Stay

A/N: Wow! I was definitely not expecting such a great reception of this fic! Well, since I did get quite a bit of positive feedback here I suppose y'all have earned an update, huh? Ask and ye shall receive… :-D Again, italics mean thoughts and bold sections in all caps means it's on Cameron's menu screen. I did have flashbacks labeled with italics and bold, but for some reason the site isn't allowing me to do so anymore, so I'll just have them be bold in the text from now on. Sorry for any inconvenience, but there's not much else I can do…

Disclaimer: I was unable to become a multi-millionaire overnight and buy the rights to Terminator or T:SCC, so I still don't own T:SCC, or any of the characters therein, they continue to belong to James Cameron and Fox. Nor do I own the lyrics to the song "Map of the Problematique" by Muse. But I do own the DVD of S1, so there! ;-P

Chapter Rating: Mature (Language, sexual innuendos, and a Terminator committing a crime—but for a good cause.)

Special Thanks: I want to extend a gigantic amount of thanks to all my lovely reviewers, as well as favorites and alerts people! Please continue to review, and to those who have not yet reviewed, drop me a line and let me know what you think! Reviews and the like are what oil the machine for us writers! :-D

Favorite Story: Rixzel, curlytopkristi, lasair8, Alana84, xXPrettyDisturbedXx, shaqieshaq, purpledragonfly74, Darkened Ruby, archetype, Dirt Rider 712, and Devil2Kyuubi.

Author Alert: PHANTOM RANGER, curlytopkristi, timkhj, snampeg, and JovialShogun.

Story Alert: Amiele, ColtBoyd, Dirt Rider 712, Falcon-Rider, Fuzzy Eared, Hawkehunt, Hinotima24, L'anana, MelodyRosewater, Pinellas62, SecretStrangeAngel, The Alternative Source, TheAngelPandora, Tpolich, TrapedSoul, brown-eyed-girl 14, curlytopkristi, darkshadowarchfiend, inuyasharbd15fan09, novageek, purpledragonfly74, .lover, sh0gun, tanza, tinkbaby, and xanthos.

Favorite Author: curlytopkristi, snampeg, and Dirt Rider 712.

Reviewers: King Steve, Tpolich (thanks for the tips about bettering John's characterization), Tom 67, mattieaway, curlytopkristi, ColtBoyd, tanza, Tanya13, Falcon-Rider, Alana84, xXPrettyDisturbedXx, Looking for Inspiration, Sunshine-M, Dark-Syaoran, JovialShogun, The Alternative Source, SecretStrangeAngel, Dirt Rider 712, darkshadowarchfiend, delkolover138, and TrapedSoul.

Written While Under the Influence of: Shakespeare Sister-Stay, Muse-Map of the Problematique, White Zombie-More Human Than Human, AFI-Prelude 12/21, Rob Zombie-Living Dead Girl, Christina England Hale-Ave Maria, Brad Fiedel-Love Scene (from Terminator), NIN-Physical, NIN-Closer, Avenged Sevenfold-The Beast and the Harlot, Shirley Manson-Samson and Delilah, James Carrington-Ache, Rolling Stones-You Can't Always Get What You Want, Anberlin-Paperthin Hymn, Muse-Apocalypse Please, Moby-Why Does My Heart Feel So Sad, Brooks and Dunn-My Heart is Lost to You, Tim McGraw-The Cowboy in Me, Jack White and Alicia Keys-Another Way to Die, Buckcherry-Rescue Me, Lifehouse-Whatever It Takes, Christina Aguilera-Keeps Getting Better, Meredith Brooks-Bitch, Screaming Trees-Look At You, Neurosonic-Fearless, and Evans Blue-The Pursuit.

Chapter Two: Map of the Problematique

Fear

And the panic in the air

I want to be free

From desolation and despair

And I feel

Like everything I sow

Is being swept away

Well I refuse to let you go

The dingy biohazard that passed for a men's room at the gas station wasn't exactly high on John's list of places where he wanted to spend an extended amount of time, but with the increasingly confusing turns his life had taken outside of the tiny room, he was seriously considering hiding out in there for as long as possible. Hell, he'd don a hazmat suit right now and clean the entire dump for free if it meant he could postpone the verbal lashing he was one hundred percent certain his uncle was cooking up for him in the SUV.

John didn't know how much his uncle had ascertained about the tense atmosphere in the vehicle when the time-displaced soldier and Sarah returned from filling up the gas tank, but the tension between the younger man and Cameron had been utterly palpable. The sparks flying between them in that moment before Derek interrupted should've been enough to make the entire gas station erupt into a blazing inferno.

At least it'd felt that way for John…

He had no idea if Cameron had experienced anything even remotely similar to what he had and the continual chaos she seemed to oh-so-effortlessly and completely unconsciously inflict upon his thoughts was slowly driving him insane. And there was no perceptible bit of insight on the horizon for him as to just where the hell he and Cameron stood now. He supposed he could just ask, but he could all too clearly imagine how infinitely more awkward things would become when she turned those fathomless brown eyes up to him in a blank stare and then calmly asked him to explain his feelings for her to her. And with the ridiculously interminable streak of bad luck that seemed to follow John around like a lost puppy, there wasn't a single doubt in his mind that that'd be exactly how things would go if he did ask.

John had never been more confused or frustrated in his life and was certain he'd be well on his way to a padded cell if things continued like this. Taking a deep gulp of air into his lungs and trying vainly to calm himself, he vividly remembered the very much alive expression the object of his contemplations had fixed him with just minutes earlier when they were all alone in the backseat of the stolen SUV.

For one blinding second he'd been utterly convinced Cameron was much more human than he'd given her credit for. The emotions he'd seen churning beneath that warm, chocolate brown gaze were too earnest, too intense to be a mechanical recreation of a human feeling. In that moment it'd taken every last ounce of restraint for John to not reach out and run his fingers across the pale, perfectly smooth expanse of her cheek, then down to trace lightly over her lips. Then he would've allowed his fingers to continue beneath her chin to gently guide her face upward so that he could lean in and…

John turned stiffly to the sink and wrenched the one remaining knob around until the water poured out of the faucet full blast. He cupped his hands underneath the flow and splashed some cold water on his face then glared at his reflection in the grimy, shattered mirror on the dusty brick wall directly in front of him, hands bracing his weight against the dirty metal sink.

Why was it so hard for him to admit to himself that whatever it was he was feeling for Cameron was totally one-sided and just get over it? She was a machine. Not some beautiful adolescent girl with a thing for the dark and brooding guy from her chemistry class, but a cold, calculating, mechanical killer that just happened to look like a supermodel and was assigned to protect him with her very life. John sincerely tried to prevent the broad grin that always spread across his face whenever he thought of her devotion to him from forming, but to no avail. For some reason, the depth of her commitment to keeping him safe made him happy. He knew it was sick, but the knowledge that, at least on some level, he was as important to her as she was to him was comforting.

"God, I'm gonna need so much therapy…" John muttered, yanking a brown paper towel out of the battered metal dispenser and scrubbing it hard across his dripping face.

Taking a deep breath and steeling himself for whatever fate awaited him in the black SUV, he stepped out of the restroom and started toward the vehicle in the slow, shambling gait of a man condemned, all the while envisioning Cameron's soulful brown eyes staring back at him.

XXX

Cameron dropped the now ruddy with blood paper towel into the garbage can of the ladies' room, then began methodically examining the damage to the synthetic epidermis of her face in the mirror. The cuts to her forehead and cheeks were purely superficial and would be completely healed within the next twelve hours—the speed of the healing was due to the protein she'd ingested from the beef jerky, as food greatly increased her body's already heightened ability to heal—but she still had to cover the bits of shining endoskeleton peeking out from beneath her flesh until then.

Opening a small compact, she applied a layer of concealer and foundation to the metal, effectively hiding her less-than-human status. When finished she tilted her head slightly from side to side, ensuring that the makeup was doing its job and she looked absolutely human from every possible angle. Satisfied that she looked normal, a little beat-up but normal, she started toward the door and then stopped short.

Her gaze focused on the tangled brown hair hanging in a wild, dark halo around her face. The urge to take the extra—and wholly unnecessary—step to continue to work on fixing her outer appearance completely overwhelmed her for a moment. And before she even made a conscious decision to do so, her right hand had already removed a small hairbrush from her messenger bag and her left had shifted the majority of her hair to one side of her neck so she could more easily reach the gnarled strands. As she eased the bristles through her wayward and knotted tresses, her eyes fell once more upon her reflection in the mirror.

She couldn't stop thinking about what'd happened between her and John in the SUV before Derek interrupted them. Cameron may've been a machine, but—contrary to popular belief—that didn't make her entirely unperceptive to emotional atmospheres. She remembered with the perfect clarity of the most advanced and analytical mind in the world the growing intensity of John's gaze as he stared at her, both of them still slightly shocked by her unanticipated thank you.

Even now Cameron was unsure as to why she'd felt such immeasurable gratitude and admiration to John for not simply leaving her where she'd fallen after the explosion and taking care of himself. Had she been able to, Cameron would've advised him to have done exactly that in the situation. She'd been damaged to the point where she was no longer an asset but a liability, and John couldn't afford to put himself in danger to protect her, a machine, of all people.

So why did it…please…her so much that he'd done just that? Put himself in danger to protect her?

Cameron knew it couldn't have been an easy decision for him to make, neither Sarah nor Derek would've encouraged him to help her; their invariably negative reaction to aiding her was a foregone conclusion painfully obvious even to her. The two older humans hated her; well Derek hated her, while Sarah probably vacillated between extreme annoyance on a daily basis to grudging tolerance whenever Cameron proved useful as either a battering ram or a convenient shield.

But no, instead of reproaching John for risking his own safety for hers and then explaining to him how she was expendable in comparison to him, she'd thanked him—in essence encouraging him to do something like that again. Frustrated with her own inconsistency, Cameron raked the brush so roughly through her hair that it crackled and half a dozen strands pulled free from her scalp, a frown turning down the corners of her mouth.

Cameron had always known that her life was unimportant, she was a tool—as essential as a loaded gun or a hand grenade—nothing more, but yet in that moment when the explosion tore through the Jeep, the flames enveloping her and burning her, she'd felt the first stirrings of emotions that were totally foreign to her.

Fear and regret.

She'd never before feared for her own life. She'd almost perpetually been filled with concern for John whenever she wasn't at his side and her fear for him immediately after the explosion had sky-rocketed, but this time it'd been joined by a mirrored emotion for herself.

She did not…want…to die.

But despite that fact, her menu screen had exploded with an amalgam of statistics and warnings all amounting to one inescapable conclusion: TERMINATION IMMINENT. Her limbs were weak, the power rapidly flowing out of them, leaving them hanging limply at her sides, utterly useless. Sparks flew from her damaged circuits, sealing her fate with every brilliant spark of life that leapt away from her. And that was when the fear attacked her, sending an acrid, palpable shiver down her spine as she resigned herself to the inevitable. She was as good as dead…

But then she heard John's voice…calling her name…drawing her back to him…

The anxiety and uncompromising loyalty that imbued his tone, combined with her own terror, fortified her resolve and Cameron had suddenly felt the strength and determination return to her. An instant later, she'd propelled her body—injured as it was—out of the burning wreckage that'd only moments prior been the Jeep and away from the fire licking hungrily at her flesh.

It was his voice that shook her out from beneath the veil of apathy that'd come over her and forced her away from the abyss of nothingness that awaited her. His voice that'd brought her back from the brink… She'd always come back for that voice… Always for him.

She'd latched onto the glimmer of hope his voice offered her like a lifeline and used his obstinate confidence in her to bring a different version of events into being through sheer force of will. Cameron Phillips would not die today. She forced her sluggish systems to use the last vestiges of power left within her to search for a solution, any solution, that'd save her from oblivion. Save her so she could continue to protect him.

John needed her and she would not fail him. Ever.

Her salvation had presented itself in the form of a risky and extremely temporary solution, rerouting the flow of power in her circuits to feed off her secondary power supply. But Cameron didn't care about the hazards this action would expose her to; she'd do whatever was necessary to survive and keep him safe.

Shaking off the unsettling memories, Cameron tried to justify to herself the fear she'd felt as merely being part of her mission to protect John. Her entire existence was based off of that one fundamental rule: protect John Connor. So it'd obviously upset her if she failed at her sole purpose in life, right? Since her life was of no consequence without his, it only made sense that she wouldn't want to be unsuccessful at the one thing that gave her life meaning.

While being true, the fact that John's safety was the most important thing to her, it wasn't the only reason she'd been afraid to die. And Cameron was too smart to fool even herself with any of the entirely logical explanations her mind was presently concocting for her errant feelings.

She…liked…being here.

She liked to be around these fascinating and utterly confusing people who so often did things for little to no reason at all. Especially John. The processes of his mind were so complex and intriguing that her inherent curiosity was in a state of perpetual pique when he was around.

Why did he seem to trust her so much at certain times and yet at others not at all? Why did he defend her when Derek accused her of leading Vick to the safe house and keeping his CPU for less than innocent reasons? Why had he been so physically attentive to her after he replaced her chip? Why had he been holding her hand when she awoke on the couch after the explosion?

All these questions and dozens more relentlessly ran through her mind without even the slightest inkling of an answer presenting itself whenever she wasn't preoccupied with something pertinent to her mission. And just the mere implication that she'd be forced to leave all of that behind if she died had fostered a fierce, unreasoning fear deep within her.

The sensation of regret had also been highly disturbing. She regretted that there was so much she'd yet to do or experience. There were thousands of things she was interested in, the majority of which also centered around John. She regretted that she'd yet to grasp even half of the strange and completely incomprehensible sensations he sent surging through her body with a few words, a gesture, or just a look…like before in the car.

Her stomach instantly felt tight and her cheeks flared with a faint blush as she imagined the way his eyes had looked. The usually jade green color of his irises had darkened nearly to evergreen when he fixed them intently on her, piercing her through with an intensity and severity that caused wave after wave of strong and confusing emotions to go crashing through her.

With a frustrated sigh, Cameron ended her introspection and resigned herself to the fact that her hair looked as close to normal as it was going to get for the moment. She replaced the brush back in her bag but then her fingertips touched a small tube of Chapstick and she unthinkingly fished it out. Holding the tube before her face and feeling that same odd compulsion to work more intently than necessary to improve her physical appearance, she contemplated the small object for a moment.

Her lips were dry and slightly chapped from the intense heat of the fire and could probably use something to soothe the irritated skin. Less than a second later she was applying the lightly tinted balm to her lips. When she finished she examined the perceptible difference her efforts had made to her appearance then turned on her heel and strode to the door, a self-satisfied flounce adding itself involuntarily to her movements.

Walking in her usual half-stomp, half-saunter manner toward the SUV, she yanked open the door on the right side of backseat and slipped effortlessly into her spot. Her eyes instantly went to John, instinctively checking every inch of him for even the slightest sign of an injury, but instead of finding his eyes already on her as per usual, the teenage boy kept his gaze unwaveringly focused on the back of the headrest in front of him. Cameron's head tilted to the side in an unconscious gesture of deep thought for the machine as she tried to decipher the meaning of why he didn't even glance in her direction. His jaw was clenched shut and his hands were curled into tight fists atop his knees as he sat rigidly beside her.

It…bothered…her that he didn't look at her. Both because it was out of character for him not to and because she genuinely…liked…it when he looked at her—not to mention how it undermined all the added effort she'd just put into improving upon her appearance. She fought back with some difficulty the pout forming on her face at his aloof behavior. The sensation that came over her when he focused those vividly green eyes of his on her confused her as much as it pleased her. There was nothing in her programming about protecting him that should give her pleasure; this was a job she'd been ordered to perform, not something she chose to do, but in spite of that fact, John's intense gaze never failed to send swirls of delight through her system.

"What happened, Tin-Can? Did ya fall in or did you find the tampon dispenser so completely fascinating that you just had to stop and play twenty-questions with the clerk about it?" Derek asked sarcastically, drawing Cameron's attention away from John.

"Are you inquiring about my menstrual cycle? Cybernetic organisms do not menstruate, so I would have no need for feminine hygiene products of that sort. But thank you for your concern," Cameron replied earnestly.

A snicker escaped both Sarah and John at the Terminator's unintentionally funny response. Derek's lips twisted into an irritated grimace as he threw the SUV into gear and backed out of his parking spot then sped toward the highway. Cameron turned her attention back to John and was pleased to find him attempting to surreptitiously watch her from the corner of his eye; his jaw had relaxed ever so slightly and his body had lost some of its stiff posture with the brief moment of levity.

The machine allowed herself to sink back into the seat and continue her constant vigilance of the outside world, oblivious to the ghost of a smile tipping up the corners of her mouth.

XXX

"Moth balls, corn syrup, ammonia, flares, duct tape, needle nose pliers, and a first-aid kit? Man, are you having one wild Friday night…" the clerk at the 24-hour Mega-Mart muttered sarcastically as he scanned John's purchases.

John swallowed the comment he had in mind about how coming from a grease-faced, acne-removal cream advertisement before-picture poster child that really hurt, but allowed his face to contort into an annoyed glower instead. He dumped a crumpled wad of bills onto the counter, accepted his change, then yanked the plastic bags off the counter and stalked outside to the waiting vehicle. He climbed into the backseat wordlessly and dropped the bags behind the seat where half a dozen others were already sitting.

"You get everything on your list?" Derek questioned tersely without even turning to look at his nephew.

"Yeah, did you?" John retorted carefully, controlling the amount of venom coating his words; Derek hadn't yet broached the subject of what'd happened between the teenage boy and Cameron when they were left alone earlier and the last thing John wanted to do was incite him into doing so prematurely.

"Of course I did. A trained monkey could walk into a store, find the stuff written on a list, and get back out, no problem. So I'm pretty sure we can all handle that…" Derek scoffed, voice oozing sarcasm,"with maybe the exception of the defective femme-bot," he tacked on the end as an afterthought.

John bit down hard on his tongue to keep the instinctive impulse to defend Cameron against his uncle's animosity in check.

Do not provoke him, John. Do not get that ball rolling, you know you'll regret it when Hurricane Derek gets going on the subject of you and Cameron, so just sit back and take it…for now. John told himself as he shifted in his seat and pointedly looked out the window instead of responding to the bait his uncle had just thrown his way.

He was going for the 'eternally pissed off teenager annoyed with pretty much anything and everything around him' vibe as he feigned interest in the desert sky off in the distance. He hoped Derek wouldn't take advantage of the fact that the two of them were now alone to address what John knew his uncle had wanted to talk about ever since the teenager had returned to the SUV at the gas station. And John actually was annoyed to tell the truth.

More so with the situation with Cameron, having to leave "home" again, and his uncle's antics than with the fact that they'd been bouncing all over this dusty border town for the last two and a half hours. The four of them had been gathering the supplies necessary to repair Cameron as well as to increase their arsenal of explosives—John grimaced at the thought of spending the entire night making a batch of plastique yet again—at various locations so as to not arouse suspicion by buying everything in one place.

But John hoped Derek would interpret his irritated expression as having to do with the more petty aspects of their current situation and mercifully leave him be rather than invoke the torrent of his teenage complaints. Thankfully for him, Derek silently started up the SUV a moment later and maneuvered out into the empty street, headed toward the Quick-E-Mart where they'd left Sarah and Cameron fifteen minutes before.

XXX

Cameron walked down the aisle of the store, keenly aware of the security camera positioned in the corner of the room and deliberately keeping herself always on the periphery of the lens' range so that she was a scarcely distinguishable blur at the very edge of the screen. The little blue basket on her arm was filled with mostly hygiene products—toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc.—as well as more of what Sarah called "junk food" since they didn't want to run the risk of being recognized that going to a restaurant entailed as they headed to Mexico in the morning.

As she stepped into the next aisle, her eyes fell on a rack of candles and she stopped dead in her tracks as a wave of déjà vu came over her. Quirking her head to the side, she tried to discern why those candles—that were way too small to be of much use for anything—seemed so familiar. Cameron reached out and pulled a diminutive package of red-and-white striped candles off the rack and skimmed over the words printed on the front.

Birthday Candles, the tiny off-white box's label read.

Her eyes widened as realization dawned in her mind; she'd been going to buy John a birthday cake when the Jeep had exploded. She very seriously doubted Sarah or Derek were in the mood or even thinking of continuing with the plans for the customary celebration of John's birthday, but she clearly remembered how important John had told her the day was to him and she resolved then to observe his birthday with him herself. But she didn't really know what was supposed to be done with a birthday cake. John had mentioned eating one, but what did candles have to do with it?

And even if she wanted to get him a cake, where would she find one? She hadn't seen a single cake in any of the stores she and the others had been to that night.

At that very instant an image filled her mind: Her handing John a cupcake with a single red-and-white striped candle sticking out of the center of it.

"Happy Birthday, John," the vision-Cameron said with a grin.

The vision-John smiled crookedly at her then leaned forward and blew out the tiny flame at the top of the wick.

"Thanks, Cam," he replied, his emerald eyes flashing with amusement.

With a cautious glance toward the clerk—who was completely oblivious to her presence since he was staring intently at the pages of a magazine with the words "Playboy" emblazoned on the cover—she slipped the little box into her messenger bag and then headed to the aisle that held the pastries. Glad for the vivid, yet random inspiration that'd popped into her head.

XXX

The SUV finally lurched to a stop at a motel that'd seen better days just forty miles from the Mexican border and little more than twenty minutes after Sarah and Cameron had been picked up. The older woman turned in her seat and locked eyes with Derek just as he pulled into a parking space and killed the engine.

"Okay, it'd probably raise less suspicion if we pretended that we're here separately than if we're here together, right? If we've made the news they'll be looking for a family of three or four, not two groups of two," the raven-haired woman explained grudgingly, hating the words even as they passed her lips.

She saw a complaint on the horizon in Derek's eyes, but beat him to the punch before he had a chance to voice it, "I don't like it either, but we can't take any chances, so just shut the hell up and go with it."

Sarah then turned to her son and spoke the words that felt like the worst sort of blasphemy ever uttered, "John, take Cameron inside and get a room. Then once Derek and I get one, too, I'll bring you the supplies to get started on her repairs and some bombs, okay?"

John couldn't help the blush creeping up the back of his neck at the thought of spending the night alone in a motel room with Cameron and merely nodded to his mother in response, too shocked to give a verbal reply. He scrambled toward his door handle just as he heard the door on Cameron's side of the vehicle slam shut, the machine not needing any further instructions on the matter. The two younger members of the group hoisted their respective bags onto their shoulders and started across the lot to the motel, but before they got more than three feet from the automobile, Sarah stuck her head out the passenger side window of the SUV and shouted, "A room with two beds, John!"

John's face flushed as red as a cherry and his entire body flinched in intense embarrassment as he gestured for Cameron to continue ahead of him into the motel, allowing him to lag a few steps behind her while he vainly attempted to quell the sudden urge to shoot himself in the head and put himself out of his own misery.

As she flopped back down into her seat with a huff, Sarah felt Derek's gaze on her face. "Don't even say it, okay? I don't wanna hear whatever perverse innuendo you have in mind about them being alone together. She's the best one to protect him in a fight and he's the only one with the ability—or desire—to fix her, so grit your teeth and bear it just for one night."

The words were almost as much for her own reassurance as his, but Derek only grimaced at her and folded his thick arms across his chest instead of answering, Sarah taking on a matching pose as they waited until John and Cameron had already gotten a room before they entered the seedy establishment themselves.

XXX

"We need a room," Cameron demanded bluntly as she strode directly up to the front desk, eyes intently boring into the salt-and-pepper haired man stationed behind it reading a newspaper.

The man's eyes widened in shock when he looked up and saw Cameron standing there then he turned his dazed gaze to John, almost as if to ask for verification as to whether the beautiful girl standing before him were real or not, but the shock instantly melted into a lewd smirk as he took in John's beet-red face.

"With two beds," John added quickly, feeling the flush on his face rocket up a shade darker as the man's bawdy grin widened even more.

The man wordlessly retrieved a key from the almost completely full rack behind him and responded, "Seventy-five dollars a night."

Cameron immediately extracted that amount from her messenger bag and placed the bills into the man's waiting palm. She took the proffered key into her other hand, marched back toward the door they'd just entered through, and strode resolutely outside. John muttered a quick thank-you to the man and turned on his heel to follow her, but his hasty retreat was interrupted when the man called out to him, "Hey, kid."

John turned back around, expression wary.

The man tossed a small, square foil-wrapped package at him and said simply, "Good luck. I get the feeling you're gonna need it."

John caught it in one hand then flipped the little package over and felt the blush travel all the way up to his ears—and probably underneath his hairline as well—as he read the word "Condom" printed on the front. Groaning internally, he gave the older man a derisive half-salute—ignoring the urge to make an entirely different hand gesture—then wandered outside, wishing more than anything for someone to fortuitously run him over in the parking lot and save him from further embarrassment.

XXX

Sarah watched uneasily from the passenger side rearview mirror as Cameron and John disappeared into the third room from the right on the second story of the building.

Taking a deep irritated breath, she yanked open her door and stomped towards the motel, tucking her Glock 30 into the back of her jeans along the way. She impatiently yanked down on the hem of her shirt as she walked to cover the hard metal grip of the weapon resting firmly against the small of her back, Derek falling into step behind her. She jerked open the glass door of the little motel office with so much force that she nearly smacked the future soldier right in the stomach with the handle, but—without even breaking stride—she entered the room and didn't cast so much as a backward glance his way just to check and see if he were okay.

All right, little lady. I've had all the attitude I'm going to take off of you for one night. Kyle's girl or no Kyle's girl, this means war… Derek thought with a roguish grin, a wonderfully evil idea coming to mind.

She was absolutely going to kill him for this, but hell, if he was going to die, at least he was going to do it with one gigantic smile on his face. Derek was sure that somewhere, somehow Kyle was screaming warnings at his older brother right now, but since when did he take any of his kid brother's advice seriously?

Just as Sarah stopped before the counter, lips already twisting up into that vacuous smile she always used around normal people—the one she obviously intended to be personable, but came off as painfully forced and, in the soldier's opinion, damned creepy—Derek stepped scandalously close to her side, violating the parameters of the unspoken no-man's-land she always kept around herself, and casually tossed one arm around her shoulders. Mouth gaping wide in shock, Sarah stared up at Derek like a deer caught in the headlights. Not even attempting to restrain the smirk rapidly overtaking the rough, angular planes of his war-hardened face, the soldier turned to the man behind the desk and said in a voice brimming with barely contained amusement, "Excuse me, but me and the wife need a room."

Sarah's shock instantly dissolved into fury and when Derek turned to see her facial expression, he was met with the all-too-familiar view of her burning green irises narrowed into slits and focused on his own frosty blue ones. Smirk deepening, he hugged Sarah tighter to his body then returned his attention to the other man and continued, "She's so tired from driving all day that she insisted we stop for the night before she'd go any further. But hopefully I can convince her to perk up some once we get into a room. Isn't that right, honey?"

The blatant innuendo in his words wasn't lost on either of the other two occupants of the room; Sarah's eyes sparked with indignation while the old man's crinkled at the edges with humor.

"I don't know, honey. You've got a long day ahead of you tomorrow and I think you're going to need all the rest you can get." The words were little more than an icy hiss through gritted teeth and Sarah's tone seethed with hostility as she went perfectly rigid with rage in his arms.

She turned her head sharply to the side and glared up at Derek, jaw clenched so hard Derek was certain he could hear her teeth grinding together behind her soft pink lips. Her venomous retorts didn't have any effect on him other than causing a derisive, shit-eating grin to firmly plaster itself across his face; arctic-blue eyes betraying his supreme delight at her fury as well as daring her to blow the cover she herself had suggested.

The man behind the desk suddenly dropped a key onto the counter, interrupting Sarah and Derek's latest staring match, and muttered, "A single is fifty dollars a night."

Without removing his other arm from Sarah's shoulders, Derek fished his wallet out of his jeans' back pocket. The second the older man's eyes drifted back to his abandoned newspaper on the desk, the time-displaced soldier distinctly felt Sarah's elbow dig none too gently into his ribs, a characteristically not-so-subtle demand on her part to have him release her. Wincing, Derek complied under the guise of having to use both hands to retrieve the aforementioned amount of money from his wallet.

Derek handed the cash over and reached for the key with one hand, the other discretely moving to lightly massage his tender ribs. Smiling with grim satisfaction at her small victory, Sarah beat him to it and snatched the key off the countertop then strode briskly outside, leaving Derek trailing behind her. His mouth twitched up into another smirk at the anger still emanating from her motions as she stalked back to the car for their luggage and other supplies.

His ribs were definitely going to bruise, but seeing Sarah Connor rise to a whole new level of pissed off had been more than worth the pain, Derek thought as his right hand continued to nurse the sore side of his abdomen.

XXX

Finally getting back to the Sports section in his newspaper, the old man sank back down into his chair, an amused chuckle slipping out from between his weathered lips as he thought about the two odd couples that'd just purchased rooms for the night. Both the women had seemed like spitfires, especially the second one. If he hadn't known any better, he would've thought she was about to take her husband's head off for implying they were about to go have sex in front of a stranger.

Another snicker slipped out as he thought about the teenage boy that'd come in with that little supermodel-in-training in tow. He almost felt a pang of sympathy for the poor kid, he obviously was in way over his head and that girl had looked like she was absolutely going to eat him alive… Lucky bastard.

Smoothing out the crinkled paper and still laughing under his breath, he mused, "Must be something in the water…"

A/N: Okay, that's all for this installment! Sorry if it's not as good as the first, I had originally intended this chapter to be a bit longer and cover way more ground, but I've been in a bit of a writing funk lately and I just wanted to get this thing done and out there since I've had so many requests for an update. So I just went with some exposition and humor—which I hope y'all enjoyed John and Sarah's discomfort as well as Derek's antics, I know I did—instead of the full enchilada, at least until I get my groove back. Don't worry, the next one is sure to be a very interesting chapter… Oh, what do you do with a injured Terminator, a teenage boy, and a cheap motel room…lol Hey, get your minds out of the gutter! I'm talking about repairs, of course! And shower scenes… Now do I have your attention? Lol

All right, y'all know the drill, please review for me and let me know if this was as colossal a disappointment as I fear it is. My writing style has just felt all out of sorts lately, blame my professors for assigning like 5 research papers for me to do all at once. But hopefully I'm just overreacting and y'all like this update as much as the first. Just three more days and I'm out of school till mid-January, so hopefully that'll cure me of my writing blues.

Thanks for reading!

Sassy18