Title: Whispers in the dark
Author: Sky Samuelle
Fandom: Terminator- Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Summary: Snapshots of the evolving relationship between John and Cameron, in a post- Born To Run future.
Spoilers: up to the Season 2 finale.
Ship: Cameron Phillips /John Connor
AN: betaed by the awesome Emmy, as always.
If there's one thing John Connor could never figure out, it is when their story began. In his memory their apparent end and their origin blend in one endless cycle of blind need and reckless desire.
He understands that, somehow, Cameron had already become part of him from the first meeting, the first glance. All came after.
When he left behind his mother to chase Cameron across time, landing in a future where he was a stranger in a strange, devastated land, he couldn't have known he wasn't escaping his destiny but meeting it face on, willing or not.
Yet, with Catherine Weaver abandoning him to Resistance, whose suspicious scrutiny never left him free to embrace his original quest, he had no choice but resignation.
As weeks passed by and his attempts to trace John Henry or his 'mother' proved fruitless, he begun convincing himself that Cameron had manipulated him once more, that his current predicament was nothing but the result of some elaborate scheme.
Half of him never manages to truly believe it, but anger gives him an extra drive to survive, an edge he needs enough to pretend her devotion was a lie.
And so he comes to Kate Brewster, blonde ex-vet, daughter of a general, whose interest he remorselessly uses to get other resistance members to accept him.
He rises fast in the ranks because he is prepared to fight and people here die faster, and when he didn't need Kate anymore, there was Alison, so very alike to Cameron physically and yet so different in personality. There was this part of him that hoped he could love her, let her sass melt the numbness that had descended on him like an invisible frost, convincing him that those feelings he had once harbored for a certain cyborg were an illusion.
But really, he and Alison simply remained two fucked-up people, in a fucked-up world, who were fond enough of each other to use that feeling to get through every terrifying day.
And then Alison goes missing and he knows right away who returns in her place: it's the infiltrator, the new wonder that Skynet has created just to eliminate him. In short, it's Cameron before she became his.
So he takes her back, reprograms her, lets her follow him anywhere. There's some painful pleasure in finally owning something he has desired for so long.
Little by little, while he explains to her small inanities about life and death and everything in between, just like he once did, when he was just a boy… John begins to remember how it felt to love her. This time, he doesn't fight it at all.
This time, he understands her better than he did at seventeen, and with that understanding comes an aching sense of tenderness and protectiveness. There's gratitude, too, for the unconditional, unwavering devotion he sees reflected in her attentive expression.
He adores every mechanical and not-so-mechanical segment of her, and it's a such a relief to be able to care so much about another again that it doesn't matter all that much if she can't fully reciprocate.
Someday, she will. In the meantime he will take all she can give because he has been broken since she's been gone.
He is determined to never give her up, neither for his troops' tranquility nor for his past self's sake.
There's no fate but the one we make: it becomes his mantra, his one religion.
He even goes as far as asking the liquid metal terminators to join him, to prevent that creature he used to call Weaver from going back.
But once again, he is doomed: rebel machines still distrust him, still gather on their own. And of the John Henry that came so long ago from another time, there's still no trace.
They are all entrapped in this cruel game of time loops and time traps, never knowing if or when they will ever get it right.
Soon, John knows he shall send Cameron away, lock away part of her memories. He has no doubt that when she will be gone, Life will leave him along with her.
Why couldn't he at least keep this, this one thing for himself, when all his life has been about other people?
He's just drifting to sleep when the sensation of deceptively warm fingertips trailing over his features calls him back to reality. Fingers explore his visage with a strange, purposeless lightness.
He enjoys the touch even while he questions its meaning; it's not the first time Cameron does this while they lay together. It's been the two of them for months, and John has gotten used to sharing his bed with her. To fall asleep beside her and to have her to be the first thing he sees in the morning when he wakes up.
War rages on outside the Resistance's camp, and the Derek and Kyle Reese of this timeline are something in between strangers and friends, but here and now it's hard to feel regret or resentment.
Even if it's unfair to blame Cam for something he has chosen to do, there are moments he does. He left his mother behind for her…and he thought he could just come back to his time, once he had rescued her, but it became impossible.
"What are you doing?" he asks, mostly to distract himself from the reaction he can't help to the soft back of her hand tracing random patterns across his chest and shoulders.
"I like experiencing your skin under my fingertips."
Without opening his eyes, John smiles humorlessly, thinking of the first time he told her he loved her. She had just tilted her head, her lips barely curling up, and commented with that cool causality of hers 'that is very pleasant to hear'.
He both loves her and hates her for being this way, and he doesn't know what this says about him.
It's difficult to accept that Cameron is all he has, but it's harder to know he won't get to keep her by his side.
He opens his eyes and her visage is as achingly beautiful as it has ever been to him. If there were any part of him that hoped that having her would somehow diminish his fascination with her, it has died somewhere along the path that has led them here.
He cups her cheek and Cameron does not lean into the touch, but there's something fluttering underneath her features and it gets to him, the same way it does every time, although he can't pinpoint what it is.
Her gaze holds his firmly and she is very still, as if recording the sensation of his caress and storing it away.
It cannot be a thing, staring back at him: behind her dark eyes there's no emptiness and he knows he could not feel so much for her if she were not a person.
But even like this, as every inch of his body longs to get closer, to act on the desire twisting like an angry snake in his gut, there are other doubts pinning him in place.
He always kisses her like a real girl and when they make out on this same bed at night, it always looks and sounds like she enjoys it as much he does. But he can never be certain, however much he wants to, however infuriating it is to wonder if she is only pretending for his benefit. He has tried to broach the subject once. …He stopped as soon as Cameron had started explaining her ability to 'articulate all the appropriate responses', although her kind has not the biological imperative to copulate.
In other words, she can enjoy it but she won't ever need it, not the same way he does, and John is not sure how that makes him feel.
He is confused about a lot of things when it comes to Cameron, yet at the same time he has certainties about her that defy common logic and still refuse to be shaken.
She loves him in her absolute, nearly obsessive way and he should be blind to not see that he is the very center of her limited universe. Some days he is scared it won't be enough, others he is scared of the wicked thrill it gives him.
Cam truly would do anything for him, from murder to self-termination, and it's a beautiful certainty in its morbid way.
Some days it's all that makes his life worthy of living.
"What are you thinking about?" she asks, leaning closer, a childlike curiosity bleeding into her voice.
"You and me."
He answers vaguely, because with her emotions she is fragile like a butterfly that has just broken through her cocoon. Even if under her perfect skin and supple flesh there are wires and a metal endoskeleton, she and her kind are extraordinarily vulnerable to what they can't fully understand.
Cameron smiles a little, but before she can start something he doesn't feel ready to finish, John rests his hand across her stomach, preserving a small measure of distance between their bodies.
"We are at the centre of everything, somehow. When do you think it began?" - he inquires, once more diverting his attention from how good it feels to have her so close- "Or perhaps, did it never begin? Maybe we have been enclosed in this perverse cycle since forever and we don't know any better. Do you think it's possible? "
"I don't know for certain, John. This is the only timeline I've experienced."
And he believes her, because this is not the same Cameron John Henry has acquired, yet. She is the Cameron he has stolen from Skynet's clutches, innocent and proud in a way Allison never was, and so much more direct, more complex, more beautiful. All she knows of alternate pasts and futures comes from his nightly confidences. All she truly has had the time to know is him and he realizes how unfair it was –or will be- of his past self to hold that against her.
He remembers how the other Cameron had admitted that her Future John surely kept some from her, he wonders if this was one of them.
However possessive and doting he is of the Cameron he has shaped, he doesn't forget the one who has shaped him. His mind knows they are the same by now, but whatever is left of his battered heart clings to dividing lines.
Anywhere the John Henry of his present is hiding, the Cameron he chased and mistreated when he was a teenager is inside him. There's jealousy and senseless anger at the thought, but Time Travel is a bitch and John Connor's very existence can be reduced to a paradox, so nothing is surprising anymore.
Three years with Cameron aren't quite enough to balance out those five he has spent without her.
Why is it not enough?
"There's a 95% probability that our other selves have modified the timeline with a trial-by-error process. The outcome might have changed a little every time. If so, at some point of history there was a John Connor who has sent me back without knowing what I would represent to you. "
Fluidly, she rolls over to lie on her stomach, her words spilling out of her pink mouth so guilelessly that they would be enough of a reassurance from any normal, human girl.
With her, it's not so simple and not because she necessarily wants to deceive him. Sometimes, they just give different value to the same subjects.
"If so"- he echoes, slightly mocking despite himself- "we are entrapped."
" Not necessarily- Cameron assures, her tone firm and inflectionless while she tilts her head pensively– but I have no parameters to orient myself with accuracy. "
John runs his fingers through her hair. It's silky and glossy, despite her adorable bed-head. Despite being synthetic.
He fists it and suddenly yanks back hard, desire burning in his veins more than before when she doesn't resist the pull at all.
There's something addictive and soothing about the power she allows him to exercise over her.
His smirk quickly fades as he tugs her head closer to his and finally gives in to the impulse to kiss her. John feels her lips twitching in a smile even as he bites them. Irrationally, it angers him a bit.
Cam is so perfect –guileless power and ruthless grace blended into one glorious package - and he is so sorry he had not grasped this simple concept ages ago. She is all he wants, all he needs in a companion and he is going to lose her.
Three years weren't enough at all.
The morning after, he screens her memories and sets a block around a large part of them. The key word to undo his conditioning, funnily enough, is the phrasing 'Will you join us?'
He hopes it will make all the difference, that the truth, revealed at the right crucial moment, will get Cam to stay with his adolescent self.
It doesn't change a damn thing.
All he accomplishes is to watch as the last person he has ever completely loved awake from a trance with colder eyes, and to keep his cool until she is gone. He bends down and retches somewhere private because he has forgotten how to.
After the finality of his predicament settles over him, he is numb again, at least until sleep calls. In his dreams she is remote and unsmiling, too ready to turn her back on him as soon she notices his presence.
Still, John Connor fights, hardens, laughs at himself for how easy it is to break a heart you didn't even realize you had anymore.
The ones who were relieved at Cameron's sudden disappearance, soon learn to fear him more. He grows to have less and less patience for his men's mistakes, and he stops pretending he doesn't know what power is about.
Then, two months after his world imploded, there's a message from John Henry: "Now we are ready to join you."
And who could the harbinger of the Rogue Machines be, if not Cameron?
Being with John Henry has altered her in a thousand little fundamental ways, but he still recognizes her with an ease that defies logic.
Her appearance gains her an easy access to his camp- everyone knows he has sent her on some dirty, secret mission anyway- and it's with relief on his weary face that a soldier announces her return to him.
In his tent, John allows her to summarize John Henry's intentions and the way they and Catherine have slowly orchestrated a Metal Resistance in those years.
From the way she talks, it's pretty evident she is not the same cyborg he has let go: she is part of them now. Apparently she has been working with her kind for a long time, although she conveniently fails to relate precise information about that. John Henry has perfected her software during the months following their merging, clearing her system from any previous programming and removing few limitations to her functions. And when Cameron was finally able to function for herself - to belong to herself- there was a new body designated solely for her. A unique model - John Connor will not learn until a long, long time after- with an endoskeleton in liquid metal and living tissue covering it.
"You are angry"- Cameron remarks at some point, cocking her head to the side in that familiar manner he has loved and missed- "there's no reason. All I've done was for you. "
"I find that difficult to believe."
"This alliance was necessary to you and you were never supposed to follow me. Once you did that, I had no viable option but to wait for history to repeat itself. My continued presence by your side would have just undermined your leadership further than it already was. I could not allow that"
"It wasn't your choice to make!"
If he raises his voice to her for the first time in years, it's because her words feel like the most basic betrayal.
"Why not, John?"
She asks, and there's something challenging in her posture, although it's clear she is not goading him. He doesn't know how to answer without giving himself away, so he stays silent, glaring at her until the words crawl out his throat in one angry, condescending drawl.
"If I need to explain it to you, then I 'm not sure you would be capable of understanding it "
Cameron holds herself imperceptibly straighter against the verbal blow, but that's all the response he receives: her gaze narrows, yet her visage stays beautifully unmoved.
That's why what she says next throws him completely.
"We can experience emotions quite well John, even if we respond differently to them than a human would. We don't love the same way that you do, but that doesn't mean we love less. "
He doesn't know how she does it, forces him to feel stupid and helpless, strong and powerful with the same line.
She always builds him and destroys and builds him back up, without even meaning to any since Sarah Connor have had this much power over him and it's damn terrifying.
"In order to keep following you, your people need to identify with you. They can't until you try to be both the champion of my kind and of theirs. They aren't ready for this level of integration. Let them know that Machines don't need to invade their world from within to have their space. Show them that our races can coexist and collaborate while staying separated and you will have back the full consensus. You can't afford otherwise. "
Her voice is soft and even, nearly soothing for all its firm clarity.
It might be her way of attempting to placate him, but he truly has neither the patience nor the will to indulge her.
"What about you? What role you will have in all this?"
"I am the mediator."
"Yeah, but for whom?"
She juts out her chin, proudly almost, something fierce and grave flashing underneath the darkness of her eyes before she answers very seriously.
"For you. Always for you."
She steps closer too, so close that her ever-even breath brushes his cheek, and he can't think straight anymore. Anger and sadness and hope and love all mix and blur into each other until he is choking on them.
Weak, that is what he will apparently always be to any damned version of her, and that's beyond frustrating. Her gaze takes him in like she knows exactly what she doing to him, without any of the detached wonder or curiosity he became used to seeing there. She is different, but when she touches his arm, calmly laying her hand there and waiting, it doesn't make a difference.
Roughly, John pulls her hips to his and takes a shuddering breath before firmly pressing his lips upon hers. Cameron responds to his kisses in kind, with a sense of barely contained violence, her thin arms immediately fastening around his broad shoulders.
It's the single most thrilling experience of his life and it just gets better as eventually she pushes him down to the ground to straddle him.
While they fuck to a steady and harsh rhythm, he can't stop drinking her in with his eyes and hands.
There 's an air of self-possession about her now, some unnamable difference in how her touch explores his body as she undulates above him. She looks like a queen.
In the aftermath John is spent and sweaty whereas she is clearly at 100% of her functions, flushed and soft and perfect. Her head rests on his chest anyway. At one point she turns over and looks up to him, her fingers drumming on his sternum with possibly playful intent.
There's a pause and then Cameron comments solemnly: "Happiness is a brief, exhilarating rush of chemicals to the brain. We aren't built for that, but we can know a fulfillment that's just as intense. Emotionally or physically, sometimes both simultaneously. "
As far as subtle romantic declarations go, this one might be a bit clinical, if you can even read it like he wants to, but it's still more than he has dared to hope for.
It takes time, but their relationship gets on the right track.
They are the best friends to each other, once more: after all they got throughout together, it would be too difficult to not be.
And then the line between friends and lovers blurs very easily, because in war wasting time is not a luxury you can afford.
John learns that this Cameron is an equal to him in ways the other couldn't be. He is still the focus of her universe, but its entirety and that takes some getting used to. John Henry seems to have became something in between her guru and her twin. …and that liquid metal terminator treats her like a troublesome niece.
Sometimes, he's a bit jealous of these connections, but never openly begrudges them like he would probably once have done. Sometimes, he is tempted to look at John Henry like a friend as well. It's nice to share the weight of leadership with someone else, and there's a gentleness in John Henry that is rare and definitely appreciable in those times.
General Connor knows what they say about him when his back is turned: let's look at him, John Connor, almighty general meant to guide the human race against Skynet, the brilliant strategist that keeps at careful distance from his men, and yet treats with such transparent respect his Metal allies.
Some are disgusted that their precious leader shares his bed with 'one of them', that he values Cameron's opinion and trust and devotion like she is human.
And it's all right, really, because at least they have quit muttering that he is withdrawing from humanity to disappear among machines, that his willing exile is her fault. There are less hotheaded contestations that John Connor treats the reprogrammed Terminators as sentient beings, less drunken brawls between frustrated and scared soldiers.
Things are getting better since John Henry came into play, and they are getting better fast.
Yet some days General Connor is just tired and annoyed to represent so much to so many. It's draining, to have all those hands and voices and hearts reaching out for him, pinning him down with the responsibility of saving them. Humanity's future keeps claiming too much of his life, of his time, of his soul. Fighting Skynet has already taken so much from him: the dreams and the childhood he has never truly had are a regret both alien and familiar at the same time.
Nowadays, he is too busy to look ahead to afford the luxury of wondering about the person he could have been…he can no longer pretend that, without Judgment Day, he would have not existed at all. John Connor is as much of a Skynet creature as Cameron is, deep down, even if nobody can see it.
Nothing in his life feels truly his, except her. She is his and his alone.
When he returns to his private quarters with her in tow, and he knows they will be by themselves for the respite of a night or of few hours, all he feels is relief. He can stop being a leader and just let her protect him, like all those years ago. That's the only peace he has ever known.
Even now, undoing his shirt, the sight of her sliding naked under his sheets with that amazing body that has never aged, it's a bone-deep comfort.
The expression on her face is assessing, like the circuits of her electrical mind are scanning him beneath his skin. She is not smiling and her eyes may not be warm but they are alive.
Suddenly, he remembers how long it has taken, to stop resenting her for not being human, to stop hating himself for loving a cyborg, questioning whether she could truly love him back, if her love could be worth the same as his.
Yet since he has stopped expecting her to behave like any flesh-and-bones girl, he finds those doubts so worthless. He is nearly ashamed of having ever considered that belonging to another species could make Cameron any less real.
Cybernetic organisms have this twisted form of innocence he finds soothing, it doesn't matter how long it has taken to him to understand it. They are like extremely precocious children, unaware of themselves but eager to understand and to experience, and like children they can harm without remorse.
The more time they spend interacting with the world, the more they develop an independent sense of self, the more complex their emotional capacity becomes. He has seen it in Cameron and John Henry and he is waiting to see his human soldiers come to the same epiphany. If only they didn't avoid so determinedly all personal contact with their Metal allies…and if only most of their Metal allies weren't just as diffident of humans, and so stand-offish in nature.
It will take time and patience but someday, men and machines would learn they were two interdependent realities. AIs would need humans to dream and dare past the boundaries of their logic, and humans would need AIs to protect the beauty they could create, to translate their aspirations into reality.
If – when- Skynet will be destroyed by the unlikely alliance between John Connor and John Henry, the messiahs of their respective races, it will be a brand new world.
"Something on your mind?"
"I'm processing trivial information."
He grins at her choice of words, and it's not bitter. Her wide, dark, thick-lashed eyes don't divert from him, but her hand reaches to comb the long chocolate curls that fall on her shoulders. Cameron has not changed very much physically, but along the seven years they have spent side by side there have been subtle shifts, in both her personality and mannerisms. Bizarre as it is, she has become more human in some aspects and blatantly far from human under some of others. She is more at ease with what she is now, so much more aware of her identity as an individual and of her ability to feel, to choose. She never asks him to clear the traps of the English language to her anymore, and sometimes he misses it. Yet there's such an 'alien' lingering quality to her character: something blunt, ruthless and sharply beautiful. A coolness tempered with her unending capacity for loyalty and an utter absence of cruelty, just like the stiffness of her stance when she stands is balanced by the graceful way she moves.
"I don't understand why Savannah has forgiven Catherine. Other humans hate us with less reason to."
"Maybe it has something to do with how Catherine still uses that name and that form even though it would be easier to not."
"It takes very little motivation to forgive the recipient of one's affections, sometimes. Yet sometimes the same feelings make it difficult to forgive perfectly rational behaviors in another. The irrationality of this… troubles me. "
The distress in her voice, fleeting but genuine, almost coerces him to feel guilty about the amused smirk that is crawling up his lips. Almost.
"I think it 'troubles' everyone, human or not."
He leans forward to her and kisses her forehead, her cheek, her jaw until she shifts to meet his mouth with hers.
In the end, it's fortunate that their ways of experiencing and expressing their love for each other are so different, because that's the key to their survival and his continued sanity.
Her way of loving him is devolving her whole existence to his well-being and safety, selflessly: in the most absolute, naïve manner possible, her happiness and pleasure are born from his, and the simple act of being in a physical proximity to him keeps her satisfied.
His way of loving her is more selfish, built on lust and trust and an avid need to reap all she can offer to him.
Somehow, they are a flawless fit.
It's a night of change when Cameron returns to his tent with a filthy, bruised up kid hanging on her neck. A tunnel has crumbled down that morning and the child had remained buried under the ruins until Cameron had miraculously rescued him: apparently she was unable to disentangle him from her without risking of hurting him.
John is tired but that night he escapes very easily to Morpheus' calling. He is entranced by the unusual gentleness in Cameron's hands while she washes the kid in silence, the eagerness the kid's eyes follow her every motion with, uncaring of the stony stillness of her expression. There's a touching beauty about the scene that is infinitely more resting than the oblivion of sleep.
"He won't talk, or respond normally to verbal approaches. I think he's in shock." She explains almost guiltily while small bony hands pull at her hair, drawing her head closer.
"Let's keep him until he does better. I don't want to risk traumatizing him even more than he is now," John suggests, even if he can't afford the distraction of looking after a child. His one motivation to go against rationality is the fact he has never seen Cam being so soft to anyone but him.
Love drives us all to the best kind of insanity.
So they allow the sullen-faced little mute to hide out in their tent for three weeks, before he starts talking again. By then Cameron has 'randomly ' decided to call him Reese and developed the curious habit of spoon-feeding him and combing his hair before tucking him in, while John watches on, half-startled and half-impressed.
Reese is eight years old but malnutrition and shock got him to regress: it takes months to find out his real age and name –David-, longer to learn he has a twelve-year old sister, Claire, somewhere out there. His parents are dead and he fits so well with The General and his Metal concubine that it's too late to let him go. David asks to become Reese Connor 'so I can stay forever' and that's all it takes to make a family out of them.
Somewhere along those years Savannah Weaver volunteers to leave Camp Connor to work with John Henry. Nobody sees it coming, but John Connor is not surprised when he is no longer the only rebel to cultivate a romantic liaison with a machine.
The first time he sees Savannah and John Henry together after hearing the news from a quite pleased Cameron, he expects to be weirded out. It surprises him that he can't see any wrongness, only love.
Somehow Savannah's natural charm and stubborn strength are the perfect complement to John Henry's philosophizing nature and all-enduring optimism.
There's a sense of attunement in their movements that speaks of trust and mutual adoration.
John wonders if that is what other people see when they look at him and Cameron.
Skynet is defeated, but John Connor's job is not over with the war.
There's the rebuilding of a whole civilization to move on to, and the establishing of a peaceful cohabitation between Machines and Men.
He and John Henry work on that with a frantic activity made smoother from a synchrony based on a decade-old friendship.
He and Cameron don't make official their union, but they get a real home: Reese moves in along with them, soon followed by a blue-eyed, grey-furred kitten that they find curled on their doormat one day.
A distrustful Claire completes their circle, and for a while it's easy to believe he can have it all, the family and the passion and his mission.
Except that it's not easy to be a good leader and a good father at the same time. Too many strangers depend on John Connor and John Connor depends on Cameron Phillips and children don't come first as often as they should.
Eventually, there's a new balance: Cameron wins over the last of Claire diffidence, teaching her ballet and David begins to see his adoptive father less like a protector and more like a parent. John learns to delegate more to his officers, silencing his compulsive need to have it all under control.
Their family becomes a sort of public statement to integration, and mankind holds onto that mirage out of a need for hope. Pagan religions take root here and there, simply because they are the only ones to recognize machines as being that possess a soul.
Finally, John no longer has to defend his choices to his subordinates and Cameron even gets some credit for standing so steadfastly by him.
Claire grows into a beautiful young woman who is glad to assist John Henry and Savannah in their creation of a Metal Subculture.
David develops a keen interest in politics and begins struggling against his father's imposing shadow.
They don't always get along, and there's a minor resentment that John and Cameron are still a two-person unit that doesn't always include others, even if those others are their offspring. Sometimes it is exasperating, being constantly under public watch.
For all their dysfunctional glory, there's still no denying that the Connors belong to each other.
John awakes one morning as any other to discover himself depleted of the will to fight and command.
He has dedicated his whole life to that, and slowly inside him is growing a need for silence and solitude, a longing to reclaim his life for himself solely.
There's a cottage in Canada, close to the woods, the place thy spent their first Christmas with Claire: his mind keeps returning there, calling him to leave everything and go.
Cameron catches him staring out the window of his study too often to let it go with a disapproving shake of her head. "You are becoming restless," she states, with the bluntness she has never lost, stopping for a moment to re-fold his shirts (it annoys him that she refolds all his clothes, but every single time he has complained, she went on and on about his ability to fail at such a simple task.).
He scratches the stubble on his chin thoughtfully.
"I'm a royal asshole," he exhales and she blinks at him, then rolls her eyes.
"I'll never understand the human necessity for gross and silly figures of speech."
Despite his mood, he can't avoid smiling at her. All and all, he is surprised at how domestic they have become.
He sits close to her, facing that beautiful, enigmatic face whose secret, minimal shifts he has learnt to decrypt. "I've complained about how lonely it was to be me for most of my life and look at us now. We have real friends, not only followers. They are not that many, but they are good. The kind that would fight for you and in you. We have a good life here and people accept us. We fought hard for that. We have Reese and Claire. "
"So what are you missing? "
Hands folded in her lap; Cameron is sitting by him, her knees bending so they brush his. Her gaze narrows on his features, like she's reading something into them he can't imagine "Or is it one of those moments of irrationality where the man is upset because nothing is missing? "
She frowns at her supposition and he decides he doesn't need to know where this idea is coming from. Girl talk from the office, probably. It usually put strange concepts in her pretty head.
"I love all we have. Still, all I want lately is to pack a bag and leave."
"Not without me" Cameron glares him, a shadow of endearing sullenness passing briefly over her features.
"Never without you, " John nods in reassurance. She is such a large part of him now that he can't imagine or remember otherwise."Wouldn't it be nice, anyway? Just you and me in that cottage in Canada? It's the most peaceful place I've been. From the first time I stepped on the porch I've imagined how it would have been, to retire there someday "
He can paint the mirage to life vividly within his mind. The sound of wind rustling among leaves, the trees, the singing of birds. Their cat staring lazily out from the threshold. Cameron sipping her tea on the porch, wearing his shirt and nothing else. He, being free to be 'just John' for the first time in whole his life. No obligations except the one he has chosen, to the only woman he has ever loved.
In a place like that, maybe he would not have nightmares. Some of them are about the past, some others are about different futures: one where he's married to Kate, and Skynet kills him, a few where it doesn't matter whom he with, because his obsessions drove him to a numb coldness.
"Is someday coming soon?" she asks, sounding neither disappointed nor pleased, like she has no particular preference. John knows better than to believe the appearance- she enjoys so many things of this new world they helped to create- but it moves him that she is already folding to his wishes, regardless of hers.
"I'm thinking about it. "
He doesn't add anything else, wanting to see if she will volunteer any scar of opinion on the matter. Most of the time, Cam gets a bit paranoid about not influencing his choices.
John should be grateful for that, given the magnitude of the power she has on him, but he mostly wishes she took better care of herself. He is not certain he will ever deserve this level of faith and trust, but he seeks to live up to them every day.
Every day she saves him. How miraculous is that?
"It would be nice, being you and me, without outside interference. I would like having you all for myself. " She adds after her longest, inanimate silence. Her lips curl in one of those occasional wicked tiny smirks that make her look all woman to him.
"We would miss Reese and Claire, our friends."
Cameron arches her eyebrows at his guilty tone, silently reprimanding him for being squeamish about taking what he wants. Funny how many things she can tell him with one single shift in her expression.
"Yes, but they all have lives. Also, I can keep in touch with John Henry via laptop. Reese and Claire can visit. That's all the company I need. "
It must be divine intervention that sent Cameron to him, because out of all possible futures, that is the only one in which he feels like a whole man and not a shell.