Work Header

Master and Commander

Work Text:

John thought he knew how to be a soldier. After all, all his life Sarah would command and he had obeyed--or at least that was what it had seemed like at the time. But now that John is merely a private in the army he was supposedly destined to lead, it's suddenly clear to him all the ways she was training him specifically to command: the insubordination and questioning she never would have tolerated otherwise, the way she would always explain her directives so he would understand why she thought something was necessary even if he didn't agree.

It takes time to adjust to being a real soldier. A private, a grunt, the low man on the totem pole: valued only for his ability to carry out his orders, no matter how menial, without complaint. Sometimes he wonders if this is what the machines felt like before Judgment Day. If so, it's no wonder SkyNet turned against its human creators.

But he reminds himself that that sin is not his own: Cameron was always a valued member of the team--well, maybe "valued" doesn't quite describe Sarah's or Derek's angry distrust, but they knew enough to respect her judgment--and a dear friend of his. Not quite sister and not quite lover, it is the knowledge that she's trapped in the past in the sub-sub-sub-basement of Zeria Corp., while the proto-SkyNet (or, if the T-1001 pretending to be Catherin Weaver can be trusted, anti-SkyNet) known as John Henry runs around pursuing an agenda unknown with her chip and Cromartie's body, which keeps John going as he lives the less than glorious life of a soldier in the Resistance.


Gradually things begin to improve. After a few early altercations with Kyle or Derek, John learns to shut up and follow orders. They in turn learn that he can be trusted in the field, that he is someone they want guarding their backs when the machines attack.

Life settles down into a routine. They make him a corporal and put him in charge of a squad.


And then there's Allison.

It's strange at first, being constantly around the girl who looks exactly like Cameron. In some timeline--Cameron's timeline, the future some other version of himself sent her back from--Allison must have served as the template for Cameron's model. He wonders what his relationship with the girl was in that other future, why the machines chose her appearance to give to Cameron.

He knows from the very beginning, when she was just his fellow student Cameron Philips, the machine's true personality hiding behind a facade as convincing as it was fake, before she let him see the real self underneath, so awkward and inhuman but struggling to be more, to understand and to grow--he knows from that time and that experience that his attraction to her is partly physical, that the body alone is enough to engender both trust and desire. But in that other timeline, Cameron's timeline, the one where he would have travelled from 1985 to 2027 the long way 'round, he'd be forty-two, and Allison nineteen.

The possibilities are, to say the least, somewhat disturbing.

But John has enough trouble worrying about his relationship with Allison in this timeline. The body, even smudged with dirt and without make-up or hair-care products, affects him as strongly as it ever did, but the person inside is so obviously radically different. Once they're holed up in a cave and Allison falls asleep in the corner and it's possible for him to forget that she's not Cameron, but when she's awake every gesture, every smile, and every word drives home emphatically the very real difference between the two women.


The first time he sleeps with Allison, it's during a mission. Kyle sent their two squads out to attack a caravan of machines in order to liberate a cargo of polyalloy, and they're ambushed and find themselves surrounded on three sides by machines. They retreat, but by the time they manage to find some makeshift shelter, they're the only two left alive.

The food, water, and ammunition they have to keep them alive is practically existent, and he decides it'd take a miracle to keep them alive.

It's only after he wakes up with Allison in his arms that he figures out how he's going to work it.


Every time he makes love to Allison after that, he tries not to think of Cameron. He's surprised at how often he's successful, and the knowledge feels not a little like a betrayal.


It's two more months before he sees Catherine Weaver again--or, rather, the T-1001 who in the past had assumed Catherine Weaver's identity. He doesn't know how she breached the compound's defenses and made her way into the barracks without being detected; she just walks into his quarters as if she belongs there.

Allison is asleep and, light sleeper though she usually is, doesn't even so much as turn in her sleep at the T-1001's intrusion.

"I've found John Henry," she says.

"We have reports of a front of machines coming from the north," John answers, not looking at her. "I need to be here to help defend the compound."

"You can't worry about that," Weaver answers. "You have more important things to concern yourself with."

"More important than making sure the entire headquarters of the Resistance isn't wiped out?" John asks, carefully modulating his voice. He doesn't want to wake up Allison; he's not quite sure how he would explain Weaver's presence here.

"You're John Connor," she says simply. "Wherever you are is the headquarters of the Resistance."

"Not here. Not in this future. Here I'm just another soldier."

"Even here. Especially here." Her voice is, as always, cool and distant without quite being unemotional. There are things she understands about being human that Cameron never did, John realizes. "Wherever you are, you're still the one who can see the bigger picture, John. Your supposed 'superiors' in this timeline, they think in only one dimension, focusing on surviving in this future. Whereas it is your goal and mine to ensure this future never happens."

"It's happening," John says. "The people who are dying, are dying. The people who are starving, are starving. The people who are suffering, they're suffering."

"And only you have the power to wipe it all away," Weaver says. "John Henry's in the mountains to the north. I know what John Connor would do with that information. Now it's up to you if that's who you want to be." She turns around and exits the room without another word.

John looks down at his sleeping girlfriend and holds his head in his hands.


The next morning he steals a field kit and a rifle from the armory, slips out of the compound without anyone noticing, and begins to hike north.

Weaver's right. He can't help being who he is, who Sarah raised him to be. He was foolish to think he ever could.