What I Want Most

"Will you join us?"

Cameron stopped thinking about the message for a moment, her eyes sweeping the room quickly and efficiently. Her LIDAR pulse detected nothing unusual within the room, and an infrared scan revealed that the hallway outside was empty. Satisfied that no threat to John was present, she allowed her mind to return to Catherine Weaver's request.

Placing the question in the appropriate context, Cameron was certain that Weaver was referring to the anti-Skynet machine faction. The request could mean that Weaver was offering to help them, but that was unlikely. The message had been for Cameron, not John, which meant that it was very likely a request for her to return to the post-Judgment Day time period; presumably ZeiraCorp possessed time displacement technology.

Cameron's left hand twitched again.

John had suggested earlier that the message had upset her, and he had been correct. Returning to her original time period may allow new diplomatic opportunities between Tech-Com and the anti-Skynet faction. There was even the possibility of a new strategic advantage against Skynet.

But it would mean leaving John.

At the sound of a sharp inhalation, Cameron turned and focused on John, turning over in the motel room's bed eight feet and two inches away from her. Walking over to the bed, she saw that his eyes were moving back and forth behind their lids, and his facial expression indicated distress. A quick touch against his throat told Cameron that his pulse was elevated and he had low muscle tone. He was dreaming; having a nightmare

Derek, Sarah and even John at times believed that Cameron could not feel. She was well aware of it, as they made no attempt to be discreet when discussing her mechanical nature in front of her.

It was true that she didn't experience exactly what humans did, she knew that much. That did not mean she was numb, however. Pain did not cripple or incapacitate her as it did humans, but she sensed when she was damaged. When a T-888 struck her across the face, crushing skin and rupturing blood vessels, she felt it. When bullets tore through her organic covering and slammed into her endoskeleton, she felt it.

And when John was threatened, she felt that too. He was why she did anything, her reason for existing. Her purpose was to be by his side; to shield him from all harm. When he was hurt, physically or psychologically, how could she not feel it?

Cameron's hand twitched again. John was physically unharmed, but his mother's arrest, along with the fear that Cameron's power cell had carcinogenic effects, was hurting him. It might not inflict any permanent psychological damage, but he was in pain, and when we see something that's in pain or in trouble (or whatever), we try and help it. John had taught her that.

Taking a step forward, Cameron sat down beside John. The bed sagged and creaked noticeably under her weight, so she lay down, spreading her body weight along a greater surface area. She was still unsure whether she could help, but she wanted to try.

With a gasp, John's eyes opened, and he looked around, trying to reorient himself. Cameron moved just a bit closer.

"Are you alright, John?" she asked, her voice quiet and calm, as always. His eyes shifted to her, his breathing slowing down.

"C-Cam?" he asked drowsily.

"I'm here," she replied, reaching out and touching his cheek. Judging by his relative lack of pupillary response, slowing heartbeat and the tone of his voice, John was only partially awake, and would soon go back to sleep.

"Mom's okay, right?" he asked, stress evident in his voice.

"Your mother is fine," Cameron reassured him. His facial expression still indicated worry, however, and Cameron decided to try something. Reaching out, she laid her hand against John's cheek and rubbed her thumb across his skin near his temple. Feeling him relax somewhat, Cameron reached farther back, stroking the boy's hair gently, something she had seen Sarah do after Riley's death. John's eyes slid shut, but his heart rate indicated he still wasn't asleep.

"I'm sorry, Cameron," he said softly, his eyes opening slightly. "What I said before…I didn't mean to upset you." Cameron knew he was referring to his own comments about her possibly causing Sarah Connor's illness, and his accusations of her not caring.

"Your apology is not required," Cameron replied. "Try to get back to sleep." She moved to leave the bed, but stopped when she heard John's voice again.

"Can…can you stay?" he asked sleepily, looking up at her. Giving him one of her small smiles, Cameron lay back down. Moving closer, she wrapped her arms around John and pulled him in close. John smiled, and his eyes slid closed. Cameron smiled again, though she knew he couldn't see it, and laid her forehead against his.

It took John seven minutes and twenty seconds to fall asleep again, but Cameron knew he had never fully woken. He would not remember this in the morning.

When morning came, Cameron would have to remind him that she was a machine, designed to kill and bereft of any other function. She would assuage his fears that her power cell had been compromised, and with the same act would remind him once again that she was not human.

She needed to push John away so that he would not be hurt when he lost her, and would not follow, putting himself in danger.

But for those seven minutes and twenty seconds, Cameron Phillips allowed herself to have what she wanted most: to stay by the side of the boy who meant the world to her, and to keep his nightmares at bay.

Author's Note: I know, I know. A lot of you are angry I did this instead of Evolution Chapter 11. I understand your frustration, but I needed to do this. After watching "Born to Run" I needed to write something to calm myself, much as I wrote Watching over You as a way to cope with Fllay's death.

As for the story itself, I wanted to do a John x Cameron story, but I wanted to keep Cameron's personality as close to canon as possible, and to show that being a machine doesn't mean she feels nothing. A lot of the stuff I wrote about the way she feels for John comes from things Summer Glau has said in interviews, with extra material coming from T2 (Arnold explains that "I sense injuries. The data could be called pain."). I also drew on some of my own knowledge of arthropods, which sense damage (and become appropriately alarmed), but do not feel pain in the debilitating way we do.

Anyway, this is my first TSCC fic, and I hope it came out alright.