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the things you give away

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Kyle hasn't had much in his life that he could legitimately point to and say 'mine'. Everything he's ever had has been a hand-me-down or scavenged from somewhere, used and abused, recovered and recycled. He was born several years after Judgement Day; by the time he turned up, it wasn't like his parents could pop down to the mall and pick up the latest toddler fashions. They made do with what they had, and what they had was never enough.

He doesn't remember much of his childhood. Most of it's a blur, a fog of hunger and cold, peppered with silence as the machines flew overhead. But he remembers wearing his father's old shirts, faded and worn but still hanging hugely on his thin frame, so big that his mother said he looked like he was drowning in them. And that was how he felt most days, trailing after his father on a hunt or hiding in the woods, watching his father's face for any sign of approval, approval that seldom came.

Like he was drowning.

He's blocked out most of his time in the camps too, with the kind of conscious effort that still hurts, even now, after all these years. But there are some memories he can't block out, not entirely. Sense memories of pulling the boots from a frozen corpse, because boots were hard to come by and his had been leaking for months, leaving his feet fish-white, cracked and bleeding. His fingers still twitch with the muscle memory of peeling coats and pants from bodies already stiff with rigor mortis, and his ears ring with the sound of bones snapping like twigs when he tugged too hard. It didn't matter how sick it made him to hear it, or how the gorge rose from his stomach, thin and acidic in the back of his throat. The machines weren't the only task masters who would kill him if he slowed or stumbled, marking himself down as useless or inefficient, ripe for termination.

Before the machines there were humans, and Skynet learned its lessons in cruelty from the best.

He remembers other things as well, like the first gun he ever shot, but that still wasn't his, and the first armour he ever welded, which went to someone else. He remembers the night goggles he shared with the other members of his first platoon because those things were rare and worth their weight in good food, and Kyle had to learn to share. He remembers the jacket that was Carmichaels', before Carmichaels bled out on the battlefield, and how he'd scrubbed the fabric as best he could but how it was still stained with a washed out red when he handed it on to someone else, someone who needed it more than Kyle did. He remembers the scarf that was Andrews' before she froze to death, trapped too far from the bunker for them to reach her in time, and the hat that was Simmons' before she tugged it down over his ears, smiling with blood-stained teeth and telling him not to be afraid.

They left the bodies behind sometimes, but never the kit. Never anything that they could use.

Sarah doesn't get it, not in the visceral way that Kyle feels it, the strangeness of this world where there are things for the taking, or for the buying when the price isn't in blood. He knows that her life hasn't been easy, but in many ways it's been a hell of a lot easier than his.

This is one of them.

The first time that Pops hands him clothes, clothes that have been bought with Kyle in mind, he doesn't even say thank you. He can't - he still sees Pops as a threat, and even if he hadn't, his mind is too full of memories of John, the John he thought he'd found again only to learn that he was lost for good, to focus on meaningless things like manners. He barely notices how well these new clothes fit; nothing feels right against his skin, because he doesn't feel right in it.

They let him move freely - run, fight, shoot - and that's everything he could ask for.

It's only six months down the road, as he's riffling through his bag in yet another motel room while Sarah's in the bathroom, that it finally hits him.

He has a bag. He has a bag, one that's full of belongings, stuff that's his. Stuff that's never been anyone else's and probably never will be.

It leaves him dizzy for a moment, disorientated as he stares down at the bag in his hand. It's small and grey, with a zip along the top and pockets on the side. There's a small pile of boxers already piled on the bed, one that's just large enough to get him through to the next time they can hit a laundromat. There's a pile of socks next to them, one that's grown to its current size on the same principle. And still in the bag is a spare pair of pants and six shirts, all of them washed and worn so often over the last half year that they've softened into something buttery smooth. He didn't know fabric could do that; up to now his clothes have been worn thin and threadbare, with holes at the seams, by the time he inherited them.

But when he goes to pull them out there are only five shirts, not six, and there's another moment of disorientation, something tightening in his chest at the loss. He must have left it in the last motel room, stuffed under a pillow or fallen under the bed, and there's a moment of anger at himself for being so goddamned careless, so goddamned used to the idea of being able to replace 'stuff' that he's forgotten every lesson he's ever learned about taking care of the little he has.

He tamps it down, like he tamps down the pang at the loss. It's stupid to get so attached to something. Stupid and pointless. He has people now, or a person and a person-shaped thing at least.

He's lucky. He's so damned lucky to have kept as much as he has, and what's a goddamned shirt compared to that?

The sound of the bathroom lock turning snaps him back into himself and he starts shoving his clothes - his clothes - back into the bag, keeping his back turned on Sarah because she's far too good at reading people for someone raised by a robot.

Far too good at reading him.

"Oh, god," he hears her say. "You have no idea how much I've been longing for that shower all day."

Sarah's voice is warm and full of satisfaction, the kind of sound that soothes the sting of disappointment, and Kyle's already smiling as he turns around.

His smile slips from his face when he sees her, leaving something slack behind.

She's wearing his shirt.

"Shower's free if you want it," she says, her clever hands busy with towel drying her hair. She looks relaxed, or as close as she ever comes; long-limbed and smiling. But she pauses when she catches him staring, a small frown appearing on her face. "You okay?"

He blinks, brought back to himself, and somehow manages to summon up another smile, just for her. "Yeah, just... Is that my shirt?"

Sarah glances down at her body, that frown still creasing her face, before she looks up again and meets his eyes, her expression now falling somewhere between amused and confused. "Yeah. Do you mind?"

He's shaking his head before he even has time to consider the question, the need to not disappoint her, to not leave her feeling guilty so deeply ingrained that it's automatic. When he does have time to think about it - time after Sarah smiles at him in that way she has, taking his breath away as she runs her fingers through her wet and tangled hair - it's odd to find that he doesn't mind. Doesn't mind at all.

It looks good on her, and not just because it's only just long enough to cover the curve of her ass, leaving her strong, shapely legs exposed. There's something about the way it slips off her shoulder - his neck is so much bigger than hers - that speaks of a vulnerability that Sarah never shows. There's something in the way that the sleeves fall halfway to her elbows, and the way that the width of it hides her curves. It makes her look younger, carefree in a way that Sarah seldom is.

And it's his. His clothes on her body. When she takes it off it will smell like her, smell like both of them, and that thought... That thought is too big and yet so small and quiet at the same time; it keeps him silent for a long moment.

"Sarah?" he finally says, the word welling up in him until he can't keep it in any longer.

She pauses again, her towel in her hands as her bright eyes search his face. The frown's back and he wonders for a moment what she sees, what has her concerned. It can't be him, right?

Now that he has her attention he can't find the words. Instead he holds his arms out, a silent invitation.

She comes to him, dropping the towel onto the bed and bringing her hand up to cup his face, her eyes searching his now, a gentleness in their depths that she seldom shows to anyone else.

"I like you in my shirt," he says, and his words are softer than he'd intended, quieter and barely there.

Sarah smiles, slow and sweet. He'd give her everything he owned just to see that smile more often, to see the warm and amused look in her eyes that's as bright as the chuckle that follows in the wake of that smile.

"I'm pretty sure you'd like to see me out of it," she says, "but Pops will be back soon, so you're going to have to wait."

"No, that's not..." He's not sure how to explain. It's easier to show her - it's always easy to show her - and he slides his arms around her waist, lowering his head until his forehead is resting against hers.

She smells like shampoo and shower gel, something faint and lemony that he'll never get tired of. The worn fabric of his shirt is soft and warm beneath his fingertips when he runs his hand up and down her back, but underneath it is Sarah's body, firm and strong and alive.

"You can keep the shirt," he murmurs, because he'd give her everything she ever asked for, including the clothes off his back.

Sarah's fingers stroke his face, holding him steady as she pulls back just far enough to search his face again, seeing him the way that no-one else ever has or ever will.

He still doesn't know what it is that she does see, but it doesn't scare him the way it should. She has strong, steady hands. She'll keep him safe, just the way that he keeps her.

"We can share," she says simply, and it's enough.

There hasn't been much in Kyle Reese's life that he could legitimately point to and say 'mine', and he'd never include Sarah in that. But everything he does have is hers, and so is he.