A/N: Yeah, I know, the first two movies were better (and if I had it my way, the third movie would be expunged from all memory), but I have to say Terminator Salvation really wasn't all that bad for a superfluous sequel. The main reason being, of course, the character of Marcus Wright. He totally stole the movie right out from John Connor's nose, heroically kicking ass and looking sexy while doing it. And then he died. Sure, it was a noble gesture and all, sacrificing his heart so John Connor could live, but come on! What was the point of him going through all that just to give up at the end?
Apparently, I'm not the only one who felt that way, 'cause I saw more than a few "Marcus lives" fanfics here. This will be my own modest contribution to the genre. Marcus/Blair all the way, 'cause that's how I likes it. ;-D
PS-Don't worry, I'm still working on my Walking Dead fic. Read and enjoy.
Disclaimer: Nothing about Terminator Salvation or any of the Terminator movies is mine.
lin·ger [líng gər]
(past lin·gered, past participle lin·gered, present participle lin·ger·ing, 3rd person present singular lin·gers)
1. delay leaving: to put off leaving a place because you are reluctant to go
2. wait around: to wait around or move about a place slowly and idly
3. be barely alive: to remain alive, although very weak, while gradually dying
Skynet Facility & Resistance Safe Zone
John Connor didn't have to save him. He could've left him lying there and gotten the hell out before that T-800 broke loose from the molten metal that had hardened around it. But instead he spent precious seconds jump-starting Marcus's heart, and for that he almost died. Marcus wished he had a reason to thank him. He really did.
The look on Barnes's face when he saw who half-carried wounded John Connor out of that Skynet facility was priceless. But he quickly shook it off and hurried to support John's other side. They scrambled into the helicopter with John's wife Kate and a liberated Star and Kyle Reese. Once airborne, Star pulled a small box, some kind of remote, out of her pocket and passed it over to John, who then pressed a button, resulting in the Skynet facility with its Terminator factory and its experimental lab getting blown to hell. It was a sight Marcus was glad to witness, since it was there that his donated body was violated and reshaped into the thing it was now. He only wished it was so easy to destroy the machine in him.
Once they landed in the closest safe zone and delivered John to the makeshift tent hospital, Kate tended her husband's injuries with brisk efficiency. Only her pursed lips betrayed the emotions roiling beneath the surface. Once John was stitched and bandaged up, she approached the group hovering just outside the tent.
"How is he?" Barnes asked.
Kate slowly let out a breath and her whole body seemed to relax a little. "If that metal bar had stabbed him just a couple of millimeters to the left, it would've done severe damage to his heart."
"But he's gonna be okay, right?" Kyle asked anxiously.
She nodded. "He's gonna be fine. Assuming he'll stay in bed long enough to recuperate," she added a touch sardonically.
Blair snorted. "Yeah, good luck with that." Barnes nodded in agreement, a smile of relieved amusement tugging the corners of his mouth.
Kate then turned to Marcus, who'd been silent throughout the exchange. She licked her full lips, obviously working up the nerve to say something. Then she forced herself to meet his eyes and said, "Thank you. For saving him."
Marcus couldn't think of a better way to respond than a simple nod. It seemed to be enough to satisfy Kate. She turned away and walked back to her husband's side, checking his vitals yet again as if to reassure herself he really did survive.
Marcus felt a small presence at his side and looked down to find Star staring up at him with those solemn dark eyes of hers. The little girl shocked him by taking hold of his left hand, not in the least put off by its bare metal components. Marcus curled his mechanical fingers around her small hand and felt his throat tighten. Star smiled at him, so trusting. He managed to smile back.
Resistance Base, 24 hrs later...
Marcus sat in the mess hall, eating a plate of pork and beans that probably came out of a can that was older than Kyle. It was an odd time between meal shifts, so there were only a handful of others in the mess hall. None of them asked to share a seat at Marcus's table. They cast wary glances his way and whispered furtively among themselves. He ignored them, feeling like the outcast of a high school lunchroom.
The Resistance fighters obviously had no idea how they should act around him. On the one hand, Marcus was a machine, the very thing they spent their lives fighting. On the other hand, he saved John Connor and helped with the rescue of hundreds of prisoners and the destruction of the Skynet facility, so they couldn't exactly put a bullet in his skull by way of thanks. Also, Kate Connor spread the word that while most of his inner workings were artificial, Marcus's brain was still very much human, and he'd literally ripped out the interface chip Skynet used to control him. So, for the most part, everyone treated him with wary respect and kept their distance, which was fine by him.
Marcus scooped another spoonful of beans into his mouth and chewed without enthusiasm. As it turned out, he did need to eat, though not often and not nearly as much as a human did. The food was necessary to maintain his organic components; his skin and heart, but most of all his brain. He didn't really feel hunger, though. More like a compulsion, an instinct. He was damaged, a little voice said I should eat, so he ate. That was all there was to it.
He held up his left hand and watched in mild fascination as new skin ever-so-slowly crept up the exposed metal bones. At this rate his hand would be good as new by morning. The wonders of modern technology, he thought sourly.
"This seat taken?"
His head jerked up at the familiar voice. Blair smirked at his startled look, ignoring how he quickly pulled his sleeve up to conceal his damaged hand. She was holding a full plate, its contents steaming weakly. "Well?"
Marcus sighed, waved his spoon at the empty chairs all around him. "Take your pick."
She sat down directly across from him and immediately dug into her meal. Marcus couldn't remember ever seeing a woman eat with such gusto. All the women he ever knew always ate with such tiny, dainty bites. But then again, she lived in a world where things like regular meals were rarely a given, and food could never be taken for granted. And yet, though she practically shoveled the food into her mouth, Blair somehow managed to look dignified as she did so. Marcus knew he'd just look like a slob if he tried that.
"Guess yours tastes better than mine," he said wryly.
Blair covered her mouth, stifling a laugh. "Actually," she managed after a hasty swallow, "I figure the faster I eat it, the less I'll have to taste it."
Marcus smiled in response. Neither of them bothered with further conversation until both plates were finally empty. Blair leaned back in her chair with a sigh and regarded the man across from her. "You've been awful quiet since we got here."
Marcus shrugged. "Not much to say, I guess."
"Any of the officers talk to you about getting on some kind of work detail?"
Yeah, right. "Uh, actually," Marcus shifted in his seat, "I wasn't really planning to stick around."
Blair frowned. "You're leaving?"
He stared down at his empty plate. "Yeah."
"And go where?"
He shrugged again.
Blair stared at him for a long, uncomfortable moment. Then she leaned forward, her expression earnest. "You could make a difference here. Hell, you've already done more than most fighters manage their whole lives! The Resistance needs someone like you."
"Someone like me?" Marcus scoffed, finally meeting her eyes. "The Resistance is for humans, Blair. In case you haven't noticed," he held up his left hand with its gleaming metal fingers, "I don't exactly fit the company profile."
"Why? 'Cause you got a few metal parts in you?"
"Way more than a few."
"I don't care if you clank like the goddamned Tin Man," Blair snapped, "I didn't take a bullet to the leg helping a machine escape. I busted you out because I know you're more than that. You're as human as I am, where it really matters."
"Yeah," he said, clearly humoring her. He stood, picked up his plate. "Thanks for the pep talk." He walked away, tossing his empty plate into the plastic tub with the rest of the dirty dishes. Blair watched his retreating back with a worried look, wanting to go after him, wondering if she should. Then he was out the door and the moment was gone.
Resistance Base, 2 weeks later...
In the end, Marcus decided to stay. He pretended it had nothing to do with his conversation with Blair.
John initially offered him a chance at combat, but one look at Barnes's hard expression convinced Marcus that wasn't such a good idea. While having someone with his abilities would give the Resistance an edge, none of the other fighters would ever really trust him, and without trust, he would only be a liability. So instead, he took a job in the motor pool. Probably somebody's idea of a joke, a cyborg grease monkey. But all those misspent years jacking cars and working in chop shops did come in handy in maintaining the Resistance's aging vehicles. Plus, he got to work alone most of the time, which he preferred. He probably would've toiled away 24/7 if his organic brain didn't require the occasional period of REM sleep. Initially, he was given a bunk in the area designated for singles. Row upon row of narrow cots, with only a few thin curtains between them to offer a semblance of privacy. Space was at a premium, yet after a couple of nights Marcus noticed that his neighbors had scooted their beds a few inches away from his, sacrificing some of their precious breathing room just to put a little distance between him and them. It was more guilt than anger that motivated him to move out. No point in upsetting people by inflicting himself on them. He ended up setting up a makeshift home in a lonely corner of the motor pool, partitioned off from the vast garage space with stacks of old crates. It was just a folding cot and a footlocker that held more air than possessions. All he needed, really. He hardly ever left the motor pool, except for meals, and rarely spoke to anyone. When he wasn't working, he holed up in his tiny bunk and, if he was very lucky, got through the night without any dreams.
He got a few visitors. Kyle dropped by with Star in tow. Star was spending most of her time in what passed for school for the Resistance children. Being around other kids seemed to be doing her some good. Though she still didn't talk, she was a lot less somber than before. As for Kyle, it seemed John Connor had taken him under his wing. The kid went on and on about all the things he was learning from his hero. Marcus was happy for him and Star. It was nice to see them practically thriving after all the hardships they'd endured. It was almost enough to make him believe humanity still had a chance.
As for Blair, most of her daylight hours were taken up in the air doing recon. Even though Skynet was crippled in their little patch of the world, there was still the risk of stray Hunter-Killers or Terminators stumbling upon the base. Best the Resistance keep their eyes peeled so they don't get caught with their pants down. This of course meant that Marcus didn't really get the chance to see her except maybe in passing in one of the corridors. Marcus had mixed feelings about this. He missed seeing her, but at the same time he was glad for it. He wasn't really sure he could handle another "you're still a human being" talk from her.
The human condition no longer applies to you.
But still...he missed her.
Marcus lay in his bunk, waiting for sleep to come to him. He stared up at the cracked and water-stained ceiling and listened to the repetitive drip-drip of condensation or a leaky pipe somewhere. This converted missile silo and underground bunker was barely habitable. He wouldn't be surprised if the whole place collapsed on their heads one of these days. But it wasn't as if the Resistance had a lot of options, real estate wise.
Drip...drip...drip... Steady as a clock. He remembered the rhythmic ticking of the second hand on the clock hanging in his execution chamber. He was sure they kept that ancient thing for dramatic effect, so the condemned wouldn't be able to help themselves as they counted down the last seconds of their lives. Even though Marcus was ready to die - wanted it, even - those brief moments of silence between each tick were agony.
Funny, all that listening and he didn't even hear the approaching footsteps. The quiet knocks on the jerry-rigged wall of his bunk startled him out of his morbid thoughts. He sat up. "Who is it?"
"It's me," Blair's voice, quiet, like she was visiting a tomb, which was certainly what the motor pool felt like late at night. What the hell was she doing here at this hour? Marcus got up and went to the gap in the partition that was his bunk's door, pushed aside the hanging blanket to reveal Blair still in her flight suit, hair mussed from hours spent crammed under a helmet and dark rings under her eyes. "I know it's late," she said apologetically, "I ran into some HKs on my last recon and just now got outta debriefing." She huffed a weary sigh.
Marcus frowned at her. "Why're you here?"
She shrugged. "I wanted to see you. Hasn't been much chance for us to get together lately. I wanted to see how you're doing."
Marcus didn't say anything. He wasn't sure what to say.
Blair shuffled her feet. "Look, if it's a bad time, I can-"
"No, it's...it's okay." He stepped aside. "You wanna come in?"
"Yeah. Thanks." She squeezed past him and he let the hanging blanket fall back into place. Blair didn't make any remarks on the cramped conditions. Her own bunk wasn't any better. At least this place had some privacy, isolated as it was. Marcus motioned for her to sit on the cot while he took a seat on the footlocker. A long couple of minutes passed before Blair finally broke the awkward silence, "So, you decided to stick around."
Marcus shrugged, something he'd been doing a lot around her lately, he mused. "Like you said, where would I go?"
"You getting along with the other grease monkeys?" she grinned.
He smiled wanly. "They leave me alone, I leave them alone. We get along fine." He stared down at the cold floor between his bare feet. He felt the cold through his soles, but the sensation was distant, like it really didn't affect him. He guessed it wouldn't, considering.
He looked up, saw the worry in Blair's eyes and felt his throat constrict.
"Are you alright?" she asked, little more than a whisper.
He tried to shrug it off, tried to muster up a flippant "yeah, sure, I'm fine." But he just didn't have the energy for bullshit. He shook his head and rasped out, "No."
Blair scooted closer, took his hands in hers. "What's wrong?"
His eyes looked away from hers. "I don't know what the hell I'm doing here."
"What d'you mean?"
"I wasn't supposed to come back. I was dead on the floor, but Connor couldn't let me be. He zapped me back to life and now I...I dunno what I'm supposed to do. What am I supposed to do?" he asked, desperation making his voice rough, "I'm not...I don't know why..." He jerked his hands away, waved them like he was trying to snatch the right words out of the air. He was never any good at this, expressing himself. It always left him frustrated and angry and then he'd yell and hurt the ones who just wanted to help him. It had always been that way for him. Apparently that was something Skynet never bothered to fix when it cobbled him back together.
He snarled in frustration and stood up, wishing there was room to pace. Blair gazed up at him in concern and waited patiently.
"Why the hell didn't Connor just leave me there?" Marcus finally blurted out, "He could've gotten away without ever getting run through by that Terminator, but he stayed and brought me back. Why the fuck would he do that?"
Blair got to his feet and calmly faced him. "'Cause he realized what I already knew when I helped you escape. That you're a good man and you didn't deserve to die."
Marcus let out a hollow chuckle. "I'm not a good man. I'm not a man at all, for Christ's sake!"
"I don't believe that."
"Then you're a fucking idiot," he snapped.
The corners of her eyes tightened. A tiny flinch, but Marcus saw it and felt his self-loathing tighten its hold on him. He sat back down on the footlocker. His shoulders hunched in sudden weariness and he stared down between his knees at the worn cement floor. "Y'know how I died the first time, Blair?"
She shook her head, even though he wasn't looking at her to see it, murmured, "No."
"Lethal injection." Two words, leaden with finality. Marcus turned his head just enough to look at her from the corner of his eye. Some masochistic part of him wanted to see Blair's reaction when he told her. "I was a thief, a carjack, but that ain't why the cops came for me. It was a goddamn barfight," he snorted in derision, "I'd cashed in on one of the biggest scores of my life and I was out on a bender, celebrating. The bartender knew my brother. When I started gettin' rowdy, she called him to come get me. Andy, my brother, he was always bailing my ass outta trouble. Kept trying to save me..." He trailed off for a moment, swallowed. Blair waited in silence, her gaze steady.
Marcus continued, "Andy showed up about the same time as the two cops. I was so outta my mind. I knew I should've just gone quietly, but I was itching for a fight. Any fight."
He fell silent. Blair waited several minutes before she gently prompted, "What happened?"
Marcus's shoulders twitched in yet another eloquent shrug. "Cops died. Andy died." He looked down at his feet. "My fault."
Blair slowly reached out a sympathetic hand and touched his arm. "I'm sorry."
Marcus shook her off and abruptly stood. "Visiting hours are done," he said curtly, holding aside the blanket over his door, "Go."
"Marcus," Blair got to her feet.
"Don't," he interrupted, face stony, "I don't want your understanding. I don't want your goddamn sympathy. Just leave."
"I just...I wanna tell-"
She didn't jump, but she did tense up. Schooling her features, Blair exited the bunk and Marcus let the blanket drop behind her, cutting him off from her view. Blair heaved a sigh of deep frustration and ran her fingers through her long hair, mussing it further. She headed for the motor pool's exit, telling herself this was only a temporary retreat. She wasn't going to let him push her away. Marcus needed to learn he wasn't the only one carrying around demons from his past. She would tell him, whether he wanted to listen or not.
But not tonight. Tonight her bunk was calling to her. She would confront him tomorrow, fully rested and alert. This wasn't over.