"I'm cold," Sarah said for the dozenth time.
"It's the drugs," the metal said for the dozenth time. "It will pass." She was toying with a tiny piece of metal, rolling it between her fingers.
"Get that thing out of here," Derek said in aggravation. It wasn't the dozenth time, but it wasn't the first, either.
She looked at him in mild puzzlement. "Sarah deactivated the tracking device when she administered the shock. It doesn't work. It's just metal."
"Just metal? You're just metal. Get rid of it."
"I don't know why we removed it at all. It wasn't doing her any harm. It was a needless risk," she added, directing that last at Sarah.
"You wouldn't understand even if I explained it," Sarah snapped through gritted teeth, pulling the blankets closer around her. Her voice shivered right along with her. "Do what he says."
Derek raised a mental eyebrow as Cameron left the room, although he was careful not to match it with the one on his face. Sarah wouldn't like him noticing that she had agreed with him. She was still angry about Jesse – more so, actually. He gathered from the few scathing words she had spat in his direction that she blamed him in some way for Charley. The logic seemed to go that if she'd been able to trust him enough to leave John with him, she wouldn't have gone to Charley, and Charley wouldn't have died.
It was classic Sarah logic. Jesse was a fuckup to end all fuckups, but it wasn't as though she represented a pattern. As far as he knew, he had no other exes this side of J-Day. And if any did turn up, he intended to shoot them on sight, just on general principles.
As if reading his mind, Sarah snapped, "Stop looking at me like that. I haven't forgiven you yet. And if you insist on being in here, at least get a chair. You look like a goddamned machine, standing in the middle of the room like that."
He got a chair from his bedroom and brought it into hers. He was provisionally encouraged by her use of the word "yet" – much more so than being allotted a bed at their new rental. He had thought that might be so she could kill him in his sleep.
John came in, carrying in a tray with toast and juice and vitamins. "How is she?"
"I'm cold," she repeated.
"It's the drugs," John said.
"If you say 'It will pass' I'll throw something."
John shot Derek a look that was frankly amused. "So, she's doing better, then."
"I'm this close to getting into bed with her to warm her up."
"Man, do you have a death wish."
"I'm this close to letting him." That from Sarah.
John put the tray down at Sarah's bedside, looking slightly revolted. "Well, that's my cue to leave. Should I close the door?"
Sarah sighed. "That won't be necessary."
John left, pointedly closing the door behind him with an obnoxious smirk.
An awkward silence fell. At last, Derek said, "Uh, do you want me to-"
"No!" she snapped.
"Oh, thank God," he said. The words left him in a rush of relief.
She looked half offended, half amused.
He tried to salvage it. "I mean, it would just be really stiff and awkward –" and then he broke off. "Look, if you weren't angry with me it might be okay." In a final, doomed effort at extracting his foot from his mouth, he said in desperation, "Look, Connor, I'd love to get into bed with you, but-"
"Keep digging, Reese. Nice little hole you've got going there."
He laughed at that, and after a moment, she mustered up a grudging laugh, as well.
"You ditched me," he said mildly, sitting down beside her as the laughter fell away.
"Yeah, I did," she said, just as mildly. Holding his gaze expectantly.
"I thought we were family," he said. "My brother...I thought he meant something between us."
"We are, and he does. But John means more," she said simply. "And you keep too many secrets for my tastes."
He felt prickles down his spine. Like deja vu. Like someone walking over his grave.
"I was keeping my privacy," he said after a moment. "There's a difference."
She shook her head firmly. "Not for us. Privacy is a luxury we can't afford."
He sighed. "What was I supposed to say, Sarah? Something was happening between us. Back at the old house in Campo de Cahuenga. Don't deny it," he added.
She looked at him unblinkingly. "I wasn't going to."
"And then when we moved to Van Nuys, everything changed. And then there was Jesse. And there was nothing I could say that wouldn't have sounded like I was throwing it in your face, and it wasn't like that. So I didn't say anything."
She looked away. She didn't look angry - he could have lived with that. She looked fundamentally dissatisfied, and that made him feel like they were at an impasse. There was a hopelessness about it that bothered him. It bothered him a lot.
"Hey," he said. He did it kindly. Reached out and touched her chin. Tilted it up so she looked at him once more. "I'm not the only one who's been keeping secrets."
"John didn't tell you that Kyle was his father," she said with a trace of weariness. Like they'd had this discussion many times before, though he'd never reproached her with it. Ever. "I didn't know if I should either."
"I don't mean that," he said impatiently. "John was never a secret. Not from the moment I laid eyes on him. And I wouldn't have told either, in your place."
"Then what?" she asked, brow furrowing. Genuinely puzzled.
"I think you know why things changed between you and John in Van Nuys. And I don't think you got that chip in the hospital when you were shot."
Her eyes widened slightly in visible surprise, but she didn't look away. Instead, she said, "You never asked why I had to get that thing out of me. Cameron was right - it wasn't necessary."
"Didn't need to." He looked away, out the window. He said with studied casualness, "Rape's a problem after J-Day, Sarah. Not just among the tunnel rats, and not just to women. John doesn't condone it, but he doesn't always know about it."
There was more he wanted to tell. A memory of one of his soldiers, and how he'd given her every drop of water he had so she could wash, and the way she'd whispered, "Get it *out* of me," over and over again. Six weeks later he'd held her hand again while a woman who'd been a nurse in the old world took care of it. She'd said it then, too. He'd never told anyone, not John, not Kyle, not Jesse. And now, not Sarah.
"He didn't rape me," she said, hesitantly. "At least I don't think he did. There was no...you know. There wasn't any trace of that. But I'll never really know for sure." He wondered if that part, the not knowing, was the part that troubled her. He didn't think so. There was no special weight to the words.
"But he touched you," he said hesitantly. Matching his tone to hers. He didn't know who "he" was and decided it didn't matter.
She nodded. "I knew he'd taken my shirt off. He'd seen my caesarean scar. He knew I had a child." She blinked, and that long, angular tendon in her neck twitched, and he knew that was the part that got under her skin the most. Not only that he'd touched her, but that - in her mind, at least - he'd reached right through her to touch John.
He didn't want to press her, but if this guy knew about John, then he needed facts. "Who are we talking about?"
Her lips formed into a grim line. "Winston survived the first time, Derek. He was the one I killed at Western Iron and Metal. That was why I cleaned it up on my own. I wouldn't have said anything at all if Cameron hadn't seen me come home." She shook her head, stared beyond his shoulder out the window. "It was my own fault. I went without backup."
Shit. How much else had she kept back from him? Had he really broken things that goddamn bad, even as early as that?
"It wasn't your fault," he snapped, harsher than he'd meant to. "You know better than that."
She laughed sourly at that. "Just where do you think I learned all these kick-ass survival skills, Derek? In case you hadn't noticed, I handed in my feminist card just about the time I started putting out to anyone who could fire a gun or build a bomb. I stopped taking back the night and embraced it instead, and now and then I wound up on the receiving end of it. It wasn't the first time."
His brow furrowed. This was a Sarah he'd never seen, and he had a discomforting feeling that he was hearing what she really truly thought about her place in the world for the very first time.
"I killed him," she said tonelessly. "My first kill, and I had to kill the bastard twice."
First kill? But Sarkissian-
He almost went there, then didn't. It would matter later. It didn't now.
"I don't care how many people you fucked and I don't care how many killers and rapists you hooked up with and I don't care how many dark alleys you hung out in. You don't deserve this," he snapped. He reached out and stroked back her hair. "Don't you understand, Sarah? You don't deserve *any* of this."
"Don't tell me that," she whispered.
"Because...if I deserve it...it almost, *almost* makes some sort of crazy sense."
He looked at her hair, her mouth, and somehow the little details of her brought up waves of sorrow. He wondered if this was just her more beaten down than he'd ever seen her, if it would pass, or if this was her real secret, the secret papered over by all the other secrets.
"Move over," he muttered.
She furrowed her brow at him, but she did what he said. Watched him wordlessly as he slipped into the bed beside her, propping his head up on one elbow. He was close enough that his warmth was there for her, but not touching at all. It was a strange little picture they made, lying there facing each other, holding gazes like lovers, yet careful not to touch even the tiniest bit of their bodies, like strangers on a train.
"What are you thinking?" she said after a moment.
"I'm thinking you don't normally ask me what I'm thinking."
She said defiantly, "I never asked you for anything."
"You don't ask anyone for anything," he said, unperturbed. "Maybe that's part of the problem."
She swallowed. He'd hit a nerve.
He persisted, "If you did ask for something, what would it be?"
She didn't answer, but she moved a fraction closer. Bowed her head towards his chest. He didn't know whether it was in answer or in defeat.
"I want us to try this again," he said. "What we started when we first met." He didn't know if she still wanted him, or if that was ancient history, but even if she didn't, maybe saying it would draw her out and make her say what she *did* want.
Her head flicked upward, suddenly, like a tree branch snapping. She flared, "You asshole. That's fucking unfair, laying that on me when I'm...when I'm like this."
"I know," he snapped. "But when else is there? When else will you *listen*?"
That broke her. He didn't think it would. He didn't think *anything* would. But her face started to crumple and he tugged her against him because he didn't want to see it. And she let him do it, burying her face in his chest, balling up his shirt in her fists. That was when he knew how far gone she was. She let him hold her, as much as it burned her to do it, because it was the only way she could hide her face.
"Killed her too," she choked out. "I killed her too."
"Who?" he murmured into her hair.
"Me," she managed. "I killed the last little bit of who I used to be. And now there's nothing left."
He was confused. Like there was this whole conversation he'd missed somewhere. "Because of what you did to Winston? Or because of what he did to you?"
"Both. And everything else."
The answer didn't really enlighten. He wondered if his confusion mattered, then decided it didn't.
"You're wrong, Sarah. About there being nothing left, I mean. If anything, there's too much. And you won't let it out and you won't let me in and it's going to eat you alive."
She pulled back to look at him, tears already drying on her cheeks. "Unless what? I have a little cry here in your arms? I let you heal my hurts with your all-powerful, death-defying dick? Do you of all people really think it's that simple?" Fury and scorn broke through her voice, and it heartened him a little, and hurt him, too.
A chill fell over his voice. "Sarah, I'll be here until you ditch me or you kill me. You don't have to fuck me and you don't have to talk to me and you can make fun of what I want to give you all you fucking like. But we're stronger together than apart."
The fury faded from her voice as quickly as it had come. "I wasn't mocking you, Derek."
He relented. "Then let go. Stop running. Not for me, for yourself. She's still there. You just can't see her. Because you can't breathe."
Almost as soon as the words left his lips, he wished he could take them back. He had no clue what that would actually mean. Sarah breathing could equate roughly to psychosis, complete breakdown, or even a catatonic state. Was it fair, or wise, to tell her to stop running when she didn't have anywhere safe to rest?
But it wasn't as spectacular as that. She just sat up, hugged her knees, and slumped a little. Like all the knots that held her together had suddenly let go. And then she said something completely unexpected.
"I'm glad Kyle didn't live to see this."
He stared at her.
"It's true," she said over her shoulder, as though he had argued with her. "I said to him when we met that he must be disappointed in me. Because I was dumb and scared, you know?"
"'Some legend,' I said to him. Do you think he ever stopped to wonder how I got to be a legend? Who taught me to do those things? What I had to do, or trade, or compromise to get there?"
"No," he murmured. "He never wondered. You just...were."
"Some legend," she repeated. Softly. To herself.
He realised that this was the real secret. Not what she thought of herself. What she feared Kyle would think. Something that should have been life-sized, could never be life-sized, not for either of them. Because Kyle was gone, and they could never see him the way they saw each other - as fucked-up travellers doing their all-too-inadequate best on the same winding road.
He sat up too. "I think about it too, you know," he said after a moment. "Sometimes I think he'd be disappointed in me, too. Because of Andy, and because of Jesse."
"You didn't know about Jesse." It was the first time she had conceded that, but it didn't help. This was his secret, and he had to tell it. Not because she told him hers, but because Kyle was heavy in the room with them all of a sudden, and Derek owed him that.
"I should have known. She told me over and over again that she wasn't here to stop J-Day. And she wasn't. She wanted everything to stay the same except for Cameron. She was willing to sacrifice six billion people so she could have her baby." He hadn't even begun to process what choice he might have made if it had been in his power to do so. "That alone made her the enemy, before she even lifted a finger against you and John."
Sarah leaned forward, resting her chin on her knees. "Kyle didn't strike me as a judgemental person."
"No," Derek agreed. "He wasn't. We were his, and that was how he saw the world."
"Then why are we using him to beat ourselves up?" She sounded genuinely curious.
He shrugged. "Because we care what he thought, and because he isn't here to tell us any different." After a moment, he said, "How about if, every now and again, we remind each other not to do that?"
"It's not that easy," she said. She admitted softly, "I just...I don't know who I am anymore."
He let out a low sigh. "Me neither." He slung a companionable arm around her shoulder and kissed her hair. "I know it's cold comfort, but whoever you are, I like you just fine."
She didn't kiss him back, but she didn't pull away, either. "I like whoever you are, too."
They stayed there together, like travellers making their way on the same winding road.