TITLE: Sympathy for the Devil
FANDOM: Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles
WARNINGS: Spoilers for everything that's aired in the US, including the movies.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Don't know who does.
TIMELINE: Set around 2.05
SUMMARY: But John Connor – the John Connor Derek knew in the future - never had the comfort of a confidant.

"We all die for you."

Derek Reese would die for John Connor. That much has been true for years. Derek knows the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. And he has always known that John Connor's life is more important than his own.

Derek Reese would die for John Connor. But if it happened today, he wouldn't be dying to save the future leader of the human resistance. He would be dying to save the nephew he loves. Derek spends a lot of time these days thinking about John Connor. Not his nephew. Despite the circumstances, in a lot of ways, John is still a typical sixteen year old kid. He isn't a black box. Not like the John Connor who lives in Derek's memories. The man his nephew will one day become.

One day …

It really messes with Derek's head – even now – to try and reconcile the fact that the boy he knows will become the hard-as-nails, secretive-as-fuck general Derek will know in the future. That man is the John Connor who occupies Derek's mind these days.

Derek hated John Connor. There were many times when he was grateful for the guy, many times when he respected him, but underneath it all, Derek always hated him too. And now … Now Derek isn't sure what he thinks about John Connor.

Derek was always certain that Connor distrusted him as much as he distrusted Connor. They didn't interact a lot, but when they did, Connor always seemed to be checking up on him, second guessing him. It drove Derek nuts. He thought the guy insisted on treating him like some incompetent kid.

"You need to tuck your elbow in," Derek says, picking up the baseball and tossing it back to the kid.

The kid frowns, clearly unappreciative of the advice. Derek remembers being that age. He remembers how stupid adults were. All adults. Even himself, apparently. Derek says nothing, turning to resume his seat on the park bench.

Is this how the adult John Connor felt when he saw Derek's younger self and Kyle? Was it the same thing Derek feels when he looks at this eleven year old version of himself playing ball in the park with Kyle? How the fuck did Connor do it? How did he spend six years in Century with Kyle and not once let the secret slip?

Derek watches his younger self with Kyle so intently his eyes burn. It eats him up inside not to be able to go to them, to tell them who he is, to tell them who they are to him, to swear to them that he'll stop it, he'll make it all better, he'll spare them the history he had to live. He came here for months on end, shadowing the boys, torturing himself. And then, when he found Sarah and John, when he realized who and what John Connor really is to him – Derek couldn't keep it to himself.

He had to bring John here. He had to let his nephew see Kyle. And it was as much of a relief as Derek hoped – to be able to finally share the knowledge, the connection, with someone who could truly appreciate what it meant. Hell, it might have actually meant more to John. It was the first time, the only time, John had ever seen his father. For Derek it was a twisted trip down memory lane, but for John, it was the beginning, the first time his father was truly flesh and blood.

But John Connor – the John Connor Derek knew in the future - never had the comfort of a confidant. Derek can't be certain, of course. He definitely wasn't a member of Connor's inner circle. But still … he knows. He knows Connor never told anybody about his father. He carried that knowledge, that connection all by himself. He bore Derek's animosity and Kyle's adoration with outward impartiality.

He let Derek hate him, possibly even encouraged it. That fact shames Derek. Knowing how intensely his teenage nephew clings to him, he can only imagine how difficult that must have been for Connor. And yet, Connor did it. He weathered it. Just like he weathered everything else. And it pisses Derek off to no end. Because John is a good kid and he doesn't deserve to have to become the kind of manipulative bastard who has to deal with that shit.