Author's note: I wrote this last weekend in celebration of the new batch of episodes that began airing last Friday. "The Good Wound" was amazing. I think it'll be one of the most memorable episodes of season two for me. This oneshot is a product of that, I guess you could say; it probes into Sarah's feelings towards both Derek and Kyle, ignoring the cliffhanger ending of the last episode in favour of a more emotional approach to the show's recent events. If you love any of these characters nearly as much as I do, I think you'll enjoy this.
Without further ado...
Sarah Connor tries not to think about the past much. The present and the future require so much of her attention that to dwell too much on the past—what she has lost, and what might have been—would surely lead her farther down the dark road into madness, spiraling into the depths of insanity from which she knows there will be no return, and today that fate scares her more then death. So she shuts away her past, locks her precious memories in a box and buries the box deep, deep inside of her and smothers it with the trials of the present and the terror of the future, like dirty gray thunderclouds enveloping the sun and swallowing its light during a fierce storm. Some of the memories she keeps in that box shine so fiercely with love and light and loss that they blind her, and so must be kept away.
But every once in a while, she'll dig up her memories from their hiding place—under a smoldering apple tree—open the box and touch them, lovingly, one by one, like she once touched her lover, Kyle Reese. As she lightly runs her fingertips over them and rubs them against her cheek, kissing them delicately, she finds to her delight that none of their glow has faded. She can hear Kyle's voice reaching out to her, transcending time and death to bring her comfort and solace on these dark, lonely nights, and it's as strong and clear to her as the day they met. Whenever she thinks of him, her lips quirk up involuntarily. He brought her so much joy for the short time they were together, and his memory still has the power to spark a flame in her heart. She can even remember the way he smelled—the musky, warm scent of sweat and gunpowder. Remembering Kyle makes Sarah feel like a waitress again.
And then, remembering how he died for her, and how she had to watch her love being carried away in a body bag, Sarah's heart breaks all over again and she cries, silent tears rolling down her cheeks late at night when she knows that the moon peering in through her bedroom window is the only one who will ever see. Her tears catch the moonlight as they fall before she dries them away with the back of her hand.
In the morning she scolds herself for her weakness, but a part of her is nothing short of relieved that she can still cry for Kyle, though he died so long ago. It's the proof she needs that the girl he loved didn't die with him, alongside her innocence.
She knows now that theirs is a sad story, a Romeo and Juliet-style tragedy, their love which blazed so brightly and so strongly and was jut as quickly extinguished, and that this is the real reason why no man will ever compare to Kyle for her—not Charley Dixon, not Andy Goode. Not Derek Reese.
As much as he may resemble his brother, Derek reminds Sarah frequently that he is not, and will never be, Kyle Reese. When she looks into his eyes she sees none of the kindness and warmth that Kyle had, which lit him with a glow that drew her to him even when he was raving about the apocalypse. No; Derek's eyes are cold, and though she knows he's good, she suspects the machines have a killed a part of him that they were never able to touch in Kyle. Although he's far from giving up, he is battle-weary, and he carries that weariness like the weight of a hundred dead Resistance soldiers on his shoulders. He is distant. He is stubborn and surly and mistrusting and some days the fact that he's Kyle's brother is the only thing that stops her from beating his head in.
And yet, the day she'd seen him standing barefoot in the backyard in his pajamas, marveling at the softness of the grass, something inside her had broken a little bit for him.
The bullet is something of a blessing. She gets to see Kyle again, and the touch of his hand and kiss of his lips is so warm and wonderful that for a while she doesn't care that he isn't real and she is teetering on the edges of death and insanity. She knows she might be joining him soon, and she's tired… but she also knows her son needs her now more than ever. She's not ready to go.
Derek comes for her, like Kyle said he would. Like she knew he would. She lives to fight another day, but her feverish babbling and the nurse's bewildered questions deserve some explanation. Sarah feels she owes him that much, at least.
"I want to explain to you," she says, "about John. About your brother."
"You don't have to explain anything," he replies. Not looking at her, keeping his eyes on the road. Sarah bites back a strange sort of smile, thinking she should have known. Should've known, should've known. And yet a part of her had known that he'd known, all along. Why else did it feel like having an absent father when he wasn't around? Why else was John so angry and sullen lately? Why else could she feel their family crumbling when Derek went off, if they'd never been a family to begin with? Derek must have felt it. He would've had to be an idiot not to. She and John had lived with Charley Dixon for six months, and though he had come to love John, and John had come to trust him, he'd never fit into the space that Derek had so quickly come to fill. Trying to put Charley in that empty space was like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole, but even if he was surly and distant, even if he was a pain in the ass most of the time—Derek had fit there seamlessly.
His tone, however, is careless, apathetic. He isn't looking at her. Sarah has to wonder if there's something he's not telling her about. She would like some sort of reason as to why they never see him lately. A sudden surge of anger hits her as she wonders why Derek has been abandoning them if he's known all along that Kyle was John's father.
They see clouds of smoke. Derek takes the truck down to the end of the dirt road and Sarah finds a smoldering crater where the warehouse--her link to Skynet and the only good evidence she had that she is not crazy--used to be, obliterated. She gets out of the truck in spite of Derek's warning about her leg. She swears loudly and wants to hit something, except all of a sudden she feels very, very tired. She just wants to go home, so they do.
The ride is mostly silent. Sarah stares out the window and watches things rush by—houses, trees, road signs, grass and shrubs and telephone poles blurred into comfortingly indiscernible smears of colour and soundless noise as they drive. She rests her forehead against the cool glass of the window and allows her eyes to drift partway shut, wanting to fall asleep but finding she can't. Several things occur to her, drifting in and out of the forefront of her mind. She needs a shower. She needs a hot meal. She needs a cup of coffee. She needs Derek. This realization comes to her with a jolt, and her mouth twitches into another bizarre sort of half-amused smile. She needs Derek, and John needs him too. It's a strange sort of feeling, to know that he's that important to their lives. Sarah has become so chronically used to not needing anybody, ever since John was born, and now she realizes that this man, Kyle Reese's older brother, has snuck up on her and invaded her life in such a way that she knows if he were to leave—if something were to happen to him, or if they were to split paths—that they wouldn't be the same after he'd gone. She would, of course, throw her shoulders back and put up a strong front for her son and pretend that he never really mattered that much to begin with, but inside she'd be torn, and she's quite sure John would be nothing short of devastated. She's not sure how she feels about this. Alarmed, mostly.
She glances at the man sitting across from her, driving her home. He stares intently at the road in such a way that tells her he is trying very hard to look like he wasn't just watching her a moment ago.
The sun is going down by the time they reach the house. They make no idle conversation; Derek goes immediately to the kitchen for a beer and Sarah wanders, thinking how strange it is to have him alone in the house again. "John should be home soon," he says to her, and then drifts out to the back porch. She thinks about her son, off in some hospital somewhere, looking after a girl who tried to off herself, and hopes that the machine is doing her job, keeping him safe.
Sarah knows she should be resting as she glances out the back window at the man sitting there on the edge of the porch, alone, drinking his beer. The sun is sinking behind the horizon, setting the sky alight, and Derek stares off into the distance at nothing in particular. Instead of retiring to her bedroom like she should, she quietly slips out the back door and joins him. He doesn't acknowledge her except for a quick glance (not that she expected any more from him), and neither rejects nor welcomes her presence. Sarah goes to him like a girl craving her older brother's attention but unsure how to ask for it without annoying him—not that she'd ever admit that, even to herself. They are both silent for a long moment, not looking at each other. The world is mostly quiet. Crickets sing in the dry, dead grasses.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner," she says, finally. Derek shrugs carelessly, one shoulder rising and falling lightly.
"Thought I told you that you didn't have to explain anything." He takes another slug of his beer. Sarah shakes her head, staring into her lap.
"I should have said something." He looks at her properly at last, fixing her with a firm, steady gaze. His eyes hold no anger, not yet at least.
"Then why didn't you?"
Because although when she'd found out what Derek was, she clung to it desperately—although she was very fond of the idea of having Kyle's brother around, she wasn't sure she was really ready for it. She couldn't bring herself to properly accept him into their lives, wasn't comfortable with the idea of John looking up to him in the way a boy looks up to a father when it had been just the two of them all these years, and hated even the possibility that she might come to rely on him as anything other than a fellow member of their little brigade. She'd been so used to fighting alone. It had always just them, her and John, against the world. Sarah supposed she'd known somewhere in the back of her mind that it would have to change one day, but when Derek Reese had arrived in their lives, she'd failed to confront the situation. She'd clung too tightly to the way things had been, to the time when she was her son's one and only hero, and now everything was slowly falling apart.
Of course she can't say any of these things, even though they're true; she'd sound ridiculous. So Sarah only shakes her head and bites her lip. "I was scared," she offers, and Derek can take it or leave it. He does neither, staring fixedly at the horizon.
"Kyle died protecting you, didn't he?" He asks softly. Sarah nods mutely, a hard lump rising in her throat, and Derek looks away. "Yeah, that was Kyle," he mutters. "The big damn hero."
"Reese, I'm sorry. I—" She chokes.
"Why're you sorry? You didn't kill him," he says evenly. Sarah bites down on her bottom lip and draws her gaze away from him. Her eyes sting. "Damn it!" He yells suddenly, making her jump. Derek flings the beer bottle in his hand against the dry ground below their feet, causing the glass to smash into amber-coloured shards.
"Reese!" She says sharply, surprised. He rests his elbows on his thighs and puts his face into his hands, hiding his expression, trying very hard to stop her from seeing that he is falling apart, but his shoulders shake slightly. For a moment, Sarah isn't quite sure what to do. The setting sun glints off the pieces of coloured glass lying on the rough, cracked ground among the sparse, dead grass, and she remembers Kyle's words from earlier that day. They seem to drift in the evening air, like the end of a lyric to a forgotten song.
He's out of his time. You're all he's got. You, and John.
Sarah reaches up and touches his arm, timidly, grazing his skin with the tips of her fingers. It's the first time she's touched him—deliberately—in she can't remember how long. The flutter of her fingertips on his bicep is enough to make Derek glance up at her, letting her see the redness around his eyes, his slightly surprised expression, and for a fleeting second there is something scared and open and vulnerable, something almost childlike about him that she never expected to see. She removes her hand quickly enough but holds his gaze, touching him just long enough to let him know that she is there. Because, besides her son, she knows that Derek is really all has either.
Then she rises from the porch and exits wordlessly, trailing back into the house, splintered wooden boards creaking under her feet as she leaves him to the dying sun.
Author's end ramblings: Well, it's a bit late now considering that tomorrow "The Desert Cantos" airs, but I wanted to acknowledge the long-awaited airing of the rest of season two in some way. I really do love this show. I'm not sure this oneshot actually went anywhere, and my spellchecker nearly crawled through the screen and gnawed my arm off because I broke so many rules of grammar (intentionally, I assure you), but your cold, merciless criticism is more than welcome and appreciated. Or, y'know, you could just leave a review letting me know if you liked it. That would work too.
On a totally unrelated and irrelevant note, I think I'm in love with Jonathan Jackson (Kyle) now.