Author: Roxy Bisquaint
Characters: Focus on Sarah and Derek, minor appearances by John and Cameron
Rating: Teen (language)
Word Count: ~4600
Summary: Sarah and Derek find common ground in the loss of Kyle.
Notes: Thanks to life_on_queen for beta reading.
When Sarah came to, she could barely breathe. She felt like she'd been kicked in the gut and the dust from the explosion was still so thick she couldn't see more than a few feet in any direction.
"Derek?!" She called out, between coughs. There was no sound but her own voice echoing down the dark corridor — that, and the ringing in her ears. Sarah tried to stand, but her body wouldn't cooperate and she fell almost immediately. Her head was pounding now and she felt a trickle of blood run down her temple. She muttered some indistinguishable obscenity as she found the wound with her hand. It felt like a pretty nasty gash in her scalp and was bleeding plenty. She held her sleeve against it then tried standing again. This time she moved slowly, steadying herself against the cold concrete wall. Success. Her body felt weak and wobbly, but she was up.
Though the smell of black powder still hung heavy in the air, the dust cloud was beginning to dissipate and Sarah was able to get a better view of the dimly lit tunnel. The degree of destruction around her was shocking and she felt strangely disoriented. Everything looked different. And still no sign of Derek.
"Reese?!" She called out again. Nothing. He hadn't been too far ahead, had he?
Sarah moved slowly down the tunnel, past the blast point. Now she remembered. Derek had rounded the corner before the explosion hit and apparently blew her back several feet. As she made the turn, she could hear screaming and gunfire up ahead. And there were people, some apparently injured, some dead. Others were scrambling about with weapons. She quickly crouched down and reached for her pistol. It wasn't there. Shit. She considered going back, but decided to press on. She had to find Derek. He could be lying injured somewhere.
As she moved forward a bit, Sarah's eyes were drawn to a faded mural on the wall. It was a lion with the head of a machine in it's mouth, and a slogan: "HANG IN THERE BABY!" What the hell? She stayed low against the wall as she crept along. And then she saw him... a lone body laying face down in the middle of the corridor, with a familiar green army coat. "Derek..."
Her heart raced as she crawled over, but as she reached for him, Sarah noticed a photo on the floor, lying next to his hand. It was... her. An old photo that John used to carry around. Frantically, she grabbed Derek and rolled him over. But it wasn't Derek... "Oh my God... Kyle?!"
Sarah jolted awake, her heart pounding, sweat beading on her chest. She took a breath.
Nightmares and strange dreams about the future were a frequent part of her sleep cycle, but she hadn't had a disturbing dream about Kyle since, well, she couldn't remember when. Right after he died, she used to see his face, his dead and bloodied face, every night. She couldn't shake it. It literally took months for that image to fade and finally be replaced in her memory by a living and breathing Kyle — a Kyle with strength and determination and kindness in his eyes. It's what she'd loved about him. Why she would always love him. But now out of the blue, dead Kyle had returned, invoking the sadness she hadn't felt in years. Why now?
It was almost 4am and Sarah knew she wasn't getting back to sleep after that. She resigned herself to being up and headed for the bathroom, where her feet stumbled into a cold, wet towel. She huffed. Derek had left his towel on the fucking floor again. Doesn't this guy remember anything about civilized living? She shook out the towel and threw it over the shower curtain rod. Wait a minute...
"God damn it," she muttered. It was her towel he'd used and discarded in a wet heap on the floor. First her toothbrush, now her towel. She half expected to find him sleeping in her bed next.
No, thank God. Derek was asleep on the couch. She could hear him snoring in the living room as she walked quietly through the dark house.
"Ouch!" Her bare foot smashed into the leg of the kitchen island. As she reached down to rub her throbbing toe, she heard the distinctive *chink* of the slide being pulled on a semi-automatic... and an absence of snoring. Sarah dropped to the floor instinctively.
"Derek, it's just me," she whispered loudly from the cold kitchen tile.
His footsteps came closer. "What the hell are you doing stumbling around the house in the middle of the night?"
"It's my house," she slowly grumbled as she rose, keeping her eye trained on the gun in his hand. "And take your finger off that trigger before I break it."
With a sort of shrug, Derek laid the gun on the island. He grabbed some orange juice from the fridge and began to chug. Sarah almost made a comment about using a glass, but got sidetracked by the loaded gun sitting there. She picked it up and clicked the safety.
"Safety on when you've got a round chambered," she reminded him for umpteenth time.
"Mmmhmm." He acknowledged through gulps. "You should warn me when you're going to be up this early."
"No, you need to take it down a notch. What if I'd been John coming in here for a glass of water?" She walked over to the coffee maker and got it started. "Cameron keeps an eye on the house at night."
"That machine knows better than to come anywhere near me when I'm sleeping or it'll be the last thing it ever does."
"You intimidated her, did you?" She smirked, arms folded. Cameron walked in just then, as if she'd been waiting for her cue. "Speak of the tin devil."
Derek did an about-face. "I thought I told you to stay the hell away from me."
"You did." She answered flatly. "Why is everyone awake?"
He crossed an arm in front of her very deliberately and practically slammed the orange juice down on the island. "Because we're discussing how much thermite we need to vaporize your metal ass."
"Derek. Enough." Sarah turned to Cameron, interrupting the thermite calculation she was no doubt making. "Everything is fine, so go back to doing... whatever it is you do until morning."
Derek was quick to reiterate. "You heard her, GO."
Cameron locked a glare onto him that lasted until she was fully out of the room. He matched it as she left then turned his attention back to Sarah. "So why are you awake at..." He looked at the clock on the microwave. "Is it really only 4 o'clock?"
"Yes. Go back to sleep." Sarah really didn't want company at this hour. But Derek got a mug from the cabinet and slid it front of her.
"You're staying up?" She asked, with annoyed surprise.
He nodded, so she poured them both some coffee when it finished brewing and they took their mugs to the kitchen table. Not wanting to engage in conversation, Sarah kept her head down and fiddled with her cup. Derek stared blankly at her. After a minute or so, she sensed his eyes burning into her and looked up. "What?"
"Hmm?" Derek broke his gaze. "Oh."
He sat back in his chair, but she soon felt his eyes on her again. "If it's about Cameron, I don't want to hear it."
"Why didn't you tell me about Kyle being John's father?"
Sarah's heart jumped. "What?"
Derek started talking, more to himself than to her. "It all makes sense now... Why John gave him that picture of you, why he disappeared... Then I come here. I see you, see John and... You know every time I look at him, I see my brother."
He leaned forward, locking his eyes onto hers, and repeated his question with a slow sternness. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"When you first came here, we didn't even know you."
"That's bullshit. You realized who I was at the jail. Didn't you? As soon as I mentioned Kyle that day... The look on your face... I should've known right then."
He was right, of course, and that made it all the more difficult for her to explain it. "Knowing who you are and knowing you are two different things. And if John—future John didn't tell you..."
"Yeah, future John..." He cut her off. "You know he wouldn't even tell me where he went? My brother gets sent on some classified mission — they blew up the fucking building he was in — and no one, not even John, would tell me what happened."
Derek's anger trailed off. "I hoped I could find him. I thought he might be here. But now here I am 20 years in the past and I'm too late... He's already gone."
It was the first time she'd seen him express anything but raw anger since he was delirious from his gunshot wound. Sarah reached a hand across the table and placed it on his. "I'm so sorry, Derek."
"John said he died fighting the machines." His demeanor changed in an instant and he jerked his hand away. "How? I want to know. How did my brother die, Sarah?"
"He died... saving my life." Kyle's face drifted back into her mind as she looked at Derek and her eyes grew moist. But she swallowed the emotion and tried to organize her memories into something coherent. "There was a T-800 after me, a 101 — Kyle told me that."
"An 800? Those were the first ones with real skin."
"Yeah, it looked human. I was sitting in this club, waiting for the police. It had already killed two other Sarah Connors, so they'd been trying to find me. And right there, with all these people around, the machine, he... he walked up and pointed a gun at my head. I'll never forget that moment. All I could see was this blinding red light, from the laser site. And I... I thought that was it."
"Kyle stopped it?"
She nodded. "Next thing I knew, I was on the floor. I was okay. I was alive. And there was shooting — so much gunfire... It was loud. Rounds seemed to be coming from everywhere. People were screaming and running... I don't even know how many got hit, how many died... But Kyle found me. He took my hand and he got me out of there."
"He beat the machine?" Derek asked. "He destroyed it?"
"No," she shook her head, "he only had a shotgun."
"It got back up; started chasing us..." Her body tensed as the sheer terror of that moment replayed vividly in her mind. It was something she'd never forget.
"I'd never been so scared. I didn't know what was going on. We were speeding through the city, and Kyle told me it was a cyborg from the future — that I'd been 'targeted for termination'. I remember those words... I thought he was crazy. I really thought he was crazy." Sarah breathed out a slight laugh at that long lost innocence. It was hard to even remember what it was like to not know about it all.
"Then he told me about the war. Growing up in the ruins... hiding... fighting the machines. It was so real to him. And when he told me about John... he made it seem so real. And as insane as it all sounded, I actually started to believe him."
Derek listened intently as Sarah continued. She told him about the police station and the shootout, about Kyle saving her again. She told him about the night they spent under a bridge, huddled together in the cold darkness, talking about the future, and how Kyle said he'd volunteered for the mission.
"He volunteered?" Derek interrupted. "I shouldn't be surprised. He carried that old picture of you around with him forever. Said you were his 'lucky charm'... guess he was wrong about that."
That hurt. He may as well have plunged a knife into her chest. If there was one thing Sarah was acutely aware of, it was that Kyle had literally given his life for her. And for John. "Yeah... I guess he was," she said quietly, unable to look at him. She was at a loss for words and got up to leave.
Derek jumped up and grabbed her arm. "Hey..."
But before he could finish the thought, she yanked her arm away forcefully and kept going.
As Sarah sat in bed, Derek's words echoed in her mind. He was just upset, lashing out; she knew that. But it was painful to hear just the same. Her thoughts drifted back to Kyle and, for the first time in a long time, she let the tears really flow. She wanted so badly to talk to him again, to hold him, if only for a few minutes. And she wished she could tell him just once that she loved him. But she couldn't.
Seven o'clock came quickly and Sarah awoke feeling horrible. Her head was throbbing and her eyes stung. But she was relieved to see daylight and hear the normal sounds of morning.
She opened her door to find John arguing with Cameron from the bathroom doorway. "Would you just get out of there so I can take a shower? Your hair is fine."
"If it doesn't look right," Cameron explained, "people at school will think I'm a freak."
"Don't you have a mirror in your room?"
"Yes, but the light is better in here for preparing my appearance."
"Come on," he groaned. "I gotta pee."
Though she'd never admit it, Sarah often found their morning interactions oddly amusing. Although Cameron was a machine, she sometimes managed to get on John's nerves like a real sister might. Can robots antagonize? There were two bathrooms in the house, but Cameron always seemed to occupy the only one that had a shower. And Sarah could swear it was only when John wanted to use it.
"Morning." She greeted John as she headed for the other bathroom.
"Mom, would you tell her to quit hogging the bathroom?"
Sarah backed up and popped her head in the door. "Cameron. Out."
Cameron walked out immediately. "I'm finished."
Derek's sheets and pillow were still sprawled on the couch and there was no sign of him anywhere. The orange juice was sitting out where he'd left it a few hours ago, but his gun was gone from the kitchen. It wasn't under his pillow either. And his green army jacket was absent from the coat rack. Sarah was relieved. She needed to talk to him, clear the air, but she was glad not to have to deal with him first thing.
She reassembled the couch and put the orange juice back into the refrigerator, then zapped some 3-hour old coffee in the microwave.
John breezed in. "No pancakes today?"
"Cereal," Sarah pointed as she sipped her coffee.
He got a bowl and joined her at the table. "If you need any help today, I've got a chemistry test I'd be really happy to miss."
"So what are your plans?" He asked between bites. "Any new leads?"
"Actually, I think I'm going to spend some time with Derek."
"Spend some time with Derek? That's gotta be code for something. Is he in trouble?" John kidded. "Did he leave your guns out again?"
"Did he?" Sarah pretended to write herself a note. "Things to do today: kick Derek's ass."
"I honestly don't know who would win that fight."
"Sarah would." Cameron declared as she entered the kitchen. "She's the best fighter. Derek is physically larger, but his reaction time is slower and his fighting style is less skilled. Sarah's training is much more advanced and she has very fast reflexes. She is also smarter than Derek."
"All true," Sarah grinned. "Did you get all that, John?"
"Yeah, well get me an XBox and I'll whoop you both in a minute flat."
"I think it would be less."
"All right, " he kissed the top of her head, "gotta go."
Sarah waited until Cameron was out the door. "Hang on a second, John... Where's that park you went to with Derek, the one where you said you saw the Reese boys?"
"I thought you said you didn't want to see him. You said it would be too 'weird'."
"I don't," she assured him. Seeing the little boy that would grow up to be the man that fathered her son 16 years ago (or was it 24 years ago?)... that's a bit much for the psyche. "But I need to find Derek and I have a feeling that's where he is."
"Then I need to tell you something," John confessed. "He knows, mom. I didn't tell him, I swear. He figured it out on his own."
"I know. We talked last night and it, uh, didn't go so well. That's why I need to find him."
Sarah's hunch was right; Derek had gone to the park. He was sitting alone on a picnic bench, elbows resting back on the table behind him, staring out at the empty field.
"Hey," she greeted gently as she walked up.
Derek glanced over. "You found my secret hideout."
"John told me." Sarah sat down next to him. "So this is where you grew up?"
"That was my house. Right over there," he pointed. "You missed Kyle. They already left for school."
"He's just a boy, five, right?"
Derek nodded. "Kind of screws with your head, doesn't it?"
There was an awkward silence.
"You know, last night..." he started.
"Don't. It's okay." She put her hand on his shoulder. "Come on. I want to take you some place."
"To see Kyle."
It was a quiet drive out to the cemetery. Sarah tried to make some idle conversation, but it didn't really take and Derek spent most of the ride watching the scenery go by. As they neared the cemetery, though, he finally verbalized his thoughts. "You never told me how he died."
"Pipe bomb." She really didn't mean to be that blunt. It just sort of came out.
"Shit," Derek cringed. "You know I showed him how to make those. We used 'em a lot in the early days. They're effective, but dangerous as hell."
"Kyle taught me how to make them." Sarah realized that in a round-about way, her knowledge of pipe bombs actually came from Derek. "He said he learned when he was a kid. I didn't know about you, though. He never mentioned he had a brother."
"We were always told not to mention family. The machines, they'd try to capture relatives if they knew. Get you to give up information..." He seemed lost in thought — lost in the future, Sarah suspected.
He came right back. "Yeah. Fine. So tell me more; finish your story from last night."
But she was hesitant. She didn't know if telling him about her time with Kyle was helping or hurting. "You're sure want to hear this?"
"Listen, guys disappear all the time in the future." Derek's words seemed to come from deep within. "They go out on a mission... get blown up, shot, captured. They go out there and just never come back again... Like they never even existed. And we never find out what happened. I don't want it to be like that for Kyle."
She honestly didn't know how to tell him the rest. It was personal, intimate... and ultimately heartbreaking. But Kyle died fighting and she knew he would want to know that. He needed to know that. So Sarah shared what she could about his last day, the one day they'd had together without the machine at their backs.
"We walked, I don't know how many miles that day. Kyle said we had to keep going. I didn't mind, though. It was sunny and warm... I felt like I'd never seen a day that beautiful before. It was like I'd woken up from this horrible nightmare and everything was okay. It was different for Kyle, though. He told me how strange he felt, like he didn't belong there. Said he barely remembered the world like that, not destroyed by war. And he felt out of place, like it was all a dream."
"I know that feeling." Derek said.
"I tried to get his mind off of it, but it was hard to get him to talk about anything. He was so serious... focused, always looking around, looking back. I got him to laugh a few times, though. Smile even... He had such a nice smile... There was something about it. I don't know... I felt safe with Kyle. Comfortable. I barely knew him, but it was like I'd always..." She caught herself drifting too far.
"Eventually we found a truck to use—steal. There was a creek that followed the road we were walking along and this man was out there fishing. So we took his truck. I remember I felt bad about that, leaving him stranded there. But we needed it."
Sarah cracked a smile. "I think it was slowest car theft in history because I made Kyle teach me. He showed me how to find the wires and cross them. It was an old truck so, pretty easy. We drove for a while, but the thing overheated and we ended up catching a ride with a trucker. He dropped us... I don't even know where, some town."
They arrived at the cemetery, but Sarah parked and they sat there as she continued. "That's when we made the pipe bombs. It was late in the day and Kyle said we had to be prepared. He said it was only a matter of time before the machine... I think that's when I realized it would never be over. And I couldn't imagine how Kyle had lived his whole life like that... fighting these things... fighting for survival..."
She looked over at Derek. "I guess you can."
He breathed out a "yeah."
Sarah told him about the highway chase and Kyle blowing up the tanker truck. She told him about the endoskeleton rising from the flames, chasing them into the factory. And she told him about Kyle fighting the machine to the very end. "We were cornered. No guns left, nothing but a single pipe bomb. So Kyle lit it and wedged it into the machine. He yelled at me to run, but he... he couldn't get far enough away in time."
"How bad was it? Did he die instantly?" Derek asked.
"Yes. I crawled over to him, but... he was already gone."
He looked down for just a moment. "And the 800?"
"Obliterated." She thought it better to leave him with the image of his brother destroying the machine than to tell him the rest. "Kyle never stopped fighting; he never gave up. And he died saving my life."
They got out of the Jeep and Sarah took Derek's hand. "This way."
She walked him out towards a plot of grass in the cemetery, but Derek stopped short.
"You go ahead," he said, letting go of her hand. She had thought this would help bring him closure, but maybe it was to soon. So Sarah walked the rest of the way alone.
Many years had passed since she'd visited Kyle's grave, but it was just as she remembered it... the fresh air, the smell of wildflowers growing nearby. It was a peaceful setting, far removed from the post-apocalyptic world in which Kyle spent most of his short life. His grave was anonymous, marked only with a small metal plague flush to the grass: John Doe. There was nothing to indicate who he left behind or even who he was. Nothing to tell of his sacrifice. But that's how it had to be. He lived on in her memory, her dreams and in their son. And through Derek.
Sarah knelt down, kissed her fingers and touched them to the marker. She felt the familiar sorrow again, for what could have been, what they never had a chance to have. But there was also a calm that washed over her. Right there, at that moment, there was no apocalypse, there were no machines, and there was no fear... There was only Kyle.
Derek walked up quietly behind her. "Is this okay? I don't want to intrude."
Sarah wiped her eyes. "Promise me something?"
"When I go," she stood up, "bury me here in the grass, next to him."
"Somehow I doubt I'd be around for that. My life's a little more expendable than yours." He said it so matter-of-factly, that it was clear he believed it.
Sarah turned and put her hands on his arms, looking him in the eyes. "No one's expendable."
And she walked away, leaving him alone with his brother.
While Derek stood there at the grave, Sarah leaned in the shade of a nearby tree. She meant to give him privacy, but her eyes kept drawing back. Seeing him there brought unexpected emotions. And it wasn't about Kyle; Sarah felt an immense sadness for Derek. He'd lost more than a brother, she realized. In Kyle's death, he'd lost the only connection he had to life before the world changed... and before war changed him. It was easy for her to forget that he was a soldier from the future who'd been fighting a war she'd only imagined. And like his brother before him, he was now in a place out of his own time. Derek had her and he had John, but in a very real way, he was alone, cut off from everything he knew.
After a few minutes, Derek joined her at the tree.
"You okay?" She asked.
He nodded and they started a slow walk back to the Jeep. "So, you loved him?"
"How long were you together, you and Kyle?"
She was almost hesitant to tell him. "Two days."
"Two days?" The disbelief was apparent on his face.
"Almost that, yeah."
He raised an eyebrow and shot her a look. "Must have been a hell of a first date."
Sarah felt the unexpected warmth of a blush forming on her face. "It was... intense."
"This is my little brother we're talking about here, Kyle, right?" He stopped momentarily in his tracks. "So when did you find time to... I think I'm gonna need more details."
"Yeah?" She called flippantly over her shoulder, "well you're not going to get those."