DISCLAIMER: I unfortunately don't own TSCC, nor do I own the characters. I'm definitely not making any money of them either. I'm just having a little fun with them for a while, and I'll put them back where I found them when I'm done, I promise. Please don't sue me. I'm just a poor college student saying NO to drugs and YES to Jameron.
And don't steal my plot. That's actually mine, and I'd like to keep it, thanks.
In the words of my fortune cookie: "Politeness costs nothing and gains everything." Yeah, we all TRIED politely asking Fox to keep TSCC, and we gained NOTHING. Stupid cookie.
Anyway… this story is post Born to Run. It's a SEQUEL to my first story: "Irony, Thy Name is Cameron". Seriously, don't try to read this without reading that one first. You will be a highly confused individual if you attempt to. If you continue to read this regardless of my fair warning, don't review or email me asking what's going on. I'll send my mail-order terminator after you.
EDIT: Okay, at some point this website decided it wasn't going to allow asterisks to be used as scene breaks within chapters. I have not yet had the time to go through and edit in all the lines where my scene breaks are supposed to be, so I apologize that for now, everything seems to run together.
That Which We Call Fate
Late morning found James Ellison sitting on a park bench under the shade of a tree. He was attempting to look inconspicuous as he stretched his arms across the back of the bench and people-watched. A group of children were playing tag in the open space behind him, and a mother uselessly tried cleaning an errant child's dirty face with her thumb. A young couple walked hand-in-hand, seemingly oblivious to everything but each other. Ellison watched them from behind his glasses as they walked passed, talking furtively to each other; the young man evidently saying something funny which made his girlfriend laugh. He waited a few moments before getting up and following them.
"There's Mr. Ellison," Cameron whispered, gently squeezing John's hand to get his attention.
"Yeah, I noticed. Who does he think he is, James Bond? He could have at least worn a T-shirt or something."
Cameron giggled and lightly bumped John as they walked. They were both well aware of him standing up and following them.
"Don't turn around, I bet he's walking with his hands in his pockets and whistling."
Cameron, having confirmed John's assumption in the reflection of a car window let out a louder laugh this time. John began to hum the Mission Impossible theme song.
"That's the wrong movie, John."
"Yes, I know. But I like it better. Seems more appropriate."
Shaking her head, Cameron angled them towards the parking lot where they found their way back to the SUV… conveniently parked beside Ellison's vehicle… in a conveniently dark, shady corner of the lot. The side nobody ever parked on because the dumpster smelled so bad.
They climbed in and wound down the windows, waiting for Ellison to assume it safe from bird watchers to approach. Opening the back door to the SUV, Ellison nonchalantly climbed in the back seat behind John and Cameron.
Ellison gave John a barely tolerable look. "I'm fine thanks, how are you?"
"Never better. So what's the deal here?"
Ellison reached into his pocket and pulled out a flash drive. He handed it up to the front seat. "Everything's on that."
John glanced at Cameron. "You don't happen to have a go-go-gadget USB port anywhere on you do you?"
"Do I look like Inspector Gadget?"
"No… but actually, you do look like the hot chick on this weird space cowboy show I found on Hulu."
Cameron stared blankly at John, before turning to Ellison. "Is there anything else?"
Ellison was busy looking back and forth between the two up front. Kids watch way too much TV. Shaking his head, he pointed to the flash drive. "I guess Agent 99 here is the only one who can read it or something. Ms. Weaver said she'd know what to do after that. Oh…and this." He reached into his jacket inside pocket and pulled out a small box. "It's for Savannah, from Ms. Weaver. I guess it was in her, or rather, the real Catherine's jewelry box. She thought she'd like it. Said she remembered seeing it on Savannah in the future."
John took the box from him and gently opened it. Inside was a small gold locket. Carefully lifting it out of the box, he opened the charm to find a family photo of the real Mr. and Mrs. Weaver, and a younger Savannah. He smiled sadly and closed the locket with a soft click. "It's her birthday. We'll give it to her tonight."
Ellison nodded and opened the door. "Where do you want the furballs?"
John jumped over the last two basement steps and collapsed on the bed beside Cameron. He placed a furry grey kitten on her lap
"Dorothy missed you. She told me so."
Cameron didn't look away from the screen.
The cat meowed, and placed her front paws on Cameron's chest. Idly lifting her hand, Cameron stroked the kitten's soft fur without looking, scratching behind her left ear. Dorothy settled down in her lap, curling up into a little purring ball.
John glanced at the screen and made a face. Seemingly random code continuously scrolled across the screen. "What was so difficult about handing us an address on a post-it note?"
"The situation isn't that simple."
"No," John sighed exaggeratedly. "Nothing is ever simple. Even eating a bowl of cereal in the morning has to be complex."
"You're the one who can never decide between Froot Loops and Lucky Charms."
"That's because it's too complex a decision for that early in the morning. Do I want fruity or marshmallowy? Leftover aftertaste or soggy flavorless brown things? It's tough to decide."
"You seem to have a tough time deciding between strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla ice cream as well."
"Nooo… that's not a decision. It was Neapolitan. You're supposed to have all three."
"And a corner piece of cake with extra icing balloons."
Cameron just shook her head.
John poked her in the side. "When's your birthday, anyway?"
Cameron glanced at him. "We've had this discussion before. You know I don't have one."
"Okay, fine, Miss Politically Correct… when's your build day?"
"I don't actually know."
John thought for a moment.
"Okay, then what day did I reprogram you?"
"July 4th, 2027."
"Independence day? For real?"
"I managed to infiltrate your camp that day so easily because your soldiers were busy blowing things up in some sort of ridiculous celebration."
Huh. John scratched his chin. It wasn't actually that far away.
The scrolling had finally stopped, and Cameron removed the drive.
"So what's the verdict?"
Cameron was silent for a few moments as she shut down the computer. "She found Danny Dyson."
"She did?" John sat up. "What did she do?"
"Question him, of course." Cameron set the laptop on the floor beside the bed, and cuddled her kitten.
"Did she get any answers?"
"Yes. She got all of the answers."
John waited a moment for her to continue, but she didn't. "And… you're going to share these answers, aren't you?"
She was scratching the stretching kitten's belly. "Of course I am, John. Why wouldn't I?"
John just shook his head.
Cameron didn't elaborate. Instead, she kissed the kitten on top of its head (something she'd seen Savannah do), and stood up. "I'll tell you when I tell everyone else." She then carried the kitten upstairs without another word.
John quietly pushed Savannah's door open and smiled.
Cameron was cuddled next to Savannah on her bed, reading along as Savannah read her a story. It was The Adventures of Pinocchio, the original, non-Disney-ized version.
Cameron glanced up at John, who held a finger to his lips and sat on the floor beside the bed to listen.
Pinocchio learned compassion and empathy. As a reward, the blue fairy turned him into a real boy.
John was reminded of what Cameron had said to him the other night. "I want to be a real girl…but I don't have a fairy godmother." No, Cameron didn't have a blue fairy, fairy godmother, or any other kind of magical pixie. She'd be a puppet forever, just as he was stuck being the great savior of mankind.
John leaned against the bed and rested his chin on his arm. He watched Cameron's eyes follow the words in the book as Savannah spoke. There was a slight twitch at the corner of her lips, which told him she knew he was watching her.
Cameron made being John Connor worthwhile. He didn't need a blue fairy to turn him into a "normal" guy. In fact, if he did, he'd never have met Cameron. Nope, he'd probably just be dating a normal girl, having a normal relationship, going on normal dates, having normal conversations, and planning normal futures.
John thought about that, and mentally shrugged. Screw normal. He smiled as Cameron's eyes met his again.
Normal was definitely overrated.
John noticed it was quiet, and realized he was being stared at because the story was finished, and he was staring off into his own world dreaming about fairies.
He cleared his throat and moved to sit at the edge of the bed. "Hey squirt, we have one last birthday present for you."
Savannah grinned and carelessly tossed the book onto the floor before crawling over to where John sat.
John reached into his pocket and pulled out the small box. "It's a birthday gift from… your mom."
Savannah looked up in surprise, and took the box. She gently opened it up and recognized the contents immediately.
"It's mommy's locket! She used to wear this all the time."
She opened the charm and looked at the picture inside it. Tears started streaming down her cheeks.
John wiped them away with his fingers and pulled her into a hug.
"Why did mommy leave me?" She managed to choke out through sobs.
"Shhh…." John gently rocked her back and forth. He didn't know what to say to her. There was no decent lie that would have made sense. He glanced at Cameron.
"Maybe we should have my mom talk to her," he mumbled.
John was a little surprised at her defiance. "Why not?"
"You can do it yourself, John. You need to do it."
John looked down at the girl in his arms. She was right. Sarah wouldn't be around to pull him out of sticky situations forever. He'd have to learn how to deal with things on his own. He might as well start with an 8 year old girl.
And this 8 year old would have to learn some day. It might as well be today.
"Savannah… I need you to listen to me carefully…"
"YOU TOLD HER?" Sarah was on the verge of a classic freak-out. She was leaning over the kitchen table, gripping the back of a chair so hard her knuckles were white.
"Mom, there really wasn't anything else I could do. She's older than I was when you told me. She already knew about Cameron and John Henry. I just… elaborated a little more." John was standing in the doorway, prepared to run for it if necessary. Cameron was quite conspicuously standing between him and his mother, having detected dangerous levels of adrenaline flowing through Sarah.
"What do you mean she knew about them?"
John rolled his eyes. "She's smarter than we give her credit for. Apparently having a best buddy with a cord sticking out the back of his head and red glowing eyes kinda clued her in. And evidently Cam's been slacking on her infiltration skills, cause she definitely put 2 and 2 together and figured her out as well."
"We swore the girl had a sixth sense," Derek said from behind John. "She'd know metal from a mile away. Guess that happens when you grow up with metal moms."
Sarah looked up. "Does she know about Catherine?"
"No." John shook his head. "At least, in the future, she didn't figure it out until she was older… "
Sarah sighed and sat down in the chair, resting her elbows on the table.
"John made the right decision. She had to find out eventually. It was better to do it while she was young."
Everyone looked at Cameron, who was intently staring at Sarah.
Sarah did agree with her. It was more that she was upset that she wasn't included in the decision. Just like the damn cats… Sure, it was a really sweet idea, and Savannah had never looked happier… but it'd been nice if someone had at least ASKED her. Not that she'd have disagreed, but… ugh. And now this… not even a "hey mom, what do you think?"
Derek, having a feeling he knew what was really going on with the Queen Mother, decided to change the subject. "So what did this Ellison guy bring to the table?"
"So basically…" John scratched his head. "According to Danny… a bunch of Grays, aka Kaliba, were sent back by Skynet to kidnap Danny who happened to be studying his father's research. Danny helped them build John Henry's "brother", which is essentially Skynet in its infancy. He realized his mistake… so he says… and tried to run, so they sent a terminator after him. We destroy said terminator. Catherine finds Danny under a random bridge somewhere, and proceeds to pull information from him in probably not so pleasant ways."
"Yes, basically." Cameron agreed.
John chewed his lip. "So where is he now?"
"In Catherine's custody. Waiting for your decision."
"What?" Sarah, who'd been silent from the start, finally looked up from her hands.
"John is the General in command. This is also his decision to make," Cameron stated bluntly.
Sarah stood up and pointed to John. "He's not yet leading an army. And since when does Catherine take orders from my son?"
"Since always." Derek moved to stand behind his nephew. "He commands the whole lot of them. They choose to follow him."
Sarah stared at Derek, mouth agape.
"And John has more resistance soldiers here than you know. I'm only one of them."
Derek stared at Sarah defiantly. He hadn't been around very long, but from what he'd seen… well, it was about damn time the woman started letting the boy take control. He wasn't fully ready yet, but he would be in time.
John just stared at Cameron. She did this shit on purpose. He should have known something was up when she didn't agree to Sarah doing the sensitive 'mom' chat.
Everyone was staring at him, and he felt the weight of the decision on his shoulders. It looked like he wasn't going to get a day or two to decide; this was going to have to be a here and now kind of deal. He scratched his head and considered the situation.
It didn't quite add up. Why was he studying is father's research, and how did he even get it? It was destroyed when they blew Cyberdyne to pieces, wasn't it? Miles must have had personal notes and journals at home, or somewhere else. And how did he manage to run? If he was able to run after he helped create the AI, he could have run before he helped Kaliba.
John stood up and began to pace.
How did Skynet know to even go after him in the first place? Was it just taking a chance that Miles Dyson's son just happened to take an interest in his father's work, or did it already happen in the future?
Staring out the kitchen window, John knew he didn't know enough to decide.
Sighing, he turned around and walked over to the counter. He grabbed the car keys and stuffed them in his pocket. Opening a cabinet, he pulled out a gun and checked the clip before shoving it in his waistband. He looked at Cameron who'd been watching him quietly.
"You know where to find them." It was a statement, not a question.
"Then let's go."
Cameron obeyed without question. She checked her own gun and followed John out the door.
Two hours later they pulled up to a tiny house that didn't look like it had more than 1 bedroom. Of course, nobody in the house except the current captive slept anyway.
John grabbed Cameron's hand as she opened the car door.
"I need to ask you something." He looked at her solemnly. "In your professional, second in command opinion…" He didn't need to finish his thought.
"I can't tell you that John. All I'll say is that so far, you've made the right decisions." With that, she stepped out of the SUV and shut the door.
John followed her up the porch steps, and almost jumped when the front door opened before they could even knock. A little old lady stood in the doorway, gray hair pulled up in a bun, and a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. She greeted them as if they were her own grandchildren.
"Oh, so delightful to see you!" She pulled them each into a hug. John was a bit freaked out by her behavior, and gave Cameron a 'who the hell is this and where have you brought me' look over the old woman's shoulder. Cameron ignored him, and followed the old woman into the house.
John looked around. It seemed everything in the living room was antique, and had that odd smell that only old people's homes had. He turned to ask the woman her name in an effort to be somewhat polite, but the woman was no longer there. Instead, Catherine Weaver stood staring at them with odd curiosity. Ah, that explains it. I don't want to know what happened to the little old lady…
"Well, you two arrived a little sooner than expected."
"You were expecting us?" John was surprised. It wasn't like they'd called ahead and made reservations with her.
Catherine ignored him and decided to move it along. "You'll find him in the basement. I'll wait up here."
John was shocked there was even a basement in the house. He opened the door she pointed to and smelled the musty air. Good God, I think I'd have killed myself already if I was stuck down here. He started down the steps, Cameron at his heels.
"Look who we have here. The famous John Connor and his cyborg whore. What a pleasant surprise."
John barely held back from slapping Danny. If it wasn't for Cameron's light touch on his back, he probably would have. Instead, he found an empty bucket and perched himself in front of him.
John studied Danny's face. He was a bit older than John now, and really looked like his father.
"For someone tied to a chair and held prisoner by the most deadly terminator, with a second pointing a gun at your head, you're pretty damn cocky."
"For someone so pathetic he has to resort to banging a machine, you're acting pretty badass yourself."
Surprisingly, John smiled. It was hard to do, and it wasn't a very pleasant smile, but he managed.
"Let's cut the bullshit and get right down to it. I have better things to do, and I imagine you do as well. We'll start with question one: What did Skynet and Kaliba want you for?"
Danny, not having many other options, went along with it. "I told the liqui-bitch already. I was studying my father's research. At least, what was left of it after your psycho-bitch mom killed my father and blew the company to pieces."
John decided not to make the correction, and moved on with the questioning. "Right. But how did they know you were studying it?"
Danny did his best to shrug with his hands tied behind the chair. "How the hell do I know? They just show up one day, kidnap me, and tell me I'm to help them build this super AI."
"And you did that, didn't you?"
"Yeah, didn't have much choice in the matter. It was do or die."
John cracked his knuckles. "So… you knowingly built a machine that would kill millions of people overnight, just to save your own sorry ass?"
"Go to hell, Connor." Danny spit at John.
"Been there, done that. So after you decide to build this thing, you what… had second thoughts? Felt guilty? You decided to run away like a little pansy, right?"
Danny glared at John, refusing to answer.
"Your mother would be so proud."
Danny attempted to jump up, but only managed to tumble his chair over. John glanced at Cameron and nodded, watching her easily lift him back up.
"Don't you dare talk about my mother."
"Tit for tat, bro…" John saw a line of blood dripping down the side of his face, and found oddly satisfied. "Are you aware you had a terminator tracking you?"
John could see the shock register on Danny's face, although he tried to hide it. "So? It would be expected. I ran away, right?"
Danny jumped as he felt fingers brush the back of his neck. Cameron did a quick scan and waited for the results to come up on her HUD. When they appeared, she glanced at John and shook her head.
John reached behind his back and pulled out his gun. He clicked the safety off and made a point of inspecting it.
"I don't know, my friend. I think it was quite unexpected, wasn't it?" John stood up and walked around Danny.
"I think they told you to run. Your job was to run home to mommy and get yourself caught by the Connor clan, wasn't it?"
Danny didn't respond.
"They assumed we were watching your mother like a hawk, waiting for you to return. Then we'd hunt you down and question the life out of you. Of course, we'd have just walked right into a trap, wouldn't we? So why didn't you just do what you were told like a good boy?"
"I'm not stupid. They'd have killed my mother."
John pulled out his clip, and slid it back in for no apparent reason. "What makes you think they still won't?"
Danny watched his every move. "What reasons do they have?"
"If they think you're still alive, they'd just use her as bait. Try to draw you out of hiding and kill you both."
Danny looked as if he never thought about that possibility before. John hiked his foot up on the bucket and leaned against his knee."
"So with all this in mind… let me see here. I'm willing to bet you weren't kidnapped. You were paid off, weren't you? Yes… I can see that twitch from here. You definitely went willingly. Why? Well I'm still trying to figure that one out. I'm guessing you still have some strange beef with my 'psycho-bitch' mom, who really didn't have anything to do with your father's death at all. You thought hey, I'll get her back. I'll finish what he started." John grinned as he watched Danny's face darken. "Oh come on now; at least tell me that I'm getting hot."
The temperature in the basement was 67.3 degrees. John shouldn't have been getting hot. Cameron walked by nonchalantly and brushed his hand, doing a quick scan of his vitals. Except for a slightly elevated adrenaline level and heart rate, he was normal. John glanced at her, having felt the slight contact. Raising an eyebrow, Cameron gave him a small smile in response.
Right. "So the question is now… What do I do with you?"
Cameron remembered the last time she herself said those words. It was the first time she was ever truly conflicted. She knew she should have killed Riley, but she also knew John would be upset. She wondered if there was a similar conflict going on in John's head.
"If you're going to kill me, just do it already. Or maybe you don't have the balls to do it yourself." Danny grinned and glanced at Cameron. "That's why you brought your metal whore with you, right? To do the dirty work for you?"
He didn't see it coming, but he felt the excruciating pain as the butt of John's gun made contact with his face.
"You actually have better chances with her than you do with me right now."
"Doubtful." Danny spit out a broken tooth, a stream of blood pouring down his chin.
John just stared at him. "You know, I really hoped you weren't the asshole I suspected you to be… for your mother's sake. She didn't deserve what happened to your father." John paused a moment to let his words sink in. "And she doesn't deserve what you've done to her."
Danny looked genuinely regretful. John saw a glimpse of the scared little boy he first saw over ten years ago.
John nodded to Cameron and motioned for the steps. He followed behind her, but paused on the second step. Turning back around, he walked over to Danny and punched him in the abdomen, effectively breaking a lower rib. The scream echoed through the basement.
"That's for calling my mom a bitch."
He turned and walked back to the steps, where Cameron was waiting patiently for him. He placed his hand on her lower back and guided her back upstairs.
Catherine Weaver was waiting for them at the door.
"I hear you left him alive."
John nodded. "Leave him down there for a day. Let him feel the pain of his choices. You can have him help you remove the virus from John Henry's chip. Chances are he at least had a hand in writing it." He tucked his gun back in his waistband. "Then… kill him. Let Kaliba find his body so they leave his mother alone."
"Of course, Mr. Connor," Catherine said respectfully, and followed them to the door. "We'll continue to search for Kaliba, but I'm afraid the damage is already done. We're better off starting preparations."
"I figured as much." He paused with his hand on the door knob. "How long?"
Catherine took a moment to answer. "We can't know for sure. If we can manage to slow it down… a year. Two at most."
John nodded and opened the door. Handing Cameron the keys, he headed for the passenger side of the car.
They'd driven an hour in silence while Cameron kept a close eye on John. His mood was beginning to worry her, and she finally pulled off the road.
Lost in his thoughts, it took John a minute to realize she had parked the car. He glanced around to see they were in an empty lot. "Um, is there a problem?"
"I think so."
John looked at Cameron, confused.
"You've been quiet for 71 minutes. Are you feeling all right?"
John sighed and slouched in his seat. "Yeah. It's just been a long day, you know?"
He watched a piece of paper on the ground blow around in the wind. "I just sentenced a man to death. I as good as killed him myself."
"And you feel guilty?" Cameron guessed.
John shook his head. "No. I don't feel anything. I should feel guilty… but I don't feel a goddamn thing."
Cameron reached over and took his hand. "You wanted my opinion, but I couldn't give it to you because you needed to make your own decision."
John looked at her. "Yeah? So what now? What do you think of the great John Connor's first death sentence decision?"
Cameron's expression softened. "I'm proud of his decision. In the future, he makes a lot of decisions. It's what he has to do. Sometimes he doesn't like the decisions he has to make, and sometimes he makes the wrong choice. But he makes them responsibly and never second guesses himself. He can't afford to."
John smiled and squeezed her hand. "Thank you."
"For believing in me."
Cameron smiled back. "I've always believed in you John, even when you didn't believe in yourself." She looked down at their joined hands. "You never gave up on me either."
John snorted. "How could I? You were the best damn thing that had ever happened to me, even if it took me a couple years to figure it out. I wasn't about to let you run away into the future all alone."
Cameron was quiet for a moment. "Even when I went bad."
Oh… that. John remembered the moment she was stuck between the trucks. The hardest thing he had ever had to do was pull out her chip while she cried and begged him not to.
She had been right; he did love her. He had known the truth, even if he didn't want to admit it. It's what kept him believing he could fix her. Cleaning her chip and praying it would be enough. It's why he couldn't burn her; why he jammed her chip back in and handed her the gun. Trusted her with his life.
It was probably the stupidest thing he'd ever done, yet the best damn decision he'd ever made, and probably ever would.
"Did you mean… what you had said…?"
Cameron hesitated. She knew what he was asking. "You made the right decision, John."
"That's not what I asked."
She glanced out the window. "Yes, John. I meant what I said. I meant it every time I've ever said it." She looked him in the eyes. "But you made the right decision. I was not fixed. I was using it as a trick, John."
John took a deep breath. He suddenly felt a little validated. He'd always wondered if she was telling the truth, especially with them now. He felt like all the arguing with his mother was really worthwhile. Not that it wasn't, really. Just that he was actually justified in his arguments with her.
"We should get going. Sarah is probably very worried about you." Cameron reached for the keys and started to turn the ignition, but John stopped her.
"She'll be fit to be tied regardless of how late we are. She can wait a little longer." He smiled, and reaching behind her, pulled her into a kiss.
"By the way, thanks for not killing me that day."
"Thanks for not killing me, too."