron put a hand on his cheek, brushing his hair back. "It's not your fault," she said. John shook his head again.
"I could've done something. I could've gotten them out of there--"
"You would have been killed."
He looked away, unable to stop himself from smiling ruefully. "Why are we always having this conversation?"
She stared at him. "Because you keep blaming yourself when it's unnecessary."
He shook his head. "That was rhetorical."
A puzzled expression fell over her face. "I don't understand."
He put his thumb and forefinger to his eyes and rubbed them, sighing. "You know what rhetorical means."
She nodded. "'A question asked, to which no answer is expected or required; often used for effect.' I don't--"
"--Sleep, I know, Cam." He frowned. "Then what don't you understand?"
"Why you continue to blame yourself when it's not your fault."
It was one of those times where he had to stop himself from staring like an idiot. She was a machine and majority of the time she acted like one. But when she did act human -- and she'd done it often enough over the years -- it still surprised him. Surprised him and made him want to reach out and just hold her.
He sighed and walked around her instead, leaning against the metal table that served as his desk. "I blame myself because it's my responsibility."
Cameron nodded. "Thank you. I understand now."
He nodded absently, staring off into space. Cameron recognized his expression. He was upset, and she knew he would want her help. He'd told her before that she made him feel normal again, and she was more than willing to help. She walked over to him and sat down on the table, her thigh brushing his hip. She saw him close his eyes and draw a shaky breath. Cameron recognized that, too.
He was about to break.
She quickly and easily pulled him to her, wrapping her arms around him and burying one hand in his hair while the other ran up and down his back. His arms tightened around her waist and his face was tucked between her neck and shoulder and he was clutching her tight. He let out a choked sob, and then he silently began to cry. His tears were hot against her skin, and she kissed the top of his head.
She had come to understand the feeling inside of her when John was like this. He called it sympathy; she came to know the overwhelming need to protect him, to do anything she could to keep him from feeling this way, as love. It terrified her to see him break down, to see him so tortured by his duty.
She remembered the first time it had happened. He had been in his room, back before Judgment Day, and she had gone in with him. He'd never intended to cry in front of her, he told her afterward, but she was the only one who wouldn't tell him to get over it or that it would be okay.
Cameron thought about it as she held him, about how it had started just like it had now. John, so overwhelmed with everything that was going on, had begun to cry, and Cameron did the only thing logical: she used previous observations as a reference and had reached out and pulled him into an embrace. He had hesitated at first, but then clung to her like a lifeline as he sobbed quietly into her shoulder. He'd stopped after a few minutes, wiping at his eyes.
"Not very appropriate, is it? The Savior of Mankind crying like a girl."
Cameron just stared at him. She hadn't understood the humor. John stared back.
"Why'd you do that?" he asked.
"It seemed like the right thing to do."
His brows drew together. "How do you know if it's the 'right' thing? I thought--"
She had cut him of there with a small kiss to the cheek. He stared wide-eyed at her until he managed to find his voice.
"Lemme guess, you thought that was the 'right' thing to do?"
She nodded. "My databases conclude that it is common for humans to engage in physical contact when they are upset." She cocked her head. "It's what you wanted, isn't it?"
His cheeks flooded with color and he sat back. He didn't say anything.
"You're body temperature has risen .08 degrees and your cheeks are red--"
He swallowed heavily and looked at his feet. "Yeah, it's what I wanted."
"Then can I kiss you again?" When his eyes snapped to hers in surprise, she added, "I want to."
His brow darkened. "You can't want," he whispered.
She frowned. "I think I can."
"What do you mean, 'you think'?"
Cameron cocked her head. "I can want."
He shook his head, not wanting to believe it. "What?"
"I'm a learning computer--"
"No, what do you want?"
"I want to protect you."
"No. No, that's your mission. You don't want that, you have to do that." He looked at her. "Wanting something… it's like…not having to do it, but doing it anyway because it feels right."
"I don't understand."
John sighed. "I figured you wouldn't."
"But I want to learn to want."
He couldn't help but laugh. "When you want something… you feel it here." He out his hand on his chest, over his heart, then quickly pulled it away, feeling like an idiot. Cameron didn't notice.
"In the thoracic region?"
John shook his head. "No, it's…" He sighed. "Never mind."
But Cameron continued to stare at him, so he snapped, "Look, it doesn't matter, all right? You're a machine, you're one of them, you can't feel--"
"Yes I can."
John met her eyes. She wasn't staring, but gazing at him. It wasn't a machine kind of thing to do.
"What do you feel, then?"
She bit her lip, throwing him off even more. She looked nervous, almost embarrassed.
"I like it when I kissed you," she said softly. John felt his stomach flip.
"How do you know?" He had to ask. He needed to find out…
"I feel it here." And she picked up John's hand and placed it over her heart, or where it would have been if she'd had one. He could feel the warmth of her skin through her shirt, though, and his eyes snapped to hers. She was wide-eyed and looked so beautiful that John couldn't help but stare.
"It makes me happy when I'm with you," she said. "I feel different when you look at me. I don't know what it is; I've never encountered this before. I have no program to explain it, so they must be feelings."
She looked so confused, and John laughed and moved his hand to her cheek. And then he was kissing her, and she felt as if her systems were shutting down and about to overheat, all at the same time…
Cameron smiled as John clung to her. He had long since stopped crying, but she kept her arms around him. She would give him however long he needed. He'd done the same fore her.
John pulled away slowly, running a hand over his face. His green eyes were bloodshot and puffy, and his lip was bleeding from where he'd bitten it to stifle the sobs.
"I hate it," he said. "I hate having to be like this."
Cameron held his hand. "But you're John Connor--"
"Exactly!" He stood and turned on her. "I'm the general! The damn Savior of mankind! I never wanted this, I never wanted to be like this…" He clenched his fists. "I can't breathe up there, Cam," he spat. "I can't blink or laugh or feel because I have to be their leader. They're the ones that made this mess and I have to help them clean it up! And for what? So they can do it all over again?"
They'd been through this before. Cameron remembered. But it always ended the same.
"It's your job, John," she said. "It's what you were meant to do."
He couldn't argue with it; he never could. His shoulders slumped. "I know."
"You're strong for them, for the ones that can't be," she continued. "The leader of people who need a leader."
John managed a short bark of a laugh and looked at the floor. "You sound like my mom."
"But it's true."
He nodded. "I know."
She stood and went to him, taking his hand. "But you're only human. That's why you'll win." She smiled at him. "Because you can feel."
He gave her a small smile, running his free hand over her hair like he'd done so long ago. "I'll win because you taught me how," he said, and then he kissed her softly on the lips. Cameron's smile grew.
"I love you, John."
He put his forehead against hers and stared into her chocolate eyes. "Love you, too."
They stood there a moment, just looking into each others eyes, and then John moved his lips to her ear.
He whispered, "Help me forget."
(Author's Note: please review and tell me what you think! None of my friends watch this show, so I've had no feedback on this whatsoever. Review!!)