John's eyes opened and he awakened with a momentary surge of disorientation. The morning sunlight gleamed through a large window. The bed on which he was laying was soft and luxuriously comfortable. He could feel the silky texture of clean sheets under his body. This wasn't a musty sleeping bag thrown in the corner of a dank and dreary tunnel. This was good.
And then he was aware of the warm body curled against his left side, of a small, delicate arm resting against his chest. Turning his head, he looked directly into wide chocolate brown eyes gazing at him with unmistakable adoration. A finely featured face surrounded by a halo of long, dark hair and a smile of heart rending beauty completed the picture. This wasn't just good. It was perfect. It was paradise. It was Cameron.
"Good morning John, did you sleep well?"
John reached under the sheet that covered them and pulled her closer. His hand caressed her from shoulder to hip feeling nothing but soft skin. He leaned forward to kiss her and as their lips touched, he felt the impulses of his body stir.
"Very well, thank you," he whispered, "although I do seem to remember a couple of interruptions."
"Actually three," Cameron smiled mischievously.
"Yes, but who was counting?"
It had been their first time or their first three times if you accepted Cameron's assessment. To John it had been the culmination of a love that sprung to life the first moment he had looked at Cameron in a New Mexico school room. It was a love that he had resisted, struggled against and tried to deny. Ultimately it was a love to which he had surrendered himself without reservation and cherished in his heart through three years of war when all he had to cling to was her voice. Last night, years of longing had become flesh and John had made a profound discovery. Beyond the ecstatic pleasures of the moment he found in Cameron's arms a solace, a forgiveness, a healing love that would soothe his pains and lighten his burdens for all his days. If there had been even the slightest doubt remaining, it would have been swept away. John Connor knew with unshakeable certainty that he was with the love of his life.
"You were marvelous, Cam."
"As were you, John, as were you."
John felt a momentary sense of masculine triumph. "You did seem to be enjoying yourself, but..." His voice wandered to a stop.
"But you don't know if I could really feel or if I was pretending."
"I didn't say that," he protested.
"But it did cross your mind didn't it John? I promised you that I would never lie to you again. If a woman pretends to experience satisfaction during sex, that would be a lie, wouldn't it?"
"Uh, well, I suppose." John Connor the warrior found himself on uncharted ground. He had a sinking feeling that no man was safe trying to answer that question.
"So each time we made love I responded affirmatively, didn't I?"
"So draw your own conclusions, John."
John felt his head spin. Cameron's face wore an enigmatic expression that could mean she was absolutely serious or it could mean she was engaging in that dry, teasing wit she had developed during her time with John Henry.
"Oh hell," John said grabbing her in both arms and pulling her body against his. "Maybe I should just conduct another experiment and evaluate the result."
Cameron laughed, an unforced expression of genuine amusement. To John who had never heard her laugh that way before it was as if the ringing of small silver bells filled the room.
Cameron threw her arms around his neck kissing him hard and passionately. "I would be in favor of that," she said, "but I did hear your mother go down the hall about ten minutes ago."
"Oh god," John moaned letting his head fall back against the pillow. "Catherine is downstairs isn't she?"
"I would think so," Cameron replied.
"We had better get downstairs before they try to kill each other."
Cameron rolled out of bed with a feline grace and stood beside it. "I am going to take a shower."
Watching Cameron walk nude across the room, John found himself wondering where all the great renaissance painters were when you needed one. Cameron turned to look at John still reclining on the bed. "Are you ogling my body?" she said with mock severity. John grinned broadly and nodded.
"Would you like to come and wash my back?"
John jumped from the bed. "I thought you'd never ask."
Sarah had to concede that whatever Catherine Weaver was, she had an expansive view of what a safe house should be. Perhaps safe mansion would be a better description. From the window of the upstairs bedroom where she had slept in fitful spurts after their arrival from Los Angeles, the entire city of San Francisco seemed to spread out below her. There was even a movie set-like view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. Sarah strongly suspected that mammoth town houses of this type complete with its own underground garage fell into the "if you have to ask you can't afford it" category.
After leaving her bedroom, Sarah had hurried past the door to the room where John and Cameron had gone last night. Regardless of the personal accommodation she reached with Cameron she chose not to dwell on what was or was not happening in that room. After descending the ornate wooden stairway to the lower level of the house, Sarah followed the laughter of a child to an expansive dining room.
At the far end of a massive table little Savannah Weaver sat beside what she obviously thought was her mother. Although Sarah found the situation repugnant she could not bring herself to say anything. Savannah had experienced enough trauma in the last few days. The child had a book open on the table and was pointing out pictures to the creature calling herself Catherine who had her arm around Savannah's shoulders.
"See mommy, that is a hipponociarus." She giggled with innocent childish glee.
"That is what it says, sweetheart."
Both Catherine and Savannah looked up as Sarah entered the room. Catherine nodded and pointed toward a small serving table. "Coffee and scones, Ms. Connor."
"Good morning Sarah," Savannah said cheerfully. Sarah marveled once again at the resilience of children who seemed able to put so much behind them so quickly. Savannah already seemed to have forgotten all of the unpleasant things that had happened since Sarah had entered her life and had remembered only that she liked Sarah. "Good morning Savannah, how are you today?"
"Mommy says I don't have to go to school today."
"Or maybe ever again," Catherine said. "I am considering home schooling. You would like to study with John Henry, wouldn't you dear?"
Savannah looked happily pleased. "Is John Henry here?"
"Yes, dear, you will see him later."
Sarah had gotten a cup of coffee and sat down opposite Weaver. "I understand that you were a help to my son in the future."
"He said that you saved his life."
"He said that you helped to restore Cameron."
"I understand that you provided the clothes and the car he and Cameron used after returning to this time."
"Well, you are just a bubbling fountain of information aren't you?"
Catherine turned to Savannah, "Dear have you finished your oatmeal?"
"Will you please take your bowl and glass into the kitchen then?"
After Savannah had left the room Catherine looked directly at Sarah.
"Let us be both clear and brief Ms. Connor. The last time we met you called me a bitch. I don't think you like me. I don't think I like you. I don't think we will ever like each other."
Sarah nodded grimly. "I think that is a reasonable assumption."
"Nevertheless, I do like your son. More importantly, I respect your son. He is brave, kind and compassionate. He is, I believe, a true hero. To the extent that you played a part in shaping his character, in making him the man he is, I must respect you as well."
Sarah was genuinely taken aback. "Thank you."
Catherine went on, "We both know that in the days ahead he will have to carry enormous burdens. I suggest that we do not let our relationship increase those burdens."
Sarah took a sip from her coffee cup. "You are very wise...Catherine."
Weaver nodded. "Thank you...Sarah."
There was the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs. Both Sarah and Catherine looked to the doorway as John and Cameron came into the room. Sarah thought that if she looked away slightly she could almost forget that John had been away for three of his years. He still favored the jeans and T shirt he had liked as a teenager. Cameron was also dressed in one of her standard outfits: jeans, boots and a pull-over blouse. But Sarah's averted gaze could only deceive her for the briefest of moments. This wasn't a boy, it was a man, strong and confident. This wasn't an impassive cyborg but an apparently vibrant young woman who clung tight to her son's hand.
"No blood on the floor. Good. I take it you two are making nice?"
Before either Sarah or Weaver could respond to John's question, a young voice piped out giggling happiness. "John. Cameron!" Savannah had come back into the room.
John dropped to one knee and held out his arms. "Hey Flametop."
"Flametop?" Catherine asked sternly. "Flametop?"
"Just a nickname, Catherine." John sounded defensive as Savannah ran to give him a hug. Cameron also knelt and patted Savannah's shoulder. If Sarah had marveled at the resilience of children, John was equally taken with their adaptability. From the moment they had retrieved her from a Los Angeles gymnastic class Savannah had not experienced the slightest problem with the fact that John was suddenly years older than he had been when she last saw him. To Savannah, this was still the person who had taught her to tie her shoes and who had rescued her from the bad man at her house. If he looked older it must be magic and that was enough for her. John stood and pulled a chair from the table for Cameron. Then sliding into the chair beside her he looked at Sarah and Catherine.
"And good morning to both of you."
"John," Sarah nodded toward him.
"Good morning Captain Connor," Catherine said.
"It's just John now Catherine. I'm not Captain of anything anymore." Everyone in the room could hear the tone of palpable sadness in John's voice.
"I must disagree with that. You may have moved your theater of war. The size of your command has changed. But you are still Captain John Connor, the leader of all the resistance forces humanity and its allies possess."
John was about to respond to Catherine's somewhat dramatic pronouncement when he realized that both Cameron and his mother had risen and walked to the serving table. Each poured a cup of coffee and placed a scone on a small plate. Then as they returned to the table a cup of coffee and a scone were simultaneously placed at his right and left hands.
John looked at Cameron, he looked at Sarah, he looked at Cameron again. He looked at the table. Leaning his head forward he rubbed his temple. Oh this is going to be fun, he thought.
"John Henry would like to talk to you, Captain Connor, as soon as you finish your breakfasts." Catherine placed a clear and audible emphasis on the plural nature of the word. John looked up in time to see a ghost of a smile cross Weaver's face. You are enjoying this entirely too much, Catherine, he thought.
After munching on what he sincerely hoped was an equal amount from each of the two scones, Connor rose from the table. "Okay, lets go see John Henry."
Holding Savannah's hand Weaver led the group into the kitchen, through a large wooden door, and down a stairway to the basement. It did seem a misnomer to call it just a basement. They passed through three large rooms in sequence. The first was filled with a number of freestanding electrically controlled wine cellars. John was unfamiliar with wine but he strongly suspected that "expensive" was the controlling criteria for inclusion. The second room contained an obviously state-of-the-art gymnasium with a series of gleamingly new exercise machines. The third room was set up as a small but sophisticated home theater. A huge plasma screen television hung on the wall and a number of plush armchairs were arranged before it.
"I must say Catherine, I do admire what you and John Henry consider an adequate safe house." Sarah smiled as she observed that she and her son still thought alike.
"You surely did not accomplish all of this in a week."
"No, I have been preparing residences such as this since I took over Zeira Corp. We have one in New Zealand, one in Provence north of Avignon and one in Montreal.
"Oh, Canada," said Cameron. John shot a look at Cameron who looked blissfully disingenuous. Entirely too much dry AI humor floating around this morning, he thought.
"You didn't have to be this expansive" John observed.
Weaver smiled. "For the last three years, Captain Connor, you have lived and fought in extremely unpleasant and adverse conditions. John Henry believes that there is a substantial likelihood that we may all have to return to those conditions one day. If or until that happens we can at least enjoy what our resources provide."
Sarah found herself dismayed at Weaver's assessment. Clearly this John Henry that her son regarded so highly doubted that they would be able to avert Judgment Day. The war, in all its fury, would come.
The group led by Weaver came to a stop before a blank wall. "Luckily the people who owned this house in the 1950s possessed a useful streak of paranoia. Convinced that a nuclear war was inevitable they built quite an expansive fallout shelter under this house. Unwilling to share it with their neighbors they made sure it was undetectable. It has served John Henry's needs well."
Weaver looked down at Savannah, "Tell John Henry to open the door dear."
"John Henry it's me, Savannah. Open the door please."
Almost immediately the wall slid aside revealing another stairway. Savannah released Weaver's hand and dashed down the stairs ahead of the adults. A huge room awaited. One entire wall was packed with weaponry; a veritable arsenal. The remainder of the room was filled with computer equipment of every type and size.
John smiled. Surely this was the "Mad Scientist's Lair" writ large indeed.
Sarah looked at the figure who stood waiting for them. She found herself shaking uncontrollably. John had told her what to expect but she was still unprepared. To her it was still Cromartie. She could feel his hands on her throat. Clearly no one else felt a similar distress, however.
"John Henry!" Savannah cried happily as she ran to hug him. John and Cameron were right behind her. John held out his hand to shake and Cameron even placed a quick kiss on the former terminator's cheek as he beamed at them both.
Then John Henry made eye contact with Sarah and in spite of herself she could sense a gentleness there.
"Sarah Connor, welcome to your son's new headquarters."