She moves through the barracks, her face tight, features impassive, stride brisk. The humans around her give her a wide berth. This is expected. It is necessary, even. It's why she's still here.
There is legend around them, a powerful legend, a motivating legend, a legend that keeps them united and fighting and alive. This legend must be protected at all costs, and it could not be protected if anyone got too close to the inner circle, and realized that John Connor is not the only one who needs to be protected...
She enters the passcode, pressing buttons on the keypad, as they had been doing since before the Judgement Day with only phones and not large, swiveling locks on metal bunkers. She greets her charge with a clipped nod.
She gets a nod in return, then a tight shiver as John's mother unconsciously flinches away from her. This distrust, this distaste for her had only grown since Judgement Day, since Sarah had seen what the machines were truly capable of. But it had been Sarah's call, in the end, that had kept her part of the inner circle, because that same distrust protects them---keeps them honest, reigns them in when they lead with their hearts instead of with her cold, computer brain, and impassive machine logic. Hers is a perspective they need sometimes, and it's one that has ensured the others gave them space whenever possible. Skynet only knows of John Connor's legend. Better to keep it that way. Better to let them think that Sarah Connor never saw Judgement Day---she hadn't, after all, in the timeline Skynet knew. It was only thanks to the time jump all those years ago...
Sarah looks up from the weapon she's cleaning. "You got your answer?" she asks.
"No. The answer was no."
Sarah closes her eyes, leans back against the wall, gives a whimper. She kneels down beside her, touches her hand.
"It's okay. You'll dream again."
"I always do."
"And there will be fire. There will be metal. There always is."
"There is. But there is closure too. They give you closure, the dreams."
"They give me the end of it all."
Sarah still has not not opened her eyes. "Only you would find closure in something like that."
"You are leading with your heart again." she says. She keeps her voice firm, parental. These humans are fragile, for all their strength. They need these reminders...
"You know how it works. You get a plan, or he does. It works, and we go forward some. Or it does not work, and we wait. You dream again. It's painful, but necessary. You get closure. You heal. And then you come up with a better plan. And it works, and we go forward some. Or it does not work, and we..."
"Yeah. Keep him away from me tonight, will you? Keep all of them away. I don't want them hearing it."
"It's hard not to hear it. You thrash. You scream."
"Exactly. He'll have enough to deal with already, the answer being what it was. I don't want him worrying about me on top of it."
"He always worries."
"And he always has enough to deal with already. So keep him away, okay?"
She nods. "Okay. And you?"
"What about me?"
"I send Derek with him, and I stay with you. Or I keep him with me, and send Derek for you..."
Sarah finally opens her eyes, flexes her hands, tenses. Then sinks back against the wall with a sigh. "There are no other choices, are there?"
"You, with me, then. Derek will work. Keep his mind on...other things..."
She nods again, already mentally making the preparations. She always offers Sarah this choice, and this is always the answer. However much Sarah Connor hates machines---has particular associations with her specifically---she can't stand to be around people when she dreams.
Night falls, and even the ceaseless buzz of the work camp slows. She does a circuit, makes sure the patrols are in place, the skeleton shift fully operational and up to speed. She finds John, finds, Derek, finds a busywork tactical problem to send them off in search of answers to. This is as much a part of the familiar script as her offering of the choice to Sarah was---John looks at her, tension in his eyes, but does not ask how his mother is. This, too, is part of the script and they know their roles by now. He'll worry. But he'll know that Sarah is in capable hands, and he'll be relieved he doesn't have to be those hands directly. When he sees his mother next, she'll be better, and he can bring her into his latest plan without having to feel like he has to gentle.
Sarah is awake when she goes to her. This, too, is not unexpected. She expects the dreams tonight. She'll fend them off as long as she's able.
"You'll make it worse for yourself," she says, settling in on the floor beside the army cot that Sarah is listlessly resting on. "If you wait so long, it'll be worse."
"You'll be too exhausted and your brain will play tricks on you. It will be worse."
"Yes. It will."
This too is part of the script, but tonight, she is feeling talkative, and she can't resist. "This confuses me."
"You know you will dream. You know that the longer you resist the sleep that takes you there, the more frightening the dream will be. And yet you resist, even knowing..."
"Stop right there." Sarah sits up, looks her in her cold, metal eyes with features just as cold, and angry. "Stop. Don't even."
"But? After all we've been through, you still don't understand resistance?"
"I'm not talking about Skynet."
"Aren't you? Without Skynet, there would be no battles. There would be no dreams. There would be no end, do you get that?"
"And there would be no resistance either."
"At last, the light dawns. It's human nature, Cameron. Resisting, it's human nature. Even if you'll suffer. Even if you'll lose."
"But this is such a small thing," she persists. She is truly trying to understand, and Sarah sees this, and softens.
"A small thing to you, maybe. You don't feel. You don't dream."
"And I don't resist."
"No. You don't resist."
"I wonder what it would feel like to do that."
"I wonder what it would feel like to never have to. Are we done talking?"
"I don't know. Are we?"
Sarah sinks back onto the army cot, scrunches shut her eyes, then opens them again, tears leaking out of them.
"I'm not ready. I can't..."
"You can. I do it. I don't resist."
"Try it," she says. "Go into it like me. Unemotional. Not resisting."
Sarah closes her eyes again, takes a deep breath. "If I went into it like you, I wouldn't be the one the world is ending for."
"No, you wouldn't." She pauses, then presses forward. She is feeling talkative tonight. "That would be less frightening, wouldn't it? The fire, the metal...it would scare you less if it wasn't for you?"
The eyes stay closed, and the features soften, but Sarah doesn't answer. She lets her sink into the dream, watches her features tighten a little. Waits for the screams. They don't come yet; Sarah can't help her human nature, can't help her human resisting. But hers is a perspective they need sometimes, and even Sarah Connor is finally learning to take that perspective with her.
This is expected. It is necessary, even. It's why she's still here.