When John sits down, chessboard in hand, with the intent of teaching her the game, Cameron says nothing. She doesn't tell him he already taught, will teach, her this. Instead, noting his heart rate and breathing are both elevated, suggesting subterfuge, she waits.
It does not take long. This John has not learned the patience of the other yet.
Rolling a pawn between his fingers, he looks up from the chessboard. "I want to know about the others."
"Your lieutenants?" she asks, already knowing. She's expected this conversation for weeks.
He nods. "Tell me."
Cameron sits, judging the request against her orders. Finally, she nods.
5. There are people. They have powers. They help.
Molly's footsteps are light, but sure. John knows the step of every one of his people; it's a survival skill, but Molly's especially is unmistakable. He smiles to himself. In the middle of all the misery, she still has a skip to her step.
He looks at Micah, grinning. "Some day – " he threatens.
Micah snorts, not looking up. "You keep right on telling yourself that, Connor. You get enough practice, you might even believe it. Nobody hides from Molly." He spares John a smirk. "Not even the savior of mankind."
With a roll of his eyes, John tugs the T-101's chip free. "I hate it when you call me that," he grouses.
"Somebody's gotta keep your ego in check," Micah says without rancor. "Just remember. You can take down Skynet, but nobody beats Molly Walker."
"You should know," says John. "You married her."
"Damn straight," Micah stretches, rolling his shoulders. "Can't let you have all the good ones."
Molly walks in, flicking a glance between them. Both men look innocently each other. She huffs a breath. "Like I'm buying that one," she says, stopping behind Micah. Her fingers work on his neck as her gaze settles on John.
The Walker System. They'd thought it was a potential Skynet component. John grins. Boy, were they wrong. "Anything?"
She shakes her head.
He frowns. "Keep an eye on it."
Molly nods. "I'll find him."
Finding one Terminator in a thousand, it's insane. He's had his doubts from the beginning. Molly can track their teams, knows when Terminators are getting too close, but this is finding a needle in a stack of needles. He doesn't like their odds. They need to find the machine and the facility.
From the other side, it seemed so simple. He wants to laugh at their overconfidence.
John curls his fingers around the chip and looks at the body before him. He remembers. "We're running out of time." He can't imagine his mother vulnerable, can't wrap his mind around the concept, but he knows she is.
Somewhere in the past, she's alone and she has no idea what's coming. What he's put her in the line of. If they don't move fast, everything's done and none of it will matter. None of it will happen.
"She'll find it, John," Micah says. "Our girl's not going to let you down." He looks up at his wife, squeezing the hand that rests on his shoulder.
John watches her smile widen. She still smiles. He thinks of her parents, holed up in another tunnel miles away. Matt and Mohinder are nothing like his mother, but still. He looks at the smile and thinks they did a good job.
"No," he says, "she won't."
He believes it.
4. Everyone fights in someone's name, but some more than others.
It's hard, the first few years out, but not the way that John thought. He'd expected the constant bite of hunger, the exhaustion and the grime. He paid attention to everything Derek said, everything he didn't, and everything in between. He knew it would be messy and he can even deal with most of it. What he can't deal with, he gets used to.
Death hangs heavy over the country, everywhere he goes there are bodies lying abandoned in the dirt. There aren't enough people left to bury them all, which he learns the first time a Terminator catches him trying. He gets away by the skin of his teeth, scrambling into the ruins like a rat into garbage. One of his many near misses with Skynet, every one of which will spread his name farther and farther afield.
But now's not then. Right now, the name John Connor doesn't mean anything to Skynet. Right now, his name and his role are the treasured secrets of a privileged few.
And that's the problem. Skynet doesn't know who he is, but neither does the rest of the world and they're driving him crazy.
"C'mon, Probie," his companion says, peering up over the remnants of an SUV. "We're clear."
"I hate it when you call me that," grumbles John. Behind him, Ziva huffs a silent laugh. He looks back at her and she smiles. He thinks it's supposed to be innocent. It's really not. Not for the first time, he thinks his mom would love her.
"Sure you do," DiNozzo agrees, his voice breezy and light. Too breezy and light to be genuine. It's carefully constructed, but he thinks it wasn't once. There are days John really wonders about the guy, this is one of them. DiNozzo wouldn't be the first person Judgment Day drove insane. Not that it matters all that much. He's one of the best and, crazy or not, John needs him. "That's the fun part."
He gets up, checking their surroundings one more time. "Now," he says, and disappears around the SUV.
John and Ziva follow. They make it back to the shelter with time to spare and two deactivated Terminators in tow.
It's a good night.
They take the Terminators below, deep into the tunnels where the others won't see and there's little risk. The last thing he wants is one of them accidentally killing one of his people. With the machines carefully tucked away in John's impromptu lab, DiNozzo disappears.
"Does the job and goes," says John, pushing the first Terminator onto a table. Ziva moves forward to help. They both strain with the effort. These models are smaller, not like the T-101 which still eludes him, but they're still heavy bastards. "Not exactly one for idle chit-chat, huh?"
Ziva looks at him, clearly amused by his non-too-subtle attempt at fishing. "He did not used to be." She sits down, watching him work. "Like most, Judgment Day changed him."
She drops her gaze, but he sees the hidden pain. Everyone lost people on Judgment Day. It's no surprise that Tony and Ziva did as well, but John wonders at the stories they're holding back.
"Tell me about them someday?" he asks.
3. There are these people, hunters, a lot of them joined you.
"Look, kid, I'm sorry about this," Ellison says, pushing John into the cell. "But – " he unlocks the cuffs, looking apologetic. John almost believes him.
"It's the job," John finishes. He rubs his wrists and grins. "No worries. It's not like I'll be here long." He sits down, putting his feet up. "You know how it is."
The FBI agent chuckles, nodding. "Knowing your mother, yeah, I do." He pauses, sobering. "Do you – "
It's not a question he gets asked a lot, but John recognize it anyway. "I thought I didn't." He picks lint off his jeans. "They locked her up in Pescadaro and told me she was crazy. I was ten. I believed them."
Resting his head against the concrete wall, John smiles. It's a bitter relief. His mother isn't crazy. The world really is going to hell. If, that is, he can't save it. "Then a Terminator showed up and tried to kill me. Believe me, Jim, you can believe what you want, but when a guy made of liquid metal tries to blow your brains out? You stop arguing and just fucking go with it. Seen any of those lately?"
"Can't say as I have," Ellison says, stepping back to let another agent pass.
"Pray you never do." John closes his eyes. "Pray hard."
"I'll do that," murmurs Ellison. He sounds sincere.
It's been so long since John heard sincerity, he almost doesn't recognize it. He's surprised to find something close to belief in the agent's eyes. He doesn't know whether to be excited or scared to death. He settles on carefully neutral. It seems to work. Ellison nods and looks at the newcomers. "And this would be?"
"Sam Winchester," the agent says. He steps back, closing the cell door. "You're Ellison?"
Ellison nods. "You?"
"Henrickson. Victor Henrickson." Henrickson tips his head at his prisoner. John and Ellison both look at him. "Don't worry about Sammyboy there, kid. He's harmless enough." He grins. "Well, if you're human he is."
"Imagine my relief," says John. He gives Sam the once-over and doesn't like the look of his odds. Winchester's had training, military too, though he's not military himself. It's his size that's the problem. He's got height and weight on John. In an enclosed space like the cell – yeah, John doesn't like his odds.
"You kids play nice," Henrickson says. "Talk shop maybe." He grins. "You've got plenty in common." He turns. "We finally bagged one of the Connors, huh?" He whistles. "That's serious bragging rights, Ellison."
"Nah," says Ellison. "It's only bragging rights if we keep him." He looks back at John. "Not sure we will yet."
John waves cheerfully. "Don't count on it."
"I'm not," Ellison says.
"Takes after his mom, huh?" Henrickson looks over. "Gonna move into her padded cell too?" He leans forward, hooking hands around the bars. "You know you're sharing room with a genuine legend, Winchester? I know he don't look like much, but rumor has it, our boy John's gonna save the world."
"A guy's gotta have goals," says Winchester.
Henrickson chuckles, pushing away from the cell. "Sit tight, we'll be back later."
"No rush," says John, waving cheerfully.
"Probably should have used all five fingers for that," says Winchester. He stretches out on the other bench, hands behind his head. "Henrickson might take it personal."
"He wouldn't be the first," says John. He looks over. "Guess this where I ask."
Sam grins. "And I say you wouldn't believe me."
"Right," John agrees. "We trade doubletalk, a few sarcastic comments, and then we get down to business." He looks over. "I'm probably not going to be around for all that. How about we skip to business?" He holds out a hand. "John Connor."
Sam grins, leaning across the open space. They shake. "Sam Winchester." He looks at John. "Henrickson – "
Sighing, John nods. "Was serious." He leans back. "Believe me, you don't wanna know."
Sam's quiet for a moment, then says, "Maybe I do."
2. And some of them you won't talk about at all.
John opens his eyes. It's dark, minimal light in the tunnels, but he knows. Propping himself up on his elbows, he leaves his gun where it is. "One of these days, Harkness, you're going to do that and I'm going to shoot you."
A match flares as Jack Harkness lights a lamp. "And deprive yourself of my scintillating conversational skills?" He grins. "I doubt it."
Scratching his head, John yawns. "My kingdom for a good night's sleep," he sighs.
"Well – " Jack's grin widens. "You know my opinion on that."
"That I do," says John. He glances toward the door. "Anyone see you?" It's pointless to ask, but he likes their little rituals. Almost much as Jack likes catching him in bed.
"No." Jack sits down. "So how goes the war?"
"How goes the preparation?" John rolls his shoulders. "I haven't remembered anything new lately."
"And you might not," says Jack. "There are no guarantees." He sits on the end of John's makeshift bed. The buttons of his greatcoat gleam in the lamplight. "If this were a plain old grandfather paradox it would be a hell of a lot easier."
"Yeah," John sighs. "I know." Fighting a war on two fronts is one thing. Fighting a cold war across time is another. He's not sure this will ever end. Skynet moves, he countermoves, and they end up right back where they started. Stalemate. He shakes his head, pushing the thought away. "Skynet doesn't know what you're doing?"
"No Terminators have shown up," Jack says with a careless shrug. "I'm going to take that as a good sign." He pauses. "Speaking of Terminators – " He waggles his eyebrows. "Please?"
John grins. "No, you can't have one. You haven't told me much about the people you work with, but I'm going to guess they might notice if you turn up with a new, metal, playmate."
The smile Jack turns loose is dizzying. "You'd be surprised."
"I really don't want to know why," says John.
"Probably not," Jack agrees. "I could use one and, programmed right, a Terminator would fit right in." He smirks. "Believe me. I've got weirder on my team."
"I don't doubt it," says John, completely serious. "But I don't trust the programming, Jack. We had another revert." He leans forward, the worn blanket rubbing against his arms. "I still have no idea why." He watches Jack's face. "But you do."
Jack doesn't deny it. "I can't tell you that, John," he says. "I'm sorry."
John nods. It's frustrating as hell, but it's nothing new. "At least tell me if we win."
Grinning, Jack leans forward, kissing him. Surprised, John doesn't react until he pulls away.
"Always wanted to kiss the man that saved the world."
It's not any answer, but it's Jack. It's all the answer he's going to get. Reaching for his pants, John grins. "So, what do you need?"
Cameron stops talking, her gaze going to the door. John frowns, then turns to follow her gaze. He's not surprised to find Derek leaning against the door, watching silently. "Hey," he says. "You're back."
"Yeah," Derek says, flat. "I'm back."
His expression is unreadable, but John can guess his opinion. "I wanted to know," he says. "So I asked."
"You shouldn't," Derek frowns. "It's a risk."
"Or it's what she's supposed to do," says John. "Maybe I need to know who they are, maybe that's how I find them." He thinks of his father, of Kyle, but doesn't drop his gaze. He can't. "I want to know, Derek. I need to." He's sick of stumbling through the dark, knowing they're looking at him and seeing someone he isn't yet. He wants to know what he's up against. Skynet, at least, he can understand.
"He does," says Cameron. She lifts her chin and stares at Derek. John watches the look pass between them, frustrated by it.
Derek's frown darkens, but he nods. "Okay." He pushes away from the door, taking a seat at the table. "Some things you can't know, John," he says. "I won't tell you and neither will she." He glares at Cameron. She ignores it. "Got it?"
"Got it," says John.
Derek sighs and looks up, gathering his thoughts.
1. The weird thing was some of the military guys. People out of Colorado. People who said they'd seen things worse than Skynet.
Derek sees her before she sees him. In fact, he almost trips over her. The little girl looks up, puffing a dark curl out of her face and frowning. "You're kinda clumsy," she lisps, darting between his legs. "Mama!" she calls, squealing as she runs to a slim brunette.
Her mother, Derek thinks. He's never seen Danielle O'Neill, but he's heard plenty about her. As much as he doesn't want too believe it, as much as his brain can't quite make the connect, he knows.
She looks back, dark curls swinging, and her eyes narrow. He grins. He's seen that look enough to know. Nobody looks at him like that but her.
"Zoe," he breathes. Its instinct to turn, tell the others, but the only person standing there is her. Sarah and John are inside. Derek doesn't want to guess what the machine's doing watching him. He sets his jaw and turns back, staring at her. It's definitely Zoe. There's no mistaking it now. She might only be a kid, but it's her.
"Excuse me," someone says, brushing past him. He glances out of the corner of his eye, dismissing him until he makes the connection. The silver-haired man is older than he remembers, but it's him. Zoe's 'uncle'.
Derek takes a step backward, bumping up against the brick of the building. So that's what they meant. "I thought she was joking."
He closes his eyes, seeing the adult Zoe's lazy grin. "Yeah, well, if you see my uncle, then you've seen my Dad. They're practically clones." "Practically," he says. "Try are." It's not so hard to believe. The Reese family tree has a few particularly twisted branches of it's own.
General Jack O'Neill. He shoots a look over his shoulder, a mirror of his daughter's, and Derek looks away. Digging in his pocket, he pulls out his cellphone. The last thing he needs is to draw the attention of a two-star, but it's tempting. Zoe's never said - will say - exactly what her parents did, but he knows O'Neill's connected. Connected and likely to believe him.
Has to be. How else does a guy get his very own clone?
Putting the phone to his ear, Derek leans against the car. He looks sideways, seeing the General scoop his daughter up. Little Zoe squeals with laughter and it hurts to hear it. He pictures her twenty years from now. Beautiful, deadly, and battle-hardened.
She looks like her mother, but it's her father she becomes. Derek turns, continuing his fake phone call as he watches the family. A young man joins them, smirking at the General, and this is the face Derek remembers. Only a few years from Judgment Day, Jack isn't so different from the young man he'd met in the tunnels beneath Los Angeles. The man who'd grabbed him by the arm, yanking him back and away from the Terminator and his little brother. "You can't help him now!"
Derek grits his teeth, turning away. Panic surges through him, the remembered desperation of hearing Kyle's screams. He clenches his fists and breathes in. Jack 's voice, calm and confident, fills his ears. "We'll get him back."
They didn't, but John did.
Derek opens his eyes, looking at them again. They're years away from that now. He looks at Zoe again, wondering where her future counterpart is and what John told her about his disappearance.
He grins. Whatever it was, she probably wouldn't believe a word of it.
"Zoe O'Neill," says Cameron.
He spins, finding her standing at his shoulder. Damn machine. "You know her?"
She nods once. "Yes," she says, but doesn't elaborate.
Derek looks back with a smirk, watching the little group get into the car. "See you later, Zoe."
"Storytime's over," Derek says when he's done. He gets up, leaving the game behind. "Pizza for dinner?"
"Sounds good," says John. He starts packing up the chessboard.
Derek's halfway to the phone when he feels Cameron behind him, damn steady gaze drilling into his back. "Did you tell him about her?"
"No," says Cameron.
Derek grins. Even in the future, Kate Brewster is forbidden territory with John guarding the secret of their real relationship like a pit bull. He looks back at John. "Figured he'd tell you not to."
"He didn't," says Cameron. "She did."
Derek pauses, hand on the phone. "Yeah?"
Cameron nods, turning away. "She doesn't want me to spoil her fun."
After a moment, Derek shakes his head. "Women." Whether he's talking about Kate or the Terminator, even he doesn't know.