Title: Here be Dragons
Disclaimer: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and all related characters are copyright of Josh Friedman, Fox Television and James Cameron. The Terminator movie franchise and all related characters are copyright of James Cameron, William Wisher Jr., Warner Brothers and Columbia Pictures. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters are copyright of Joss Whedon and ME. No infringement intended.
Note: Written for azrealz_angel aka Demona
Synopsis: They were found in a dark corner of Century, hidden away by the metal, and left for rot. They were darkness. They were death. They were dragons.
Century Sector Work Camp
Sweat-slicked hands tightened around the oversized wrench and Kyle Reese pushed his back up tighter against the remainder of an interior wall. The heavy weight of his impromptu weapon wouldn’t do much good against his captors but it was better than his bare hands and a hell of a lot more durable. He blinked, trying to see the through the smoke-laced hall as he followed John Connor deeper into the compound rather than away from it and, not for the first time in the four years since his imprisonment, he wished for his brother.
A hand caught his shoulder, dragged him roughly into a corner as a hunter-killer swept over the building they’d helped to decimate and the light from its strobe flooded the spot he’d just been standing in. He clenched his jaw against the urge to sigh in relief, they were far from safe and heading away from any semblance of it the further they got from the small team he and Connor had assembled to lead this revolt.
Another explosion shook the building’s foundation and it was Kyle’s turn to jerk Connor back as a support beam freed itself from the ceiling and collapsed, nearly blocking their way. This time he did sigh and the hand resting on the shoulder in front of him tightened as he stated, his voice hoarse from smoke and fear, “We need to head back. Get outta here.”
Connor turned, gave Kyle a glimpse of his profile as he replied simply, “No,” and moved forward, easily climbing over the debris attempting to blockade them.
Hazel eyes glanced skyward, staring up at the bit of the cloud-covered sky Kyle could see through the opening the collapsing steel had left before he followed. The wrenched scraped over that beam and the sound of metal over metal had him flinching as he pushed himself through the opening to land beside Connor.
A blind corner lay before them and his shoulders hunched a moment before he heaved the wrench up. “Fantastic.”
The tiredly uttered word brought a surprised snort from his leader as Connor turned to gaze at his profile. Amusement laced his next few words, “You ready?”
“No.” The abrupt honesty had Kyle shaking his head and giving Connor a sheepish smile before he shrugged and corrected, “Abso-fucking-lutely.”
A real smile managed to make its way briefly across Connor’s features before he schooled them back into a blank masked and motioned Kyle for silence. He nodded and they turned, Connor falling into a crouch against a surprisingly unmarred section of wall. His gloved covered fist rose and he made a quick gesture before flattening his palm and Kyle’s eyes narrowed as he shifted back and to the side, allowing his leader to take point.
Another moment passed, the battle outside shaking the exterior walls of the compound and more rubble spilled across the hall, dust falling from the ceiling to give them the barest hint of cover as Connor moved, his body slipping around the corner and into the unknown without a moments hesitation. Kyle swallowed, glance skyward once more before following and came up short as he was forced to sidestep, hit the opposite wall or risk knocking his leader, his savior flat on his face.
His mouth thinned, head angling toward the darkened hallway and saw nothing amiss, nothing that would, or more precisely should, have stopped Connor dead in his tracks. Shoving his elbows back he used them as leverage to regain his footing before taking a hesitant step forward, toward Connor and the narrowed, searching look he was giving the hallway before them.
His leader shifted, visibly shaking himself before he started forward toward the only door at the end of the small hallway. Kyle’s jaw tensed and he inhaled slow and deep through his nose, a harsh breath, in an attempt to calm his already torn and broken nerves before falling in step with Connor. He used the moment of silence and relative calm to study the door they made their way towards.
Rust-covered steel stood directly in front of them and Kyle’s eyes narrowed on the hatch-like opening. His hands tightened around the wrench and he suddenly understood Connor’s insistence that he use it as his weapon of choice. Hazel eyes shifted, focused on the back of his leader’s head as they stopped only a few feet in front of a door and doorframe made of heavy-duty structural steel.
Connor turned to him, face still in neutral lines, as he tucked his nine millimeter into the waist band of what was left of his slacks and asked simply, “Can I see the wrench?”
His hands tightened around it. “Do you know what’s behind that door?”
A brow rose and his chin dipped as if he agreed with the question. “I’m not entirely sure.”
Kyle let the wrench fall to his side as he met his leader’s stare head-on. “Then is it good idea to open it?”
His mouth quirked. “If I’m right then we’ll be fine.”
“And if you’re wrong?”
A shrug accompanied the stated, “Then we won’t.”
The muscles along his jaw tightened, his teeth grinding a moment before he offered Connor the wrench and received another slight quirking of his leader’s mouth before he turned and threaded it through two of the holes that helped make up the massive spinning handle. His shoulders jerked as he wedged it tight and then motioned Kyle forward and together, using the wrench as leverage, they forced the handle to move inch by painful inch.
His chest and arms burned, sweat beading along his forehead and the back of his neck as they tugged and pulled until a grinding filled the small hall as the door separated from its frame with a metallic shriek. Connor stepped away, catching Kyle’s tired shoulders and dragging him back to give the door enough room to groan its way open.
Darkness greeted them on the other side and Kyle squinted, trying to see through the complete blackout of the room as he heard a slight movement, the faint shuffle of steps over concrete. He swallowed as hands slipped over the metal doorframe, broken and bloody nails curving over the edge and two malnourished women pulled themselves free of that darkness and into the hallway.
They blinked in unison, flinching back from the sudden onslaught of light that blinded them as Kyle studied their thin forms and peach-fuzz covered heads. He ran a quick hand through his own closely shorn hair and frowned with the fact that these women had been given the same mistreatment as the rest of the compound. Another critical sweep of his gaze over their beaten and bruised forms thinned Kyle’s mouth as he silently wondered if they’d been treated worse.
“Faith Lehane? Buffy Summers? Come with us if you want to live.”
The two women stiffened, thin, scar riddled bodies pulling taunt with Connor’s quietly uttered statement and the use of their names by something that wasn’t metal-filled and Kyle watched as two pairs of eyes narrowed on his leader and something crept into their gazes. Something he didn’t entirely understand, but the eerie fluidity of their movement seemed at odds with the state of their beings as their heads inclined in unison.
Here be darkness, here be death, and Kyle whispered softly to no one, “Here be dragons.”
Los Angeles, California
Kohl lined eyes narrowed behind a pair of oversized sunglasses and Faith winced, pushing them farther up her nose as the afternoon sunlight tried its damnedest to blind her. Cocking her head she turned to face Buffy and her brows rose as she watched her sister Slayer chase a line of melted soft serve down her wrist.
Flattening her tongue against the concaved side of her spoon Faith chased the last of the mint-chocolate chip from the plastic utensil before dipping it back into her quickly disappearing two scoops. Brown eyes shifted, noticed the casual glances Buffy was receiving because of her efforts to save her ice cream cone and she snorted. “Need some alone time there, B?”
“What?” The cone dropped and a tan hand rose to push her sunglasses onto the top of her head. The narrow frames caught her bangs and shoved them back; giving Faith an unobstructed view of Buffy’s confused gaze.
She lifted her chin in the general direction of their audience and Buffy turned, caught sight of the few teenage boys watching her with avid interest. Green eyes widened and she quickly turned away from them, slipping off the picnic table and onto the bench beside Faith as she bit off the top of the ice cream and flicked her sunglasses back down with a snap of her wrist.
Faith shook her head and took another bite of her mint-chocolate before muttering, “So tightly wound.”
“I am not tightly wound.”
Buffy’s quick denial forced Faith to tuck her chin into her chest to hide her smirk of triumph as she stated evenly, “Okay.”
The two nearly growled words brought Faith’s brows above the frames of her sunglasses as she nodded in mock agreement. “Uh huh.”
The disgruntled huff that followed that easy agreement was ignored as Faith took another bite and settled in to enjoy the moment of quiet. The Devon Coven had forcefully—well as forcefully as a group of tree hugging witches can—requested Giles send teams out to all the major cities across the globe. According to their shiny crystal balls something wicked nasty was brewing and was about to spew its hate all over the world. Not new, or even big news, but never one to doubt those do-gooder witches, Giles had complied and Faith had found herself in Los Angeles enjoying the sunshine and, surprisingly, Buffy’s company.
A guttural whine swiveled their heads in unison and Faith rose, quickly followed by Buffy, and they looked to the east. The sound grew in intensity reminding Faith of the howler monkeys they’d seen at the Los Angeles Zoo the day before and her stomach dropped, ears popping as the sound barrier was broken and numerous missiles erupted from the clouds leaving trails of white smoke in their wake.
The cardboard cup and plastic spoon slid from suddenly numb fingers as Faith’s chin lifted, her gaze trained on the sky as she watched it brighten as the missiles passed over their heads. Their shrieks became deafening and a hole opened in her gut and stretched wide, swallowing her bravado and pride in one violent movement that left her boneless and swaying. The buildings around them darkened, their shadows stretching as another sun blossomed on the horizon, burning with a clear and brilliant light that forced Faith to shut her eyes and turn her head away from the assault.
Abnormally strong fingers threaded through her own as Buffy’s slightly callused palm settled against hers and Faith swallowed the impulse to pull back, yank herself free of the casual, too casual, contact. Instead she risked opening her eyes, risked it to see the outline of Buffy’s face as her sister Slayer watched the horizon, horrified. Faith tightened her grip and settled into their first physical contact that didn’t involve violence since their teen years and silently wished it hadn’t taken the end of the world as they knew it to bring it on.
A vacant stare greeted John as he folded himself down in front of one of the two women that had been imprisoned in Century and his callused fingers wrapped around her bruised jaw, tilting it and her face toward what meager light the lamp, set beside a shallow basin filled with all the water they could spare, had to offer. He recognized the layer of grit and sweat covering her slim, nearly emaciated form but his mouth thinned when he noticed the patch work of thin white scars that wrapped around her shoulders.
His hand settled over one and turned her away from him, toward the shadowed corners of the bunker and John caught the lamp with his other. Lifting it and illuminating what remained of her shirt after their escape and nearly eight days of hiking and hiding before they found relative safety with an underground camp of insurrections. He ignored the fact that he could see the outline of her ribs when she inhaled and instead focused on the lines of raised flesh that ran over the pale skin of her back.
John lifted the lamp higher, his frown deepening as she continued to focus on a point beyond him. With a sigh he placed the lamp beside him, the sound of metal striking concrete, before he dipped a scrap of cloth into the basin and then dragged it down her arm. The gentle motion turned her head and John remained silent as he repeated the movement down the back of her arm, paying close attention to any lesions.
She turned toward him, the shift in weight causing the few crates she sat on to groan in protest as green eyes locked on John’s carefully neutral features as he dampened the cloth and turned his focus to her other arm. He resisted the urge to stare at the barcode tattoo that adorned the inside of her right forearm. He knew it would perfectly match his own since they’d shared the same camp, but the urge to study it tightened his grip and he distracted himself by dipping the cloth in the basin once more.
Strong fingers caught his chin, tightened until he felt the pressure bearing down on his jaw as she dragged his face to center and he met her gaze. He watched as her head incline, the soft skin of her scalp catching the lamp’s subtle light through the short, fine hair covering it as she leaned forward and stared into his eyes. He watched the knowledge, the understanding fill those eyes and they widened, pupils spiraling out as her grip tightened and he suddenly understood Wells insistence that he save these women.
“You’re not metal.”
Her voice was hoarse, cracking around the edges as her hold softened and she absently ran her fingers through his recently shorn beard. He waited till her hand fell back, settled in her lap before he slowly nodded and brought the damp cloth up to rub away the dust and sweat from her throat and shoulders. “I’m not.”
She turned her head, studied the small room around them, her mouth curving downward as she pulled herself up straighter and John’s brows rose as her presence in the room grew. As if that simple movement, the simple act of her becoming aware made her more than just a frail body, made her a threat. He now recognized, began to understand why she and Lehane had been on the list of eighteen hundred or so women marked for capture or annihilation by Skynet.
“Where are we?” She turned her face back to him and he treated it to the same thorough cleaning as her shoulders and neck. She dipped her chin and allowed him to gently remove the grit from the abrasion along the edge of her mouth and her beneath her left eye. Fading reminders of the hunter-killer the duo had taken on and defeated before the green-eyed woman had slipped into herself. She’d continued on, following him, or more precisely Lehane, but the spark of humanity that made her, or any human, different from the machines had vanished and put John and his small team on edge.
“Underground.” She snorted and then coughed, wincing as the movement hunched her thin shoulders and John’s eyes narrowed, his gaze shifting from curious to concerned as he stepped back and stated, “Stand and remove your clothing” Her head lifted and his voice turned dispassionate, “You’re favoring your right side and your left arm lacks mobility.”
John watched her stand under her own will with near ease, as if mocking his assessment, and untied the string holding her slacks up. They fell to the concrete and the shirt followed, leaving her standing bare, unashamed and defiant before him. His mouth curved in at the corners as he turned her to face the wall and walked his fingers over her shoulders and down her spine. John ignored the vertical and horizontal lines that created numerous squares across her exposed back, the ridges were smooth beneath his touch and pale, detailing their age.
His hands stilled when he found a laceration on her hip. The skin surrounding it was tight and smooth, the burst capillaries leaving behind varying shades of purples and blues, so dark that in some spots her flesh looked black. He cupped the iliac crest of her right side and pushed in hard enough to earn a hissed breath from her before he ordered, “Lift your right knee and pull it into your body using your hands.”
Her head turned, giving him a view of her side profile but she complied and John kept a steady pressure on the crest as her leg lifted. He nodded when the bones in her hips remained immobile as she pulled the leg toward her chest. His brows pulled together, his hand slowly slipping away from her when he noticed that her balance remained steady even as she lowered her foot back to the settle against the concrete.
Century had taught John, taught him to sleep with only those you trust and share bread with those you didn’t. It taught him that modesty and most human decency had been striped away during the nuclear fallout that followed Judgment Day. Century had beaten the core foundation of survival into him for nearly five years and it also taught him the difference between man and metal and this small woman seemed to blur that line in ways that just didn’t sit comfortable with him.
John stepped back from her, from the warmth and bitter smell of her skin and she turned, the confusion evident in the, now, clear green of her gaze and his hand found the nine at the small of his back. The fingerprint resistant grip sat comfortable in the palm of his hand as the information Wells had fed him warred with the knowledge, because he just knew dammit, that Summers wasn’t entirely human.
“John?” Wells’ hesitant voice didn’t distract John from the woman, the threat in front of him. His first name—never his last on the outskirts of the resistance—was repeated and Wells’ voice softened as if the other man understood how close he was to escalating the violence between Summers and himself. Escalating it to a point that would allow only one of them to walk away from the next moment if he made that decision, if he forced her hand.
His hand tightened around the gun as Wells entered the room and moved past him to wrap his arms tightly around the small woman, blocking John’s line of fire. His mouth thinned and he stepped further away from the pair. Hesitating when he noticed thin arms rise and return the embrace. Summers pressed her face into Wells’ chest, her shoulders rolling forward as her fingers fisted in his jacket and she stated, her voice harsh, “Thank you for not giving up.”
A shadow in the doorway drew John’s focus and his gun as he shifted toward it. His eyes narrowed with the sight of Lehane, her thin frame now covered with clean hand-me-downs and one of the camps hounds, that they used to ferret out the metal, was standing easy at her side. Some of the tension in John’s shoulders loosened and he lowered his weapon as the German Shepard trotted forward with Lehane as she raised a brow and the smile she wore was wide enough to reopen the wound in her bottom lip.
She cleared her throat and the sound jerked the pair apart as she cocked her head. “Damn, B. Starting without me?”
John watched the emotions flit across the smaller woman’s face before she stepped back from Wells and held out a hand. Brown eyes softened with the gesture before Lehane strolled into the room with the dog at her heels and John made his way swiftly towards the exit followed by Wells. The other man caught up to him within a few strides and John slowed his to accommodate the shorter man.
“They’ll be an asset, John. I swear it.”
He paused, glanced around the darkened underground hall before he turned toward Wells and stated with more certainty than he felt, “They’re not human.”
“No, they’re not, but that has nothing to do with Skynet.”
He felt the muscle along his jaw tick to life with Wells’ casual acknowledgment and he took a step forward, forced the other man to tilt his head back to meet his gaze as he stared down the bridge of his nose and asked, “What did I bring into this camp?”
“The best chance the resistance has at gaining a foothold.”
John shook his head. “Don’t placate me. What are they?”
Wells’ shoulders dropped and he sighed before asking, “Can we find chairs first? This may take awhile to explain.” His gaze turned back toward the hall they’d just vacated and the room beyond it that he couldn’t see. “Especially the new turn in their relationship.”
John frowned, opened his mouth to comment and then thought better of it and motioned Wells to lead them. He hesitated a moment to send the hall his own considering glance before shaking his head and following. He didn’t know what to make of Wells’ comment, but Kyle’s was beginning to make complete and utter sense.
The air crackled, sparked against the fine hairs along her arms as Buffy flinched, tucking her arms tighter as the ionized gases surrounding them ignited into plasma and left her and Faith kneeling nude and shivering in the center of a parking lot. Her brows pulled together as she rose and the scent of ozone burned her nose, slipped down her throat to tighten her stomach. Faith shifted, stood in a fluid movement before she turned, placing herself closer so that they stood shoulder to shoulder and stared in startled silence at their surroundings.
A pointed chin rose, pale brown hair spilling around her shoulders as Buffy smiled up at the cloudless sky and the buildings that towered over them. Their structure sound and windows pristine, reflecting the streetlights and headlights of the few cars slipping through the streets around them. Laughter bubbled up to tickle the back of her throat and she swallowed it, swallowed the maniacal sound and forced herself to take shake off the useless sense of panic as they continued to gaze up at a world untouched by Skynet.
Sirens filled the quiet, shattering it and Buffy tracked the chaotic flash of white and blue as the patrol car slipped past the building to their left and she tensed, prepared herself to run, but the lights turned, fading away from them. Her next breath eased out past parted lips as she felt the tension in her shoulders and chest began to ease and a hand found its way into hers, strong fingers threading through her own. She shifted closer, brushing and settling her hip against Faith’s and ignored the line that appeared between her brows when she stepped on something hard and not entirely smooth.
Her head remained tilted back, gaze and face to the sky as she stated, “We’ll save him. This time we’ll save him.”
The hand holding hers tensed, fingers tightening. “Damn straight, we will.”
A familiar burning crept in behind her eyes and Buffy blinked back the tears threatening to fall, held them at bay with the same determination she’d held them back when Skynet had begun to take samples, had begun their experiments. Her jaw tensed and she ignored the phantom scent, memory of burnt flesh from when her back had been sectioned off. She shrugged her tightened shoulders and swallowed past the taste of bile.
Her chin dipped and she glanced down, turning her head so that she could stare down at their interlocked fingers and the inked dragon crawling up her forearm and around the bend of her elbow to end at her bicep. Its vibrant colors a stark contrast to her shallow pallor and her hand flexed, shifting the perfectly spaced scales and her eyes closed as she resisted the urge to be pulled into the future.
Into one of the few quite nights where she’d allowed herself to be branded, along with Faith and the Reese brothers, as John’s dragons. It’d been Kyle’s idea, Kyle’s enthusiasm and optimism that’d convinced Buffy to allow her flesh to be scarred in a way of her choosing and Faith had been right—they were addicting—and several more adorned her nude form.
A hand snaked around the back of her head, fisted in her hair and Buffy opened her eyes, caught sight of the dragon curved around the Faith’s forearm and brought her free hand up to trace over its cuspated teeth. “Hey,” she jerked Buffy’s hair, pulled her gaze up to hers, “we’ll save him. We’re gonna stop Skynet and we’ll save this goddamned world.”
The tears were back, filling her lashes as she stared up into the fathomless dark of Faith’s gaze. She fought against the tremble in her jaw and ground her teeth together before whispering harshly, “John was our world.”
Faith’s nostrils flared as she inhaled sharply and loosened her grip on both Buffy’s hand and hair. “He was, but it didn’t end when he did. We’re Slayers, B, we don’t go down withoutta fight. So snap the fuck out of it. I need you in the here and now.”
Her lips curved in a self-deprecating way. “Flashbacks so very much suck.”
“No argument here.”
She let go of Faith’s hand and forearm and caught the sides of her face, watched those dark eyes widen and her brows rise before she dragged Faith down and pressed their mouths together. A brief mash of tongue and teeth before she pulled back and stated, with more conviction than certainty, “We’re gonna win.”
“Hell yeah, we are.”
She watched Faith’s mouth begin to spread into that slow, sure smile that never failed to make things go tight in her chest and shook her head, stepped back to give herself a moment to regroup. They’d made it. They were well and truly in the past and they had much work to do, but first, “I have the sudden need for ice cream.”
Her abrupt topic change forced Faith’s smile wider until her eyes gathered at the corners and a low chuckle escaped the back of her throat as she shook her head. “Clothes, first.”
Buffy nodded and turned, making her way over the buckled asphalt and what remained of a chain-link fence before tossing over her shoulder, voice hopeful, “Ice cream, second?”