TITLE: The Price of Victory

AUTHOR: indie

CHARACTERS: Sarah Connor/Derek Reese


WARNINGS: Dark. Very dark.

DISCLAIMER:Don't own 'em. Don't know who does.

TIMELINE:Set during season 2, but very AU. Spoilers for anything that has already aired in the US.

Derek starts to roll over and quickly thinks better of it. He holds perfectly still, taking shallow breaths. He slowly opens his left eye and stares at the light blue pile of the bathmat. It's morning, late morning from the way the light is slanting across the part of the kitchen floor that he can see in the distance. There aren't any windows in the bathroom and the light isn't on, but the door is open and there's a clock on the wall. If he wanted to sit up, he could look at the time. But he won't do that.

He's sure that if he absolutely had to, he could force himself into a sitting position. But the circumstances under which that would be possible are few. Very, very few. If his own life depended on it, he's pretty damn sure he'd rather die.

"Do you require assistance?"

"Fuck off." At least that's what he tries to say. Through the (at least) two (probably three) cracked teeth, split lip and swollen jaw, he isn't sure what it sounds like to the machine. He doesn't care. It knows enough to know that it should leave him the hell alone. That's why he's in here in the first place. He would have stayed where he was when he came to, but he dragged himself into the bathroom because it's the one room that isn't on the machine's regular nightly patrol circuit.

He hears the heavy footfalls and a pair of worn motorcycle boots come into view. Again, Derek doesn't move. He just lays there staring through the one eye he can open out into the kitchen.

Charley crouches down and studies Derek for quite a while before he finally hooks an arm through Derek's and pulls him into a sitting position, leaning him back against the tub.

Derek makes a noise that doesn't sound human, even to his own ears. He has no idea if it has a damn thing to do with the excruciating physical pain or not. He suspects not. He's been in worse shape than this and never made a sound. He doesn't look at Charley because he doesn't want to know if Charley suspects as much. Or if Charley feels the same way.

Charley sits there, probably making sure Derek won't topple over again. He disappears and comes back a few minutes later with a large bowl, towel and a glass of water. Derek's pretty sure the bowl is from the living room and that it was full of potpourri. Charley helps Derek take a drink of the water, then holds the bowl as Derek spits blood, tissue and chunks of tooth into the bowl.

Charley grimaces, but doesn't say anything. He sets down the bowl and reaches into his pocket. He takes out a bottle of pills and shakes them. "Can you swallow these? I can give you a shot, but that'll put you out again. This stuff will just take the edge off enough for you to move."


Charley pops the cap on the pill bottle and shakes a few into his palm. He holds them out to Derek and Derek lifts his hand to take them. But rather than dropping the medication into Derek's waiting hand, Charley pauses. He reaches out and grasps Derek's hand, studying it. He turns it over and then pushes up Derek's sleeve before finally releasing his hand. Charley drops the pills into Derek's palm and helps him take another drink of water.

Derek sits there, hoping to God the pills work fast. He watches as Charley dumps the bowl into the toilet and flushes it. He turns around and looks at Derek. "There's no defensive marks on your hand or arm."

Derek doesn't reply.

"Did you want her to beat you to death?"

Derek looks up at Charley and then back toward the kitchen.

Half an hour later, Derek has managed to move himself to the couch. He sits there, watching Charley pace. Charley stops in front of the kitchen door and quickly looks away. "We can't …" He trails off, clears his throat and starts again. "We can't leave him there. We have to do something."

"We'll bury him next to Kyle."

Charley turns around and looks at Derek, surprise written on his features. Charley Dixon really sucks at covert agendas.

Derek takes pity on the paramedic. "She didn't tell me. I figured it out."

Charley smiles wryly at that. At least Sarah was true to form. Trust no one. Not even her son's uncle.

"Do you know where Kyle's buried?" he asks.

Derek shakes his head. "No."

Charley sighs and rubs the back of his neck. "Sarah won't wake up for hours and we can't wait that long."

"We'll wait as long as it takes."

Charley gapes at him and Derek knows it's on the tip of his tongue to ask him if he understands what that means, if he understand how much a human body can decompose in a matter of hours. But then luckily Charley seems to remember who he's talking to and he figures, yeah, Derek Reese probably does know exactly how much a human body can decompose in a matter of hours and what it's like to be in close quarters with one as it does.

At least there's just one body. They left the girl behind. John would have been pissed, but what John would have thought or felt or done is a moot point now.

Derek doesn't help. Nothing and no one can help. But he doesn't even try to render assistance. He can hear the play by play, clearly imagine it in his head even though they're out of his line of sight. The machine physically subdues Sarah while Charley tries to talk to her.

In this case, the machine will intervene regardless of explicit orders. Because if the machine doesn't intervene, Sarah Connor harm herself. As long as Sarah was beating the shit out of Derek with everything she had, no protective subroutines engaged. Derek Reese has not been and will never be important. Only the Connors matter. But once Sarah realized she couldn't actually beat Derek to death, she was out of targets. And the minute she turned on herself, the machine stepped in. At least it had the sense (do machines have sense? Programming. Whatever.) to call Charley. He sedated Sarah, forced her into a drugged sleep. It was preferable to the machine holding Sarah down while she screamed those inhuman screams.

But now Sarah's awake and she really doesn't want to have a conversation about where to bury her dead son. Derek doesn't blame her one damn bit. But despite the way he wishes he didn't, he does understand his role in this.

He pushes himself off the couch, ignoring the way his ribs crack as he moves. He steps into the master bedroom. It's a mess. Sarah's a mess. The machine prevented her from killing herself, but Sarah got quite a ways with the self-harming. There are claw marks on her arms, neck, face, all self-inflicted. Her voice as she rages is broken, hoarse, like nails across chalk board. There are deep bruises everywhere, probably from the machine holding her down.

Derek sits down on the edge of the bed, watching Sarah. She stops, all at once. Stops screaming, stops struggling.

"Tell me where Kyle's buried, so we can lay John to rest with family. He deserves that. They both do."

Sarah blinks at him and then does the one thing she hasn't done. She cries. There are no sobs, no noise at all. Just giant tears that roll down her bruised and bloody face until they disappear into her hair.

Sarah chokes out an address and Derek nods.

The fight has gone out of Sarah Connor.

As much as he hated the way she was revered by the troops in the trenches, and as much as he personally thinks she's an uppity bitch and a pain in the ass to live with, he's shocked at how profoundly the sight of her there, kneeling next to the freshly turned earth of her son's grave destroys him.

Watching her might be worse than burying John.

"John Connor himself may have been the link to the propagation of Skynet."

Derek turns and glares at the machine. He quickly glances over at Sarah, who is standing mutely on the patio, staring out at the skyline.

"John destroyed both the Turk and the T-1001, Weaver. Cromartie has been destroyed. Skynet's infrastructure has been decimated. There are no indications that Judgment Day will happen."

Derek can't help himself. He snaps. "And you think that's because John is dead?" he demands.

The machine cants its head to the side for a moment and then straightens it again. "It is possible. The survival of John Connor could have been linked to the survival of Skynet. Every move one side made to try and thwart the other could have unintentionally lead to their survival."

"Shut the fuck up."

Derek turns back to Sarah, but she's still standing in the same place. Her back to them, clothes hanging off her thin frame, hair pulled back in a messy ponytail.

It's several long moments before he notices the pool of dark liquid at her feet.

"Shit!" He's running for her before his mind has finished processing the thought.

Jesse is standing there, watching him and Derek has absolutely nothing to say. He doesn't even tell her the news – that it looks like they finally stopped Judgment Day. It will be a long while before he realizes that's because he doesn't care.

"So this is it," she says carefully, absently brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes. "You're leaving me for her."

Derek shrugs. There isn't enough humor left in him to enjoy the irony. He isn't going to tell Jesse that he sleeps with his arms wrapped around Sarah every night because he knows if he leaves her alone for more than a minute, she'll find a way to off herself. Mostly because he isn't sure why he should give a fuck if Sarah Connor offs herself. Especially now.

Maybe he needs someone more pathetic than himself to worry about.

Or maybe he just needs company in hell.

Sarah Connor was never pathetic. Not in the years she protected John. Not when she mourned his death. And not even now when the only thing that keeps her going is the need to find a way out.

"Hang in there, Jesse."

"Acute myelogenous leukemia. AML."

Derek stares mutely at the doctor. He looks down at his hand, fingers interlaced with Sarah's. A presumably intimate gesture that holds no actual intimacy. The thick scar that runs along her wrist and inner arm is clearly visible. The doctors were able to patch her up that time. But now …

He looks up at the doctor. "The prognosis?"

The doctor purses his lips together. "Remission rates in healthy adults are encouraging with aggressive treatment," he says. It's semantics. Obviously Sarah is unwell. "But relapse rates are high."

Derek looks over at Sarah. Her head is bowed, her eyes on the floor. But there's the slightest smile on her lips.

Half an hour later, they leave the office with prescriptions and appointments and an impending sense of dread. At least that's what Derek feels. He's pretty sure he doesn't want to know what Sarah feels.

She stops and turns to look at him. "Bury me with them," she says simply before continuing on her way back to the truck.

She isn't looking, but he nods. He'll bury her with John and Kyle.

Who the hell will bury him?