It takes some getting used to, being the hero.
The only man, so far, to break out of a skynet prison camp and live to tell the tale, the only one with enough guile to take people with him. Not his words, not his way of saying it, but other people tend to fill his mouth when he can't find what to say.
The day he came back, thirteen people in tow, the population of the entire camp parted for him like some old story, shouting praise and awe as he walked between them.
He hears his name spoken constantly in hushed whispers, sees nothing but approving eyes everywhere he goes. He doesn't understand at first, doesn't get why he's something special simply because he saw an opportunity and took it, because he survived.
Derek has to explain it to him, as so many things he as before, that people need this, someone to praised, to be put on a pedestal and worshipped. Heroes are as rare as sunlight these days, and like it or not, he's the one who did something extraordinary.
He gets used to it.
Takes it all in stride because he has his brother to keep him humble, his job to keep him active, and Allison to keep him sane.
He never realizes how much he may have actually liked it until some kid, naked as the day he was born, shows up wearing his jacket.
John Connor is an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle, wrapped in a ratty old army jacket someone managed to scrounge up for him.
He joins them without hesitation and it's sort of surprising how naturally he seems to fit. How he takes to weapons so easily, loading and shooting a second nature, his aim some kind of internal laser guided sight.
Skeptics say he's metal, how good he is, how much he knows, no matter how many times Derek seems to vouch for him. Kyle doesn't doubt his brother because he feels it too, some kind of connection he can't explain.
His second mission is ridiculously successful, despite the fact that the original plan fell to shit.
Allison regales him with a tale of John Connor, with no battle experience anyone knows of, taking charge after getting ambushed by a group of machines. How he somehow managed to take out six or seven of them using an old car battery and a puddle of water on the ground.
How he ran out and started ripping chips from their heads before shouting at all of them they only had another minute to put the rest of them down permanently.
Crazy thing about the chips, John says he can get information from them, he says it can be used to help the cause.
Derek says do it, and Kyle agrees, but there's a slow dreadful feeling that it's all just a terrible idea, one that sours his stomach to nausea.
He's not jealous.
Not when the limelight starts to fade, when John Connor's name becomes synonymous with his own, when it's whispered with the same reverence.
Not when John keeps piling up wins for their side, when he keeps learning more about how the machines work, more than anyone ever has before.
Not when his ideas save lives.
Not when Allison prefers to sit next to John, how she's irrevocably drawn to him like everyone else is. Not when she smiles at him in that way, when she touches him, or leans in close to share a joke.
He's not jealous; he's not, because the Reese boys do plenty of amazing things on their own.
Not when all John has ever seems to want is to be his friend.
He's not because there's just something about the kid from nowhere, something calling to him, something thicker than water.
Kids like him don't just appear.
They don't fall naked from the sky, with more technical knowledge about metal than anyone has seen or heard before, like an angel sent to earth because he's too much of a cynic to believe such a thing could happen.
They don't know how to load and shoot a gun, with such natural inclination, like they were born to handle it.
Kids like him don't volunteer on the spot, naked except for a stray coat, for an army he seems to know more about than he lets on.
Kids like him, strangers, don't look at people they've just met with a familiarity only years of friendship could build.
He looks at Derek, like he should know him, like they've shared things, that they've been through some shit together.
He looks at Allison, like she's someone else, like she's someone he knew pretty damn well, like he's disappointed that she's not whoever he wants her to be.
He looks at Kyle, and… Well hell, there's no words for whatever's there, but it's something deep.
Deeper than anything that should be coming from a kid so young.
As a solider he's mildly impressive.
He has good instincts, and seems to follow orders well enough. A good shot to have covering your back, so say Allison and Kyle after the first patrol he's sent on.
It's strange trying to teach the kid, John, anything.
He listens to your every word, nods at all the right times, but there's the distinct feeling that he knows it all already. That he's just listening because that's what rookies are supposed to do, that he's a whole hell of a lot smarter than he wants anyone to know.
He doesn't like Jesse.
Oh he's polite, even offers his hand when they're introduced, but Derek can see something darken in the kid's eyes just looking at her. As if she's wronged him somehow by simply existing.
He doesn't bother to stop him when John makes some excuse and breaks away, leaving her staring after his retreating form and calling him a curious bloke.
On only his second mission, John comes back with five of the machines processing chips.
A feat, according to Allison, he accomplished pretty much single handedly. Sure it's impressive, but the first thing Derek wants to do is smack him in the back of the head for being so reckless.
Still, it appears that thing inside him, whatever he tries so hard to withhold, is finally starting to surface. And if it's always going to garner these results, if it's always going to help them so much, John can keep his secrets.
He catches Kyle watching the two of them sitting side by side, backs against a wall, helping each other reload a fresh cache of weapons.
John and Allison, as thick as thieves since the day he got here, Kyle slowly getting pushed to the side.
His brother knows he's there, but doesn't turn around or make any acknowledgement of his presence.
Just watches as something he thought he might have had, slowly slips away.
Derek knows that John isn't purposely doing anything, that he's not the kind of person to steal another man's woman. He saw it the day the kid arrived, how he looked at her, how she returned it in her own way, something there beyond the two of them.
Kyle walks away when Allison puts her hand on John's knee, leaving him to stare alone.
It's the strangest thing, the way John looks at her, as if she's everything he's ever wanted but somehow it's not good enough.
It frustrates him, because he's always known how to read to people, but there's just something about John Connor that leaves him guessing.
Derek looks confused, which hardly ever happens, and it seems pretty obvious the boy expects them all to know him, saying his name like it should be recognized.
She doesn't pay him much attention at first, far too concerned with Rusty perched at her feet, only glancing up casually at the latest vagabond to find a way into their camp.
The way he stares at her, nevermind the fact that he's surrounded by soldiers with guns, eyes focused so hard and clear into hers when she finally looks back, almost gasping because it feels like her heart stopped.
Slowly rising to her feet, feeling some bizarre energy radiating off him, she takes a step forward before she can stop herself, Kyle putting out his arm to hold her back.
She doesn't know what it is.
Deep down, some place she's never been, she knows him.
She's meant to know him.
Standing there, naked except for one of Kyle's old coats, part of her wants to tell him everything will be okay.
She's not the least bit surprised when he volunteers to join them, when taking up arms seems like the easiest thing in the world to him. Instinct kicking into overdrive whenever he's close, her own urge to push closer making her feel like a little kid all over again, wanting that silver bike.
It's strange how easily he fits in, falling in line like a good shoulder, offering calculated opinions that actually seem like really great ideas when broken down.
They load weapons together, and he's nice when she tries to make small talk, but closed off, giving careful guarded answers to any question she asks.
She gets the feeling that she reminds him of someone, they way he looks at her, always managing to seem as if he's expecting someone else. It's not the first time, so many people dead and dying everywhere, people tend see who they want.
That's all she can think.
Only his second mission, gone to hell in two seconds when the machines are suddenly on them, John barks out orders that everyone follows without question, dodging fire left and right but thankfully alive.
Hiding behind a giant pile of concrete and rebar, rifle positioned across her chest, she hears the approaching clank of metallic feet. She peers out to check for him, sees him toss something that looks like a car battery into a giant puddle of water, and watches as giant blue sparks snap at the air, all the machines collapsing on the ground.
She doesn't know what he's doing, crouching over them, pulling out pieces. Yelling again, they only have a minute to destroy the ones he couldn't get to.
Praise or suspicion, that's all he ever seems to get no matter what he does. People always thinking he's metal, or at the very least, hiding something.
Bringing those chips back, telling them he can get information, he can tell everyone just how the machines think. Derek hates the idea, she can tell, as does Kyle, but the potential payout is just too tempting not to go for it.
Sitting with him as he hacks the chips, watching as his mind and fingers work faster than she's ever seen, she leans her head against his shoulder. A move that causes him to still, just for a second, and she almost wants to laugh at how his breathing shudders, how his pulse quickens.
It's ridiculous, she thinks, the accusations that he's a machine. If they and flush and stutter the way she makes him, then there's really no point in trying to destroy each other.
Still frozen, she knows he won't make a move, and it's okay because it's never really been about that.
This thing she feels, whatever it is, seems like so much more.
She'd die for him if she had to.
Allison from Palmdale.
It's not just where she's from, but who she is.
She doesn't know where he came from, and when she asks, the only answer he gives is around. But she knows who he is, John Connor, his full name a title like her hometown is with hers.
Sitting next to him, leaning against a wall, helping load a new cache of weapons, she's given up trying to figure him out. Trying to put reason and motivation for all the things he does. Why he still looks around at everything and everyone, like he lost something he just can't find.
He's got his reasons like he's got his secrets, and she thinks if she's patient enough, if she's there for him, he will confide in her. Trust her.
Because there's something there.
Because she may be falling for him.
Because Allison from Palmdale would never betray John Connor.