Disclaimer: Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Firefly are not mine. They never will be mine and judging by the leaps I felt I had to take to merge them and try to stay within canon, maybe its best they are not mine? Yeah, it's probably best they are not mine.
Author's Notes: Yes, I took advantage of the River/Cameron look-a-like scenario. Who doesn't?
For the MetalMix Challenge at sccxovers LJ community. The song I was given was The Temptation of Adam by Josh Ritter. Song requested by SabaceanBabe. I listened to this song several times, read the lyrics several times and got this. Hope it's okay?
I'll Be That Fool
Summary: John Connor stumbles upon the crew of Serenity while staying on Persephone and falls for a girl from his past. [John Connor/Cameron; John Connor/River Tam]
You don't remember at what point space and time became relative. Maybe it was your first jump forward. Maybe it was when the bombs fell anyway. Why it took you that long to understand the relationship, you don't know. You often wondered how many times you sent your father back to protect your mother, to ensure your life. The probability of alternate timelines didn't escape you either.
This, however, wasn't exactly something you could've planned for.
Something happened, when you tried to jump. Maybe you weren't supposed to jump, but at the time, you felt you didn't have much of a choice. It was either jump and preserve your good name or let SkyNet barrel down on you and destroy the last hope of the Resistance. So you jumped - - while bullets and fire rained down on the very technology that had saved your life countless times before.
Maybe it was the gunfire. Bullets and casings and shrapnel screwing up the settings, forced you to jump way back through time.
You don't know. What you do know is that you're not supposed to be here. You jumped to an Earth that was more desolate than the one you left. The machines are gone, but so is everything else. Everything but the bodies that have been left behind.
That's when you hear it. Large artillery fire.
So you're not alone in all this. Someone and/or something is still fighting for freedom, survival, chaos. The fighting still goes on.
Still naked and a bit fried from your impromptu trip, you crawl toward the source of the commotion. You've learned long ago that where there is conflict, there are people to be found.
You finish lacing up the boots. The corpse next to you no longer needs them. He doesn't need his shirt or pants either. It's all too big for you, but finding a shopping mall will have to wait until later. You're still operating in survival mode. You must quickly discern who is enemy and who is friend.
Soldiers are running rampant now, too busy protecting their own hides to notice you. You check the weapon you found for ammo. You're not quite certain where the clip is or if it even has one. It's a strange looking pistol, one you don't feel comfortable using. You crawl around as shells fall and you find a weapon that looks more familiar. You check the barrel, turn off the safety. This has bullets. This is much better.
You turn to the source of the voice.
There are two of them off to your left. A man and woman. They're dressed almost like they belong in a western and now you're just even more confused than you were. At first, you thought you were on a Civil War battlefield. Only, that can't be right. The weaponry lying around looks far too advanced for that. Some of the uniforms, faded blue and tattered, are reminiscent of early American wars. . .but then again, your predecessors didn't have spaceships flying overhead and dropping bombs.
Where the hell are you? A better question would be, when?
"I said, Way!" The man yells, grabbing you by the arm and pulling you toward safety. You duck behind the dirt wall, squeeze between the woman and the man and listen to more bombs. When the air clears, you look at him first and he says, "Reynolds is the name. I saw you over there, crawling around stark naked. Mind telling me why you put on those clothes?"
"Are you Alliance? Trying to pretend to be one of us?" the woman asks. Before you answer, she remarks, "Never mind. You look too young and too stupid to be one of them."
"Zoe, be nice now," Reynolds chides lightly.
You look between them again. Perhaps honesty is the best way to go. "My name is John Connor. I'm not from around here."
Their blanks looks tell you that your name means nothing here.
Six years later on the planet Persephone. . .
Something happened, when you tried to jump. Maybe it was the gunfire. Bullets and casings and shrapnel screwing up the settings, forced you to jump not only through time, but through space as well. Technically, you think you should've landed on Earth again. Well, in this future everyone refers to your old home as Earth That Was.
Earth That Was is a rock. You saw it once. Convinced some whacked out druggie to take you there in his beat up Volvo-like spacepod. Seeing your home like that, it was the final nail in the coffin. The confirmation of what you feared all along. You really did jump 500 years in the future. Everything you know really is gone, even the machines.
You've searched desperately for someone to reverse what's happened to you. There has to be some planet out here, hiding some damn good time traveling technology. Someone must be testing the theories of time. It seems, however, that this future is concerned with few things and time travel ain't one of them.
Survival, The Alliance and the war. No one wants to reverse what's happened. No one has even considered that to be an alternative. They just want to remember Earth That Was. They want to remember what it truly meant to be free. Despite appearances of advancement in technology, the human race has reverted back to monarchies and gangs. A mix of Old West politics and patriarchal indifference.
You kick at the dirt, watch the crowds closely. Someone out there can get you home. . .
Whoa. Is that. . .? You can hardly believe your eyes.
Mal Reynolds. In the flesh. The first and only man to befriend you out here.
He's got some people around him. Zoe (whom you remember from before). A spitfire, that one. There's also a man with cropped hair and a goatee and a young woman with an umbrella twirling above her head. The lot of them walk away, leaving Umbrella Girl behind.
You bide your time, watching as one by one, Reynolds' ship takes on more cargo. When the Captain of the ship returns, you make your approach.
Mal spots you right away. Even though he's muttering, you know what he says. "Wuh de tyen, ah."
You smile widely, ignore the pointed look from Zoe as you embrace Mal tightly, saying, "Lao pung yo, nee can chi lai hun yo jing shen."
"His speech has improved. I'll give him that," Zoe remarks sourly. She's never liked you.
Mall pulls out of the embrace, manages a brief glare at his second-in-command before turning back to you. He says, "I'm looking for passengers who can pay."
"Well, I'm looking for a ship that takes money," you quip back. Umbrella Girl takes your lone bag, eagerly offers to show you around. You follow her aboard, glance over your shoulder at the planet you're leaving behind. Persephone was another dead end. You'll have to find another "brilliant scientist" who can get you back to your own time.
Or maybe you need to accept that going back might be impossible.
"Back off, Jayne."
You understand what it's like to bullied. You were the kid that was strange, the one with no friends. The jocks frowned upon you, the girls giggled as you walked past. If you managed to make friends, it was with people like Simon, who is currently getting pounded on by Jayne. Not literally. Jayne's words leave deeper scars than his fists ever do most days.
Jayne inches closer to you, glowering. "Who died and made you Cap'n?"
Your eyes narrow. "I just don't stand by and watch assholes like you get over on people who are weaker."
"I'm not that helpless," Simon mumbles.
"Bizui!" both you and Jayne say simultaneously toward Simon. The good doctor seems to shrink under the glares from both of you. Then your eyes meet Jayne's once more and the showdown begins. He clenches his fists. You frown deeper, muscles tense.
"Honestly, I just wish you two would have at it already," Kaylee remarks from the table. She's popping little bits of fruit into her mouth as she speaks. "Ever since Persephone, you've been sizing each other up, making threats. Do something about it already!"
"She makes a good point," Inara chimes in.
"Really, you two shouldn't encourage violence," the Sheppard chastises lightly. He knows by now that his words fall on deaf ears.
This guy doesn't need much encouragement at all to start a fight. He lunges forward, a dodge that you easily miss. You smash into Jayne's chin with the heel of your palm, listen as his teeth crash together. You wonder briefly if you knocked one lose. As he stumbles back, you finish the job: a sharp jab to his temple. He's out before he hits the ground.
You glance at the two women, their mouths agape. Kaylee stands and proclaims, "I didn't say kill him!"
"He's not dead," you tell her. "If I wanted him dead, he'd be dead." You walk over to a stunned Simon and offer with a smile, "Wanna go check in on River?"
This is the first expression of strength you've displayed since fighting in Mal's war. The first time you've truly been angry since fighting in your war.
"Where did you say you were from again?" Simon asks as you lead him down the hall.
"Not from here," you say again. You'll never ever really belong here.
Simon turned in long ago, yet you remain by her bedside. She's beautiful when she sleeps. She's so fragile and meek and sometimes playful.
You forget occasionally. You call her by a different name, then if Simon or Inara hear the slip up, you pretend to be that 'crazy time traveling guy from the past' Mal always talks about. The guy that saw the destruction of Earth. An Earth ruled by machines.
You tell them stories of your heroism. They find them entertaining and unbelievable.
You relive Judgement Day. They can't even fathom Earth That Was having a history longer than 500 years.
River is different though. She listens and a part of you likes to think she trusts your words. You do know, however, that she's not well. She looks at you and sees a man with no history. She doesn't really see you at all.
"Home is far away."
You glance up, notice she has stirred. You mumble an apology for waking her up, but she's already upright and swinging her legs off the cot. Her toes curl as she contemplates touching the cold floor. You smile, suddenly remembering your life as a teenager. River repeats, "Home is far away."
You sigh. "Yes, it is." You gesture toward the bed, rising from your chair. "May I?"
River scoots over, allows you to sit next to her. It's very rare she lets you this close, but while she is being so gracious with her personal space, you want to take advantage. You like talking to River. She listens to just about anything you say and some days, all you want to do is remember where you really came from. River lets you do that. She lets you remember without judging.
"My whole life was dedicated to stopping the war," you tell her.
River mumbles something about blue hands. She does that on occasion.
"It's not the war with the Alliance, though. It's a different war," you go on. You breathe in deeply and admit sheepishly, "I think I loved the idea of being the hero, even though it scared the hell out of me. I thought, I could save my home, save millions of people. That thought weighed on me. . .until the day it actually happened. Then there was no question who I had to be."
You're surprised to feel River's hand cover yours, an act of empathy, perhaps. She's not usually one to make physical contact with anyone but Simon. You interweave your fingers with River's and whisper, "Her hands were just like yours."
You often volunteered to watch over River, allowing Simon some time to either rest or spend time with Kaylee. Those two are still dancing around their feelings for each other, just as you dance around your feelings for the good doctor's sister.
Speaking of dance, River loves to. She spins and whirls, each time her smile broadens and she's so contented with what she's doing. River Tam is remembering what it's like to be human.
You dance with her, showing off moves you remember from your younger days. When rap music prevailed and the term pop-and-lock was common. River finds your jerky movements funny and insists on teaching you her way of dancing. It's similar to line dancing, hooking arms and bowing when appropriate. Lots of movement with your feet.
River is graceful.
Cameron was too.
You kissed River while the others were away. Simple. Pressed your lips to hers.
You couldn't let Simon see this. He would go ballistic. He likes you well enough (mostly because you know how to keep Jayne off his back), but River is all Simon cares about in this universe.
Simon doesn't think River could handle relationships that go beyond platonic gestures. You don't think that Simon is wrong, but you don't want to test the young doctor's mettle either. Each day, Simon drinks in more courage and strength. Someday, he might be a force to reckon with.
Bashful, you step back. "I'm sorry." Flashes of fire and machines race through your head. You had kissed Cameron once. You were afraid you would never get the chance to kiss anyone ever again.
River doesn't care what your motives are, however. She just grins, a little giggle escapes from within her. You smile back, wishing that someday you can look at River and not think of Cameron. Cameron, the machine you admired more than you should have. The one that gave you a doomsday button built inside a pocket watch should you ever need to eliminate her.
River Tam wraps her arms around your shoulders now, crushes her lips to yours once more. It's safe to say that she likes kissing just as much as she likes dancing. As you move your lips over hers, trying to keep up with her enthusiasm, you feel the handgun tucked inside the back of your pants. It's your new doomsday button, should River's chip ever go haywire.
Mal warned all of you that River wasn't right in the head. You take Mal's worries very seriously.
Cameron was with you in that silo when the bombs dropped. Your mother and Derek never made it inside. Years went by and you're not quite certain what happened to them. You've always guessed that their bodies merely burned to ash in the end, but parts of you still obsess over their fates. Years went by and all you had was the machine.
You kissed Cameron out of fear. She kissed you because she assumed you were depressed.
River writhes beneath you as you kiss her. She's learned how to kiss with tongue now. She enjoys that a lot. You're both still clothed, but something inside you thinks that won't last long if this keeps up. You've made a vow to yourself to be honorable, to do right by River. You've made a vow to yourself to not confuse the two of them.
A knock on the door stops you. Saves you.
With a hand over River's mouth to keep her quiet, you yell, "I'll be up soon! I'm not decent!"
"Okay!" Kaylee replies.
When you look down at River again, you both begin to laugh hysterically. You feel like you're being the teenager you never got to be.
Kaylee confesses to you that River shot three men with her eyes closed.
Derek warns that you should never trust a machine. Never.
"We can just stay down here."
Serenity reminds you of the silo. Similar construction, steel walls and loud walkways. It was a trap, just like this ship. The only way out is patience.
In the silo, you had to wait for the air to be breathable again. On Serenity, you have to wait for a passable trade planet to come along. Both events take darn near forever.
You trace a line down River's cheek, try to comfort her. "Do you want to stay down here with me?"
"I'll stay with you," River agrees. That's what Cameron told you, after locking you in the silo. The bombs falling around above your head. She said she would stay with you until it was time for you to be who you were meant to be. You remember that you kissed Cameron out of fear; fear that you would never love again.
"Come here," you coax. River crawls into the cot next to you. You wrap your arms around her as you both sit with backs against the wall. Up above, Mal and the others fight Alliance drones. Somehow, those brainwashed soldiers got on the ship.
You want to help, you want to fight, but your fight ended over 500 years ago. You don't have to be that hero anymore. It's not like anyone on Serenity cares who John Connor was. Their history doesn't recollect Judgement Day.
So you'll stay down here, with her. She is scared and you need to stay with her. Mal and Zoe and Wash, they all can take care of themselves.
When the door crashes in, a soldier slides down the rail, River has pulled your gun before you realize it. The soldier is dead.
You look at River. Or is that Cameron? She says, "I'll stay with you John Connor."
"Don't go," you whisper.
She cuddles with you once more and you shut your eyes tightly. The commotion still goes on up above and you imagine fire and burning flesh and bombs. You hug her closer to you.
You think you might cry, wondering what happened to your mother - whatever happened to Sarah Connor?
Her hand plays with your hair, her lips press lightly against your forehead.
You hear the bombs and want it all to be over. Just let it all be done.
You rest your head on her shoulder and say, "Cameron, don't go."
"My name is River."
Your chuckle is dark, sad. You kiss the young girl's hair and say, "I know."
What you know is that you can never go back.
The air outside is too toxic. The people you once knew are gone.