"Why did you call me?" he asks.
Sarah doesn't answer. Just keeps looking down at the shallow hole in the sand she dug with her own hands. He wants to ask her what possessed her to dig Charley's grave so close to the water, to shake her and ask if she wants his body unearthed by the tide in a week's time, but he doesn't. Because he thinks there's a reason, something about a time by the water in a passing flicker of a normal life, and that she'll cry if she tells it, and he doesn't want to see her cry.
"You ditched us. You could have just kept on going without us."
"Unfinished business," she says absently. She gets on her knees and strokes Charley's face. As though memorising its contours. The muscles in her throat flicker. Looking away, she begins to scoop handfuls of sand over his body.
"What business?" He wonders if she lured him here to kill him in revenge for Charley. She would never have risked coming here if she'd trusted him not to let her down. And if he hadn't driven her back to Charley, Charley would still be alive.
"I promised you I'd show you where Kyle was buried." A promise, it seems, that had haunted her as she prepared to bury another of John's fathers.
He doesn't know what to say to that.
The metal approaches. They have reached something of an accord, at least for now, and when he turns around to direct it away, he does it wordlessly and without malice.
"I can do that," it says in mild protest.
"You can," he says, "but you shouldn't. Humans need to bury their dead. This is Sarah's."
It nods and returns to John's side, dropping down on the wooden boards and dangling its feet over the side of the pier.
"Thank you," Sarah says. The edges of her mouth are turned down in a grimace. It pains her to say it.
"De nada." He thinks that will piss her off less than "you're welcome."
He watches her finish. He doesn't want to, but it's his penance for what happened to Charley. Of all the deaths he has rendered, this one was genuinely unnecessary. John said at the house that what happened there was no one's fault, that it was over, and he had allowed it. Allowed a sixteen year old kid to take the blame off his shoulders, as if it could ever be so simple. He could have mended the breach with Sarah before she left, but he didn't. And now Charley is dead.
She covers his face last.
She sits there at the foot of his grave for a long time. Doesn't protest when he sits down beside her.
"He loved the water," she says presently. "He lived in Maine for a while. When we lived in West Fork, he always said how much he missed the water."
"That's why you set him up here." He understands about the grave now. She needed to bury him, but she wants him to be at sea.
She nods, just once. "I thought it would help. I think it did."
He drapes his arm lightly around her shoulders. She gives a small sigh of resignation, and then he feels her body soften against him. "It might not count for much, but I'm sorry. For all of it."
"I know that," she says with just a trace of impatience.
"But...it isn't enough, right?"
She pulls away from him and looks at him, and his heart sinks.
The metal breaks the moment, walking up to them with John, the sunset blazing behind them. "We should go," it says, its voice surprisingly kind. "If the T-888s were working with someone, and they don't come back, they might send more." John nods to show his agreement, but doesn't speak. He only looks down at Charley's grave, then away.
"We should get a hotel," Derek says. His eyes meet Sarah's in the sinking light, daring her to argue.
She doesn't. He is struck yet again by how hard Charley's death has hit her. She hasn't lost the fight, but she is apparently choosing her battles with care. Preserving her resources like an animal that is wounded, but not mortally so. He thinks, though, that the relentlessness will return with time, and he supposes that's for the best.
She sleeps in the car.
He tells her to, because he wants to talk to her about where they go from here - tonight, if possible - and he wants her stronger than she is now. He wants them to stick together, but he doesn't want her to feel like she didn't have a choice.
She doesn't argue, and she falls into an exhausted slumber. John watches the countryside through the window. The metal sits close to him, listening or talking to him softly at times. Derek isn't sure how happy he is about that, but it seems to help John, and he can't begrudge the kid the company tonight.
They cover three hundred miles and check in to a hotel just after ten.
He isn't happy about giving John and Cameron a room of their own, but he wants privacy to talk to Sarah. And he supposes they've had no shortage of opportunities to do it already anyway, if that's where it's going.
What was it Jesse said? *It's sick, is what it is. Imagine if he spends the next twenty years with her, what he'll become.*
Well, maybe, he thinks (because thinking through the possibilities is easier than thinking of Jesse). Or maybe he'll get it out of his system. Or maybe he'll understand how they tick. He more than anyone knows how many possibilities permeate across time and how unpredictable they are. His job is to keep his nephew alive, not engineer him into his personal idea of the resistance leader. That one he has to trust to Sarah's training and whatever it is that was inside John to begin with.
So he sends John off to the room next door with the metal in tow, giving his shoulder a comforting squeeze, and refuses to think any more about it.
With four hours sleep under her belt, Sarah is much more like herself again. Still quiet, less feisty, but that faraway look is gone. She wakes alert and evaluates her surroundings, assessing the hotel room for exits when they go in. Okay, then.
She showers, but she's of no mind to sleep, it seems. She sits there on the bed, hair slightly damp, knees pulled up in front of her like a child, making room for him when he comes out of the bathroom. He had wondered if she was going to make him sleep on the floor, although they've shared hotel beds under more argumentative circumstances than this. He drops down beside her.
"You should sleep," she says, flicking off the television, extinguishing the light from the room. "You've done a lot of driving."
"You're not sleepy?" he asks.
She shakes her head. "I slept in the car," she reminds him.
"So you did." He decides now is as good a time as any, and changes the subject. "So, we need a new house."
Her eyes gleam as she turns to face him. Her shirt is startling white in the dark. "Assuming I don't ditch you again, yes."
"Are you going to ditch me again?"
"I haven't decided."
Fair enough, he thinks. It could have been an outright no. "Well, just in case, I'd really appreciate it if I could have a room this time. A bed, even."
"You could have had one last time if you'd asked for it. It's not like Cameron actually needs one. I suspect the problem was more that you were spending too much time in Jesse's bedroom to worry about ours."
Well, he deserved that, he thinks with a wryly amused sigh. "Touche."
They fall silent for a while, but then her voice breaks the silence. "Is there anyone else I need to know about, Derek?"
"Anyone else?" he repeats stupidly. "I don't follow."
"Anyone besides Kyle and Jesse. Anyone who was important. To you. Ever."
He realises she means anyone as important as her and John. Anyone he would do anything for. He could say no one, and it would be true, but he realises there is another truth he owes her before he can reasonably ask her to rebuild.
"My best friend," he says at last. "His name was Billy Wisher. He helped build SkyNet. We agreed that I would come back and kill him. You knew him as Andy Goode." Sarah draws in her breath in a hiss. "And I changed things, but I didn't change them enough. Billy died, Judgement Day still happened, and Jesse was...different. And now there's no one. No one but you and John."
"I'm sorry." The last word is clipped just short of its natural end. She didn't mean to say it. Wisely, he accepts it with a nod, but makes no comment.
After a while, he wonders aloud, "How long is it going to be like this, Sarah? We used to be comfortable with each other."
"I don't know."
"Because if we are going to live together, we need to pull it together. For John, at least. He lost a father today."
"If we live together," she agrees cautiously.
"Three's safer than two or one," he reminds her.
"Is that the only reason?" she challenges.
"Of course not. We're family." Shadows of guilt are still there, but he feels creeping exasperation, as well.
"Okay," she says at last. "Let's say we do stick together. For the sake of argument. Where do we go from here? Just how the hell are we all supposed to come through everything that's happened?"
Solemn now, he says, "Because we have to. We will because we have to."
"How, Derek?" she snaps, suddenly defiant. "I don't know how. And don't tell me you do, because I know you don't."
On no other impulse than to convey how much he wants it, he grasps her arms, tugging her against him. "No, I don't, but I'm not letting go of our family without a fight," he says in a low voice. Her lips fall open slightly in surprise and he realises how close she is, and then other impulses follow. Heat rises in him, and he releases her arms like he's been burned. Trying to forget the curve of her breast against his body and the slope of her neck angled away from him, white and exquisite in the dark, and the warmth of her *breath*-
She stays close. He isn't surprised. She isn't one to give ground. "You're *not* trying to seduce me the night Charley died." Her voice is lightly scornful, but there is something more, some disquiet underneath. He thinks that beneath her words, she knows him better than that.
He flushes, but he doesn't deny what she saw in him. What she felt. If he lies to her tonight, he'll lose her. "It's not about that," he says. "It's about pulling the threads back together." He pulls away a little, giving up the ground so she doesn't have to. "I'm not going to beg," he says after a moment. "And if you know another way, I'm listening. But I want us to rebuild."
He can see her in the dim light from the parking lot, shining in between tacky curtains that don't quite cover the window. He thinks he's gotten soft - a year ago this room would have seemed like paradise. Now it's just a tacky hotel room. And she's as uncertain as a girl contemplating her first time - Sarah, who has hooked up with guerrillas and gun runners and people smugglers (and the occasional nice-guy paramedic).
He gets it, though. That was different. That was utility. This is about her family. She's weighing up whether he's in or out. Whether she can afford to trust - as much as there is ever trust in Sarah Connor's world. He is oddly touched that she is even considering it. Sarah is not a woman in the habit of giving second chances.
"It could get complicated," she says at last.
"It could," he agrees, "but it doesn't have to. Not that I don't want..." he trails off from this unpromising line of discussion. "You know," he finishes lamely. "But it's not about that. It's like...like how people do it when they've been together a long time. It's about the connection."
"That's true," she says after a moment. "Or at least it could work that way. It really depends, though, on whether there are any other agendas."
"Kyle," she says, beginning to tick them off on her fingers. "Jesse. Charley. Andy. Riley. Yours and Jesse's baby. There's a lot of bodies between us, you know."
He doesn't ask how she knows about the baby. "Not to mention that you're still getting over Charley and I'm still getting over Jesse."
She inclines her head slightly. "That too."
"You tell me, Sarah. You had those times with Charley - I know you did. Were there no agendas?"
She thinks about it, silhouetted in the dark. "No," she says after a moment, "there were agendas. Kyle was there in the background, I guess. And I loved him, but I also loved being normal. And being taken care of. Not by everyone, but by him. And he liked taking care of me."
"I know he did. He was a good guy." And he was. What happened to Charley Dixon was a damn shame. "But it still worked, didn't it? Even with the agendas?"
"Yeah, it worked."
"Well, we're a bit of an old married couple, don't you think? Lots of bickering and no sex."
She laughs at that. Laughs right out loud. He can count the times he's heard her really laugh on one hand. "Don't you dare think for one second that we're going to stop bickering."
He laughs too. It's such a *normal* moment that he decides to risk it. Leans in, and stays there, casually poised. Letting her decide.
She leans in too, and kisses him warmly, her mouth formed into a small smile. It is their first kiss, but it isn't a first kiss really. It's the casually fond kiss of a longtime wife.
He brings his hands up to her face...her hair. Careful not to go too fast. He doesn't want it hot and furious like it was with Jesse, and he suspects she doesn't either. Hot and furious can take over your mind, your sense, and it can burn out fast. He doesn't want either of those things to happen. Not with her.
So he goes slow and warm. Slipping his hands into her hair, twining it through restless fingers. Gentle, yes, but with lightly restrained ferocity, too. He's fighting for her, fighting for John, and the blood rises and courses through him, flooding him with wave after wave of need. He leans over her, drawing her up, hissing against her mouth as she fits her body to his.
"Not so bad?" he whispers.
She shakes her head. "Not so bad."
This time he kisses her thoroughly. Her body softens for just a moment with a sigh, her eyes drift closed, but then her curiosity overtakes her. Her response is eager, her mouth exploring him as new terrain. And in that fleeting moment when she melts against him, that's when he knows he does want her, really want her after all - and maybe he always did.
Her kiss grows stronger. Taking the lead. Following her cues, he holds her tighter, wrapping his arms around her, searching the toned planes of her back with splayed out hands - first over her shirt, then sliding up beneath it. She gasps a little as his palms travel her sides, brushing the swell of her breasts then moving away.
"Reese," she pleads, and he doesn't argue with her about it. He doesn't think it's as simple as confusing the two brothers anymore. It's about what she is and a glimmer of what she was all those years ago. The girl who could still let people in.
"I'm here," he says. "I won't let you down again." Answering the plea beneath the plea.
She rests her forehead against his. "I really do want to believe that."
"I don't have anyone else anymore, Sarah. Just you and John. If you can't trust me, trust that you're the only reasons I have left."
She doesn't answer, but she pulls him close. Puts her arms around his shoulders. Kisses the side of his neck with unexpected tenderness. When she pulls back, he sees her eyes glittering in the moonlight. He's hit a nerve.
"Get over here," she says with studied lightness. Tugs his shirt up and over his head.
"Yes, ma'am." He tugs her close against him again. Loves the feel of her body snug against his. Perfect fit. Like they were made for each other.
This kiss is stronger. Her breath is ragged as she searches him, feeds on him. He thinks she might come just from what they're doing with their mouths. It's more urgent, more passionate than he's ever known. From someone else it might have been too much, but from Sarah it's exactly right. Her hands clutch at his back, kneading him, urging him on. He feels for her shirt opening, thankful that there are buttons and they needn't stop what they're doing to get it off her. He can't bring himself to break the connection.
He had thought, reasonably enough, that she would be an alpha type, but she stretches out beneath him and tugs him down with her. Well, he's seen that too, in soldiers just as tough as Sarah Connor. Sometimes that's the only surrender they can ever accept.
So he follows, covering her, filling her vision. She rewards him with a gasp into his mouth, an arch so that her breasts press against his chest, and he knows he was right. The idea that hard-as-nuclear-nails Sarah Connor wants him to fill her, not only body but soul and sight and consciousness too, makes him harder and hotter than hell. The friction against his jeans is delicious...excruciating.
"Reese," she gasps out, fumbling at his belt. "God dammit, get this thing off."
He laughs at that. Surrender, maybe, but she's still Sarah Connor. Amused, he wriggles out of his jeans and pants and kicks them away. "I notice you're still wearing your knickers."
"I notice you're not doing anything to remedy the situation," she snaps, but there is amusement in her voice, too. "If you're going to fuck me, you're going to have to keep up." Fuck me, his mind echoes insanely. Sarah Connor wants me to fuck her. Oh. My. God.
Urgently, he slides his fingers into her panties. Allows them to brush her (she gives a satisfying hiss) but draws them back, dragging the fabric down over her hips. She finishes the job, kicking her knickers off with a sound of annoyance.
He begins to trail his lips down her throat, towards her breasts, but she brings him up short. "Now, Reese," she says, soft and implacable.
He protests, "I want to-" but she cuts him off.
"Another time," she says. "Come and be with me."
He can't tell what's going on in her mind, but he complies. Settles down between her thighs, twining his fingers with hers on the pillow. Their mouths move together delicately, their hips rock against each other, and after a few moments, their bodies find their own way together. He moves with her in shallow strokes. Just enough to be good for them both, no more. Not wanting to pull away from her any more than he has to.
There is something minimalist, almost austere about it that appeals to him. Making love to Jesse was restless - it was all about doing, and the more frenetic, the more variety, the better. It was good, but this is different. This is *being*. He's never done anything like this before. It takes his breath away. *She* takes his breath away.
He doesn't understand how they can go from laughter at her fumbling with his belt, to the white heat of realising that Sarah fucking Connor wants him, to this terrifying and exhilarating excavation of his soul in the space of seconds. Can't comprehend how they can all occupy the same moment in time.
"What?" she whispers. He feels the heat and the salt rising in his face and realises his eyes are glittering with tears.
He gropes for words and can't find the ones he needs. "It's about the connection." Utterly inadequate to explain it, but they're all he can manage.
She tugs him down against her. "Reese," she says. Kisses him tenderly as the wonder releases its hold on him, just a little. Falls back as he takes the lead, kissing her lips and her throat. Her body rises and stiffens as he drinks in the heady taste of her mouth, and he grasps her hip and presses her against him as he follows her, still kissing her thoroughly, their joining almost an afterthought. Silent shudders rip though them both, transmitted back and forth between them at the core.
It isn't until they finish that they make a sound, when their joining falls away. She makes a small sound of loss, and he hisses and draws her closer, resting his forehead against hers.
"I'm not going to ditch you, Reese," she whispers.
"I'm not going to let you down again, Sarah," he whispers back. Nodding, she kisses him tenderly, just once, holding his face between her palms.
Releasing him, she touches him gently a couple of times on the chest. Understanding, he rolls off her onto his side.
They stay there like that for a while, him leaning over her a little to stroke her face or her hair or her throat. She traces his lower lip with her thumb, a little smile playing around the corners of her mouth.
He remembers the promise he made to himself, to be truthful with her tonight. He isn't sure how to say it, or whether he's ready to say it, or whether she's ready to hear it. But...
"I felt things, Sarah," he whispers. "When we...things I didn't know I felt." He watches her expression, expecting it to darken into a look of concern, and he rushes on, "I didn't lie to you. About my intentions. But...Sarah..." he stops short. Realising that she doesn't look concerned at all.
Sarah touches her fingers to his lips. "That's why we did this, isn't it? To reconnect?" He nods, unable to trust himself to speak. "You just didn't think it would work on you, too." Unbelievably, she sounds almost amused.
"Too?" he echoes. He realises too late that he's crossed a line.
"Another time," she says. "Come and be with me, Reese."
So he settles against her, cradling her like something precious, and there are no more words until morning.
In the morning, what words there are, are pedestrian and mundane (although more than a little erotic, at least to start with). Touch me, Reese. Do that, Reese. Oh, God, Reese, harder. Then, a little later, could you pass the maple syrup, Reese. John notices the name and raises an eyebrow at that.
So there are no declarations of love. Part of him is relieved. Not because he doesn't feel it - he does - but because they have more pressing matters to deal with. Like finding a house. And figuring out all over again where he fits in.
"There are no four bedroom houses for rent in this district," the metal announces, looking up from the newspaper.
"Three bedrooms will be fine," Sarah says, not looking up from her pancakes. "Derek and I only need one." Derek winces and finds interesting things to look at under his fingernails.
John looks back and forth between them. "Oh, *man*," he says in disgust. "Mom, did you *have* to? I mean - the same day that Charley - oh, *shit*," he breaks off, and storms out the door.
"I'll go," he says, and follows before Sarah can argue.
He finds John sitting on a retaining wall just a few feet from their door. So much for the grand exit, he thinks with an interior grin.
"Are you sleeping with the metal?" he asks, genuinely curious, as he sits down at John's side.
He can see that John hadn't expected that. Any other time, he would have denied it, but instead, he looks at Derek head on and says defiantly, "Yes. Got something to say about it?"
"No. Your mother will say plenty, and I don't necessarily disagree with her, but no. Not today."
John stares at him. He definitely hadn't expected that.
Derek seizes the advantage. "Did you...you know...last night?"
Looking warily at him, John gives a single, slow nod. Wondering where he's going with this.
"Then you can understand, maybe, some of the ways that people use sex to heal rifts and wounds. There's no disrespect for Charley here, John. She loved him."
"She's using you? And you're letting her? Is that what you're saying?"
"No. I'm saying we both needed things, all sorts of things. Comfort and forgiveness mainly. And more than anything, we needed to reconnect. We needed to pull it back together, for ourselves and for you. Sex doesn't make a bad relationship better, but it can make a hurt relationship better. And we're all any of us have left."
"You love her?" John asks.
"Yeah, kid, I do."
"Does she love you?"
He thinks of the amused way she said, *You just didn't think it would work on you, too.* "I think so." He looks out at the row of tiny cars queued on the road in the distance. "Does the metal love you?"
"She's capable of preference and feelings. Feelings that are not explained by her programming or her physical infrastructure. She doesn't have much of an endocrine system - but she feels emotion when we...you know. It frightens her. She has no frame of reference for it." Derek turns and stares at him. Stricken and alarmed by the parallels with the night before. Unthinkable that metal could feel love the way he loved Sarah last night. Oblivious, John goes on, "And her name is Cameron."
"Sorry." He sighs. "You've got to tell your mom about Cameron," he says, stressing the name, "because I'm sure as shit not keeping that secret from her. My life won't be worth living."
John gives a little sideways smirk. Kyle's smirk. "Mine might not be, either, but okay." He shifts uncomfortably on the wall, and says, "I don't have a problem with you, Derek. It was just...you know. The timing."
"I get it, John. It's okay." He almost called John *kid* again, but then he realised they were discussing their respective sex lives - however delicately worded - his with John's mother and John's with a machine. He decides not to call him that anymore. Too damn weird.
"We should go back," John says, glancing back at their room. "Cameron is probably quizzing Mom about human pair bonding in highly inappropriate terms."
They go back, and Cameron isn't quizzing Sarah at all. Cameron is reading the newspaper again, and Sarah is watching her, a look of fear on her face. Derek realises that Sarah already knows about John and Cameron, that she's known for a while...and that she's scared this is the time she'll lose John for good.
John goes over and gives Sarah a light peck on the cheek. "Sorry, Mom," he says cheerfully. "Say, is that a spare pancake?" Derek guesses that's teenagerspeak for "We're okay."
"Well," he says, clearing his throat, "check-out is at ten. John, Cameron, you should go and pack. Househunting, remember."
They leave, and he sees their hands link in that last moment before the door swings closed.
When he turns, Sarah is looking at him. Eyes gleaming. "How did you do that?" she wonders.
"I had a delicate, but alarmingly adult discussion with him about our mutual sex lives. I told him he has to tell you about Cameron, by the way. You might want to act surprised." She hisses and shivers a little in distaste.
"Thank you," she says. "You were right - he does need us both. Even now that he's old enough - supposedly old enough - to have a sex life of his own."
"Maybe especially now. And especially when it's with metal."
"Yes," she agrees. She takes his hand and tugs him closer. "Reese..."
He allows himself to be pulled against her. Traces his fingers down her arm. "Yeah?"
"Check-out is still a little while yet. We have time."
His only answer is to slide his arms around her, slipping his fingers through her hair.
"Reese?" There are sudden tears beading at her long, delicate eyelashes. "I feel...I want..."
"Another time," he whispers. "Come and be with me, Sarah."
The words don't come for either of them that day, or the next, or for a long time after. But he finds his place beside her, and that's enough for them all.