NOTES: This is the sequel to my previous story "Only Lonely". I'd recommended reading that one first. This story takes place during "Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point".
SUMMARY: The truth of John and Cameron's relationship spreads to those willing to go to any lengths to undermine it.
DISCLAIMER: All characters herein are the property of someone other than me. No profit has been earned.
Dextrous fingers and an opposable thumb wrapped around the spiky crown of the black game piece, sliding it gently across the chequered landscape until it collided with an ashen member of the enemy faction. The digits descended further, seizing the fallen soldier and hoisting it off into oblivion.
Cameron Phillips narrowed her eyes as she processed her opponent's move, her thoughts churning amidst the rhythmic ticking of a pale pine game clock. The move played back through her mind, the quantum network of her CPU firing countless electrons between the nodes of its circuitry as it explored every possible outcome, every strategy, scraped its detailed files to glean whatever insight it could from the psychology of her opponent.
Sitting in the opposite chair, John Connor was a stoic pillar that surrendered nothing under her scrutiny, his face as illegible as she had ever known. He reached for a nearby glass of orange juice, downing a citric mouthful to cover his smile.
"Need any help?"
Camerons' eyes narrowed even further. "I'm thinking."
She refocused on the board, devoting more and more resources to the game's solution, but an area within her mind refused to cede any more runtime, consumed with a growing concern that had been building for days. Soon all her thoughts wandered from strategy and computation to the day after San Diego, driving back to the border after uncovering Cromartie's empty grave.
Everything had been fine until Cameron had felt a sudden wave of heat and disorientation, demanding John pull over on the desolate road where she burst out of the truck, doubling over as her stomach contracted in unpleasant spasms. John had soon been at her side to help, smoothing her hair back until the ordeal had stopped and he'd helped her back in the truck, insisting she drink some water.
It had been one of the most traumatic experiences she had ever had. Her body had acted of its own accord and it only got worse a few hours later when her HUD had sprung to life, flashing warnings of a foreign invasion. A tiny mass that had begun to metabolize and divide.
It had immediately offered up the methods of how her system could attack, the options arranged in order of efficiency and cold precision.
She'd only had a split second to decide.
"Any time, Cam."
Twin pools of chocolate brown looked up, confusion in both that betrayed her minds' wanderings. She looked back down at the board and calculated her move, reaching out to select her remaining rook, sliding it into his knight before tapping the button on the clock.
As John began his contemplations Cameron questioned the wisdom of confronting him about her fears. John had not always been easy to talk to, sometimes reacting with revulsion or outright fear when she questioned him about things. Though that had been before their relationship had changed.
Five days, twenty-two hours, seventeen minutes and fourteen seconds since John had kissed her for the first time. A small eternity for a cyborg in which his reactions to her had become very important. When he was complimenting and affectionate she was happy beyond reason; when they had even the slightest disagreement she was devastated.
She did not want there to be disagreement over this.
"John…" She stopped before continuing, the words of the dreaded question suddenly becoming frightening.
"Yeah?" His hand paused midway to making a move.
She steeled her resolve, looking him straight in the eye. "Are we okay?"
If he said 'no' she had no idea what she would do.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean us," The words felt very difficult to get out, her fear growing of the answer. "You've been… indifferent lately."
He was silent for a moment. "Indifferent how?"
"Usually… we don't play chess before going to bed."
John looked caught in headlights as his mind groped for a credible answer.
"Why haven't we been intimate since San Diego?"
"I like sex, John. I've told you that."
His silence unnerved her more than any words could, and she dared to utter the unimaginable.
"Is it because of the baby?"
"NO! Of course not! It's just…" John silenced himself, clamping down on his feelings.
Grief swelled up inside Cameron as the certainty of the root of their problems settled in her mind. John's distance, the uneasiness, all the brooding; it all fit logically into place.
"You regret my decision."
John exhaled as though it pained him, burying his face in his hands as he tried to regroup, taking a deep breath as his arms drew back to the table, looking her straight in the eye. "No I don't. It was the right choice."
Cameron frowned. "Then why have you been so distant?"
Truthfully he didn't have an answer, his mind a riddle of feelings and confusion more so than any time in his life. Judgement Day had taken a welcome backseat. He knew she was right though. He had been distant. Whenever he saw her lately, half of him wanted to wrap his arms around her, the other to flee the room. Sex had been the last thing on his mind.
He felt his heart beating out of control, not at all in a good way, his body beginning a familiar sinking feeling that made him sick to his stomach and his chest short of a lung.
He couldn't deal with this. Not now. No matter how much he might want to.
He reached out, grasping a rook and moved it just a few spaces across the board.
He rose out of his chair and without another word headed for the stairs, leaving his partner in the cavernous silence of the living room.
Cameron felt a stab of emotion slice through her, forcing her to clamp down on it as hard as she could, her face a blank mask, remaining impassive as tears escaped down her round cheeks.
Her every fear had been true.
The sterile squeak of latex elastic was the only noise Derek Reece made as he slipped the hock pick into the keyhole, jimmying it until he felt the internal mechanisms slide free with a gratifying click. Holding the door open he waved Sarah Connor inside before retrieving his black satchel from the floor, his eyes sweeping around before following her in.
They moved quietly through the deserted offices, eyes everywhere, the air alive with the static tang of new carpet and magnolia emulsion. The lights had been dimmed to minimal levels, leaving just enough for navigation as they swung around a corner and approached their target.
Sarah's gaze drifted up a vertical timber plinth to the triangular pattern of a company logo.
The pair moved into a secluded section partitioned off from the rest of the office, its inhabitants a wealth of electronic equipment and computer base units in the process of being assembled.
"We should have brought John." Derek admitted as he looked over the daunting assembly.
Sarah's hands were already into the guts of the machines. "We don't need to know much about computers. I know how to do this." She yanked hard, pulling the hard drive from the first computer and handing it to him. "Get the ones over there."
Derek slipped the drive into his satchel before placing it on a nearby table, moving to disassemble his first computer. He glanced at Sarah as she worked, mulling over the wisdom of voicing what had been on his mind.
"I noticed John's been acting different lately."
He shrugged. "Just preoccupied. I thought after breaking up with that Riley he'd have less to think about."
There was no way Sarah was going to broach the reasons for John's preoccupation at the moment. Partly because she didn't understand them herself. Since his confession to her about his love for Cameron she'd been confident that John had made a healthy turn in his life. But since returning from Mexico, sans Cromartie, he'd been noticeably withdrawn.
"John's doing what he does best; thinking."
Derek's hard drive sprung loose from its housing. "About what?"
She detected the earnestness in his tone and knew time was running out for John to level with his uncle; tell him what was really going on with him and the machine.
It was a confrontation with Derek she didn't relish.
"There's… been some changes lately…" She half-bit the bullet.
Derek's brow knitted together, apprehension expanding in his stomach, her manner telling him just how much he was going to like this.
"Don't start now, Derek. Save it until we've finished breaking and entering."
Her tone left no doubt that the subject was shelved.
After stripping down the last computer the would-be burglars packed together their things and headed back down the building's lobby, latex gloves snapping off and shoved into pockets at the last possible moment before they were greeted by the most amenable valet Derek's gratuity could buy.
"Hey there!" The young man exclaimed, body and soul lighting up as he saw the pair. "I got your wheels right over here. Engine still running, just like you asked." He guided them over to their waiting vehicle, its engine as described and Derek slipped him several notes in reward.
"Don't spend it all at once."
The man's smile was a crescent of unnatural white as the four-wheel drive pulled off into the dark. "No promises!"
As Sarah gunned the vehicle down the inner city street she could sense the seething figure that sat beside her. After several minutes of silence however, he'd made no attempt to continue their conversation. She mulled it over in her mind, wondering whether or not to disturb the dragon.
"Aren't you going to ask me anything?"
"Well if you're going to, make it soon; I'm not having this discussion in front of John."
Derek released a great breath he'd accumulated. It was late and he'd missed dinner, too busy carrying on with his secret girlfriend; an explanation to Sarah he didn't relish.
"I get the sense that whatever you're going to tell me I'm not gonna like. Probably lead to a big argument. Right?"
"Well then if you think I'm going to get into it while you're behind the wheel, you've got another thing coming." He spoke without the slightest hint of inflection. It was either a rare attempt at humour or some nihilistic punch line, Sarah couldn't decide which.
Either way, it made her smile.
Pale moonlight bathed the rear patio of the Connor residence, its light casting ghostly shadows across the shapes of the garden, the great city beyond an unhallowed echo from far away. Nightfall had been many hours ago, the sun having dipped far beneath the horizon to allow the stars to shine amidst the white halo of their lunar guardian.
Cameron liked the night. A strange fate for her feelings after so long a time in the darkness of the future. But that night had been different, yielding no greater brightness than perpetual twilight. No stars, no planets. No shepherd moon to light her way.
The night of the past was like a gapping maw into the universe, its great abyss too massive to imagine, showing the world for the petty insignificance that it was. An island in a stream of stars. As Cameron looked up she felt the burden of its emptiness bear down on her, turning on her feelings as quickly as John had done.
Since his gradual absence from her heart the things in her life had equally lost their meaning. The strange foibles of this human world that had once fascinated, filled her with illogical warmth, now felt petty and cruel, making her long for the sterile and heartless world of the machine.
Right now, Cameron wished she had never loved. Wished she had never known such feelings, their absence now an unbearable torment as her soul surrendered to what small humanity remained and she began to cry.
Surprise forced the misery inside her out in a single breath as she felt warm arms slip around her from behind, replacing the void and cold injustice as Cameron felt the dawn.
"I love you."
The gentle sound of John's voice was like music next to her ear, the words a poetry that rebuilt her faith in an instant.
"I'm sorry, Cam."
An ignoble part of her had flared up, wanting to be angry, make him feel the pain he had made her feel. But not now. Not when he said he loved her. Not when he called her 'Cam'.
John watched as she twisted around, threading herself in his arms until their gazes met. He watched quietly as her hands reached up and cupped his face, her fingers searching, giving him that painfully innocent expression that defied anything anyone else would believe. She was such a tactile creature, everything had to be touched and explored, turned over to scrutinise like ancient pottery.
"What did I do wrong?"
He shook his head. "Nothing, Cam. You didn't do anything wrong."
"Sometimes people get scared. Then they get angry and they don't understand why." He tried to explain. "I'm still scared. Even after it's all said and done."
Cameron tried very hard to understand, but the chains of logical programming made it difficult. "I know that I made the wrong decision…"
"No you didn't. We can't afford to think about the consequences if you hadn't. It was painful but it was the right decision. It still is."
"But it caused you a great deal of grief when I told you what I had done."
"I know. But I'm past that now."
John watched as Cameron's uncertainty was slowly replaced by her bright smile, washing away the ill memories of the past few days in a bath of forgiveness that replenished all that had been taken. He pushed back the side of her beautiful hair, threading his fingers around the back of her head before pulling her into a kiss.
She was like heaven to kiss.
He breathed in the cleanness of her hair, her soft skin, any imperfection no less than the flaw of a diamond.
Before long he felt their passion growing, stoking a fire inside him that hadn't burnt in days. Cameron sensed it too as her actions became more indelicate, demanding greater satisfaction as she began pushing him back toward the house.
They broke apart just long enough to speak before she crushed their mouths back together and John had to forcibly resist, breaking from her mouth in an audible smack.
He looked her straight in the eye, wanting no misunderstanding or prevarication to get in the way. This time he wanting her to know he meant every single word.
"I'm so glad you kept our baby…"
Thus begins my new multi-chapter story. Hope you enjoy it and thank you in advance for any reviews.
This story will have more emphasis on Derek and his reaction to John/Cam, similar to how "Only Lonely" focussed on Sarah.
In case you're wondering, the title of the story refers to how fate is sometimes strange and curious.