author's note: alright, so this is the last chapter of this story. Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed so far. Your comments are greatly appreciated. Well, here goes...
He had been irrational, scared out of his mind. Both his mother and the strange man they'd just rescued were shouting at him to leave her behind, but he'd tried to push through. He wasn't really sure what he was going to do to help, only knew in his heart that somehow he had to help her. She wasn't just a machine…she was a girl…his only friend.
Then he saw Vick hurl her out the back of the truck. She'd landed hard on the ground, trying to struggle to her hands and knees. She'd looked so fragile, so human. He'd tried to rush in her defense. Looking back, he was glad his mother had stopped him. He would have only gotten himself killed. Despite how frail she looked as she lay motionless on the concrete, with Vick raining down punches, he knew in his heart that Cameron didn't need protection.
But he'd die for her anyway.
John heard his mother and Derek talking in the kitchen when he entered the house with Cameron. His mom breathed a sigh of relief and John cast a glance over at the clock. Yikes, no wonder she's worried.
"Where have you been?" Sarah demanded.
"Out," John said.
Derek scowled, glaring at Cameron. "With it?"
John's eyebrows narrowed and he slammed his fist down on the counter, startling both Derek and his mother. "Blast it, Derek! I'm sick of you riding me about this! Yes, I was out with Cameron. I was celebrating my birthday today since my actual birthday was a little traumatic. So, please, don't push me."
Derek cocked an eyebrow and glanced at Sarah. John didn't wait to hear what came next. He grabbed Cameron by the wrist and dragged her towards his room, sure his face was flushed with anger.
But he couldn't quite make it to his room. How would Derek respond to his outburst? He paused in the hallway on the other side of the kitchen, straining to hear what Derek was going to say to his mother. Instead, he heard Sarah start the conversation.
"Why can't he have a normal girlfriend?" she lamented out loud.
"He tried remember?" Derek pointed out gruffly. "You and Tin Miss scared her off."
"That was different," Sarah said indignantly.
Derek scoffed. "You can't be picky. You should have been happy that he actually found someone, instead of making him resort to some kind of fantasy."
Sarah sighed, rubbing her forehead tiredly. "What should I do?"
Derek shrugged. "You're the boss."
"Your boss is asking you for your advice," Sarah countered. "In your professional future-soldier opinion."
Derek simply shrugged in response. "I don't think you can do anything. I mean, everything I've tried isn't working. John's a sixteen year old boy whose cyborg bodyguard happens to be an incredibly beautiful teenage girl. He'll get over it. He's smart. Sooner or later, he'll see her for what she is."
In the hallway, John sat back against the wall, careful to remain unheard. At least his uncle hadn't gone off the wall like he'd imagined, lecturing Sarah about parenting or some such. It probably would have ended with someone getting buried in the backyard. He shifted his gaze to Cameron, who kept her eyes on the floor.
"Your mother's right," she began. "You need a real girl, John. A human girl."
"You are real," John protested, grabbing her hand. "You have a personality, you have emotions. You're alive."
Cameron's snapped up to meet his, an urgency in her voice when she asked, "Where is Oz?"
The question caught him off guard, and at first he wasn't sure he'd heard her correctly. "What?"
"Oz," Cameron responded pointedly. "Where the Wonderful Wizard lives. The Tin Man was real. He was alive. He had a personality and emotions, but he didn't have a heart. I have to go to Oz."
John felt his own heart breaking with sorrow. "Cam…Oz is not a real place. You know what a fiction book is, right?"
On her face, he could almost see her hope deflating. "It's not real."
"It's not real," John repeated, mostly to himself. Staring at Cameron's face, he suddenly saw for the first time what true hopelessness was. And it hurt to see her that way. Isn't this what he prevented in the future? Hopelessness? He would supposedly bring hope to everyone in the resistance, but he couldn't help the one person who meant the most to him?
"But…" he started. "The wizard didn't give the Tin Man a heart. Do you remember that part? Do you remember what he told the Tin Man?"
"He already had one," Cameron said softly. John tried to hold back the tears. How could this be a machine? This was the Cameron he had seen crushed between two trucks, the Cameron who had cried, and begged and pleaded for her existence.
For her life.
He tried to shut out the sound of her pleading. His mother was right, just pull the chip, shut her down. It should have been simple. What was he waiting for? She begged, "Everything's fine, I'm fixed, I ran a test. I'm sorry for what I did, I'm sorry, but that wasn't me, you have to understand it wasn't me! You can't let this happen, John..."
He'd popped the cap, seeing the chip undeneath, which only increased her panicked cries. "John, please! Listen to me, I don't want to go! Please John, please!" She's fixed you moron!Let her go! No, she's tricking you! His mind was in a helpless conflict and he hesitated with his hand on the pliers, ready to yank the chip. Something was holding him back.
Her tears were flowing freely as she continued shouting, pleading. Can Terminators cry? Uncle Bob couldn't. His mom shouted his name once more, in her commanding tone. John had shaken himself out of his thoughts and Cameron seemed to sense immediate termination.
"I love you!" she shouted. Her words had stopped him cold, his breath catching in his throat. He didn't realize how much he'd been longing to hear those words. "I love you! I love you, John and you love me!" He had frozen, hand still gripping the pliers. She was right. He did love her. And that was why he had to do this. She wasn't fixed, he knew that much. He had to shut her down. Because if she really did love him as he loved her, she would rather die than harm him.
He yanked the chip.
John eyes blurred with the memory. "My mom said it was a trick," he whispered in a hoarse voice. "What you said. It means something."
She understood exactly what he was talking about. "I know. You told me."
"She said you don't have feelings," John recited. "That you can't feel. That you don't know love."
Cameron was silent for a long, awkward moment. "Your mother is a very wise woman…" John felt deflated for about the tenth time that day.
"…but she is human," Cameron concluded. "She is incorrect sometimes, flawed. I was scared when I thought you were going to deactivate me. My inner programming was reawakened in the explosion and I felt emotions. I was not lying."
I wasn't lying. I love you, John, and you love me!
John let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Cameron was staring at him again, with that look, and…a small smile.
"I won't lie to you anymore," Cameron stated. "Will that make you happy?"
Nothing had been a lie. This day. Her emotions. The kiss in the park. Her profession on his birthday…
"You were right," John said. Cameron cocked her head. "I do love you," he finished.
"Promise?" she asked.
John smiled tenderly and leaned over to kiss her, not even caring that Derek and his mother were still in the next room, that they could walk in at any given moment. He pulled back and looked into her shining eyes.
"Promise," he said.
She was more than just a machine, more than just his protector, he realized that now. No matter what his mother or Derek would say.
She was more than metal.
She was Cameron.
Looking down at her motionless form lying in the bed of the car, he gently stroked her hand, hating himself for what he was about to do. But when he took the flare in his hand, ready to light it and watch Cameron's body burn to ashes...he knew he couldn't go through with it. He couldn't kill her.
He looked up at his mother, who was watching him sadly, waiting. He shook his head slowly. "I'm sorry…"
He grabbed the chip and swiftly pushed it back into the port in Cameron's head. Both Sarah and Derek had let out a cry of alarm and Derek had taken a step forward, intending to stop John. John snatched up the gun and trained it on his uncle, eyes blazing with intensity. He wasn't going to let anyone touch Cameron. He would shoot if Derek came near.
Sarah shoved Derek back, whirling on John, eyes wide with fear and disbelief. "John, she will kill you!"
John was aware of the fact that his gun was now trained on his mother. He wasn't sure if he would pull the trigger or not. "There's only one way to find out," he said in a low voice. He'd be dead without Cameron anyway. She saves his life. She was his only friend.
He loved her.
Cameron stirred and John moved the gun towards her, backing up a step. She sat up and slowly looked up at him. He felt his palms start to sweat and he changed his grip on the gun.
"Are you here to kill me, John?" That had sent a chill down his back. The fact that he was the one holding the gun on her meant nothing. It wasn't as though he could stop her if she suddenly rose and lunged to kill him. The pistol wouldn't stop her; he wasn't foolish enough to believe that.
It was her words that spooked him, made him think. Are you here to kill me, John?
"Are you here to kill me?" he countered.
There was a brief pause and she replied, "No."
She'd admitted it. She wasn't here to kill him. John felt a small flash of relief, and he lowered the gun slightly, though he knew this could merely be another trick.
Only one way to find out. He handed her his gun, his years of training screaming in protest. This is suicide! You're handing a gun to a Terminator programmed to kill you!
"Promise," he ordered her in a low voice. He could see the horror and fear in both his mother's and Derek's eyes. Cameron held the gun on him, eyes searching his, calculating. What was she determining? he wondered briefly. Would a head shot be best? John fidgeted nervously, but finally Cameron lowered the gun and handed it back to him.
"Promise," she said.
John breathed a sigh of relief and reached out his hand.
She took it.
author's note: well, that's the end. Let me know what you think!