Title: Under the Influence
Fandom: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Characters: Mainly Sarah & Derek. John and Cameron get a brief look-in.
Rating/Category: T. A bit of H/C, Derek and Sarah style.
Word Count: About 3050
Spoilers: Huge ones for The Good Wound
Summary: The drive home.
Notes: Written before Sarah's very speedy recovery in Desert Cantos. In my world, she wouldn't have been clambering through windows two days after taking a bullet. Thanks and love to Cat for Beta and moral support.
Disclaimer: Don't own them. Wish I did.
Sarah hadn't said a word since they had seen the smoke. Half an hour had gone by while Derek stole glances at her, silently wagering with himself how long it would be before she threw up, passed out, or did both simultaneously. She was leaning heavily against the window, her face sweat-slicked and grey. He could see her breath fogging up too fast against the glass. She had lost too much blood, more than the hospital had given her, more than she could compensate for, and they were still miles from home.
"I need to lie down."
Thirty-eight minutes. Eight longer than he had given her credit for.
She was taking deep breaths, trying to stave off her impending collapse. He slammed the truck to a stop and jogged around to her side. When he opened the door, she all but sagged into his arms; he barely caught her, trying to support her weight as she struggled to remain conscious and to help him.
"C'mon, Sarah. Keep your eyes open. Fuck. Connor! Keep your eyes open."
She obeyed the order, her eyes glazed, not really seeing him.
"Back seat. You can lie down."
Together they contrived to get her onto the back seat. She lay back immediately, shielding her eyes with her arm as her breathing slowed and she regained a shred of composure. Derek yanked open the trunk, grabbed the first-aid kit, a blanket and a canteen, and climbed in beside her. There was fuck-all room to work in, but he had managed in less. He checked the road: nothing for miles in either direction, enough time for him to perform a spot of combat medicine and run a bag of fluid through before they got moving again.
"Sarah, I need to check your leg."
The dressing had a bloom of red in the center. She shouldn't have been walking, but they had run from the hospital to the truck.
She sucked in a harsh breath, but opened her eyes and nodded at him. He peeled away the bandage, ignoring the groan that she tried and failed to clamp down on.
"Okay, that's not too bad." It looked fucking awful. Her thigh was hot and swollen with infection and the trauma of two make-shift surgeries. Blood and yellow fluid oozed from the stitches that held the wound closed.
"Liar." She was craning her head up, looking at her leg.
"I know. God, it fucking hurts."
It was so unlike her to admit that, that Derek widened his eyes and let out a bark of laughter. "Bad day, huh?"
"Not one of my best." A small smile as she acknowledged the understatement.
Unable to do more under the circumstances, Derek wiped the wound clean and wrapped a fresh dressing into place. He reached for her wrist and frowned when he failed to locate a pulse there. Moving his hand to the crook of her elbow, he was able to palpate her brachial pulse, but it was thready and too fast to count.
"Your pressure is shit. I'm going to start an IV."
"Yes, here. Do you want to get home?"
Sarah nodded, not trusting herself to answer.
"You know what you're doing?" She was eyeing Derek with suspicion.
"No. I'm just going to fucking improvise. Of course I know what I'm doing."
He tore open a bag of saline, draped it over the headrest and pierced it with a giving set, then took hold of her arm, pulled a tourniquet tight around it and inspected it for access.
"Your veins are shit."
"Yeah, well, I'm guessing you usually have a blood pressure above 60."
"Mmm." Sarah conceded the point and made a small noise of protest when Derek stabbed her wrist with a cannula.
"Sorry. Sharp scratch here."
"Asshole." There was no malice in her tone. She didn't have the energy; besides which, he'd actually hit the vein.
"All done. That feel okay?" He was wrapping a piece of gauze around the site, hooking up the giving set. Apparently, he really did know what he was doing.
"It's fine." She shifted uncomfortably, her leg burning.
"I can't give you any morphine yet."
"I don't want you crashing on me."
"I know. It's fine."
"C'mere." He draped a thick blanket over her and she closed her eyes gratefully as it eased the chills that were racking her body. "See how you're doing after that bag of saline, okay?"
"Okay." Her eyes were closing. She thought that he rested his hand on her forehead, then gently on her cheek, but she couldn't be sure.
"How is she?"
"She's been better." Derek clamped the phone between his ear and shoulder, and adjusted the flow rate on the IV.
"Where are you? Do you want me and Cameron to…" John sounded impatient.
Derek cut him off. "No. Stay there. She's okay. She lost a lot of blood, but I've started an IV."
"Listen, John. She'll need type-specific blood and IV antibiotics. Tell the met…" Derek corrected himself because John sounded stressed enough and didn't need provoking from a distance, " Tell Cameron her blood type. We need it for when we get back. Be about six hours."
"Can I talk to her?"
Derek looked at Sarah. It had been twenty minutes since she had passed out and she seemed to be reasonably comfortable.
"No. Not right now. Let her sleep, okay?"
Derek heard John swallow before he answered. "Okay. Take care of her, Derek."
"I am doing."
The line went dead.
"Here. Small sips."
Derek knew Sarah must be feeling like hammered shit, because she allowed him to cradle her and feed her water like a baby without trying to rip his head off. She did mutter a complaint when he moved the canteen, though.
"I don't want you puking on me."
She raised an eyebrow. "I might anyway."
"Yeah, well, just remember this is the only truck we have now, since I immolated your Jeep."
"Damn. I fucking loved that Jeep."
She looked slightly better after the saline, but Derek wasn't fooled by the fever-induced flush on her cheeks; he knew he needed to get her home where she could be stabilized with antibiotics and a transfusion. He exchanged the IV for a fresh bag and drew up a small dose of morphine.
"Might take the edge off until we get back."
At her nod, he slowly pushed the drug through her IV. He waited until her eyes closed again before he moved back to the front seat.
"I meant to tell you, y'know."
Derek jumped. Checking the rear-view mirror, he saw Sarah looking at him blearily.
"Jesus! I thought you were asleep."
"About Kyle. I meant to tell you. Not right away. I didn't… I couldn't. But later. I meant to."
"Sarah, it's okay."
"It's not okay. He was your brother." Her eyes were closed, fresh tears staining a new path through the sweat on her cheeks. "And I… I should've said something."
"Every time I look at John, I see Kyle." He heard a soft sob, and stared at the road. "I've known since the minute I saw him."
Derek slowed the truck, attempting to find a balance between making progress and not hitting every pothole on the desert highway. Sarah had been quiet for the past hour, but he knew she was awake. She had bitten through her bottom lip trying not to cry out every time he had driven over a bump.
"You wanna tell me what happened?"
"What?" She was completely blindsided.
"At the warehouse, when it all went to shit. What happened?"
She made a muted noise of distress. Derek immediately regretted opening his mouth, but she caught his eye in the mirror and shook her head.
"There was a man. He… um, he said he installed air-conditioning, that he coached Little League. I was stupid: dropped my guard for a second."
"And he shot you."
"Yes." She laughed harshly. "Always my fucking leg."
"Yeah. Always my chest with me. I'd take one in the leg any day, over a collapsed lung."
A proper laugh this time, but it stole her breath and turned into sobs. "I killed him."
"Yeah, yeah. I figured."
"I didn't mean to. I tried to fight, but he was on top of me and I couldn't move." Her voice, no more than a whisper, sounded like it was coming from miles away. "I shot him, and he fell onto me. He was so heavy." Her whole body was shaking with the effort it was taking not to fall apart. "I never... I'd never…"
Derek ran his hand over his face, giving her space as he tried to pull together the pieces of what she had said. There was something nagging at him, something that was not quite right. The road passed by in a blur, but then the answer came to him in a perfect moment of clarity. When he looked back through the mirror, he knew she was waiting for him to figure it out.
"John killed Sarkissian."
She gave the barest of nods, and he let his breath out in a quiet whistle. "Fuck."
"John choked him with his bare hands. I couldn't get free quickly enough."
"Fuck." Everything fell into place, and Derek found himself having to re-evaluate his nephew on the spot.
"He blamed me, I think. For not being able to save him."
"Yeah, Sarah, because it's not like you don't throw yourself in front of his bullets on a daily basis."
She shifted and winced, trying to ease a cramp in her leg. "Didn't… didn't say he was logical about it."
"Well, that explains why he's been such a little shit."
"Most kids get a better sixteenth birthday present."
"Why didn't you tell me? You let me believe it was you."
She shook her head. When she answered, she sounded exhausted, the edges of her words slurring. "I don't know. It was easier that way. You'd have treated him differently."
"Yes. I'd have cut him some slack." He was pissed, at her for lying, but mainly at himself for not being there to realize what was going on, and for leaving them to cope with the fallout.
"Any more of my secrets you want to know while I'm under the influence?"
Derek's eyes widened. Then he saw her faint smile, and shook his head and laughed. "Let me think about it before I dose you up again."
"Oh, fuck." Sarah heaved and vomited into the dust at the side of the road. She groaned miserably as the motion put pressure on her leg. When she tried to adjust her position, she retched without warning, and spat water and bile instead. Derek was there, holding her steady; she leaned into him heavily, not caring any more about appearing weak. She was weak, right now, and she couldn't do a thing about it.
"Here." He handed her a damp towel. When her hands shook, he took it back and wiped her face clean. "Rinse your mouth out."
Tepid water sloshed from the canteen and she resisted the urge to gulp it down.
Derek rested his hand on her forehead and swore creatively under his breath. "Can you get up?"
She was burning hot, but shivering in the heat of the desert. She needed more help than he could give her on the road.
"C'mon, Sarah. On three." She didn't move, and he didn't bother to count. He lifted her under her arms and half-carried, half-dragged her back to the truck, hauling her into the back and turning her on her side in case she was sick again. They couldn't afford to keep stopping. She had had the sense to carry her IV with her when she had ordered the truck to a halt, and he carefully unwound the tubing and hung the half-empty bag back into place.
Sarah watched him, barely conscious, and he used the towel to cool her face again. "Better get you home, huh?" The lightness of his tone belied his nerves; he was pretty much at the limits of his expertise.
She nodded. "I'm okay." She really wasn't, but he appreciated the lie anyway.
The doors were opening before the truck had stopped fully.
"Oh God. Mom?" John stared into the back seat, his face pale and scared.
Sarah stirred as some instinctive part of herself recognized her son's voice. "John?"
"I'm here, Mom. Cameron's going to get you out. Just hold on."
"I can manage." She really couldn't, but there was no way in hell the machine was carrying her into the house in front of her son. She clenched her fists and pushed herself along the seat and towards the car door, stopping when her legs were dangling towards the ground. She knew she couldn't stand up. The effort of getting so far had made her vision dim, and she wondered vaguely whether she would faint.
Watching her with an incredulous expression, Derek moved to block John's view. He called her a "fucking idiot" under his breath, but simultaneously wrapped his arm around her, grabbing her hand tightly and hauling her somehow onto her feet. The world tilted and pitched, but Sarah forced herself to put one foot in front of the other, as Derek, taking most of her weight whilst seeming not to, kept a firm hold and guided her into her bedroom.
"You get the blood?" He sat Sarah on the bed and lifted her legs up, easing her back onto the pillows. Her eyes were tightly closed, and she was gasping for breath.
"Yes. O-negative." Cameron was opening boxes.
"Yes. We didn't have any difficulties." Dressings and swabs were already laid out on the bed.
"John." He turned to his nephew, who was still looking stricken. "Get cold water and a flannel. Not too cold. We've got to get her temperature down." It was not an immediate priority, but getting John out of the room was.
Cameron split Sarah's trouser leg up the seam and laid her thigh bare. "I need to reopen that." She touched the skin around the wound, and Sarah cried out, trying to push away from her.
"Sarah, easy." Derek took hold of her flailing hand. She looked at him, her eyes wide and wild. "Morphine first. Don't touch her like that again without giving her something."
Cameron immediately retracted her hand, and drew the drug into a syringe. She injected it slowly, watching as Sarah's expression relaxed.
Derek let out a breath as the death-grip Sarah had on his hand eased. "Right, fine. Do what you have to do. I need to start a second line for the blood."
Cameron expertly cut the stitches on Sarah's leg and applied pressure to release the infection which had gathered in the wound. Sarah whimpered softly, the pain cutting too deeply for the morphine to counteract completely, but she did not wake. Cameron irrigated the wound with saline and left it open to allow it to drain.
She had cleaned most of the mess away when John returned. He flinched when he saw Sarah's leg, but took the flannel and began to cool her face.
"She'll feel much better after this, John." Derek hung the first unit of blood. He had already started the antibiotics in the other line.
"What the hell happened to her?"
"I'm not sure. She told me bits and pieces, but a lot of it was the fever talking." It was a lie, but his nephew didn't need to know the details until Sarah was ready to tell them, if she ever was. "Just let her get some rest now."
John nodded, watching his mother as she slept fitfully. Derek took the bowl and flannel from him. "Go on. She wouldn't want you to see her like this."
John was about to protest but then he remembered: remembered when she had sent him running for first aid supplies they didn't need, so he wouldn't see a machine pulling a bullet from her shoulder.
"Call me when she wakes up."
John leaned down and squeezed her hand gently, then left, closing the door behind him.
Derek swirled the flannel in the water, wrung it out and turned back to Sarah. He started slightly when he realized she was watching him. "Fuck, Sarah. Do you ever go to sleep?"
She blinked slowly, giving the impression that – on some level at least – a good part of her had been asleep. She licked her dry lips. "Thank you."
"What for?" Derek dropped a straw into a glass of water and held it close enough for her to drink.
"Your promise about John. Coming to get me. Blowing up my Jeep. Y'know, all the small stuff."
He laughed and put the glass down, running the flannel across her forehead. "Go to sleep, Sarah."
She began to close her eyes, but then resisted the urge and forced them open.
"Stop being such a hard-ass." The flannel again, cool and soothing. "Sleep. We've got your back."
It was the truth, and Sarah smiled, reassured. She closed her eyes again, and Derek watched as her face relaxed and her breathing became deeper and easier. He suspected she might rip him a new one if she woke up to find him holding her hand, so he pulled up a chair beside the bed and rested his hand on her wrist instead. His fingers found her pulse there: weak, but steady and not too fast. Derek stretched his legs out, leaned back in the chair and watched dusk fall as he counted her heartbeat.