TITLE: Reese Boys
Us four and no more.
It was Thomas Reese's motto, passed like the proverbial torch to both his boys. First Derek, then Kyle. Though Kyle was never expected to understand it the way Derek was expected. Kyle was the baby. It was Derek's responsibility to watch him.
Derek had a lot of responsibilities in those years before Judgment Day. Every time his dad shipped off, leaving the family, he always took Derek aside and explained to him how he was the man of the house now, how it was his responsibility to look out for Kyle and his mother.
Derek always wished they had a bigger family. He wished his mom was like some other Army wives, that she could live on base with her husband while he was stateside, but that she had a home to retreat to when he shipped out. But their mother didn't have a family, not since uncle Tim was killed in that car wreck eight years ago. Both of Jennifer Carson's parents died when she was still in high school and she eventually dropped out and married Thomas Reese to escape her elder brother's erratic behavior and druggie friends.
Nobody talked about Thomas's side of the family. Ever. And when he shipped out, he left Jennifer and Derek and Kyle behind on base to fend for themselves. It wasn't so bad. There were always other Army brats around to keep them company. Sometimes, they'd move off base and get a real apartment. Depending on where they were, they could make money that way, if the rent was less than the government housing stipend. But after moving eleven times in fifteen years, Derek got real tired of trying to fit in.
Us four and mo more. It was easier that way.
Most fifteen year olds didn't want their kid brothers hanging around. Hell, Derek didn't want it either. But he learned early that his wants were secondary to what the family needed. And with Thomas gone and Jennifer lost in the bottle, Kyle became Derek's responsibility.
After Judgment Day, Kyle felt like less of a responsibility and more of a gift. The motto changed. Reese Boys. They were the two Reese Boys. Just the two of them against the world. They were all each other would ever need.
Derek fucked up. He failed. He lost Kyle. He searched for days, following every lead. Some said they saw Kyle killed, others claimed he was taken to one of the work camps. The former Derek refused to process, the latter he was investigating. Problem was, there was only one way to get a look inside a work camp.
He stood in the shelter of the demolished building watching the patrol, ready to scramble into their path in the hopes of being taken prisoner. It was a long shot. It was easier to kill the humans than to take them. But if he died trying to find Kyle, so be it.
He was just getting ready to bolt when a heavy hand fell on his shoulder and pulled him back, slamming him against the wall.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" he demanded, shaking Derek hard.
No one had manhandled him like that since Thomas and Derek was so shocked, he just stood there, staring at the guy.
"Connor," someone yelled in the distance. Then closer. "Connor!"
The guy let go of Derek and turned. "What?"
The two men were part of the resistance. Derek heard rumblings, but he hadn't yet seen proof that there was an organized human resistance until now.
"What're you up to, Connor?" the newcomer asked, warily eyeing Derek. The guy was a huge black man with a deep voice and hands the size of dinner plates. He was a trained soldier. Derek could spot the type a mile away. At first glance, Derek would bet Marine. But Derek also knew without asking that the Marine wasn't in charge. The asshole who grabbed him was.
"Connor," Derek said, looking at the guy. He was probably in his twenties, maybe his thirties, but Derek was guessing younger. He was thin, lanky and half-starved, just like everyone else. Smaller than Derek, he didn't look like a fighter. He didn't look like part of the resistance. He looked like one of the AV geeks who got tormented in high school – not that Derek would know anything about that. "John Connor?" Derek had heard the name, whispered like a prayer in the tunnels. He was sure everyone was full of shit. There was no John Connor. It was sort of like finding yourself face to face with the Easter Bunny. If the Easter Bunny knew how to make IEDs.
"Yeah," Connor answered, eyes slipping away almost like he was embarrassed.
Derek looked him up and down, snorting. "I thought you'd be bigger."
"This coming from the dumbass who was about to turn himself over to a Skynet hunting party," Connor snapped, glaring at him as if the very idea mortally offended him.
Derek flushed with shame. He had a good reason for what he'd been planning to do. But Connor wouldn't understand about the Reese Boys. All Connor knew was that Derek looked like a coward. Like he was giving up.
"Follow McManuss," Connor snapped.
"I don't take orders," Derek countered reflexively.
"You do today," Connor said. And he said it with that same strange finality Thomas used to have, the kind that brooked no resistance.
To his own shock, Derek followed McManuss.
"Reese," Connor swore, "be more careful. Clean the threads."
Derek set the end cap down and picked up the rag, shooting Connor a glare as he cleaned the pipe's threads. People treated John Connor like the second coming. Derek still thought the guy was an asshole, always double checking everything he did, always holding him to a higher standard. But Connor did have a point. The threads were messy. It was a stupid mistake. But mistakes were bound to happen when no one had slept in two days.
Satisfied with the job, Derek screwed on the end cap and set the pipe bomb with the others. Connor'd had every available set of hands stockpiling munitions for days. Derek still wasn't sure if he thought joining the resistance was a good move or a bad one. It'd been just the Reese Boys for so long he forgot what it was like to be part of a larger group. But he had to admit, he could learn from these guys, especially that asshole, Connor.
"Where'd you learn to make this shit?" Derek asked, despite his better judgment which said he should stay as far below Connor's radar as possible. For reasons Derek couldn't pinpoint, Connor seemed to have it in for him. But just as inexplicably, every now and then Connor would actually talk to him. Derek didn't know why Connor confiding in him sometimes made things better, but it did.
Connor shrugged. He was taking a bunch of hopelessly mangled rifles and trying to scavenge together at least one working weapon. Derek already knew he would succeed. Connor had a gift that way. Derek was pretty sure you could hand the guy a soda can and a rock and he'd figure out a way to make a tank.
Connor glanced up at Derek. "I grew up doing this," he said wearily. "Mom thought it might come in handy."
Derek wasn't sure if it was a joke or not, but he decided to take him at face value. He caught sight of McManuss hovering nearby, a strange look on his face. It gave Derek the impression John Connor wasn't big on talking about his past. "Must've been a fun childhood," Derek joked. He knew all about those.
Connor looked up at him and Derek couldn't read the expression. He looked away, back down at the rifle parts. "It wasn't always bad," he said quietly.
Connor planted his hands in the middle of Derek's chest and shoved as hard as he could, sending him toppling on his ass. "Fucking run," Connor yelled, angry. Angrier than Derek had ever seen him, though really he couldn't remember Connor ever showing much emotion.
The fuck? Derek scrambled to his feet, staring at the resistance's leader, pinned under the pile of rubble. "The HKs are coming," Derek said dumbly.
"I know," Connor answered. "Now fucking run."
Derek stood there, still shellshocked from the explosion.
"You do what you're told. You go where you're told," Connor yelled. "Now run."
And to his eternal shame, Derek ran.
First he lost the world.
Then he lost Kyle.
Now he lost John fucking Connor.
He was through with mottos. He was fucking through with everything. Kyle had been gone two years. Gone. Dead. Derek still cringed at the thought. He still couldn't believe Kyle was dead. He was just a kid.
Connor had been gone almost as long, though everyone was convinced he was still alive, still orchestrating things from inside one of those work camps. Every now and then, someone would manage to escape with stories of John Connor.
Derek didn't believe them. He didn't believe anything. He refused to believe John Connor would save them all. He knew the truth. No one was saved. If he wanted anything done, he'd have to do it himself. He'd always known that. He went where he was told. He did what he was told. But they couldn't make him believe.
"Sumner," McManuss barked.
Derek watched Sumner rise to his feet and follow the CO down the tunnel. Pushing himself to his feet, Derek followed. He listened to McManuss give Sumner the mission and then watched as Sumner left.
"You should send me," Derek said flatly. "I'm a better shot."
"You're a better everything," McManuss said without looking at Derek. "But it's a suicide mission."
McManuss frowned at Derek. "The trick with suicide missions is not actually sending someone who wants to die, Reese. We need him to come back in one piece."
Derek was ignoring all the talk about the people who broke out of Century. He didn't want to deal with it. He couldn't. So he'd raided Garner's stash of moonshine and drank himself shitfaced, wandering the tunnels for hours.
Derek turned, staring down the tunnel at a ghost. He blinked. He wasn't entirely sure Garner's hooch hadn't contained paint thinner. Was this what a full on delusion was like? Maybe he was already dead. But no. He wasn't the ghost. Connor was.
Connor stepped closer, looking Derek up and down, shaking his head. "Hang in there, man," he said. "I need both the Reese Boys if we're going to dust these metal motherfuckers." He clapped Derek on the shoulder and smiled.
And then Connor did that thing. The real reason Derek couldn't stand the asshole. He cocked his head to the side and looked at Derek like he was seeing right through him.
"It wasn't your fault," Connor said quietly.
"Fuck you," Derek spat, his chest tight, inexplicably on the brink of tears. He didn't need anyone to forgive him for anything, least of all John Connor's asshole ghost.
"It wasn't your fault," Connor repeated.
"Screw you, man," Derek growled, turning away before Connor could see the tears. Why the fuck was he crying? And why did Connor think he needed to be forgiven for something? Of course he didn't need to be forgiven.
He heard footsteps pounding behind him and quickened his pace. He was through with Connor's mind games. (Fuck, he hoped they were Connor's mind games and he hadn't finally had a complete psychotic break.)
He stopped in his tracks turning.
The first time Derek saw Kyle with that damn picture, he lost it. "Connor gave you that?" he demanded, grabbing Kyle, shoving him back against the wall.
"What the fuck, Derek," Kyle yelled, shoving back, skittering out of arm's reach. He brushed himself off and protectively slipped the picture in the pocket of his flack jacket, chin set defiantly. "What is it with you and Connor?"
"Me and Connor?" Derek snapped, though inwardly, he acknowledged Kyle had a point. Even the guys who talked shit on Connor after a few drinks fell into a reverent hush like they were looking at a fucking saint when the guy made one of his rare appearances.
Everyone except Derek.
Derek had no use for John Connor. He didn't trust the guy. He knew with certainty that the Reese Boys would be better off without John Connor.
As much as Derek hated to admit it, he felt like John Connor still went out of his way to fuck with him. That, he was almost certain, was just paranoia. He needed to stop drinking that shit Garner cooked up. It was fucking with his head. He felt like a pissy little bitch even thinking Connor was picking on him. Some people had issues with John Connor, but Derek was certain he was the only one who would classify the guy as a dick. Weird, yes. Secretive, yes. Asshole, not so much. John Connor interacted with humanity on a macro scale, not micro. He didn't have time to fuck with people.
Except that Derek was pretty sure the guy was an asshole. At least to him. And he didn't have a clue why. But John Connor knew how to push his buttons better than anyone, better than Kyle. John Connor got Derek. And Derek hated that. He hated it because Connor made him want to believe. But Derek could never do that. Not again. He knew too well what happened when he let go and trusted other people at their word. Judgment Day. The only people Derek could trust was himself and Kyle. The Reese Boys.
But then again, maybe Connor didn't get Derek. Maybe he didn't care one way or the other. Maybe it wasn't about him. It wasn't always about him, that was one of the first lessons Derek ever learned. He could clearly see his mother saying the words, laying there on the couch, cigarette in one hand, scotch in the other. It's not always about you, Derek.
But whether it was about him or not, Derek fucking hated how Kyle worshipped Connor – and now his mother. "Me and Connor," Derek said again. "You and Connor. Why the fuck would he give you a picture of his dead mother? Even in this fucked up world, that's totally fucked up."
Kyle glared at him defiantly. "Sarah Connor is the reason any of us are still here. Sarah taught John – "
"That dead bitch is not the reason you're alive, Kyle," Derek spat. "Is that what Connor told you in the camp? Some bullshit about Saint Sarah and how she saved us all? Clue in, Kyle, humanity is still screwed. None of us are saved."
"John Connor –"
"John Connor uses people," Derek said flatly. "Me. You. Everyone."
Kyle shook his head in disgust and turned, trudging up the tunnel. Derek yelled at him, but he didn't look back. It was almost an entire month before the Reese Boys could have a civil conversation again.
Time travel gave Derek a unique perspective. A perspective he was pretty damn sure humans weren't supposed to have. With some people, it was hard to look at the kid and see the man he would become. That's how it was with Kyle – and even with his younger self.
Derek found them the first week after they jumped. He was supposed to be tracking down leads, but instead he tracked down himself and Kyle. He watched them. He knew who it was. But looking at the little boy, he hard a hard time remembering Kyle had ever been that young.
Derek had no luck trying to find the adult Kyle. Tracking Goode paid off and Derek caught sight of Sarah Connor. He recognized her immediately, but it took him a moment to place her. Then he remembered that goddamn snap Kyle used to carry. Saint Sarah.
He'd been so fucking relieved, so excited. But the longer he watched her and John and the metal, the more certain he was Kyle wasn't with them. There was absolutely no trace of his brother. So all Derek had was a five year old Kyle who looked nothing like the twenty-five year old Kyle.
That. And a safe full of diamonds. And the knowledge that he was the only person who could really change the future.
He'd find Kyle. The Reese Boys would be together again. And this time they'd make it right.
When Derek looked at the teenage John Connor, there was no doubt about the man he would become. In fact, it was hard for Derek to remember John was just a kid, and not the hardened leader of the human resistance.
Derek was so accustomed to the uneasy, contentious relationship he had with John Connor, there were a couple times when he knew he unintentionally hurt the kid. The first few times, he didn't regret. He was still hell bent on finding Kyle. And then John the kid told him Kyle was dead and Derek's entire world stopped.
Kyle was dead. And this time, John wouldn't save him. And Derek couldn't either.
As much as Derek disliked and distrusted John Connor, he knew the kid's words were true. And in retrospect he appreciated the tears in the kid's eyes when he said it.
But at the time all Derek's sedative laced mind could comprehend was that the Reese Boys were no more. And he was finally all alone in the sea of humanity.
Derek was so accustomed to John Connor breathing down his neck, double checking everything he did, that it took a while to realize that wasn't what the kid was doing. The kid just wanted his attention, shadowing him from room to room, confiding things in him he had no business confiding. Derek snapped at him a few times, told him things he should already know – never trust the metal. Never trust anyone. But rather than ignoring him the way John Connor should have, the kid just looked at him like someone ran over his puppy. And Derek felt like a fuck.
At first Derek was baffled as to why John latched onto him so strongly. Then he saw the kid with Sarah's ex and decided that John needed any available father figure. Derek was sorely tempted to tell Saint Sarah she shouldn't have chased off the dirtbag who knocked her up. But his sense of self-preservation prevented that.
The kid trying to use him as a surrogate father pissed him off. He wasn't anybody's father, especially not John Connor's. Especially when no one would even tell him how Kyle died. Or when.
And then one day they were sitting at the breakfast table like some totally dysfunctional nuclear family and he glanced up at John. And for the first time, he didn't look at John the kid and see John the man. He looked at John the kid and saw Kyle. He thought it was a trick of the mind. Too much coffee, too much booze, not enough sleep. But it didn't go away. And every time he looked at John after that, he didn't see the pain in the ass general. He saw his brother.
Even that wasn't enough for him to put two and two together. It was the metal of all fucking things, that finally made all the pieces fit. Sarah's goddamn ex showed up again. Derek should have just shot him right there and buried him in the back yard, but Sarah wouldn't have appreciated that very much, so he left her to deal with the guy.
"Why the fuck is he here?" Derek said, more to himself than anything. "Isn't the crime rate high enough? Shouldn't he have victims of random violence to help rather than barging in here?"
But the metal was there and so fucking literal and it just looked at him and said, "Sarah Connor intended to kidnap an emergency room doctor to treat you after you were wounded, but John Connor located Charley Dixon."
Despite his better judgment, Derek asked, "Why?"
"Because you would have died."
"It was highly illogical," the metal explained, looking displeased. "Saving the life of one resistance fighter was not worth exposing John Connor. I explained it would be most efficient to let you die."
Derek was intrigued now, and irritated, but the fact that the metal wanted him to die was hardly news. "And what did John and Sarah say?"
"Charley Dixon explained that you needed a blood transfusion. Your blood type is rare. AB negative. One half of one percent of the population are matches."
Derek shook his head. He had no memory of any of this. "And?"
"John Connor donated blood to you. His is a match."
Derek turned away, not bothering to say anything to the metal. He knew Sarah and John got him help, that much was obvious. They let him sleep on their couch and they treated him like part of the crew. He figured it was because they needed the backup. He was a damn good fighter. And he knew, more than either of them, what was coming.
But he hadn't considered how much they risked their own safety for him. That made no sense. If there was one thing Derek Reese knew, it was that anybody was expendable as far as John Connor was concerned. And after meeting Sarah, Derek knew John learned that particular lesson from his mother.
So why did they risk so much to save him?
John Connor donated blood to you. His is a match
The second he realized, Derek felt like the world's biggest dupe. In two timelines. John didn't just look like Kyle, he was Kyle's son. Derek's blood matched John's because they were family. And John didn't trail him around the house because he needed a daddy, he did it because Derek was as close as John was going to get to his real father.
Derek remembered Sarah's expression in the interrogation room. Reese boys?
John and Sarah risked everything to get him help – over everyone's better judgment – because he was family. Because Derek was one of the Reese Boys. Because John Connor was one of the Reese Boys.
John sulking was a sight to behold. How someone could expend that much energy on an expression was mind boggling. But sulk John did. For weeks. He locked himself in the bedroom and listened to music on his headphones so loud you could hear it from the living room – over the TV and the crappy A/C unit. The only real problem with that was the new place was a total shithole with only two bedrooms. Since Derek wasn't allowed in Sarah's, that meant the only place he could be was crammed in there with John or in the living room watching the metal … slough. He spent a lot of time sitting in the new(ly liberated) truck in the parking lot.
Both Sarah and Derek were dying to remind John that the leader of the human resistance didn't have the luxury of throwing himself a pity party because his pet metal got roasted and he had to find a new school. But John was so legitimately upset that neither of them could bring themselves to say anything.
Finally, Derek reached his breaking point. He grabbed the headphones off John's head one night and tossed them into the closet.
"What the fuck, man?" John demanded, sitting up on the bed.
"Come on," Derek said, leaving the room, trusting John would follow. And he did.
Derek reached in the fridge and grabbed two beers, then headed for the living room and the crappy sofa. "Out," he snapped, glaring at the metal. It gave him a nasty look in return, but retreated to the bathroom for the nightly debridement. Derek made a mental note to start taking sponge baths in the parking lot.
Sitting down, Derek grabbed the remote and flipped over to the Dodgers game. Sarah had been watching some PBS special on nature preserves, but she just gave him a measured glance and kept quiet.
John sat down next to Derek, watching as Derek popped the cap on both bottles of beer. He handed one to John, who took it. John looked cautiously at Sarah, but she didn't say anything. She just sat there watching Derek and John with a bemused expression.
Tentatively, John took a sip of the beer and when he was assured Sarah wasn't going to bitch about it, he sank back in the cushions, staring at the TV. Sarah lingered a few minutes and then retreated to her room, leaving John and Derek alone.
"You know," John said, "if you push that little button with the arrow, we might be able to find something to watch that's actually good."
Derek shot him a sidelong glance. "The Reese Boys watch baseball."
"Reese boys," John repeated quietly, like he was trying it on for size.
"Yeah," Derek said. "You and me."
Person John Connor
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