John Connor was forty-one the day he met his father.
It was a few weeks after after they blew the command center for EC-10501, the largest of the extermination camps on what was left of the west coast. It had been built near the site of the middle school he'd attended during the year and a half he spent in foster care in LA, but John was well past the point of thinking about such things by then.
They'd infiltrated the place before hacking the controls, to try to keep things under control, but it took longer than Morros expected and by the time security was compromised enough for them to plant the bombs, it was almost dawn. Daytime was for the H-K's. The people in the camp weren't high on their list of priorities, but John and his men were.
Morros and Brodie and old Jennie Sanchez were killed in the retreat, and they followed the rest of the squad all the way to the coast before Aldman and Yukimi managed to lure them into an old container ship that they'd rigged, just in case. By then it was getting toward sunset and John hadn't slept in almost thee days, but he hadn't freed fifteen hundred people from Skynet just to have them hunted down one by one. They stopped at an outpost long enough to get food and ammo, then headed back.
Perry had kept things as calm as she could, but 'calm' was a relative term when you were dealing with hundreds of terrified people, and John had his hands full breaking the mass of detainees into manageable groups and getting them to shelter before Skynet sent more H-K's after them. The machines had some odd blind spots about the camps and would probably take a while to regoup, but there was no point in taking chances.
10501 turned out to be a goldmine. Most of the other camps had been old people and kids, the ones slow and weak enough to get caught, but this one was mostly teenagers. At least half of them were of an age to fight. John had never conscripted anyone in his life, but it wasn't like they had anywhere else to go, anything else to fight for. By the time he woke up the next night, he had eight hundred volunteers, almost more than he knew what to do with.
He promoted Perry and gave her what was left of Sanchez's squad, set them to training their new recruits. He met with the kids, but it was mostly for show; he woudn't remember more than one in ten, and half of them would be dead inside a year. Good for morale, though.
He was inspecting the troops and trying to figure out how the hell he was going to arm all of them when one of them caught his eye. Later, he couldn't say what it was that gave him pause; the young soldier was, to all appearances, just another tough, scrawny kid with haunted eyes and too many scars. Still, there was something about his straight nose and thin-lipped mouth, the set of his shoulders, something familiar.
Stifling a sudden surge of dread, John turned back. "You," he said, pointing. "Hey, kid."
The young man--a boy, really, not more than sixteen and probably not even that--straightened. "Sir?"
John hesitated, rubbed his jaw nervously, then stuffed his hands in his pockets. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Perry staring at him. It was stupid, probably, but he had to know. "What's your name, kid?"
The kid's back straightened more, chin lifting, pride written in the haggard lines of his face and John saw himself there, knew the answer in the pit of his stomach before the boy answered, "Reese, sir. Kyle Reese."
John took a step forward, then stopped. He'd wondered about this moment for years, rehearsed for it, even, when he was a kid. Turned out that all the practice in the world hadn't given him a clue what to say. Couldn't tell him. Couldn't grab him and stare at him, shake him, hug him, apologize to him.
They had the same build--lanky, lean, wiry rather than muscular. John was taller, but that was probably because he'd actually had enough to eat when he was growing up. Most of the kids born after Judgement Day were short. Malnourished.
Mom had almost never talked about his father. They had less than three days together, and it was like every memory was precious because there were so few of them. Like she was afraid of wearing them out. He remembered one night, when he was around ten--Mexico, camping out under the stars and the smog--she'd been drinking, and when he got up to get more firewood, she caught his arm. Her expression was soft, the way she almost never was with him.
You look so much like your father, she'd said. John remembered the way she looked at his face, tracing his cheeks with her hands, so gentle. It was one of the few moments from his childhood that he treasured.
She was right. He did look like his father. Reese. Kyle Reese. Who was staring at him, curiousity edging over into confusion, so young under a layer of habitual wariness. A kid, still.
John lifted his hand, hesitated again, then dropped it onto the boy's shoulder. Under the rough canvas was skin and muscle, warm, strong, alive.
"Welcome to the resistance, Kyle Reese."