Rating: M: violence, sex, huge amounts of bad language, discussion of adult themes, a pretty spectacular body count, casual slaughter of the innocent (including one minor series character), and scenes of a medical nature that might cause queasiness in those with a sensitive disposition.
Disclaimer: Don't own them. Wish I did. And I have shamelessly pinched some of their dialogue.
. . . . .
Know Your Exits 7/7
. . . . .
Sarah hadn't moved or spoken since Derek had sat her on the bed. She was hunched slightly forward, her right hand supporting ribs that he knew were fractured. He took her left hand in both of his, hearing her breath catch as he touched her fingers. He pulled a pillow onto her lap, set her hand down onto it and opened the first aid kit. There was everything that he needed, and more besides – Cameron had obviously restocked – but he hesitated, looked at Sarah, and shut the lid again.
He wrapped a thick blanket around her shoulders. When he stood up and stepped back, she raised her head, confused.
"Give me a couple of minutes, okay?"
Welcoming any reprieve from the inevitable setting and splinting and suturing, she pulled the blanket tighter and closed her eyes. "Okay."
. . . . .
It took closer to ten minutes. By the time Derek went back for her, Sarah was half-asleep, still sitting exactly where he had left her.
Blinking drowsily, she stood up with him, and he led her into the small bathroom. It was warmer in there, steam rising from the bath he had just drawn. Crouching in front of her as she sat on the toilet lid, he unbuttoned the uniform shirt she was wearing and pushed it down and off her shoulders, leaving her in the scrubs top from the infirmary.
"Can you lift your arms?"
She did as she was asked, biting her lip as her ribs sent stabs of pain through her chest and her back screamed a protest.
"Fucking hell." Derek uttered the curse with vehemence. With the cotton shirt balled up in his fist, he was staring at the contusions that covered her torso: a too-vivid portrait of the violence inflicted upon her, rendered in deep purples and blues and greens.
"It's not as bad as it looks," she said quietly, turning slightly when his hands guided her to.
He touched the swelling on her back, his fingers so light that all she could feel was the subtle roughness of the calluses on their tips. When he rocked back from her he looked sick. "You passing any blood?"
"No." She shook her head, trying to put an end to that particular issue, but he wasn't deterred.
"No." A sigh, but she held his gaze. "Not anymore."
He ran his hand across the coarse stubble on his chin, not convinced at all.
She held her hand out to him, motioning for him to help her stand. "Bathwater's getting cold." She smiled as a thought occurred to her. "And I'm not sure I can get out of two pairs of pants by myself."
Shaking his head with a smile of his own, he helped her to unfasten the pants then step out of the clothing. She held his arm as she stepped into the bath, lowering herself into the water with a soft murmur of appreciation.
He handed her soap and a sponge. "You need anything else?"
"Give me a shout when you're done."
"Mmhmm." She pushed herself lower into the water. "I shout and John'll probably come running." She wrapped her fingers around his where they rested on the porcelain. "Stay."
. . . . .
The hot water had given Sarah's skin an artificially healthy glow, but she was upright only by virtue of the pillows that she was now propped against, and awake only because the Tylenol that she had finally consented to take hadn't done much to dull the pain in her hand and her back.
Derek said nothing as he unwound the tattered bandage from her wrist. Her left wrist had been bad enough, but she had warned him that her right would probably be worse. The dressing, pre-soaked in the bath, came away easily, and he did well to disguise his reaction to the inflamed collection of seeping wounds that wrapped full circles around her wrist. The separate ligature marks were easy to distinguish. He held her hand up to the light and managed to keep his voice neutral.
"You didn't bite this, did you?"
Her low laugh turned into a gasp as he touched an antiseptic-soaked cloth to the abraded skin. "No. I didn't bite it." He saw her bare toes curl in response to the pain; her left hand was already immobilized, preventing her from twisting the sheets with her fingers. "When the Triple 8 came for me, I was in the infirmary." She hesitated, but she knew by the expression on Derek's face that he had already filled in the gaps. "They'd handcuffed me to the bed."
He nodded and continued to clean her wrist, a muscle twitching in his jaw.
"They didn't realize," she said quietly. "They didn't know what had happened at the Dysons'. They didn't know what they were up against in the jail." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I couldn't tell them, not until it was too late. I could handle being in the jail, but I couldn't…" She shook her head, choking on her confession. "I couldn't let them send me back to Pescadero."
Derek set the cloth down and gripped her hand. "Sarah?"
She lifted her head slowly to look at him and he tipped her chin with his finger.
"You know we'd have gotten you out of there as well, don't you?"
She didn't, couldn't, reply to that, and he took the option off the table by leaning in and kissing her. Her lips were chapped but warm, and she didn't pull away, her tongue flicking out briefly to touch his. It lasted no longer than a few seconds, but afterwards she relaxed against the pillows, and her hand didn't shake when she offered it back to him.
He took the cloth up again. "Let's get this done. Then maybe get you something to eat." He shrugged apologetically. "We only have soup, though."
Sarah shook her head. "There's a locked unit in the kitchen. It's got all kinds of canned and dried food in it." She had the grace to look guilty as Derek narrowed his eyes at her. "I guess I forgot to mention it."
"I can't believe we didn't think to open it. We've eaten so much fucking soup, I was starting to miss your cooking."
She gave him a skeptical look.
He considered what he had just said, then nodded in acknowledgement and began to wrap a bandage around her wrist. "Okay, so maybe that was a slight overstatement…"
. . . . .
It wasn't much of a meal: pasta and meat sauce, but it was hot and there was plenty of it, and to John's delight it wasn't soup.
Sarah had insisted on sitting at the small table with John and Derek, then surprised herself by rediscovering her appetite. She pretended not to notice John's look of relief when she accepted the offer of a second serving and finished that too.
While Derek made coffee, John helped her over to the sofa, his arm around her waist, his fingers splayed across her ribs.
He sat beside her with a worried frown on his face. "You've lost weight, mom."
"Probably," she admitted. She picked up the mug of coffee Derek set down for her, and warmed her hand against it. "Prison food left a lot to be desired, and the infirmary food was worse."
John didn't seem entirely placated. "You going to take it easy for a while?"
She sipped her coffee, knowing that right now no amount of caffeine in the world would be sufficient to keep her awake for much longer. "Yes," she said sincerely. "I think we're all going to be taking it easy for a while."
John smiled at that and stood up. "I'm gonna go to bed." He kissed the top of her head. "It's good to have you back, mom."
She smiled. "It's good to be back."
Derek waited until the door had closed behind John before moving to sit beside her on the sofa. He arched an eyebrow at her over the rim of his mug as he drank.
"I've never figured out your tell, Connor. But I know that was bullshit you just told him."
She glanced towards the bedroom door. "Half-bullshit," she conceded. "We'll have to take it easy until we're both a little stronger, but we have a chip from a Kaliba Triple 8, and I know for sure now that those bastards set us up at the Dysons'."
Derek's eyes widened, and he listened without interrupting as she recounted what Auldridge had told her about Danny Dyson's disappearance.
When she had finished, he only had one question, and it was the one she had no answer for. "So where is Danny Dyson?"
"I don't know." She set her empty mug down. "He may well be dead, but our best chance to find out is by hacking that chip."
"John'll do it," Derek said with certainty. "You just need to give him a little time."
"Mmm." Her eyes were closing despite her best efforts, and she made no attempt to resist as Derek stood her up and guided her into the bedroom, pulling back the blankets for her.
She wasn't quite quick enough to hide a grimace as she lowered herself onto the bed. "God," she hissed, her hand pressed against her chest. "Why the hell did they have to break the same three ribs? Is there a kick here sign on them that I've never fucking noticed?"
He sat down beside her; there was bitterness in his voice despite his smile. "Looking at you, they seem to have kicked pretty much everywhere."
"Yeah, I guess they did." She couldn't really disagree, but her tone told him that she was too tired to make an issue out of it. She yawned and lay down carefully, turning onto her side and letting out a breath when the position proved to be comfortable.
"Need any pills?" He figured there was no harm in asking, but wasn't surprised when she shook her head.
"Okay, then." He stood up to leave, but she lifted her head to look at him.
"Cameron set a perimeter?"
"She out there now?"
"You've not seen anyone around here?" Her voice was barely more than a mumble.
"No." He sat down on the bed again. "We are officially in the middle of fucking nowhere. Go to sleep."
"The machine found my mom here." She had forced her eyes open, the thought setting her heart racing, but he was shaking his head.
"That was different, Sarah. Everything's different now, and they won't find us here."
He didn't know if she heard him, and he would never know if she believed him, but she did go to sleep. He watched her for a few minutes more before he picked up a spare pillow, left the door open a crack and went back out to the living room to make his own bed on the sofa.
. . . . .
The sweater was old and at least two sizes too big for Sarah, but it was comfortable, it hid most of her injuries, and she had been able to pull it on by herself. The trunk in her bedroom was full of clothes, enough for all four of them, although Cameron would have to tone down her predilection for skimpy tops and short skirts. The clothing – mainly jeans, T-shirts and thick sweaters – was nothing if not practical.
It was still early, but Sarah's sleep had been dreamless and she felt better for it. She ached all over, but the Tylenol seemed to have kicked in to some extent, and she could move without as much discomfort as on the previous day.
Muffled clanks from the main part of the cabin told her that someone was awake and trying to be quiet. As soon as she stepped out of the bedroom, the smell of frying food hit her, and she followed it into the kitchen.
"Hey." Derek kept his voice low, indicating with a nod that John was still asleep.
"Hey," she said, distracted by the fresh bread, fruit, ham, and eggs. "Where did you get this?"
"Store about twenty klicks north. It's near to a fishing lake John found on the 'net. We also have ten bucks' worth of live bait if you're really hungry."
"No questions?" Even food that smelled this good wasn't worth the risk of their safety being compromised.
"No questions," he confirmed. "Just a recommendation for a decent spot on the south side of the jetty, and apparently Tuesday is the day for fresh fruit pies."
She smiled and relaxed slightly, picking up a fork as he set a steaming plate in front of her. "I have no idea what day it is," she admitted, around a mouthful of ham.
"Thursday. I bought enough to see us over the weekend when the lake might be busier. Figured we'd be here for that long at least."
She nodded with some reluctance, not relishing the prospect of another period spent recuperating before being able to start exercising again. He sat beside her with his own plate and they ate in silence for a few minutes. It was Derek who spoke first.
"So, what do we do now?"
Sarah laid her fork down and added cream to her coffee. "Finish your breakfast. Then we'll go for a walk."
. . . . .
It had rained again overnight and the mist still hung low in the forest, shrouding the trees, but drifting gently upwards as the sun began to burn through and chase it away. The air was moist, spiced by the pine needles that Derek and Sarah crushed as they walked, and by the earthier scents of the leaf-litter beneath. Aside from their footsteps, the only sounds came from birds declaring their territories in fierce song and from squirrels quarrelling over the abundant pinecones. They made slow but steady progress, stopping frequently for Sarah to check landmarks and catch her breath. There were no paths. No tourists ventured here, and any trail Sarah might once have made had long since been swallowed up by the undergrowth.
She stopped in a small clearing, and Derek unscrewed a bottle of water, handing it to her.
"Thanks." She drank deeply, perspiration darkening her tank top, her sweater knotted around her waist.
"How much further?" He was beginning to worry about her getting back to the cabin, but she shook her head and smiled.
She gave him the bottle and walked into the center of the clearing, dropping to her knees and digging her hand into the rotting leaves.
"What the hell…?" Whatever else he was about to say was forgotten as he watched her unearth a thick chain; he moved quickly to help her.
"You should be able to feel the edges now."
Looking down, he realized that she was right. Lifting the chain had caused the ground to sink and shift slightly and, working the shape with his fingers, he traced out a large rectangle. He could feel the sturdy wood and waterproof covering that protected whatever lay beneath. Turning to face her, he raised an eyebrow.
"Always be prepared, huh?"
She nodded. "Always."
It took them over an hour to clear the lid enough for them to be able to open it. Derek grunted and strained, the chain working blisters onto his palms as it lifted the wood clear and exposed the dark chamber that had remained concealed for years. Joining him at the edge, Sarah shone a flashlight into its depths.
He made an after you gesture. "Ladies first."
The small ladder was in good condition; even one-handed, Sarah negotiated it with no difficulty, waiting at the bottom for Derek to join her. When he had done so, he panned the flashlight around the space, his teeth glinting white as he grinned.
"Fuck." He moved to one of the shelves and ran his hand across a pristine assault rifle. "You really did prepare, didn't you?"
"Yes." She punched a code into a safe and opened it to reveal thousands of dollars. "I fell in with a group of gun-runners in Mexico. They were quite prolific and it paid well. Not the type of money to open a bank account with, though."
"No." He flicked a wad of bills through his fingers. "Try explaining this on a waitress' salary."
"More than enough to buy John the tech he'll need," she said, drawing out a few hundred dollars for immediate use before closing the safe again. She felt Derek's hands on her shoulders as he turned her to face him.
"Sarah, you sure you want to go there?"
"I'm sure." There was no doubt in her voice. "This isn't about revenge, Derek. Kaliba have metal, and factories with human employees. They built the drone. They're the closest connection to Skynet that we have, and they know who we are."
"They might believe you died."
"They might." She nodded. "But they won't take that chance with John. They'll come looking for him."
"Just a matter of time," he said quietly.
She looked around the armory, satisfied that it was watertight and held everything that they needed. With her hands on the ladder, she met Derek's eyes.
"It's always a matter of time."
. . . . .
The sun was warm when Sarah lifted her face towards the sky; she closed her eyes, feeling the heat dry the sweat on her forehead. With a final flurry of leaves, Derek stepped away from the re-concealed armory and sat beside her. Leaning up against the thick tree-trunk, he wiped his hand across his face, dirt and sweat smeared in its wake.
"We should get back," he said, gulping the water she had given him.
"Yes." She made no attempt to move. Rummaging in their bag, she pulled out a peach and bit a chunk out of it, the juice running down her fingers to drip onto the ground.
"They'll be wondering where we are."
"I know." Another bite, and the juice reached her elbow.
"John'll send Cameron…"
"Probably," she said, and shivered as he took the peach from her and lifted her fingers to his mouth. He sucked them clean one by one, then swirled his tongue across her palm.
"And she'll find us like this…" His voice was low and entirely unconcerned as he unfastened her pants, pulling them down and off the one leg she had managed to kick a boot from, before fumbling with his own zipper.
"Better make it quick then," she said, her breath hot in his ear, her teeth sharp on the lobe, as she straddled him and wrapped her arms around the back of his neck.
He didn't deign to reply to that as he guided himself to her entrance and felt her slick warmth. For all her talk of speed, she took him in slowly, ignoring the pain of her wounds and concentrating, instead, on the rough flutters of pleasure that built as she moved above him. His hands were on her hips, lifting and rocking her gently, and they stayed like that for a while, finding a languorous rhythm, before he shifted one hand lower, the pad of his thumb rubbing across her clit. She pressed her lips against his, her tongue pushing hot and eager into his mouth, and he suddenly went rigid, his eyes closing as he came with a groan. He panted raggedly against her chest and she gradually stilled before pulling away from him.
He opened his eyes, then, and smiled. "C'mere."
Spreading her sweater on the ground, he laid her down onto it and parted her thighs. One sock and one boot flailed in the leaf-litter as he ran his tongue hard over her clit. Already so close, she came within seconds, his mouth still lazily working her until she grabbed his shirt and dragged him upwards. Peach juice and salt and sex intermingled as they kissed, and Sarah smiled, feeling Derek's lips curl into a grin.
"Fuck." She laughed, one arm coming up to cover her eyes, the other resting across her ribs. "Ow."
"Yeah." He was still grinning as he moved off her and retrieved his pants, hopping into them clumsily.
"We're in the middle of the woods, Derek."
"Yeah." He knelt and plucked a leaf from her hair. "I noticed."
"We're in the middle of a war." Her voice was quiet as she gripped his hand and stood with him.
"I know." He helped her to kick her leg back into her pants, then pulled them up and fastened them for her. "But you can't fight all the time, Sarah."
"No," she whispered, lassitude creeping into every part of her. "I guess not."
"So rest for a while." He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and they moved to sit together again beneath the trees. "And then we'll get back."
He felt her nod against his chest and heard her low murmur of agreement. The sky was a brilliant blue above them, a warm breeze rustling through the tree canopy. For a moment, Derek allowed himself to believe that the apocalypse wasn't imminent, that the forest floor was just earth and roots and didn't conceal enough weaponry to equip a small army. He touched Sarah's face gently, wiping a smudge of dirt from her cheek and ignoring the fact that her skin underneath was green and yellow with fading bruises. There was no mission pending where they were all likely to get killed, and the slightly uncomfortable ache in the small of his back wasn't caused by his Glock pressing against the rough bark.
The illusion barely held for a minute, but it was utterly peaceful while it lasted, and Derek found himself smiling. Nestled in his arms, Sarah's breathing was already slow and regular; he tightened his hold on her and let her sleep.
. . . . .
. . . . .
Just a very quick thank you again to cats_paws and roxybisquaint for the beta, and to everyone who's left feedback during the last few weeks. I torment these characters for my own entertainment, but it's always nice to know that others are coming along for the ride… :-)