CHARACTERS: John, Allison, Kyle, Derek, OCs
WARNINGS: Spoilers for all of T:SCC and the Terminator universe.
DISCLAIMER: Owned by Warner Bros, Friedman, et all. No profit gained, no infringement intended.
TIMELINE: Post Born To Run, set in 2027 or thereabouts
SUMMARY: My fic for "scc_reloaded" community ficathon on livejournal. Written for equustel from the prompt: Future wanderings with the Reese clan - I'll leave it fairly open. with inspiration borrowed from cisaac.
The sound of someone barking his nickname snaps John from sleep. In the moment it takes John to open his weary eyes, Sayles is already walking away. Shaking his head quickly, John tries to brush off exhaustion and disorientation. He watches Sayles continue down the tunnel, the other soldier trusting that John will follow.
Pushing himself into a sitting position, John turns to wake Allison and finds she's lacing on her boots. John never bothered to take off his shoes. He sleeps in the disintegrating sneakers, knowing they can mean the difference between living and dying.
It sounds ridiculous to get so worked up over a pair of shoes, even to someone who has spent life on the run. But here and now absolutely nothing can be taken for granted. John learned that lesson the hard way and still has the limp to prove it.
Months ago he shrugged off Derek's admonitions to sleep with one hand on his rifle and both his feet in his shoes. The T-600 took out the dogs and managed to breach perimeter before the alarm went up. John sprinted barefoot across the debris strewn wasteland of what used to be L.A. He knows he's damn lucky he didn't die from the infection caused by the rusted rebar that almost tore completely through his left foot.
Kyle was the one who found him hours later, hobbling toward the bunker. Kyle inspected the wound and despite the excruciating pain, John laughed, hoping to make light of it. The look Kyle gave him scared John to the core. Kyle looked at him like he was looking at a dead man.
The infection took hold fast and John spent days delirious with fever. Later, Allison told him he was insensible for more than a week. The fact that he survived was something of a miracle, but it came at a steep price. It was weeks before he could put any weight on the foot at all. The daily cleaning and packing of the festering wound was something John desperately prayed he would never have to repeat. The disinfectant burned like hell and smelled suspiciously like kerosene, but it worked.
Once he could walk again, he vowed to never take his shoes off. Ever. It's a small price for what passes for security in this world.
"Now!" Sayles yells.
John quickly shakes off the memory and nods, jumping to his feet. With deft efficiency, he rolls up the sleeping bag and grabs both packs, shrugging into his own and handing the other to Allison. As Allison rises to her feet and trots after Sayles, John follows closely. He doesn't think about the fact that the first time he saw Sayles, the man was already dead, yet here he is living and breathing and waiting to die again. Just like he didn't spend his first three weeks here reliving the horror of finding his uncle's dead body every time he looked at Derek. And Kyle …
"Coy?" Allison asks, glancing back at him with concern.
John nods. Here, in this world turned upside down, he is no longer John Connor. The name that held such power for so long now means nothing. Coydog. They all call him that. He's not sure they remember his real name.
Navarro was the one who christened him Coydog only days after Derek first found him naked in the tunnels. John didn't dare reject the handle. He knew an elder statesman when he saw one. Navarro isn't the camp's leader, but he's respected and anything he sees fit to say is definitely worth listening to. Navarro is the one who named the Four Horsemen; Kyle, Derek, Gonzales and Rabbit. The fact that Navarro went to the trouble to give John a name means something. John's just not sure what it is. But he likes it. Most days it's easier to be Coydog than to be John Connor.
"'Bout damn time," Flores says as John and Allison finally reach the larger group. John doesn't say anything. Neither does Allison. Taking Flores's taunts personally would be an absolute waste of time. Instead, they find a crumbling wall and take a seat, waiting to hear what's going on.
Derek glances at John, and John knows there's trouble. He's not very close to this Derek, but he knows his uncle well enough to read his expressions. Something happened. Something bad. And Flores is taking it out on everyone.
John turns his head from his uncle to look at Flores for a moment. She's fuming, pacing in a tight circle like a caged animal, lashing out at anyone who catches her attention. In contrast, Derek looks exhausted, but calm, the eye of the storm. John considers how different this version of Derek is from the version that he knew. That Derek, the old Derek, he would have been the one to bitch in the middle of the crisis, to ride everyone's ass, to play enforcer. But this Derek can't afford do that. He keeps it together. He buries it. He leads.
"Stow it, Flores," Kyle snaps.
Flores is still steaming, but she holds her tongue, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring.
"Three squads," Derek says. He points at the map stretched out on the table in front of him. "Rabbit, you and Gonzales head north toward Griffith Observatory. Take Collins and Breaker. Watch out for HKs." He turns, glances at the squad again. "Flores and Behr, grab Morris and Squeak and take one of the Jeeps south to the Port."
Derek leans forward, looks at the map, his eyes tracing over it, his expression tight. It's a look John knows well, both from this time and from before. Derek bites down on his bottom lip for a moment before pushing off from the table. "Kyle, Navarro, Allison, Coydog, you're with me."
Flores is on her feet again, her eyes locked on Derek in an expression that's not quite irate enough to hide her terror. "Where're you heading?"
"Topanga Canyon," Derek answers, holding her gaze.
The one thing John is never going to get used to is all the goddamn rain. Whatever the bombs did, they certainly fucked with weather patterns. It rains all the time now. He pulls his worn jacket tighter but it doesn't do anything to keep him dry.
It's darker than he ever would have thought the night sky over L.A. could be. But behind the clouds, the moon is full, offering enough muted light that they don't have to use flashlights or waste precious battery life on infrared. John jogs around the wreckage of an old bus and then hurdles a crumbling concrete divider. Unfortunately the ground on the other side of the divider is slick and muddy. The loose debris offers no traction and he goes down hard, cursing.
He tries to shake it off, to ignore it, but he's still cursing under his breath as he pushes himself to his feet and carefully makes his way to the outcropping of rubble. He ducks under and hunches down next to Kyle, glad to be out of the rain, no matter how temporarily.
It's too dark to read Kyle's expression, but he turns his face toward John. "You okay?"
"Fine," John mutters, embarrassed that Kyle knows he wiped out.
Kyle is quiet for a moment. "Foot?"
John shrugs. "It'll get me there."
John doesn't think Kyle is convinced, but he takes John at his word, giving him a nod and then rising to his feet and grabbing his infrared scope. Kyle looks out into the open and for several minutes uses the scope to study the terrain in the opposite direction from where John just came. He finally lowers the scope and once again sinks to the ground next to John.
"Lot of movement out there," he says tightly.
John hates this part. It takes them hours to go only a few miles. These sections are so heavily patrolled by Skynet that they have no choice but to run from cover to cover, waiting for breaks in patrols, trying to keep all their senses on alert despite the rain and cold and exhaustion. And so on and so on until dawn forces them to huddle down together and wait for nightfall. Not that John minds either Kyle or Navarro's company, but given a choice of who he'd rather hide under a rock with for the day, he'd choose Allison. Of course, he doesn't have a choice. Allison is running point with the dogs as usual with Derek at her six.
Kyle rubs his hands together, trying to generate some warmth. John envies the fact that Kyle has the energy to even try. John's so fucking tired it's all he can do to stay awake. Trying to distract himself, he glances sidelong at Kyle. It's too dark to really see anything, and even if it wasn't John looks away quickly. Kyle Reese. John still can't believe he actually knows his father. Well, not that this Kyle Reese is the same Kyle Reese that was … would … hell, it fucks with John's head. Either way, this Kyle Reese certainly isn't going to sign up for a suicide mission to protect some woman no one's ever heard of. At least, John doesn't think so.
But every now and then Kyle gives him a look that's so loaded and yet so benign John has no idea what to make of it. Maybe Kyle's just looking out for the new kid. Or maybe Kyle can feel it, that they're all tangled up in this mess together so completely that none of them can ever be extricated, that it's a foregone conclusion that Kyle will travel through time, find Sarah Connor and love her enough to die for her.
In the darkness, John screws his eyes shut tightly. He tries not to think of his mother because thinking of Sarah only leads to thoughts of how thoroughly he failed her. He hasn't found any evidence of Cameron or John Henry. He jumped into the future so determined to fix everything … only to find that – if anything – he made it worse.
And yet … he's here. And Kyle's here. And Derek's here. And Allison is so much more than Cameron could ever be. But also so much less. Just like the Reese boys are somehow less. Because the Reese boys aren't supposed to be running their own piss-ant resistance camp, eeking out an existence by scavenging off the remains of the world Skynet burned to a crisp. The Reese boys are supposed to be some of the most valued assets of The Resistance, the human military force led by General John Connor.
John wonders what Sarah would think if she saw him now. Probably that he deserves the limp.
He leans back, trying to ignore the sensation of cold mud seeping into his shoes, trying to ignore the fact that the world he knew – the world he tried to save – is gone.
He's better at ignoring than he thought. He jerks awake, cursing himself for nodding off. The dim light is blocked for a moment and John knows it's Navarro. John wonders how long he was out. Twenty minutes? Thirty?
"Made enough racket out there to wake the dead, Old Timer," John postures.
Navarro snorts and sinks down to the ground next to John. "You wish, ese," he goads. "Found the spot where you bit it out there. Good thing Reese is here to babysit you. Guess if you fucked up your foot again it wasn't bad enough to stop you from falling asleep on the job."
John winces. Fuck. Busted twice in the last hour. This is not going to be a good day. "You gonna carry me if I did?" is John's smart ass reply.
"Fuck no, Coydog. I'll leave your skinny ass to the machines. This old back can't take that kind of abuse anymore. I threw it out fuckin' your mama."
John half chokes, half laughs. "You wouldn't joke about that if you knew my mom. She'd kick your ass."
Navarro chuckles and reaches behind his ear for the stub of those god awful things he smokes. John rises to his feet and pokes his head out, looking at the sky. "Getting' awful light out there," John says grimly.
Kyle and Navarro both makes noises of less than pleased agreement. John sighs and ducks down again. He takes a seat, leaning back against the wall between Kyle and Navarro. John smacks his head back against the rock behind him in frustration. He wanted to make it further. He hates having to hide from the daylight like he's a cockroach.
Navarro chuckles. "And there it is."
John turns his head to look at him. "There what is?"
"That look," Navarro says cryptically, exhaling a noxious cloud of smoke.
John likes Navarro, but he's really not in the mood. "What look?"
Navarro smiles. "The one that makes me call you Coydog."
Shaking his head, John settles back, trying to get comfortable. He doesn't feel like playing twenty questions with some crazy old soldier. Sometimes Navarro reminds John of Derek. Not the Derek of this world. The Derek who John knew. The Derek who was prone to making cryptic proclamations and pushing buttons and generally being a pain in the ass.
Navarro finally stubs out the smoke. "You know what a coydog is, Connor?"
John raises an eyebrow, shocked as hell that Navarro remembers his last name. He nods. "Sure. It's half dog, half coyote. But I don't know what the hell that has to do with me."
"Coydogs are a problem," Navarro says.
Kyle looks from Navarro to John and back with a wry smile. "You think the kid's a problem?" he asks incredulously.
Navarro smiles, shaking his head. "Not for us."
John and Kyle both frown at the elder soldier in confusion.
Navarro finally nods in acquiescence. "Coyotes are smart, sly. They're tricksters. But they're afraid of humans," Navarro explains. "Our domesticated dogs are fiercely loyal to us. You go mixing domesticated dogs and coyotes and you end up with a coydog. Coydogs look like coyotes, act like coyotes. But they don't have a natural fear of humans the way coyotes do. That makes them dangerous."
John has a sinking suspicion where Navarro is going with this analogy.
"Connor here is a coydog," Navarro says to Kyle. "The rest of us are coyotes, you, me, the whole camp. We hate the metal. We fight them. But inside, we're scared of them. We run."
Kyle looks at John, watching him closely. John stares at Navarro, unable to meet his father's gaze.
"But you, Coydog," Navarro says, leaning forward and tapping John in the forehead with his index finger. "You're not afraid of them. You hate them. You fight them. But you're not afraid. Not like we are. That makes you different. It makes you dangerous to them. More dangerous than the lot of us."
John shrugs uneasily. "You're crazy. I'm not stupid. I fear the machines as much as anyone else."
Navarro shakes his head. "You respect them, but you're not afraid of them. Not in here." He taps his chest, over his heart, for emphasis.
John turns and tries to give Kyle the 'he's crazy' look, but Kyle is watching John with a guarded expression. "He's right," Kyle says to John. "You aren't afraid of them. Not the way we are."
John bristles. "I'm not a gray if that's what you're getting at," he says tightly.
Navarro laughs, a hoarse, scratchy sound. "Shit, boy. The grays are more scared of the fucking metal than the rest of us poor bastards."
"We know you're not a gray," Kyle says seriously.
John doesn't feel half as relieved as he wishes he did.
Navarro reaches in his pack and pulls out a pouch of dried herbs and begins assembling another one of those damn cigarettes. He glances up at John. "You have a story, Coydog."
John says nothing and avoids looking at Kyle.
"You fell from the sky naked as a jaybird," Navarro continues. "You didn't know enough to keep your damn shoes on, but you hunted down a T-600 unarmed and barefoot."
John shrugs. "It had Allison."
"We all love Alli," Kyle says. "But we wouldn't have gone after a T-6 with our bare hands."
"T-6s have limited range of motion," John says, trying to sound matter-of-fact. "They're built for power, not maneuverability. If you can get them off balance, it doesn't take much to tip them over and then go after the CPU."
Kyle gives him an incredulous look. "They're metal."
Navarro licks the edge of whatever the hell it is he's using as wrapping papers for the smoke and then rolls it tightly between his fingers. "Coyote bitches," he says absently, "try to teach their coydog young to be afraid of humans, but it doesn't work." He looks up at John. "What did your mama teach you?"
John holds Navarro's gaze. "She taught me to run," he says tightly.
Navarro pinches the smoke between his lips and cups his hand before striking a match and lighting it. He inhales deeply. "And do you?"
John looks away. His gaze flits past Kyle and comes to rest somewhere amidst the dawning gray beyond their hiding place. He thinks of Kyle, of Derek, of Cameron and Allison. He thinks of Sarah standing in the basement of Zeira Corp shaking her head, telling him she'd stop it. He swallows thickly and blinks, looking down at the ground. "Sometimes."
Derek lowers the binoculars and turns back to the group.
"What'd you see?" Kyle asks.
"Skynet facility," Derek says. "Heavily fortified."
Kyle takes the binoculars dangling from Derek's hand and presses them to his own eyes, cursing under his breath. Navarro looks in the direction of the facility, but doesn't seem to have any interest in getting a closer look. Allison steps closer, close enough that her shoulder brushes against John's. "What is it?" she asks Derek.
Derek shrugs, shaking his head.
"R&D," John says.
The others look at him, but none of them seem too shocked. It's like they all expected him to have more information than they do. And – he realizes uncomfortably – they're probably right. He looks around the group, Kyle, Derek, Navarro, Allison. All of them seem to trust him implicitly though he has no idea why. He realizes that this is why Derek segmented the larger group the way he did, going so far as to send his girlfriend to the Port rather than risk having someone around who would view John's particular brand of insight with suspicion rather than gratitude.
"R&D for what?" Allison presses.
John looks down at the ground, toeing some rubble absently but with enough pressure to cause a twinge of pain in his foot. "Time displacement."
"Time displacement," Derek repeats carefully.
John nods, looking up and meeting his uncle's gaze. "Time travel."
"And what do you know about time travel?" Derek asks.
John smiles wryly. "I know how to run."
[ end story ]