"Wow, what did that flower do to piss you off?" John asked, chuckling at his protector who was standing out on the back porch. Her back was turned to him as she rhythmically plucked the petals off of a daisy.

Not long after waking up, he descended the staircase on his way to the kitchen to pour himself a bowl of Frosted Flakes. He'd gotten sidetracked when he noticed Cameron outside and slid open the glass door to see what she was up to.

"It didn't piss me off," she clarified without turning to face him. "I want to know if someone feels the same way about me that I do about them."

John shook his head in confusion. "What?"

Cameron silently returned to the house, leaving the petal-less stem on the wooden steps, but carrying in an assortment of about a dozen other flowers in her hands.

John stepped out of the way to let her back inside, and watched curiously as the cyborg added the collection to a small vase sitting on the kitchen counter next to an unopened box of Raisinets.

"Are you leaving those there as a peace offering in case another machine shows up to kill me? Cause I'm pretty sure that's not gonna work," he said jokingly.

"No. And they're not for you," the terminator replied, making minor corrections to the arrangement with her fingers.

"I was just kidding, geez! Are you... feeling ok?"

John noticed Cameron twitch a little before responding. "I'm fine."

Although Cameron's apparent new hobby seemed harmless enough, the unpredictable quirks in her behavior still concerned John to some degree, considering he would most likely find himself the first one in her crosshairs should a glitch cause her Skynet directives to again resurface.

"Well what are the flowers for exactly?" he continued, "Cause uh… If you're planning on ripping them up later, would you mind if I gave them to Riley instead?"

"Yes, I would mind. They are for your mother," she replied, still perfecting the display.

"Oh, like a get well present?" John smirked. "So are you two friends now?"

Cameron's head turned slightly to the right as her arms suddenly dropped to her sides. "I don't know."

Deciding he would let it go for now, John walked into the kitchen to get to the cereal. He was about finished with his breakfast when Sarah emerged from her bedroom, her appearance a bit ruffled and disheveled.

"Morning mom." John greeted as Sarah limped into the kitchen.

"Morning," she replied, with as much of a smile as she could muster. Not sleeping well was nothing new, but last night's unexpected encounter with Tin Miss certainly hadn't helped to improve her restless state of mind.

"Do you need any help? How's your ankle?" John asked with concern.

"I'm fine. It's getting better. Still a little pain but not as bad as yesterday."

"You should still try not to walk on it." Cameron interjected as Sarah walked past her. "Would you like me to fix you a cup of coffee?"

Ignoring the terminator, Sarah's attention instead focused on the vase of flowers and box of Raisinets she found sitting on the counter. "What's all this?"

"They're for you, Sarah. I picked them myself." Cameron replied.

Although she may not have had the honesty to admit the true reason why, by now Sarah was finding Cameron's overt displays of affection toward her nothing short of nauseating. After examining the items for a few seconds, she quickly made her way over to the trash can and tossed both of them in.

"I don't know what game you think you're playing with me, but it ends now." Sarah snapped at the cyborg, who returned her fierce countenance with only the usual innocence in her expression before turning to leave the room.

"Come on, Mom. I think she was only trying to be nice, maybe she wanted to make it up to you for what happened last night," John said as he made his way to the kitchen sink to rinse out his cereal bowl.

"What, you think I hurt her feelings? You know that's absurd, John." Sarah chided as she proceeded with a new task and poured grounds into the coffee machine, as if she had something to prove.

"Well, you seem… a little more angry with her than usual. What'd you guys talk about last night after I left the room?" the boy asked as he loaded his rinsed bowl and spoon into the dishwasher.

"Mainly about Derek. Neither of us trust him, not that that gives her the right to assume things are any better between her and I."

"Why? Has Derek done anything lately I should know about?"

"I was actually about to ask you that. I'm not sure how reliable he is, and I sure as hell am not babysitting him if he starts to become a liability. For starters, you and I both know he's got a bit of a drinking problem." Sarah replied as she added the water to the coffee maker and switched it on to brew.

"Well I guess I can't argue with you there..."

Sidetracking her attention from the coffee maker for a moment, Sarah checked the fridge to confirm Cameron had indeed disposed of Derek's alcohol. "Well from now on, he's not getting drunk here anymore. I had Cameron pour out the rest of his beer last night."

John snorted. "He's not gonna be happy about that. I think you should try to give him a break though, he may have a few bad habits, but I know he wants to stop Judgement Day as much as you and I do. Do you know if he found anything out about that Curtis guy yet?" John inquired regarding the lead Derek was out investigating. From their research, they'd deduced that Brad Curtis, one of the names written in blood on the outside wall, was the CEO of a small computer technology company headquartered in San Francisco. John hoped get off the subject of Derek's alcoholism as quickly as possbile considering the fact he and Riley had each snuck a few of his beers last night. Hopefully Cameron hadn't noticed the freshly discarded bottles.

"I haven't heard anything." Sarah answered. "If he doesn't call by this afternoon I'll try calling him. Don't think I forgot about you and Tin Miss' chores either."

John sighed. "But you said you liked the movie. You really can't let us off the hook?"

"I said it wasn't terrible, but a deal's a deal, kiddo," the woman replied as she grabbed a mug to fill with the freshly brewed coffee beginning to drip into the glass pot.

...

"Alright, how bout you vacuum and I'll dust?" John offered as he opened the hallway closet to gather the cleaning supplies.

"I don't understand why your mother gets angry when I try to do something nice for her," was Cameron's response as she maneuvered around him to grab the vacuum cleaner.

If he didn't know better, John would've assumed the cyborg was pouting.

"She's probably just scared you two are going to end up becoming friends," he teased.

"I don't want us to be friends." Cameron said as she plugged the vacuum cleaner into the nearby outlet and switched it on. The noise from its motor effectively cut off their conversation as she began scanning for dirt on the floor to suck up.

Meanwhile, as Sarah remained in the kitchen, sipping her coffee while she cooked herself scrambled eggs, her cell phone rang. The caller ID showed Derek's number.

"About time I heard from you." the woman answered after security codes were exchanged.

"Sorry, I was out late, overslept a little." Derek replied with a hint of sarcasm.

"Did you find out anything?" the woman sharply asked back.

"Well I found our guy, Brad Curtis. I couldn't get past security at his apartment or his office, but he had a laptop sitting in the backseat of his car. I got away with it... barely. I have it with me now."

"Have you taken a look at what's on it yet?"

"I tried but a lot of the files are encrypted so I'm probably gonna need John's help with that when I get back."

"Well, John's actually doing chores right now." Sarah explained as she peeked out into the living room to spot John dusting the coffee table. "How far out are you?"

"I got about a five hour drive from where I am now, so hopefully he'll be done by then. If not, I guess I'll just wait since I'm sure his chores are more important than this," the man replied, his sarcasm blatant this time.

"Hey, we're not exactly on vacation here! I'm going to keep researching these other names while I wait for you to get back, and we also need to talk about something else when you get back too. Just the two of us."

"You mean like a date?"

"In your dreams. Just hurry up and get your ass back here." Sarah replied just before hanging up. She then looked back down at the pan on the stovetop to realize her eggs were now overcooked.

"Shit!" she hissed as she discarded the crispy dark brown mess down the garbage disposal.

"So, are we even now?" John asked his mother, who'd just finished eating the results of her second, more successful attempt at cooking her breakfast.

"Let's take a look," she replied, rising from the table for a quick tour of the house.

After Sarah's inspection, she'd decided John and Cameron's cleanup was acceptable.

"I guess I'm satisfied," she declared, looking over her bedroom, the last stop of the tour. "Derek called. He's on his way back now with a laptop he snatched from Curtis. He wants you to help him decrypt it, but before that there's one more thing I'd like you and Cameron to do today," the woman explained as she met eyes with her son.

"Does that mean it's optional?"

Sarah almost laughed. "You two should go get us a Christmas tree."

John's eyes widened. "Are you feeling ok, Mom?"

"Come on, you know you want one," she teased. "We need to work on our sense of unity, especially during the holidays. That includes Derek too. I want us to start behaving like a family. We may be a bit dysfunctional but this is all we have." Sarah explained, intentionally excluding Cameron. While she had mixed feelings about John's uncle, maybe she could help bring out his redeeming qualities by getting him off the booze. Cameron on the other hand was, after all, a machine, a tool, a necessary evil at best. Something only to be considered part of the family to deceive strangers who'd be better off not knowing what she actually was.

"Go on, I'll have a sandwich ready for you when you get back," Sarah promised, her mood better after having breakfast and coffee.

"I think I'm old enough to make myself a sandwich, Mom. I do it all the time."

"Then you're old enough to understand why this is important for us."

"Alright, fine." he acquiesced.

John found his protector downstairs in the living room, having returned to her usual spot for standing guard during the day.

"Come on," he said, beckoning to Cameron. "We're going shopping."

"What is the purpose of a Christmas tree?" the terminator asked as she began to follow him, having overheard their conversation.

"I'll explain on the way there." he replied as he grabbed his mother's keys, not surprised the cyborg had been eavesdropping. He was well acquainted with her superhuman hearing by now.

"I don't understand why your mother wants us to bring back a tree when she didn't find my flower arrangement acceptable." Cameron said as she climbed into the passenger seat of the SUV. John wondered why she was still acting upset over his mother, but figured he might as well play along if she was trying this hard to give him that impression.

"Well, maybe you should try getting her something else," He replied as he started the engine. "The whole point of Christmas is to exchange gifts with other people, so here's your chance to try again. You know, get her something she might like better and put it under the tree," the boy continued to explain as they pulled out of the driveway. "Mom gets sentimental around Christmas. I think when she was a kid it was really important to her. She tries to pretend its not such a big deal now but I know it is."

"What kind of gift do you think she would like?" Cameron asked.

"Well, that's the part you gotta figure out," the boy replied with a smirk. "Maybe try something practical."

"Like a bazooka?"

John snickered. "Maybe if you want her to use it on you."

He met eyes with Cameron for a second as she glared at him, clearly not amused by his words.

"Well, you still have a couple weeks to think about it," he attempted to continue seriously, "Just make sure you wrap it," he clarified as Cameron listened intently. "You won't want her to know what it is until it's time to open it."

Cameron wasn't sure if John was just trying to make fun of her at this point, or sincerely trying to help. She nevertheless wanted further elaboration. "Thank you for explaining… but you still haven't told me the purpose of the tree. Why is it required for the gift exchange?"

"uh... it's just something everyone kinda does, I don't really know why."

Cameron pondered as they continued driving. She had been planning on revealing Sarah's surprise tonight, but after the woman's negative reaction to the gifts she'd offered earlier this morning, it could be more optimal to postpone it until the holiday. Perhaps then Sarah might be in a more receptive mood for what she had planned.