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The Promise

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Her hand is in his.

He doesn't know how it got there, but sometime while they were running, they reached for each other. And now they're still running, because if they stop, they'll have to let go.

"I think we're clear," she says finally, tapering off to a brisk walk, looking over her shoulder. She doesn't look at him, but she doesn't let go.

He looks over his shoulder, too. "Guess so."

He means to let her go, but instead, he tugs on her hand. She comes to him without protest, still shivering lightly from fear and flight.

Before long, they're shivering for each other, and it starts as simply as that.


"We shouldn't have done that," she says mildly as they walk home, hand in hand.

"I don't regret it." He adds, by way of concession, "I suppose it complicates things."

She smiles a little. "I meant in the street. We shouldn't have let our guard down like that."

"Oh."

They walk like that for a while. He supposes they could boost a car, but there's no need. Street lights glimmer on her tussled hair and their hands are touching and he can't see a reason in the world to be anywhere else.

"Derek, do you love me?" she asks, looking up at the night sky. Careful not to meet his gaze. "I don't like to put you on the spot here, but I really need to know."

He's never been one for games. He nods. Says casually, "Yeah, I love you."

She nods too. Like she already knew. "Promise me you won't ever choose me over John."

He knows what's at stake. "I won't." It isn't a lie.

Suddenly she's shivering all over again. Tugging him urgently against a tree in some nice family's garden.

"That turns you on," he says in wonder. "Why?"

"It means I can trust you," she whispers against his lips as they fall back into the dark.


They make it as far as the garage.

They make love there on the workbench. It seems fitting. Beds are for people who can rest. Workbenches are for people in the trenches together.

They stay there, talking and loving and talking until dawn stretches its fingers across the sky.

They eventually make it into bed, and they find rest there together after all.


Once again, Sarah is pregnant to one of the Reese boys.

She tells their strange little family over dinner. Her hand slips easily into his as she tells them what she wants to do. What they want to do.

"It's tactically dangerous," the metal says, staring at Sarah's still-flat stomach.

"I know that," she says softly. "I know that the chances of us bringing this baby safely into the world are almost nil. But I want to try."

No one argues. She has never asked for anything for herself before.

It strikes him that they are preparing as much to lose this baby as to have it.


That night, he whispers, "Thank you."

She holds him close in the dark. "Don't think I did it only for you. I want this, too."

He believes her. "But the promise still holds - right?"

She nods. "Even now. Can you do it?"

"I promise."

He covers her and cherishes her, and he wonders whether the promise was a lie.


The inevitable happens, in the form of a T-888.

"Don't forget your promise," she growls as they tear through bush and through scrub.

She's made it so far along that he'd started to think they might get away with their audacious challenge to fate, but here it is, and she's too big to run.

"Leave me," she hisses as she begins to fall behind. "Take John."

"John's okay. He's up ahead, with Cameron-"

"Don't you dare."

Either way, he loses her. Loses them both.

It rips at him, but in that second, he chooses his commander. He chooses John Connor.


"What was the promise?" John asks as they tend to Sarah's broken body.

He wipes the dirt from her face. Stupid, really, when there is so much blood. He should clean it before she wakes and sees it.

"That I would never put her before you."

John swallows hard. "Shit, Derek."

"Shit happens."

"Derek-"

"Forget it, John. I've fathered two children and they both died by metal. I'm just not meant to do this."

John looks like someone ripped out his guts, and he knows he should comfort him or absolve him, but he can't bring himself to do it.

He sits there, his eyes desert-dry and sore, waiting for their labour of sorrow to end.


"John put his fist through the window," the metal says tonelessly. "I bandaged it."

He doesn't answer. Just looks down at Sarah's hands, locked in his.

"You did the right thing this time," she says. He remembers the last time she passed judgement on his actions. He'd lost a child then, too.

"How nice of you to approve. Our baby is still dying."

"Maybe it isn't. The heartbeat is still stable."

He stares at her. "Sarah said-"

"Sarah was hysterical. I'm built to kill. I know death, and that isn't it. It's premature, but there's no reason to think Sarah is giving birth to anything but a living child."

He can't speak. Doesn't even know if he can believe her.

"You know," she says after a moment, "you can never let that baby come first."

Exhaustion falls over him, stronger than any hope. "I know that."

He knows.


They call her Lydia. Lydie.

Things are different between them after that. The love is stronger, but the trust is stretched. He thinks she herself isn't sure what she wanted him to do that day. It's one thing to say that John is the most important thing, but beneath the warrior, Sarah is still a mother - and now, a mother of two. It isn't in her to subordinate the survival of one to the other.

He is still a soldier, and he suspects that he will always choose John, but he can no longer live with the promise between them.

Time passes, and one day, they run, as they have always run. Lydie isn't with them - thank God! - so the choice is simple, at least for her. "Remember the promise," she calls as they reach for each other.

"No," he growls. "Fuck this promise shit. I promise to do my best. By all of you. That's all I can do."

She pulls her hand away. "You could have mentioned this sometime that I wasn't counting on you to save my son."

"I didn't say I wouldn't. But you have to stop keeping me hostage to this. It's killing me."

Then the T-888 is bearing down on them, and they save their breath for flight.


"You know, Mom, sometime you're going to have to accept that we're a family, not just a tactical unit in the service of John Connor."

She stares out the window, ignoring both of them.

He takes her hand, resting between them on the car upholstery. "He's right, Sarah. You can't keep punishing us all for loving you."

She turns to look at him, face blotchy with fury and tears. Suddenly, she launches herself across the seat, beats at his chest, yelling, "You bastard, I trusted you!"

"To what? To leave you lying in the dirt? I did it once, Sarah, and it nearly killed our daughter, and I have to live with that every day. I can't promise to do it again."

"He's a good soldier, Mom," John says from the front. "He'll do it if he has to. But don't make him do it with a gun to his head. Don't make him do it every time."

"Stay out of this, John."

She doesn't speak to either of them on the way home, and she takes Lydie into the bedroom and slams the door on them both.


He spends the night on the old couch in the garage.

It's a different house, a different garage, but there is a workbench. There's always a workbench.

He remembers how important it was to her that she could trust him. Wonders if he has betrayed her by changing the rules. Wonders if she betrayed him by laying them down in the first place.

She slips in silently as the dawn draws its fingers across the sky.

"Are you awake?" she says softly. She has a beer and a blanket. Hedging her bets either way.

"Couldn't sleep."

She sits down beside him and hands him the beer. There isn't one for herself - she's still nursing.

He puts it on the bench. "Too early, but thanks."

They sit in silence for a while.

"Did I do the wrong thing by you?" she asks. "Making you promise like that?"

"I think you did the wrong thing by yourself. The self-sacrificing thing made sense when John was a kid and you were all he had. Now he's an adult and he has others as well. It isn't all up to you anymore. You're allowed to matter, too."

Slowly, she nods. "I guess."

"So am I allowed to put you and Lydie first? At least some of the time?"

She takes his hand. "I guess that some of the time would be nice."

He tugs her closer, and she comes to him without protest, and it starts again as simply as that.

END