TITLE: It's a Wonderful Life

CHARACTERS: John Connor, Derek Reese

WARNINGS: Spoilers for all of season 2.

TIMELINE: post Judgment Day

NOTES: This is the first of what will be a series of vignettes set post "Born to Run"

SUMMARY: There is something about this kid.

Derek looks down at the kid, John, where he's cleaning and loading the rifles on the bunker's floor. "Forget one?" Derek prods, tapping the toe of his boot against the butt of the rifle he still holds.

John looks up at Derek, then at Derek's rifle and shakes his head. "No." He continues cleaning with an efficiency born of familiarity.

Derek watches John. Derek has no idea how the kid knew his name the first time they met, has no idea why the kid thought that he should know him. Since that first exchange, John is a lot more cautious. A lot more wary. Careful in a way that seems second nature to him.

But Derek sees how John watches him. And Kyle. And Allison. It isn't that the kid is obvious about it. He isn't. John watches everything, the way everyone who lived through J-Day watches everything. Like his life depends on it. Because it does. But even taking that into account, John still watches him and Kyle and Allison a little too closely.

The rest of the crew probably would have given John a hard time, but the kid figured out very quickly how to earn his keep. He has a familiarity with weapons that Derek's never seen outside of a trained, seasoned soldier. John understands instinctively how a combat unit should function and he slid seamlessly into their crew. John's better with weapons – any weapons – than half the soldiers in the bunker. He knows how to keep them maintained, like he truly understands that it means the difference between dying in battle and living to fight another day.

"You too good to clean mine?" Derek baits. He knows that's not the case. John is standoffish, but not disrespectful. Derek has no reason to think the kid has a grudge.

John looks up at him with a withering expression, like he's just barely humoring Derek. "No," he says flatly. "I'm not too good. I just don't like wasting my time."

Derek narrows his eyes at the kid. They've exchanged a couple dozen words in the last few weeks and John's irritation speaks to a familiarity that simply does not exist between them. "Wasting your time?" Derek prods again, his voice taking on a harder edge.

This time John doesn't bother to look up, engrossed in his task. "If I do, you'll just do it over," he says. He meets Derek's eyes. "You won't fire a weapon you didn't set."

Derek stares down at John. It's true. Completely true.

John finally looks away again, intent on his task.

Slowly, Derek sinks down onto his haunches, crouching next to John, invading his personal space. John stops what he's doing, but his eyes are fixed straight ahead, away from Derek. His jaw is tightly clenched.

Derek stares at John's profile. There is something about the kid. Something that pulls at Derek's consciousness, a familiarity that makes absolutely no sense. "Where'd you learn guns?"

John shrugs. "Here and there."

There is something about this kid. "Your old man?"

John flinches and Derek is certain it's the first spontaneous reaction John has allowed since the day they found him. John shakes his head. "My mom."

Derek nods in approval and edges back. "She run with a crew?"

John turns and looks at him, his expression unreadable. "She believed in always being prepared."


A hard, humorless smile curves John's lips. "She was familiar with law enforcement."

Derek can't help but smile. Well, that explains a few things. Derek rises to his feet and watches John for a few more moments. "You do her proud."

Derek never sees the tears in the kid's eyes.

[ end section ]