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Maybe you did, maybe you walked

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She falls in love with him because she has to, because it's the only thing left to do after the bombs fell and the world ended. She falls in love with him when he is still the only voice in the world, telling humanity to survive with the walls of the fallout shelter closing in on both of them.

She falls in love.

Then they leave. They walk out of the shelter into a world made of gray and smoke and ruins. It's their world now, still ruled by monsters of metal, but he's John Connor and she's Kate Brewster, and they will win.

Time goes by and so does the war.

John sends his father into the past. Kate loses one child and gives birth to another. They catch a Terminator, reprogram it. Years ago, it saves John and his mother. Kate kisses John and tries not to believe in fate.

And the war is over.

Skynet is gone, the Terminators are just metal on the ground, and Kate walks in the open, the sun bright over a barren world. Ahead of her, in the middle of the road, John is standing still.

"I should be dead," he says into the quiet, and she remembers meeting him and his Terminator, remembers the Terminator's words.

"He was dead," it said, and Kate pushes the memory away.

"No fate," she reminds John.

He smiles. "Yeah."

Behind her, her daughter is skipping through dirt, her hair tangled, her face smudged with even more dirt. Kate thinks of playgrounds then, of green parks, thinks of places she hasn't imagined for years. Thinks of Sarah playing in the sun, running through grass.

"We need to rebuild the world," she says, knows that it's impossible. Knows they have to start anyway so someone can finish it. John nods.

"Homes first," she decides. "Then, schools. Something for the children to go to. Something that is theirs."

"Okay," John answers. He follows her as she walks back to the base, takes Sarah's hand. His gun is in the other. When they enter the maze of tunnels, people look at him.

"Connor," someone says, devotion and fear still in his voice. Kate wonders if that will ever change, if John will be a legend for the rest of his life, frozen into position.

She starts to write up plans in their room, going through the lists of people living at their base, looking for builders and teachers, looking for the past. She finds it between guards and patrol schedules, decides who to talk to first. John is pouring over a Terminator's blueprint, the war routine still clinging to him, and she looks away.

He's surrounded by his officers during dinner, the food on the plates still the same gruel they ate for the last few years, the mood still subdued. The victory hasn't arrived yet, not in this place, not to these people, and Kate can't imagine a smile on most of the faces she sees.

She tries to put one on her own face, a bright smile she remembers from the time before Skynet, and it feels sharp on her lips. Barnes frowns at her. She smiles harder and he looks away.

Later, John curls around her in their bed, his body warm and solid against her, a wall that protected her for years. "I have no plan for this," he says into the dark room. "I don't know what's coming, who I'm supposed to be."

She turns over to look at him him, reaches out to trace the lines of his face, the scars. "You'll get used to that. Everybody else did."

He laughs at her words, wraps a hand around her arm and kisses her wrist. "I used to wish for that." They are silent then, Kate thinking of what is ahead of them, going through the plans for the coming days. They need food, they need medicine, they need fuel, and it's all the same as before. Nothing much changed, except everything did.

"We'll go to a Skynet factory soon," John says. "We have to make sure there's nothing left that can come back. Look for prisoners, for something we could use."

She nods, knows that John can feel the movement and doesn't need an answer. "There are many factories left, though," she says against his shoulder.

"Yeah. And not enough of us," he replies, resignation in his voice.

"The prisoners will starve to death if we don't find them," she says, because one of them has to. John stays silent. It's too dark to see his face and she thinks of sleeping in the open, sleeping under the stars without fear. It's too cold to stay outside at night, she knows that, but she wants to do it anyway, yearns for a place without walls. Yearns for the world before that first fallout shelter.

John touches her face, pulls her closer, and she thinks of the man she wanted to marry before destiny found her. Thinks of his face and his smile, remembers the way his hands danced over her skin. Turns to John and kisses him.

In the morning, she meets with soldiers who used to be architects and masons and plumbers. She looks at their faces, sees their weapons, and hopes that they still remember their lives, hopes that they are more than metal and ammunition.

A few rooms away, John is planning the first mission to roam through Skynet's corpse, and she knows that he will lose himself in it just the way he lost himself in his mother's tapes and the future he didn't get to choose.

She wants to stop him but can't. Stopping him means killing whoever is left in the labor camps, stopping him means ripping him away from himself. So she lets it happen, smiles at him before he leaves with his men a week later. Sarah waves at him from a watch tower.

John turns away from them, one hand resting on his side arm, the other letting go of hers. She doesn't watch for long as he walks away.

The world is waiting, after all.