He doesn't get nervous.
He doesn't blink or second guess himself with military decisions.
Despite this, there's a slow gnawing feeling deep down in his gut, looking over the mission roster. The list of names already formed, his pen left hovering over paper, know he has to, yet still hesitating.
He's sent people to their deaths; known full well a mission would fail, yet needed what could partially be accomplished. More names on a wall the machines would destroy eventually.
It was hard, seeing her the first time, watching as she volunteered for infantry, as she tried her damnedest to be a good soldier.
Putting pen to paper he still can't write.
God, she's just a kid.
What he's about, hand picking her for a mission she's not entirely qualified for, is no different that putting a gun to her head and pulling the trigger. It has to happen, because it's supposed to happen.
Her sacrifice helps mold him into the man he is.
The man she, they, helped make him.
A knock on the door, Perry pokes his head in, asking for the mission roster.
Looking down at the paper again, he sighs, writes Allison Young in the final spot.
They always want to celebrate when soldiers return from capture, want to soothe away the burn of fresh barcodes, remind them what happened was not all for naught. Smiles all around, there are real people the machines let go; making it easier for the infiltrator they sent to blend in.
He watches half-hugs and pats on the back, unquestioned relief in the eyes of those who survived.
They hush when he approaches, as they always do, snapping quick salutes.
He smiles thinly, assures their bravery will not be overlooked, and tells them he's glad they're alive.
Heart practically stopping when he sees her, looking so natural and human as the first time they met.
Hand on her shoulder, a word?
The excited smile, so real, he almost doesn't breathe.
Asking her the safety questions, one's she'd already passed upon re-entry, she answers as if experience predicates them. It scares him, how quickly they learn, how much. He doesn't want to know what it took for the machines to get the information from her.
Final one, she answers correctly, smiling sadly as he jams the taser against the base of her skull.
The fact that he knew, that he could pick out metal where other precautions failed, just adds to the legend.
They don't know he's been waiting for this to happen for sixteen years.
Alone with her chip, scrolling through code as familiar as his hand on her cheek, orders stark and clear that he's not to be interrupted.
The body waits in another room, it's presence with him too distracting for work to actually be done, hearing her voice in one's and zero's flashing across the screen. He doesn't have to think about what needs to be done, realigning of protocol coming so naturally, enhancing the personality matrix, building what he knows she needs to be.
He goes without stopping for three days, making sure every override and nuance is perfect.
She will protect him without fail.
He will trust her despite himself.
Fingers through her hair, blank eyes staring upward, memories of the last time she was with him running through his mind.
Unsure why he's hesitating, a stray thought that maybe he hadn't done enough, slowing the insertion of the chip.
That it will be different, that she won't be the same.
Holding his breath as he plugs it in, counting down one-hundred and twenty seconds, empty eyes surge with artificial life as she turns her head toward him.
He wonders why he chose the name the first time, where it came from.
The way she says it is so familiar.
He doesn't think of calling her anything else.
She follows him everywhere.
At first, they all think it's funny, John Connor and his pet robot making rounds.
With all the machines he's reprogrammed, all the metal walking around, they've never seen him stay so close to one, never seen him talk to them like they're real people, leaning in close to whisper in its ear, one that causes a smile on its face.
They don't question it, not right away, all just assuming it's because she looks like Allison that he's taking such care with this one.
Eyes follow them always, wondering.
He ignores it as he usually does.
She remains oblivious.
He tells her things.
Little things, important things, because she listens.
Everyone out there, everyone under him, they hang on his every word but they never listen. Don't know him as anything other than a leader, a savior.
He's John Connor, more a title than a man.
When he talks, all the little details of the person he really is get filed away. He tells her he will be shy, that he'll think she's so pretty he won't know to speak. He'll tell her no, but she should keep asking.
She learns and adapts, becomes more socially adept, everything that will make him trust her.
When he talks to her, when he touches her, he's John.
They're hardly ever apart.
When he closes his eyes, she's there, just as when he opens them again, she's there.
He gives her assignments. Missions to carry out and subordinates to answer to her. It's nothing new, having done it several times before with other metal. But he can sense the shift in they way they respond to her.
How they can tell he trusts her beyond measure or sane rational.
She reports back to him in the privacy of his bunker, never lies or pads the information, never is upset that a decision he made got people killed. Cold steely hands working in the way he taught her, releasing the stress of the day from his shoulders, lips next to his ear letting a steady stream of information flow outward.
It's intimate, selfish, and he's thought about it nearly everyday since he was fifteen.
He knows they can't love.
Even a model as advanced as her, it's all just data to be processed.
Two days after he sends Kyle Reese back, a T-888's programming doesn't take, killing six people.
She tells him this, sitting on the end of his bed, retying a bootlace come undone, lets him know that Derek Reese was there. That he keeps requesting an audience, that he demands to know what happened to his brother.
In good time, he knows, Derek will find out. But not now, not here, he's got other missions set in motion for his uncle, needed where eventually she will follow.
Done with her boots, she moves next to him, putting her hand on his shoulder as he pours over maps and mission reports. Shifting into the contact, he knows it will all be over soon, she'll be gone and he'll be alone.
For now he enjoys the feeling.
The mumblings about his relationship with her grow into outcries after losing the Jimmy Carter. Even though he answers to no one, they're starting to question him, doubt him.
He knows it would be so much worse should anyone ever see how she is with him when they're alone. How he's playing house with one of them, how human she acts, how close she really is to him.
After Cameron says she told Jesse Flores the question he posed to the machines, he needs to see her ASAP, knowing full well it's mutiny if she talks.
Humanity isn't ready yet, for his new plan, his solution.
How it's no longer a question of victory, but a stalemate for survival.
Holding his hand out to her, wrapping his arms around her hips as she walks into the embrace, resting his cheek against his her stomach, her hand coming up to run over his freshly shaven head.
All he can think is that there isn't enough time, yet time is all they've ever had.
The first time he says good-bye, still young and naïve enough to think he can have her forever, is because she can't self-terminate.
The eve of judgment day rapidly approaching, the mission fails as it always will fail.
Frozen as she looks him in the eye, telling him she can't be there with him for the war. Could not watch as he rises above the ashes, the skeletons, the camps. Her place is not with him any longer.
He doesn't want her to, isn't ready for her to go.
Charlie is dead, Derek is dead, Mom is dead.
She is the last thing he has left.
Fate it seems, is never what he makes it. His destiny, no matter how many changes are made, how many twists and turns he creates, it always ends the same.
He has to kill her.
One kiss, one push of the button, and he's alone.
He buries her like a real person, and starts counting the days.
Saying good-bye now, arms around his neck, his name a loving a whisper on her lips.
Just this once, just to see.
How far the machines have gone to appear human.
How every place he touches, accurate, every place he kisses, perfect.
He's not supposed to feel this way.
John Connor, savior of mankind, so desperately in love with a machine.
His existence almost boiled down to a textbook definition of irony.
And she, so capable of mimicking human emotion, can say it back and almost mean it.
He's not allowed to keep her, he never is, but for a few precious moments she is his forever.